Dynamite’s regular Red Sonja ongoing took a bit of a breather when Queen Sonja launched, but the She-Devil with a Sword gets her other title rolling again when it returns in June with #50. Basically the flagship title of Dynamite, Red Sonja put the fledgling enterprise on the map and laid the foundation that led to the status of #5 publisher by February of this year. We had a chance to talk with part of the armada of creators working on the landmark issue.
Johnny “Johnny D.” Desjardins: Cover
Newsarama: Johnny, you did backgrounds with David Finch; can you tell us about the impact of that experience?
Johnny D.: Working with Dave [Finch] was really a dream come true . I had always followed his work and was a huge fan so I knew his style well. When I first started working with him I had the right building blocks but needed refinement. So we tore down everything to its bare bones and built up a solid foundation from figure drawing, composition , anatomy , shadows, and storytelling and it was very thorough . He is a very good teacher and can break things down to their simplest terms not to mention the patience of a saint to answer the one billion and one questions I’ve asked him over the past 2 years! So I learned a TON from him and was a once in a lifetime, priceless experience.
Nrama: Tell us about some of your other projects.
Johnny D.: This was actually my first real book that I’ve ever done, other than working with Dave doing backgrounds for the Ultimatum series, but i had a lot of jitters. I tend to over think things to the point of freezing up and i did that a lot . I'm starting to learn how to work under pressure and just focus on getting the work done.
Nrama: How would you say that your style has developed?
Johnny D.: I would describe my style as very dynamic , dark , I like to use a lot of blacks , detailed and very comic book . I wouldn't really say that I have a photo realistic look I like to have fun with it and be as creative and use my imagination as much as possible.
Nrama: What was it like working on this particular issue?
Johnny D.: It was a bit more of added pressure, as this is a historical issue and my first , but couldn't be happier that my debut will be on such a land mark issue and hopefully, when number 100 rolls around, I can be a part of it as well.
Nrama: How was it working with Kevin McCarthy?
Johnny D.: Working with Kevin was a real thrill, and he was very receptive in answering any questions or concerns on the script.
Nrama: What’s next for you?
Johnny D.: After I finished up on Sonja, I did a small stint on covers for Robocop and the upcoming Kato series . I’m currently working on a mini series of Green Hornet by Ande Parks and it’s really coming along awesomely! Each page and/or cover that I do, I feel like I learn a lot and I'm constantly trying to outdo the previous page.
Kevin McCarthy: Writer
Nrama: Why did you decide to use frost giants as the villains in your Red Sonja story?
Kevin McCarthy: The Vikings and Norse mythology have always been good fodder for comic-book stories, and I knew I'd need a big bastard of a magical beast to give Red Sonja a run for her money in my story. I also liked the visual of Sonja's warm pink and red colors against the cold blue and white of a frost giant and his wintry wasteland. Her hot passion against his cold despair seemed like a compelling match-up -- sword vs. sorcery, woman vs. monster, it had, for me, all the makings of a legendary conflict.
Nrama: How does Red Sonja differ with other female heroes in comics?
McCarthy: There aren't THAT many other super-her women to begin with. When you take away the female counterparts of male heroes, there are even less. Red Sonja is her own woman and her own hero. And as much as those other women heroes are living in a "man's world," Red Sonja not only lives, but thrives in the hyper-masculine, Hyperborean Age! Those other heroines have got it EASY compared with Red Sonja.
Nrama: What future projects do you have lined up apart from Red Sonja #50?
McCarthy: With Dynamite Entertainment, there are definitely exciting things in the works, but nothing I am at liberty to discuss as of this writing. Other than that, I am three issues into a project for Top Cow productions that, again, I'm afraid I must likewise be cryptic about at this time.
Nrama: What about this story makes it appropriate for the 50th issue?
McCarthy: The Curse of the Frost Giant is a stand-alone story that celebrates everything that makes the character of Red Sonja great. It showcases her savvy as much as her sword, and her compassion as much as her courage and cunning. If you've been following her adventures for the past 49 issues, then my story adds another shiny shingle to her steel bikini. If the 50th issue is your first sampling of the "She-Devil with a Sword," then my story offers a continuity-free fantasy that serves as the perfect introduction for new readers.
Nrama: 50 is an accomplishment in today’s market. Why has Sonja stuck around to this point?
