18 Fascinating Facts About The Crow

The Crow—Alex Proyas's 1994 cult film about a man brought back from the dead to avenge the murder of his fiancée—was marred by tragedy when its star, Brandon Lee, was killed in an on-set accident just days before the film was scheduled to wrap, and not long before he was to be married. Here are a few things you might not have known about the film. (Warning: Violence and profanity in some of the videos below.)

1. IT’S BASED ON A COMIC BOOK, WHICH WAS INSPIRED BY TWO TRAGEDIES.

In 1981, 21-year-old James O’Barr was drawing combat manuals in the Marines when he decided to start The Crow. He hoped it would be a healthy way of dealing with the death of his fiancée, who had been killed by a drunk driver. “I tried all the typical angst-ridden outlets, like substance abuse and going to clubs or parties every night and just basically trying to keep yourself numb for as long a period of time as possible,” O’Barr told The Baltimore Sun in 1994. “Eventually I was smart enough to realize that that was a dead end, and so I thought perhaps putting something down on paper I could exorcise some of that anger.”

Pivotal to his comic book’s plotline was another tragedy O’Barr heard about: A couple killed over an engagement ring. “I thought it was outlandish, a $30 ring, two lives wasted,” he said in a book about the production called The Crow: The Movie. “That became the beginning of the focal point, and the idea that there could be a love so strong that it could transcend death, that it could refuse death, and this soul would not rest until it could set things right.”

2. THERE WAS INTEREST IN TURNING THE COMIC BOOK INTO A MOVIE EARLY ON.

The Crow comic book debuted on February 1, 1989. Shortly after the second issue came out, O’Barr—who at that time was doing auto body work—was approached by a young director who was interested in buying the rights to The Crow for a one-time lump sum. “All rights, all media, in perpetuity,” O’Barr said in The Crow: The Movie, “but the money was pretty good, considering. I was going to do it.” But his friends convinced him to consult with a Hollywood agent, who advised O’Barr against selling the rights to the comics for a lump sum.

Then, right when the third issue was coming out, O’Barr met writer John Shirley and producer Jeff Most, who were eager to adapt the book into a movie. “Their enthusiasm convinced me that the film would be done correctly,” O’Barr said. “Even though it was for far less than what I had previously been offered, I wasn’t selling out my copyright, and it was the best chance of the film turning out to be something I’d want to see. I just went with my instincts.”

3. SHIRLEY AND MOST MADE SOME CHANGES TO O’BARR’S ANTIHERO.

Shirley and Most got to work right away adapting The Crow into a script. They made a few changes, downplaying Eric’s drug use and bringing the love story to the fore. They also made the crow an actual animal—not just Eric’s psyche, as it is in the comics—that spoke to Eric telepathically.

While Shirley worked on the script, Most took the treatment and the comics and went about shopping the screenplay. Eventually, independent producer Ed Pressman signed on to help make the movie, and for the next two years, Shirley honed the script. He added an older brother for Sarah (a version of a character from the comics), a young girl with a drug addict for a mother who befriends Eric and Shelly, and turned the Skull Cowboy, a manifestation of Eric’s mental anguish that appears three times in the comics, into a spirit guide.

Eventually, O’Barr thought the creative team had gone too far with their changes, so he created a 10-page outline explaining his characters’s motivations to get them back on track. Not long after, horror writer David J. Schow (Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre III and Critters 3 and 4) came onboard to do a rewrite; he told Pressman that Eric Draven should be a “Gothic, rock and roll Terminator.” Schow cut back on the number of villains, gave the remaining ones a clear hierarchy, and added Devil’s Night as the motivating factor behind the initial attack on Eric and Shelly, “just to give the villains a more esoteric agenda,” he said in The Crow: The Movie. Making that decision also grounded the movie in Detroit, a city that regularly experienced fires and mayhem the night before Halloween.

