Red Sonja

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For the 1985 film, see Red Sonja (film).
Red Sonja
John cassaday red sonja.JPG
Cover to Red Sonja #1 (June 2005).
Pencils by John Cassaday.
Colors by José Villarrubia.
Publication information
Publisher Marvel Comics
Dynamite Entertainment
First appearance Conan the Barbarian #23
(February 1973)
Created by Robert E. Howard (name)
Roy Thomas
Barry Windsor-Smith
In-story information
Notable aliases Red Sonya of Rogatino
Abilities A sword-master in peak human physical condition, martial arts expert, as well as knowledge and experience of fighting the supernatural.

Red Sonja, the She-Devil with a Sword, is a fictional character, a high fantasy sword and sorcery heroine created by Roy Thomas and Barry Windsor-Smith, and loosely based on Red Sonya of Rogatino in Robert E. Howard's 1934 short story "The Shadow of the Vulture". She first appeared in the Marvel Comics book Conan the Barbarian #23 (February 1973).

Red Sonja became the archetypal fantasy figure of a fierce and beautiful female barbarian.

She was ranked first in Comics Buyer's Guide's "100 Sexiest Women in Comics" list.[1]

At the 2013 Emerald City Comic Con, Dynamite announced that Gail Simone would be writing a new ongoing Red Sonja series.[2] Simone noted in further interviews that her version is slightly "rebooted," showing the character's beginnings.[3] Issue #1 of Simone's run was released in July 2013, and reviews were positive.[4] As of February 2014, the series had run seven issues, with the first six collected in a trade paperback.

Origin[edit]

Red Sonja's origin story, "The Day of the Sword", first appeared in Kull and the Barbarians #3 (September 1975) by Roy Thomas, Doug Moench, and Howard Chaykin. The same story was later redrawn by Dick Giordano and Terry Austin for The Savage Sword of Conan, issue 78 (July 1982).

In this story, Red Sonja lives with her family in a humble house in the Western Hyrkanian steppes (this seems to be in modern Ukraine/Russia though historical Hyrcania on the borders of modern Iran/Turkmenistan). When she is just 17, a group of mercenaries kills her family and burns down their house. Sonja attempts to defend herself, but can't lift her brother's sword. She is brutally raped by the leader of the group. Answering her cry for revenge, the red goddess Scáthach appears to her, and gives her incredible fighting skills, on the condition that she never lie with a man unless he defeats her in fair combat.

In the Dynamite comic book series by Michael Avon Oeming, Sonja's origins are portrayed in "flashbacks" within each issue beginning with issue #8. The goddess makes her first appearance in this series in issue #12, which also marks the return of the deadly sorcerer Kulan Gath.[5]

In the Dynamite series by Gail Simone, Sonja's origins are again told in flashbacks. Sonja is a young teenager in a Hyrkanian village which is attacked by bandits. After her family is killed, Sonja lures the bandits into the forest and kills them one by one. No goddess appears in this version, and Sonja makes no vow of chastity. While she is threatened by the bandits, she is neither raped nor seriously injured. Another set of flashbacks shows Sonja as an adult, and indicates that she learned many of her fighting skills from a fellow prisoner when she was captured and forced to fight as a gladiator.[6]

Revamped Sonja (2010-2012)[edit]

The original Sonja is killed off in issue #34 of the first Dynamite series. Instead, a new character of the same name, described as a reincarnation of Red Sonja, takes her place from issue #35 onward. [7]

In her new life, Sonja is described as a distant relative of the original Red Sonja, taking her name as a good omen, since Sonja had come to be known as the most beautiful and fearless woman in Hyrkania. A noblewoman, this incarnation lives a fairly sheltered existence, along with her sister Verona and her little niece, longing for a child of her own and waiting for the return of her distant husband, Lord Daniel.

