David Avallone, writer of the Altered States: Doc Savage one-shot, talks with writer Nancy Collins about Red Sonja: Vulture's Circle #3, both on sale March 18th. Covers by Jay Anacleto and Walter Geovani.
NANCY COLLINS: Luke is the actual owner of the Red Sonja intellectual property rights. In this case, he came up with the basic plot for Vulture's Circle, such as it involving Red Sonja as an older woman, her running the academy for sword maidens, the main characters, and the threat from the Son of Set. I worked on the dialogue, narration, and other story elements. How it works is that I write the first draft, then send it to Luke, who does a second draft, adding or deleting scenes and dialogue as he sees fit, then it comes back to me for a 3rd pass, where I smooth the edges out. That said, in the end, Luke has the final say regarding dialogue and action.
DA: Have you always been a fan of Red Sonja? When did you discover her?
NC: Yes, I have followed her, in some form or another, since her first appearance in Marvel's Conan the Barbarian comics, back when Barry Smith was drawing the character. I used to have her entire first run, the one by Roy Thomas and Frank Thorne. She was one of the few original female heroes who was not a distaff clone of a pre-existing male character, such as Supergirl, Batgirl, Spider-Woman, She-Hulk, Ms. Marvel, etc. She was also one of the few who had her own title and depicted as physically capable and unafraid to throw down with the bad guys.
DA: Like our beloved Vampirella, Red Sonja is known for a very iconic costume. She's not wearing it here, which is a brave and interesting choice. What goes into that decision?
NC: In this story, Sonja is in her late 40s to early 50s, so it having her traipsing around in her chainmail bikini seemed somewhat impractical, especially in the role of a mentor for young girls. The big reason for her costume change, however, is that during her last time on the battlefield she was almost disemboweled. There is a huge scar going across her abdomen from where her belly was sewn shut. Given that Red Sonja's reason for wearing the chainmail lingerie is that she is such a superb swordswoman, she does not have to fear her enemies' blades, the fact she was finally marked has had a huge psychological effect on her. Her decision to cast the bikini aside in favor of a mail tunic and leather riding pants is a visual acknowledgement that she's no longer in her fighting prime.
DA: Is the mythology and world mostly from previous incarnations, or have you added things?
NC: All of the creatures/monsters and the concept of the God Caves came from Luke. I created the scene where a very young Sonja is brought before the sword goddess by her family and was inspired, in part, by a line in the song "There Was A Time/Raw Ramp" by T. Rex. I incorporated the tradition of female initiates to the Queen of Swords placing daggers in their hair, which comes from Scottish Highland tradition. (The battle-goddess Scáthach is actually from Scottish mythology, by the way.)
DA: How much of yourself do you see in Sonja, or how much of yourself do you invest her with?
NC: I am the same age Sonja is supposed to be in the Vulture's Circle saga. I know all too well what it feels like to come to the realization that the occasional aches and pains I shrugged away in my youth are now not only permanent, but only going to get worse. Especially the bad knee. In addition, I have come to realize the importance of working to prepare a new generation of creators for what lies ahead of them. It ain't easy being a freelance writer, especially if you also happen to be a woman. However, that is a different story for a different day.
For more on Red Sonja: Vulture's Circle #3, click here.