4. THE PRODUCERS KNEW WHO THEY WANTED TO DIRECT AND STAR.

Pressman had Alex Proyas, an Australian director who at that point had helmed music videos and commercials, but no features, in mind to direct The Crow. Though Proyas was very much in demand in Hollywood, he was waiting for the right project—and The Crow was it. He signed on in 1991.

The producers first looked at musicians to fill the role of Eric Draven, among them Charlie Sexton, a rocker from Texas. But ultimately, their first choice was Brandon Lee. At that point, Lee—son of famed actor/martial artist Bruce Lee—had appeared in a few films, but hadn’t had a breakout role yet. “We had considered some more established actors and we were concerned that certain of these actors did not have the athletic ability,” Pressman said in The Crow: The Movie. “Other people had the athletic ability but not the acting talents. Brandon combined it all. When Brandon walked into this office, it was an immediate flash. We knew we had our Eric Draven that instant.”

5. LEE ASKED FOR ONE CHARACTER TO BE REMOVED.

Once Lee signed on to star in The Crow, he read the comic book. “After the script was written, Alex [Proyas] and I went back to the comic book and tried to find the beats of the story that didn’t make it into the script,” Lee said at one point during production. Proyas took Lee’s feedback seriously, and often incorporated his changes into the script. That included cutting one super-villain, an Asian character out to steal Eric’s powers, who Lee thought was a stereotype.

6. IT WAS TOUGH TO GET THE MAKEUP RIGHT.

There’s a persistent rumor that Eric Draven’s makeup was inspired by Alice Cooper or KISS—and it's a rumor that O'Barr denies. At a comics convention in 2009, O'Barr said that The Crow's look came from a marionette mask, which he saw painted on a theater in London: "I thought it'd be interesting to have this painful face with a smile forcibly drawn on."

Regardless of what inspired the makeup, getting it right was very tough. It took between 35 minutes and an hour to apply the grease makeup, which could stay in place for hours; special effects artist Lance Anderson created a rubber mask that had slits in it, so that the pattern of lines around the eyes and mouth would be consistent.

But Proyas and Lee weren’t fans of the freshly applied look. “The first few times Brandon and I looked at it we were both really unhappy with it,” Proyas admitted in the DVD commentary. “It was hard to get it to the point where it didn’t feel self-conscious. We were both happy with it when it was distressed—he almost wanted to sleep in the makeup and then come to set the next day. That’s when it would look really great.”

7. DAVID PATRICK KELLY BOUGHT A VINTAGE COPY OF PARADISE LOST FOR THE PRODUCTION.

Some of the actors cast as villains in The Crow went through training to portray their characters; Laurence Mason, for example, worked with stunt coordinator Jeff Imada to learn real-life knife-fighting moves in order to play Tin Tin. Others donned costumes: Michael Massee, who played Funboy, wore outfits inspired by Iggy Pop and some outfits taken directly from the comic. David Patrick Kelly, who played T-Bird, used a more literary inspiration to get into character: John Milton’s Paradise Lost. T-Bird quotes Milton in the flashback sequences; Kelly bought an antique copy of the book to use in the scene.

8. THEY USED RAVENS, NOT CROWS, DURING FILMING.

Animal trainer Larry Madrid trained five ravens for the production. Because The Crow filmed at night—when ravens sleep—he had to get the birds accustomed to that, as well as flying in the rain (which is also unnatural for the birds) and in a wind tunnel. One of the ravens also had to be trained to be comfortable sitting on Lee’s shoulder.

9. THE PRODUCTION EMPLOYED PLENTY OF TRICKS TO GET ITS SHOTS.

The Crow didn’t have a huge budget, so the filmmakers sometimes relied on trickery to get the shots they needed. For the opening sequence, which shows a city on fire, the production used miniatures and projection technology. “We went to elaborate lengths to project flames into a miniature set,” Proyas said in the DVD commentary. “We had a screen set up so we could project into the miniature on multiple passes. It was really the very early days of digital imagery, and we didn’t really have the money to use them, so we tried to do things in much more of an optical way.”