Eventually she is reunited with her husband, but then a pirate crew (unbeknownst to them called upon by Verona's husband, Lord Lucan, in a bid for more power) slays him and leaves Sonja on the brink of death. Sonja is then nursed to health by Osin, in Sonja's previous life a bard companion and now a gruff swordsman, who accepted the curse of Claw the Unconquered for himself in exchange for the ability to locate and train the new incarnation of Red Sonja.

Osin begins her training. He and Sonja find that, even though she has occasional flashes of her former reflexes, she no longer has access to the full might of the skills bestowed by Scathach (now an almost forgotten goddess with waning powers) in her previous life. Despite this, Sonja is able to learn faster than Osin expects. She decides to seek revenge covertly, joining Lucan's pirate crew to be closer to Daniel's assassins.

Red Sonja vs. Red Sonya[edit]

Red Sonja was loosely based on Red Sonya of Rogatino, a character from Robert E. Howard's short story "The Shadow of the Vulture" (The Magic Carpet, January 1934). Red Sonya, was a sword-and-pistol-wielding supporting character of the late Renaissance. Roy Thomas rewrote "The Shadow of the Vulture" as a Conan story for Marvel Comics' Conan the Barbarian #23 (1973). Thomas also based Red Sonja on another Howard character, Dark Agnes de Chastillon, a sword woman in 16th-century France.[8]

Bikini[edit]

A cosplayer at the 2011 New York Comic Con dressed as Red Sonja.

Most artists depict Red Sonja wearing a very brief bikini-like costume of scale mail, usually with boots and gauntlets. As originally drawn by Barry Smith for "The Shadow of the Vulture" and "The Song of Red Sonja" in Conan the Barbarian issues 23 and 24 (1973), she did not have as full a figure and dressed a little more conservatively, in a long-sleeved mail shirt and short pants of red silk, a style that did not last long.[citation needed]

As told by Roy Thomas in the introduction of Red Sonja Adventures Volume 1 (Dynamite Entertainment) Spanish artist Esteban Maroto submitted an uncommissioned illustration to him when he was editing the magazine Savage Sword of Conan where he redesigned the character and for the first time showed her wearing what would become her famous costume, the silver "metal bikini", which resembled other fantasy costumes that other Maroto heroines sported in the 1970s. This illustration had been printed for the first time in Jim Steranko's magazine Comixscene #5 in black and white. It was reprinted in Savage Sword of Conan #1, and in Marvel Treasury Edition #15 colored but poorly reproduced, and finally restored and colored by José Villarrubia as an alternative cover for the Dynamite Entertainment edition of Red Sonja #2. Maroto drew her in this costume for a double page spread illustration in Savage Tales #3 and then for her first solo adventure in Savage Sword of Conan #1, and John Buscema drew her in this costume in the same magazine. Buscema drew her again in this costume in issues 43, 44 and 48 of Conan the Barbarian (1974) and Dick Giordano in the first issue of Marvel Feature (1975) before Frank Thorne took over from issue 2 (1976). The "bikini" proved popular, becoming well known through the paintings of Boris Vallejo and others.

Comics bibliography[edit]

As a main character[edit]

