It's an old saying in comics that when a character dies, fans will have to wait about five minutes for them to be resurrected.
But in the case of Dynamite Entertainment's "Red Sonja," the recently killed and returned titular heroine isn't quite a full-on return of the Sonja fans have been following since 2005. In fact, newly minted "Red Sonja" writer Brian Reed explained to CBR that since her return from hell in June's issue #34, the righteous redhead hasn't been too aware of her own origins, and now that she's back on the sword swinging path, Sonja's road won't be exactly the same as readers remember, either.
"When she comes back from the dead, she doesn't even know she's Red Sonja," Reed said. "What we revealed at the end of issue #34 was that she's been dead before. The idea as I pitched it to Dynamite was that the Roy Thomas/Marvel era was one Red Sonja, the Mike Oeming era was another Red Sonja, and now I'm yet another Red Sonja. She's this force that's being reborn when she's needed to come out and help us."
Reed's take on Red Sonja is part of an effort to showcase an almost forgotten aspect of the character and her world. "There's certainly a mystic edge that I wanted to bring and I wanted to play with that Mike had touched on but hadn't gotten deeply into," the writer said. "It was like, 'Hey, look! There's a new corner of the playground I can go in!' We get the 'sword' all the time. Let's see some of the 'sorcery.'"
And what that new focus on the mystery and magic of Sonja's world means outside of new plot points is a brand new outlook meant to draw in fans who haven't spent time with the She-Devil of late -- or ever. This week's "Red Sonja" #37 by Reed and penciler Walter Giovanni continues a reintroduction arc that will define the path set for the character for the next two years of stories, a plan which the scribe was uncertain would even have a chance of flying.
"I honestly thought they were going to tell me 'No' to half of it, and if they did, I just wasn't going to take the job," Reed said of his initial pitch to Dynamite. "I wanted to do something really out there and kind of wacky. And they came back and said 'Yes' to like 99.9% of it. I gave them two years' worth of stuff, and there was one sentence in my pitch where they were like, 'Maybe we don't want to do this.'"
The drastic changes to the series included the brand new married incarnation of Sonja, who was reborn over 20 years after the death of her last host, and a world with memory of the chain-mail clad killer but little else by way of respect for her. However, Reed noted that the new story will connect the dots from the missing time and reintroduce some no longer familiar faces from the last go 'round.
"There's mention in issue #35 that the legend of Red Sonja is a known quantity. That comes up again in #36 that her name is Sonja, and she was named because her father liked the stories of Sonja. So there's that element that the world knows who Red Sonja is even though she's been dead for many years at this point," Reed explained. "There is a character in the first issue whose name we're not given. He's an old guy with a weird right hand, and he is someone from the last series, from Mike Oeming's run. That shows you how long time has passed once you know who this guys is. But we very intentionally kept that dubious in the first issue."
New threats will also work their way into the series, drawing Sonja back into the fighting way as she becomes embroiled in a search for an ancient prize with a ominous name. "We're seeing some new villains show up in #35 that will get set up even better in #37 as we move through this new arc," promised Reed. "And the big subplot for the first year is called The Blood Dynasty, and it's the ultimate treasure. Sonja's husband was off questing for it in #35, and he's come home, but once again he's failed in his quest. We find out that he's been looking for this thing for a long time. And as the series goes on, we're going to learn more and more about what The Blood Dynasty is, why it's important, why everyone wants it and why Sonja's the only person who should have it."
The hope for Reed and Dynamite is that the new direction for the series will combine with increased interest based on the announcement of a Robert Rodriguez-produced, Rose McGowan-starring Red Sonja film to bump up the comics readership. "It's like you're writing a Spider-Man book and you hear a new Spider-Man movie is getting made -- it doesn't really affect your day to day job on the book, but it's cool to know that there's going to be more eyes coming to it," said Reed, adding that longtime fans and new folks interested in the film could do well with a pick up now. "Fans who have been reading the series for a long time, by issue #37 are going to understand a whole lot that they don't understand. There has been a lot seeded that goes all the way back to #1 of Oeming's run.
"This first arc sets up everything for the next two years, and then some of it gets ignored for a few issues before we come back to it. So we have subplots that are going to be coming in and out over the next two years, and if you pick up any one issue, you're fine. You understand totally what's going on, but if you're reading straight through, you get more bang for your buck."