Kull of Atlantis
Illustration for Robert E. Howard's "The Shadow Kingdom" in Weird Tales (August 1929), Kull's first appearance
First appearance"The Shadow Kingdom" in Weird Tales (August, 1929)
Created byRobert E. Howard
Portrayed byKevin Sorbo
In-universe information
SpeciesHuman
GenderMale
OccupationCurrent:
King
Former:
Soldier
Gladiator
Outlaw
Pirate
Slave
AffiliationAllies:
Brule
Tu
Ka-Nu
Enemies:
Thulsa Doom
WeaponSword
Axe
ReligionWorship of Valka
OriginAtlantis
NationalityAtlantean

Kull of Atlantis or Kull the Conqueror is a fictional character created by writer Robert E. Howard. The character was more introspective than Howard's subsequent creation, Conan the Barbarian, whose first appearance was in a re-write of a rejected Kull story.[1][2]

His first published appearance was "The Shadow Kingdom" in Weird Tales (August, 1929). Kull was portrayed in the 1997 film Kull the Conqueror by actor Kevin Sorbo.

Personality and character

Kull is very much like his descendant Conan in many ways. He is a fierce warrior, ruthless and courageous on the battlefield, but not tyrannical or cruel. He has a strong sense of chivalry and virtue. Unlike Conan, Kull is much more philosophical and brooding. He agonizes over decisions that affect the lives of those around him, always looking for the most noble action to take. He is uncomfortable with kingship and prefers the life of a general.

Fictional character biography

Life in Atlantis

Kull was born in pre-cataclysmic Atlantis c. 100,000 BC, depicted as inhabited at the time by barbarian tribes. East of Atlantis lay the ancient continent of Thuria, of which the northwest portion is divided among several civilized kingdoms. The most powerful among these was Valusia; others included Commoria, Grondar, Kamelia, Thule, and Verulia. Note that the word "Thuria" never appears in any of the Kull stories. Howard coined the term while tying Kull's world to Conan's in the 1936 essay "The Hyborian Age".[3]

Kull was born into a tribe settled in the Tiger Valley of Atlantis. Both the valley and tribe were destroyed by a flood while Kull was still a toddler, leaving the young Kull to live as a feral child for many years. Kull was captured by the Sea-Mountain tribe and eventually adopted by them. In "Exile of Atlantis", an adolescent Kull grants a woman a quick death so that she will not be burned to death by a mob. For this selfless act, Kull is exiled from Atlantis.

Slave, pirate, outlaw, and gladiator

Kull attempted to reach Thuria, but was instead captured by Lemurian Pirates. He spent a couple of years as a galley slave before regaining his freedom during a mutiny.

He tried the life of a pirate between his late adolescence and his early twenties. His fighting skills and courage allowed him to become captain of his own ship. Soon, Kull gained a fearsome reputation for himself in the seas surrounding Atlantis and Thuria. Kull lost his ship and crew in a naval battle off the coast of Valusia, but once again survived.

He settled in Valusia as an outlaw. However, his criminal career proved to be short-lived as he was soon captured by the Valusians and imprisoned in a dungeon. His captors offered him a choice: execution or service as a gladiator. He chose the latter. After proving to be an effective combatant and gaining fame in the arenas of the capital, a number of fans helped to regain his freedom.

Soldier of Valusia

Kull never left Valusia or returned to the life of an outlaw. Instead, he joined the Royal army as a mercenary, pursuing elevation through the ranks. In "The Curse of the Golden Skull" Kull, approaching his thirties, is recruited by King Borna of Valusia in a mission against the ambitious sorcerer Rotath of Lemuria. Kull proves to be an effective assassin.

Borna promoted Kull into the general command of his mercenary forces. Borna himself, however, had gained a reputation for his cruelty and despotism. There was discontent with Borna's rule among the nobility, leading eventually to a civil war. The mercenaries proved more loyal to Kull than any other leader, allowing him to become the leader of their revolt.

