Red Sonja

Red Sonja


caption =Cover to "Red Sonja" #1 (June 2005).
Pencils by John Cassaday.
Inks by José Villarrubia.
character_name =Red Sonja
publisher =Marvel Comics
Dynamite Entertainment
debut ="Conan the Barbarian" #23
(February 1973)
creators =Robert E. Howard (story)
Roy Thomas
Barry Windsor-Smith
alliances =
aliases = Red Sonya of Rogatino
powers =A sword-master in peak human physical condition, martial arts expert, as well as knowledge and experience of fighting the supernatural.|

Red Sonja, the She-Devil with a Sword, is a fictional character, a low fantasy sword and sorcery heroine created by Roy Thomas and Barry Windsor-Smith. She first appeared in "Conan the Barbarian" #23 (Marvel Comics).

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.

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 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 she had been 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 namesake as a good omen, since Sonja had came to be known as the most beautiful and fearless woman in Hyrkania. A noblewoman, this incarnation lives a fairly sheltered existance, along with her sister Verona and her little niece, longing for a kid on 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, unbeknowst 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 occasionally flashes of her former reflexes, she no longer have 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 stealthy, 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. [Afterword by Roy Thomas, in "The Chronicles of Conan Volume 4: The Song of Red Sonja and Other Stories" (Dark Horse, 2004)]

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.

In 2006 Red Sonja LLC brought a lawsuit in Delaware Federal Court against Paradox Entertainment alleging Trademark Infringement and unfair competition. Paradox claims the rights to 'Red Sonya' [sic] as part of the Howard Library, even though no copyright renewal was filed for the story "Shadow of a Vulture." Red Sonja LLC succeeded in securing settlement in the nature of all of Paradox's rights in the story "Shadow of a Vulture" and Paradox's endorsement of RS LLC's trademark in Red Sonja regardless of spelling.


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.

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.


These are the comic books that have featured Red Sonja as a main character:

* "Marvel Feature" 1-7 (Marvel Comics) (November, 1975 - November, 1976).
* "Red Sonja" 1-15 (Marvel Comics) (January, 1977 - May, 1979).
* "Red Sonja" v2, 1-2 (Marvel Comics) (February - March, 1983).
* "Red Sonja" v3, 1-13 (Marvel Comics) (August, 1983 - May, 1986).
* "Red Sonja The Movie" 1-2 (Marvel Comics) (November - December, 1985).
* "Red Sonja: Scavenger Hunt" (Marvel Comics) (December, 1995).
* "Red Sonja in 3-D" (Blackthorne) (1998).
* "Red Sonja: A Death in Scarlet" (Cross Plains) (1999).
* "Red Sonja" v4, 0-present (Dynamite Entertainment) (2005).
* "Red Sonja Annual" v4, 1-present (Dynamite Entertainment) (2006).
* "Red Sonja Vs. Thulsa Doom" 1-4 (Dynamite Entertainment) (2005).
* "Red Sonja & Claw" 1-4 (Wildstorm) (2006).
* "Red Sonja: Goes East" (Dynamite Entertainment) (2006).
* "Red Sonja: One More Day" (Dynamite Entertainment) (2006).
* "Red Sonja: Monster Isle" (Dynamite Entertainment) (2006).
* "Savage Red Sonja: Queen of the Frozen Wastes" 1-4 (Dynamite Entertainment) (2006).
* "Savage Tales" v3, 1-present (Dynamite Entertainment)(2007).
* "Giant Size Red Sonja" v4, 1-present (Dynamite Entertainment) (2007).
* "Red Sonja: Vacant Shell" (Dynamite Entertainment) (2007).

In addition she has been featured in solo stories in the following publications:

* "Conan the Barbarian", (Marvel Comics) (1974-1991).

