The fantasy genre’s icing on the cake is unquestionably sword and sorcery. Fictional accounts of valiant heroes and the accounts of their valour have always drawn readers, and the situation quickly changed from books to movies.
When Conan arrived, the bulky savage hero battling the worst of the evil forces shot to the top of the popularity charts. Conan is acclaimed and well-known for his exploits on screen and in the enchanted pages of Robert E. Howard’s books, but there are some other heroes who are comparable to him who have slipped under the radar or do not enjoy the same level of notoriety.
We present to you in this video a list of such Conan rip-offs, some of which were produced before Conan, but which only attracted viewers after Conan established his dominance over the genre. This video will be exactly up your alley if you are up for a bloody and valiant voyage with some of these hulking figures in sword and sorcery!
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Blackstar was the first to test the waters before Conan the Barbarian came out in 1982 and before He-Man and the Masters of the Universe had a significant impact on children. He was the main character of an American animated series for Filmation that followed The Freedom Force as their second fantasy epic. Despite some rather obvious parallels to He-Man, John Blackstar was nevertheless an entertaining contribution to the sword and sorcery fantasy subgenre.
He is an astronaut from Earth whose spacecraft is dragged into a black hole, leaving him stranded on the alien planet Sagar. His past is pretty tragic. The accident ends up transferring him back to some kind of an ancient universe, where he must make new alliances to fight an evil force. The Trobbits, the dragon Warlock, and some others join forces with Blackstar as he stands up against the ruthless dictator Overlord who plans to take over the planet.
John Blackstar hails from an advanced futuristic Earth, but the ways of planet Sagar are quite primitive in many ways. However, he does have the magical Star Sword, which is the source of his incredible strength and powers. He doesn’t scream, by the power of Grayskull, but the transformation is somewhat similar. This sword can absorb and reflect any energy form, and it is an indestructible weapon. But, the other part of the source weapon is with Overlord, and it also has similar capabilities.
It was the first taste of such a character for many, and George DiCenzo, who voiced the character of John Blackstar, did a phenomenal job. His adventures came to an abrupt end after the cancellation of the show, but it is still fresh in our memories!
As the He-Man franchise was growing in popularity through the early 80s, many others tried to cash in on the craze. Galtar and the Golden Lance was one of the successful attempts to recreate the magic of He-Man, and the legendary Hanna-Barbera Productions was behind the project. It had a brief run of 21 episodes, but during this short stay the titular character had gathered quite a loyal fan following.
Galtar too had a tragic backstory, where his parents were killed by the evil warlord Tormack. Now, Tormack intends to conquer the entire world and Galtar and some of his loyal companions are the only obstructions in his path. In his fight against Tormack and his evil forces, Galtar is helped by his magical Golden Lance, which has the ability to extend into two magical blades when required.
If someone unworthy wields this incredible weapon, the Golden Lance protects itself by releasing a powerful burst of energy. The show is all about Galtar’s adventures in this perilous world, where he is helped by his loyal horse, Thork, the red dragon called Raven’s Claw, and some others. Unfortunately, we never got to witness the final outcome of the series and the character because the show was untimely canceled.
Thundarr the Barbarian
The early 1980s were an amazing time for the sword and sorcery genre, and Thundarr the Barbarian was another valuable addition to the list. This series lasted for two seasons, and the premise was inspired by the comic books and Robert E. Howard’s creations. The story is set in a post-apocalyptic future, where the world has been run down into wastelands ruled by wizards and creatures of magic.
The protagonist Thundarr bears a resemblance to Conan and Thor, and even his name seems to be a combination of the two. He travels the world with his companions and fights against several evil wizards along the way. Thundarr has to deal with a combined force of magic and technology, and it requires something special from him each time to survive in this strange new world of savagery and sorcery.
Thundarr used to be a slave, but eventually, he was freed by Princess Ariel. He was handed the Sunsword, and he used it to fight the evil forces. This Sunsword is bound to remind you of Star Wars because it is portrayed as a beam of energy when it is activated. It can deflect other energy or magic attacks, and it has a magical link to Thundarr in such a way that only he can use it effectively.
Besides his tales of bravado, Thundarr also cares deeply for Princess Ariel, who is his savior in a way. There have been times when the princess has expressed romantic feelings towards him, and even though he never reciprocated directly, his caring attitude towards her is pretty evident. The overall storyline is very close to our hearts, and we still have fond memories of Thundarr’s wondrous war cry!
Now that we have delved quite a bit into the animated world, let us bring you some iconic characters from comic books which fit the bill just as well! Slaine is easily one of the most effective figures in the 2000AD comic, and every aspect of the character will sound like a Conan rip-off to you! He is a typical barbarian warrior with a taste for wine, women, and riches. He is premised in a world of Celtic mythology, and dare we say that his character has more depth than Conan in many ways!
Slaine was banished from his own tribe, and he set out to explore the world accompanied by a dwarf named Ukko. He dealt with all kinds of threats, from monsters to vile men, and in one of his adventures he rescued a maiden, Medb, from being sacrificed before a God. However, it turned out that she was a devotee who was looking forward to being sacrificed, and she wasn’t too pleased about being rescued.
