Writer Jim Zub returns to his sword and sorcery roots in the upcoming Unbreakable Red Sonja, which will hit comic book shop shelves on October 5, 2022. The relaunch will coincide with the 50th anniversary of the character’s introduction in Marvel’s Conan the Barbarian #23 by writer Roy Thomas and artist Barry Windsor-Smith. In an interview, Zub discusses what makes the character and the genre so compelling to readers more than half a century later.
Tom Smithyman: What does it mean to you to write Red Sonja – especially for her 50th anniversary?
Jim Zub: Red Sonja is one of the original sword and sorcery heroines and has stayed in the public consciousness for 50 years, so that tells you exactly how important she is. Sword and sorcery is my favorite genre, so getting to tell more stories with her in the Hyborian Age is an absolute pleasure.
Tom: In recent years, Red Sonja has been “Invincible,” “Immortal” and “Unchained.” What does “Unbreakable” add to her story?
Jim: “Unbreakable” is a title she has to earn, and that means pushing her to that breaking point with intense physical and emotional tolls that must be paid in this story. It’s going to be a ride.
Tom: Our culture is obsessed with technology and electronic gadgets. Why do you think stories about swords and sorcery, like those found in Red Sonja, continue to capture readers’ attention?
Jim: The simplicity of survival and the lack of knowledge that comes from a pre-technological state is at the heart of why we find medieval and medieval-fantasy compelling. The vast unknown beckons readers, and we know that the characters will have to rely on their skills and physical prowess instead of quick technology fixes.
Tom: You’ve had the opportunity to write a lot of Conan stories. How do you approach telling a similar story with a female hero?
Jim: While both characters are in the same world, Conan is not Red Sonja. They are both gritty survivors at their core, but Sonja is also a woman in a world where being female grants different advantages and disadvantages. Her beauty is compelling, and her strength is surprising to men in the Hyborian Age. She’s learned to leverage those qualities, along with her weapon skill and guile, to stay one step ahead of her enemies.
Tom: Is this genre limiting at all? Is it difficult for you to continue to tell fresh stories that keep the reader engaged?
Jim: Not at all. That’s like asking if horror, suspense, espionage or superheroes are limiting. They’re extremely broad genres that can tell all kinds of different stories and explore different themes.
Tom: There’s a new Red Sonja movie in development. Are you a fan of the 1985 flop with Brigitte Nielsen?
Jim: I saw the Red Sonja movie a loooong time ago but barely remember anything from it, which tells you how much of a rush I’m in to revisit it.
Tom: I know you’re excited for this book to get into readers’ hands, but what’s next for you after Sonja?
Cullen: I’m working on a bunch of different projects: I’m relaunching Conan the Barbarian at Titan Comics in 2023, writing Thunderbolts and Murderworld for Marvel, have a Batman one-shot story in Batman Urban Legends #20 and a new Rick and Morty crossover mini-series at Oni Press.