Saturday, 4 March 2017

Red Sonja Book Two: The Art Of Blood And Fire (#7-12, #0)

"Red Sonja does not 'pout', is that clear?" - Red Sonja

I'm still a relative newcomer to the Church Of Gail Simone, but I have become an enthusiastic convert and am going to keep preaching a lot of good stuff about her work now and in the future.  Actually she's an atheist so she doesn't have a church.  And I'm an atheist as well, so I wouldn't preach even if she did.  Huh, that was a stupid way to start my post, forget I said it. Start again.  Well, this is book two in Simone's reboot of Red Sonja, shorn of the more dodgy aspects of her original story (rape, only sleeping with men who best her in combat etc) we get a bawdy, vulgar, bisexual, fierce and totally awesome woman warrior, who travels in search of cash, sex and booze but in this collection is going to find herself on a mildly epic quest that will take her to some interesting places and have her meeting some fascinating people along the way.  The first book was pretty dark as it looked at the bleak events that hammered her into becoming such a fearsome fighter.  This storyline is somewhat lighter in tone although it still has some serious moments and sharp observations hidden under a more humourous layer.  The art of Walter Geovani also adds immeasurably to the series, it's crisp, clean, impeccably paced and choreographed and the colourist has helped it along by keeping a slightly muted look to it giving more of a down and dirty fantasy sheen. This collection also contains a hilarious zero issue, although it's by a different artist and the artwork while decent in of itself, is no match for Geovani's fine work.  So let's get stuck in.

We begin with Sonja trudging through a marsh mentally bemoaning the fact she has been searching this unpleasant area for four days.  She smells like a "latrine attendant" and:

Sonja: "I am in ill humour.  Parched, starving and randy.  I need wine.  Lots of it. I need hot food.  And not to put too finer point on it, I need someone to fill my bedroll.  I'm not particular.  As long as they're limber".

And that is pretty much this version of Red Sonja's mission statement! She decides to make camp and catches and kills a rabbit to eat.  She dozes off by the fire she is cooking it on and wakes up to find a man and a woman aghast at her cooking.

They scold her for it being half burnt and half raw and has no seasonings, Sonja says "it's meant to fill my belly... I'm not one for complications".  She offers them some, then tells them they both look limber...  As she talks she realises they have her knife and sword, "I really must learn to sleep more prudently".  The pair tell her she has intruded into their home. Sonja says they are "inbred, swamp dwelling murderers... rumor is that you are cannibals and sexual deviants.  Pleased to meet you".
Bogman gets some EyeScream.
Then another Bogman jumps her from behind, she jams the stake with the rabbit on it into his eye socket and kills him.  The other two are outraged and say they know why she is here, "you seek Gribaldi.  You seek the chef!"  Then they attack her and she beats them down reclaiming her weapons.  Then we get a flashback to one week ago.

She is in a city watching slaves build a mausoleum, she speaks with the King who summoned her to go on a quest for him.  He is dying and wants to go out with the best party ever.  He wants her to find "a courtesan, a stargazer, a swordsman, a beastmaster and most importantly - a chef".  If she refuses the quest, one thousand slaves will be buried alive and incarcerated with him in his tomb.
King Samala.
Back with Sonja in the swamp, she is punting a boat to the place where the rest of the tribe is.  She is outnumbered and gives up without a fight and they say they are going to have her cooked and eaten.  She is handed over to Gribaldi, who sends the rest away so he is alone with Sonja. He tells her the Bogmen are idiots but they are also gourmands. He admits to her that he doesn't cook the humans they give him, he found a nest of reptile eggs and cooks them instead.  He marinates them in ale first, "a delight!"

Sonja: "You... you put... you put food... In a barrel of delicious Cimmerian beer? You monster."

He tries to tickle her tastebuds with some soup, but Sonja is not impressed, "it's water and burnt weeds and roots. It means nothing to me."  Then suddenly the grown reptile people attack. Gribaldi frees Sonja and she reclaims her weapons again. 
Sonja and Gribaldi escape.
She fights some of the reptile men then stops and Gribaldi apologises, but the reptile men don't understand.  Sonja takes Gribaldi and they make their getaway because the reptile men have found the cannibal Bogmen and are snacking on them.  As Sonja and Gribaldi leave via boat Sonja comments, "...they were murderers and kidnappers.  Let's just hope they're also filling".

Four days later Sonja and Gribaldi are riding together in search of their next addition.  Gribaldi has been doing Sonja's head in with his unending stream of foodie talk and she also is suffering due to other "hungers" that need to be fed. Finally she can suffer no longer and at camp that night she wakes Gribaldi up.  She need nookie and she needs it NOW.  He is vaguely horrified by her directness, she say "you can think of veal the whole time if you like, only hurry up would you?"

He says it's outrageous, what if she's not his type. "I'm Red Sonja" she says, "I'm everybody's type".  He tell her she's a tad whiffy and she agrees, but asks if he can overlook it, "are you going to make me say please?"

Gribaldi: "Well what if I... what if I want to be romanced?"

This is too much for Sonja, she gives up and goes back to sleep grumbling as she does so.  He tries to make it up to her next day with "quail breast poutine with..." she interrupts him demanding to know why he announces each dish like "it's of royal lineage?"  She eats it anyway.

