A Red Sonja Cover Gallery I:
An Introduction to Red Sonja

Red Sonja is a creation of Robert E. Howard (January 22, 1906 - June 11, 1936), an American author, also responsible for Conan. The entirety of Howard's description of Red Sonja appears in the short story The Shadow of the Vulture (1934), which is set during the 1529 Siege of Vienna.

In The Shadow of the Vulture, Red Sonja is described in her initial appearance as:

It was a woman, dressed as von Kalmbach had not seen even the dandies of France dressed. She was tall, splendidly shaped, but lithe. From under a steel cap escaped rebellious tresses that rippled red gold in the sun over her compact shoulders. High boots of Cordovan leather came to her mid-thighs, which were cased in baggy breeches. She wore a shirt of fine Turkish mesh-mail tucked into her breeches. Her supple waist was confined by a flowing sash of green silk, into which were thrust a brace of pistols and a dagger, and from which depended a long Hungarian saber. Over all was carelessly thrown a scarlet cloak.

From this beginning, the "most fearsome female in fantasy" launched into the world of comic book legends. Red Sonja has numerous appearances over the past 45 years, which have been diligently catalogued elsewhere. Below, we present a gallery of ten selected covers from various magazines and comic books, which feature Red Sonja.


  • title: The Savage Sword of Conan (1974)
  • publisher: Marvel
  • cover artist: Earl Norem
  • writers: Roy Thomas and Clara Noto; Wendy Pini
  • artist: Frank Thorne
  • issue: #23 of 235
  • release date: October, 1977
  • format: magazine
  • interior color: black and white
  • stories including Red Sonja: Wizards of the Black Sun & A New Song of Sonja
  • commentary: The early appearances of Red Sonja occurred in Conan books, both Conan the Barbarian and The Savage Sword of Conan. This is the only cover by Earl Norem to be featured in these galleries.


  • title: Marvel Feature presents Red Sonja: She-Devil with a Sword (1975)
  • publisher: Marvel
  • cover artist: Frank Thorne
  • writer: Bruce Jones
  • artist: Frank Thorne
  • issue: #4 of 7
  • release date: May, 1976
  • episode: Eyes of the Gorgon
  • commentary: From the mid 1970's to the mid 1980's Marvel released several Red Sonja series. In these books and the contemporaneous Conan books, Red Sonja established her trademark "chainmail" (actually scale mail, thank you) bikini as well as her back story, in which she has made a vow to her goddess to never love a man unless he first defeated her in battle. In this cover, Frank Thorne particularly captures the "flame-haired" appellation so often used to describe Red Sonja.


  • title: Red Sonja: She-Devil with a Sword (2005)
  • publisher: Dynamite
  • cover artist: Neal Adams
  • writers: Michael Avon Oeming & Mike Carey
  • artists: Mel Rubi, Ceasar Rodriguez, & Richard Isanove
  • issue: #3 of 80
  • cover: 1:50 store incentive variant
  • release date: November, 2005
  • commentary: Dynamite's epic 80-issue run of Red Sonja: She-Devil with a Sword from 2005 to 2013 remains the largest single-title body of work devoted to Red Sonja. Dynamite recognized immediately the visual appeal of Red Sonja, producing books with multiple variant covers. This cover of issue 3 by Neal Adams was a 1:50 store incentive variant and presents Red Sonja in a more feminine light, an approach that was less prevalent in the Marvel presentation, which opted to focus on Red Sonja as a warrior. That said, this cover artwork was previously published as the second panel of a four panel interior two-page spread in Issue #1 of Kull and the Barbarians (1975). The other panels include King Kull, Conan and Solomon Kane. The Kull and the Barbarians series was published in the black-and-white magazine format and ran three issues. This is the only cover by Neal Adams to be featured in these galleries.


  • title: Red Sonja Unchained (2013)
  • publisher: Dynamite
  • cover artist: Mel Rubi
  • writer: Peter Brett
  • artist: Jack Jadson
  • issue: #3 of 4
  • cover: 1:15 store incentive variant
  • release date: June, 2013
  • commentary: Red Sonja's fondness for oaths and for ale traces its origins to Howard's The Shadow of the Vulture. In this cover, Mel Rubi illustrates why Red Sonja was frequently called to violently repel the unwanted advances of rounders deep in their cups.


