Erik Burnham’s Writers Commentary on the Red Sonja #25 Grand Finale

Erik Burnham writes a writer’s commentary on Red Sonja #25, just published by Dynamite.

Well, boys and girls, this is it. Red Sonja #25. The final issue of Volume 4. It’s sure been a fun ride, hasn’t it? (And I’ve only been here for half of it!) Wizards and wyverns and magic and mayhem. We brought it all, and you folks have been so kind in your responses. Lots of tweets, DMs, and letters. We appreciate it all, and thank you from the bottom of our coal-stained creative hearts for your support. While it’s true all things must come to an end… we still have 20 pages to get through!

Looking at the credits — it is I, Erik Burnham, joining mastermind Amy Chu on the script. Carlos Gomez, the artist for the vast bulk of Vol. 4, returns for the finale. Mohan provides the color and Taylor Esposito handles the lettering.

Covers! Cover E is our Cosplay Variant; Cover D is by David Williams; Cover C is provided by Tom Mandrake and Sian Mandrake; Cover B by Erica Henderson; and cover A is by Mike McKone.

A shoutout to Joe Rybandt, who trusted us with Sonja’s adventures, and to Anthony Marques. No longer an editor, but he was when this book was being written!



So here’s the thing. In Amy’s breakdown, she said, “Sonja should be singing a song.” Way. To. Kick. The. Can. I looked a little for a song that might fit before I said, “Heck with it…”

…And wrote a limerick.

Thankfully that limerick was interrupted by DANGER.

PAGES 02-04

Look out! Bandits!

You know what Sonja doesn’t like? Seeing a group of armed young men threatening a defenseless old man.

You want a knife in the throat? That’s a good way to make it happen.

PAGES 05-06

Sonja has saved the life of Tariq, a musician from Zembabwei. She wasn’t there in time to save the others. (Entirely possible her singing drowned out their cries for help and now I feel guilty about the limerick.)

Oh good. I covered that potential plot hole. Whew. Only Tariq shouted. Thanks, past me, for easing my guilt.

Sonja shows a little bit of cynicism here, but it’s something that has crossed my mind a lot over the last few years, especially. “It’s always safe until it isn’t.”

This was our last chance to sneak in a Carlos-drawn Clone-ja AND a Carlos-drawn shark-punch. You bet your chainmail bikinis we were gonna take advantage.

Okay, so the plot thickens, and Tariq hires Sonja to protect him on the way to his destination.

But he got in a little bit of a passive aggressive snub there at the end.

And I love the expressions Carlos brings to Sonja. LOVE them. This “wait, what?” look in the last panel is PER. FECT. (And that’s a good reason why Carlos was tagged to draw some X-Men. Rock on, brother!)

We continue a bit of a debate about violence, and I get another chance to give Sonja a sense of humor.

I’m proud of the joke, okay? In character, and funny. (Well, funny for Sonja. It’s like a Batman one-liner. You take what you get.)

PAGES 14-17
I skipped ahead. What did you miss? More back and forth in a debate about art vs. battle, and a little bit of prejudice from Tariq.

Now, we jump in with pirates.

I didn’t specify more clearly in the script; pirates have been around forever, but the Classic Pirate Look in pop culture is, at this point, “…of the Caribbean”

Which is what Carlos drew.

Which we didn’t ask him to change because, man alive, that’s just bonkers. I love bonkers. Amy loves bonkers. We want to go out on a bonkers note.

In any case, Tariq and Sonja make their way to the ship over the next couple of pages, and Sonja takes the entire crew on in a fight.

Tariq begins to play music, taking their debate from theory to practice.

And the pirates stop fighting. And they begin weeping. And they drop to their knees out of pure emotional nostalgia.

…And then Sonja kills them all.

(It should be noted that this particular gag was suggested to Amy by Ash Miller, who’s penning the Red Sonja screenplay. Amy loved it and made sure to work it into the outline. But IIRC, the enemies were supposed to be lulled to SLEEP. Amy does give Sonja a sadistic streak sometimes……)

We added that it brought a tear to Sonja’s eye. A nice moment of softening for our hardened warrior.

The debate is hardly won, but it does seem settled.

Yeah, I admit, panel 4’s dialogue is a nod to Casablanca. It’s a subtle cut, though.

“I’m not afraid of anything.”

That’s our statement on Sonja.

#25, and most of the one-shot stories that preceded it, have been some of my favorite comics to work on. I want to again thank Amy, Anthony and Joe for inviting me in to this crazy world, and letting me play around in this sandbox. Red Sonja is never a character I thought I’d be working on (let alone for over a YEAR!) and the experience has been a highlight of my career.

Special thanks to Carlos for rendering even the craziest images (yes, I know there were several other artists, but man, the stamp on this series belongs to Carlos.)

And again, thanks to you readers. I hope you’ll join us where we go next, and I want to wish luck to Mark Russell and Mirko Colak as they guide the She-Devil towards her next adventures.

Okay, that’s a wrap.


About Rich Johnston

Chief writer and founder of Bleeding Cool. Father of two. Comic book clairvoyant. Political cartoonist.

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