CCI: Comic Character Investigation #30[ENGLISH] This month: Red Sonja. Since the inception of The Golden Age of comics in 1938, many heroes, and many villains, have splashed their battles across artistic pages, have endured their struggles in those same pages and have intrigued a readership which has loved their adventures for 72 years. This column celebrates such characters by taking a look each month at one of them. Some you will know and some are more obscure, but all hold a significant place in comics, for the world of stories in any medium is about the characters who populate it. The spectacular citizens of the universe who inhabit the comic book nation might be brave or sinister, bold or fearful, but all are characters who we can never forget. So, The Golden Age becomes the Silver Age, The Silver becomes The Bronze and so on, until today and until tomorrow. . . in The Endless Age of comics, and the beings who live inside them.CCI: Comic Character Investigation #30

Beware The Fire-Haired Red Sonja!

Red Sonja has it all. She’s beautiful, sexy, has vicious red hair, wears metallic bikini armor (most of the time) and can hold her own with any warrior of the opposite sex and usually beat them. She has even sworn to save herself for the first man who can best her in battle… Yes Sonja has a strange origin and is more of a development than a direct creation by any one man. The seed of her presence was a gift from the late Robert E. Howard who gave us Conan. But it was not Howard who gave us the fateful heroine we know but Roy Thomas with Barry Windsor-Smith who created the image that flashes before us like those swords of ancient days (sorry, couldn’t help it), when we think of her.

Originally penned by Howard into a story featuring a Russian girl named Red Sonya of Rogatino (spelled with a “Y” at first), it was crafted as an historical piece, not the sub-fantasy genre Howard created that we call “sword and sorcery.” This first-appearance story (if you will) is called “Shadow of The Vulture” for those readers who must dig further…. In a way the genre Howard created was his biggest contribution to the finalized character because that was the world Thomas and Windsor-Smith used to mold their character into the fiercest woman warrior the comic world had ever seen. All three of these men drove the creation
forward in different ways.

As a teenage girl a band of bad men burn down her house, kill her family and have their way with her. Such destruction and humiliation is the birthplace of our hero. She cries out for revenge and a goddess named Scathach comes to her and gives her special abilities and power with the sword. She has to obey one condition, however and it is here we see why Red Sonja will never let a man be with her who has not defeated her by the sword.She first appeared in Marvel’s Conan The Barbarian #23 and she had some impressive issues showcasing her in Marvel features as well as her own title which lasted 15 issues. She has reappeared in series, the most current one being the one from Dynamite Comics. Yet it is arguable whether or not one can call that Sonja Red Sonja as she ultimately becomes a reincarnation of the character in completely different set of surroundings etc. One cannot close down the development of mythology but certain archetypes should not be messed with, especially ones who are handy with a sword. Red Sonja is not a reincarnation any more than she is that Russian girl. These are elements of her, yes but at her core, she is fire-haired, fierce, sexy, a one-of-a-kind fantasy figure for endless imagined panels.

CCI: Comic Character Investigation #30In 1985 Brigitte Nielsen played Red Sonja in the movie featuring her, co-starring Arnold Shwarzenegger who was originally cast to be Conan in that movie as that movie had also been released in the early 80’s. It was not to be. Instead Sonja meets an ally named Calidor who supports the movie just fine in his character. A remake was planned by director Robert Rodriguez starring Rose McGowan but it was also not to be. Not yet anyway. Cross Plains Comics also featured Red Sonja quite well and she was not forgotten in prose pages either. Lesser known perhaps than the classic movie or her comic appearances are the six novels featuring Red Sonja in all her prose glory (as well as some beautiful covers which do Sonja justice as both a woman and a warrior). These were written by David C. Smith and Richard L. Tierney and the authors do a credible job of displaying our heroine’s classic appearance and manners as well as her skills and adventures.

Movie or comic, novel or graphic novel, Red Sonja is the ultimate vision of the female warrior…sensual but unrelenting, delicate in appearance but powerful with her weapons, a whirlwind of a beautiful woman and a deadly warrior who we can’t help but watch in each adventure she finds, her red hair swaying about as wildly as her sword arm, an earthly goddess who lives in a land of blood and money and honor. Fight on, Red Sonja. We live for you to see red!

[James Parducci]

James Parducci (www.jparducci.blogspot.com) is the creator of the comic series Nighthunter. He has been published in multiple periodicals and runs his own freelance writing business in San Diego.