Red Sonja Annual #2, cover by Pablo MarcosHis previous encounter with the She-Devil with a Sword was a brief one, so in Feburary, Christos Gage is re-entering the world of Red Sonja at Dynamite in February, writing Red Sonja Annual #2, with art by the legendary Pablo Marcos.
The story, along with giving Gage a chance to work with Marcos again, also gives the writer a chance to play with dragons, as evidenced by the Annual’s title, “Here there be Dragons.”
“I wanted to do something a little more fantastic than the other Sonja stories I had written,” Gage told Newsarama. “Something with wizards and dragons and the like, where I could really channel the old D&D player in me.”
So what sets “Dragons” apart from any given generic fantasy story with dragons? That’s simple, Gage said: Red Sonja.
“Her specific backstory, and her role as a woman (albeit an ass-kicking one) in a male-dominated world always makes it more than a Conan ripoff,” gage said. “She's one of the more substantial characters in the barbarian genre. That said, she's a character that's been around a long time, and it can be a challenge to come up with a story that doesn't feel too close to something she (or Conan) hasn't already been through. But that just makes you work harder to come up with something good.”
As for the story itself, Sonja is hired as a bodyguard by the wizard Verdius. His plan? Find the last nesting place of dragons.
“Verdius is sort of the Al Gore of the Hyborian Age,” Gage explained. “He sees that dragons have been hunted to near-extinction--in large part by wizards like himself, who use their body parts in spells--and he wants to try to save the ones that remain while there's still time. But not being a fighter, he needs a bodyguard.
Red Sonja Annual #2, Joe Prado wraparound cover“Despite Sonja’s distaste for wizards, she is tempted by the gold he offers...and perhaps more than she lets on, by the plight of the dragons. It makes sense that she'd have sympathy for any creature who is being preyed upon, as she was when she was a child.”
As mentioned, Gage is joined by Pablo Marcos, with whom he worked on his last Red Sonja story. Working with Marcos again, Gage said, was as much a draw to the project as working with the character herself.
“I love Pablo Marcos' work,” Gage said. “I read his Marvel stuff as a kid, and then when I was older I discovered his Warren and Skywald black and white work, all of which is brilliant...and he hasn't lost a step. He's as good as he ever was. Sword and sorcery might just be the genre in which he shines the most, so I tried to give him a lot of swords, a lot of sorcery, and an extra large dose of giant monsters! I have to say, working with an artist whose work I grew up admiring is an incredible thrill for me.”
For now, Gage’s work with Red Sonja will remain here and there, although when asked if he could see himself writing the character for an extended period, he couldn’t pass up the opportunity to skewer a colleague.
“You're trying to get me to say I want Brian Reed fired, aren't you?” Gage asked in reply to the question. “Well, I do, but only because I love to see Brian suffer. In all seriousness though, I currently enjoy being able to tell stories about Sonja when inspiration strikes, and I'm too busy to do more than that. But delving into the mythology surrounding her and her world would certainly be an interesting opportunity someday...who knows?”