Before Red Sonja was who we know her as today, she was Sonja the Red - a raw and reckless teenager acting out after the murder of her family.
(Yeah, if you thought she was rebellious as an adult, wait until you meet her as a teenager).
Red Sonja's 'Year One'-style story will be told in the upcoming limited series Red Sonja: Birth of the She-Devil, debuting June 12. Luke Lieberman, whose family owns the rights to the Red Sonja character, returns to write this four-issue series with artist Sergio Davila.
Nrama: Luke, I'm interested in Red Sonja: Birth of the She-Devil because it's a prequel to the Red Sonja we know, going back to when she was Sonja the Red. How'd this idea come together?
Luke Lieberman: I have been wanting to explore this period of her life for a long time and just needed the right story to bubble up. I have been tinkering with this plot line for years actually, and when I saw a chance to work with Sergio, it was time to tell this tale. It's rare for me to write a series, but when I do the story has been pent up in my head just trying to get out so when I finally sit down it spills onto the page. It just flows.
Nrama: How would you describe Sonja at this point in her life? How old would you estimate she is here?
Lieberman: Sonja is around 18 - raw, angry and reckless with a big chip on her shoulder. he slaughter of her family and her home is still very fresh and unresolved in her heart. She has less self control then the Sonja we meet later in life (and that is saying something).
Nrama: In this she's facing a new character named Raka. What's his story?
Lieberman: Raka worships Bel, the god of chaos. He believes that civilization is a blasphemy, that by creating laws kings are trying to overrule the gods. If the gods did not want you to kill your neighbor and take his wife, then why did they put the desire in your heart and the strength in your arm? Raka is a true believer, he wants to return the world to a Hobbesian state of nature. Anarchy holds a certain appeal for Sonja, but with Raka she sees how bad it can go.
Nrama: Will Sonja's mentor Ozzyus be in this at all?
Lieberman: I always loved Ozzyus and wanted him to get more time on the page. He is just a thief and bandit who takes Sonja in and tries to kind of parent her - but a teenage Sonja is a handful for anyone and Ozzyus is woefully unequipped to be a father. He is like that single dad who plays in a rock band, he loves the kid but he is not all that mature himself. He can't help but fail her, because he is not her real father and this daddy daughter thing was never going to work for them. Sonja doesn't see it that way, she just sees that he screwed up.
Nrama: Any other characters from Red Sonja lore set to be in this?
Lieberman: No, it is a pretty fresh cast otherwise.
Nrama: You've written Red Sonja seven times over the last 14 years, as part of managing the rights. How do you decide when to step in and write yourself for these?
Lieberman: Simple, when I have a good story I really want to tell. We always have great writers: Gail Simone, Amy Chu, Mark Russell - it has been a murders row of talent on the Red Sonja title so it is not like I need pick up my pen - but every once in a while I have a story that needs to get out.
Nrama: How did the Lieberrman family come to own the rights to Red Sonja? There's been a lot of confusion in regards to that, and how it relates to Marvel, Roy Thomas, and Robert E. Howard's estate.
Lieberman: It is pretty simple actually - Red Sonja, LLC has owned the rights since before I was born, my family just controls the company at this point.
Nrama: Can you go into more detail about how Red Sonja, LLC came to own the rights to the character?
Lieberman: I appreciate the curiosity, but I can't discuss my company's contractual relations - it's improper.
Nrama: What can you say about Millenium Films plans to do a Red Sonja film? Now seems like an opportune time to bring her back.
Lieberman: I agree, and we have a great script. We have a great story that should be told with a compelling character at its heart. Now it is just about putting the right talent together to get it made.
Nrama: Going back to the comic, big picture - what are your goals for this limited series?
Lieberman: Stan Lee used to tell me that the trick to writing was to do something different than everything that has come before, to make your heroes unique, to make your villains unique. That is the hardest thing to do. With a character like Sonja, who has so much literature under her belt it is hard to find new territory but Birth of the She-Devil will add a new dimension and show readers a different side of the character. My goal is always to add depth to Sonja's character.