In the first mini-series since Gail Simone relaunched Red Sonja for Dynamite, Frank Tieri takes the She-devil with a Sword to the Black Tower. Byron Brewer caught up with the writer to discuss his turn with the red-headed warrior.
BYRON BREWER: Like Conan, Tarzan and John Carter, Red Sonja has had a myriad of comic book stories. Is this miniseries an adaptation of a Robert E. Howard story or an original story, and is that difficult to do for such a traveled literary character?
FRANK TIERI: Original story, definitely. And a very different one than what one might expect from a Sonja story, I’d say. To your point about her being such a well-traveled character, I wanted to make sure we weren’t covering ground that’s already been traveled upon with her. I didn’t want her just fighting another wizard or barbarian… that’s not to say there’s not some of that stuff in here, just that there’s a lot more to it going on. If I was going to do this, I wanted to tell a Sonja story unlike anything we’ve ever seen, and with BLACK TOWER, I believe that we have.
BB: Frank, tell us your take on the She-Devil with a Sword.
FT: Simply put… she’s the baddest motherfucker in her world.
I think of her sort of as the female Hyborean version of Eastwood’s Man With No Name. She walks into a town or a bar or whatever and every man, woman and child shits their pants. (Or tunic, if you prefer) They all just pray to their gods that whoever she’s there for, whoever she has a problem with, it’s not them. Because if it is… they’re already dead.
FT: Not so much the Howard stuff (And really, Sonja with a J is a very different character than Howard’s Sonya with a Y, ya know?) but I was a big time Conan comic book guy growing up. And the issues where Sonja showed up, those were the special ones. You’d wait for those. Because in that whole fucked up universe of theirs, Sonja was the one person who could hang with Conan. She was one of the only people that could look him in the eye that he might have a second thought about fucking with.
Plus, they had such a great dynamic together. If you were reading Conan back then and a part of you didn’t always hope they’d eventually end up together, then you’re dead to me.
BB: Tell us a bit about the world and situation that Sonja finds herself in during this limited series.
FT: The Black Tower just shows up one day. People are scared… they don’t know where this thing came from and what the hell’s going to happen now that it’s here. And what tends to happen when people are scared? They mob up, get their pitchforks and torches out and start doing some stupid violent shit to each other. That’s the situation Sonja finds herself when she hits town… so she pretty much hits the ground running.
The story will actually take place over a number of years, with each issue representing a time jump. In issue 1, the Tower arrives and the stage is set. But fans won’t actually have long to wait to see it open because something comes out by the end of issue 2. What emerges is something unlike anything Sonja has faced before and going forward, it’s what she has to contend with for the rest of the series.
FT: It’s not all that strange. In fact, it’s probably expected considering all the work I’ve done with Wolverine. And if you think about it, they have a lot more in common than you might think. They’ve both got that “lone wolf” thing going. They’ve both got a tremendous sense of honor, a code if you will. And they’re both pretty much the alphas of their respective universes.
The big difference? Sonja’s got her shit together waaaay better than Wolvie. I mean, deep down…Wolvie’s fucking nuts. He’s got demons to fight that Sonja just doesn’t have. The demons she fights are, ya know… actual demons.
BB: Does it make you feel a bit better on this mini to work with an artist like Cezar Razek, who has drawn the red-tressed warrior woman before?
FT: Cezar’s really brought his A game to this, I’m happy to say. I mean, his Sonja just looks like Sonja should look, ya know? I’ve got some pretty violent stuff going on and he hasn’t shied away from any of it, which I like in an artist. Honestly, I may be a bit biased but I really think it’s the best stuff the guy’s ever done.
Plus we’ve also got the lovely Amanda Conner on covers which is worth the price of admission alone. We were down in Baltimore Comic Con last year when me and Nicky met to talk about me doing the book and Amanda was there and immediately volunteered to do covers. Let me tell you… that didn’t get a “yeah” from me, that got a “fuck yeah!”. And of course, she’s killed it as usual.
BB: Is there any inspiration (beyond the obvious) for this particular tale?
FT: You might be surprised when I say this but Stephen King, believe it or not. And for readers of the Dark Tower series—which I am a huge fan of – yes, the name of our series is a nod to that ( That said, I can promise you that what’s in our tower is NOT the center of the universe.). King often has these things show up in his stories out of nowhere—towers, talismans… even a buick 8—and as the story unravels you start to uncover where this thing came from and what does it all mean. Our story is very much like that.
BB: Would you be interested in working with this character in a future book, and how do you see Red Sonja among the females who are heading regular comics these days?
FT: Sure, I’d be open to more Sonja in the future. Hopefully this series does well enough and it opens the door for more because honestly, this story was a blast to write.
As for Sonja and how she fits among her fellow female comic book compatriots… I’m always a bit surprised she’s not bigger, ya know? I mean, Sonja’s sort of the original “bad girl” character if you think about it. Before Electra and Painkiller Jane and Shi, etc… there was Sonja. To me I’d rank her right up there with a lot of those other female comic book icons and it would be cool for her to eventually get the props she deserves.
For more on Red Sonja: The Black Tower, click here.