Posts Tagged ‘Dynamite Entertainment’

Part two of Dark Horse’s Conan/Red Sonja talk at Emerald City Comicon concludes with co-writer Gail Simone! If you haven’t read part one with Jim Zub, I strongly encourage you to do so on pain of death! That I will somehow accomplish through the internet…once I’ve mastered magic? Okay, just know that the interview with Jim Zub is fantastic as well. Gail was lovely to talk to and it’s always great getting her insights on the comic book world and how much we’ve grown as a community.

Fun fact: The Dark Horse booth was across from the ECCC equivalent of San Diego Comic-Con’s Hall H, so there were times during the interview where, after I asked a question, there would be a swell of cheers coming from the room as if the audience was showing their approval. So know that my confidence was running high from all that.

Also, look out for the special guest appearance by Dark Horse’s Publicity Coordinator, Steve Sunu. Hi, Steve!

Author’s Note: All italics and parentheses have been added for emphasis and clarification.

 

Maniacal Geek: I talked to Jim yesterday about Conan/Red Sonja.Gail-Simone-Red-Sonja1

Gail Simone: Okay, great.

MG: He had a lot of glowing things to say about you. So, you wanna give us the real story about working with Jim Zub?

GS: Yeah, the real story is quite amazing. I haven’t done work with co-writers too often but when I have they’ve been really great ones and Jim has been really great. It was so fun when we first started talking about, “Well what do we want to do?” We’ve got four issues and this type of a team-up hasn’t happened in forever. It’s very exciting, we’re both very excited about it. So it has to be epic!

MG: Yeah!

GS: And so then we started thinking about what would be epic and we decided to tell a story that spans a lot of time. And so, ya know, we write our separate pages and then we both go over each others pages. And I think it worked very well, I think it’s very seamless and makes a really exciting, fun story. I’ve known him for years, he’s a great person, he’s a great writer, he’s a great collaborator. So it was great. And then when the art started coming in and it’s so fantastic, it’s so gorgeous and people have been coming up to my table all convention and telling me how gorgeous and how much they love the art and how excited they are about the story so I think we hopefully hit our goal with it.

MG: I read the third issue right before the con so I’m all caught up with the bloodroot and everything. I was asking Jim about the idea of legacy and storytelling because each issue is narrated by a…is it a vizier? A teacher and the young prince?

GS: Yeah.conanrs3p3

MG: What does legacy mean to you in terms of these stories?

GS: Well, this is a character that’s been around a long time and people, some people, are familiar with her stories, some people aren’t but they still know who Red Sonja is for one reason or another; whether it’s a movie or an old comic or just seeing art and material out there they seem to know who she is. And that’s kind of a really cool thing. And then when you can take modern themes and use them with legacy characters and set them in a totally different and unfamiliar time period – I love that mixture of being able to be kind of current with the themes and the thought processes and the actions of the characters but the setting’s a completely different time.

MG: What do you feel is Red Sonja’s arc? In the Dynamite series but also in this one?

GS: She has a couple different things going on. The first arc was kind of more about how she became who she is and what formed her into the great warrior that she is and the second arc was more about “Do you still have friends and friendships and contacts and things when you become this person?” And then the third story arc that takes us through issue 18 is more about…emotion. It’s a lot more deeply emotional story than the other two arcs so she has a really strong emotional arc that she takes.

MG: And when you say that, talking about Sonja’s arc with “can you keep friends and be this person still?” It reminds me of how we are in general; we grow, we become a different person. Especially women in these [nerd culture] industries.conanrs3p4

GS: Well I think, too, there’s something to be said about when you become the best at what you do, then when you take a look around – who’s left? Who’s still standing with you or beside you? And sometimes that can be lonely and sometimes you can fall into really good friendships that are equal.

Steve Sunu: Sorry, Sam, just about two more questions.

MG: Okay, yeah. [to Gail] Next question: What was your favorite metaphor that you used as a descriptor for Red Sonja or for Conan?

GS: [laughs] Oh my gosh! Favorite metaphor? I don’t know. The thing – there is some metaphors but the thing that I like most about writing the Red Sonja character is that it’s pretty straight forward. It’s pretty grounded, it’s pretty filthy and bloody and sexy and all those things. I think that – in the second arc where she’s having trouble getting with somebody, nobody wants to be with her and she can’t quite figure out why or what to do about it. I think that – I wouldn’t say that’s a metaphor but I do think it’s something a lot of people do go through and could relate to. At least they’re telling me that online that they could really relate to her current problem. So I enjoyed telling that story. It was humorous but also it was still a little painful.