They arrive at the city where "Kalayah The Great" is putting on his animal show.  Sonja is not going to recruit him, she is going to slit his throat and watch him bleed out.  Later they sit in the audience and Kalayah starts the show - "wild bear versus hunting dogs!"  As Gribaldi watches in utter horror, the dogs tear into the bear. 
The horrific animal show.
Grimly Sonja tells him the bear is taken as a cub after its mother is killed, raised kindly so it forgets its instincts until it is sent into the arena to die.  The dogs are starved and shown no affection and have to kill and eat a puppy every few days then given nothing to eat for days before the festival.  She draws an arrow and fires it, not at Kalayah but at the mortally wounded bear putting it out of it's misery.

For this kindness Sonja and Gribaldi are thrown into a dungeon cell. Sonja asks him why he did not bargain his way out, he easily could have.  He says she saved him in the swamp, "I am no fighter.  but neither does that make me a coward".  Sonja notes this bravery, then clambers on his shoulders to loosen a wooden bar to their cage, unfortunately Kayalah was expecting this and stamps on her hand.  Then he tells her he remembers her threat to kill him and as they speak awful noises come from the arena, he had the tendons of her horses cut and then them tossed to the dogs.

She grabs his foot and tells him she will have her revenge, "from this side of the grave... or next".  He tells her she'll die in the morning and departs.  Sonja say to Gribaldi when they come for them "Fight.  Don't kneel.  Don't beg.  Fight."  Gribaldi asks her "I don't suppose from now 'til morning is enough time to make me a fearsome warrior?"  Sonja finds this gallows humour amusing.
Rat to the rescue?
Then suddenly a teenage girl called Rat appears and sets them free.  She works for Kalayah, but he beats her every day and worst of all he enjoys hurting and killing the animals.  The beasts don't do Kalayah's bidding, they are befriended by and love Rat.  Sonja says it's not her fault, she is a child.  Rat then leads them to the arena where Kalayah and some gaurds are waiting.  Gribaldi shouts at Rat for leading them to their deaths like the animals she claims to love.  Sonja says she had no choice.  Rat runs off crying "I am.  I am a betrayer!"

And she runs to the cages and opens them,  all the animals pour out and Kalayah has his arm torn off by a bear and the guards killed.  Kalayah begs Sonja for mercy but she lets the dogs tear him apart. Rat kneels sayng she must now die for her sins.  

Sonja refuses, "The Emporer asked for a Beast Lord.  And a Beast Lord he will get, Rat the Magnificent.  But a Lord deserving of the beasts who love her".  Rat rises and the bears and tiger happily join in for a group cuddle.
A happy conclusion.
Sonja's next recruit is to be a courtesan.  Having left Gribaldi, Rat and the animals ensconced in an inn she has ridden out  to a fancy brothel where, thanks to her chainmail bikini, she is initially mistaken for a new worker.  Once that confusion is cleared up, she is then mistaken for a customer.  She is introduced to a room full of male and female sex workers who immediately begin to fuss around her and her lust takes over.
Poor Sonja, always frustrated.
Unfortunately when the brothel madam discovers she has no cash on her  poor old lusty Sonja gets hurled bodily out of the place and lands in a muddy puddle.

Sonja:  "Curse me for a fool.  A bit of abstinance and I become a lovesick child."

She climbs the buildings walls and makes her way around until she finds a guard who she forces out of the location of "the princess of pillowing" from. Her name is "Aneva" and Sonja enters through her window.

And is struck dumb by how beautiful Aneva is.  "I normally look much nicer" says Sonja lamely.  Internally she is freaking out, the room is for the kind of woman she was never meant to meet or become.  She tells Aneva that if she comes to the dying king's party he will triple whatever she desires.  Aneva says she has work here and must refuse. She wishes to stay and start a guild for courtesans, they are ripped off and brutalised by the leader of a nearby garrison, Captain Ferox and she wishes to make sure he never ruins another life.
Sonja kneels and says that the lives of the slaves are in the balance and Aneva, being "a princess of true and kind sort", agrees to come with her.  When Sonja introduces herself, Aneva has heard of her. Then the guards come in and Sonja attacks.  But Aneva breaks the fight up and Sonja realises they just love her and want to protect her.  The Madam tells Aneva that Ferox will chase her and Sonja agrees to protect her with her life and blood.

They ride out and later Sonja goes fishing.  She returns and watches Aneva doing her make-up.  She wonders to herself that if her tribe had not been killed, if she had not become The Devil, would she be like Aneva?  Then Aneva spots her and offers to pretty Sonja up. Sonja says no, but Aneva can be "awfully persuasive" and an hour later she is made-up and in a nice purple frock. Sonja looks at herself in the mirror and freaks out thinking to herself:

Sonja: "This is a Sonja who died with her tribe at the hands of marauders when she was ten years old.  This is a Sonja who can never be... I let my foolish vanity cause me to forget that we are hunted."

The horse is shot with an arrow and up rides Captain Ferox with a few soldiers.  Ferox sarcastically says Aneva shames him, he who has protected her from all harm.
Even in a pink frock Sonja kicks butt.
She accuses him of atrocities and he admits, yeah I did that and so?  Then he asks Sonja her name, calling her a "delicate toy". When she says "Red Sonja" they all laugh and when Ferox calls for the lash to instill some obediance, Sonja draws her sword and says "It's time for training indeed."  And she takes down the soldiers thinking:

Sonja: "Fancy dress or no, face paint or no.  I am who I am.  Seems we all could do with a bit of reminding".

Ferox grabs Aneva while Sonja kills the soldiers. Then turns to find Ferox dead.  Aneva says he fell on his dagger.  When Sonja notes he has several stab wounds, Aneva drily states "he fell several times.  He really was an awkward fellow."