For one iconic shot in which Eric dumps a bunch of rings into the barrel of a shotgun and fires it, Proyas “cut to some oversized rings being dropped towards the camera through a puff of smoke,” he said in DVD commentary. “The way it’s cut, you really think you’re seeing a bunch of rings that were dropped into a shotgun.” The production didn’t have the money—or the space—to shoot a car chase sequence, so they did it with miniatures instead. And the final rooftop confrontation between Eric and head-villain Top Dollar (Michael Wincott) was shot not on the roof of a church, but on modular pieces, sitting on the soundstage floor, that were made to look like a gothic cathedral.

10. THEY USED SPECIAL EFFECTS, TOO.

For a scene in which the crow attacks Myca (Bai Ling), Anderson built a mechanical bird to do the attacking; it had separate controls for the wings and the claws. His shop also built mechanical hands that looked just like Lee’s for a scene in which Eric is shot in the hand and his hand heals. “What we ended up doing,” Anderson said in The Crow: The Movie, “was closing it to a point and then taking filler and filling the hole in so it would close totally clean and go away, like stop motion.” They also created a full dummy of Top Dollar to be used in the climactic fight sequence where he’s impaled on the horn of a gargoyle.

11. O’BARR MAKES A CAMEO.

He’s the looter who steals a television in the aftermath of the explosion at Gideon’s Pawn Shop.

12. WITH JUST A FEW DAYS LEFT TO FILM, LEE WAS KILLED IN A TRAGIC ON-SET ACCIDENT.

The cast and crew worked long, grueling hours, in the rain and at night, on the set of The Crow, which was plagued by misfortunes almost from the start. In February 1993, a carpenter was seriously injured on set when the crane he was working in hit live power lines. That night, an equipment truck caught on fire. Later, a sculptor who had worked on the set for just a few days drove through the plaster shop after he was let go. A construction worker accidentally drove a screwdriver through his hand. Then, in March, a storm destroyed some of the sets.

But the worst was yet to come.

On March 31, 1993, the production was filming a flashback sequence that showed how Eric died: As he walked into the apartment he shared with Shelly to find her being raped and beaten by Top Dollar’s henchmen, Funboy would pull out his .44 Magnum and shoot him. According to People,

“The script of The Crow called for a close-up of the loaded weapon. The crew, following standard procedure, used dummy bullets, which are nothing more than bullets without gunpowder. When the close-up was finished, the gun was unloaded, then reloaded with blanks. Blanks sound as loud as real bullets, but when they are fired, only the harmless cardboard wadding with which they are packed is ejected from the gun.

“This time, though, the action was far from benign. Massee pulled the trigger, and Lee slumped to the ground, a hole the size of a quarter in his lower right abdomen.”

The crew didn’t realize that Lee was injured until Proyas called cut and the actor didn’t get up. He was rushed to the hospital, but doctors couldn't save him. Lee died later that afternoon; he was just 28 years old.

It took some time to figure out what had happened, but according to The Telegraph, both the dummy bullets and the blanks used on the production “had hastily been fabricated by taking out the gunpowder from real bullets because of the time pressure crew members were under.” The lead tip of the dummy bullet became lodged in the barrel of the gun and, “pushed out by the blank charge, scratched the bottom of the shopping bag before perforating Lee’s navel, and managed to puncture the stem of the aorta where it branches to provide blood supply to the legs.”

After the accident, Paramount—which had agreed to distribute the movie—dropped out, leaving the film in limbo (Miramax eventually picked it up). Producers, with permission from Lee’s family, wanted to finish the film, and after a six-week bereavement period, the cast and crew returned to Wilmington to complete filming The Crow.

No criminal charges were ever filed in Lee’s death, but his mother, Linda Lee Cadwell, did file a lawsuit against the producers and production company, which was eventually settled. In 2005, Massee spoke out about the accident for the first time. It absolutely wasn't supposed to happen. I wasn't even supposed to be handling the gun until we started shooting the scene and the director changed it,” he said. Afterward, “I just took a year off and I went back to New York and didn't do anything. I didn't work. What happened to Brandon was a tragic accident ... I don't think you ever get over something like that.”