King of Valusia

Kull killed Borna and took the throne while he was still in his early thirties. In "The Shadow Kingdom", Kull has spent six months upon the Valusian throne and faces the first conspiracy against him.

The series continued with Kull finding that gaining the crown was easier than securing it. He faces several internal and external challenges throughout the series. The conspiring of his courtiers leaves Kull almost constantly threatened with loss of life and throne. The aging King is ever more aware of the Sword of Damocles that he inherited along with the crown.

"The Mirrors of Tuzun Thune" finds Kull reaching his middle forties and becoming progressively more introspective. The former barbarian is left lost in contemplations of philosophy. At this point, the series ends. His fate is left uncertain.

In the Conan the Barbarian story "Shadows of the Skull", it's revealed that Conan is a direct descendant of Kull.

Characters

Brule

Brule the spear slayer, a pre-cataclysmic Pict, and friend to Kull. Despite the animosity between Picts and Atlanteans, Brule is a fast friend and advisor to Kull.

Tu

First Councillor Tu is a trusted administrator, but also a constant reminder of the tradition bound laws and customs of Valusia.

Ka-Nu

Ka-Nu (sometimes named Kananu), the Pictish Ambassador to Valusia and wise man, is responsible for the friendship between Kull and Brule despite the ancient enmity between Atlanteans and Picts.[4]

Borna

The last king of Valusia, a cruel and tyrannical despot who was overthrown by Kull and his soldiers.

Thulsa Doom

Kull's mortal enemy is the sorcerer Thulsa Doom. Thulsa Doom is described by Howard in "The Cat and the Skull" as having a face "like a bare white skull, in whose eye sockets flamed livid fire". He is seemingly invulnerable, boasting after being trampled by one of Kull's comrades that he feels "only a slight coldness" when being injured and will only "pass to some other sphere when [his] time comes".

Works

Title Date Publication Form Notes
"The Shadow Kingdom" August 1929 Weird Tales Story Published in Howard's lifetime.
"The Mirrors of Tuzun Thune" September 1929 Weird Tales Story Published in Howard's lifetime.
"Kings of the Night" November 1930 Weird Tales Story Published in Howard's lifetime.
"The Altar and the Scorpion" 1967 King Kull Story
"The Black City" 1967 King Kull Story Also known as "The Black Abyss".
"By This Axe, I Rule" 1967 King Kull Story Re-written by Howard into the Conan story "The Phoenix on the Sword".
"The Curse of the Golden Skull" Spring 1967 The Howard Collector #9 Story Also known as "The Cat and the Skull".
"Delcardes' Cat" 1967 King Kull Story Originally untitled, title created by Glenn Lord.
"Exile of Atlantis" 1967 King Kull Story
"Riders Beyond the Sunrise" 1978 (a version edited by Lin Carter was first published in King Kull, 1967) Kull: The Fabulous Warrior King Story Originally untitled, title created by Lin Carter.
"The Skull of Silence" 1967 King Kull Story Also known as "The Screaming Skull of Silence".
"The Striking of the Gong" 1976 (a version edited by Lin Carter was first published in King Kull, 1967) Second Book of Robert E. Howard Story
"Swords of the Purple Kingdom" 1967 King Kull Story
"Wizard and Warrior" 1978 (a version edited by Lin Carter was first published in King Kull, 1967) Kull: The Fabulous Warrior King Story Originally untitled, title created by Lin Carter.
"The King and the Oak" Poem

Style

Kull is Conan the Barbarian's direct literary forerunner. Conan's first story (both as a written piece and a published one), "The Phoenix on the Sword", is a rewriting of an earlier Kull story "By This Axe, I Rule". The Conan version has a completely new backstory, less philosophy, more action, and various supernatural elements. Many passages of both stories still match word for word.[1][2]

One notable difference between Kull and Conan is their respective attitudes towards women. While Conan is a notable womanizer, finding a new love interest in nearly each of his stories, Kull is repeatedly mentioned as uninterested in having any such attachment. While highly chivalrous and on several occasions helping pairs of star-crossed lovers reach a happy consummation, he is never mentioned as having himself any relationship with a woman. Nor is Kull showing any interest in marrying and founding a dynasty, as Conan does in The Hour of the Dragon, and none of Kull's wise advisors ever mentions this issue.

