One is an action/fantasy hero famously portrayed by Arnold Schwarzenegger and his once mighty pectorals. The other is perhaps the most significant creation in 20th-century horror literature and H.P. Lovecraft's signature character. A Conan/Cthulhu connection seems unlikely, if not impossible -- and probably would be if not for the fact that their creators were BFFs.
Their dapperness united them.
H.P. Lovecraft and Conan's creator, Robert E. Howard, published their most famous stories in the same pulp magazine, Weird Tales. The two writers became friends in the 1930s, and as friends often do, started slipping references to each other's work in their stories. For example, the very first Conan story mentions Lovecraft's "Old Ones" and explicitly named Cthulhu in the original draft. That's right: Conan's adventures were part of the Cthulhu mythos from the beginning.
Get the ftaghn out.
There are numerous other references to Lovecraft in Conan stories, but we'll admit they don't seem so shocking now, what with Cthulhu showing up pretty much everywhere these days ...
There's also that Simpsons episode where Homer helps him deal with his fear of escalators.
However, this is different because Lovecraft himself included several shout-outs to Conan in the original Cthulhu stories -- one story features a character from Cimmeria (Conan's homeland) who is named after Conan's nemesis, and another mentions the Serpent Men of Valusia, best known as the bad guys from the cheesy Conan cartoon:
In fact, in that same cartoon (as in Robert Howard's stories), the Serpent Men worship a snake god called Set -- that's another name for Yig, one of Lovecraft's Old Ones. Incidentally, the Snake Men from He-Man are thinly veiled rip-offs of the Serpent Men (just as He-Man is a thinly veiled rip-off of Conan) and worshipped practically the same ancient snake deity. And say, what did Skeletor's lair look like, again?
"In his house at R'lyeh, Dead Skeletor waits dreaming."
The snake monsters and such are probably the only connection to Lovecraft that still survives in the Conan franchise -- just take a look at the trailer for the new movie. As Conan's popularity exploded (and the character started being dumbed down for other media), most Cthulhu mythos references ended up being edited out of his original stories and ignored by subsequent writers.
"Edited out" in this case means "forcibly removed from the memories of."
But hey, at least he didn't become an overused Internet meme.
You probably won't be too shocked if we tell you that id Software, the company best known for shooting games like Wolfenstein 3D, Doom and Quake, also did a cutesy Mario-like platform game called Commander Keen. After all, this is nothing new -- the company that made Resident Evil also did the Megaman series, and the creator of Dragon Quest also published disturbing toddler porn games for PC. In fact, video game companies rarely stick to doing the same type of game over and over.
Of course, there are exceptions.
What's surprising in this case is that id Software seems to have gone out of its way to link its vastly different franchises together -- you wouldn't expect one of the kids from Yu-Gi-Oh! to show up in Silent Hill, or Ms. Pac-Man to be an unlockable character in Mortal Kombat.
Although we could totally see that happening now.
Commander Keen was id Software's first big hit in the early '90s, and it stars an 8-year-old boy called Billy Blazkowicz who fights cartoony aliens and vegetable people with his pogo stick. It's a pretty Nintendo-esque game, which is explained by the fact that it started as a project to bring Super Mario games to PC.
That thing on his head is a helmet, and sadly not a glorious chinstrap beard.
A couple of years later, the same company released Wolfenstein 3D, a violent first-person shooter about an Allied soldier shooting his way through a castle full of Nazi atrocities. The name of the protagonist? William Blazkowicz, Billy's grandfather.
"Sit on my lap, Billy, and let me tell you about the time I blew Robot Hitler's head off."
There's more: id Software's next hit was Doom, an even more violent shooter about a futuristic soldier fighting space demons (or something: nobody's quite sure). The identity of Doom's protagonist has never been officially revealed by id Software, but it's been hinted that he's a member of the Blazkowicz family, too: In Wolfenstein RPG, the Nazis summon a demon called the "Harbinger of Doom." William Blazkowicz defeats the demon by cutting off an arm and a leg, and as he's banished back into hell, the demon swears to return one day and haunt William's descendants.
If you've played the original Doom games, you might remember the exact same demon from this part:
Note that the robot parts replace the limbs William blasted off.
So apparently the Doom guy is the descendant of Wolfenstein's protagonist, which means he's a family member of Commander Keen, too -- unless they are actually the same person.
This screenshot from Doom 2 says otherwise. id Software -- you're sick, sick people.
Superhero crossovers are nothing new, but what makes this one special is the blatant illegality and in-story significance of it. Daredevil had existed for 20 years before the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles showed up in the '80s -- and yet their origins establish that they are both the products of the same traffic accident and the same mysterious goo.
Daredevil's origin, as shown in Daredevil #1, is that when he was young he saved a blind man from getting hit by a truck, only to have a radioactive canister fall off the same truck and hit him in the face. This was before, of course, the "Put Some Time into Securing Your Radioactive Shit" shipping laws that we take for granted now.
Daredevil #1 (1964)
"Call an ambulance? No, I'd rather stand here and commentate."
Between the radioactivity of the substance, the impact of the hit and the cylinderness of the container, Daredevil was left blind. But he was extra good at his other senses, so he ended up a superhero, obviously. The real question wasn't "How is getting blinded by a can after saving a blind guy an origin story?" It was "What happened to the mysterious canister after it bounced off proto-Daredevil's kisser?"
It doesn't look like it did Ben Affleck any harm.
Fast forward 20 years: The creators of the Ninja Turtles were big fans of Daredevil, especially the issues by Frank Miller. Not content with simply borrowing Daredevil's origin, they actually went ahead and wrote their characters into it. In Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1, we see the exact same scene as before only from a different perspective. The radioactive canister hits the boy in the head ...
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1 (1984)
... then falls into a sewer and mutates some baby turtles into cowabunging ninjas.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1 (1984)
As opposed to, say, sewer alligators.
Of course, the boy is never explicitly identified as the future Daredevil, but that's because the character belongs to Marvel Comics and the Ninja Turtles do not. Still, it's pretty obvious that it's the same kid, and the fact that the canister turned out to be full of mutating goo does explain how getting hit in the head by something could possibly give someone superpowers. (Life tip: It usually doesn't.)
Daredevil #1 (1964)
You're usually advised to open the lid first, duh.
So if young Daredevil hadn't been there, the canister probably wouldn't have fallen into the sewer and those four regular turtles probably wouldn't be fighting crime today. All the TMNT cartoons and movies show variations of the same origin, and the radioactive ooze in particular has become an iconic part of the Turtle brand -- even though it was completely stolen from another comic.
"Warning: May cause irrevocable blindness."