This July, “Birds of Prey” and “Batgirl” writer Gail Simone will be joining the sword and sandal set for an all-new ongoing “Red Sonja” series at Dynamite. We spoke with Simone about this ECCC announcement, the legacy of Sonja as a character
MTV Geek: Please share with our readers how you came to write Red Sonja.
Gail Simone: I had been under an exclusive writing agreement with another company for a long time, eight years. My exclusive with that company ended recently, and I was kind of inundated suddenly with offers from most of the other players in the industry, which was a very nice feeling indeed.
Dynamite was the first to approach, I heard from them immediately after the news broke. I had decided that I was only going to take projects that I truly felt I would enjoy writing—I’ve been calling it the Gail Simone Happy Fun Time Tour.
Dynamite graciously offered almost anything in their line, and they have a ton of pulp heroes I absolutely love…but their first hope was for me to write Sonja. And as soon as they said it, it was like, stop right there. No need to go any further.
It’s a fiery redhead who takes shit from no one.
Yes, I want to write that!
Geek: She represents—for me, at least—both the most exciting and sometimes embarrassing aspects of our fandom: she’s always been the promise of spectacular sex and violence while still being the image that you conjure up when you see a graphic airbrushed onto the side of a van. What was appealing to you about tackling the character and what do you think makes her work?
Simone: I think Sonja is a powerful visual, but it’s interesting that people interpret her differently based on just the visual. Since I first read her as a kid, the idea of a porny image on the side of a van is not how I see her at all. To me she was always the monster-slayer, the gorgeous pirate killer. She was always the woman who could kick your ass if you gave her any grief.
I’m used to this stuff…I think there are such things as superhero glamor and in this case, barbarian glamor. The fishnets on Black Canary never bothered me, they fit her character. It’s the same for me with the bikini…MOST people don’t wear a lot of clothes in these stories, and it’s a big part of what makes her instantly recognizable. Do I want her in a raincoat? Not really.
But she does wear a lot of different stuff in my run.
And it’s interesting, we had this fun idea of having all the covers, and variant covers, done by the top female artists in the business, and they all turned out to be closet Sonja fans who had been dying to draw the character. There’s a big appeal there that goes far beyond just the visual.
It was never the bikini that bugged me at all, she looks amazing. But occasionally artists would draw her in porny poses at just the wrong moment in the story and that’s very jarring.
Simone: I think of her as a woman with a set of morals that are intractable…she’s a hero. But being the time period she’s in, a hero can be a very bloody, lusty thing.
Which is the whole fun of barbarian comics, to me.
Geek: I’m trying to recall if you’ve worked on a sword and sandals book before–this is your first time, right? What’s most interesting for you about the genre?
Simone: It is my first time working with the legit genre characters. But I LOVE this stuff, always have, and I was always sticking it in my superhero comics just because I love it so much. I would have the Atom go to a miniature barbarian world, Wonder Woman met Beowulf and Claw the Conqueror, the Secret Six went to Skartaris, I was always trying to scratch that sword and sorcery itch!
For me it’s the same as, say, a great Western story, there’s a wonderful primal quality to the stories. It’s black hats vs. white hats, heroes vs. monsters, that’s just joyful to write.
Geek: Along the same lines, are there any specific challenges to the genre you had to deal with?
Simone: Not really. I keep saying it, but it’s true, this is one of the most FUN jobs I’ve ever had.
I guess the closest thing is, I find the dry narration of historical exposition of the settings a little dusty. I’m trying to find ways to incorporate that rich stuff in a manner that’s not straight third person omniscient narrative.
Geek: It wouldn’t be an adventure without a crazy band of travelers. Could you talk a little about some of the supporting characters Sonja will surround herself with?
Simone: She’s got a pair of loudmouth tomboy twins following her around, they’re kind of hilarious.
Geek: Could you talk a little about some of the villains we might see Sonja going up against?
Simone: This is a very interesting dynamic… her new villain is a terrifying woman called Dark Annisia, who is every bit her equal on the battle field. And WHY she hates Sonja’s guts is pretty new stuff for this genre, I think!
Geek: Dynamite’s touting the female-centric creative team here. How did that come about? To what extent do you think that aided in the creation of the book?
Simone: It’s going to create a different spin, for sure. All respect to the guys, they are guys writing a female icon and of course that means a slightly different take. Part of the joy of my career, for me, has been giving these iconic females a bit of shading of that unapologetic female vibe. I think it’s an interesting approach. And it’s kind of fun to have a book with so much female firepower still be full of beheadings and sex and monsters.
That said, the art is by a guy, Walter Geovanni, and he is just KILLING it. Sonja is beautiful and terrifying at the same time.
Geek: Finally, the 80’s movie: for it or agin’ it?
Simone: Is it awful if I have no feelings for it, either way? My version of Sonja, the one I have loved forever, is from the comics. That’s the true Red Sonja to me.
“Red Sonja” #1 will be on sale in July. Dynamite will be revealing more about the book this weekend when they’re joined by Simone during their Emerald City Comic-Con panel Saturday at 6PM.