Posts Tagged ‘Red Sonja’

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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In the midst of the three-day walkabout that is Emerald City Comicon, I had the opportunity, thanks to the lovely team at Dark Horse Comics, to interview the writers of the Conan/Red Sonja crossover comic, Jim Zub and Gail Simone. First up was Jim Zub who was kind enough to set some time aside at his booth. The interview has been transcribed due to heavy background noise during recording. Jim Zub

 

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

 

Maniacal Geek: So, Conan/Red Sonja!

Jim Zub: Conan/Red Sonja.

MG: I read the issue the other night.

JZ: Issue three?

MG: Yep, issue three.

JZ: Awesome.

MG: So, if you can describe the process of working with Gail Simone first.

JZ: Sure. So, Gail was on the project first and she was the one that brought me on board. So even when I came into it she already had a couple ideas about how things could work. And I think the one thing that I’m really the most proud of that we worked out was – ya know this kind of a project, especially with characters who haven’t been teamed up in over fifteen years…

MG: Yeah, not since the movie, right?conanrs3p1

JZ: Right? You have them when they’re young and they’re vibrant and then you have them when they’re older. And both eras of the characters are really amazing. And it’s like, man, if this is the only time I ever get to write Conan, I wanna do it all and Gail had this great idea that we would show a story that evolves as they get older. So the first chapter is, ya know, when they’re young and impetuous and then as the things that they do in that first chapter come to roost in the later chapters.

MG: The bloodroot and everything?

JZ: Exactly. And so we wanted to create this – it enlarges the scope of the story and it makes it that much more epic, but it also allows us to show how the characters have evolved and how their attitudes have changed. So Conan has become much more serious. Ya know, in the early one Sonja is very harsh, she’s very prickly, and then as she gets a little bit older she’s a bit freer and Conan has sort of shut down after Bêlit’s death. He’s just, ya know, much more morose and kinda grim about the whole thing. And that – being able to show the contrast between them and the shift in time I feel like is one of the most – it’s something I’m really proud of in the series. And then, ya know, just being able to have this big sweeping adventure. You get to have that pirate, swashbuckling era. You get to have the ragtag thieves.

MG: Gladiatorial…

JZ: Exactly! We get to – literally it’s like a – the best of collection for me, it’s like the greatest hits of Conan and we just get to hit all these high notes all the way through. And that was just the best feeling. Ya know I can’t adequately describe…my name on a Conan book feels absolutely surreal.

MG: Is it one of those things that you kind of always dreamed of but never –conanrs3p2

JZ: Yeah, I grew up on it. I just never thought it would even be possible. Ya know I read the Conan comics growing up and I read the novels and that just felt like, well that’s what those people do. Not that I would ever be able to do that. So having my small little piece of the pie that’s pretty amazing.

MG: One of things that struck me with the third issue is that you’re really laying down this foundation of legacy. The storytelling to the prince. Is there something about that that just goes into the old novels or are you trying to play up the sweeping epic?

JZ: I think it’s a bit of both. I mean you wanna give a sense of…that this is not just an adventure that takes place in the moment but that it changes and it is recorded and it will be spoken of for a long time. I mean, that’s the nature of a legend, right? And we’re talking about two characters that are legendary and so being able to give it that – without trying to sound corny – that gravitas, like to say this is something that is – will be spoken of – this is not just these characters experiencing it but something that will echo outwards. And that’s, ya know, that great epic fantasy, that’s what they do and so that’s really very much the voice that was established even by Kurt Busiek when he was doing his run on the series and we looked to that and said, “Okay, we wanna run with it.” But Roy Thomas did that kinda stuff too. He would do this really poetic kind of prose and narration in his comics. It’s funny sometimes when you’re writing it you feel like, man, are we going over the top? But Conan feels like it can absorb it. It’s so big and he’s such a powerful character that even if it feels like you’re going too much you’re just right there. Like that’s where it should be.

MG: You feel like you’re going too far but, in fact, you’re not going far enough!