Sonja asks how she learned to defend herself like that.  Aneva says she is the Princess of the Art of Lovemaking but she is also "Toa of the Rhamoan Mountains".  She was born of peasants and worked since she walked and her brothers taught her to fight.  One day she saw a fancy woman carried by four men and realised "the farm was not for me".

But despite her luxurious lifestyle she thrilled to hear of Sonja's adventures and freedoms and would wonder to herself could she have been like Red Sonja, "in a different world.  Toa the brave. Toa the invincible. Rescuing damsels. Freeing slaves".  Hearing this Sonja says she will return her here and Aneva will get her guild, then apologises for making a mess of Aneva's hard work on her, "I'm afraid I wasn't meant to be beautiful."  Aneva embraces her saying "you are so wrong sister. You are more beautiful than the stars." Sniffle.
Versus Osric the Untouched.
Next up is the swordsman and it turns out to be a harder task than you'd think for Sonja. Before we see that though we are treated to the Emporer saying to a lackey that he's going to renege on his promise to Sonja even if she completes her task. What a surprise.  Anyway we return to Sonja and she is kneeling in the mud, mad as hell as she fights top swordsman "Osric the Untouched". "You disappoint me" he says as she clambers up.  She is tired, hungry and enraged as she is having a public duel with him and losing.

Sonja: "But I am Sonja.  I am the curse of Hyrkania. And I am getting humiliated."

She charges at him and misses and he spanks her on the arse with his sword as she passes him which makes her madder still.  She argle bargle's at him and runs at him again, tripping and face planting in the mud.   Aneva is still with her and runs to her aid saying she doesn't understand how she could be losing.

Aneva says she'll call the watch. Sonja says "don't you dare" and gets up for another go at Osric and humliatingly trips over her own feet. We then get a flashback to when Aneva and her first met with Osric.  They rode into his camp and like a gentleman he welcomed them and invited them for a meal. She makes the offer of great riches from the King if he comes to the party.  He's more interested in the fact Red Sonja has come to see him and throws a great feast for her.

At the meal she whispers a dirty suggestion in his ear as she is still starved for sex.  But Osric has to refuse, "if it's absolutely neccesary... I'd been willing to bathe first" she offers.  But he says he's taken a vow, he won't sleep with anyone until they defeat him in battle.  Take it away Sonja.

Nice bit o'meta Gail.
He says that's as maybe but "my lover has been my blade.  My companion. My wife".  Then he asks her why the party is important to her.  She tells him about the slaves, so he says he'll have a public duel with her and come if she wins. We return to the present with Sonja lying in the mud and Aneva standing over her holding her sword to defend her.  "What heart she has" Sonja thinks as she staggers to her feet.  Osric declares the duel over.

Sonja can't believe it and sadly kneels thinking how she has failed the slaves and now they will all die.  She turns to Aneva as says to her:

Sonja: "There is a distinct possibility water might come from my eyes Aneve.  Please turn away."

Aneva kneels in the mud with her and holds her saying "Never. Never". The mournful pair go to the local tavern to collect themselves.  Aneva tries to make excuses for her, that she was tired and hungry.  But Sonja says she has fought and won battles under worse conditions. She asked why Aneva defended her and Aneva says it is because she is a hero.  Sonja says "ridiculous.  I drink.  I fight.  I bed.  Ridiculous".

Aneva gets cross and slaps Sonja's drink away saying Osric does not care about the lives of those slaves whereas Sonja risks her very life to defend them. Her saying this gives Sonja a brainwave and she realises how she can use her brain and Osric's exact words to defeat him and leaves to find him again.
Rules said nothing about using fists.
He comes out of his tent saying he already defeated her as she thinks "Sonja cares nothing for sparring and jousting for entertaining throngs.  Sonja fights for blood.  When neccesary.  And when that happens... Sonja becomes a Goddess."  She sheathes her sword and punches Osric hard in the face and starts pummeling him.

She shouts at his prone body that he was given a gift and only uses it to fight when there is no danger to him.  He rises with fury in his eyes and charges him.  He misses and she spanks his bum with her sword.  He yells she can't do this, and she says she can, "You sir.  Are touched".  He realises he has lost and graciously surrenders.  He kneels and kisses her sword agreeing to join her.  Then he asks that as she has defeated him does she want to...?  She refuses, "...Sonja the invincible needs a nap it turns out."

The next chapter begins with our team relaxing around a campfire while Sonja is off collecting firewood. A group of bandits comes upon them and start making threats which the gang laugh off much to the cut-throats confusion.  Then Sonja returns and says to them:

Sonja: "I'll give you one chance nightsneak.  Leave.  Or feel the full brunt of my inhospitable nature".

They don't take a hint and a fight breaks out.  Several bandits are killed and the rest flee in fear.  The only casualty on the side of our heroes is Gribaldi's soup.  He takes it hard.  Sonja muses how she understands people like those bandits, but tommorrow "I go to face two of the very things that actually do cause my heart to skip a beat".

They arrive at the temple where the Stargazer is to be found. Sonja remembers that her village has a small wooden temple and the holy men talked to gods made of sticks.  What kind of gods is she going to face in a place as grand as this?  She thinks:

Sonja:  "Are my gods as humble and savage as my tribe?  For the first time in my bloodstained life... I am afraid."

