Robert E. Howard created Conan the Barbarian in 1932. Marvel brought Conan into the pages of comics in 1970, and there has been a Conan comic of some kind in various publications since then. It’s likely some believe that Howard created Red Sonja as well, but Roy Thomas and Barry Windsor-Smith actually created her for Marvel Comics in 1973. The Marvel Comics’ titles came to an end in 1985, but Dynamite Entertainment obtained the rights and launched a slew of Red Sonja titles in 2005. Those titles continue strong to this day.
Red Sonja – a contemporary of Conan the Barbarian – is both a sword master and martial artist with great experience in battling all things supernatural, ranging from wizards to monsters. Sometimes referred to as a she-devil with a sword, Red Sonja is truly Conan’s female counter part. She has been adapted into film twice: first the 1985, live action film staring Brigitte Nielsen and second, the 2016, animated Red Sonja: Queen of Plagues. There is talk of a 3rd Red Sonja film (or possibly a TV series) with Bryan Singer as the director.
The covers of her comics can lead the reader to assume that stories inside consist of nothing more than pulp fiction, and a scantily clad heroine. This is far from the truth as author Gail Simone told some truly powerful, character driven, human stories during her time writing Red Sonja for Dynamite. Don’t get me wrong though. There is still plenty of blood and action in the style of the Hyborian Age.
The latest Red Sonja title, written by Amy Chu, began in 2017 in the wake of Simone’s series, and brings the character into the modern world. It also returns Red Sonja to her original costume of bikini chain mail. It’s a much more pulpy take on the character but also a very fun one, given the massive change in her setting.