Decades after Robert E. Howard’s character Conan appeared in pulp magazines, the barbarian began to gain mass appeal. While the original stories gained attention, Conan never found his way to a fully publicized book before Howard’s untimely demise. Still, his legacy remained as the rights to his Conan works shifted hands for decades. Finally, L. Sprague de Camp became the man who managed Conan’s legacy.
As de Camp took control over the publication rights, he set out to continue the barbarian’s legacy at Lancer Books. To begin, he gathered Howard’s works into compilation books so that readers would remember where the character came from. He then set forth to create new stories for the Barbarian. He also worked together with Lin Carter to take the notes and incomplete stories from Howard so that they could become completed tales. This era gave new life to the Barbarian.
As Lancer Books brought renewed attention to Conan, other companies began to take note as well. Most importantly, Marvel Comics took a huge gamble when they bought the rights to the character. While he originally did not seem to fit with the rest of Marvel’s publications, he quickly became a smash hit. Thus, Conan’s popularity soared as talks with toy manufacturers and movie studios began.
Decades later, fans can happily go back to enjoy the various books, comic books, movies, and toys that the character inspired. However, the toys allowed fans to create indulge in their fandom with new and unique stories. So, join us as we explore ten of the greatest toys to carry the Conan name.
Presenting the top ten Conan the Barbarian collectibles and toys
10. Remco Conan – Conan the Warrior (1984)
Years after Mattel ended its contract with Conan Properties, Inc., a new company signed on to create Conan toys, Remco. Notably, Remco had angered Mattel for years as they released toys that appeared to directly rip off the He-Man ascetic with their Lost World of the Warlord toy line. However, their legal victories allowed them to continue producing toys that directly competed with He-Man. Thus, it became even more striking when Remco created Conan toys in the style of He-Man, for many believed that He-Man took inspiration from Conan.
Remco’s toy line used the same squatted wrestler pose that partially defined the He-Man action figures. With the legal battles between Mattel and Remco, fans reasonably considered that the Conan toy line was another He-Man rip-off toy line. However, Conan existed well before He-Man arrived on the scene.
This toy took inspiration from the 1982 and 1984 Conan films, featuring blonde hair like the star of those films, Arnold Schwarzenegger. Likewise, his headpiece and loincloth closely resembled the film’s wardrobe. However, the sword did not match up with the film’s prop, nor did the lion’s face draped over the right half of his chest. So, Remco likely combined elements of the stories, comics, and movies to create this toy’s appearance.
9. NECA Conan the Barbarian – Pit Fighter Conan (2008)
While the Conan the Barbarian film from 1982 never received an official toy line during its time, NECA later brought Arnold’s likeness to the toy aisle. Beginning in 1996, the National Entertainment Collectibles Association, NECA for short, set out to create high-quality collectibles. As they began with general collectibles and bobbleheads, they eventually found their stride as they produced action figures for fan-favorite characters. Thus, NECA became the company that created budget-priced collectibles with collector-tier details and painting.
As the company began to catch its stride, it picked up the license for Conan the Barbarian in 2008. During this time, they produced five different action figures that celebrated the legacy of the 1982 film. While one of these figures was a bronze recolor for San Diego Comic-Con, the others featured photo-realistic paint jobs. Thus, fans of the movie could find Conan in various outfits from the movie, from the Temple of the Serpent appearance to the man’s war paint.
However, one of the most striking appearances from this toy line was the original Pit Fighter Conan action figure from 2008. During his time in the pits, Conan appeared in a few different outfits, from only wearing his loincloth to having a fur coat. However, the leather strapped armor gave the figure a striking appearance. Still, if fans preferred the fur vest, NECA had them covered with an alternate appearance.
This action figure featured two axes that Conan could wield in battle. Moreover, the figure came with a diorama base. Finally, owners could remove his gauntlets.
8. McFarlane Conan: The Hour of the Dragon – Pallantides of the Black Dragon (2005)
Before his passing, Robert E. Howard created an epic tale for his Conan character, the Hour of the Dragon, which Weird Tales published across multiple issues. The story continued Conan’s exploits through the Hyborian age after he became the king of Aquilonia. Despite his position as ruler of the land, Conan still faced many threats and obstacles, especially political plots.
Thus, when McFarlane gained the license to create Conan toys, they turned their focus on this period of Conan’s life. Still, some of the characters that appeared in this toy line also stemmed from earlier points in Conan’s life.
