US publisher Dynamite has released a preview of interior pages for Legends of Red Sonja #1, a collaborative effort uniting Gail Simone with a star-studded and prestigious and international creative team including Marjorie M. Liu, Mercedes Lackey, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Rhianna Pratchett, Leah Moore, Tamora Pierce, Blair Butler, Nancy Collins, Meljean Brook, Nicola Scott, Devin Grayson, and more to be announced.
Veteran American Frank Thorne, one of the key artists responsible for defining the character’s distinct look, will be among the artists to contribute cover artwork, as will Jay Anacleto.
The first issue of the five-part Legends of Red Sonja #1 miniseries is solicited in the September Diamond Previews catalogue for pre-order by retailers worldwide.
Here’s a Q & A with the various Legends of Red Sonja writers, including British creators Leah Moore, whose comics credits include Sherlock Holmes, Doctor Who, Witchblade and Albion, and award-winning script writer Rhianna Pratchett, whose credits include on computer games such as worked on titles such as Eidos/Square Enix’s Tomb Raider, Sony’s PS3 epic Heavenly Sword, Codemasters’ twisted fantasy games Overlord, Overlord II and Overlord: Dark Legend, 2k’s Bioshock Infinite and EA’s Mirror’s Edge.
Rhianna has also contributed to several books on games writing and authored the Tomb Raider: The Beginning comics with Dark Horse and the six-part Mirror’s Edge miniseries with DC Comics, along with several of her own short stories.
She is currently wrestling the wild beasts of narrative on another project for Eidos/Square Enix, two screenplays (Vigilia and Warrior Daughter) and Terry Pratchett’s The Watch.
What is it about Red Sonja that has allowed her to meet this 40 year milestone?
Marjorie Liu: Red Sonja is the dream of all little girls. Which isn’t to say that all little girls want to grow up to be swords-women (though I did), charging into battle, fighting evil. But it’s her spirit that calls to us, that unbendable, fierce, warrior nature that is so alluring, inspiring — and sexy. In a world where women are constantly besieged by forces that want to steal our voices and power, Red Sonja is an icon of strength and stubbornness.
Nancy A. Collins: For decades Red Sonja has, consistently, been one of the few female protagonists in comics who is an unabashed warrior. While she has a code of honor, she also has no problems killing whoever gets in her way. That was a pretty radical concept for a female character, back in the 1970s. And it’s still not that common, even in the modern era of Grim & Gritty comics.
Devin Grayson: I’d like to say it’s because we all love redheads, but it probably has more to do with her unmitigated ass-kicking. I think for a lot of us who grew up as tomboys, she was a hugely compelling role model . And for those of us who were tomboys also into fantasy, she was peerless. She’s also managed to keep an air of mystery around her all these years, which is no small feat. There’s a directness to her character that’s both refreshing and enduring.
Rhianna Pratchett: She’s a striking character in every sense of the word. She’s tough and enigmatic which gives her great power on the page as well as on the battlefield.
Tamora Pierce: The way she blazed her way across the comics universe as a super-powerless female swordslinger, bolstered by the name of the immortal Robert Howard (the second major fantasy writer I discovered and always a lure for me to new adventures), was unique. And let’s face it, that blazing mane of red hair and the chainmail bikini so do not hurt!
Leah Moore: I think the interest is because she makes no attempt to court favour or play nicely with anyone. She’s not just strong and independent, you get the feeling she really doesn’t give a hoot about anyone else. In a male character that would be dull, another lone wolf who kicks ass and looks out for number one. Yawn. But in a woman, in Sonja it cuts straight though the whole gender divide and proves that yes, women can be curmudgeonly and unpleasant too!
Mercedes Lackey: She’s iconic. She is one of the first female fantasy characters that held her own with the guys. Mail bikini notwithstanding, it was clear from the start that she was no one’s possession, toy, or arm-candy.
Nicola Scott: Sonja has an attitude not often granted to female characters. She’s ballsy and brawny, has an Eastwood swagger and dismissive tone. It also doesn’t hurt that she rocks a sword and a metal bikini.
What can you tell us about your story?
Nancy A. Collins: It was written as an affectionate tribute to the straight-up sword & sorcery tales of the old SAVAGE SWORD OF CONAN. It’s set during Sonja’s early days as a thief–the time period where I was first introduced to her. Before the chainmail bikini.
Devin Grayson: I wrote a nautical horror story in a classic pulp fantasy style. There’s forbidden magic, sword swinging, and tentacles. Lots of tentacles.
Rhianna Pratchett: I wanted to explore an iconic aspect of Sonja that, from a story point of view, is often seen and not heard – her chainmail bikini.
Tamora Pierce: When she meets a woman and her daughter, seeming innocents in search of a guard, Red Sonja discovers her goddess has intervened in her life again, demanding a cost in death.
Leah Moore: I have pitted Sonja against the fearsome might of a necromancer. I’ve been a fan of necromancers since I first read Clark Ashton Smith, and saw that basically as a writer you cant have much more fun than writing a bit of necromancy. Clark Ashton Smith based a lot of his stories in Hyperborea, a region in Robert E Howard’s Hyboria, so I saw a chance to do my own little homage both to Howard and Clark Ashton Smith at once. Sonja battles liches, it was so much fun.
Mercedes Lackey: Sonja serves as the inspiration for another girl’s fantasy. And while the fantasy is unrealistic, the girl herself, and her village, gain enormously for it.
Nicola Scott: My story is about a stolen moment of good fortune that Sonja has since obliviously benefited from.
Blair Butler: It’s shrouded in mystery, but I will say that it’s circular, and I tried to do something a little different with the page layout. Also, it may bum you out. I had no idea how dark this story was going to get when I started it…
Kelly Sue DeConnick: An all-male troupe of traveling thespians perform The Red Devil’s Legerdemain for the Grey Riders, get them drunk, turn them on, and rob them blind. Theatre!
What are you hoping fans will learn about Red Sonja from your story?
Nancy A. Collins: That she means business.
Devin Grayson: Well, as fans know and newbies should be able to grok, the only thing you really need to know about Red Sonja is that you don’t mess with Red Sonja. Also: she may be waterproof.
Rhianna Pratchett: I wanted to bring back a sense of ownership and choice to the much maligned chainmail bikini. I also wanted to weave it into the way Sonja utilizes all her attribute to aid her in battle and how this knowledge may have come about.
Tamora Pierce: That she is very much more than a barbarian swords woman; that she has many layers, and uses crudity, violence, and drunkenness not only to conceal those layers, but to hone them, particularly her intelligence.
Mercedes Lackey: Sonja might not live up to someone’s fantasy… or then again, she might.
• More about Legends of Red Sonja #1 on the Dynamite web site