What is Dynamite’s announcement for today? A Red Sonja one shot reuniting talents from her run since her 1973 debut, including Roy Thomas, Gail Simone, Luke Lieberman, and Eric Trautmann, along with writer Cullen Bunn and artists Dave Acosta and Rich Buckler. Because when it’s a character’s 42nd birthday, it’s time to celebrate with classic brokeback.
Here’s a startling fact: Although most often associated with the Conan the Barbarian oeuvre, Red Sonja, as “The She-Devil with a Sword” was actually created by Roy Thomas and Barry Windsor-Smith in an issue of Conan. The character was based on a short story by Conan creator Robert E. Howard called “The Shadow of the Vulture” that featured a character called red Sonya of Rogatine. It was Thomas who figured out how to add her to the Conan mythos.
“It’s been very gratifying to me to witness the popularity of Red Sonja over the past four decades,” Thomas recalled. “It was a lucky day when I read a fan-article about Robert E. Howard that mentioned a story in which one of his historical heroes fought alongside a “Russian hell-cat” or whatever precisely the phrase was (her name wasn’t mentioned in the article), so that I obtained a copy of the long out-of-print story from the estate’s literary agent, Glenn Lord, and read it: ‘The Shadow of the Vulture.’ Red Sonya of Rogatine clearly had possibilities as a sometime companion/opponent for Conan in Marvel’s Conan the Barbarian comic, so I changed her name to the (to me) slightly more exotic Red Sonja, thereby making her a somewhat new character and adapted ‘Shadow’ as an issue of Conan. From that time on, she had a life of her own. Barry Windsor-Smith was inspired to do great things with her in the two Conan issues we did together in which she co-starred. Esteban Maroto, over in Spain, couldn’t resist giving her a different look, which came to be called ‘the iron bikini’ after I decided that should be what she wore from then on. John Buscema and Howard Chaykin did a handful of nice stories with her. Frank Thorne came aboard to virtually make her his own. And that was just in the 1970s! I suspect Red Sonja will be around for a long, long time!”
The Red Sonja #1973 one shot goes on sale in July.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.