black circle sorcerer in bat form

Stygian sorcerer of the Black Ring

Real Name: Unrevealed

Identity/Class: Human, Stygian (Hyborian Era (circa 10,000 BC)); magic-user

Occupation: Sorcerer, assassin

Group Membership: Black Ring

Affiliations: R'lyeh, SetThoth-Amon, Yuggoth, two jackal-men, three crocodile-men, the were-cat

Enemies: Bêlit, Conan, Ibis, King Kull and Brule, Karanthes, Red Sonja, unidentified old man

Known Relatives: None

Aliases: Posed as Gonar

Base of Operations: Messantia, Argos;
    briefly the City of Wonders, Valusia (pre-Cataclysmic era)
    formerly Keshatta (Stygia)

First Appearance: Marvel Feature II#6 (September, 1976)

Powers/Abilities: The sorcerer's magic powers enabled him to mutate men into man-beasts (typically by drawing on the energies of an animal of whatever he was transforming the others into hybrids of), shoot arrows of fire, shapeshift (at least into a man-bat form) and control his own density, as well as project illusions. He read ancient dead languages and invoked dark gods (especially Set and Yuggoth).

head shots


(Conan the Barbarian I#68 (fb) - BTS) - Being part of the Black Ring sorcerers cabal and a worshiper of Set, the dark sorcerer was chosen by Thoth-Amon, leader of the Cult of Set, to retrieve a page stolen his own Book of Skelos. The page had been stolen and had been found in Messantia, kept in the Temple of a Thousand Gods. Thoth-Amon knew that Karanthes, of the hated enemy Cult of Ibis, wanted the page as well, and knew that his enemy would have hired Red Sonja, a Hyrkanian mercenary, to steal the page. So he sent the dark sorcerer as his emissary in Argos to vanquish Karanthes' plans.

(Marvel Feature II#6 - BTS) - The hooded emissary used his dark arts to transform two followers of Set into jackal-men, and sent them to murder Red Sonja. The two beasts were fierce, but not deadly enough to kill the Hyrkanian She-Devil, who slew them. Shortly after, Red Sonja met Karanthes and accepted the mission of stealing the page of the Book of Skelos.

(Marvel Feature I#6 (fb) - BTS) - The sorcerer made arrangements with a trio of his servants/agents to be transformed into crocodile men and to then slay Red Sonja to prevent her from retrieving a missing page from the Iron-Bound Book of Skelos.

(Marvel Feature I#6) - Chasing the red-haired warrior in Messantia, the hooded Stygian spied on her while she went in the sewers under the Temple. Three lackeys were sent after her while he held a baby crocodile and presumably used it to transform his agents, and, soon after, three albino crocodile-men rose from the stinky waters to try and kill Red Sonja. But again, the female warrior's prowess was superior to the bestiality of the three pale pawns.

(Conan the Barbarian I#67) - Red Sonja managed to steal the page under Conan and Bêlit's noses. In the ensuing pursuit, the black-robed Stygian -- who held a striped alley cat -- intervened again. This time he spied on Conan, waited for him to sneak into the prisons under King Tanalos' castle, and at the right moment, transformed one of the jailers into a were-cat who then attacked Conan. The fight was hard, but eventually the barbarian killed the beast-man and freed Yusef. Fortunately, in prison, Yusef had spoken with an old man, the one who had stolen the page of the book. Before the old man died, he had told Yusef that the page revealed something about the Black Legions of Valusia, a kingdom long gone from thousands of years before.

black circle sorcerer invoking his gods(Marvel Feature II#7) - Later, near the town gates, Red Sonja avoided Conan and Bêlit, and rode out of Messantia, eventually reaching Karanthes at the Nest of Ibis where his temple was. The diabolical emissary saw the three adventurers leave the city and swiftly reached his quarters to perform a foul rite. Invoking dark gods like Yuggoth and Set, he cast an incantation upon himself. He was transformed into a bat-like being and flew north to the Nest of Ibis. Entering the Temple through the circular hole in the roof, the hooded bat-man surprised Karanthes, Red Sonja and Conan.

(Conan the Barbarian I#68) - The two warriors' blades passed through his ethereal skin, yet his blows were hard and heavy. He grasped the page from Karanthes' hands and flew away.

(Conan the Barbarian I#68 (fb) - BTS) - Soon after, the sorcerer read the page and cast a powerful enchantment which transported a whole city from the past. From the ancient era of Atlantis and Valusia, the City of Wonders materialized in the plains of Argos along with King Kull and his Black Legions.

(Conan the Barbarian I#68) - However, the dark sorcerer's escape was not complete. Karanthes cast a spell upon a red gem, the Fire-Jewel, which he gave to Conan to be used at the right moment. Moreover, because of one of Karanthes' spells, the bat-man's flight was not great enough to outdistance his pursuers: Conan, Red Sonja and Bêlit.