The priests at the door hand robes to Sonja and Aneva saying "the women must cover their shameful flesh".  Sonja thinks that she never thought of her clothes as shameful until asked to cover them and now, "I feel vastly more exposed."  she can't wait to leave and "be Sonja again".
Sonja is not too proud to beg.
The priests call her a "slattern" and tell her not to look the rector in the eye when she talks to him.  Osric gets pissed at how disrespectful they are being, but is told the place is surrounded by bowmen so put up and shut up.  They reach the rector and Sonja bows on her knees to him and tells him about the King and his need for a Stargazer. The freedom of the slaves is of no consequence to the Rector.

He then decides to quiz Sonja.  He asks what she is called, when she tells him he says "yes, the colour of a woman's sin".  He also says he has heard she is called "The Devil" and that she delights in luring "good, virtuous men into sin with your flesh".  She says she is "as God made me, priest".  Then she asks for the Stargazer Plaitius.

The Rector says the man is a heretic who has defied the church and is being scourged until he breaks.  Then he'll be scourged again and burned alive to please the gods.  Sonja decides to appeal to his wallet and says the King will give them gold in return for him.  The Rector says, very well, if Plaituis recants he can go free with them, so he is brought up to see them.

But though he is in a pitiful state he refuses to recant, Sonja pleads with him saying he doesn't even need to mean it, but he still refuses and is taken back to the dungeons.  But he allows Sonja, Aneva and Osric to go and talk to him in his cell.  Sonja asks him if he is not afraid:

Plaitius: "They are going to torture me to death. I am so terrified I can barely stand.  I spent most of today trying not to piss myself." 

Sonja mentally sympathises, she remembers her time in the pit in book one. She pleads again to recant.  He asks her a question, what shape is the world?  Sonja says it is the shape of a map and at night Mitra himself rolls the parchement up.  So Plaitius tells him his heresy, he believes the world to be round.
Plaitius lays out his "heresy".
He asks her has she not noticed during an eclipse the shadow is a disc and do ships not travel over the edge of the great seas only to return undamaged and if you gain altitude can you not see more land?  Sonja says "that is nonsense.  You are mad!"  He goes on to say the world orbits the sun, Aneva thinks his wounds have addled his mind.  Sonja says even if this was true, why won't he recant?

Plaitius:  "Because I love something more than my life mistress.  Doesn't everyone?"

Sonja has respect for him, for raising his voice when he knew what the cost would be.  She decides there and then that Plaitius is coming with them, guards and lack of weapons not withstanding.

The torturer comes back in and Sonja breaks his nose before ripping off the robe she was made to wear.  Then they face the guards and Osric who still has his sword takes on a group of them. They fight their way to the Rector's private chamber and Sonja kicks the door down.  She tells him they are leaving with Plaitius and he will not stop them.  The Rector bellows why would he allow "a heretic and a whore" to leave?

Sonja shouts that he knows why it is because despite the guards and the stone walls, he is nothing but a coward.  And this hits the Rector hard.  Head bowed he tells the guards to let them go and as they leave Sonja thinks to herself:

Sonja: "And so Sonja will be afraid of temples no more.  No more and never again. Thank you Stargazer.  Thankyou".

The final chapter begins.  Sonja needs a dancer fast, she has one day left and goes charging into an inn where Rukaua is performing.  She barges in, ready for a fight, but the people there have heard of her quest and are only to happy to help her.  This leads to the following page as Sonja reluctantly indulges Rukaua's fantasy of being rescued by a strong warrior. Heee!
This page makes me very happy.
Returning to the King's palace she introduces them as "the six most transcendent artisans in all the known world.!" Then introduces them one by one and tells King Samala that they will make his death party something special.  He pauses much to Sonja's fear that he might renege.  Then he hugs her saying "you have brought all I have wished for" she can also call this place home if her wandering days become over. Then it's time to party.

Sonja relaxes in a lovely bath attended by men and women and starts to ask them to see to her "other" needs when Aneva rushes in saying "I have nothing to wear!"  The King's second-in-command, the Overseer, appears saying they can supply clothes and Sonja, once again left frustrated gets out of the bath but tells the attendents to remember where they were.

Then as Aneva and Sonja are given beautiful dresses to wear, she asks where the others are.  Aneva tells her Plaitius is reading the stars, Rat is caring for her beasts. Rukaua is constantly practising and Gribaldi is fussing over the food preparation.  Sonja is being bothered by something she can't put into words.  Then calls in the Overseer who has been watching them.  The Overseer admits that Samala is not going to honour his agreement regarding the slaves.  He says if she doesn't oppose him she will be showered with gold, titles, lands and nobility.  Sonja responds:

Sonja: "The Emporer is a great lord, Overseer. A ruler of men.  The King of the Golden City.  While I may be no more than a peasant playing dress up for a moment.  But I am Hyrkanian.  We keep our word.  So with a peasants heart... the Emperor can go $^%$ himself"

She hears the Overseer sigh and wonders if he is a good man put in an awkward postion.  She starts fighting the guards but is quickly overwhelmed and put in a prison cell.  Samala comes and taunts her and then drops the bombshell that her six friends will join him in death too.
Samala is a dick.
The party begins without Sonja.  Rukaua is dancing for him and Gribaldi brings him delicous food.  He asks for the astronomer and the whore. Aneva sits on his lap and Plaitius is commanded to tell his fortune.  Rat has found Sonja in prison and using a gorilla breaks her out of there.  Meanwhile the Emporer has found a knife on Aneva and accuses her of wanting to cut his throat.