13. AFTER LEE’S DEATH, THE SCRIPT WAS REWORKED, AND ONE CHARACTER WAS CUT.

One month after Lee's death, Pressman and Proyas began rewriting the script, ultimately presenting, according to Entertainment Weekly, “an emotionally softened, reworked script.” The filmmakers opted to use Lee’s half-finished scenes in montages, and they cut one character altogether: the Skull Cowboy, played by Michael Berryman, a sort of spirit guide who laid out the rules of Eric’s return to the land of the living. According to The Crow: The Movie, those rules were “ice the bad guys, receive a reunion with Shelly—but ‘work for the living, you bleed.’”

In the DVD commentary, Proyas said he cut the character for a number of reasons. “I was never happy with the effect … I felt he lowered the standard of the film, made it a little cheesy,” he said. “But also because I felt that the character was kind of unnecessary. I feel that you get what’s going on, you understand it, you don’t really need someone telling you, as an audience, what’s happening at various points, and that seemed to be the function that he was playing. We [also] only got to shoot one scene with him, and there were two other scenes planned that we didn’t get to shoot. How do you make more of him without Brandon to relate to him, and why would you even want to bother? It was an easy decision to drop him.”

The Skull Cowboy’s exposition was replaced with Sarah’s narration, and Eric only becomes mortal when the crow he’s been following is killed.

Other scenes that ended up on the cutting room floor involved Skank (Angel David) being robbed by children and an extended fight sequence between Eric and Funboy in which Funboy actually wounds Eric. Proyas said on the DVD that they cut the fight for two reasons: One, because now that the Skull Cowboy was gone, the conceit that Eric doing something for the living would make him vulnerable wasn’t clear, and also because “we had so little time to shoot the fight scene that Brandon and I, neither of us were particularly happy with the results,” Proyas said. “He had choreographed a really beautiful sequence, and I really hadn’t been able to capture it in the time we had.”

Thanks to the changes, “In a way, the film became about something different,” one source told Entertainment Weekly. “It became about how you deal with grief. What happens when someone you love is taken from you? How do you incorporate that into your life?”

14. CUTTING-EDGE VISUAL EFFECTS WERE USED TO COMPLETE THE FILM AFTER LEE’S DEATH.

In addition to having doubles stand in for Lee, and filming those scenes as long shots in shadows, the production relied on the VFX company Dream Quest Images to fill in some of the blanks. Using footage of Lee from other sequences, the visual effects company finished seven shots. In one sequence where Eric enters his abandoned lot, Dream Quest took a shot of Lee stumbling down an alley and digitally removed the background; by adding a matte painting of a doorway, they were able to make it look like he was actually walking into his apartment. In another shot where Eric sees himself in a broken mirror, Dream Quest once again digitally isolated Lee from an outside shot. Using a shot of a double in front of a shattered mirror as a guide, they were able to create a grid that allowed them to composite Lee’s image onto the mirror (you can see how they did it here). Even more extraordinary, the company did this on handheld footage—a far cry from most visual effects shots at the time, which were carefully planned and staged and shot with a steady camera (just-developed image-tracking software helped them pull it off).

15. EXECUTIVES WERE WORRIED THAT AUDIENCES WOULDN’T GET IT.

“In the very first test screenings we had, two or three people out of 300 would ask, ‘Why is it that Eric Draven is the guy that can come back with these powers? Why can he come back from the dead?” Proyas recalled in DVD commentary. “I’m going, ‘Who the hell cares ...’ I remember this was a really big thing for everyone at that time, but now, see the movie, it’s obviously ludicrous. It’s a suspension of disbelief, and people go with it.”

