Hyborean Keys – Marvel’s Red Sonja

by Blaise Tassone

127313_e8e53ee62b8ae2bb06fc63b02db9b151504a4321-193x300 Hyborean Keys – Marvel’s Red Sonja

Red Sonya of Rogatino was originally another Robert E. Howard creation. In her initial presentation she was more of a red-haired pirate woman than a barbarian. She first appears in the Howard story “Shadow of the Vulture” from 1934. This story is set in the 16th century (during the siege of Vienna), and it features German Knights, Turkish Sultans and harems.

In my previous post I was looking at Marvel’s Conan the Barbarian comics. There I mentioned the fortuitous circumstances that led Roy Thomas into obtaining the rights to publish stories based on the Conan books from the Howard estate. With the right to publish Conan, came also the rights for Marvel to publish all the other Howard-related properties, among them: Red Sonja. When Roy Thomas reworked Sonja, placing her adventures in the Hyborean age, the entire character and her history were changed. So, really the comic book Red Sonja (spelled with a ‘j’ instead of a ‘y’), who has managed to capture our pop culture imagination for all these years, is a Marvel Comics creation.

The warrior woman known as Red Sonja in the comics is from Hyrkania. In the Marvel version of her history, after her family is murdered and she is raped by mercenaries, she vows revenge and invokes the red goddess Scathach. The goddess, in turn, bestows upon her expertise with swords and various other weapons.

The She-Devil with a Sword has subsequently been compared to nothing more than a female Conan. That’s not true. Sonja is more than just Conan wearing a metal bikini; but this comparison was unfortunately bolstered by the very campy 1985 Dino De Laurentiis film starring Brigitte Nielsen. This film, which was basically a remake of the Arnold Schwarzenegger Conan movies, was, in fact, almost a parody of the Marvel Comics character and the entire Sword and Sorcery genre for that matter.

With talks of a new film in the works, Red Sonja is today very much her own entity. Here we are interested in her key Comic book appearances:

Conan the Barbarian #24 (March 1973) – First Full Appearance of Red Sonja

Conan the Barbarian #23 is like Incredible Hulk #180. This issue is the Hulk #181 of the Conan run. The second appearance of Red Sonja “The Song of Red Sonja” is also her first full appearance – minus metal bikini. Here we learn that Sonja will only give herself to a man who can defeat her in battle! 9.6 at $250.00 is your best buy on this one for long term investment. You can also find it in 9.8 grade but the price jumps to $900.00. Best return on investment thus far have been on 6.0s

Marvel Feature v2 #1 (November 1975) – first Red Sonja story outside of the Conan title

Sonja’s first outing outside of the monthly regular Conan comic is found in this issue. This is also a reprint. The story here, “The Temple of Abomination” by Roy Thomas, originally appeared in Savage Sword of Conan #1. It features a classic Sword and Sorcery adventure in the Conan style. Best returns on this comic to date are on 8.0 copies. This one is currently very affordable at $70.00 for CGC 9.4 and $190.00 for 9.8 – that may change if a new Red Sonja film appears.

Red Sonja #1 (January 1977) – First issue of her first self-titled series

In her first self-titled comic, Red Sonja encounters a warlord named Andar of Bezfarda. After stopping Bezfarda from killing a unicorn, she helps the creature escape from Bezfarda’s henchmen. Like Marvel Feature #1, this comic is very affordable with 9.8 at $170.00 and 9.6 at $65.00. Again, like MF #1, all that may change with release of a movie.

Marvel Team Up #79 (March 1979) – First Sonja in the larger Marvel Universe

Chris Claremont and John Byrne team up to give us this issue of Marvel Team Up. Spider-man and a magical spell that transforms Mary Jane into Red Sonja allow for their meeting. Together they combat Kulan Gath in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I remember reading this story years ago. I liked it then, and I’m sure you’d like it now. Other than the early Claremont/Byrne team up, this is also the first Red Sonja appearance in the wider Marvel Universe and her first pairing with Marvel’s wall-crawler. The team up with Spider-man was repeated in 2007 when Marvel published Spider-man/Red Sonja . 9.8 copies of Marvel Team Up #79 can be found for $120.00. Best returns have been on 9.6 grades.

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