MG: And last question: Who’s the best Monkee?

GS: [laughs] Who’s the best monkey? Hmmm, the best monkey…? I don’t know. Gorilla Grodd, right?

MG: [laughs] Well I mean Monkees like the band.

GS: Oh the band? The Monkees?! Oh no!

MG: Since you’re such a Monkees fan.Michael-Nesmith-the-monkees-19107360-1217-790

GS: I am. Michael Nesmith. [laughs]

MG: [laughs] Yeah, no, I agree! I’m all there with you.

GS: I hate to say it –

MG: No, don’t hate!

GS: If I was going to have to pick one it would be him.

MG: All those Davy [Jones] fans, “NO, Gail! Curse you!”

GS: Gotta go with the lyrics.

MG: That’s right. The guy with the hat. Thank you so much, Gail. I appreciate the time you’ve given me. It’s all great. I love reading your work. I read [Now Leaving] Megalopolis as well. So fantastic.

GS: Thank you so much.nightwing butt

MG: I’m looking forward to all your new stuff that’s coming out.

GS: Me too. I can’t wait until it starts coming out.

MG: And is there going to be Nightwing butt in Convergence? You gonna have just like one shot – “NIGHTWING BUTT!”

GS: [sing-song] There’s some cute Nightwing stuff!

MG: [sing-song] Okay! Thank you so much!

GS: Thank you.

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Red Sonja 2 Cover

This was originally posted at Word of the Nerd on December 5th

When last we checked in with our merry band of murderers in The Legend of Red Sonja, the Grey Riders – a group composed of various mercenaries out for the blood of none other than Red Sonja – were regaled with two tales of the “She-Devil With a Sword.” One was from a member of their group, a warrior monk out for revenge, and the other from a sea captain whose previous crew was saved by Sonja after the vengeance of a young woman went too far. For these two tales, Red Sonja writer, Gail Simone, brought in noted comic book writer Devin Grayson and novelist Nancy A. Collins to begin the narrative device of the Grey Riders gathering stories about Red Sonja as they journey to find and end her. In the second issue, Simone brings novelists Meljean Brook and Tamora Pierce to add some intrigue to the continuing legend.

We start with Meljean Brook’s “The Undefeated” where a warrior, Gordrak the Beheader, tells the Riders of his experience with Red Sonja when the two journeyed together to steal a ruby from a demonic beast. Both treated the journey as a competition, goading and one-upping each other in the process while proving their skills in the heat of battle. Gordrak’s tale, however, paints Red Sonja as a cowardly warrior eager to instigate, but content to stay behind and piggyback on the accomplishments of others. He only has the ruby because Sonja tried to claim an undeserved reward. But that’s really just the story Gordrak’s telling the Grey Riders. What we see is an entirely different story.

Second is Tamora Pierce’s “Double-Edged.” While eating and drinking their fill in a local tavern, the Grey Riders are approached by a young girl who warns them not to seek out Red Sonja. She’s sworn to protect Sonja because of the service she provided in helping her mother, a priestess of the Goddess Sonja serves. Journeying to dance for the Duke of Edecon, the priestess and her daughter gain Sonja as a bodyguard when a group of brothers don’t take too kindly to being dismissed as guards. When things turn sour, Sonja steps in to fight them off, though the mother and daughter are just as capable at defending themselves. Unfortunately, the brothers and their father follow them, leaving Sonja and her charges no choice but to confront them with lethal force.

If the first issue was roughly centered around the idea of how stories can alter perception, this tales in this issue are linked through the themes of concealment and deception. Gordrak’s tale emphasizes the theme nicely with the artwork giving just enough credence to the narration to make his story appear true. But we quickly learn that it’s a ruse, that Gordrak is an ally of Sonja, having fallen for her in their journey. His story is meant to throw the Grey Riders off, distract them to give Sonja the advantage. The second story has several motifs of concealment seen through the priestess being physically covered, only to reveal her face and her blessings from the Goddess when she, Sonja, and her daughter are threatened. Sonja herself is also disguised, wearing a tunic over her armor at the beginning, and disguising herself in plain sight amongst the Grey Riders. She’s already one step ahead of them, they just don’t know it yet. It’s a fantastic way of tying the stories together through a second framing device, one that shows there’s more to the Grey Riders’ pursuit of Red Sonja than just a typical chase narrative.