  • Marvel Feature v2 1-7 (Marvel Comics) (November, 1975 – November, 1976).
  • Red Sonja v1 1-15 (Marvel Comics) (January, 1977 – May, 1979).
  • Red Sonja v2, 1-2 (Marvel Comics) (February, 1983 – March, 1983).
  • Red Sonja v3, 1-13 (Marvel Comics) (August, 1983 – May, 1986).
  • Red Sonja The Movie 1-2 (Marvel Comics) (November – December, 1985).
  • Red Sonja: Scavenger Hunt (Marvel Comics) (December, 1995).
  • Red Sonja in 3-D (Blackthorne) (1998).
  • Red Sonja: A Death in Scarlet (Cross Plains) (1999).
  • Red Sonja v1, 0-80 (Dynamite Entertainment) (2005–2013).
  • Red Sonja Vs. Thulsa Doom 1-4 (Dynamite Entertainment) (2005).
  • Red Sonja Annual 1-4, (Dynamite Entertainment) (2006–2013).
  • Red Sonja & Claw 1-4 (Wildstorm/Dynamite Entertainment) (2006).
  • Red Sonja: One More Day (Dynamite Entertainment) (2006).
  • Red Sonja: Goes East (Dynamite Entertainment) (2006).
  • Red Sonja: Monster Isle (Dynamite Entertainment) (2006).
  • Savage Red Sonja: Queen of the Frozen Wastes 1-4 (Dynamite Entertainment) (2006).
  • Red Sonja: Vacant Shell (Dynamite Entertainment) (2007).
  • Savage Tales v3, 1-10 (Dynamite Entertainment) (2007–2008).
  • Giant Size Red Sonja 1-2 (Dynamite Entertainment) (2007–2008).
  • Sword of Red Sonja: Doom of the Gods 1-4 (Dynamite Entertainment) (2007–2008).
  • Spider-Man & Red Sonja 1-5 (Marvel Comics/Dynamite Entertainment) (2007–2008).
  • Queen Sonja 1-35 (Dynamite Entertainment) (2009–2013).
  • Red Sonja: Wrath Of The Gods 1-5 (Dynamite Entertainment) (2010).
  • Red Sonja: Revenge Of The Gods 1-5 (Dynamite Entertainment) (2011).
  • Red Sonja: Deluge (Dynamite Entertainment) (2011).
  • Red Sonja: Break The Skin (Dynamite Entertainment) (2011).
  • Red Sonja: Blue (Dynamite Entertainment) (2011).
  • Red Sonja: Raven (Dynamite Entertainment) (2012).
  • Witchblade/Red Sonja 1-5 (Top Cow Productions/Dynamite Entertainment) (2012).
  • Prophecy 1-7 (Dynamite Entertainment) (2012–2013).
  • Red Sonja: Atlantis Rises 1-4 (Dynamite Entertainment) (2012–2013).
  • Red Sonja: Unchained 1-4 (Dynamite Entertainment) (2013).
  • Red Sonja v2, 1-present, 11 issues as of May 2014, (Dynamite Entertainment) (2013–).
  • Legends of Red Sonja 1-5 (Dynamite Entertainment) (2013–2014).

In solo stories in anthologies[edit]