For the second series, McFarlane released an action figure of Pallantides of the Black Dragon. This man’s sole duty was protecting the king of the land. Even at his age, Pallantides remained a force to be reckoned with, maintaining his muscular build. Thus, he easily made it as one of the elite imperial guards of Aquilonia. Likewise, his Black Dragons served as the palace guard, especially focusing their efforts on protecting King Conan. Some of the Black Dragons also patrolled around the Pictish frontier.
When McFarlane sculpted the action figure for this man, they created a muscle-bound man who wore an outfit that harkened back to Roman armor. For instance, his helmet sported a large feather mohawk, like the depictions of Roman soldiers. This character also came with a sword and shield.
7. McFarlane Conan: The Hour of the Dragon – Man-Eating Haunter of the Pits (2005)
Knowing that Conan fans would not be satisfied with a line filled with humans, McFarlane also crafted a few monsters. One of these monsters was the fearsome man-eating haunter of the pits, a massive ape-like creature with prominent teeth. While his lower canines dwarfed the rest of this creature’s teeth, it also had prominent upper canines. Like apes, the rest of his teeth indicated this creature’s omnivore appetite.
Meanwhile, this creature had long-muscular arms that gave him a devastating reach. Within his left hand, the creature held a hefty stick that it could bash its victims with. Meanwhile, its right arm stretched out, possibly reaching out for new prey.
Notably, this figure could pair up with McFarlane’s Conan figure to create an epic battle scene. On the packaging, the Conan the Warrior figure posed with the beast. As the figure seemed to leap through the air, the battle scene showed Conan ready to swing his axe down on the beast. No matter how fans decided to display this beast, he helped bring tension to the toy line.
6. McFarlane Conan: Series One – Svadun (2004)
As McFarlane kicked off their Conan action figures, they created Svadun, a female Aesir warrior who fought at Conan’s side. Even at the time of her birth under a bloody moon, Svadun was bound to live a life filled with strife. According to her legend, timber wolves howled as if possessed as she came into the world. Even though she became well known for her prowess with a sword, she also had a quick wit. Still, she found herself in a battle where she nearly died.
Luckily, Conan came around to save her from certain death. Thus, Svadun swore to return the favor by saving his life one day. Until she could fulfill her oath, she remained close to Conan, journeying with him. However, once she fulfilled her duty, she would return home to her home in the mountain borderlands between Vanaheim and Asgard.
Unlike the Aesir of legend, the Aesir from Conan were not gods and goddesses. Instead, they were humans who lived in tribes in the north. These people lived in tribes that each had their own king. Meanwhile, they worshipped gods, with Ymir, the Frost Giant, being the most powerful.
Following the trend of less armor equals more, McFarlane created a female warrior who barely wore anything on her upper body. Still, she had a metallic lace bodice that covered her chest while leaving her navel exposed. Meanwhile, she wore long green pants under a dark green skirt. She also had a dark green cape that draped off her left shoulder guard. This action figure came with a single accessory, her sword.
5. McFarlane Conan: Series One – Fire Dragon (2004)
Even though terrible beasts and monsters filled Conan’s comics and stories McFarlane took liberties to fill their toy line with new creatures. Thus, they introduced the Fire Dragon, who resembled a giant, monstrous snake, into the first series of toys. Likely, this creature’s serpentine appearance paid tribute to the original 1982 movie, where Conan fought a gigantic snake.
The priests that nurtured this creature knew that he was the son of Set, a terrible serpent-god. To help this creature grow, they fed it blood, magic, and virgin flesh. Thus, this dragon grew to an immense size. Likewise, it developed extraordinary intelligence and power. With its power and lineage, the fire dragon had a direct connection to its father, Set. Even though the priests feared the creature’s abilities, they saw it as the perfect guardian for hatchlings. Likewise, the serpent kept the Cimmerian pirate imprisoned.
Like the Man-Eating Haunter that came after this series, McFarlane designed the Fire Dragon to interact with one of their other figures, Belit, to create a complete battle scene. When combined, Belit would stand ready to slash into the dragon’s belly. Meanwhile, the creature’s coils wrapped around her legs.
Even though McFarlane called this figure a Fire Dragon, it lacked any accessory to give it the name-sake fire. Instead, this dragon only had red scales to indicate its fiery nature.
4. McFarlane Conan: The Hour of the Dragon – Zenobia (2005)
McFarlane did not release only new characters that they created for the toy line. Some of the characters originated from the source material, especially The Hour of the Dragon. For instance, Zenobia was a concubine of the Nemedian King who fell in love with Conan. While they parted ways after their initial meeting, their paths continued to meet.