# Issue 23, "Swords in the Night", Roy Thomas (w), Barry Smith (a), John Buscema/Akins/Stone (i). (First appearance in a Conan comic publication).
# Issue 24, "Song of Red Sonja", Roy Thomas (w), Barry Smith (a).
# Issue 43, "Tower of Blood", Roy Thomas (w), John Buscema/Ernie Chua (i).
# Issue 44, "The Fiend and the Flame", Roy Thomas (w), John Buscema/The Crusty Bunkers (a).
# Issue 48, "Episode!", Roy Thomas (w), John Buscema (p), Dick Giordano (i). (First solo story in color).
# Issue 67, "Talons of the Man-Tiger", Roy Thomas (w), John Buscema (i).
# Issue 68, "of Once and Future Kings", Roy Thomas (w), John Buscema (i).
# Issue 78, "Curse of the Undead-Man", Roy Thomas (w), John Buscema (a), Pablo Marcos (i). (Reprint from Savage Sword of Conan Issue 1).
# Issue 115, "A War of Wizards", Roy Thomas (w), John Buscema/Ernie Chan (i).
# Issue 195, "Blood of Ages", James Owsley/Val Semeiks (w), Geof Isherwood (f).
# Issue 196, "The Beast", James Owsley/Val Semeiks (w), Geof Isherwood (f).
# Issue 197, "Stand", James Owsley/Val Semeiks (w), Geof Isherwood (f).
# Issue 198, "The River", James Owsley/Val Semeiks (w), Geof Isherwood (f).
# Issue 199, "Revelation in the Mists", James Owsley/Val Semeiks (w), Geof Isherwood (f).
# Issue 200, "The Fall of Acheron", James Owsley/Val Semeiks (w), Geof Isherwood(f).
# Issue 204, "Goblin", James Owsley/Val Semeiks (w), Vince Colletta (f).
# Issue 205, "Necropolis", James Owsley/Val Semeiks (w), Afredo P. Alcaca (f).
# Issue 241-3, "The Sorcerer and the She-Devil", Roy Thomas (w), Mike DeCarlo (i).
# Issue 244, "Fiends of the Flaming Mountain", Roy Thomas (w), Mike DeCarlo (i).
# Issue 245, "Empire of the Undead", Roy Thomas (w), Mike DeCarlo (i).
# Issue 246, "Chaos in Khoraja", Roy Thomas (w), Mike DeCarlo (i).
# Issue 247, "The Sword that Conquers All", Roy Thomas (w), Mike DeCarlo (i).
# Issue 248, "The Peril and the Prophecy", Roy Thomas (w), Talaoc/Ernie Chan (i).
# Issue 249, "Red Wind", Roy Thomas (w), Ernie Chan (i).
# Issue 250, "Chaos Beneath Kuthchemes", Roy Thomas (w), Ernie Chan (i).

* "Conan the Barbarian Annual" (Marvel Comics) (1987).

# Issue 12, "Legion of the Dead", James Owsley/Val Semeiks (w), Ernie Chan (a).

* "The Savage Sword of Conan", (Marvel Comics) (1974-1995).
# Issue 1, "Red Sonja" Roy Thomas (w), Esteban Maroto (p), Ernie Chan/Neal Adams (i). (First solo story in black and white. Also featured in the cover painted by Boris Vallejo).
# Issue 1, "Curse of the Undead-Man", Roy Thomas (w), John Buscema (a), Pablo Marcos (i).