  1. Issue 23, "Swords in the Night", Roy Thomas (w), Barry Smith (a), John Buscema/Akins/Stone (i). (First appearance in a Conan comic publication).
  2. Issue 24, "Song of Red Sonja", Roy Thomas (w), Barry Smith (a).
  3. Issue 43, "Tower of Blood", Roy Thomas (w), John Buscema/Ernie Chua (i).
  4. Issue 44, "The Fiend and the Flame", Roy Thomas (w), John Buscema/The Crusty Bunkers (a).
  5. Issue 48, "Episode!", Roy Thomas (w), John Buscema (p), Dick Giordano (i). (First solo story in color).
  6. Issue 67, "Talons of the Man-Tiger", Roy Thomas (w), John Buscema (i).
  7. Issue 68, "of Once and Future Kings", Roy Thomas (w), John Buscema (i).
  8. Issue 78, "Curse of the Undead-Man", Roy Thomas (w), John Buscema (a), Pablo Marcos (i). (Reprint from Savage Sword of Conan Issue 1).
  9. Issue 115, "A War of Wizards", Roy Thomas (w), John Buscema/Ernie Chan (i).
  10. Issue 195, "Blood of Ages", James Owsley/Val Semeiks (w), Geof Isherwood (f).
  11. Issue 196, "The Beast", James Owsley/Val Semeiks (w), Geof Isherwood (f).
  12. Issue 197, "Stand", James Owsley/Val Semeiks (w), Geof Isherwood (f).
  13. Issue 198, "The River", James Owsley/Val Semeiks (w), Geof Isherwood (f).
  14. Issue 199, "Revelation in the Mists", James Owsley/Val Semeiks (w), Geof Isherwood (f).
  15. Issue 200, "The Fall of Acheron", James Owsley/Val Semeiks (w), Geof Isherwood(f).
  16. Issue 204, "Goblin", James Owsley/Val Semeiks (w), Vince Colletta (f).
  17. Issue 205, "Necropolis", James Owsley/Val Semeiks (w), Alfredo Alcala (f).
  18. Issue 241-3, "The Sorcerer and the She-Devil", Roy Thomas (w), Mike DeCarlo (i).
  19. Issue 244, "Fiends of the Flaming Mountain", Roy Thomas (w), Mike DeCarlo (i).
  20. Issue 245, "Empire of the Undead", Roy Thomas (w), Mike DeCarlo (i).
  21. Issue 246, "Chaos in Khoraja", Roy Thomas (w), Mike DeCarlo (i).
  22. Issue 247, "The Sword that Conquers All", Roy Thomas (w), Mike DeCarlo (i).
  23. Issue 248, "The Peril and the Prophecy", Roy Thomas (w), Talaoc/Ernie Chan (i).
  24. Issue 249, "Red Wind", Roy Thomas (w), Ernie Chan (i).
  25. Issue 250, "Chaos Beneath Kuthchemes", Roy Thomas (w), Ernie Chan (i).
  1. Issue 12, "Legion of the Dead", James Owsley/Val Semeiks (w), Ernie Chan (a).
  1. Issue 1, "Red Sonja" Roy Thomas (w), Esteban Maroto (p), Ernie Chan/Neal Adams (i). (First solo story in black and white. Also featured in the cover painted by Boris Vallejo).
  2. Issue 1, "Curse of the Undead-Man", Roy Thomas (w), John Buscema (a), Pablo Marcos (i).
  1. Issue 23, "Wizards of the Black Sun", Roy Thomas/Clair Noto (w), Frank Thorne (a). (Featured in the cover painted by Earl Norem)
  2. Issue 29, "The Wizard and Red Sonja Show", Frank Thorne (w/a).
  3. Issue 45, "Master of Shadows", Christy Marx (w), John Buscema (p), Tony DeZuniga (i).
  4. Issue 78, "The Day of the Sword", Roy Thomas/Doug Moench (w), Howard Chaykin (layouts) Dick Giordano/Terry Austin (a). (Origin re-drawn). (Reprint from Kull and the Barbarians Issue 3)
