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Ron Marz Kick-Starts Red Sonja’s Big Year

by  in Comic News Comment
Ron Marz Kick-Starts Red Sonja’s Big Year

“Red Sonja” #30 on sale this month (Pictured: covers by Alex Ross and Luke Ross)

Leading into Dynamite Entertainment’s major “Red Sonja” event, slated to begin this summer with issue #35, the pulp-loving publisher has corralled five fan-favorite creative teams to each produce a single issue in a five-issue story that serves as an undercard to the main event.

As the bikini-clad braveheart begins her descent into Hades, this month’s “Red Sonja” #30 features the pairing of Ron Marz (“Ion,” “Witchblade”) and artist Lee Moder (“Painkiller Jane”). Marz told CBR News, “Issues #30-34 form an arc about Sonja’s journey in Hades. Each issue has a different creative team, but everything’s tied together as part of Sonja’s journey down the River Styx. Each issue does however have its own story, as Sonja is forced to confront her past, especially her regrets and failures. These are events that helped make Sonja who she is.”

Additional teams include Joshua Ortega & Fabiano Neves, Christos Gage & Pablo Marcos, Luke Lieberman & Homs and new “Red Sonja” series writer Brian Reed with artist Mel Rubi.

Pages from “Red Sonja” #30

Working in step with four other creative teams, not to mention the editors and management at Dynamite, generated lots of emails over the last few months — lots and lots of e-mails. “Once we established the general direction of the narrative, each writer had some latitude in coming up with the flashback aspect of their respective issues,” explained Marz. “And then, of course, more emails as everybody compared notes over their flashbacks, to make sure nobody was pursuing similar ideas. You don’t want five stories about the lost love of Sonja’s life, especially when they’d end up being five different lost loves.”

Marz teased that his story is a flashback set in a period of Sonja’s early career, when she was making her living thieving. “She’s an apprentice thief to an older, more experienced woman, and the two of them set out to steal something from a library,” revealed Marz. “This library, though, is more like a fortress, with guards and traps and supernatural guardians. Lee and I are both history buffs, and we started kicking around ideas. Lee mentioned the Library at Alexandria, which at one time housed most of the world’s collected knowledge, until it was destroyed by fire. The story grew from there.”

Page from “Red Sonja” #30

As for his and Moder’s take on Hades, Marz said the feeling is “Pretty classical. That’s what the story asked for, complete with an underground river and a mysterious boatman,” said Marz. “Lee did a really nice job on the cavern, working in some subtle or almost subliminal skull shapes into the rock formations.”

Asked if there were any characters in particular readers should keep an eye on in #30, Marz quipped, “Come on, it’s a Red Sonja story. It’s kind of obvious who readers will be keeping their eye on, right?”

Marz has been hungry to get back to the ravenous redhead since he wrote the one-shot “Red Sonja: Goes East” for Dynamite in 2005. “‘Red Sonja: Goes East’ was a lot of fun, but I knew going into it that we’d have a more manga-influenced style of art,” said Marz. “So I felt like I still wanted to do a Sonja story with more classic-type art. I did a Sonja story that was serialized in ‘Savage Tales,’ but I guess that still didn’t get it out of my system. A big part of it was that my buddy Lee Moder was going to draw the issue. If Lee wasn’t involved, I probably would’ve done the wise thing and turned it down, since my schedule is pretty tight. But the combo of Lee and Sonja was more of a siren call than I could resist.”

Pages from “Red Sonja” #30

Marz certainly sees similarities between the She-Devil with a Sword and the leading ladies of the “Witchblade” series he writes for Top Cow. “I think they’re all strong, capable women, they’re all heroes. But Sonja has chosen this life for herself, while Sara and Dani have had it thrust upon them,” Marz explained. “Sonja lives the life she wants, while Sara and Dani make the best of their situations bearing the Witchblade. I think another big difference is that Sonja keeps everyone at arm’s length. She doesn’t let anyone get close to her. So she’s a bit of a tragic character. Neither Sara nor Dani has reached that point. Although I think the possibility exists for both of them.”

Beyond working with Red Sonja, another draw to the project for Marz was collaborating with his friend Lee Moder. “We did a ‘Green Lantern: Secret Files’ quite a while ago. I’ve known Lee ever since and kind of made the intro that landed him at Dynamite when he decided to get back into the business,” shared Marz. “I’ve always liked his work, so it seems a little strange that we haven’t done more together, but hopefully we can do more beyond this Sonja issue. Lee’s stuff is just immaculately drawn, very clean pencils, clean storytelling. And I think anybody who saw his ‘Painkiller Jane’ stuff can vouch for the fact that he draws great women.”

“Red Sonja” #30 covers by Fabiano Neves and Mel Rubi

Dynamite has commissioned four variant covers by heavyweights Alex Ross, Fabiano Neves, Luke Ross and Mel Rubi for “Red Sonja” #30, but that, remarkably, is not a record for Marz. “It’s close, but I think there may have been five covers for ‘Witchblade’ #100,” he said. “Kind of cool to have two covers by guys named Ross. I told Dynamite they needed to get Dave Ross to do one as well!”

The prolific writer said his love of Red Sonja actually pre-dates his work on the character, and started when he was very young. “I read some of the original Sonja stuff at Marvel as a kid, and I even read the Sonja paperback novels that were published in the early 1980s,” recalled Marz. “Growing up, I read a lot more issues of ‘Savage Sword of Conan’ than I did of stuff like ‘X-Men’ or ‘Avengers’ or anything else that was superhero oriented. I certainly liked the superhero stuff, and I still do obviously, but the sword-and-sorcery stuff just had a greater appeal for me. Stalwart heroes, scantily-clad maidens, hideous monsters, evil sorcerers, what’s not to love?”

Beyond his work with Dynamite and Top Cow, Marz is also writing a series of back-up stories for DC’s upcoming 12-part maxiseries, “Tangent: Superman’s Reign. “The back-ups serve as both a history lesson for the Tangent Universe and character profiles for the major Tangent characters,” Marz explained. “But I didn’t want the back-ups to become dry encyclopedia entries, so there’s a framing story around each chapter. The framing story ties into the history and characters, but it also has its own intrigue, something to propel each chapter forward. Fernando Pasarin, who drew some of my ‘Ion’ issues, is drawing all 12 chapters, so it’s really a pleasure to be working with him again, and with Jesse Delperdang, who’s going to be inking.”

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