A Fistful of Hyrkanian Steel
May 31, 2016
Author: Rich Kirby
Little-known Geek Fact: Robert E. Howard, creator of Conan the Barbarian, did not invent Red Sonja. He did, however, create a Red Sonya (with a "Y") for one short story, "The Shadow of the Vulture" in 1934.
Sonya-with-a-Y fought against the Ottoman Turks in 16th Frank Thorne art for a Marvel Red Sonja covercentury Vienna, and was, in fact, merely a supporting, albeit colorful, character. The far better known and much-beloved-by-cosplayers Red Sonja-with-a-J came along 39 years later when Marvel Comics' writer Roy Thomas threw her into a two-part story in his Conan the Barbarian book. Thomas re-imagined Howard's Renaissance pistolero as a Hyrkanian firebrand with a broadsword in her hand and a chip on her shoulder.
Ed Benes art for a Dynamite "Red Sonja" coverNow, about that scale-mail bikini: the great British comic book artist Barry Windsor-Smith was the first to draw the She-Devil with a Sword, but he can't take the credit (or blame, if you're a member of the dreary camp who believes fantasy armor must be arrow-stopping functional as well as just plain cool-looking). Spanish artist Esteban Maroto submitted an uncomissioned sketch of Our Gal in the now famous silver skivvies to Thomas, and the first story with her new look appeared as a back-up feature in 1975's Savage Sword of Conan #1.
Red Sonja starred in her own book for Marvel (some Frank Thorne cover art, left) on and off through the late 70's and early 80's, reaching peak mainstream popularity with the release of the eponymously titled feature film starring Brigitte Nielsen in 1985. (We've included the original trailer for that flick below because... it's crazy!) Since 2005, Dynamite Entertainment (some Ed Benes cover art, on right) has been publishing Red Sonja and it has been consistently terrific.
Model Claire Anastasia captures the Hyborian Age hottie perfectly on the homepage, and model Tabitha Lyons injects some welcome whimsy into the persona up top. Below, cosplayers It's Raining Neon, Mandy, and Sinne Doll all present their takes on she whom Comics Buyers Guide ranked as "The Sexiest Woman in Comics."