Adaptations

Comics

"Kull (comics)" redirects here. Not to be confused with Knull (comics).

Kull has been adapted to comics by Marvel Comics with three series between 1971 and 1985.[5] The first was drawn by Marie Severin and her brother John Severin. He also appeared several times in The Savage Sword of Conan series and other anthology books. Another graphic novel, Kull: The Vale of Shadow, was published in 1989.[6]

In 2006, Dark Horse Comics bought the rights to use Kull. The first series, titled Kull, was based on "The Shadow Kingdom".[7] As of 2012, three mini-series were published, Kull, Kull: The Hate Witch, and Kull: The Cat and the Skull.[5] Dark Horse also re-published the Marvel stories into two different Kull collections. The Marvel color comics were collected into five volumes titled The Chronicles of Kull, and the Marvel magazine format, black and white stories were collected into two volumes titled The Savage Sword of Kull.[8] Additional reprints were published in Robert E. Howard's Savage Sword.

In 2017, IDW Publishing got the license and began publishing Kull Eternal, using "The Mirrors of Tuzun Thune" as a story foundation of Kull in a modern setting.[5] The series was cancelled after the third issue.[9]

Collected editions

Title Material collected from Publication date ISBN
The Chronicles of Kull Volume 1: A King Comes Riding and Other Stories Creatures on the Loose! #10 The Coming of King Kull! (The Skull of Silence!),
Monsters on the Prowl #16 King Kull! (The Forbidden Swamp),

Conan The Barbarian #10 Kull the Conqueror (The King and the Oak)
Kull the Conqueror (Vol. 1) #1–9

December 2, 2009 978-1-59582-413-4
The Chronicles of Kull Volume 2: The Hell Beneath Atlantis and Other Stories Kull the Conqueror (Vol. 1) #10
Kull the Destroyer #11–20
April 7, 2010 978-1-59582-439-4
The Chronicles of Kull Volume 3: Screams in the Dark and Other Stories Kull the Destroyer #21–29
"The Mirrors of Tuzun Thune" from Conan the Barbarian #25
Conan the Barbarian #68
"The Beast from the Abyss" from Conan Annual #3
May 22, 2010 978-1-59582-585-8
The Chronicles of Kull Volume 4: The Blood of Kings and Other Stories Kull the Conqueror (Vol. 2) #1 and #2
Kull the Conqueror (Vol. 3) #1 and #2
March 2, 2011 978-1-59582-684-8
The Chronicles of Kull Volume 5: Dead Men of the Deep and Other Stories Kull the Conqueror (Vol. 3) #3–10 February 22, 2012 978-1-59582-906-1
The Savage Sword of Kull Volume 1 Savage Tales #2,
The Savage Sword of Conan #2, #3, #9, #23, #34, #42, #43, #55, and #119,
Kull and the Barbarians #1–3,
The Savage Sword of Conan Annual #1,
Marvel Preview #19,
Bizarre Adventures #26
November 17, 2009 978-1-59582-593-3
The Savage Sword of Kull Volume 2 The Savage Sword of Conan #128–140, #145, #147–152, #158, #159, #161, #165, #169, #170, #172, #177, #182, #183, #186, #190–193, #196–199, #202, #213, #215, #229, and #230–233,
Conan Saga #97
October 5, 2011 978-1-59582-788-3
Kull Volume 1: The Shadow Kingdom Kull #1–6 October 14, 2009 978-1-59582-385-4
Kull Volume 2: The Hate Witch Kull: The Hate Witch #1–4 July 13, 2011 978-1-59582-730-2
Kull Volume 3: The Cat and the Skull Kull: The Cat and the Skull #1–4 July 25, 2012 978-1-59582-899-6

Film

The 1997 film Kull the Conqueror starred Kevin Sorbo in the title role. The film was originally intended to be a Conan film and some elements of this remain.[10][11] The story's basis and several names can be directly traced to the Conan story "The Hour of the Dragon".

