Conan Barbarian Marvel Comics Price Guide

Issue by Issue Conan Barbarian Comics Price Guide

Conan the Barbarian is not your typical Marvel Comics superhero. There is some question about whether he should be called a superhero at all, since he has no "super powers" and wears no costume.

His adventures take place in a place (presumably in Europe or somewhere like it) and time (the unspecified distant past) that is completely unconnected to the rest of the Marvel Universe. Conan, in other words, is self-contained.

Guide to 1970s Marvel Price Variants

Roy Thomas was, by 1970, becoming more important at Marvel. He received many letters from readers asking for comic adaptations of classic fantasy novels. Of course, that list would include Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, Edgar Rice Burroughs' Tarzan, Doc Savage, and Conan. 

After some financial dithering with Martin Goodman, then still the head honcho of Marvel, a Conan adaptation was planned. Thomas wanted John Buscema, who would later go on to become very associated with Conan, to do the pencils. Goodman said no, citing Buscema's (justifiably) high rate and Conan's untested sales potential. 

Thomas went with Barry Smith (later Windsor-Smith) instead, a move which helped catapult him to comics stardom. Smith would stay with the series through #24. With #25, it was decided that Marvel could, after all, risk John Buscema's rate on Conan. Sales had been up and down, but were now steadily rising, and Buscema would stay with the title for a very long time, penciling most of the issues between #25 and #190.

Although Conan settled in to be a steady seller, it ran as a bimonthly for most of its run. Its popularity, along with the success of "adult" comics titles like Heavy Metal, inspired Roy Thomas and Marvel to first install Conan in the serious black-and-white magazine title Savage Tales, and then later in his own magazine title, the black-and-white Savage Sword of Conan in 1974.

At first these were published under the imprint of Curtis Publications, and then later as part of the Marvel Magazine Group.

Readers will no doubt be aware of the Conan film franchise, with two somewhat campy but profitable films starring Arnold Schwarzenegger in the 1980s, and a rather disappointing and unprofitable reboot made in 2011, starring Jason Momoa. The films had little to do with the comics' success, in general, but are occasionally entertaining.

Conan remains popular with collectors, although he has had no title of his own since 1996.

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Conan the Barbarian #1 (October 1970): Robert E. Howard's Cimmerian Comes to Comics

Conan the Barbarian #1 (October 1970): Robert E. Howard's Cimmerian Comes to Comics. Click for value

Conan the Barbarian #1 does not so much present us with Conan's origin as his first adventure.

Conan, then an unknown 20-year-old Cimmerian, joins an Aesir raiding party invading Vanaheim.

Conan distinguishes himself as a great fighter (for a barbarian) in battle with some winged monsters who are powered by the Star Stone, a magical stone in the possession of Sharkosh, an old Shaman.

Conan destroys the stone, which kills Sharkosh and sends the winged monsters back to their home dimension.

Written by Roy Thomas as an adaptation of a Robert E. Howard short story, and illustrated by Barry Smith (who also did the iconic cover), Conan the Barbarian #1 is incredibly valuable to collectors, and one of the most sought-after comics of the early Bronze Age.

Record sale: $5,950
Minimum value (poor but complete): $20

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Conan the Barbarian #2 (December 1970): Beast-Men vs Manlings!

Conan the Barbarian #2 (December 1970): Beat-Men vs Manlings! Click for value

Ho hum, another issue of Conan Barbarian, another insanely collectible early Bronze-Age comic.

In Conan #2, we get another Robert E. Howard adaptation by Roy Thomas, this time placing Conan in conflict with the Beast Men, who are anthropomorphic, ape-like, covered in white fur, and savage.

Conan is captured by the Beast Men and forced to compete in gladiator-style combat in their arena, alongside other captured "manlings," as the Beast Men call humans.

Conan fights valiantly, and eventually manages to free himself and slit the throat of the Beast Men's king.

As in Conan #1, the Roy Thomas script is illustrated with pencils and cover art by Barry Smith, who shows a constantly maturing and improving style with each issue.

This is classic Mighty Marvel stuff, even though it has nobody in colorful long-johns running around in it.

Record sale: $2,500
Minimum value (poor but complete): $20

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Conan the Barbarian #3 (February 1971): The God Borri

Conan the Barbarian #3 (February 1971): Conan meets the God Borri. Click for value

In Conan #3, Conan meets and is manipulated by a Grey God named Borri, although he doesn't realize that this is the case until the end of the issue. After encountering a grey man on the road who prophesies war and doom, Conan gets embroiled in a conflict between the Hyperboreans and the Brythunians.

Visions of the Grey God haunt some of the soldiers, and Conan is caught in the middle of treachery, revealed later to be the machinations of the Grey God, now revealed as the God Borri.

Conan, it should be noted, was not squeamish about killing. In fact, Conan Barbarian comic was quite full of killing. Most supporting characters who were introduced were killed in the same issue.