He throws her to the floor and when Gribaldi rushes to her side she tells him Samala means to kill them all.   Then Osric appears and begins fighting his guards. Rat and Sonja arrive at the battle and Rat uses a hawk to dive and attack.  Aneva gets stuck into the fighting too but Sonja, back-to-back with Osric admits they are outnumbered.  Osric says "it has been my honour to fight beside you.  Sonja the invincible."

Then Gribaldi shouts to everyone to stop. He says he has poisoned the Emporer and Samala dies coughing his guts out on the floor. Rukaua finishes his dance, "did I miss something?"  The Overseer takes command and tells Sonja the slaves will not be killed, "I think he is a good man" muses Sonja as she gets ready to go.
Goodbyes are said.
Then it is time for an emotional farewell to her friends.  Rat wants to build an animal sanctuary, the others are going to stay to help the new Emporer.  Gribaldi and Aneva are now a couple and as Sonja embraces Aneva she thinks "If I don't leave... I may stay forever. I will miss them. My heart hurts a little".

She rides back to the brothel where she found Aneva and gives them a huge bag of gold. She gives it to the madam so they can start their guild.  And there is also money left over for Sonja to have a great time.

Sonja: "As for my wishes?  I'll take one of everything".
And Sonja FINALLY gets to scratch that itch.
At that brings the arc to a close.  There is a zero issue, which tells a humourous story of a man who pretends to have been married to her and tells a story where an idealised version of her is compared with the reality.  It's fun but throwaway stuff, the real meat is the story we have just had.  I love how much it fills out Sonja's character, she's brave, honourable, headstrong, cunning, proud of her humble origins and a good friend.  Probably my favourite chapter is the one where she finds Aneva and we get a reflection of a road not taken due to fate as well as how Sonja's exploits have fascinated and inspired other women like Aneva who also wonders if she could have had the life Sonja had.  But crucially they stay happy with the way things are and their friendship is lovely to see. Despite how dark it gets in places, it packed full of great jokes and humour.  The running gag of Sonja absolutely dying for a shag is well executed and funny stuff, you rarely see such blatantly sexual-without-being-sexualised female characters in comics.  Once again Gail Simone and Walter Geovani have given us a female character who is a fantasticaly nuanced individual and an absolutely compelling read as well.  There is one more volume of Simone's run on the character so watch this space...


  1. That "robbing" scene made me think of this (All-New Wolverine, came out a lot later than this comic, but still):
    (Left to right: Laura (current Wolverine), Gabby (her young clone), Jonathan (literal wolverine), Old Man Logan (ex-Wolverine). Next two pages are basically them laughing hysterically.)

  2. Haha, nice. I think people with lots of battle experience and/or superpowers being subjected to clueless ambushes is quite a well worn trope, but both examples here make it funny which is the best way to play it I think.

  3. I'm limber! (Well, if I'm allowed time for a bit of stretching and my dodgy ankle isn't playing up too much)

    You're really spoiling us with your recent choices. It's a cliché for me to say 'i loved this' but it's just so true, and especially here.

    First the serious stuff to get out of the way. I'm very glad the animal abuser got his comeuppance. What's sad though is that everything in that tale still happens to animals today. Even the severing of horses' tendons (they also cut their vocal chords so they can't scream and spoil the show). Rat seems nice though, despite her former complicity. Some of the most vocal animal rights activists are like ex seaworld trainers, so we'll let her off. And I love me a beastmaster (one of my favourite films too)

    I loved the running gag, and it was very well handled as you say. It was funny that she kept getting turned down and I giggled at her offer to have a bath.

    Some great meta moments. Gail seems to be familiar with the old Sonja/Conan stuff as she recycles a lot of the names and themes.

    And to pick up on Malitia's point about ill-conceived ambushes, I am a big fan of those. I suppose it's the potential slapstick elements but it's also just that they're inherently funny. To quote from a similar occasion in an old spaghetti western "Jesus. That boy don't ever learn"

    The opening scene of that Blitz film plays on that too; and placid though I am I do secretly hope one day to be able to use a line from that.

    "Word of advice. If you're going to pick the wrong fight, at least pick the right weapon"

    *hurley stick beatdown ensues*

    [Ooh, I wonder if there was a subconscious thing there. The landlady of an Irish pub on the Kilburn High Road I like is the living embodiment of Sonja, and she keeps a hurley stick behind the bar?]

  4. I aim to please, I am definitely not limber. Yet. Getting limber is a big part of my "zomg I don't want another bi-lateral pulmonary emboli again" fitness plan.

    I follow Gails tumblr and I believe she has about as much sympathy towards cruelty to animals as you and I so a comeuppance was always going to happen. She has rescue greyhounds who she posts pictures of regularly, d'awww.

    Picking pages and panels to include is always a nightmare in such rich material. I'm slightly regretting now not using the half page which is a series of panels of her tossing, turning and rolling her eyes in pent up frustration before her oh so romantic propositioning of Gribaldi. I'd also buy a T-shirt with the panel which has her saying "I'm Red Sonja. I'm everyones type" heh.

    When she gives general advice on her tumblr for writers, "research, research and research some more" is always her first piece. So I reckon she knows the character history well. And I am counting the weeks until Easter when I shall be getting "Sword of Sorrows".

    When I lived in Manchester I kept a two foot long monkey wrench
    by the door just in case. Of course now I have a sword, though it's so blunted by age (not, sadly, by the bones of my enemies) I'd end up beating someone unconscious with it anyway.

