CROSS PLAINS — Conan — or “the Barbarian,” as portrayed in cinema by Arnold Schwarzenegger — is the character most Americans associate with author Robert E. Howard, the Cross Plains resident whose works have put this community on the literary map.
But attention was also given many of his other literary works during this weekend’s Robert E. Howard Days that concluded Saturday night.
The annual event, co-sponsored by Cross Plains Project Pride and the Robert E. Howard United Press Association, opened Thursday and attracted Howard fans and scholars from throughout the United States. By early Saturday afternoon, almost 200 people had registered at the Robert E. Howard Museum on Highway 36, the home where Howard lived and wrote most of his manuscripts.
Hundreds more arrived in Cross Plains to attend seminars at the high school and enjoy a variety of activities for all ages downtown as part of the community’s Barbarian Festival. Arts and crafts, car shows, games and live music were part of the events Saturday.
Though most prominently known for creating the genre now known as “Sword and Sorcery,” Howard’s body of work also includes historical adventure, suspense, epic poetry, gothic horror, sea stories and Western burlesques in the vein of Mark Twain.
Over the past 75 years, Howard’s original work — including more than 800 stories, poems and novels — has gained a vast international audience. These works have been the inspiration for major motion picture franchises, TV series, comic book and graphic novel adaptations, games, toys and merchandising.
One of the seminars held Saturday focused on Howard’s personal interest in boxing, and the stories he wrote about the sport. It was moderated by Chris Gruber, editor of the book “Robert E. Howard: Boxing Stories” published by the University Nebraska Press. Gruber was joined by other Howard researchers to discuss famous boxers like Jack Dempsey and Charles “Kid” McCoy, whose personal characteristics influenced Howard’s numerous boxing stories.
Gregory Manchess of Beaverton, Ore., was the featured guest this year. He led a Friday seminar on his work in illustrating “The Conquering Sword of Conan” and was featured at Friday night’s banquet. Manchess paintings have appeared in magazines like Time, Newsweek, The Smithsonian and National Geographic. He has illustrated film posters, billboards, children’s books as well as the covers of two Major League Baseball World Series programs.