16. THE FILM WAS A HIT.

The Crow was released on May 13, 1994, and was the number one movie in America in its first weekend. Critics, including Roger Ebert and Rolling Stone’s Peter Travers, praised the movie. Its total domestic gross was nearly $51 million.

17. O’BARR DONATED MOST OF HIS PROFITS FROM THE FILM TO CHARITY.

O'Barr bought his mom a car, and a surround system for himself, then donated the rest. “I was really good friends with Brandon, so it just felt like blood money to me,” he said at a comics convention in 2009. “I didn't want to profit at his expense. And I kept that secret for as long as I could. It's not charity if you get credit for it.”

18. IT SPAWNED SEVERAL SEQUELS.

“It wasn’t utmost in my [mind] to create a franchise, but I was aware that it could do that, and you don’t want to make that impossible,” Proyas said in the DVD commentary. “You can see all the elements there. If Eric Draven was going to come back again, there had to be some layers to it, there had to be some reason for him to come back ... I would have been delighted to make The Crow 2, and if Brandon had been involved, we would have made a great movie.”

Even without Lee, though, the sequels came. The Crow: City of Angels, starring Mia Kirshner as Sarah and Vincent Perez as The Crow, Ashe Corven, was released in 1996. In 1998, there was a short-lived TV series called The Crow: Stairway to Heaven starring Mark Dacascos. Then, in 2000, Kirsten Dunst and Eric Mabius starred in another movie, The Crow: Salvation. That was followed in 2005 by The Crow: Wicked Prayer, which starred Tara Reid, David Boreanaz, and Edward Furlong.

And Hollywood might not be done with The Crow just yet: A reboot has been in the works since 2008. It’s lost several stars and directors, and weathered a production company’s bankruptcy, but in 2015, original producer Ed Pressman said the reboot will shoot this year.

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Jesse Grant, Getty Images for AMC
5 Bizarre Comic-Con News Stories from Years Past
Jesse Grant, Getty Images for AMC
Jesse Grant, Getty Images for AMC

At its best, San Diego Comic-Con is a friendly place where like-minded people can celebrate their pop culture obsessions, and each other. And no one can make fun of you, no matter how lazy your cosplaying might be. You might think that at its worst, it’s just a series of long lines of costumed fans and small stores crammed into a convention center. But sometimes, throwing together 100,000-plus people from around the world in what feels like a carnival-type atmosphere where anything goes can have less than stellar results. Here are some highlights from past Comic-Con-tastrophes.

1. MAN IN HARRY POTTER T-SHIRT STABS ANOTHER MAN IN THE FACE—WITH A PEN

In 2010, two men waiting for a Comic-Con screening of the Seth Rogen alien comedy Paul got into a very adult argument about whether one of them was sitting too close to the other. Unable to come to a satisfactory conclusion with words, one man stabbed the other in the face with a pen. According to CNN, the attacker was led away wearing handcuffs and a Harry Potter T-shirt. In the aftermath, some Comic-Con attendees dealt with the attack in an oddly fitting way: They cosplayed as the victim, with pens protruding from bloody eye sockets.

2. MEMORABILIA THIEVES INVADE NEW YORK

Since its founding in 2006, New York Comic Con has attracted a few sticky-fingered attendees. In 2010, a man stole several rare comics from vendor Matt Nelson, co-founder of Texas’s Worldwide Comics. Just one of those, Whiz Comics No. 1, was worth $11,000, according to the New York Post. A few years later, in 2014, someone stole a $2000 “Dunny” action figure, which artist Jon-Paul Kaiser had painted during the event for Clutter magazine. And those are just the incidents that involved police; lower-scale cases of toys and comics disappearing from booths are an increasingly frustrating epidemic, according to some. “Comic Con theft is an issue we all sort of ignore,” collector Tracy Isenhour wrote on the blog of his company, Needless Essentials, in 2015. “I am here to tell you no more. It’s time for this garbage to stop."

