Nancy Collins is a Bram Stoker Award winning novelist who got into comics in the mid 90’s when she took her Sonja Blue character to Glen Danzig’s Verotik. Now Nancy has joined up with Dynamite Entertainment for two different Red Sonja projects. I chatted with her recently about both the collaborative effort and the one-shot:
BLEEDING COOL: My first experience with your writing was when you were doing Sunglasses After Dark for Verotik Publications based off of your novel series. Now you’ve gone from Sonja Blue to Red Sonja. Both are very strong leading characters; what other traits do the two have in common besides somewhat similar names?
NANCY COLLINS: Well, they’re both characters who are completely self-reliant and supremely confident in their ability to not only defend themselves, but others as well. They also possess their own unique moral compasses, which they remain true to, regardless of societal norms. Sonja Blue is far more tortured and conflicted than Red Sonja, though. I see Red Sonja as a far happier and well-balanced person, in truth.
BC: The setting for the Berserker one-shot is that Red Sonja is arrested and forced to fight as a gladiator. Now we’ve seen many stories involving the arenas, but none that I recall puts a female into the games. What was the inspiration for the idea and were you a fan of the gladiator genre prior to this?
NC: I wouldn’t say I’m a fan of the gladiator genre so much as I have studied Ancient Greek & Roman history and literature over the years. Gladiatrices (female gladiators) were a very real part of ancient bloodsport, as mentioned in the writings of Suetonius, Martial, Statius and Juvenal. The most famous gladiatrices were a pair of fighters known as Amazon and Achilia. Gladiatorial bloodsports have long been a staple of heroic fantasy. Humans being forced to fight to the death, whether it’s each other or a dangerous animal, is probably Mankind’s most primal narrative.
BC: You are also working with Gail Simone and Devin Grayson on Legends Of Red Sonja which is running concurrently. Does the story in the one-shot tie into your part of Legends and what if any are the differences in approaching a story Legends where you are collaborating as opposed to Berserker where it’s all you?
NC: No, my story doesn’t tie into “The Eyes of the Howling God”, the story I wrote for LEGENDS OF RED SONJA #1. However, I got the idea for the Berserker story from the cover to LORS #1. If you look at it, you can see Sonja’s co-star hanging around in the background.
BC: You have primarily been known as a horror writer, having won the Bram Stoker award once and nominated two other times, yet your return to comics has been in the sword and sorcery world. How different are the elements between the two genres and how are they similar?
NC: Well, seeing how Robert E. Howard was a contemporary of Lovecraft’s and wrote some of the very first Cthulhu Mythos stories, I’d say that the barriers between heroic fantasy, weird fantasy and horror are exceptionally permeable. Demons, vampires, werewolves, witches, and unspeakable things from nightmare dimensions are all fairly common tropes in Heroic Fantasy. Other authors who have crossed and re-crossed those genre boundaries include Fritz Leiber (Fafhrd & The Gray Mouser), Michael Moorcock (Elric) and Karl Wagner (Kane). I read a lot of heroic fantasy growing up—most of it Howard, Leiber and Moorcock—so this wasn’t unknown territory for me at all. People tend to make a distinction between High Fantasy (Tolkien) and Heroic Fantasy (Conan, etc), with High Fantasy being viewed as “literary” and Heroic Fantasy more pulpy and low-brow. Personally, I view Heroic Fantasy as being on the same level as Spaghetti Westerns: low art for the thinking man that often achieves true inspiration, but never fails to entertain the reader.
BC: So what is next for you after Red Sonja: Berserker and Legends of Red Sonja? Anything you can tell us about yet? And will you be putting out any new novels soon?
NC: I have several things up my sleeve for 2014—some of which I can’t go into just yet. But I can tell you that IDW will be releasing the graphic novel version of SUNGLASSES AFTER DARK, with art by Stan Shaw in 2014. As for novels, the most recent installment in my Golgotham urban fantasy series, MAGIC AND LOSS, is currently available in stores and from Amazon. And I hope to have SUNGLASSES AFTER DARK once again in print, courtesy of Premier Digital Publishing (PDP) come February 2014 .