The artwork in this issue is a bit of a mixed bag. I loved Mel Rubi’s work in”The Undefeated.” The artist previously worked on the Red Sonja solo book from 2005-2007 and it shows how comfortable he is with the character. Sonja is as devious and skilled as she is charming and sultry. It’s a good pairing with Brook who is no stranger to the fantasy/romance genre herself. The artwork by Cassandra James on “Double-Edged”, however, feels a bit disjointed. The character models and proportions look a bit off once the story proper begins, but that could also be the transition from Jack Jadson’s first page to James’ style on the next. The action, however, more than makes up for it and Sonja seems to have a perpetual “I don’t give a shit” look on her face that completely sells you on the character.

Final Thoughts: The stories are picking up. Is Sonja one step ahead or is she lagging behind to keep the Grey Riders in her sight?

 

Since I reviewed Manifest Destiny, it got me thinking about comic books that use historical eras and figures as settings and main characters respectively. Looking to the past can be a great source for relating present day issues to days gone by, but it’s also a fun excuse for true escapist literature. I mean, do you want to read a comic about Abraham Lincoln as he truly lived or would you rather see his steampunk equivalent traveling through time? Yeah, you heard me. That’s a thing and it exists. The point is that history can be as fun and off-kilter as it is relevant and heartfelt. So, with that in mind, let’s look at some history comics I’d recommend to history buffs and people looking for a good comic to read.

It’s also worth noting that a lot of this is lifted from a previous post I did on a former website. I make no excuses for the fact that I’m a lazy self-plagiarist.

Time Lincoln – Story and Art by Fred Perry, Coloring by Robby Bevard

I told you it was a thing! Yes, Time Lincoln, a fantastical journey into The Void where some of history’s most beloved and loathed figures are engaged in an epic war of epicness! At the moment of his assassination, Abe finds that it’s not John Wilkes Booth but Joseph Stalin about to pull the trigger! Stalin, having learned all of his secrets from Rasputin, has seen and taken power from “The Void” and knows that, in the future, Lincoln will be his most formidable foe. And before the deadly bullet ends his life, Abe is thrown through The Void, tearing through time and space, to begin his epic journey. This comic is just pure fun! Not only is Abe decked out in all his steampunky goodness, but he’s joined by Benjamin Franklin, George Washington Carver, Albert Einstein, and a boombox wielding Isaac Newton! And, I kid you not, Lincoln fights Hitler atop Mount Rushmore! Yeah, you heard me!

Marvel 1602 – Written by Neil Gaiman, Illustrated by Andy Kubert, and Digitally Painted by Richard Isanove

Can we just take a moment to thank the Pantheon that Neil Gaiman exists? Anyway, say what you want about Marvel and their penchant for holding on to continuity in the face of abject confusion, when something like this graphic novel exists, I’m glad they keep everything! Set during the tumultuous transition between the houses of Tudor and Stuart, Gaimen skillfully weaves a plot of mystery and intrigue as a great and dangerous power threatens the world, both Old and New. Ascending to the throne upon Elizabeth’s death, James I actively persecutes the “witchbreed” – those magically gifted as opposed to genetically evolved – who may be the only ones capable of saving the world. Aside from the superb writing and art, how Gaiman establishes each Marvel character within the Elizabethean era is just as delightful. Elizabeth consults with Sir Nicholas Fury, Peter Parquagh is apprenticed to Doctor Stephen Strange, and Carlos Javier’s students consist of Scotius Summerisle, Roberto Trefusis, Hal McCoy, Werner, and “John” Grey. Familiar, yet different. It was so popular that Marvel based stories on The Fantastic Four and Spider-Man in the same universe.

The Five Fists of Science – Written by Matt Fraction, Art by Steven Sanders

Anyone familiar with the Tesla vs Edison battle that flares up from time to time will love this comic! Basically, Tesla and his best pal Mark Twain are engaged in a great battle for world peace against Thomas Edison, Guglielmo Marconi, J.P. Morgan, and Andrew Carnegie. The plot involves giant robots, the dark arts, and Tesla being…Tesla. Plus, it has my all time favorite line from any comic book: “Quickly, to New Jersey!” And according to Matt Fraction himself, artist Steven Sanders likes to add his own sound effects while he draws, so you can only imagine how much fun he had with this comic! It’s fun times for all as history comes alive to deliver a swift fist of SCIENCE! to your gut.

Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne – Written by Grant Morrison

Grant Morrison is one of many polarizing figures in the comic book community, but whether you love him or hate him he has a way of telling a good story. In this case, we have Bruce Wayne hurtling through time after supposedly dying at the hands of Darkseid during Final Crisis. Finding himself at humanity’s beginning, Bruce moves forward in time (Cavemen, Puritans, Pirates, The Old West, anywhere from the 1940s-1960s, and beyond) in order to solve the ultimate mystery, that of his own identity and his mysterious connection to all things bat-related. Morrison, by this time, had already planted the seeds of Bruce’s time travelling journey long before his supposed death. This book served to fill in the blanks, elevating Batman as a legendary figure, an archetype, always present and necessary. Even if you’re not all that into the mythos of Batman, at the very least you get to see Bruce head butt Blackbeard!

300 – Written and drawn by Frank Miller with colors by Lynn Varley

Yet another polarizing figure, Frank Miller has joined Alan Moore in the “Cranky Old Man” club, though for far different reasons. But before senility set in, Miller was respected for his groundbreaking interpretations of Batman in The Dark Knight Returns and Batman: Year One, as well as his run on Daredevil. Outside of the mainstream heroes, Miller has been just as influential with works like Ronin, Sin City, and 300. Influenced himself by the 1962 film The 300 Spartans, the graphic novel is Miller’s interpretation of the Battle of Thermopylae. King Leonidas, along with 300 of his best warriors, hold off the Persian forces under Xerxes as he tries to conquer the city-states of Greece. It is their sacrifice that rallies all the people of Greece as a united front against the Persian army. Though made more popular by the movie, the comic itself is still a fun read. It’s wildly inaccurate, way over the top, and kinda racist, but at least Miller has the decency to include a recommended reading list for those interested in what actually happened.

Revere: Revolution in Silver – Written by Ed Lavallee, Illustrated by Grant Bond

I’ll be honest, this one is on my radar, I just haven’t had the chance to pick it up. But I’ll be damned if I don’t want to read it! You can have all the Abe Lincoln: Vampire Hunters you want but of all the historical figure meets the supernatural stories out there I would’ve thought Paul Revere versus anything would have been first on the list! I mean, come on, the guy was a silversmith for crying out loud! A silversmith!!! The story practically writes itself. The graphic novel is definitely making use of the premise, casting Revere as a renowned monster hunter tasked with hunting down a supernatural killer in the midst of the revolution. Though Sleepy Hollow recently debunked all the myths of Paul Revere, it doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy what would have made for an awesome spinoff.

Hark! A Vagrant – Written and drawn by Kate Beaton

I absolutely adore and love Kate Beaton’s work. Her webcomic is one of my favorites and I was lucky enough to meet her at Emerald City Comicon a few years ago before she really started blowing up all over the place. In a few short panels, she’s capable of reducing an historical event, person, or piece of literature to its bare essesntials while making you laugh the whole way. She’s a history lover’s dream and I most definitely had a number of her comics taped to my desk in the history office in college for the enjoyment of all! If I had to pick a favorite, it would be a strip consisting of a fan letter written by Jules Verne to Edgar Allen Poe. The look on Poe’s face at the end is priceless!

47 Ronin – Written by Mike Richardson, Art by Stan Sakai, and Editorial Consultation from Kazuo Koike47 Ronin 1

A passion project of Richardson, 47 Ronin is a book that tells a fairly faithful version of Japan’s most defining stories. It’s as historically significant as it is culturally. What Western society knows of Japan, and how the people of Japan view themselves, comes from this story of 47 warriors who avenged the death of their daimyo (lord), after he was forced to commit seppuku, and committed seppuku themselves in order to uphold their code of honor. This isn’t a book that takes the premise and runs in a different direction. Richardson wanted to tell the story through the medium of sequential art and he does so without the need to embellish what’s already fraught with plenty of drama. Stan Sakai’s art creates a book that reminds you of Japanese woodblock paintings, lending an authentic look combined with the cartoonish style that made Usagi Yojimbo so fun. It’s obvious that both Sakai and Richardson wanted to do right by the story and it shows in every page and every panel.

These are just scratching the surface of what’s out there in the realm of historically inclined comic books. If you’re interested in alternative versions of DC Comics characters, check out the Elseworlds books where you get to see a Victorian era Batman in Gotham by Gaslight, Green Lantern stories ala Shaherazade in Green Lantern: 1001 Emerald Nights, and the Justice League as inhabitants of the Old West in Justice Riders. A personal favorite of mine, however, is Superman: Red Son where writer Mark Millar imagines what would happen if baby Kal-El had landed in 1950s Ukraine and grew up under Stalinist rule. Outside of the Elseworlds, my favorite book is Darwyn Cooke’s Justice League: The New Frontier where Cooke depicts thesuperman_red_son transition of Golden Age heroes to the Silver Age through the mirror of post-WWII idealism, the Red Scare, and Cold War politics. Of course if Marvel is more your style it’s not uncommon for their characters to travel through time on occasion. Though if you’d like a nice standalone story, pick up Kelly Sue DeConnick’s Captain Marvel: In Pursuit of Flight to get some badass female fighter pilots during World War II.