3. CATWOMAN SAVES THE DAY


John Sciulli/Getty Images for Xbox

Adrianne Curry, winner of the first cycle of America’s Next Top Model, has made a career of chasing viral fame. Ironically, it was at Comic-Con in 2014 that Curry did something truly worthy of attention—though there wasn’t a camera in sight. Dressed as Catwoman, she was posing with fans alongside her friend Alicia Marie, who was dressed as Tigra. According to a Facebook post Marie wrote at the time, a fan tried to shove his hands into her bikini bottoms. She screamed, the man ran off, and Curry jumped to action. She “literally took off after dude WITH her Catwoman whip and chased him down, beat his a**,” Marie wrote. “Punched him across the face with the butt of her whip—he had zombie blood on his face—got on her costume.”

4. MAN POSES AS FUGITIVE-SEEKING INVESTIGATOR TO GET INTO VIP ROOM

The lines at Comic-Con are legendary, so one Utah man came up with a novel way to try and skip them altogether. In 2015, Jonathon M. Wall tried to get into Salt Lake Comic Con’s exclusive VIP enclave (normally a $10,000 ticket) by claiming he was an agent with the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, and needed to get into the VIP room “to catch a fugitive,” according to The San Diego Union Tribune. Not only does that story not even come close to making sense, it also adds up to impersonating a federal agent, a crime to which Wall pleaded guilty in April of 2016 and which carried a sentence of up to three years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Just a few months later, prosecutors announced that they were planning to reduce his crime from a felony to a misdemeanor.

5. MAN WALKS 645 MILES TO COMIC-CON, DRESSED AS A STORMTROOPER, TO HONOR HIS LATE WIFE


Michael Buckner/Getty Images for Disney

In 2015, Kevin Doyle walked 645 miles along the California coast to honor his late wife, Eileen. Doyle had met Eileen relatively late in life, when he was in his 50s, and they bonded over their shared love of Star Wars (he even proposed to her while dressed as Darth Vader). However, she died of cancer barely a year after they were married. Adrift and lonely, Doyle decided to honor her memory and their love of Star Wars by walking to Comic-Con—from San Francisco. “I feel like I’m so much better in the healing process than if I’d stayed home,” he told The San Diego Union Tribune.

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Marvel Entertainment
10 Facts About Robert E. Howard’s Conan the Barbarian
Marvel Entertainment
Marvel Entertainment

Nearly every sword-wielding fantasy hero from the 20th century owes a tip of their horned helmet to Robert E. Howard’s Conan the Barbarian. Set in the fictional Hyborian Age, after the destruction of Atlantis but before our general recorded history, Conan's stories have depicted him as everything from a cunning thief to a noble king and all types of scoundrel in between. But beneath that blood-soaked sword and shield is a character that struck a nerve with generations of fantasy fans, spawning adaptations in comics, video games, movies, TV shows, and cartoons in the eight decades since he first appeared in the December 1932 issue of Weird Tales. So thank Crom, because here are 10 facts about Conan the Barbarian.

1. THE FIRST OFFICIAL CONAN STORY WAS A KULL REWRITE.

Conan wasn’t the only barbarian on Robert E. Howard’s resume. In 1929, the writer created Kull the Conqueror, a more “introspective” brand of savage that gained enough interest to eventually find his way onto the big screen in 1997. The two characters share more than just a common creator and a general disdain for shirts, though: the first Conan story to get published, “The Phoenix on the Sword,” was actually a rewrite of an earlier rejected Kull tale titled “By This Axe I Rule!” For this new take on the plot, Howard introduced supernatural elements and more action. The end result was more suited to what Weird Tales wanted, and it became the foundation for future Conan tales.

2. BUT A “PROTO-CONAN” STORY PRECEDED IT.

A few months before Conan made his debut in Weird Tales, Howard wrote a story called "People of the Dark" for Strange Tales of Mystery and Terror about a man named John O’Brien who seemed to relive his past life as a brutish, black-haired warrior named … Conan of the reavers. Reave is a word from Old English meaning to raid or plunder, which is obviously in the same ballpark as barbarian. And in the story, there is also a reference to Crom, the fictional god of the Hyborian age that later became a staple of the Conan mythology. This isn't the barbarian as we know him, and it's certainly not an official Conan tale, but the early ideas were there.

