In another peer to peer interview from Dynamite Entertainment, Nancy Collins chats with Devin Grayson and Gail Simone about taking on Red Sonja as part of the new Legends Of Red Sonja series being released during the characters 40th anniversary.
NANCY COLLINS: What inspired you to give your Red Sonja story in LEGENDS OF RED SONJA #1 a nautical spin?
DEVIN GRAYSON: I haven't played with magic much in my comics writing, but it's been factoring heavily into some prose work I'm doing now–a YA novel series about a young ghost hunter and her friends, one of whom is a mage. So the chance to work with an artist who could bring some of those themes to life was irresistible. Magic in Sonja's world—as shown so beautifully in your story– is dark, powerful, raw and dangerous…essentially a force of nature in and of itself. So I wanted something that would echo that visually, a setup in my story that would lead to people being visibly out of control of their environment, such as fire at sea. And the moment I seized on that, a whole mood and tone and antagonist for the story fell into place.
Or maybe I just watched that Science Friday "Where's the Octopus?" video on YouTube too many times.
NC: Did you have an interest/background in heroic fantasy prior to being brought on the Legends of Red Sonja project?
DG: Not in my reading or writing life, but I'm an avid RPGer, and when you're gaming—whether online or in traditional pencil and dice campaigns—you're going to end up submerged in heroic fantasy. Most relevant to this project was the online game Age of Conan. I never actually played it, but before the game officially launched, the role playing crowd took over one of the Beta message boards to use for Conan-themed round robin story-telling. I was very active there, playing an Aquilonian guard, so Sonja's world felt like a place I'd already lived.
DG: There are a lot of similarities. Both start as blank pages but grow up to be primarily visual media, both have a commitment to inviting the audience to identify with the characters in as immediate a way as possible and both are shaped by external story limitations—continuity in the case of comics and game mechanics in the case of video games. Both are also unusually social experiences for a writer. Unless you're working with a partner, writing is usually a pretty solitary exercise. Being alone with a story is one of my favorite parts of the writing experience. But with both comics and video game scripts, you're just a cog in the wheel, working as part of a team and relying on those other team members to bring your vision to life. I love finishing a manuscript and eventually getting to hold an actual book in my hands, but it's a whole different kind of thrill to finish a script and eventually get to see the characters acting out the dialog.
NC: Do you have anything on deck for 2014 that your fans should keep an eye out for?
DG: In addition to the YA novel series I briefly mentioned –which won't make its debut in 2014–I'm currently working on a radio play, which will, and a few other projects it's too early to talk about. I'm really enjoying being back in comics though and, who knows, there may even be some more work with Dynamite in my future.
NC: What inspired you to propose an All-Woman jam to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Red Sonja?
GAIL SIMONE: I have to give a lot of credit for this to Dynamite and to Nick Barrucci. They are just fantastically open to ideas, and consequently, you don't feel like the doors are all shut and locked before you even try to open them.
I had what I thought was a fun idea, to have all the covers of my run on the ongoing RED SONJA title be drawn by women, all my favorites, and it's just worked out amazingly well…they all turned out beautiful. And it made this nifty little side statement, as well, that some of the very best artists in the business are female, AND could draw this sword and sorcery stuff beautifully.
It was such a success, it made me think of how fun it would be to invite a bunch of my writing heroes to try the same thing, women who had provided inspiration to me with the quality of their work.
It turned out to be one of the most fun and rewarding things I've ever been a part of, we were all collaborating immediately. And we brought back people like Devin Grayson, Tamora Pierce and yourself, Nancy, to comics, who have been gone for too long. And we got Mercedes Lackey's and Meljean Brook's first comics stories, and a-list artist Nicola Scott's first scripting credit…it just makes me happy. I am proud to be in this company, even if I cheated and put myself in!
NC: Did you have an interest in heroic fantasy prior to landing the monthly RED SONJA gig?
GS: Oh, yeah, absolutely. I often see people who object to the blood or flesh in this genre, particularly in the Robert E. Howard-inspired stuff, but really, I like it. It feels very primal, very ill-mannered. It's not like the Tolkien stuff that I also love, it's sweatier and lustier. But you can tell very sophisticated stories with the genre, heartbreaking and heart-soaring stuff. I love it.
GS: Is that actually true? I believe one of my other heroes, the great Jen Van Meter, did a Sonja one-shot just a couple years back.
But as ONE of the first, what can I say, it's one of those joyful things that happen that could never be predicted. I always loved Sonja, now I get to do ferocious things with her.
NC: What up-coming comics and special appearances can your fans look forward to in 2014?
GS: A lot, and some things I can't mention yet, but the hugely successful Kickstarter graphic novel I did with co-creator and artist Jim Calafiore, LEAVING MEGALOPOLIS, is finally out to backers, and I am thrilled about that. I'm writing the TOMB RAIDER comic for Dark Horse, which has all the good history and travel stuff I love so much. I'm writing BATGIRL and THE MOVEMENT for DC Comics, both very close to my heart.
And of course the LEGENDS OF RED SONJA anthology and the ongoing Sonja monthly title for Dynamite. There may be a few surprises, as well, it's been a year of big changes for me.
As for appearances, yikes, my convention calendar is mostly filled up until 2015, but very few have been announced yet, so I have to keep mum about that.
Legends Of Red Sonja #1 goes on sale November 6th and features a cover by Jay Anacleto and interior art by Jack Jadson, Noah Salonga and Carla "Speed" McNeil.
Nancy A. Collins is the author of numerous novels, short stories, and comic books, including DC Comics' Swamp Thing. A recipient of the Horror Writers Association's Bram Stoker Award, The British Fantasy Society's Icarus Award, as well as a nominee for the International Horror Guild, John W. Campbell, James Tiptree, Eisner & World Fantasy Awards, her works include Sunglasses After Dark, Lynch: A Gothik Western, and Knuckles And Tales. Legends of Red Sonja #1 marks her return to comics, and her newest novel is Magic And Loss, the 3rd book in the Golgotham series, scheduled to be released November 5th .