NYCC EXCLUSIVE: Wood & Simone Combine "Conan" and "Red Sonja"

Dynamite Entertainment and Dark Horse Comics are set to team up two of their most well-known franchises in a publishing crossover so appropriate, it's surprising it hasn't happened already. Brian Wood's "Conan the Barbarian" and Gail Simone's "Red Sonja" will see the titular high fantasy characters brought together in an all-new adventure. "Conan/Red Sonja" is the second venture between "Sonja" publisher Dynamite and "Conan" publisher Dark Horse after the recently-announced "Grendel/The Shadow" by Matt Wagner was the first of many big announcements for Dynamite with this week's New York Comic Con fast approaching.

Although details are currently sparse on the fledgling project, CBR News spoke exclusively with Brian Wood and Gail Simone about the origins of the project, how they hope to combine the two high fantasy icons and more.

CBR News: Brian, Gail -- a Conan/Red Sonja crossover seems like the most obvious story to tell when it comes to characters in a shared universe. What do you see as the biggest challenge of combining these two characters?

Art by Jenny Frison from "Red Sonja" #4

Brian Wood: The trick, as I just got done learning from the ["X-Men: Battle Of the Atom" crossover, is getting the right blend of what I want and need, what the other writer's wants and needs, and not to step on any toes. It's a matter of mutual respect and keeping your eyes on the prize. Specifically here, I'm doing my research and staying current with Gail's "Red Sonja," and we're also allowing each other the right to dialogue-polish each other's script pages. I can try my hardest to nail Sonja's voice, but if anything isn't just right, Gail should be able to step in and make little tweaks. Vice versa for me and Conan. This book had both our names on it, after all.

And obviously this story is one we developed together.

Gail Simone: It's just one of those things that everyone, and I mean everyone, wants to see happen. We were joking about this, but it's true, Red Sonja has teamed up with Spider-Man more than she has with Conan for the past fifteen years. And Red Sonja and Conan, that's just a magic recipe. They are the two greatest barbarian warrior characters ever created. They need to co-exist somehow.

Brian is one of the best writers in the business, I think "Northlanders" is one of the best comics of the past decade, and he's brought that arsenal, that verisimilitude, to "Conan." I think his Conan is the unmovable object and the way I see Red Sonja, she's the unstoppable force.

How exactly did the project get started?

Simone: It's funny, because it was one of the first thoughts I had when I took over "Sonja" -- "Man, what if Brian and I wrote a crossover?" And I talked to both Dynamite and Dark Horse, and it just didn't seem possible, even though everyone would have loved to have seen it.

It's to everyone involved's credit that they are doing this for the readers.

Wood: It was all Gail's idea! She approached me, asked me if I wanted in, and of course I did. I like Red Sonja, who doesn't? Also, this comes at the exact same time I'm wrapping up my 25-issue run on "Conan The Barbarian," so who knows when I'd get the chance to do something like this again?

The story itself is also something Gail proposed. I've added to it and tweaked it and we're developing it together, but props to Gail for a great initial concept.

In terms of collaborative process, what's the back-and-forth been like between you two so far?

Wood: Lots of twitter DMs, swapping word docs back and forth, and moving into the actual scripts, we're each writing 5-page chunks, alternating between us. There's no one way to do something like this, and so far this is working out great.

Simone: Exactly as I had hoped, I started with a small, but cool plot idea, Brian wrote back adding to it, I add to the revised idea, it's just what you would wish for.

How much does the crossover play off of what you've already established in terms of story and character with your individual books?

Simone: We both agreed right away that we want the story to matter, to count. This doesn't happen on Bizarro Earth or in the Negative Zone. This is the same Sonja I am writing for Dynamite, and the same Conan Brian is writing for Dark Horse.

So, this Sonja is a bit bawdier, a bit drunker, a bit younger and a lot more hot-blooded. She has more of a contrast between her and Conan. And this story will be in continuity for both characters, so you can expect there to be consequences.

Cover art for "Conan the Barbarian" #24 by Massemo Carnevale

A few years back, Dark Horse really pursued me to write "Conan" and I would have loved to have done it, but circumstances at the time made it impossible. So I am eager to get my hands on that Cimmerian.

That sounded weirder than I intended just now.

In terms of tone, how are you hoping to merge and mesh the overall attitude the books have?

Wood: Well, this run on Conan I'm doing now is pretty specific -- it's set at a young point in Conan's life and is all about this love story, this intense relationship he had with the pirate queen Belit. The tone and vibe that fits that story doesn't necessary fit elsewhere in Conan's life, so for this crossover I'm doing things a little different. Readers will be able to get a look at how I'd write an older, more experienced Conan, much more of a battlefield veteran. It's a lot of fun!

Simone: Well, there's a shared setting, and a shared mythology to some extent. I don't see it as more complex than meshing the tone of Batman with Wonder Woman. They are two very different characters who have a great deal in common.

I actually love crossovers. As much as I love the emotions of a story, I find the mechanics of storytelling fascinating. I love to try to make the puzzle pieces fit. And just as Sonja does have a somber side, so too does Conan have a dry wit to him. They fit together amazingly well, maybe because the contrast is so vivid.

Generally speaking, why do you think it's a good time to bring together Conan and Red Sonja in one series?

Wood: I think both these titles are recent and fairly recent relaunches that got a lot of initial acclaim and have increased [their] readership in a significant way. There's clearly interest in both books, so why not combine forces and see what we can do?

What are you most excited about when it comes to bringing these two characters together in modern comics?

Simone: There are a lot of crossovers that, even though the fans want them desperately, we may not get to see ever happen. Godzilla vs. Gamera, those characters are owned now by the same studio, and they have said they will never be in the same film.

Same with DC and Marvel, a crossover seems sadly unlikely between those companies any time soon.

This is a situation where the fans have been asking for this for a long, long time, and because they're fans, too, people behind Sonja and Conan came together to make it happen. I love that.

And like Sonja with Conan, I get to team up with a kickass warrior in Brian Wood.
It's going to be amazing.

Stay tuned to CBR News for more details on "Red Sonja/Conan."

Tags: dynamite entertainment, gail simone, dark horse comics, red sonja, brian wood, conan the barbarian, nycc2013

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