  5. Issue 82, "Song of Red Sonja", Roy Thomas (w), Barry Smith (a). (Reprint from Conan the Barbarina Issue 24).
  6. Issue 83, "Red Sonja", Roy Thomas (w), Esteban Maroto (p), Ernie Chan/Neal Adams (i). (Reprint from Savage Sword of Conan Issue 1).
  7. Issue 144, "The Waiting Doom", Charles Dixon (w), Ernie Chan (i).
  8. Issue 145, "Feast of the Stag", Charles Dixon (w), Geof Isherwood (f).
  9. Issue 153, "Phantasm", James Owsley (w), Luke McDonnell (p) Armando Gil (i).
  10. Issue 157, "Infant Terrible", Bruce Jones (w/a).
  11. Issue 169, "The Endless Stair", Peter B. Gillis (w), Steven Carr (p), Armando Gil (i).
  12. Issue 170, "Emerald Lust", Charles Dixon (w), Gary Kwapisz (i).
  13. Issue 172, "The Waif and the Warrior", Jim Valentino (w), Steven Carr (p), Josef Rubinstein (i).
  14. Issue 178, "Chains", Sue Flaxman (w), Gavin Curtis (p), Keith Williams (i).
  15. Issue 179, "Fury of the Iron Damsels", Charles Dixon (w), Gary Kwapisz (i).
  16. Issue 187, "Red Sonja Queels the Song of the Siren", Marie Javins/Steve Buccellato (w), Alfredo Alcala (a).
  17. Issue 192, "On the Road of Kings", Roy Thomas/Dann Thomas (w), Tony DeZuniga (a).
  18. Issue 194, "The Road to Zamboula", Roy Thomas (w), Tony DeZuniga (a).
  19. Issue 195, "Swordless in Zamboula", Roy Thomas (w), Tony DeZuniga (a).
  20. Issues 207-10, "The Road to Zanadu", Roy Thomas/Dann Thomas (w), Del Barras/Reggie Jones/ Kirk Etienne (a).
  21. Issue 223, " the Many Mirrors of Tuzun Thune", Roy Thomas (W), Mike Docherty (p)
  22. Issue 224, "Dragons of a World's Dawn", Roy Thomas (w), E.R. Cruz (i).
  23. Issue 226, "Of Kings and Cataclysms", Roy Thomas (w), E.R. Cruz (i); "Days of the World Ending", Roy Thomas (w), E.R. Cruz (i); "Back from the Time Abyss", Roy Thomas (w), E.R. Cruz (i).
  24. Issue 229, "A Lady for the Burning", Roy Thomas (w), Howard Simpson (p), Rober Quijano (i).
  25. Issue 230, "Shall Python Fall?", Roy Thomas (w), E.R. Cruz (i).
  26. Issue 231, "A Remembrance of Fires Past", Roy Thomas (w), E.R. Cruz (i).
  27. Issue 232, "Reflections of Eveil", Roy Thomas (w), E.R. Cruz (i).
  28. Issue 233, "Here Be Monsters", Roy Thomas (w), Geof Isherwood (i).
  29. Issue 230-3, "The Ring of Ikribu" Roy Thomas (w), Esteban Maroto (a).
  • Marvel Graphic Novels (1992).
  • "Conan - The Ravagers Out of Time", Roy Thomas (w), Alfredo Alcala (i).
  • Kull and the Barbarians (Marvel Comics) (1975).
  1. Issue 2, "She-devil with a Sword" Roy Thomas (w), Howard Chaykin (a).
  2. Issue 3, "The Day of the Sword" Roy Thomas/Doug Moench (w), Howard Chaykin (a). (Origin story, first appearance of the Red Goddess. Also featured in the cover painted by Michael Whelan)
  • A Marvel Super Special (Marvel Comics) (1978).
  1. Issue 9, "Day of the Red Judgement", Roy Thomas/ Christy Marx (w), Howard Chaykin (a). (Second appearance of the Red Goddess from origin story. Also featured in the cover painted by John Buscema)
  • Conan the King (Marvel Comics) (1985).
  1. Issue 28, "Call of the Wild."
  • Conan the Savage (Marvel Comics) (1996).
  1. Issue 9, "City Under Siege", Chuck Dixon (w).

