Red Sonja, "warrior woman out of majestic Hyrkania," was created by Roy Thomas (writer) and Barry Smith (pencils, inks and color). She in made her début in "The Shadow of the Vulture" and "The Song of Red Sonja" in Marvel Comics’ Conan the Barbarian 23-24 (1972).
She was loosely based on the character Red Sonya of Rogatino in Robert E. Howard's short story "The Shadow of the Vulture" (The Magic Carpet Magazine January 1934). Thomas rewrote this as a Conan story for the Marvel comic, reinventing REH’s Red Sonya, making her a heroine of Conan’s Hyborian Age, tweaking the spelling of her name, and replacing Sonya's guns (and sword) with (only) a sword.
"The Song of Red Sonja" won the 1973 Academy of Comic Book Arts Awards: Best Individual Story (Dramatic). In Conan the Barbarian, two panels were censored by John Romita Sr. The uncensored story was reprinted in Marvel Treasury Edition 1 15 (1977), where it was recolored by Glynis Wein and the artwork was slightly cropped to fit the page format.
The She-Devil with a Sword has become the archetypical example of the fantasy figure of a fierce and stunningly beautiful female barbarian who typically wears sexy, but impractically skimpy armor.
The origin of Red Sonja, "The Day of the Sword", first appeared in Kull and the Barbarians 3 by Roy Thomas, Doug Moench and Howard Chaykin. This story was later redrawn by Dick Giordano and Terry Austin for The Savage Sword of Conan 78.
Red Sonja lived with her family in a humble home in the Western Hyrkanian steppes. When she had just turned 17 years old, a group of cruel mercenaries killed her father Ivor, her mother and two younger brothers and burned their house and all their possessions. She survived but was raped by the leader of the group. Answering her cry for revenge, the red goddess Scathach appeared to her, and instilled in her incredible skill in the handling of swords and other weapons on the condition that she would never lay with a man unless he defeated her in fair combat.
Most artists depict Red Sonja wearing a very brief bikini-like costume of scale mail. 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 chainmail long-sleeved shirt and red cloth (maybe leather) shorts.
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 1970’s. This illustration was printed for the first time in black and white in Savage Sword of Conan #1, was later reprinted in Marvel Treasury Edition #15 colored but poorly reproduced, and finally restored and colored by José Villarrubia as an alternate cover for the Dynamite Entertainment edition of Red Sonja #2. Maroto drew her in this costume for her first solo adventure in Savage Sword of Conan #1, and John Buscema drew her in that costume in the same magazine. Buscema drew her again in that 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). For some reason the "bikini" proved popular, becoming well known through the paintings of Boris Vallejo and others.
Traits and skillsEdit
As noted above, Red Sonja has incredible skill in the handling of swords and other weapons.
Stories featuring Red SonjaEdit
These are the comic books that have featured Red Sonja as a main character:
- Marvel Feature 1-7 (Marvel Comics) (November, 1975 - November, 1976).
- Red Sonja (1st series) 1-15 (Marvel Comics) (1977-1979).
- Red Sonja (2nd series) 1-2 (Marvel Comics) (1983).
- Red Sonja (3rd series) 1-13 (Marvel Comics) (1983-1986).
- Red Sonja The Movie 1-2 (Marvel Comics) (1985).
- Red Sonja: Scavenger Hunt (Marvel Comics) (1995).
- Red Sonja in 3-D (Blackthorne) (1998).
- Red Sonja. A Death in Scarlet (Cross Plains) (1999).
- Red Sonja (New series) 0-present (Dynamite Entertainment) (2005).
In addition she has been featured in solo stories in the following publications:
- Issue 1, "Red Sonja," Roy Thomas (w), Esteban Maroto (p), Ernie Chan/Neal Adams (i).
- Issue 23, "Wizards of the Black Sun," Roy Thomas/Clair Noto (w), Frank Thorne (a).
- Issue 45, "Master of Shadows," Christie Marx (w), John Buscema (p), Tony DeZuñiga (i).
- Issue 78, "The Day of the Sword," Roy Thomas/Doug Moench (w), Dick Giordano/Terry Austin (a).
