Red Sonja, the She-Devil with a Sword, is a fictional character, a high fantasy sword and sorcery heroine created by Robert E. Howard and adapted for comics by Roy Thomas and Barry Windsor-Smith. She first appeared in Conan the Barbarian #23 (Marvel Comics).
Red Sonja has become the archetypical example of the fantasy figure of a fierce and stunningly beautiful female barbarian who typically wears armor resembling a bikini or lingerie.
The character now appears monthly in her own series, as well as a series of mini-series and one-shots, all published by Dynamite Entertainment. The main Red Sonja series features a wide array of cover artists as well as the regular creative team of writer Michael Avon Oeming and artist Mel Rubi.Origin
The origin story for Red Sonja, "The Day of the Sword", first appeared in Kull and the Barbarians #3 by Roy Thomas, Doug Moench, and Howard Chaykin, and was later redrawn by Dick Giordano and Terry Austin for The Savage Sword of Conan, issue 78.
In this story, Red Sonja lived with her family in a humble house in the Western Hyrkanian steppes (modern Ukraine/Russia). When she had just turned 17 years old, a group of mercenaries killed her family and burned down their house. Sonja survived but was brutally raped by the leader of the group, leaving her in shame. 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 lie with a man unless he defeated her in fair combat.
In the current Dynamite comic book series, Sonja's origins are portrayed in "flashbacks" within each issue beginning with issue #8. The goddess makes her first appearance in the new series in issue #12, which also marks the return of the deadly sorcerer Kulan Gath.
Later during the series, the original character is killed off in issue #34. Instead, a new character of the same name, described a reincarnation of the original Sonja, takes her place from issue #35 onward.Revamped Sonja
In this new continuity, 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's 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 leave 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, finding that, even if Sonja has occasional flashes of her former reflexes, she no longer has access to the full might of the skills bestowed upon her by Scathach (now an almost forgotten goddess with waning powers) in her previous life, nor the fit body she once possessed, due to her sheltered life. Despite these handicaps Sonja is able to learn faster than presumed, but decides to act stealthily, joining Lucan's pirate crew to be closer to Daniel's assassins.Prototypes: Red Sonja vs. Red Sonya
The character was loosely based on Red Sonya of Rogatino in Robert E. Howard's short story "The Shadow of the Vulture" (The Magic Carpet, January 1934), which Roy Thomas rewrote as a Conan story for Marvel Comics Conan the Barbarian #23 (1973). Thomas also somewhat based Red Sonja on another Howard character, Dark Agnes de Chastillon, a sword woman in 16th-century France.
Red Sonja is somewhat different from Robert E. Howard's original Red Sonya. Besides tweaking the spelling of her name, Thomas transformed her from a sword- and pistol-wielding supporting character of the late Renaissance into a sword-wielding heroine of Conan's prehistoric Hyborian Age.Bikini
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. Fans liked her bikini armor better.
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 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 alternate 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.Television
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.Music
Red Sonja is mentioned in the Eminem song 'Bagpipes from Baghdad'.
She was played by Brigitte Nielsen in the 1985 film Red Sonja, which also starred Arnold Schwarzenegger as Prince Kalidor (originally intended to be Conan). The film was directed by Richard Fleischer. It performed poorly at the box office, and was also widely panned by critics.
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), and actress Rose McGowan will portray Red Sonja. Kulan Gath will also 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 but with a 2010 release date. A script has confirmed to be written and The film is currently on Hiatus till Late 2010, with the focus on Conan then Red Sonja.Awards
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.