Dynamite Month has been an amazing event chock-full of great interviews, exciting previews, and excellent contests–hope you enjoyed reading them as much as we enjoyed putting it all together! We’re closing out the month with an inside look at the She-Devil With a Sword, Red Sonja! We talked with writer Eric Trautmann and artist Walter Geovani about strong women, period weaponry, and what’s next for Sonja. Plus, we’ve got a five-page preview of Red Sonja #58!
TFAW.com: Eric, what drew you to Red Sonja, as a writer?
Eric Trautmann: I have a weakness for tough, determined, skilled female protagonists. A touch of larceny and mischief never hurts, either.
TFAW.com: Red Sonja is often characterized as the “female Conan”–do you think that’s accurate? How do you see her?
EST: I can certainly see that comparison being made but I think, despite those similarities (and sure, there are many), I view them as quite distinct. Conan’s initial motivation to leave his homeland was restlessness: he’s an action junkie. Sonja’s own origins are considerably darker and nastier, and to an extent, I think she’s definitely more motivated by anger, and perhaps a touch of survivor’s guilt. Over the course of the Red Sonja issues I’ve written, I have tried to bring a sense of consequence to her actions–that it isn’t just lighthearted, swashbuckling adventure, and when the sword is drawn, there’s definitely a price to be paid.
TFAW.com: There’s been a lot of controversy recently about the depiction of “sexy” women in comics. In your book, Red Sonja is attractive, but she’s also a warrior and a strong, assertive woman. How difficult is it to avoid the trap of writing her as just eye candy?
EST: Not terribly. It doesn’t really matter if the character is male, female, or unspecified alien other; if you’re writing the character as honestly as possible, then the character should (if I do my job properly) read as a real person, not just exposed flesh.
TFAW.com: You’re also the writer behind Vampirella, another classic femme fatale. How does she compare to Red Sonja?
EST: There are definitely some similarities, sure. I’ve taken Vampirella down a darker path than she’s been down in a long while, and she, like Sonja, is coping with issues of guilt and loss, in addition to the more overt, external threats of monsters, ancient gods, and so on. I think they do read rather differently, as the two women cope with this “baggage” much differently.
Where Vampirella is prone to brooding, and hurls herself into dangerous situations specifically to occupy herself and not dwell on her demons, Sonja is much more able to access her emotions. Vampirella will go find a horrible monster to fight; Sonja will dance on tables, drink a tavern’s worth of ale, sing bawdy songs.
TFAW.com: The comic-book character of Red Sonja is loosely based on Robert E. Howard’s Red Sonya of Rogatino, but there isn’t a lot of “canon” to draw on, as there is with Conan. Where do you find inspiration for your stories?
EST: I must confess that the first arc, “War Season” (which ran from issues #51-54, with an epilogue in #55) is a love letter to a Conan the Barbarian arc written by James Owsley, which I read when I was in high school. It was a terrific run (with art by Val Semeiks and Geoff Isherwood), huge in scope, with armies clashing and Conan as a mercenary general.
After that, inspiration comes mostly from Sonja herself. I’m not one of those writers who says the character “tells me the story, and I just write it down,” but I find her so fascinating and compelling that I’m eager to see what new, crazed situation I can put her in to see how she prevails.
TFAW.com: Were you a fan of the original Marvel Red Sonja comics?
EST: I was. And Conan the Barbarian, and King Kull, and Savage Sword of Conan, and . . .
TFAW.com: What’s next for Red Sonja?
EST: Once the current arc wraps up with issue #59–where Sonja has a pivotal role in the politics of the nation, Koth–there’s a done-in-one “anniversary” #60th issue. We’ll see Sonja have an encounter with a sort of opposite number, as she moves away from Argos, Shem and Koth (where I’ve kept her for most of my run) and into the ancient, mysterious kingdom of Stygia.
Issue #60 features the return of artist Patrick Berkenkotter, who did a magnificent job following Walter Geovani, with the self-contained issue #55, and as a guest artist on issue #59. It’s just lovely, muscular work that reminds me of Ernie Chan’s line, which is a perfect fit.