The 1982 Conan the Barbarian film starring Arnold Schwarzenegger borrowed many elements from Howard's Kull stories. The main villain Thulsa Doom was from the Kull series, as was the serpent cult.[12] Conan's early life as a slave and gladiator in the movie borrows heavily from Kull's origin story and only shares minor details with Conan's literary origins; Conan was never a slave or a gladiator in Howard's stories, and left Cimmeria of his own free will.

Namesakes in other works of fiction

Kull may have been the source of the name of King Kull, a Fawcett Comics supervillain and foe of Captain Marvel, later acquired by DC Comics.[citation needed] This King Kull combines barbarian elements with the bizarre science-fiction elements common in Captain Marvel stories of the Golden Age of comic books.

Chronology

In Robert E. Howard's story "Kings of the Night", a character living in the time of the Roman Empire states that a contemporary of Kull's "has been dead a hundred thousand years as we reckon time."

Copyright and trademark

The name Kull was registered as a trademark by Kull Productions in 1985. The trademark is now owned by Robert E. Howard Properties.[13]

The Australian site of Project Gutenberg has many Robert E. Howard stories, including several Kull stories.[14] This indicates that, in their opinion, the stories hosted on the site are free from copyright and may be used by anyone, at least under Australian law. Subsequent stories written by other authors are subject to the copyright laws of the relevant time.[citation needed]

References

  1. ^ a b Harvey, Ryan (25 February 2019). "Kull, King of the Dreaming West". Perilous Worlds. Archived from the original on 23 April 2019. Retrieved 23 April 2019.
  2. ^ a b Byrne, Bob (22 January 2019). "Hither Came Conan: Ruminations on "The Phoenix on the Sword"". Black Gate. Retrieved 23 April 2019.
  3. ^ Howard, Robert E. (2003). The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian (Hardcover ed.). New York: Del Ray. pp. 381–382. ISBN 978-0739440810.
  4. ^ Maynard, William Patrick (4 December 2015). "Kull and the Quest for Identity". Black Gate. Retrieved 23 April 2019.
  5. ^ a b c Ching, Albert (21 March 2017). "EXCLUSIVE: Robert E. Howard's Kull Returns, Now at IDW". CBR. CBR. Retrieved 22 March 2019.
  6. ^ "Marvel Graphic Novel: Kull The Vale of Shadow (1989) - OGN SC". comicbookdb.com. Retrieved 27 March 2019.
  7. ^ Baichtal, John (10 July 2009). "Dark Horse's Kull is Made of 100% Awesome". WIRED. Retrieved 27 March 2019.
  8. ^ Fultz, John R. (22 January 2011). "The Best KULL Comic Ever: "Demon in a Silvered Glass"". Black Gate. Retrieved 23 April 2019.
  9. ^ "Kull Eternal Annual 2018". The Swords of Robert E. Howard. Retrieved July 26, 2023.
  10. ^ Eric Snider (27 November 2008). "Eric's Bad Movies: Kull the Conqueror (1997)". MTV.
  11. ^ Jamie Lovett (20 May 2007). "Arnold Schwarzenegger Updates Status Of Next Conan Movie". Pop Culture Media.
  12. ^ Williams, Owen (May 2010). "Conan the Unmade". Empire. No. 251. London, United Kingdom: Bauer Media. pp. 114–120. ISSN 0957-4948.
  13. ^ U.S. Trademark 1,347,678
  14. ^ A - M, Project Gutenberg Australia free ebooks ebook etext etexts