Robert E. Howard: Jan. 22, 1906 – June 11, 1936

Weird Tales, May 1934

Today is the anniversary of the birth of Robert E. Howard, one of the greatest pulp authors of all time, best-known for creating Conan the Barbarian, the star of novels, short stories, comic books, a TV series and couple of movies.

I wrote at length last year about Howard’s life and influence on me, and suffice it to say, I wouldn’t be where I am today without the inspiration of his rugged prose. He had nine Conan stories published in Weird Tales, perhaps the most famous of the pulp magazines.

I suggest celebrating the anniversary with a viewing of The Whole Wide World, a wonderful little indie film based on Howard’s life. Or maybe you should read one of Howard’s original stories (perhaps “Queen of the Black Coast”), to get a feel for what the character was really like. (Arnold Schwarzenegger, he wasn’t!)

Jason Momoa as Conan

There’s a new movie, a reboot of the franchise, of course, slated for release on Aug. 19, called Conan the Barbarian, and it stars Jason Momoa, who played Ronan on STARGATE ATLANTIS, in the title role. I think this is a really good choice, as Momoa has a lot of charisma and is good with dialogue. (Those SGA episodes could get very wordy!) On the other hand, early reports indicate the movie will not be hewing very closely to Howard’s original version of the character, so that has me a little wary. Oh, and one last thing: It will be released in 3D. Again, this doesn’t fill me with confidence.

The Big Bad is a character called Khalar Zym, played by Stephen Lang – who made such an impression as the evil Col. Quartich in James Cameron’s Avatar, which I enjoyed. The rest of cast is not too shabby, either, featuring Rachel Nichols (Star Trek, GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra), Ron Perlman (Hellboy) and Rose McGowan (Grindhouse and the forthcoming Red Sonja). It’s directed by Marcus Nispel, who helmed the 2009 Friday the 13th remake. (I know, I cringed a little, too…) You can keep up with the latest on the movie at Conan the Movie Blog.

Howard was born on this date, and killed himself in June of 1936, after learning that his mother had slipped into an irreversible coma. Howard shot himself in the head after tapping out a brief, haunting note:

All fled–all done, so lift me on the pyre; The feast is over, and the lamps expire.

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