3. ROBERT E. HOWARD NEVER INTENDED TO WRITE THESE STORIES IN ORDER.

Howard was meticulous in his world-building for Conan, which was highlighted by his 8600-word history on the Hyborian Age the character lived in. But the one area the creator had no interest in was linearity. Conan’s first story depicted him already as a king; subsequent stories, though, would shift back and forth, chronicling his early days as both a thief and a youthful adventurer.

There’s good reason for that, as Howard himself once explained: “In writing these yarns I've always felt less as creating them than as if I were simply chronicling his adventures as he told them to me. That's why they skip about so much, without following a regular order. The average adventurer, telling tales of a wild life at random, seldom follows any ordered plan, but narrates episodes widely separated by space and years, as they occur to him.”

4. THERE ARE NUMEROUS CONNECTIONS TO THE H.P. LOVECRAFT MYTHOS.

For fans of the pulp magazines of the early 20th century, one of the only names bigger than Robert E. Howard was H.P. Lovecraft. The two weren’t competitors, though—rather, they were close friends and correspondents. They’d often mail each other drafts of their stories, discuss the themes of their work, and generally talk shop. And as Lovecraft’s own mythology was growing, it seems like their work began to bleed together.

In “The Phoenix on the Sword,” Howard made reference to “vast shadowy outlines of the Nameless Old Ones,” which could be seen as a reference to the ancient, godlike “Old Ones” from the Lovecraft mythos. In the book The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian, editor Patrice Louinet even wrote that Howard’s earlier draft for the story name-dropped Lovecraft’s actual Old Ones, most notably Cthulhu.

In Lovecraft’s “The Shadow of Time,” he describes a character named Crom-Ya as a “Cimmerian chieftain,” which is a reference to Conan's homeland and god. These examples just scratch the surface of names, places, and concepts that the duo’s work share. Whether you want to read it all as a fun homage or an early attempt at a shared universe is up to you.

5. SEVERAL OF HOWARD’S STORIES WERE REWRITTEN AS CONAN STORIES POSTHUMOUSLY.

Howard was only 30 when he died, so there aren’t as many completed Conan stories out in the world as you’d imagine—and there are even less that were finished and officially printed. Despite that, the character’s popularity has only grown since the 1930s, and publishers looked for a way to print more of Howard’s Conan decades after his death. Over the years, writers and editors have gone back into Howard’s manuscripts for unfinished tales to doctor up and rewrite for publication, like "The Snout in the Dark," which was a fragment that was reworked by writers Lin Carter and L. Sprague de Camp. There were also times when Howard’s non-Conan drafts were repurposed as Conan stories by publishers, including all of the stories in 1955's Tales of Conan collection from Gnome Press.

6. FRANK FRAZETTA’S CONAN PAINTINGS REGULARLY SELL FOR SEVEN FIGURES.

Chances are, the image of Conan you have in your head right now owes a lot to artist Frank Frazetta: His version of the famous barbarian—complete with rippling muscles, pulsating veins, and copious amounts of sword swinging—would come to define the character for generations. But the look that people most associate with Conan didn’t come about until the character’s stories were reprinted decades after Robert E. Howard’s death.

“In 1966, Lancer Books published new paperbacks of Robert E. Howard's Conan series and hired my grandfather to do the cover art,” Sara Frazetta, Frazetta's granddaughter owner and operator of Frazetta Girls, tells Mental Floss. You could argue that Frazetta’s powerful covers were what drew most people to Conan during the '60s and '70s, and in recent years the collector’s market seems to validate that opinion. In 2012, the original painting for his Lancer version of Conan the Conqueror sold at auction for $1,000,000. Later, his Conan the Destroyer went for $1.5 million.

