Red Sonja Origin

Red Sonja has grown to become a cult hit, with a series that continues to this day (currently published by Dynamite, at the time of this writing). Originally though, she first appeared in Kull and the Barbarians (Affiliate Link) issue 3, which contained the Red Sonja origin. Published in 1975, the issue contained many stories, one happening to tell the tale of Red Sonja.

The Red Sonja origin is titled She-Devil With A Sword. In the forest, she finds robbers torturing a man. She kills the robbers and upon inspection of the tortured man, she recognizes him. The man was a leader of a pack of mercenaries. The mercenaries had killed her family, and the leader raped her. Following the traumatic event, a superior being appears and grants her strength, which made her able to wield a sword in battle. She then vowed to find the man who had ravaged her. But when she finds the man five years later, tortured and out of his mind, she leaves the man to the fate of wolves.

What is interesting is that the same identical story had been published more than once, except the pages were completely redrawn, closely resembling the originals. The story was republished in The Savage Sword of Conan 78 by Marvel in 1982. This time, the illustrations were more clear and sharp, easier to understand. Even so, it makes me wonder why. Some sort of copyright issue would be my first guess. Below is a comparison of both Red Sonja Origins, done by different artists.

Red Sonja art comparison

Red Sonja’s popularity lies in her unique blend of strength and sensuality. In 2011, she was ranked 1st in Comics Buyer’s Guide’s “100 Sexiest Women in Comics” list, highlighting her appeal to readers (Wikipedia). She quickly became one of the most popular characters in Marvel Comics in the 70s, with her popularity continuing to grow with a new series just in time for her 50th anniversary. Her comics have a strong fan base who appreciate her intense and action-packed stories.

Red Sonja shares a strong connection with Conan the Barbarian, another iconic character from the same era. She debuted in Marvel’s Conan the Barbarian #23 in 1973, and has since been a recurring character in Conan’s adventures (Wikipedia). In fact, they even teamed up in a 2015 limited comic book series published by Dark Horse Comics, titled Conan/Red Sonja, further cementing their connection in the minds of fans.

Frank Thorne, an American comic book artist-writer, is best known for his work on Red Sonja. His high-resolution color scans and meticulous skill brought the character to life, setting the stage for her iconic depiction in the comics. Thorne’s legacy with Red Sonja is undeniable, and his influence on her character development and portrayal is widely recognized.

Conan and Red Sonja fight

Red Sonja’s sensuality is an integral part of her character. It is an aspect of her persona that is both celebrated and criticized. The character does not shy away from displaying her sexuality, and this trait has been a significant factor in attracting readers. The way she is portrayed, often scantily clad yet powerful, is a testament to her unabashed ownership of her femininity and strength.

The Red Sonja comics have a strong fan following, and for good reason. Dynamite was wise to pick up the series, which publishes similar protagonists such as Vampirella. If you are interested in the older and original stories, you may want to pick up The Adventures of Red Sonja, volume 1. If not, you may want to pick up the omnibus by Dynamite, which contains the newer stories (the publishing quality is better, as well).