Wednesday, February 17, 2016

The Classics - Red Sonja #1

   Is there a more improbable costume on a comic book character than the one worn by Red Sonja?

   (OK, maybe Dejah Thoris. Or a character in porn comics.)

   Red is, I believe, the only character to successfully spin off from the Conan comics series. (Please correct me if I'm wrong.)

   She first appeared near the end of the classic Roy Thomas - Barry Windsor-Smith comics in the '70s that covered the first couple of years of Conan's adventures at Marvel Comics. (Here's my review of that classic last issue - #24 - which included Sonja's second appearance.)

   Sonja was a warrior woman who originally wore a chain mail shirt - certainly a practical item for a swordswoman. But when she appeared next, in her own adventure, she was wearing a chain mail bikini - and while none of the male fans (oops, almost typed "mail" fans there) are going to complain, it does stretch credibility.

   Sonja was popular enough to spin off into her own adventures, and in 1976 she was given her own series, written by Clara Noto and Roy Thomas (from a plot by Ed Summer) and art by the legendary Frank Thorne.

   The story (which is mighty wordy in places) includes a unicorn, evil efforts to kill it and steal its immortal powers, and Sonja's attempts to save it.

   The story is lushly illustrated by Thorne, whose unique and detailed style somehow bridges the gap between classic storybook tales and underground comics.

   It was a different visual look for Sonja, and I have to admit, it took me a few issues to get used to it - but I was always a fan of Hyborian Age adventures, and throwing in a fierce fighter who happens to be a beautiful woman was a good way to get my attention.

   Sonja continues to be a successful character, still starring in her own series and crossing over with others (including a recent team-up with her pal Conan).

   But I still think her costume is silly - unless she's getting ready for a trip to the beach.

Grade: A-


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