- Issue 157, "Infant Terrible," Bruce Jones (w/a).
- Issue 169, "The Endless Stair," Peter B. Gillis (w), Steven Carr (p), Armando Gil (i).
- Issue 171, "The Waif and the Warrior," Jim Valentino (w), Steven Carr (p), Josef Rubinstein (i).
- Issue 187, "Red Sonja Queels the Song of the Siren," Marie Javins/Steve Buccellato (w), Alfredo Alcala (a).
- Issue 192, "On the Road of Kings," Roy Thomas/Dann Thomas (w), Tony DeZuñiga (a).
- Issue 194, "The Road to Zamboula," Roy Thomas (w), Tony DeZuñiga (a).
- Issue 195, "Swordless in Zamboula," Roy Thomas (w), Tony DeZuñiga (a).
- Issues 207-10, "The Road to Zanadu," Roy Thomas/Dann Thomas (w), Del Barras /Reggie Jones/ Kirk Etienne (a).
- Issue 229- "A Lady for the Burning," Roy Thomas (w), Howard Simpson (p), Rober Quijano (i).
- Issue 230-3, "The Ring of Ikribu," 1/4 Roy Thomas (w), Esteban Maroto (a).
- "Kull and the Barbarians" (Marvel Comics) (1975).
- Issue 2, "She-devil with a Sword," Roy Thomas (w), Howard Chaykin (a).
- Issue 3, "The Day of the Sword," Roy Thomas/Doug Moench (w), Howard Chaykin (a).
She has appeared a "guest" alongside Conan in the series:
- Conan the Barbarian
- The Savage Sword of Conan
- Conan the King
And with Spider-Man in "Marvel Team-Up" # 79 and Wolverine in "What if?" Vol. 2, #16. In the former the spirit of Sonja possesses the body of Mary Jane Watson to face her old enemy Kulan Gath. In the later Sonja is defeated by Wolverine and becomes his mate.
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)
|Red Sonja Chronology|
|Begin the Red Sonja Chronology||Next Appearance:|
Conan the Barbarian #23
In other media Edit
She was played by Brigitte Nielsen in the 1985 film Red Sonja, which also starred Arnold Schwarzenegger as Kalidor (a Conan clone). The film was directed by Richard Fleischer It performed poorly at the box office.
Avi Lerner and Danny Dimbort's Millennium Films and Randall Emmett and George Furla's Emmett/Furla Films announced they had acquired the rights to produce and distribute a feature film based on the “Red Sonja” property as well as the allied and ancillary rights. The picture was to be produced by Randall Emmett, George Furla and Avi Lerner as well as executive produced by M. Dal Walton III, Luke Lieberman, Nick Barrucci, Danny Dimbort, Trevor Short and Boaz Davidson. In the past, the property was out to writers and directors.
A new adaptation of Red Sonja not based on the original film is currently in the works. It will be produced by Robert Rodriguez, directed by Douglas Aarniokoski (with considerable participation of Rodriguez). Rose McGowan will have the lead role in the film, starring as Red Sonja. Kulan Gath will play a major role in the movie. The release date was recently reported to be late 2009 with a teaser poster being released which shows Red Sonja with her sword atop of a pile of skulls. Shortly after, another teaser poster was released with a 2010 release date. A script was confirmed to have been written and filming will commence in early 2010.
Red Sonja makes an appearance on the "Conan" TV series, in the episode, "Red Sonja". She is on a mission to rescue a young wizard who was kidnapped. When one of Conan's partners sarcastically asks why the village didn't send their best warriors, Sonja replies, "They did send their best warrior, mulebrain!" She was played by Angelica Bridges.
Beverly Switzler, a character from the Marvel comic book, Howard the Duck is featured on the cover of Howard the Duck (Volume 1) #1 wearing a scale mail bikini similar to the outfit worn by Red Sonja.
- A bibliography of Marvel Feature Presents and all the solo Red Sonja series published by Marvel Comics
- A collection of Red Sonja covers and art from her many incarnations
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