  • title: Queen Sonja (2009)
  • publisher: Dynamite
  • cover artist: Lucio Parrillo
  • writer: Joshua Ortega
  • artist: Mel Rubi
  • issue: #25 of 35
  • cover: A cover
  • release date: November, 2011
  • commentary: Lucio Parrillo has built a reputation for creating some of the most sought-after Red Sonja covers. He painted covers for Queen Sonja issues 1 to 10 and issues 21 to 35, which comprise some of his finest depictions of Red Sonja. This cover of issue #25 captures Parrillo's signature style, combining a sensual femininity with the bloody trade of a sword for hire.


  • title: Red Sonja (2013)
  • publisher: Dynamite
  • cover artist: Jenny Frison
  • writer: Gail Simone
  • artist: Walter Geovani
  • issue: #10 of 18
  • cover: A cover
  • release date: July, 2014
  • commentary: The job of writing a new Red Sonja series after the conclusion of an 80-issue definitive run, fell to writer Gail Simone. Dynamite had begun a tradition it continued later on, in which separate, full series of variant covers (in this case for a run of 18 books) were created by several, individual artists. Jenny Frison created the C variant for issue 1 but her appealing water-color look for red Sonja quickly earned Frison the A cover for the remainder of the run.


  • title: Red Sonja (2013)
  • publisher: Dynamite
  • cover artist: Stephanie Buscema
  • writer: Gail Simone
  • artist: Walter Geovani
  • issue: #1 of 18
  • cover: H variant
  • release date: July, 2013
  • commentary: Stephanie Buscema brought her signature style to Red Sonja also creating a complete set of 18 books for Gail Simone's retelling. This series, which ended in September, 2015, overlapped significantly with Dynamite's Vampirella (2014) series of 13 books, which also included a complete set of variant covers by Stephanie Buscema in a similar vein.


  • title: Red Sonja (2016)
  • publisher: Dynamite
  • cosplay model: Casabella
  • writers: Amy Chu and Erik Burnham
  • artist: Carlos E. Gomez
  • issue: #12 of 25
  • cover: variant E
  • release date: January, 2018
  • commentary: The full 25-issue run of Amy Chu's Red Sonja (2016) contained a series of cosplay variant covers, featuring different models. A couple models, including Casabella shown here on the cover of issue #12, made multiple cover appearances. The history of Red Sonja cosplay extends back to photos included in The Savage Sword of Conan (1974) #23. It proved a popular cover concept and continued in subsequent titles.


  • title: Red Sonja: Birth of the She-Devil (2019)
  • publisher: Dynamite
  • cover artist: Shannon Maer
  • writer: Luke Lieberman
  • artist: Sergio Davila
  • issue: #1 of 4
  • retailer exclusive: The Comic Mint
  • release date: June, 2019
  • commentary: In addition to retailer incentive variants, the demand for variant covers has also generated a cottage industry of "retailer exclusive" covers, in which an individual comic shop sponsors a given cover and is the exclusive source for that variant. This variant by Shannon Maer for the first issue of The Birth of Red Sonja was exclusive to The Comic Mint. Maer depicts a young Red Sonja with a glamour that is perhaps at odds with her martial calling. As a side note, when the title is printed on the cover, as is typically the case, the cover is denoted as "trade dress". In the absence of any markings, as is the case in this example, a cover is called a "virgin variant".


  • title: Red Sonja (2016)
  • publisher: Dynamite
  • cover artist: Derrick Chew
  • writers: Amy Chu and Erik Burnham
  • artist: Carlos E. Gomez
  • issue: #21 of 25
  • cover: New York Comic Con 2018
  • release date: September, 2018
  • commentary: Usually, the first issue of a series is associated with retailer exclusives, but Dynamite also has retailer-exclusive variants associated with conventions. In this virgin variant for the 2018 New York Comic Con, Derrick Chew epitomizes the state of hyper-sexuality into which the variant covers of Red Sonja have ventured.

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