On May 6th, Dynamite Comics is embarking on a never-before-attempted crossover event that joins all of the comic publisher's most popular characters together in an extravagant genre-bending mash-up. The gimmick? All of these characters -- and all of the comic book writers who will tell their stories -- are women.
Some of the gorgeous variant covers for the first issue of this series, entitled "Swords of Sorrow," have already been making the rounds online. But unless you attended the "Meet the Valkyries" panel at Emerald City Comic Con in Seattle this past weekend, you probably haven't seen this one yet!
Drawn by Kate Leth ("Edward Scissorhands") and colored by Paulina Ganuchau ("Zodiac Starforce"), this brand new cover will only be available to stores affiliated with the Valkyries, a networking group of all-female comic book store workers and owners. As you can see, it's a much different style than what you'd typically expect from celebrated pulp heroes Red Sonja, Dejah Thoris, and Vampirella, especially looking at their fantastic full-body armor.
But just because these women are usually depicted in more revealing outfits than what you see above doesn't mean they aren't interesting, capable, and complex characters -- especially in the hands of Gail Simone ("Batgirl"), who's been writing the adventures of Red Sonja for Dynamite Comics since 2013. She talked to us about her involvement with "Swords of Sorrow," and what we can expect when all of these fearsome female warriors team up for the first time.
MTV News: “Swords of Sorrow” is certainly an ambitious project. How did the idea first come about?
Gail Simone: Sheer, base trickery is what. Publisher Nick Barrucci calls me, and he just casually mentions that they are thinking of doing a huge crossover event, all female characters, from everywhere -- comics, comic strips, radio plays, pulps, black and white horror magazines, and literature, just the full range of popular adventure media. And a bunch of my favorite characters, too...Red Sonja, Vampirella, Kato from the Green Hornet, Miss Fury, Lady Zorro, on and on.
And I got excited and just started firing off ideas, like, OH! Then you have to do THIS, and then THIS should happen, and you should bring in THIS character, and then I asked, by the way, who is writing this for you?
And Nick, you could hear the evil smile of the master trapster, just says, "Well, we were hoping YOU would."
So he tricked me, the bastard.
MTV: Was bringing in other talented women writers to contribute to “Swords of Sorrow” always the plan from the beginning?
Simone: Absolutely, I don't mind marching into battle solo, but it's also pretty great to have the best possible generals at your side.
What I did was, I looked at who I felt was really doing something fresh in adventure comics, who had real potential to explode. So basically, I just chose women I am a fan of, like G. Willow Wilson and Marguerite Bennett and Nancy Collins. We have some newer writers who have been knocking it out of the park as well, like Erica Schultz and Emma Beeby and Marghread Scott. For most of them, it's their first experience with a big crossover, and we all just meshed beautifully, we all worked together and had a blast.
I love this stuff, I think it's the best kind of activism, it's danceable empowerment. Because all of these women write at such a high level, it's just hugely entertaining.
MTV: You’re pretty open about your love of pulp fiction. What was your favorite adventure story aesthetic while growing up?
Simone: Well, it's no secret that I have comic book ink in my veins, somehow. But I grew up on a very remote farm, with no television. I just didn't seem to have that molecule that made me want to read the stuff other girls liked...I wanted adventure stories almost from the womb. Pippi Longstocking to Nancy Drew to Wonder Woman, that was my natural progression.
And I tend to like characters who get dirty, who get mud under their fingernails. I like a character who gets up after being knocked down, so I always had a huge affinity for pulp heroes. But the problem is, those stories tended to be even more male-exclusive than even comics (until recently).
Our crossover imagines this theoretical...what if the entire history of pulp adventure had equally been aimed at females? I find that question just HUGELY fascinating.
What if Jane Porter had had her own series of novels, or Margot Lane, or Irene Adler? And we just went from that point. Because the beauty of a book like this is that if we can envision it, we can put it on the page.
MTV: Without giving anything away, the comic’s central villain felt really similar to the sort of anti-feminist trolls you see messing with strangers on the Internet. Was that intentional, or just inevitable given the guy’s own issues with women?
Simone: Our central villain had his heart broken like no one else in history and it twisted him forever. I didn't intend for that to be allegorical, I don't like dragging fleeting Internet things into my comics at all. I suppose it could be read as a statement like that, but this character's motivations were established a long, long time ago, and I think it will make perfect sense when the pieces are all revealed.
I don't like male-bashing, I wouldn't want to stick a guy character in there who hates women for no reason. This character has a motive as old as time. There's a reason he hates women, and it's OLD SCHOOL.
