In Mark Russell's Red Sonja run, he followed the She-Devil with a Sword as she toppled and killed an evil emperor. To top it, he's back with a spin-off series from the point-of-view of the felled emperor's son as he plots his revenge.
As he continues on Red Sonja, he's now launching a spin-off title, Killing Red Sonja, with co-writer Bryce Ingman and artist Craig Rousseau.
Will this be the end of one of Dynamite’s flagship characters? Luckily, Newsarama had the chance to talk to the creative team of Killing Red Sonja to prepare fans for what they can expect from the title. We discuss if this will follow the procedure of a classic comic book event, how this will affect Mark Russell’s main Red Sonja title, and if this creative team will like to do more Red Sonja in the future - if she survives, of course.
Newsarama: Bryce and Mark, did you pitch this story to Dynamite or was it Dynamite’s idea to “kill off” Red Sonja?
Bryce Ingman: Mark came to me with four or five one-sentence, potential concepts for a Sonja spin-off. I was immediately drawn to the idea of a boy emperor on a quest of vengeance. How could Cyril, a pampered 12-year-old, possibly kill the greatest warrior of the Hyborian Age? It seemed like a great opportunity for a story. So, to answer the question, I guess it was Mark and I who decided to "kill off" Sonja. Sorry, Sonja.
Mark Russell: Dynamite approached me about writing a spin-off series and I suggested bringing another writer on to collaborate. I wanted to create something with a slightly different flavor, something that would stand on its own but complement the main series as well. I recommended Bryce because I really like the work he's been doing with AHOY. Once Dynamite agreed, Bryce and I worked out the plot of this series together.
Nrama: Would you call this an “event”?
Ingman: Only in the best sense of the term.
Russell: People tend to call these "events" as a polite euphemism for "gimmicks." I suppose it is an event in that it's a side story within the main series, but I really didn't want to approach it like a cow-milking expedition. We're not doing Killing Red Sonja like you'd write Cousin Oliver or Scrappy Doo into the script just because you think people are sick of the main characters. Rather, we approached this series as a way to add another dimension, a deeper exploration of the psychology and backstory to a character who will take center stage later in the main series.
Ingman: Mark and I are both committed, above all else, to telling good stories. Killing Red Sonja is obviously a provocative title, but we're not trying to play the audience for suckers here. Cyril is obsessed with killing Red Sonja, and that's truly what this story is about.
Nrama: What can you tease about the story?
Russell: It takes place after #12 of the main series, after Dragan the Magnificent, the Emperor of Zamora, has died. It's about his twelve year-old son, Cyril, and his motley band of servants, and their tragic quest to avenge his father's death. In a deeper sense, it's about the perils of entrusting power to somebody who has a childish understanding of the world they live in.
Ingman: It's Cyril's big adventure, and once it starts, it gets pretty damn crazy. The Hyborian Age is a wild time, and Cyril gets a first hand look at just how wild it is. Also, readers will get to see Red Sonja as they've never seen her before...
Nrama: Mark, for fans of your current run on the character what do you think they’ll enjoy the most from this?
Russell: I think they'll enjoy the fact that it's more fantasy-based. It has giants, talking boars, and monsters, elements that are mostly missing from the main series, which is more focused on the politics and belief-systems of the Hyborian Age.
Nrama: On the flip side, how do you try to make it new reader friendly?
Russell: This series stars an almost entirely new cast of characters. You don't really need to know anything about the main series to dive into this one. My hope is that readers who start with this series will then dive into the main series... and vice versa.
Ingman: There's a talking boar. New readers love talking pigs! Seriously though, as Mark said, Killing Red Sonja sports an entirely new supporting cast and a story that a new reader can easily slide into. We fill you in on Cyril and his situation at the beginning, and then it's "off to the races."
Nrama: Will this be tying into the main series or will it be its own standalone story? Will the main series be running at the same time?
Russell: This series runs concurrently with issues 13-18 of the main series and it definitely ties into the main series. Characters from Killing Red Sonja also appear in the main series during that time and the end of Killing Red Sonja sets up the climactic final story arc of my run. I think everyone who reads Killing Red Sonja will have a deeper appreciation of what happens in the final issues of my Red Sonja run.
Nrama: Bryce, what’s it been like jumping in as a co-writer? Tell us a bit about your collaboration?
Ingman: I had been reading and loving the first few issues of Mark's main Red Sonja title when he offered me a chance to play in his sandbox, so I was immediately interested. Our collaboration is back and forth. We discuss the plot, then I write a draft of the script, and hand it over to Mark. Mark makes changes and improvements, and hands it back to me. Then I do the same thing. Eventually, we end up with a script we both feel excited about.
Nrama: Bryce, you’ve done a lot of work with AHOY Comics, what’s it like working with fellow AHOY creator on this franchise title for Dynamite?
Ingman: I'd work with any company Mark Russell works with. It means they have good taste! Working with Mark is tremendously enjoyable. One of my tasks on Killing Red Sonja was coming up with the supporting cast for Cyril's adventure. But, despite these new weirdos being birthed from my imagination, they are all truly co-creations. Mark's contributions to these new characters have been really dazzling. He's a master of adding a line of dialogue or slightly shifting a character's actions in ways that take those characters in unexpected, but exciting directions. It's an absolute blast writing with Mark.
rama: Craig, how did you want to approach Killing Red Sonja from a visual perspective?
Craig Rousseau: Visually, I try to tackle every story I do a bit differently (to keep myself… and the readers - interested)… this story felt like it needed a much looser and a bit dirtier style, while leaving plenty of room for the colorist to work magic!
Nrama: What made you want to jump onto this title?
Rousseau: I’d worked with Nate Cosby years (and years.. and years… yeesh!) ago at Marvel, and always look forward to working with him any chance I get… and when he emailed with this, I was curious. I’m a big fan of Mark Russell’s work over at DC, but Red Sonja isn’t really in my wheelhouse… but grizzled, grizzled fighters, weird monsters, a 12-year-old boy and his talking boar... that's my speed.
Nrama: Visually, what do you enjoy most about the story?
Rousseau: Oh, it’s definitely Kump, the talking boar…
Nrama: To the whole team, what do you enjoy about Red Sonja’s world?
Russell: I've always really liked that the Hyborian Age is not some generic fantasy monoculture with some castles and dragons and shit. It is a fully developed, complex world, where people have different perspectives and live differently depending on what part of the world they come from. Much like our own in that respect.
Ingman: The infinite possibilities for stories. Just about anything can happen in the Hyborian world, and watching Sonja the Red use her mind and metal to respond to everything the Hyborian Age throws at her is great fun.
Rousseau: I’m really having fun digging into the weird, monstrous side of Red Sonja’s world so far, not just straight up sword and sorcery…
Nrama: Are there more Red Sonja stories you’d like to work on together?
Rousseau: As for more? I still don’t even know how this one’s gonna end yet, so… I’ll wait and see!
Russell: I would love to do another Red Sonja story with Bryce sometime. Maybe Kump the talking boar finds his forever home as Sonja's pet. Who knows?
Ingman: For sure. I'd work with Mark and Craig again in a second. Mark is brilliant, and Craig is absolutely "killing" it on this book. And while I'm pretty sure Mark's joking about the "Sonja makes Kump her pet" story, now he's got me thinking...