Of course, Conan Barbarian only killed those who deserved it, and any villains who killed were themselves either punished severely or killed outright. After all, this was still the days of the Comics Code, although Conan pushed the boundaries quite a bit.

The creative team of Thomas and Smith works their usual magic on Conan #3, making it quite valuable to collectors.

Record sale: $3,660
Minimum value (poor but complete): $10

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Savage Tales #1 (May 1971): First Non-Code Compliant Conan Barbarian Publication

Savage Tales #1 (May 1971): First Non-Code Compliant Conan Publication. Click for value

Savage Tales #1 is the first appearance of Conan in a Marvel black-and-white magazine. It took place without full co-operation from Marvel honcho Martin Goodman. He'd never wanted to publish a non-Code magazine, but had been convinced to by Stan Lee and Roy Thomas.

Goodman feared recriminations from the Comics Code Authority, even though magazines weren't subject to the code. He'd helmed Marvel when it was still Atlas, in the dark years after Seduction of the Innocent was published, and he was unconvinced that the changing times would save him if the Code got on Marvel's case.

So Goodman, by now at loggerheads with Lee over most editorial decisions, looked for any reason to cancel Savage Tales, and did so after the first issue, citing poor sales. The series wouldn't return until after Goodman's departure and the transition to Lee as top man a few years later.

Nonetheless, the sole issue of Savage Tales' first run featured a fine Conan story by Thomas and Smith, a Ka-Zar story, the first appearance of Stan Lee's ill-fated Femizons, and the origin and first appearance of the Man-Thing.

All this, wrapped in a mind-blowing John Buscema painted cover, makes this one-off a very valuable magazine/comic book indeed.

Record sale: $37,200
Minimum value (poor but complete): $140

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Conan the Barbarian #23 (February 1973): First Appearance, Red Sonja

Conan the Barbarian #23 (February 1973): First Appearance, Red Sonja. Click for value

Red Sonja first appears in Conan the Barbarian #23. She might be more popular than Conan, at least among the fanboys who lust after her enjoy her comics. Whether she is or she isn't, this is her first appearance, and one of the last for Barry Smith's art.

In the story, titled The Shadow of the Vulture, Conan is rescued by the warrior-woman Sonja from certain doom at the hands of The Vulture (Mikhal Oglu). This begins a pattern of rescues by Sonja, who gained the Red portion of her name from her flame-colored hair.

Notably, this issue features an implied beheading by Conan. When the Vulture's head arrives in a package at the Turanian camp, we can assume little else.

Roy Thomas adapted a Howard short story for this issue, and Barry Smith did the pencils for almost the last time. Journeyman Gil Kane handed in a fabulous cover as he always did.

Record sale: $5,520
Minimum value (poor but complete): $40

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Conan the Barbarian #24: First Red Sonja Cover

Conan the Barbarian #24: First Red Sonja Cover appearance. Click for value

Record sale: $3,000
Minimum value (poor but complete): $40

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Savage Sword of Conan #1 (August 1974): Conan Barbarian Gets the "Grown-Up" Treatment

Perhaps the fact that Savage Tales had been cancelled was part of the motivation. Perhaps it was that Martin Goodman, who had opposed the black-and-white magazine format, had recently been succeeded by Stan Lee. Perhaps it was the success of other black-and-white "adult" comics like Heavy Metal or Zap that did it. We may never know.

But what we do know is that in 1974 Marvel returned to the magazine-style, black-and-white format with a vengeance with Savage Sword of Conan #1.

Savage Sword of Conan #1 (August 1974): Conan Gets the "Grown-Up" Treatment. Click for value

Savage Sword would go on to be incredibly successful, perhaps because of its immunity from the Comics Code, which did not control magazines, only comics, which were defined quite rigidly.

What did all this mean? It meant that Conan could appear in a comic with no restrictions on it. Marvel (under its Curtis imprint) could have filled the Conan stories that ran in this title with nudity (which they once in a while slipped in), gory violence (ditto), and storylines in which the bad guy doesn't get punished.

Oh sure, that's not big news now. But in 1974, it was something to write home about. More importantly, it would be the first Marvel product that didn't have to dance around zombies by saying "zuvembies" and the Mafia with "The Maggia."

Either way, SSoC was to become a showcase for Roy Thomas' writing, and the art of many of the finest in the field: Neal Adams, Barry Smith, John Buscema, Alfredo Alcala, Walt Simonson, and Jim Starlin, among many others. Ironically, it would significantly outlast the Conan Barbarian comic book series, sticking around until 1995.

The inaugural issue featured three stories written by Roy Thomas and one by Gil Kane and Archie Goodwin. Kane illustrated his own story, but the Thomas script were penciled by Barry Smith, John Buscema, and Esteban Maroto.

The whole affair was announced with a painted cover by Boris Vallejo, depicting Conan and Sonja wading through a platoon of hapless warriors.

Record sale: $1,000
Minimum value (poor but complete): $10

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