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Conan/Wrarrl

Legendary Heroes
by yo go re

Conan the Barbarian is no stranger to the toy aisles. Hasbro took care of the terrible early '90s cartoon, McFarlane Toys made two so-so series based on the books, and NECA is soon due to release figures based on the Schwarzenegger movies, but that left one segment of Conan-iana unrepresented: comics. Marvel had a Conan comic that ran for 275 issues over 23 years, and if you take into consideration that wasn't A) the only Conan book they were publishing at the time, or B) even the end of their license, and you've got a hugely substantial chunk of the character's history that had so far gone unrepresented - enter Marvel Toys!

From his birth on a war-torn battlefield to his brutal usurpation of the throne of the Hyborian Age's most glorious kingdom, Conan has made a legend of his name as the iron-willed ravager from Cimmeria. Through his daring conquests and extraordinary adventures, it is not often Conan meets a foe that can match his strength and wit for long! But, there is one - Wrarrl the Devourer - that has proven time and again to be a threat not only to Conan, but to all he holds dear. For it is Wrarrl that possesses the horrifying ability to turn any living thing into a slug-like representation of its soul... and then devour it for power!

Author Robert E. Howard loved historical dramas, but didn't have the patience to do the necessary research to write one. So he created a "vanished age," set between the sinking of Atlantis and the rise of early modern civilizations, like the Picts. The land of Hyboria is a single supercontinent comprising Africa, Europe and Asia, and is peppered with familiar names that are almost real, but not quite. Afghulistan. The Himelian Mountains. Zembabwei. Corinthia. The name itself is a contraction of the Greek hyperborean, meaning "from beyond the north winds" - precisely where a barbarian should come from.

Conan himself was a Cimmerian, which, judging by Howard's maps, would mean he's from the British isles, Sweden or the Baltic States. In typical fashion, Conan is wearing little more than a loincloth - in the books, he wore clothes appropriate to wherever he was at the time, but that's not the way he entered pop culture. After all, what's the point of hiring an insanely muscled actor to play Conan if you're just going to cover him up?

The figure is detailed nicely, of course. Would you really expect any less from Marvel Toys? He's deeply muscular, and his chest, arms and legs are bare. Conan stands 6⅜" tall, which makes him all the more imposing. Articulation is plentiful, but not problem-free: he has all the joints you expect on a good action figure, but the hinge parts of his shoulder balljoints (the bit that allows him to raise his arms out to the sides or to lower them) are phenomenally difficult to move at first. I wasn't sure they'd actually be mobile. I tried both freezing the joints and boiling them, and eventually managed to free the shoulders with the help of a pair of pliers. Now the joints move fine, but at the start, it was a real chore.

Conan's face is stern, and it's framed by straight black hair. The fine wrinkles on his forehead and around his eyes are impressively handled, and his frown just sells that this is not someone you want to mess with. The painted shadows on his skin are subtle, which keeps him from looking like he's wearing a spray-on tan. Honestly, the only area that has some paint problems are his ankles: the figure's joints are all molded in pink, and the ankles have been painted brown to match the boots, meaning the pink shows through when you move the feet. His green loincloth is painted with shadows and highlights.

Befitting a barbarian, Conan has some nice weaponry. There's a large dagger sheathed on his right thigh, though it's not a removable piece. He starts with a large double-bladed axe with a leather-wrapped handle and a real metal chain. The handle is quite impressive, since the wraps hang loosely around it, rather than just being straight lines carved into the accessory. His sword fits in the scabbard on his back, which is actually a separate, free-floating piece, but don't expect to remove it: the sash is actually assembled beneath the faux chain that seems to hold his large wolfskin cape on (the cape actually plugs into the figure's back with thick tabs that are glued in place).

Conan's foe in this set is an odd choice. It isn't that he's an unimportant villain - far from it, in fact. It's not like Conan had a ton of recurring foes (what with the death killing and all), and Wrarrl, the Devourer of Souls, was one of the baddest. He was nigh-immortal, had magical abilities and was a master schemer. He rode a carnivorous horse with bat wings. He turned himself into a human, seduced a woman, and managed to father his own reincarnation. Conan was a guy who could best any living enemy in a fight, yet Wrarrl always gave him huge trouble. So in that regard, including him in this set was a fine choice. Why, then, is he weird? Because he's not a Conan character.

Wrarrl didn't appear in any of Robert E. Howard's Conan stories. He was created by Michael Fleishner and John Buscema, and first appeared in 1983's Savage Sword of Conan #90, which means that yes, he comes from Marvel Comics. Hasbro's got the Marvel license, and here we've got a Legendary Heroes two-pack that's specifically based on Marvel comics. Ha! It seems obvious that the terms of Marvel's Conan license meant whatever characters they created for the book belonged to the property, not the company, but still: this is a neat three-dimensional bit of trivia.

Summoned from another dimension, Wrarrl (or "Wraal," as he was known in some issues) was a huge, hulking horror, and this figure matches that. The figure stands 7" tall, and his helmet adds another inch to that. Now, he usually seemed to be 9 or 10 feet tall in the comics, but that would have put him into BAF territory, not two-pack. With his blue-black outfit (or maybe that's skin?) and armored gloves and boots, he kind of looks like a Ringwraith. His cape is tattered, and his armor has numerous scrapes and dings.

Remove Wrarrl's crazyass headgear (there's a reason his names included "He of the Dragon Helmet" and "Wraal of the Demon Helmet") and you'll see his disgusting head. He has red eyes and a red mouth, and his head looks like decaying purple flesh clinging loosely to the skull beneath. It really is quite hideous, and looks exactly like it did in the comics. He was like Spawn before Spawn was cool. Definitely looks like an otherworldly terror, that's for dang sure.

Aside from the helmet, the figure only has one actual accessory: his sword. The pattern on the hilt, a series of serpent-entwined skulls, comes directly from the comics. Be careful, though - once when Wrarrl had been killed, a looter grabbed the sword and was transformed into a new body for the Devourer of Souls. Sucks to be him, huh? The sword can be stowed on the figure's hip, and the scabbard is a separate piece, just like his big cape.

Wrarrl is also wearing some kind of satchel slung across his chest, and there appears to be some sort of red horn sticking out of it. What's that? Well, one of Wrarrl's mystical abilities was to turn someone's soul into a little worm-like creature that he'd then eat to gain strength: "Devourer of Souls" wasn't Hyborian hyperbole. Any he didn't eat right away he'd pack away for later, so that's the tail of one of his delicious soul-slugs. Yum!

The Conan/Wrarrl two-pack is a great pair of figures, even taking Conan's stuck shoulders into account. If Legendary Heroes had made it to Series 3, we would have gotten a Savage Sword Conan figure wearing some cool wolfskin gear and a Frost Giant BAF for him to fight. Yet another reason to mourn the line's passing. You can pick up this two-pack (and all the other Legendary Heroes, too boot) for a really good price, so there's no excuse not to take a chance.

-- 08/04/08


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