Still, despite all of Frazetta’s accomplishments, his granddaughter said there was one thing he always wanted: “His only regret was that he wished Robert E. Howard was alive so he could have seen what he did with his character.”

7. CONAN’S FIRST MARVEL COMIC WAS ALMOST CANCELED AFTER SEVEN ISSUES.

The cover to Marvel's Conan the Barbarian #21
Marvel Entertainment

Conan’s origins as a pulp magazine hero made him a natural fit for the medium’s logical evolution: the comic book. And in 1970, the character got his first high-profile comic launch when Marvel’s Conan The Barbarian hit shelves, courtesy of writer Roy Thomas and artist Barry Windsor-Smith.

Though now it’s hailed as one of the company’s highlights from the ‘70s, the book was nearly canceled after a mere seven issues. The problem is that while the debut issue sold well, each of the next six dropped in sales, leading Marvel’s then editor-in-chief, Stan Lee, to pull the book from production after the seventh issue hit stands.

Thomas pled his case, and Lee agreed to give Conan one last shot. But this time instead of the book coming out every month, it would be every two months. The plan worked, and soon sales were again on the rise and the book would stay in publication until 1993, again as a monthly. This success gave way to the Savage Sword of Conan, an oversized black-and-white spinoff magazine from Marvel that was aimed at adult audiences. It, too, was met with immense success, lasting from 1974 to 1995.

8. OLIVER STONE WROTE A FOUR-HOUR, POST-APOCALYPTIC CONAN MOVIE.

John Milius’s 1982 Conan movie is a classic of the sword and sorcery genre, but its original script from Oliver Stone didn’t resemble the final product at all. In fact, it barely resembled anything related to Conan. Stone’s Conan would have been set on a post-apocalyptic Earth, where the barbarian would do battle against a host of mutant pigs, insects, and hyenas. Not only that, but it would have also been just one part of a 12-film saga that would be modeled on the release schedule of the James Bond series.

The original producers were set to move ahead with Stone’s script with Stone co-directing alongside an up-and-coming special effects expert named Ridley Scott, but they were turned down by all of their prospects. With no co-director and a movie that would likely be too ambitious to ever actually get finished, they sold the rights to producer Dino De Laurentiis, who helped bring in Milius.

9. BARACK OBAMA IS A FAN (AND WAS TURNED INTO A BARBARIAN HIMSELF).

When President Barack Obama sent out a mass email in 2015 to the members of Organizing for Action, he was looking to get people to offer up stories about how they got involved within their community—their origin stories, if you will. In this mass email, the former Commander-in-Chief detailed his own origin, with a shout out to a certain barbarian:

“I grew up loving comic books. Back in the day, I was pretty into Conan the Barbarian and Spiderman.

Anyone who reads comics can tell you, every main character has an origin story—the fateful and usually unexpected sequence of events that made them who they are.”

This bit of trivia was first made public in 2008 in a Daily Telegraph article on 50 facts about the president. That led to Devil’s Due Publishing immortalizing the POTUS in the 2009 comic series Barack the Barbarian, which had him decked out in his signature loincloth doing battle against everyone from Sarah Palin to Dick Cheney.

10. J.R.R. TOLKIEN WAS ALSO A CONAN DEVOTEE.

The father of 20th century fantasy may always be J.R.R. Tolkien, but Howard is a close second in many fans' eyes. Though Tolkien’s work has found its way into more scholarly literary circles, Howard’s can sometimes get categorized as low-brow. Quality recognizes quality, however, and during a conversation with Tolkien, writer L. Sprague de Camp—who himself edited and touched-up numerous Conan stories—said The Lord of the Rings author admitted that he “rather liked” Howard’s Conan stories during a conversation with him. He didn’t expand upon it, nor was de Camp sure which Conan tale he actually read (though it was likely “Shadows in the Moonlight”), but the seal of approval from Tolkien himself goes a long way toward validation.

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