# Issue 23, "Wizards of the Black Sun", Roy Thomas/Clair Noto (w), Frank Thorne (a). (Featured in the cover painted by Earl Norem)
# Issue 29, "The Wizard and Red Sonja Show", Frank Thorne (w/a).
# Issue 45, "Master of Shadows", Christie Marx (w), John Buscema (p), Tony DeZuniga (i).
# Issue 78, "The Day of the Sword", Roy Thomas/Doug Moench (w), Howard Chaykin (layouts) Dick Giordano/Terry Austin (a). (Origin re-drawn). (Reprint from Kull and the Barbarians Issue 3)
# Issue 82, "Song of Red Sonja", Roy Thomas (w), Barry Smith (a). (Reprint from Conan the Barbarina Issue 24).
# Issue 83, "Red Sonja", Roy Thomas (w), Esteban Maroto (p), Ernie Chan/Neal Adams (i). (Reprint from Savage Sword of Conan Issue 1).
# Issue 144, "The Waiting Doom", Charles Dixon (w), Ernie Chan (i).
# Issue 145, "Feast of the Stag", Charles Dixon (w), Geof Isherwood (f).
# Issue 153, "Phantasm", James Christopher Owsley (w), Luke McDonnell (p) Armando Gil (i).
# Issue 157, "Infant Terrible", Bruce Jones (w/a).
# Issue 169, "The Endless Stair", Peter B. Gillis (w), Steven Carr (p), Armando Gil (i).
# Issue 170, "Emerald Lust", Charles Dixon (w), Gary Kwapisz (i).
# Issue 172, "The Waif and the Warrior", Jim Valentino (w), Steven Carr (p), Josef Rubinstein (i).
# Issue 178, "Chains", Sue Flaxman (w), Gavin Curtis (p), Keith Williams (i).
# Issue 179, "Fury of the Iron Damsels", Charles Dixon (w), Gary Kwapisz (i).
# Issue 187, "Red Sonja Queels the Song of the Siren", Marie Javins/Steve Buccellato (w), Alfredo Alcala (a).
# Issue 192, "On the Road of Kings", Roy Thomas/Dann Thomas (w), Tony DeZuniga (a).
# Issue 194, "The Road to Zamboula", Roy Thomas (w), Tony DeZuniga (a).
# Issue 195, "Swordless in Zamboula", Roy Thomas (w), Tony DeZuniga (a).
# Issues 207-10, "The Road to Zanadu", Roy Thomas/Dann Thomas (w), Del Barras/Reggie Jones/ Kirk Etienne (a).
# Issue 224, "Dragons of a World's Dawn", Roy Thomas (w), E.R. Cruz (i).
# Issue 226, "Of Kings and Cataclysms", Roy Thomas (w), E.R. Cruz (i); "Days of the World Ending", Roy Thomas (w), E.R. Cruz (i); "Back from the Time Abyss", Roy Thomas (w), E.R. Cruz (i).
# Issue 229, "A Lady for the Burning", Roy Thomas (w), Howard Simpson (p), Rober Quijano (i).
# Issue 230, "Shall Python Fall?", Roy Thomas (w), E.R. Cruz (i).
# Issue 231, "A Remembrance of Fires Past", Roy Thomas (w), E.R. Cruz (i).
# Issue 232, "Reflections of Eveil", Roy Thomas (w), E.R. Cruz (i).
# Issue 233, "Here Be Monsters", Roy Thomas (w), Geof Isherwood (i).
# Issue 230-3, "The Ring of Ikribu" Roy Thomas (w), Esteban Maroto (a).

* "Marvel Graphic Novels" (1992).
* "Conan - The Ravagers Out of Time", Roy Thomas (w), Alfredo Alcala (i).

* "Kull and the Barbarians" (Marvel Comics) (1975).

# Issue 2, "She-devil with a Sword" Roy Thomas (w), Howard Chaykin (a).
# Issue 3, "The Day of the Sword" Roy Thomas/Doug Moench (w), Howard Chaykin (a). (Origin story, first appearance of the Red Goddess. Also featured in the cover painted by Michael Whelan)

* "A Marvel Super Special" (Marvel Comics) (1978).

# Issue 9, "Day of the Red Judgement", Roy Thomas/ Christy Marx (w), Howard Chaykin (a). (Second appearance of the Red Goddess from origin story. Also featured in the cover painted by John Buscema)

* "Conan the King" (Marvel Comics) (1985).
# Issue 28, "Call of the Wild."