  5. * about as much sympathy towards those who commit cruelty to animals* is what I meant to say. I'd repost but cutting and pasting on a laptop is a pain.

  6. That's a great name for a fitness regime. You should trademark it. Nothing wrong with blunt swords. As I'm sure you know a lot of swords in the age of armour were designed for battering and bludgeoning rather than stabbing and slashing. Impact weapons can be very effective. Western armies issued maces as late as WW1.

    D,aww. I love Gail even more now I know she rescues greyhounds. My loopy but lovely ex next door neighbour has a load. Every time I go round there I'm always tripping over a new one.

    And she is very well versed in the source material. I do prefer her more humorous version. The original Marvel Sonja was a bit serious. Lots of faux almost Wagnerian sensibilities and dialogue. Funnily enough you can spot that transition between the two Arnold Conan movies. I love both of them and interestingly the plot of the second one is very like the story here (dont trust royalty who send you on quests). Also that has the amazing Grace Jones and her wonderful advice to the young princess on dating.

    "Grab him. Then take him"

    (I suppose technically that's a bit dodgy; but I can't help but love her. And the film has a suitably feminist ending)

    I wonder if the gender flipping in the story is deliberate? Cook and dancer blokes and young girl beastmaster. I like that the courtesan is also a closet warrior woman. It was a common thing in the originals for various kings to try to stick Sonja in that role. Rarely ended well for them.

  7. It's a fairly basic fitness plan. Drop some weight, bring down blood sugar and cholesterol and do plenty of stretching to ward off DVTs. My ideal is give the blood thinners a couple more months and then hopefully I can breathe easily enough to ride my bike safely.

    Yes, playing around with my kukri it's obvious it is a sword made for hacking. The top of the blade is much thicker and gives you massive extra momentum on the down swing.

    I have to admit this version of Sonja is the first one I have actually read. I was familiar with the character via the Cerebus character "Red Sophia" who is pretty much a ditz but has the same backstory and the whole "defeat me to sleep with me" bit. She actually ends up married to Cerebus in the "Church & State" arc while he was Pope.

    Gosh the films, haven't seen them in an age. Remember enjoying them, the 80's was a pretty good decade for Sword & Sorcery films.

  8. That sounds like a good plan. If you want some 'professional' advice I can put you in touch with my mate Jessie. She's good on the whole 'holistic' side, she knows a lot about both the exercise and eating stuff without being too fanatical. Personally though I'd just have some fun swinging your kukri around. Exercise for its own sake can be a bit boring, but when it's peripheral to something that's enjoyable anyway you don't notice it (Well, that's what Mo Farah says anyway). That's why I love the Krav.

    Gail is doing something similar to Alan Moore it seems. Taking old characters and jazzing them up a bit. It's all very respectful to what made them good in the first place and she keeps the underlying best bits, but just builds on that.

    That's one of the reasons I'll be interested in what she does with swords of sorrow. Did you see John Carter? I liked the treatment of Dejah Thoris in that, and also the throwback to those 80s sword and sorcery movies.

    Some of the original Marvel writers did try that. They got Sonja out of the chainmail and tried to add a bit of nuance. It didn't really work. Sort of fell between two stools. Basically just recycling Conan plots rather than letting her be her own person. But I think Gail must have also been aware of that era and she's doing it properly this time. And really it isn't Sonja without the bikini.

    (You may also like to check out Thorne's 'Ghita of Alizar' character. There's a lot of that in this new run)

  9. My diet has been crap for a while, so I have been googling and putting together a nice healthy one. Interesting things you find out, like foods high in vitamin K I should avoid because it has bad interactions with anti-clotting medications. Sigh, I shall miss you mushrooms. Only six months until I can eat you again. Any advice gratefully received as well, so if she has the time and it's not an imposition she can bung me an email at the usual address, it will be much appreciated :)

    I like how Sonja doesn't wear the chainmail all the time, like when she is trudging round a sticky swamp she has leathers. I think the chapter where she is told to clothe her "wanton flesh" which felt like Simone was saying how the bikini is just part of who she is, deal with it. It's notable that the gorgeous covers by a woman (google image Red Sonja Covers Jenny Frison) all have her in the chainmail two-piece and looking stunning, fierce and sexy all in one go. I may also have looked upon some Red Sonja cosplayer photos with lust in my heart, hem hem.

    I haven't seen John Carter, I usually see it for 50p in CEX so next time I'll snap it up.

  10. I've copied you both into an email.

    Gawd I love mushrooms. With the veggie thing I miss that umami taste, so I eat a lot of them. Don't know how you cope.

    Checked out those covers. See what you mean. Her art reminds me a bit of Bruce Timm. Real but with a slight cartoon style.

    Also Googled cosplay. If you need me I'll be in a cold shower drinking bromine tea.

    Funny how she's such a popular choice for girls. I'm very glad to see that. She's a very good role model.

  11. Mucho thankyous, I shall endeavour to check my email abit more regularly :D Mushrooms I like simple. Lightly fried in butter and on a slice of wholemeal toast. When I come off the blood thinners in five months time I'll have a celebratory mushroom on toast lunch.

    Some cracking cosplays aren't they? I get a magazine called Neo every month which focuses on East Asian culture with a bis towards Japan and they have a featured cosplayers of the month spread every issue and I am amazed at the talent and creativity that goes into making the costumes authentic. And of course the fact that most of them are stunning is a nice bonus!

