In the summer of 2015, writer Gail Simone, artist Sergio Davila, and a host of other creators, including luminaries like G. Willow Wilson (Ms. Marvel), Marguerite Bennett (Bombshells), and Leah Moore (Albion), crafted an incredibly fun crossover featuring Dynamite’s female characters called Swords of Sorrow. In Swords of Sorrow, heroes like Red Sonja, Kato, Jungle Girl, Vampirella, Dejah Thoris, and Jennifer Blood among others team up to save the multiverse from the evil Prince Charming, who happens to be huge misogynist, and his allies from the Chaos! Universe, like Purgatori and Bad Kitty. Spinning out of this success, Dynamite Entertainment has decided to redesign and relaunch the comics featuring their three most prominent female leads: Red Sonja, Dejah Thoris, and Vampirella for 2016.
The new designs by Nicola Scott (Wonder Woman), and new creative teams, including writers Marguerite Bennett, Frank Barbiere (Five Ghosts), and Kate Leth (Hellcat) and artists Aneke (Legenderry: Red Sonja), Francesco Manna (Swords of Sorrow: Dejah Thoris and Irene Adler), and Eman Casallos (Masks 2) were unveiled at New York Comic Con back in October. Scott’s new designs for the heroes are both iconic and functional. For Red Sonja, she replaced the chainmail bikini with a chainmail tanktop and kept Sonja’s flowing red hair that gives the character her name while adding a cloak and hood because she is a traveler. And she has a huge sword. Scott’s design sense for Dejah Thoris’ new costume was “plaited leathers, swooping organic shaped armor, and gossamer fabrics”. Dejah Thoris is both a warrior and princess, and it shows through her white flowing dress as well as her fierce scimitar weapon. Vampirella’s redesign is the farthest from her previous look as Scott has departed from the monokini instead giving Vampi a red jumpsuit with shorts, big boots, and her classic vampire bat logo on the back. The crossbow is a nice touch because she is going to be a monster hunter in the vein of Mina Murray in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen or the one and only, Buffy Summers.
Red Sonja #1 comes out this Wednesday on January 13 as Gail Simone passes the torch to Marguerite Bennett after an excellent 18 issue run on the character filled with humor, intense action, and some real danger and peril for the She Devil with the Sword. Best of all, Simone excised the rape origin story for Sonja and made her a female character with agency, who owned her sexuality and was attracted to both men and women. She still kept some of the character’s traditional elements like her disgust for magic, which really came out in the Conan/Red Sonja crossover she co-wrote with Jim Zub. Bennett is a solid choice to replace Simone on Red Sonja because she already found success writing the character in the Red Sonja/Jungle Girl miniseries where Sonja took on a kind of snarky mentor role to the younger hero and taught her the value of courage, one-liners, and how to flirt. She also has an affinity for writing larger than life characters and still making them relatable, like Wonder Woman and Mera in Bombshells, and it will be fun to see her cut loose in a straight-up fantasy setting with some political intrigue because the king of Hyrkania is dying leading to turmoil or in-fighting in the land.
I am less familiar with the character of Dejah Thoris, and my only exposure to her has come through the Swords of Sorrow crossover and the highly underrated 2012 box office bust John Carter. However, she is arguably the first science fiction action heroine appearing in the Edgar Rice Burroughs novel A Princess of Mars way back in 2017 and appeared in various Dynamite titles in the 2010s, including numerous almost naked variant covers. However, along the more functional redesign, writer Frank Barbiere has set up a new status quo for the Princess of Mars where she is no longer royalty, but a soldier and adventurer. This will introduce a new supporting cast for Dejah (But hopefully her adorable Martian dog Woola will make an appearance or two.) and showcase a different side of Barsoom and not just Helium. Burroughs’ world is incredibly rich and helped inspired pop culture works, like Superman, Avatar, and Star Wars, and it will be interesting to see it from a non-aristocratic perspective. It will come out in February 2016.
Kate Leth and Eman Casallos’ Vampirella is less pulp revival and more horror B-movie. She draws upon the history of Hollywood horror films from Universal to found footage to create an intriguing conspiracy plot to go with Vampirella’s nocturnal activities as a vampire hunter. In an interview with Previews World, Leth described the new Vampirella as campy, scary, and even a little bit sexy. Casallos is a versatile artist, who has drawn everything from the leather wearing Garth Ennis-created vigilante Jennifer Blood to the recent superhero pulp story Masks 2. This comic will be super fun with its mix of urban fantasy, horror, Hollywood, and is my most anticipated comic of the relaunch. It is set to be released in March 2016.
I am looking forward to the new Dynamite relaunches of 2016 because it will be great to see excellent writers, like Bennett, Barbiere, and Leth, combine both pulp, classic horror, and modern sensibilities in putting a fresh coat of paint on these iconic and timeless female characters.