Welcome back to The Dynamite Report! This week, we’re returning to the world of Red Sonja for a closer look at Dynamite’s upcoming Sonjaversal limited series, which pits the She-Devil with a Sword against a colorful pantheon of interdimensional doppelgängers.
The classic Sonja we know and love has tangled with a wide range of formidable opponents. But thanks to a mysterious “divine force,” she’s about to meet her matches. This new enemy makes her an unwitting participant in a reality-spanning Battle Royale against several other Sonjas. There’s Blue Sonja, an ‘80s biker chick armed with a bazooka; Green Sonja, a prehistoric warrior who joins the fight with her own dinosaur in tow; Hell Sonja, a winged demon with locks of flame; and tons more. These characters will use whatever wits and weapons they possess in order to emerge as the last Sonja standing.
Red Sonja’s adventures haven’t made a lot of room for comic relief over the last 45 years. However, an unusual premise like this one pretty much demands it. That’s why Dynamite enlisted writer Christoper Hastings to handle the script. Hastings’ offbeat storytelling has been demonstrated on The Unbelievable Gwenpool and Adventure Time. His humor, combined with the artistry of Pasquale Qualiano (Dejah Thoris), makes the series almost too bat**** crazy to pass up.
To get the inside scoop on Sonjaversal, we asked Hastings about everything from the series’ origins to its spinoff potential. Check out what he had to say below!
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How much of an influence was Spider-Verse on this story?
As are most of the for-hire comics I do, this story premise came from a mysterious behind the scenes conversation between the publisher and my editor, and I was “cast” as a writer who would hopefully do a good job executing the idea. I imagine Spider-Verse played a big part in whatever that initial conception and approval process was for the Sonjaversal project.
As for me personally… Into the Spider-Verse is probably my favorite movie of the 2010s? (Actually it’s Hereditary, but Spider-Verse is a close second) So it’s gonna be a big influence. The main takeaway from Spider-Verse is just the freedom to take a core concept of a character, and then see how many twists we can put on her by playing with different times, spaces, and genres.
Multiverse stories are all the rage right now. Why was Red Sonja the right choice for this tale?
I shall build off my last answer! I think that Red Sonja has a very strong core character concept and an iconic visual aspect. When you have both of those things, you can then go off and have a lot of fun twisting it up and serving up new takes while still satisfying the original appeal of the character.
How many of the Sonjas were pre-existing before this story?
While I’m planning some appearances from previous versions of Red Sonja, as each one of them of course fits into the multiversal stage of this play, this is more about exploring WILDLY different Sonjas we haven’t seen before.
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Each of the Sonjas has a unique look, but will they all have different personalities to match?
This has been one of the more interesting challenges in writing the book. I don’t want them all to read like the exact same person with swapped out color palettes, but they can’t just be completely different people in different outfits whose names are all coincidentally “Sonja.” I don’t quite have a scientific equation worked out, but there is a balancing act of which pieces of Red Sonja’s personality can be removed and replaced with something new that makes a different, but still recognizable person.
Which of the new Sonjas was your favorite to write?
I’m really trying to get away with some version of “all of them!” which I know is an obnoxious cop out, so instead I’ll just take this as a prompt to say why I like writing a couple of them in particular.
Orange Sonja has been a lot of fun because she is the most clear cut copy of Red Sonja, with the exception that she isn’t from a fantasy world, she is from a space opera one. So I just take Red Sonja stuff and add sexy future people and space monsters and lasers.
I have a great soft spot for Blue Sonja, because she is this ’80s action movie archetype, which fits incredibly well for Red Sonja’s entire deal. Red Sonja with machine guns and sunglasses, motorcycles and exploding helicopters? Yes please.
Purple Sonja (AKA Red Sonja with a giant battlemech) is a blast for obvious reasons. But I think I have the highest hopes for a new franchise out of Yellow Sonja, who is our steampunk vampire hunter Sonja.
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You’re no stranger to telling offbeat stories, but Red Sonja isn’t exactly a series known for its humor. Was it difficult to put your own stamp on her and her alternates?
I was thrilled to get the chance to not have to go joke joke joke on a comic for once. I think comedy works best whenever there is an attention and respect paid to the building and release of tension (with the exception of AIRPLANE!, of course), and a multiverse sprawling, genre hopping, sword and sorcery adventure is giving me a juicy chance to take that ability and apply it to something other than people slipping on banana peels and farting. I would say my stamp is to assume the craziest thing possible is the most natural, but if we play those crazy things out with real consequences and well thought out character reactions, it can go to some compelling places.
What can you tell us about the “divine force” that brings all the Sonjas together?
I can tell you that you simply must purchase our fine comic books to find out.
Sonjaversal forces the Sonjas to battle in the “ultimate tournament.” Can we expect them to form alliances against each other along the way?
But of course! We’ve got way too many great new Sonjas to just kill them all off one by one. I’d rather see a few become friends.
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You’re also collaborating with artist Pasquale Qualano on this series. Did you have any kind of input on the designs for the new Sonjas, or did you just let him do his thing?
The character descriptions were mostly just, “Here is this person’s deal, the world they are from, and maybe three movies that would be good touchstones for reference,” and he went from there. When our editor, Nate Crosby, sent some samples from Pasquale, my first thought was that I loved his aesthetic. And I knew the character designs would be excellent.
Can you see any of these Sonjas spinning out into their own headlining series in the future?
I sure hope so! One of the biggest challenges (which secretly invigorated me) was that there are so many new characters in such a small amount of physical comic page space. Any one of the new Sonjas could have an entire comic book dedicated to them to introduce their world, their supporting cast, and their entire raison d’être. But we have very little space to introduce these characters, so I really made a point of having every page with them be exciting and heartfelt and most importantly an implication of a far greater and richer worlds beyond what you could see in that single moment. I would love for any one of them to get a spin-off to show you more of their fictional lives.
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Any closing thoughts for Red Sonja fans out there?
Even if you don’t care about a single thing I’ve said here, or maybe you think the entire premise is the dumbest thing you’ve ever heard of, I can promise you that Pasquale draws very sexy people beating the hell out of each other with really cool weapons.
Sonjaversal #1 hits comic shops in February 2021. You can have a look at some additional character designs and covers for the first issue in the gallery below. Who do you think will win the battle for Sonja supremacy next year? Let us know in the comment section!
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The Dynamite Report #5: Red Sonja Goes Sonjaversal
Sonjaversal #1 Cover by Jae Lee
Sonjaversal #1 Variant Cover by Joseph Michael Linsner
Sonjaversal #1 Variant Cover by Will Robson
Sonjaversal #1 Variant Cover by Mayara Sampaio
Sonjaversal #1 Cosplay Cover by Tabitha Lyons
Sonjaversal #1 Variant Cover by Drew Moss
Sonjaversal #1 Variant Cover by Michael Walsh
Sonjaversal #1 Variant Cover by Erica Henderson