JZ: No, you’re right there. Right in the thick of it. You just wanna push it right to the edge in terms of the narrative quality or the intensity of those emotions and the poetic way you say it. And every so often I would find myself, I would write a sentence and I would go, “Am I nuts? Is this – did we – did we go tip it over the top?” And then we would, I would go back and I’d kinda read it out loud and my wife or other people would be like, “No, man, that’s totally Conan.” I’m like, “Wow! This is cool!” We get to really dig in on that kind of prose.

MG: Is there a particular metaphor that you’re proud of?

JZ: In the first issue we’ve got this – hold on, I – see I want to get the wording of it right and actually read it to you because I’m so proud of it.

MG: You have to do the voices too.conan-red-sonja-1-conan

JZ: Yeah, okay that’s a trick. Whenever I do a script and it’s got a – particularly licensed characters – I always read it back in the character’s voice so I feel like it has the right cadence. So, it’s corny but it’s totally useful.

MG: Lay on, Macduff.

JZ: Right here, right, so he [Conan] jumps over this gate and he smashes this guy in the face and as it’s happening the guard screams, “Gods above!” And he [Conan] goes, “Gods, you say? No, just a Cimmerian born with an appetite for things kept hidden behind steel and stone.” It’s just something, I don’t know, that’s like a badass way to introduce a character. He just comes out of nowhere and beats the hell out of people.

MG: Well why not?

JZ: It’s Conan, he can take that. So I’m proud of that one. I’m proud of the issue that hasn’t come out yet, issue four has got some – we go all epic. The original Howard stories – Robert E. Howard was actually – he was a pen pal with H.P. Lovecraft and you notice in a bunch of his stories he has a very almost Cthullian approach to the supernatural. Conan doesn’t just fight something, he fights something that could melt your mind or is beyond the universe’s ability to comprehend kind of stuff. And I always found that stuff very visceral and so I told Gail really early – we made a wishlist of all the cool things, ya know, we have a gladiatorial scene, and we have pirates, and we have this. And I said, one of my – on my wishlist was creature beyond the universe; creature of the unknown and she’s like, “Oh yeah, let’s do this!”

MG: I feel like Gail would be on board with anything.

JZ: I got to put one of those into issue four and all the prose around that makes me very happy.Wayward01A-teaser

MG: Especially with high fantasy because it’s like science fiction, it’s a sponge for everything. You can just – you’ve been doing that with, a little bit with Wayward and Skullkickers and then Samurai Jack. It’s all within kinda the same umbrella.

JZ: Yeah, totally, and I feel like…some people say to me, “Oh, you’re a sword and sorcery writer.” I’m like, “No, I wanna tell stories.” I like fantasy and I like magic but it’s broader than that. It’s about empowerment and it’s about excitement and I feel like these are great vehicles for excitement. In whatever I’m writing I want it to be action-packed and entertaining. Some of those are more comical and some of those are more serious but there’s an intensity to them.

MG: Definitely and I can’t think of a better way to end it.

JZ: Thank you so much.

MG: Thank you! I appreciate it and I loved having you on the podcast before.

JZ: It was a lot of fun, I really appreciate it.

MG: Yeah, no, you and Andy [Suriano] are like one of my favorites.

JZ: We’re having so much fun with [Samurai] Jack. The last issue, 20, comes out in, well it’s a little delayed now because of shipping, but it’s coming out in June and it is, like, it’s like our coda on the series. I tried to sum everything up and say, okay, if they never do an animated ending for Samurai Jack this is what I wanna say, drop the mic, and walk away.1 gOXhpN2a-nGNEnB24oR1sw

MG: Are they cutting you off?

JZ: Well yeah, but they gave us enough notice so we could go out the way we wanted.

MG: That’s good ’cause you don’t always get that.

JZ: Oh yeah, absolutely. The show didn’t get that! So, the last thing you wanna do is cut off the comic.

MG: Exactly. Thanks, Jim!

JZ: Thanks!

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?

 

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.