Red Sonja

From Academic Kids

Missing image
Red Sonja #1 with art by John Cassaday and José Villarrubia

Red Sonja, "warrior woman out of majestic Hyrkania," is a fantasy sword and sorcery heroine created by Roy Thomas and Barry Smith and first appearing in Conan the Barbarian #23 (Marvel Comics). She was loosely based on the character Red Sonya of Rogatino in Robert E. Howard's short story "The Shadow of the Vulture" (The Magic Carpet Magazine, January 1934), which was rewritten as a Conan story for the Marvel comic.

The She-Devil with a Sword has become the archetypical example of the fantasy figure of a fierce and stunningly beautiful female barbarian who typically wears sexy, but impractically skimpy armor.



The origin of Red Sonja, "The Day of the Sword", first appeared in Kull and the Barbarians issue 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.

Red Sonja lived with her family in a humble home in the Western Hyrkanian steppes. When she had just turned 17 years old, a group of cruel mercenaries killed her father Ivor, her mother and two younger brothers and burned their house and all their possessions. She survived but was raped by the leader of the group. 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 never lay with a man for the rest of her life, unless he had defeated her in fair battle.

Howard vs. Marvel

Howard's Red Sonya was very different from Thomas's: Thomas reinvented her, making her a heroine of Conan's Hyborian Age, tweaking the spelling of her name, and giving her a sword instead of her guns.

She is most often depicted wearing a very brief bikini-like costume of scale mail. As originally drawn by Barry Smith for "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 chainmail long-sleeved shirt and cloth (maybe leather) shorts.

The "bikini" look is usually credited to Frank Thorne, but was created by Esteban Maroto for Sonja's appearance in The Savage Sword of Conan issue 1 (1974), and used by John Buscema in issues 43, 44 and 48 of Conan the Barbarian (1974) and Dick Giordano in the first issue of Marvel Feature (1975) before Thorne took over from issue 2 (1976). For some reason 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 (1st series) 1-15 (Marvel Comics) (1977-1979).
  • Red Sonja (2nd series) 1-2 (Marvel Comics) (1983).
  • Red Sonja (3rd series) 1-13 (Marvel Comics) (1983-1986).
  • Red Sonja The Movie 1-2 (Marvel Comics) (1985).
  • Red Sonja: Scavenger Hunt (Marvel Comics) (1995).
  • Red Sonja in 3-D (Blackthorne) (1998).
  • Red Sonja. A Death in Scarlet (Cross Plains) (1999).
  • Red Sonja (New series) 0-present (Dynamite Entertainment) (2005).

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

  1. Issue 48, "Episode!," Roy Thomas (w), John Buscema (p), Dick Giordano (i).
  • "The Savage Sword of Conan", (Marvel Comics) (1974-1995).
  1. Issue 1, "Red Sonja," Roy Thomas (w), Esteban Maroto (p), Ernie Chan/Neal Adams (i).
  2. Issue 23, "Wizards of the Black Sun," Roy Thomas/Clair Noto (w), Frank Thorne (a).
  3. Issue 45, "Master of Shadows," Christie Marx (w), John Buscema (p), Tony DeZuņiga (i).
  4. Issue 78, "The Day of the Sword," Roy Thomas/Doug Moench (w), Dick Giordano/Terry Austin (a).
  5. Issue 157, Infant Terrible, Bruce Jones (w/a).
  6. Issue 169, "The Endless Stair," Peter B. Gillis (w), Steven Carr (p), Armando Gil (i).
  7. Issue 171, "The Waif and the Warrior," Jim Valentino (w), Steven Carr (p), Josef Rubinstein (i).
  8. Issue 187, "Red Sonja Queels the Song of the Siren," Marie Javins/Steve Buccellato (w), Alfredo Alcala (a).
  9. Issue 192, "On the Road of Kings," Roy Thomas/Dann Thomas (w), Tony DeZuņiga (a).
  10. Issue 194, "The Road to Zamboula," Roy Thomas (w), Tony DeZuņiga (a).
  11. Issue 195, "Swordless in Zamboula," Roy Thomas (w), Tony DeZuņiga (a).
  12. Issues 207-10, "The Road to Zanadu," Roy Thomas/Dann Thomas (w), Del Barras /Reggie Jones/ Kirk Etienne (a).
  13. Issue 229- "A Lady for the Burning," Roy Thomas (w), Howard Simpson (p), Rober Quijano (i).
  14. Issue 230-3, "The Ring of Ikribu," 1/4 Roy Thomas (w), Esteban Maroto (a).
  • "Kull and the Barbarians" (Marvel Comics) (1975).
  1. Issue 2, "She-devil with a Sword," Roy Thomas (w), Howard Chaykin (a).
  2. Issue 3, "The Day of the Sword," Roy Thomas/Doug Moench (w), Howard Chaykin (a).

She has appeared a "guest" alongside Conan the Barbarian in the series:

  • Conan the Barbarian
  • The Savage Sword of Conan
  • Conan the King

And with Spider-Man in "Marvel Team-Up" # 79 and Wolverine in "What if?" Vol. 2, #16. In the former the spirit of Sonja possesses the body of Mary Jane Watson to face her old enemy Kulan Gath. In the later Sonja is defeated by Wolverine and becomes his mate. Sonja has been featured in several novels by David C. Smith and Richard L. Tierney:

  • #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)

She was played by Brigitte Nielsen in the 1985 film Red Sonja, which also starred Arnold Schwarzenegger as Kalidor (a Conan clone). The film was directed by Richard Fleischer. It performed poorly at the box office.

The character has been parodied in numerous forms including the furry comic book series, Red Shetland where the title character is a humanoid mare in the archetypical armor bikini.

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