By kuonphobos 7 Comments
Inspired recently by a fellow Viner's blogs I decided to take a quick look back through some of the more recent issues of Dynamite's Red Sonja title that I have laying around. See I have collected Red Sonja (and Conan) since my childhood days back in the seventies and Sonja is one of my all time favorite characters. Unfortunately the stories surrounding this awesome character are usually poorly written and if I am being honest, Red Sonja is more of a visually interesting character to me and has been since I was a kid. This means that I am woefully behind in my reading of the title. But something recently jumped out at me, and that was a change in Sonja's costume.
Now anyone relatively familiar with comics knows the iconic Frank Thorne metal bikini. Entire anthologies have been written with titles like "Chicks in Chain-mail" etc. And there are many discussions concerning the impracticality of this chain-mail bikini and how it is just a manifestation of fanboy fantasy. I can attest that just a cursory reading of the articles in the early pages of Savage Sword of Conan by Roy Thomas and Frank Thorne do nothing to counter the debate. They are quite unapologetically enthusiastic over the Sonja character and the early costume related fun at 1970's comic conventions. Indeed it is early "cosplay" complete with photographs and actually quite a bit of varitey. In fact Elfquest creator Wendy Pini features quite prominently in this early Red Sonja cosplay.
In a recent article here on Comic Vine with current Red Sonja writer Eric Trautmann he discusses some of his thoughts on Sonja's iconic costume and lets us know that there will be some changes. True to his word by issue 51 we can see Sonja's costume move from the iconic to the more historical and in my opinion the more practical. Here are a few examples:
Now these variations only seem to last until issue 63 just as Trautmann states in his article and again the costume changes to one quite reminiscent of Xena's by issue 67.
Now I personally really like the first two images. In fact I was very excited about the possibilites that opened up upon seeing them. In addition to being aesthetically pleasing and sexy as all get out, they are also practical and look bad-ass. Might something like this free Red Sonja as a character to become something more than a sexual icon? Might we get to really look beyond the exterior and get to really see the formidable character who is the equal of the iconic Conan the Cimmerian? Might it enable new generations of readers to become interested because Sonja is no longer a fanboy's dream and a disrespected laughingstock in some circles?
However, the third image troubles me. On the whole it does look pretty cool and is also fairly historical and practical. But you probably notice what I am talking about. The "panty-peak". In fact the entire issue is loaded with them. They make me uncomfortable and seem quite gratuitous and grade school. It is probably just an artist thing, but it is one I wish the artists would avoid. It seems like a set back in my opinion.
I have yet to sit down and read the full story arc but I plan to move it up on my list of priorities now. I know the iconic chain-mail bikini will never completely go away, but I am gladdened to see someone experiment and make some in roads by ironically increasing the overall appeal of a great character by reducing the juvenile appeal of a 1970's throwback.