We’ll be in Stygia for several issues, starting with issue #61. Walter returns to the art chores, and he continues to wow me with his excellent action and character work. The new arc finds Sonja and a new group of allies being pulled into an ancient grudge match between religious and political factions in Stygia, and all tying back into the aftermath of “War Season.”
TFAW.com: There’s been many rumors about a Red Sonja movie by Robert Rodriguez. What advice would you have for him?
EST: I’m not sure I’d presume to give him advice, but as a fan, I’d like to see a Sonja movie played seriously, and focusing on the things I admire in the character: strength, determination, cunning. She’s a thief and a bit of an opportunist, so a medieval caper film would be a treat.
TFAW.com: What other projects do you have coming up?
EST: You’ve mentioned Vampirella, of course. And in November, my first issue of Dynamite’s Flash Gordon hits store shelves. The serial, entitled “Zeitgeist,” is set in the 1930s, and has benefited tremendously from story and art direction from Alex Ross, and will be illustrated by the incredibly talented Daniel Indro. Very different from the blood, thunder, and death I typically end up writing.
TFAW.com: Walter, were you always a fan of the sword and sorcery genre?
Walter Geovani: I’ll be honest, I never liked this genre. And it caused me some problems in the beginning, because I had to learn and adapt to that medieval world.
I never liked it until I started working on it. You know when you don’t like something just because you don’t know it? That was it. The more I worked on Red Sonja, the more I found how cool it was to be drawing all that stuff.
TFAW.com: Who were your influences, growing up?
WG: I could write a lot of names here, but there’s one name that’s the most powerful influence in my work: Marc Silvestri. And my inspiration to do medieval stuff: Frank Frazetta (of course), and Barry Windsor Smith.
TFAW.com: I’ve noticed your Red Sonja is a bit more covered up than she has been, traditionally. Was that your idea, or Dynamite’s?
WG: It was Dynamite’s idea. Or Eric’s idea. Or both. The fact is, that idea came at the right time in my career. I decided to focus on storytelling and set aside my pinup style and sexy poses. So, covering her up, it helps me to call the readers’ attention to that and make them stop thinking that I was only an “artist of sexy girls.” I’m glad it worked.
TFAW.com: How difficult is it to depict a “barbarian age” while keeping modern readers in mind?
WG: I think that if the story is good, it doesn’t matter the genre, or the age. But I know a lot of people who don’t give a chance to this kind of book (or movie, or cartoon) just because they think it’s impossible that a good story can come from it. It’s the “you don’t like something just because you don’t know it” thing, I think.
So what I try to keep in mind is to work hard to make a great book, so when a new reader gives it a chance, maybe he’ll change his mind and end up enjoying it. And I work hard to not disappoint the fans who do like these kind of stories.
TFAW.com: What kind of research did you have to do to draw all of those fight scenes? Do you draw period weapons, or do you design your own?
WG: I draw period weapons, I design my own–I do a mix. That’s the good thing about this genre, you can use your imagination and play with stuff, and nobody can say it’s wrong. It just needs to be cool. My action scenes are inspired movies, cartoons, and comic books I like.
TFAW.com: Do you have a favorite character or type of scene to draw?
WG: There are three characters I loved to draw: Rogatino, Valkos (Red Sonja: War Season), and Sofia (Vampirella). I like to draw scenes with emotion. I like to draw the characters laughing, or angry, or crying. If I do it it right, if I capture the emotion of the story, that makes me happy.
TFAW.com: What comics are you reading right now?
WG: I’m reading Scalped, American Vampire, Joe the Barbarian, and New Avengers. Unfortunately, Dynamite’s books are not published here in Brazil, because they [Dynamite] have a lot of good stuff.
TFAW.com: If you could choose another comic to draw, what would you pick and why?
WG: Vampirella. Because I love the character. She’s sexy, she’s badass, and the book is dark. I’d like to draw Flash Gordon. One of the few male characters I’d really like to draw. Masquerade would be great to draw, too.
TFAW.com: What else do you have coming up?
WG: I’m back to Red Sonja monthly. She has new allies and we’ll be in Stygia. Eric is writing a great story that I’m having a lot of fun drawing. It’s getting darker and more mysterious each issue. Stay tuned!
Our thanks to Eric and Walter for a fantastic interview. Make sure to check out our selection of Red Sonja comics and graphic novels and save 10-35%.
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