MTV: Obviously you know Red Sonja pretty well at this point, but are there any characters that were difficult to tap into at first?
Simone: That's the killer on a book like this, there's a LOT of research. And interestingly, the goal is to absorb EVERYTHING in a character's history, and then use it as sparingly as possible. That really is the secret. You want to stay true to the history, you want to drop the correct flavors, but it's easy to overwhelm. How many big stories have been ruined by "Oh, let it be known that in the seventh age of the House of Flobington, Snerkel, the son of Urkel, didst fight in the robot cat wars..." You know, we want to give new readers the essential information and then reveal the characters' cool factor by their actions, not extensive footnotes.
So, writing Dejah meant reading a bunch of novels. If I write Catwoman, I know her already, I don't have to read ten novels. So the research was extensive, but also a complete joy. Some of these characters were badass DECADES before Xena.
MTV: How did you and Dynamite Comics decide which characters to team up with whom in some of the side issues?
Simone: I picked characters I felt would provide a contrast...the easy thing to do would be to put characters together who were a natural fit, like characters from radio, or characters from WWII era stories. Instead, I picked the characters that would provide the most fireworks. Red Sonja's no-nonsense badassery and Jungle Girl's naive teenage-ness, for example. Or Vampirella's weird Elvira vibe, with Jennifer Blood's anti-mob violence. When given a choice between sense and sparks, we chose sparks every time.
And then I chose the best writer to bring that out. G. Willow and Erica writing the fun of Kato and Masquerade...they chose to do a story about Green Hornet's car, the BLACK BEAUTY, being possessed, and they were the perfect team for that. Leah Moore, veteran of several Sherlock Holmes comics, absolutely nailed the Victorian mystery genre with Dejah Thoris Vs. Irene Adler.
It's just fun, I can't wait for people to see these.
MTV: Which character are you most excited for readers to reconnect with, or to see in a wholly new light?
Simone: By the end of the series, we hope people will see ALL of the main characters in a new way, and I can't talk too much about how we are going to make that happen, but it is incredibly cool.
I think the biggest revelation to me is Dejah Thoris. She's been thought of as almost exclusively a cheesecake character. We're going to show that she's so much more...and with her being royalty, Red Sonja instantly hates her, which is a blast.
MTV: Of the women assembled in this event, who do you think Batgirl Barbara Gordon would get along with the best? Who would she butt heads with?
Simone: I think Barbara would be baffled by the bikinis. She'd want them to wear something more protective.
My Barbara would probably clash most with Jungle Girl, who is very of-the-moment and a little annoying at times. She's Misfit of the Jungle, really.
MTV: You’ve been planning this crossover comics event since July of last year. Is it exciting to be so close to finally getting it in readers’ hands?
Simone: Oh, yeah. I have always wanted to drive one of these convertibles. It's almost happened several times. At DC and Marvel, writers complain about crossovers all the time, but I love them. Done well, with a reader's heart and not a cynic's eye, they are a joy to do. We just finished "Conan"/"Red Sonja" and I loved every minute of it.
The scope of this is huge, it's a ton of work, from big ideas to little nitpickery. But Dynamite and the licensors have shown tremendous faith in me and endless support. These are their darlings, and they trust me to do right by them. That's a big honor.
But I love it. It's the kind of mini that has Sonja singing a bawdy sea chanty on one page and Vampirella fighting a T-Rex on another. You can't not love that.
MTV: Can you tease out a little of what to expect from the rest of the event?
Simone: Yeah...people are going to want that last issue, man. That's all I'm saying.
But also, if you like funny, strong, sexy, dangerous women, and who doesn't, you want this book. It's a carnival at night with no parents. And we loved making it.
Come join us!
SWORDS OF SORROW #1 (of 6)
Written by GAIL SIMONE
Art by SERGIO DAVILA
Main Cover by J. SCOTT CAMPBELL
DYNAMITE'S FIERCEST FEMALES IN THEIR BIGGEST EVENT EVER! Fan favorite GAIL SIMONE (RED SONJA, BATGIRL) and rising art star SERGIO DAVILA (LEGENDERRY) combine to tell the ultimate pulp adventure, featuring Vampirella, Dejah Thoris, Red Sonja, Kato, Jungle Girl, and many, many more! Villains and heroes from a dozen worlds and eras face off against a legendary evil that threatens all their homelands. Don't miss this thrilling epic tale, an event supported by one-shot side adventures written by the hottest writers today, like G. Willow Wilson, Marguerite Bennett, Nancy Collins and more!
32 PGS./Rated T ...$3.99