Her master, the evil Lord Weird Slough Feg was the main villain in the series, and in several story arcs he managed to trouble Slaine in some form. The gallant warrior managed to redeem himself and became the king of the same tribe that had expelled him before.
Slaine even protected them from the sea demons which oppressed them, and he also had some time-traveling adventures, where he fought alongside other heroes against greater forces of evil. The stories are laced with elements of magic, violence, and just about everything you would expect from a sword-and-sorcery classic. It is a comic series worth reading, and it could have been a showstopper if someone adopted Slaine for a movie or a TV series!
This animated series had a brief run on the CBS network from 1967 to 1969, and it was a signature Hanna-Barbera production once again. The protagonist was a young caveman named Tor, and while returning from a hunting trip he came across an old man in trouble. After rescuing the old fellow, he was rewarded with a magical club, which was going to be the source of all his special powers.
Every time Tor would lift up the club to the sky, he would be transformed into a prehistoric superhero, mighty Mightor, with a mask and ripped muscles. He had superhuman strength after the transformation, and his club could be used to fight the bad guys. This magical club could also emit powerful energy blasts to attack the enemy, and Mightor used his powers to protect his village.
Mightor had quite a unique pet – a dinosaur named Tog, and the villagers were a mix of some entertaining characters. The daughter of the village chief, Sheera, and her brother Little Rok were admirers of Mightor, and they would embark upon various adventures in the course of the episodes. Sheera and Little Rok had their pets as well, a mammoth calf named Bollo and a Dodo bird Ork respectively. This was prior to the time, when Conan set the stage for the genre, but Mighty Mightor certainly prepared an audience for this type of content.
Kull the Conqueror
Robert E. Howard is not hailed as the father of sword and sorcery for nothing! He created several iconic characters and the fantasy-action stories created quite a fan base over time. Kull the Conqueror was one such heroic character, and he first appeared as early as 1929, way before Conan the Barbarian was created. He was shown to be born in the pre-cataclysmic era, when barbaric tribes ruled the world alongside certain civilized kingdoms. When Kull was a toddler, his tribe was destroyed by a devastating flood, and he survived as a feral child in the wilderness. He was later adopted by another tribe, but one of his acts of pardon got him exiled.
His colorful life entered a stage, where he was captured as a galley slave, and he even briefly tried out the life of a pirate. Just as his acts of piracy were turning him into a fearsome warrior, his ship was lost in a naval battle. He survived, but he had to lead the life of an outlaw for a while.
Eventually, he was captured and forced to be a gladiator in the fighting pits. He then went on to become a fierce mercenary, fighting for various causes, and he even had a brief run-in with politics as he learned the tricks of ruling. There are several stories featuring this heroic warrior, and many seem to agree that this was the character that Conan was inspired by.
There are, however, a few subtle differences between Kull the Conqueror and Conan. While the latter was known to be a womanizer, Kull was known for his lack of interest in the matters of the heart. Conan stories have way more action, while the stories around Kull are often more philosophical. Even today, it can be a lot of fun to read through some of the classic comic books featuring Kull the Conqueror, and he is easily one of the pioneering characters in the genre!
Wulf the Barbarian
You simply cannot have the perfect hero without a tragic origin story, and Wulf the Barbarian has just the right one. He was a young prince, who witnessed his parents being slaughtered by trolls who ambushed them while they were on a hunt. Wulf barely managed to escape and he was handed over to a trusted sword master. He went on to become a fierce warrior and swore a bloody oath to get his revenge on those who killed his family. There are many who know Wulf from the popular Atlas comic book series that was released in 2011, but his stories go back a long way. It was in 1975, when the title had a brief run for four issues, and it elaborated on the stories of the young prince who grew up under extreme conditions.
Following the great tragedy, Wulf trained for over a decade, and all this time he prepared to face the killer one day. However, before his goals could materialize, the same troll who killed his family now took the life of his guardian and trainer. Wulf does get his revenge eventually, tracking and killing the troll, and he also reclaims the powerful sword that belonged to his father.
The 2011 version marks the return of this gallant warrior, as he encounters a near-apocalyptic situation and fights a powerful wizard named Sanjon. He manages to follow him into modern-day New York after Sanjon travels forward in time, but these adventures of Wulf lack the flavor of the glorious days of the 70s! Even then, it has to be said that Wulf has been quite a steady character in the sword and sorcery genre, and it certainly has the potential to be adopted into a movie!
Deathstalker was created on the backdrop of the massive success of Conan, and a series of films depicted the adventures of a similarly brutal warrior. The titular hero was first tasked with finding a magical sword and amulet and to retrieve them from an evil sorcerer. He braved numerous obstacles along the way, fought bravely, and finally managed to bring the sorcerer to justice. Three sequels followed, and they all were more or less similar in nature. It was all about the barbarian warrior and his heroic battles, and the element of magic and fantasy formed the core of the stories.