There are also numerous books through Dynamite Entertainment that continue the stories of pulp and Golden Age heroes like Flash Gordon, The Phantom, Green Hornet, The Lone Ranger, etc. during their appropriate time periods and one of my favorite historically set comics is Peter Panzerfaust by Kurtis J. Wiebe and Tyler Jenkins that reimagines the characters and story of Peter Pan during World War II. Beginning to sense a common era of interest?

But those are my recommendations. Feel free to recommend some of your own and happy reading!

LegendsSonja01CovAnacleto

This was previously posted at Word of the Nerd on November 6th.

When Dynamite Entertainment announced at Emerald City Comicon that Gail Simone would pen the new Red Sonja book back in March, the company and Simone drummed up excitement for the book, and one of pulp comic’s great heroines, through the release of multiple variant covers for the first issue, each drawn by a female artist. Not only did the variant covers garner more attention for the book, they also highlighted the plethora of talent amongst female artists in the comic book industry, allowing women like Fiona Staples, Nicola Scott, Amanda Conner, Colleen Doran, Stephanie Buscema, and Jenny Frison to put their own spin on the legendary warrior.

Inspired by the outpouring of support and demand for female talent in the industry, Simone and Dynamite embarked on a “bold new experiment in graphic storytelling” by bringing together some of the best female writers, in comics and traditional prose, to pen their own tales of the “She-Devil With a Sword”. The result is Legends of Red Sonja, a five-part anthology written by Nancy Collins, Devin Grayson, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Marjorie M. Liu, Mercedes Lackey, Rhianna Pratchett, Leah Moore, Blair Butler, Tamora Pierce, Nicola Scott, and Meljean Brook working within the narrative frame set by Gail Simone.

In the first installment, Simone quickly lays down the foundation of the anthology: A group of 12 mercenaries known as the Grey Riders are hunting Red Sonja. They all have their own reasons for wanting her dead, but along the way they learn of her various adventures through the stories of others in their travels. The two stories featured in this issue are Nancy A. Collins’ “Eyes of the Howling God” with art by Noah Solanga, and Devin Grayson’s “La Sonja Rossa” with art by Carla Speed McNeil.

Collins’ “Eyes of the Howling God” is told from the perspective of Eles, the learned assassin amongst the Grey Riders. A monk once in service of The Howling God, he was witness to the murderous and thieving Red Sonja who violently slew the human embodiment of The Howling God before robbing the temple statue of its ruby eyes. When Eles tried to stop her, she marked him for life, slicing her sword across his eye and setting him down the path of revenge. Solanga depicts Sonja as an ancient Laura Croft giving her a chain mail shirt and short shorts. It’s a little off-putting considering the setting, and the fact that she’s essentially fighting a werewolf, but I’m pretty sure Laura Croft found herself in some supernatural situations, so who am I to judge? Next up in Gayson’s “La Sonja Rossa” in which a sea captain tells the Grey Riders of how his La Sonja Rossabeloved ship, Lacrime Di Gioia, was brought down by a young beauty with revenge in her eyes, but Red Sonja valiantly fought to save the crew and those on board from certain death, supposedly going down with the ship though the Grey Riders aren’t buying the tale. McNeil’s art is a little harder to pin down. At times it’s a bit cartoonish, but about midway through the story that cartoonish aspects work in the art’s favor, giving Sonja’s fight with a giant squid an epic scope.

What I definitely admire about the book are the different stories within this first installment. In Simone’s main book, Sonja is a fairly balanced figure – an opportunist possessed of a strong sense of loyalty prepared to mete out justice at her own discretion. The anthology, though not connected to the main continuity, continues Sonja’s characterization by giving the reader two diametrically opposed versions of the warrior. Eles, someone from within the Grey Riders, sees her as a thief and murderer having witnessed her actions personally. His view of her is ultimately biased, but no more so than the captain of the former Lacrime Di Gioia. He, too, was witness to the impressive feats of Red Sonja, though his is a tale of bravery in the face of death. Neither has more merit than the other. If anything, their stories emphasize the fact that Sonja is neither one or the other. A warrior the likes of Sonja is capable of actions both virtuous and immoral. It’s what makes her human and legendary.

Final Thoughts: We’re off to a good start. Next up are Meljean Brook and Tamora Pierce.