(Conan the Barbarian I#68 (fb) - BTS) - While being hunted, dark thoughts formed in the emissary's mind. With the page of the Book of Skelos, he could control the Black Legions and conquer Argos for himself, if not for his master Thoth-Amon. After that, he planned to spread an unidentified plague over his enemies. At dawn, the emissary reached the City of Wonders. He cast an illusion over his body, taking on the appearance of Gonar the druid, King Kull's ally, and began to advise Kull to conquer Argos with his Black Legions.

(Conan the Barbarian I#68) - When the pursuers reached the City of Wonders, Gonar, the imposter, encouraged King Kull to execute them. But the King and his soldiers were still astonished from their situation, lost in a unknown land, and the false Gonar's suggestions were not taken into consideration. A fight arose between the Atlantean king and the Cimmerian barbarian. Both their deaths would have been welcomed by the Stygian. However, when Conan gave the Fire-Jewel to Kull, and the king carved the red gem into his crown, the illusion dissipated and the false Gonar was seen as he really was: a Stygian sorcerer. He ran atop one of the towers, shooting fire arrows at his pursuers and mocking them, yet also revealing his plans of conquest. But his master was listening, and Thoth-Amon's face appeared in the air to menace the traitor. Knowing that he could not fight the entire city without his master's help, the Stygian started the transformation into the black-winged form that made him untouchable. This time, Conan was faster and flung an arrow into the sorcerer's body before he could complete the transformation. The Stygian fell from the tower and the page of Skelos burnt in his hand. The City of Wonders and its inhabitants then faded back from whence they came.

Comments: Created by Roy Thomas (writer) and Frank Thorne (artist).

    Conan and Bêlit looked for the page of the Book of Skelos and worked for Publio, a merchant, who was only an intermediary for someone else. Could this unrevealed person have been the hooded Stygian? The Stygian could not enter the temple, probably because of its protective enchantments that Conan and Bêlit had defeated. So, by sending crocodile-men after Red Sonja, he could ensure their success in stealing the page. But he tried to kill Conan using the were-cat, so he probably saw Conan as an enemy and this leads me to think that there was a third person looking for the page.

    I'm not sure why he went after Conan when Sonja had the page, especially since they had been opposing each other and then hard parted ways.
Perhaps he knew, like any true fan, that Conan and Sonja would eventually join forces and oppose his efforts.

Profile by Spidermay. Minor edits/reformats by Snood.

The Gonar imposter should be distinguished from


unidentifed Old Man

The imprisoned old man had stolen a page from Thoth-Amon's personal copy of the Book of Skelos. He read the page that told of the Black Legions of Valusia. He fled until he arrived at Messantia.

(Conan the Barbarian I#67 (fb) - BTS) - The thief sold the page in Messantia, but ended up imprisoned in the castle's dungeons.

(Conan the Barbarian I#66 (fb) - BTS) - The page he had stolen was placed in the Temple of a Thousand Gods. 

(Conan the Barbarian I#67 (fb) - BTS) - After an unrevealed period of time later, his health was gone.

    Dying, the thief began cackling madly.

(Conan the Barbarian I#67 (fb)) - Yusef, who was imprisoned in the cell next to the thief, found a loose stone between their cells, and he entered the old man's cell.

    Wishing to share his secret, the man told Yusef what he had stolen and sold; just before he died, he mentioned something about the Black Legions of Valusia.

--Conan the Barbarian I#67

Note: My guess is that the old thief was a member of the Black Ring; alternatively, he had to have been an extremely skilled burglar to steal the page from Thoth-Amon's house!
Certainly possible, but there's no evidence that the thief had magical powers. I think he fled, and perhaps he died from a curse Thoth-Amon placed on him (perhaps indirectly, just on whoever stole from him)...or maybe he died from exposure to the page's black magic...or maybe he was tortured and/or just got hurt/sick in prison.

images: (without ads)
Marvel Feature II#7, p17, pan2/3 (Black Circle sorcerer in bat form)
Marvel Feature II#7, p4, pan6 (Black Circle sorcerer during casting)
Conan the Barbarian I#68, p15, pans 1,2,3 (Gonar imposter)
Conan the Barbarian I#67, p17, pan3 (old man)

Marvel Feature II#6 (September, 1976) - Roy Thomas (writer), Frank Thorne (artist), Roy Thomas (editor) 
Conan the Barbarian I#67 (October, 1976) - Roy Thomas (writer), John Buscema (pencils), The Tribe (inks), Roy Thomas (editor) 

Marvel Feature II#7 (November, 1976) - Roy Thomas (writer), Frank Thorne (artist), Roy Thomas (editor) 
Conan the Barbarian I#68 (November, 1976) - Roy Thomas (writer), John Buscema (artist), Roy Thomas (editor) 

First Posted: 09/06/2009
Last updated: 07/17/2018

Any Additions/Corrections? please let me know.

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