* "Conan the Savage" (Marvel Comics) (1996).
# Issue 9, "City Under Siege", Chuck Dixon (w).

And with

* Spider-Man in "Marvel Team-Up" # 79 (Marvel Comics) (The spirit of Sonja possesses the body of Mary Jane Watson to face her old enemy Kulan Gath). The two meet again in the upcoming Spider-Man/Red Sonja miniseries. Kulan Gath and Venom are the principal antagonists.
* Wolverine in "What if?" Vol. 2, #16 (Marvel Comics) (Sonja is defeated by Wolverine and becomes his mate).
* Claw the Unconquered in "Red Sonja/Claw" 1-4 (DC Comics/Dynamite Entertainment) (2006).
* Official Handbook of the Conan Universe, #1 (Marvel Comics) (1986).

"Marvel Feature" #4 was reprinted in the book "The Superhero Women" edited by Stan Lee. Red Sonja was featured on the cover in a painting by John Romita, Sr. marching among Marvel Comics's female characters (clockwise: Ms. Marvel, Hela from the series Thor, Black Widow, the Wasp from the Avengers, Medusa from the Inhumans, and Invisible Woman from the Fantastic Four).


Sonja has been featured in several novels by David C. Smith and Richard L. Tierney with covers by Boris Vallejo:

* #1 "The Ring of Ikribu" (Ace 1981) (Adapted to comics by Roy Thomas and Esteban Maroto in "The Savage Sword of Conan" issues 230-3)
* #2 "Demon Night" (Ace 1982)
* #3 "When Hell Laughs" (Ace 1982)
* #4 "Endithor's Daughter" (Ace 1982)
* #5 "Against the Prince of Hell" (Ace 1983)
* #6 "Star of Doom" (Ace 1983)

In other media


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.


She was played by Brigitte Nielsen in the 1985 film "Red Sonja", which also starred Arnold Schwarzenegger as Prince Kalidor (a Conan clone). The film was directed by Richard Fleischer. It performed poorly at the box office, and was also widely panned by critics.Fact|date=April 2008

Avi Lerner and Danny Dimbort's Millennium Films and Randall Emmett and George Furla's Emmett/Furla Films announced they have 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 will 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. The property is currently out to writers and directors.

A remake of "Red Sonja" is currently in the works. It is currently in pre-production and very little has been decided on. 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 reporteded to be late 2009 with a teaser poster being released which shows Red Sonja with her sword atop of a pile of skulls. [ [ Red Sonja Pictures - Rotten Tomatoes ] ]


*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.


On June 6, 2006 comic news site Newsarama reported that Red Sonja, LLC (which holds rights to the Roy Thomas version of the character) filed a lawsuit on four counts against Paradox Entertainment (which claims rights to Red Sonya as part of the Howard library, though no renewal record for "The Shadow of the Vulture" exists) in US Federal Court in April 2006. The four counts are claims of copyright infringement, trademark infringement, trademark dilution, and unfair competition. [cite web |url= |title=Sonja vs. Conan - Red Sonja, LLC Sues Paradox |accessdate= |work=Newsarama] The lawsuit was settled in January 2008, on the second day of the hearing, for a sum of $1 each. Red Sonja LLC paid $1 to Paradox for the rights to Howard's Red Sonya and permission for the Red Sonja stories to continue being set in Conan's Hyborian Age. Paradox simultaneously paid $1 to Red Sonja LLC for the exclusive print-publication rights for "The Shadow of the Vulture" now that one of the characters belongs to Red Sonja LLC. [cite web |url=
title=Red Sonja/Red Sonya dispute settled for $1 swap |accessdate=2008-01-31 |work=Newsarama


External links

* [ Dynamite Entertainment's Red Sonja comic book series]
* [ Red Sonja: The official website]
* [ A bibliography of Marvel Feature Presents and all the solo Red Sonja series published by Marvel Comics]
* [ Toonopedia page on Sonja]

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