50 issues IS a big deal these days, and when you factor in QUEEN SONJA,
SAVAGE TALES, and mini-series and crossovers, multiply that by, what, six or seven variant covers for each issue? We're actually into the hundreds. (Just kidding, Nick) But the point is, give the readers a strong character with a consistently well-told storyline and they will be back month after month. The fact that this strong character is a woman, and isn't a super-hero or a zombie (not that there's anything
wrong with that) is another reason for her longevity in this latest incarnation. And did I mention the variant covers?
Arvid Nelson: Writer
Nrama: What is your story in Red Sonja #50 about?
Nelson: It’s 12 pages, short and hopefully sweet. Sonja is leading a powerful warlord on a hunt for an elusive, possibly mythical creature, the White Tiger of the Kanzakian mountains. And the whole time, she’s got a secret...
Nrama: Are you proud to be participating in an anniversary issue of such a high-profile character?
Nelson: By Mitra, yes!
Nrama: In a way, Sonja is the flagship character for the company. Does that bring extra pressure in terms of how she is represented?
Nelson: It’s so easy to get tangled up in things like this! But I’d never write anything if I spent too much time worrying. Every story there are things that make me wince in hindsight, things could have been better. But for me, success is producing something that feels real despite its flaws.
Nrama: What are your influences in writing Red Sonja?
Nelson: I am a huge devotee of Clark Ashton Smith and Robert E. Howard. They are the greats. I always go back to them. For me, the more a yarn feels like a Howard original, the better it is.
Nrama: Do you have a favorite interpretation of Red Sonja?
Nelson: I think there are basically two takes on Sonja -- you either get inside her head or she’s very aloof, a force of nature. She’s more a force of nature in the original Howard story, and that’s what I went for this time around, too. For the Queen Sonja story arc I did (also out in April, I think!), it was the other side of her, the human side.
If you haven’t read the original Howard story, The Shadow of the Vulture, do it. It really is one of Howard’s best.
Nrama: Tell me in ten words or less why fans of Red Sonja should pick up this issue.
Nelson: Come for the art, stay for the story!
Joyce Chin: Artist
Nrama: What was it like to translate Raven Gregory’s script into comic book art?
Chin: Raven Gregory's script was great to work on. Combining an iconic hero with a great twist on a classic fairy tale made for a fast-paced, adventure-filled story that was as fun for me to draw as it will be for everyone to read.
Nrama: What do you say to the person that dismisses Red Sonja as simple cheesecake? How do you get that person to check out the book, and how do you win that person over?
Chin: Red Sonja is very much a warrior first and foremost. She's not written as cute, flirty, or cuddly. Her stories are classic hero tales, and revolve around fighting for the underdogs, for the people unable to defend themselves against greater forces. Really, the metal bikini is the only thing that makes her look cheesecake, and only as much as any other skin tight, or barely there superhero outfit, boy or girl, makes them sex objects. If people love sword and sorcery, or tales of heroes battling against all odds to try to win one for the good side, they'll love Sonja.
Nrama: What was your favorite portion of the story to draw?
Chin: Pretty much all of it. I got to draw a woman warrior, werewolves, witches, and battle, what's not to like?
Raven Gregory: Writer
Nrama: What should fans expect your Red Sonja anniversary story to be about?
Gregory: It has a little bit of everything. Action, adventure, betrayal and a cool little twist at the end that hopefully the readers won't see coming. A nice blend of the fairy tale Red Riding Hood but with Sonja playing the Red character but with a REALLY big sword and no basket. And werewolves. Plenty of werewolves. Don't want to forget those.
Nrama: Why is Red Sonja unique as a character?
Gregory: She's pretty much the first of her kind. A strong female lead who could sensual and bad ass at the same time. And she wasn't just bad ass for bad ass sake. Her origin, the tragedy of it all, the way her destiny was forged, just makes her one of the most memoriable characters of all time.
Nrama: Describe your presentation of women in Red Sonja #50.
Gregory: Complex and enigmatic. From Red Sonja herself, who while being by nature, this violent barbarric character, but at the same time still retaining the ability to be sympathetic to another characters plight. That even with her being who she is and having gone through the things she's gone through still has the ability to care reminds me of many of the strong women I've met in my life. They never give up. They always stand strong.