  12. Also I can't drink green tea either, chiz chiz. I'll have to switch to rooibos now when I want hot drinks before bedtime.

  13. Mmm, yeah I love that. Although I usually shove half a ton of garlic in there too.

    If you Google 'aerynn isabelle' you should find my friend's stuff. She used to spend ages making costumes, mainly out of latex. She's very influenced by Japanese culture (she's actually got a degree in Japanese from Oxford and she lived there for quite a while). Some of her outfits are based on characters but I think there's also just some generic things. It's all very arty though.

    Looking at some of those pics the work that's gone into them is staggeringly impressive. The attention to authenticity. Especially the manga and anime characters. I'm very much in admiration of some of the Sonjas though. Where do you even buy chainmail like that? I'll have to pester my mate who has the thing for 'comic book girlies'. "There you go Hon. 2,000 steel rings and a welding torch. I'll pick you up at 8"

  14. I thought green tea was good for you. I love it. Although, living Brit stereotype that I am, I also get through a lot of Earl Grey.

  15. From what I have read via Gail Simone's tumblr is that there is a whole cottage industry set up just to cater to cosplayers. So people who want metalwork can place orders with specialist metalworkers, same with rubber and latex etc. With people doing the rest of the stuff themselves. Specialists will advertise on Deviant Art. People even hire photographers geared towards them to get a nice portfolio of their work.

    As for green tea, normally it is good for you but I have to avoid most dark green leafy vegetables due to these stupid pills. I must say I mainly drink Yorkshire blend tea, super strong and by the galloon a day. I need to cut back a bit so as green tea is out I'll switch to subbing in rooibos and Oolong.

  16. I should have realised that. I once YouTube'd a song I'd heard. That then brought up an advert that had used the song (some online game) and in turn that brought up a video about the company that had made a costume for the ad. They did things for film and TV but you could also just order stuff personally. I know there's also a 'dalek builders guild' and they're always swapping tips for sourcing the right wire mesh and the like. So I shouldn't be surprised there's a chainmail bikini market. Cool.

    Yorkshire tea is one of my favourites; and not just because of my parochialism. Ironically everyday tea is the one thing Twinings can't get right. My old chambers was literally next door to Twinings. I think I told you about when I went round to whinge about them discontinuing a tea I liked and they gave me the last two crates at cost. (that was green tea with ginseng and elderflower, I was borderline addicted).

  17. Oh the Dalek builders are amazing. If I was rich and had lots of space I'd commission a "Remembrance" white/gold one. And have it in the living room next to a bunch of old arcade cabinets.

    Yes, Yorkshire blend is fine fine tea but I know I drink too much. This sounds gross but I don't wash out my favourite tea mug and now have a thick crust of tanin on the inside because a) it improves the flavour and b) it annoys my mum. :D

    You're right about Twinings, although I do buy their Lapsang Suchong when they have it in stock or I am at the big Tescos. I have to admit I always buy my green/puar/oolong teas from Chinatown in Manchester because it is waaaaay more cheap than the brands in the normal supermarkets. It's always sad when a food or drink you develop a taste for is discontinued, I have mourned more than one brand of biscuits in my lifetime.

  18. Hah, every now and then one of my friends will crack and wash my cup out just because they can't face looking at it anymore. My coffee cup equally looks like the inside of a diesel tank. That usually requires a chisel. You're definitely not supposed to wash teapots though.

    An imperial Dalek. You are hardcore. I'd go for new style body but in the classic Genesis dark grey. Someone did a Dalek called 'Storm'. He was like a big bruiser Dalek. I'd love to see him in the actual series. Ages ago I emailed you the outline of my sort of Dalek story. Don't know if you ever saw it.

    When I was whinging about the tea my chambers roomie said she had the same thing with make-up and she had a letter I could use. "you might have to edit it a bit"

    "As a black woman it is always a relief to find a foundation I can use..."

    Yup, hence the personal visit in the end.

  19. I hide my crusty mug in my bedroom and use clean ones when I am being a gracious hostess. I am honestly surprised mum didn't take the opportunity to have at it when she had to pick up my bag of meds for me when I was in hospital. Although she had more important things to worry about I guess.

    For my 18th birthday my dad gave me one of those Sevans Dalek kit models and I spent several days patiently building a Genesis Dalek from set photos in DWB. I have quite a few Daleks now of differing eras, I have an uncle who when he can't think of a gift for me defaults to Dalek. I have a radio control Dalek from that daft US set two-parter in season 3. I must replace the batteries so I can chase my nephew around with it. Have to say nephew is more into my AT-AT right now, he likes putting his toy cars inside it. I foresee Star Wars Halloween cosplay in his future...

    I don't wear make-up myself but I remember a friend at Uni of Indian descent moaning that if you didn't live near a big city with a matching ethnic community which stocked imported make-up you were usually limited to one shade, next to the huge range available for pink skin.

  20. I remember everyone getting excited about that story cos it promised 'art deco Daleks'. That would have been a good look, although they are a bit deco anyway. It was quite a cute story and I liked how they riffed phantom of the opera. It's always cool to see a bit of Who plagiarism and how they run with an idea.

