Brian Reed's Red Sonja - Back to the Beginning
Brian Reed on Red Sonja
Talk about your reboots. How about starting the character over as an infant?
With this week’s issue #35, writer Brian Reed (Ms. Marvel, Secret Invasion: Front Line) gives Red Sonja a brand new start in a story that reboots her life but also maintains past continuity. Partly an effort to attract new readers and partly a move that will, as series writer Brian Reed jokes, clean up the "mess" of her continuity to make room for a new one, Red Sonja's latest cliffhanger really did see her become a baby again and start over her life.
An issue that Reed believes should have a new #1, Red Sonja #35 will see the start of a storyline the writer describes as epic in scope as Dynamite has handed over one of their most successful properties to him to mold all over again. Featuring pencils by artist Walter Geovanni, the issue is being touted by Dynamite as a "bold new direction" -- and for once, that all-too-common description isn't much of an exaggeration.
Newsarama talked to Reed about Red Sonja to find out more about how she became an infant again, why he made her one and where the story is going from here.
Newsarama: Wow, Brian. When you told us a few months ago that you were going to shake things up for Red Sonja, we had no idea you were going this far. This may be a great thing for new readers, but you've left some old readers scratching their heads.
Brian Reed: It's an amazing "what the hell??" [laughs]
NRAMA: For those not reading the story, why don't you bring us up to speed on what's happened to Red Sonja recently?
BR: About this time last year, Mike Oeming asked me if I'd like to co-write Red Sonja for awhile. I said yes. Then we proceeded to kill her. [laughs]
For the last few months, a couple of different creative teams have been writing her journey through the afterlife. And then just recently, issue #34 came out, and that was my "cleaning up the mess we'd made so I could make a new mess."
In that, we saw the end of her journey through the underworld and the river Styx. She met death himself. And he told her, look, this isn't the first time you've been here. He said you've been dead before. You've been here before. You've made this choice before. And your choice is, you can go back, you can try to do the impossible and rid the word of men of evil, which was your choice before, or you can accept your eternal rest. And Sonja makes her choice. She walks through the door that takes her back to the world of men. And all of the sudden we're in a nursery and there's a little red-headed baby laying in a crib. And its mommy is loving on it. And when we see its mommy, she looks a whole lot like Red Sonja too. And that's the end of issue #34.
NRAMA: For new readers, is this really an easy place to pick up an issue of Red Sonja?
BR: When I pitched this story, a part of my pitch was that I think we should start the numbering over at #1. And Dynamite just didn't want to go with that, so we stuck with the same numbering. But my reasoning for that was that I was totally writing for all the new readers. I knew that we had our old readers who liked the character and were going to come back. And I knew I was going to put in enough hints for them to figure out what was going on and where older characters were that I could keep them hooked. But it was those new people that I had to make sure stuck around.
NRAMA: Will new readers be able to pick up Issue #35 and understand what's what?
BR: They're going to be just fine.
We open with a story of Osin, who is one of her traveling companions from the last 34 issues. And he's now 20 years older, and he's wandering around with an arm that has been replaced with some big obsidian, demon-like thing. And we're going to learn where that came from and why he's so much older than he was. All of this stuff is going to make old readers think, "What the hell is going on here?" [laughs] New readers are just going to learn about the characters and wonder where Red Sonja is.
NRAMA: So you've really provided a new motivation for Red Sonja's presence in man's world, haven't you?
BR: The idea that I introduce is a cyclical thing, and Sonja is something that happens when the world needs her.
NRAMA: For long-time readers, all of the stuff that happened before isn't erased?
BR: No. Not in the least. As it goes on, we find out what all of that has to do with the present. And I can't give too much away right now. But nothing is erased. This is a continuation of a story. And for about four or five issues, you're going to think I've given up on the old stuff. But then you'll start realizing, oh wait, there it is. Even in issue #35, I try to let you know I haven't left any of that by the wayside; we're just not paying attention to it right now.
NRAMA: It sounds like you've been given the freedom of telling new story, but you still have the luxury of pulling from old framework, huh?
BR: Yeah. It is totally having your cake and eating it too. [laughs] I went to Dynamite, and I gave them this insane pitch and I knew they'd tell me no, but they said yes to 99 percent of it.
NRAMA: What was the 1 percent they said no about?
BR: They didn't want to change the numbering to #1. That's literally the only thing they bounced back as a no. Everything else got a yes.
NRAMA: Wow. You really have been given freedom on this character.
NRAMA: Is that pretty liberating after working within the shared universe at Marvel?
BR: You know, with Marvel, 90 percent of the time, it's me doing what I want to do. And the other 10 percent of the time, it's "do you want to tie into the big thing?" And if I say yes, then I have certain restraints, but even within those restraints, I'm allowed to do whatever I want to do. And with both of them, they're licensed things and I can't irrevocably change them. But still, I'm getting away with a lot in everything I write.
NRAMA: I hate this question, because it implies some huge difference between male characters and female characters, but you are writing a lot of female characters in lead roles lately.
BR: My argument has always been, the only difference between men and women is the plumbing. And look at what we all want: We all want to be happy. We all want to be comfortable. We all want to live lives that are not filled with hell. We all, at the end of the day, want the same basic things. We want food in our bellies and a roof over our head.
NRAMA: So when you're writing these strong lead female characters, you're just writing another character. Is that what you're saying?
BR: Yeah. I don't write men, or women, or aliens, or whatever. I just write characters. And if they're not interesting as a person, it doesn't matter what they are.
NRAMA: Well... it doesn't hurt that they're pretty hot.
BR: [laughs] No.
NRAMA: [laughs] And I'm allowed to say that.
BR: As someone said before to me, "Oh, you write all these female characters," and I was like, "Well, it hasn't hurt Joss Whedon's career." And I get to spend all day with a blonde in thigh-high boots.
NRAMA: And now a redhead in chain mail!
BR: That's right! [laughs]
NRAMA: Anything you want to tell people that's coming up in Red Sonja? Obviously #35 is the one to pick up.
BR: Issue #35 sets up a story that I pitched that takes two years to tell. It's not that it's two years of "to be continued." It's a subplot now that we'll realize eventually is a main thing that's going on. But I'm dropping hints of it now.
NRAMA: So this is a big epic, Lord of the Rings type of ongoing story?
BR: Again, it's a thing that I pitched. I was going to just pitch a year's worth of stories to them. And they were going to be little separate stories, and as I was writing the pitch, I came up with this idea and instead pitched them two years worth of stories that were all loosely connected first, and terribly inter-connected a year from now.
NRAMA: You said it's two years worth of stories. So does that mean you're on this title for at least two years?
NRAMA: OK, to finish up, in just a few brief sentences, how would you describe the Red Sonja title right now?
BR: It's first and foremost the literal rebirth of a hero, and giving her motives a little bit of a 21st century update. And beyond that, it's the same great action that long-time readers have enjoyed. It's a new look at her world, and there are a lot of new characters that I think people are going to enjoy. It's a new start for Red Sonja, and now's the time to get on board.