While McFarlane only defined Zenobia as a harem girl, her story continued in the Conan Mythos. Years after their initial encounter, Zenobia found Conan as a prisoner of Xaltotun and Tarascus. Still infatuated with Conan, she agreed to help him escape his captivity. Thanks to her help, he slipped away from his captives. Thus, as Conan became the king of Aquilonia, he married Zenobia and made her queen. She then bore him a son, Conan II.
Even though Zenobia’s skills as a Concubine centered around dancing and court etiquette, she picked up battle skills. Thus, she could competently use weapons and hold her own in battle. She preferred using knives in battle. However, she also was adept with the bow and arrow.
Unfortunately, since McFarlane only focused on Zenobia’s past as a Concubine, they only created a figure of her chained to a wall. So, this action figure would only sever the role of damsel in distress.
3. McFarlane Conan: Series One – Conan of Cimmeria (2004)
Beyond all other characters, Conan was the most important character to get right in a Conan toy line. Thus, McFarlane created several Conan action figures that depicted him at various points of his life. However, the toy that highlighted Conan’s role as a warrior the most was the Conan of Cimmeria action figure.
Unlike the stereotypical depiction of Conan, especially after a certain bodybuilder showed off his bulging muscles on screen, this action figure donned clothing that most warriors would wear into battle. Thus, Conan wore thick fur boots, a pair of brown pants, a pelt loincloth, and a metal breastplate. Finishing the appearance, Conan wore a massive red cape.
Moreover, Conan came with a short sword that easily fit into its gigantic scabbard. Beyond the sword, Conan also came with a battle axe.
As Conan grew up in his village within the hills of Cimmeria, he honed his battle and hunting skills. Thus, he became one of Cimmeria’s most ferocious warriors by his teenage years. As he fought for his home, he attacked Aquilonian outposts.
2. McFarlane Conan: The Hour of the Dragon – King Conan of Aquilonia (2005)
The crowning piece of McFarlane’s Conan toy collection featured Conan as he reached his ultimate position as King of Aquilonia. After years of battle, Conan defeated so many of his foes that he became the ruler of the land. He took the crown after he strangled Aquilonia’s previous ruler, Numedides. He then married the woman who helped him get to this point in his life, Zenobia. As king, Conan produced an heir with Zenobia, Conan II.
Still, he could never remain satisfied to sit on a throne as ruler. By the time he reached his sixties, Conan left his throne to seek new battles. Thus, he left his son in charge of the Aquilonians, never to return as the nation’s king.
Thus, McFarlane designed an impressive figure of a pensive Conan as he sat on his throne. Like most of McFarlane’s other figures, this toy had little to no articulation. Instead, it mostly served as a small-scale statuette of King Conan. In exchange for articulation, they crafted ornate details into the figure’s armor and throne.
1. Mego Conan the Barbarian (1976)
Before Arnold Schwarzenegger took on the role of Conan on the silver screen, the character gained traction as a famous literary and comic character. He especially gained mass appeal thanks to the Marvel Comics run in the 1970s. Thus, when Mego began to expand their licensed properties, they decided to give Conan the Barbarian a chance.
As with his original design, this Conan action figure featured the dark hair that the character originally had. While many may know Conan with golden hair, this only occurred because Schwarzenegger was a natural blonde. Otherwise, the character appeared with his traditional appearance, as a dark-haired warrior.
While ancient warriors were known to wear full body armor, Mego decided to adorn Conan in solely a fur loincloth and boots. For the most part, popular culture during the sixties and seventies preferred to show ancient warriors in such clothing. Meanwhile, he wore a golden belt and gauntlets.
Then, this action figure came with a single accessory, a battle axe. Since Conan traditionally used an axe in battle, this weapon felt like the perfect complement for the character.
What is your favorite Conan the Barbarian collectibles and toys?
Today, we have shared with you ten of the greatest Conan the Barbarian collectibles to date. However, we would love to hear from you. Let us know what your favorite collectibles and toys that brought the action of Conan to life are in the comments below.
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Bio: I am the founder and owner of Wheeljack’s Lab pop Culture and Toy Shop. My vision has always been to reunite customers with their favorite childhood toys and pop culture, triggering fond memories, and reigniting their imaginations. Every day, I work in the “lab” where it’s Christmas 365 days a year. I scour the internet, like when we had the Sears Catalog of yesteryear, for the next great treasure. Then, I await the arrival of the postman as if he were Santa Claus himself and helping collectors worldwide with their own versions of Christmas. Every day as a vintage toy buyer is an absolute joy!