Time to come back to Sideshow Toys and probably their best example yet of how much amazing craftsmanship (that sculpt! the intricate paint job! the fabric and synthetic leather details!) can be wasted on super garbage design.
This time, a classic garbage that is Red Sonja in her standard scalemail bikini.
How do the mail bra and loincloth even hold up with such flimsy straps?
What is the point of protecting your neck with metal collar when your heart, guts and skull are all totally exposed?
Why worry about reasonably padding your leg and arm protection, but wear a scalemail bra (that will sand your nipples off) directly on your skin?
“Looks nothing like male equivalent” checked, of course, because of Conan.
Not crossing out “High heels” square, since that (cw: gore) is a reasonable heel size for a horse riding and wouldn’t be out of ordinary for a male character either.
Also note how all those arrows that apparently completely missed Sonja, presumably due to her “costume” being more of a plot armor than anything else.
Reminds me of those couple “bikini armor makes you completely resistant to arrows” parodies we featured before:
Despite being the face of the banner, Xena does not receive her own section in Dynamite’s Heroine sale… she just get lumped in with generic heroes. Bettie Page though… she gets her own section for some reason.
Now it’s true some of these titles are somewhat subversive, and that many of them are a mixed bag (Jennifer Blood has some great covers… also many literal lingerie covers)… and the Patricia Briggs section is pretty great – this sale encapsulates so many problems prevalent not only in comics but modern media.
Largely a lot of major publishers still view female protagonists not just as an excuse to put cheesecake on their covers, but rather many of them require a specific explanation why they shouldn’t do so.
I feel that the most critical step to really re-inventing those characters would be to get them away from Dynamite Entertainment.
I enjoy Gail Simone’s re-invention of Red Sonja and understand there’s a balancing act with the branding and appearance. But an ongoing thing with Dynamite Entertainment is that they stockpile old characters to use them in spinoffs, mash-ups, etc.
So far, at Dynamite, we’ve had:
- Steampunk Red Sonja in a skimpy scalemail bikini
- Red Sonja being stripped against her will covers
- Steampunk Red Sonja now with covers by sexy pinup artists
- The Black Tower – which is actually worse than it looks
- Swords of Sorrow – where every female lead was in bikini armor
I mean – these are the most recent spinoffs (one working with Dark Horse):
Furthermore, while these designs might be bold for Dynamite, they’re not really that bold when you step back and look.
Red Sonja is basically back to a sexier version of the outfit she in her very first appearance, Vampirella appeared in a space suit in March (and I remember seeing concept ideas to re-invent her wearing full body gear in the 90s) – and okay, the movie bombed but nobody thinks it’s because of what Lynn Carter wore as Dejah Thoris.
What would really be bold – is actually re-inventing these characters without anchoring them to bad branding and design decision made in 70s (or earlier). Red Sonja has changed far more than her costume has, and not updating her appearance to reflect that hampers the comic.
At the end of the day – the reason these properties got sold to Dynamite Entertainment and the reason this is the second time Red Sonja’s been re-invented since then is because the old branding isn’t speaking to audiences today.
So, a year ago I expressed that I was less than excited about Dynamite’s “commitment” to reinventing a bunch of heroines including Red Sonja as less they hyper-sexualized. Now to be fair, they release the new Volume 3 run… a whole six issues of it! (FYI, Volume 2 got 21 issues and Volume 1 got 81 issues before getting rebooted)
However starting next year they’re going to be starting a Volume 4 run! Want to see the amazingly creative ideas they’ve got to take the title in a whole new direction unlike anything else in comics?
No it’s Red Sonja the pinup model (by J Scott Campbell none the less) or Red Sonja / Game of Thrones crossover, it’s Red Sonja… in the battle bikini… in New York (a place where surely no other comic has ever been set!). It actually is. And they’re very proud of this creative costume decision! Nothing saves a comic that’s on it’s forth incarnation like a combination of what hasn’t worked twice before and New York!
Interesting Dejah Thoris and Vampirella also got their new looks cancelled after exactly six issues too… it’s almost like many publishers will set unrealistic expectations on some products so they can say they tried – the go back to a particular strategy regardless of how often it fails.
I cannot imagine how this industry could be connected to so much real life toxic behavior. It’s really such a mystery why there’s a huge demographic of fans who rage and the idea that women are not objects.
P.S. For those frantically typing something about how if it only got six issues it was probably sales and the concept deserved to be dropped – I would like those bring something to your attention:
Sword Hero #1…. Real Sonja!
Billed in her Marvel profile as one of the greatest sword-fighting martial artists and in peak physical condition, Red Sonja most often appears in inane poses and wearing
lingerieclothing that would get one killed in real alpine environments, let alone in combat- or just walking into a traditional village in some parts of the world.
There have been exciting redesigns in recent times, yet I thought I’d contribute my own vision of what Real Sonja could be with dignity, medieval martial arts skills and sensible clothes.
Real Sonja is beautiful, but not glamorous. Her boots are muddy, her chainmail broken and rusted in places. Her skin is scarred.
Since Sonja is supposedly Russ or Ukrainian, I’ve borrowed elements of Russian infantry kit from the 13th century, whilst inventing a plausible armour rig that keeps her style of form-fitting chain/scalemail with exposed arms and loose hair. Her boots and an undershirt are lined with fur, and her hair is half-bound back from her face in a warrior’s braid.
I have closed the rectangular holes in her gloves and filled them with bands of tough leather. Sonja wears a sleeveless quilted aketon beneath her chainmail, which is strapped over with several belts and a flesh-coloured gorget of un-dyed leather. Her pants are also flesh-coloured, allowing her to visually rock the traditional Sonja look but with the practicality of actual clothing.
I’d like to think that she has a big warm cloak somewhere nearby, along with a bag, more weapons, her missing dagger and a horse. This is a practical, experienced outdoor woman who would be well prepared for harsh conditions.
Sonja’s sword technique is straight from Fiore de’i Liberi’s ‘Flower of Battle’, (the Getty version) and her stance is as close as possible to the victorious figure in the original manuscript (bottom left of folio 29r).
In this section of the book Fiore is teaching close sword plays, and this is one of many variations on how to deal with an opponent whilst fighting at intimate distance. Of this move Fiore says,
“Se uno se covra de la parte riversa piglia la sua mane stancha cum la man stancha, cum tutto lu pomo de la sua spada e penzilo in dredo e cum punta e taglio ben lo po’ ferire.”
“If he (your opponent) covers from his left side, grab his left hand including his pommel with your left hand, and pull it upwards and backwards. From there you will be able to strike him with thrusts and cuts.”*
(*Translated to modern English by Colin Hatcher, via the Wiktenauer)
I particularly like the use of the flesh toned leather to give a similar silhouette to visible mail without going for the same exposed cleavage that seems to have haunted Red Sonja for decades.
It’s a great demonstration of how even if you really want to cultivate a nod to a past look, you don’t need to perpetuate all the problems from that look.