And with

  • Spider-Man in "Marvel Team-Up" #79 (Marvel Comics) (The spirit of Sonja possesses the body of Mary Jane Watson to face her old enemy Kulan Gath). The two meet again in the Spider-Man/Red Sonja mini-series co-published by Dynamite Entertainment, in which Kulan Gath and Venom are the principal antagonists. The Spider-Man/Red Sonja TPB (ISBN 978-0-78-512744-4) collects Spider-Man/Red Sonja (2007) #1 - 5 (Oct. 2007 - Feb. 2008) and Marvel Team-Up (1972 - 1985 1st Series) #79 (March 1979).
  • Wolverine in "What if?" Vol. 2, #16 (Marvel Comics) (Sonja is defeated by Wolverine and becomes his mate).
  • Claw the Unconquered in "Red Sonja/Claw" 1-4 (DC Comics/Dynamite Entertainment) (2006).
  • Official Handbook of the Conan Universe, #1 (Marvel Comics) (1986).

Marvel Feature #4 was reprinted in the book The Superhero Women edited by Stan Lee. Red Sonja was featured arching among many of Marvel's female characters on the cover painted by John Romita, Sr.

Novels[edit]

Sonja has been featured in several novels by David C. Smith and Richard L. Tierney with covers by Boris Vallejo:

  • #1 The Ring of Ikribu (Ace 1981) (Adapted to comics by Roy Thomas and Esteban Maroto in The Savage Sword of Conan issues 230-3)
  • #2 Demon Night (Ace 1982)
  • #3 When Hell Laughs (Ace 1982)
  • #4 Endithor's Daughter (Ace 1982)
  • #5 Against the Prince of Hell (Ace 1983)
  • #6 Star of Doom (Ace 1983)

In other media[edit]

The character was played by Brigitte Nielsen in the 1985 film Red Sonja, which also starred Arnold Schwarzenegger as High Lord Kalidor (originally intended to be Conan). The film was directed by Richard Fleischer.

Actress Rose McGowan was originally intended to portray Sonja in 2010's Red Sonja film, but these plans were squelched by injuries that permanently damaged the mobility and strength of her right arm.[9] In a February 2011 interview, film producer Avi Lerner stated that Simon West was hired to direct the film and also mentioned Amber Heard as the frontrunner to star in the lead role.[10]

Angelica Bridges portrayed the character in the "Red Sonja" episode of the 1997 - 1998 TV series Conan.

Awards[edit]

  • 1973 Academy of Comic Book Arts Awards: Best Individual Story (Dramatic). The Song of Red Sonja. Written by Roy Thomas and pencilled, inked and colored by Barry Smith. The story first appeared in Conan the Barbarian issue 24 (March 1972), where two panels were censored by John Romita, Sr. The uncensored story was reprinted in Marvel Treasury Edition, Volume 1, No. 15, 1977, where it was recolored by Glynis Wein and the artwork was slightly cropped to fit the page format.
  • Red Sonja publisher Dynamite Entertainment was awarded the title of "Best New Publisher" by Diamond Comics Distributors in 2005.

Legal[edit]

On June 6, 2006, comic news site Newsarama reported that Red Sonja, LLC (which holds rights to the Roy Thomas version of the character) filed a lawsuit on four counts against Paradox Entertainment (which claims rights to Red Sonya as part of the Howard library, though no renewal record for The Shadow of the Vulture exists) in US Federal Court in April 2006. The four counts are claims of copyright infringement, trademark infringement, trademark dilution, and unfair competition.[11] The lawsuit was settled in January 2008, on the second day of the hearing, for a sum of $1 each. Red Sonja LLC paid $1 to Paradox for the rights to Howard's Red Sonya and permission for the Red Sonja stories to continue being set in Conan's Hyborian Age. Paradox simultaneously paid $1 to Red Sonja LLC for the exclusive print-publication rights for The Shadow of the Vulture now that one of the characters belongs to Red Sonja LLC.[12]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Frankenhoff, Brent (2011). Comics Buyer's Guide Presents: 100 Sexiest Women in Comics. Krause Publications. pp. 4–5. ISBN 1-4402-2988-0. 
  2. ^ http://www.comicvine.com/articles/eccc-13-gail-simone-to-write-new-red-sonja-ongoing/1100-146141/
  3. ^ http://www.icv2.com/articles/news/25781.html
  4. ^ http://www.comicvine.com/articles/early-review-gail-simone-s-red-sonja-1/1100-146593/
  5. ^ Oeming, Michael Avon. Red Sonja: She-Devil With a Sword Vol. 2: Arrowsmith. Dynamite Comics, 2007.
  6. ^ Simone, Gail. Red Sonja: Queen of Plagues. Dynamite Comics, 2014.
  7. ^ Reed, Brian. Red Sonja: Born Again. Dynamite Comics, 2010.
  8. ^ Afterword by Roy Thomas, in The Chronicles of Conan Volume 4: The Song of Red Sonja and Other Stories (Dark Horse, 2004)
  9. ^ "Rose McGowan demanded $5M to shave eyebrows in 'Conan'". CTV News. August 19, 2011. 
  10. ^ Williams, Owen. "Amber Heard For Red Sonja? With Simon West directing?". Empire. February 10, 2011
  11. ^ "Sonja vs. Conan - Red Sonja, LLC Sues Paradox". Newsarama. 
  12. ^ "Red Sonja/Red Sonya dispute settled for $1 swap". Newsarama. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 

External links[edit]