It was a period when there was a craze for low-budget sword and sorcery flicks, and Deathstalker fit right in. Scantily clad ladies and some gruesome fighting scenes ensured that the movies in the franchise never ran short on the entertainment value.
Deathstalker is not the perfect hero by any means, and it is made evident that he fights for his selfish needs. He is barbaric and without mercy, and the constant bloodshed is the only common thing that binds the movies. Rick Hill was the perfect fit for the role, and he even returned for the fourth and final Deathstalker film. We loved the cheesy one-liners, and the overall campy nature of the films can be fun if you are seeking a guilty pleasure!
The Scorpion King
We all know the Scorpion King for being the evil ruler who commands the Anubis army and slaughters innocent people. However, there is an interesting backstory that offers some insight into the change in his character. He wasn’t evil to begin with, and was an Akkadian warrior named Mathayus. He became a deadly mercenary along with his brothers, but after the death of the brothers he ensured the end of Memnon’s reign. However, in the course of rooting out the evil of Memnon, he succumbed to the dark side and became a warlord himself. He became a formidable ruler, but welfare was the least of his concern.
He managed to earn the favor of Anubis during a battle, but lost his soul in the process. He went into a hibernation-like state, and it was the final nail in the coffin. He lost the slightest trace of humanity in him, and when he was awakened after five thousand years, he was simply an evil entity. As a ruler, Mathayus was built like a tank, and he had incredible powers. After the blessings (or curse) of Anubis, he could turn his hands into giant claws and the lower half of his body could change into the lower body of a scorpion. This character is really a far cry from some of the others on our list, but his overall personality, powers, and fighting style will remind you of someone like Conan!
He-Man (Masters of the Universe)
This is possibly one of the most well-known characters in the list because even those who don’t fancy sword and sorcery have loved watching He-Man in action! It is baffling how a plan to sell toys turned out into such a popular animated series and spawned a successful franchise. He-Man has delved into the world of live-action as well, and the muscular, righteous superhero still commands the same kind of popularity as he did back in the day. He-Man is the alter ego of Prince Adam, who is the protector of Eternia and Castle Grayskull.
The source of all his incredible powers is actually the Sorceress of Castle Grayskull, who helps him transform into He-Man. All he has to do is hold up his power sword and utter the words – by the power of Grayskull, and the prince is transformed into a hulkish warrior. Prince Adam’s cowardly pet tiger is also transformed into an armored green tiger called Battle Cat, and together they fight the evil forces who want to destroy Eternia. One of their main enemies is Skeletor, and their rivalry has been one of the best you will see.
Prince Adam is careful about maintaining the secrecy of his double identity, but there are a select few who are aware of his powers. There are a few other versions of He-Man, and the backstories vary ever so slightly even though the overall structure remains the same. This may be a more child-friendly version of Conan, but He-Man will score level on the entertainment aspect!
Most of you probably know the Beastmaster from the 1982 movie, but the story is loosely based on a novel by Andre Norton written back in 1959. The success of Conan inspired various directors to take up such projects, and Don Coscarelli decided to work with The Beastmaster. The title is self-explanatory because our protagonist has the ability to communicate with animals and command them if required. The movie starts with a prophecy that suggests the death of an evil priest at the hands of King Zed’s unborn son. The high priest does his best to have the baby killed, but he manages to survive and grows up to be a powerful warrior with the special ability to communicate with animals.
The Beastmaster is joined by some of his animal companions, and eventually, it all boils down to one final showdown with the evil priest. He defeats the main antagonist, and gives up the chance of taking up the throne because he simply wants to continue his adventures and fight all forms of evil. As simple as the story may sound, it did end up being a massive hit and ensured that a couple of sequels followed. There was also a TV series that had a different take on the origins of the Beastmaster, and overall, this character was certainly a great addition to the legacy of Conan.
The Barbarians (Movie character)
Cheesy is an understatement to describe the movie, and the campy nature of the narrative is actually what makes it fun! Yes, we are talking about the Italian-American production that dared to create an outrageous and hilarious sword and sorcery flick titled The Barbarians.
The story follows the journey of a pair of twin brothers who are separated after a vicious attack on their tribe. They both grow up to be incredibly strong fighters, and when they are finally united, they have vengeance on their mind. The rest of the narrative is as predictable as you can imagine, as the brothers fight waves of enemies and finally get to the one responsible for their traumatic childhood.
The movie features some brutal sword-fights, and visually the film looks far better than its actual content. B-movie enthusiasts have a special place in their hearts for this one, and The Barbarian brothers managed to provide two Conan-like heroes fighting it out together. If you have some mindless entertainment planned over a couple of beers, these heroes might just be the ones to your rescue!
Conan was a game changer, and it was pretty obvious that people were going to reap the rewards of the sudden craze in the genre. While these rip-offs were fun and entertaining, there were some others that fell flat. Do let us know in the comments below about your favorite Conan rip-offs, and your thoughts on the impact that Conan’s success had on the genre!