    Once went to a lecture on the history of make-up. It was done by your namesake's sister (hence the invite). Pretty fascinating. I didn't know that it was well known even at the time that a lot of those old cosmetics were deadly. There's lots of contemporary cartoons about the fact in things like Punch. But vanity eh? (or, from a feminist point of view, social pressure). Apparently even in London it was hard to get cosmetics for darker skin (unless you pay a fortune for specialist stuff). So my roomie would just stock up whenever she found a source. It's funny though, a friend loves a product called creme de la mer. It's like a million quid for a tiny jar. But it's just the stuff they treat burns victims with and you can buy it from medical suppliers in 5 litre tubs. Mind you I once bought my mum a pot of what was literally mud from Harvey Nicks, and that was silly money. I can only assume it was magic mud.

    I'm not metrosexual enough to use cosmetics, but I do get through a lot of Tiger Balm. Does that count?

  21. We covered some of the weirder and poisonous make-ups when we did the History of Medicine module as part of GCSE History. Men and women painting lethal stuff on their faces just blew my mind.

    I remember asking my sister why she paid so much for creams when Vaseline was just as effective and much cheaper. Apparently it's because the expensive stuff isn't greasy that's all the difference is. She likes the Magic Mud as well.

    I don't even own a mirror so look like a hobo most of the time, although I usually remember to brush my hair before I go out, that's as far as titivating myself goes.

  22. I'll quite happily use Fairy Liquid as shower gel. All cleaning products are fundamentally the same thing, just with perfumes and foaming agents. That's in an emergency though. I do use actual products normally. I do have a thing though for stuff like coal tar soaps and Euthymol toothpaste. I like that clinical smell. I went out with a nurse once though and she said I smelt like hospital so she bought me a load of Aramis stuff.

    When I was in London I was quite sartorial. I've got a brilliant tailors called Ede & Ravenscroft. Without getting into stereotypes there's something very reassuring about being dressed by camp guys "Now, just flash a bit of cuff. Perfect!". And I've got a really good fashion designer friend who helps me with less formal stuff. Left to my own devices though I'm practically Stig of the Dump. My favourite description was "look like you're going undercover in muggle society". I was also accused of looking like I'd been dressed by a disaster relief agency. Nobody seems to mind though, apparently it suits me.

    Dress conventions are funny. If I take my comic girly friend to restaurants she always does the little black dress and tottering around on six inch heels thing, even if it's a casual place. But your namesake looks like she's come to do some plastering. The cutest thing with her was when she was once trying to make an impression for some guy she fancies (notwithstanding he's clearly asexual). She had some quite nice clothes but everything had holes in. So we'd have to add another item to cover each hole. In the end she had about 8 layers on. (I once mentioned he was coming round whilst she was away so she made me hide all her normal clothes and leave her one pair of sexy pants on the radiator)

    Personally I'm not bothered about that sort of thing. I wouldn't even ask Sonja to take that bath.

  23. I once made the mistake of using Fairy Liquid as shampoo (note I have waist length hair) and it stripped it clean of all oil and clumped in dry matts, a mistake I never made again. I still use fairly cheap pound shop shampoo because posh shampoos go the other direction and add wax to your hair which is just as nasty.

    My favourite time of the year is when I can wear my knee length, pocket covered shorts all the time. Add adidas trainers, a T-shirt with a cult logo and a raggedy check shirt (all lesbians wear them!) and you have me through most of spring, summer and autumn.

    I'd happily romp with dirty, dirty Sonja too, while I like bathing I am not a huge fan of scented washes or perfumes.

  24. I shave my head because I'm too lazy to take even one bottle into the shower. I do use that tea tree and mint stuff because I'm often covered in cuts and scratches. It's good for that, but it also attracts horses (not kidding; I've had them stalk me).

    I love summer too for wearing shorts. I'm also a big fan of Converse or the Dunlop equivalent when it's chilly (they're slightly thicker canvas). That's a bit of a snobbery thing cos I won't wear trainers (also if I'm not doing my preferred barefoot I always want ankle support)

    Ooh yeah, dirty Sonja. Heh, can't really say more without going very much TMI. I once though had a very pleasant surprise when one of my Krav friends pounced on me after one of our obstacle course things. Pleasant because she'd just run 12km, and was covered in mud. Surprise because I'd always assumed she had her own collection of checked shirts.

  25. Well keeping your hair long and just brushing it is preyty lazy. If I was a an though I'd definitely shave my head (but grow a beard, my baby sister's boyf has a shaved head and a beard you could lose a badger in).

    The downside of shorts is letting the world see my white legs. I have inherited my mum's iron skin and about the most tan I'll get is my forearms turn slightly less pale. I had a mate who ran a shop in Rusholme who used to call me the "whitest person in the world".

    Ah well, the check shirt thing isn't a foolproof sign of being a lesbian :D

  26. That'll be handy though if you're ever kidnapped and kept in a tower.

    Heh, see also beards the size of a rhododendron bush, or was that just 'Jane' Austen?

    She didn't actually have the shirts. I just made certain assumptions based on the giggling when she was grappling with the other girlies in class. Maybe she's just selectively ticklish?

    Maybe you could use gravy browning, and then draw a seam with an eyebrow pencil, like they did in the war. I usually end up with classic 'lorry driver's arm' during the summer from having the window down. I too though definitely show my Northern roots at times. Luckily I'm generally so mucky that from a distance I appear quite bronzed. :-)

  27. Oh, jess got back btw, don't know if you saw that.

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  29. Pale and Interesting that's me. I have seen the email, but I am so brain fried from lack of sleep I want to wait until I am less manic to take it in and repond properly. Seriously have not slept for three days, ugh.

  30. Ugh indeed. You poor thing, you must be frazzled. I wish I could offer some practical help but you certainly have my sympathies.