Greg Pak: Congrats on making RED SONJA such a great book! I just read issue #9, and it's a pleasure -- a great done-in-one story that also feels like it's part of a bigger, wider-ranging tale. How big a story do you have planned out? Any tease on where you're taking your heroine in the long-term?
Gail Simone: Thank you, Greg, coming from one of my favorite writers, that's a big deal.
I see Sonja as the ultimate in-the-moment character. She doesn't really think about the future that much, there's too much to look at and drink and fondle in the immediate vicinity to worry about what's coming miles down the road. But she's been tasked with bringing back the six greatest artisans for a very morbid going away party, and it requires her to actually stay on task. The lives of a thousand slaves depend on her actions, and she's thinking about that, it's weighing on her. It's an interesting situation for someone who is generally a loner.
I've got Sonja's main story planned out until issue eighteen, where she has to think about forgiveness and it's a struggle for her. I'm very happy with where she's going. And then we have Sonja Zero and Conan/Sonja. She's in my mind all the time.
GP: Tell us a bit about what drew you to Sonja in the first place and made you say yes to writing the book.
GS: Well, I am attracted to characters, first. If I am writing someone else's character, there has to be a connection. I have been lucky enough to work almost exclusively on characters that spoke to me in some way...I think it's my kryptonite, that if I'm not engaged with the character to start with, I can't accept the assignment, so I have turned down, you know, major icon a-list titles to do the All-New Atom or whatever, that's just the way I am made.
For Sonja, it was always those first stories I read of her, where she was kicking ass and being fierce on her own. She was never a sidekick, she made Conan the sidekick in his own book, that's not easy to do. That was immensely appealing and influential to me, so of course I want to pay her back somehow, and this is the only coin I have to do it with.
GP: Where did the "needs a bath" and "can't find a lover" gags come from? And how far are you planning to take them?
GS: It's funny, in issue ten Sonja is LITERALLY surrounded by professional courtesans in the greatest brothel in the world and she STILL is having a hard time getting laid.
I think Sonja always had a lot of sexuality in her book, but because they were Comics Code books and decades ago, it's a lot of winky winky stuff, and quite a lot of it is about Sonja as an object or Sonja as a prize in the cereal box. Not all, but a lot.
So it's really a question of, why is this completely badass terror constantly being portrayed as having no will of her own, sexually? It's just weird. The audience was comfortable with her cutting heads off, but not jumping someone's bones.
And the fact that she WANTS it but can't seem to GET any, I just think it's good fun...I've been getting letters from all these people who are relating to her for the first time, and it's just good fun, a new aspect of her character. We have to see how low her standards will go before she gives up.
GP: You're clearly bringing in new characters and building the wider world with every issue. How much are you drawing from Robert E. Howard source material and how much are you making up from whole cloth?
GS: Some of both, there are experts out there, and I dearly love them, who know this stuff better than I would if I lived to be a hundred. They catch my mistakes and I actually, sincerely love that, it makes me want to do more research. But I do feel that digging into that well too deeply has put some of the Sonja/Conan stuff in the mire for casual readers. It can be a bit weighty, so I try to give a light touch with the maps and historic stuff. Respect it, don't abuse it.
GP: Tell us a bit about Jenny Frison's amazing covers. How did Jenny get recruited for the book, and do the two of you talk about cover ideas?
GS: Not really, she's given the plots in advance, I believe, but...it's Jenny Frison. Me telling her what to put on a cover is like telling the sun how to shine.
I swear to God, her cover for issue eight is one of the best covers of the year, certainly one of the best covers of any book I have ever worked on. I've been dying to work with her for years and she amazes me every time.
But I also want to mention all the other amazing artists we've had do covers, we just enlisted the best...Colleen Doran, Amanda Palmer, Becky Cloonan, Jill Thompson, it's ridiculous the covers we've had. I am hoping they do a print portfolio, I would put those covers everywhere.
And we are equally fortunate to have the great Walter Geovani doing the interiors. I am going to build a shrine to that guy in my home. He is so incredibly talented and generous,and sends me character sketches in advance for approval, and they're always perfect. He's the best.
GP: Any chance of Toa the Invincible returning in the future?
GS: Yes, in the next issue!
Make sure to check out RED SONJA from Dynamite comics! Issue #9 is currently available at your LCS!