Wednesday 17 November 2010

Conan the Barbarian #43. Red Sonja goes beddy-byes.

Conan the Barbarian #43, Red Sonja
You might think, from reading comics, that a warrior woman's biggest challenge in life is keeping her boobs in her bikini but Conan the Barbarian #43 reveals there's an even bigger one facing her.

Staying awake.

The story's this. Fleeing a gang of bounty hunters, Red Sonja and Conan find themselves in a mysterious valley filled with pink mist.

But they're not alone in there.

They share it with a strange tower and a man-bat-thing. While Sonja flaps around helplessly, Conan kills the man-bat-thing.

But then a new player arrives, to knock them out with the contents of a thrown vial.

When Conan wakes, he finds he's inside the tower, and a prisoner of a pair of sorcerers called Morophla and Uathact who're brother and sister. Morophla has designs on Red Sonja, whilst Uathact has her eye on Conan. Sonja's their prisoner too but she's still out cold.

She remains out cold all the way through the next few pages of exposition as Conan gets a potted resumé of the lives of their captors. Just three pages after finally reviving, she's out cold again as she's pushed into a pit, by the jealous Uathact. Conan jumps into the pit and rescues her from the subhuman creature that dwells there, and the tale ends with Conan and Sonja back in the tower dungeon as he's warned of the nightmare fate that awaits them. I would say that Sonja's warned too but she's still out cold and, judging by the way her mouth's hung open in the last panel, seems to be snoring.

It's a perfectly nice comic, as beautifully drawn as ever by John Buscema and appealingly atmospheric in places. Unlike the second part of this tale, Conan the Barbarian #44, it's inked by Ernie Chua rather than the Neal Adams stable and, while it doesn't look as lovely as that did, it still looks good. Glynis Wein should be praised too for her colouring job.

Sadly though, you can't get round the Red Sonja problem. If I'm eleven years old and have just given my newsagent seven pence for the return of Red Sonja, I want to see Red Sonja. I want to see her waving her sword about, shouting, "Tarim's blood!" breaking men's jaws and running around being stroppy. The last thing I want is her spending a good two thirds of the issue lying flat on her back, snoring. To make matters worse, in the first few pages when she is awake, she has to be rescued by Conan after being shot in the horse and, in the three pages toward the end of the tale when she's again awake, she comes over all squeamish and feeble just because a subhuman's looking at her a bit funny. The truth is you could've got any old serving wench, put her in this tale in Red Sonja's place and it wouldn't have made any difference to anything that happens. Red Sonja might've been dead for about twenty thousand years by the time this tale was published but there're times when I can't help feeling the 1970s weren't quite ready for the concept of a warrior woman.


Kid said...

I know why she was out cold for most of the issue - it was so we could look down her top as she lay helpless, and fantasize about all manner of forbidden things.

Or is that just me?

Steve said...

I think that was just you. Personally I'm so politically correct that, as an eleven year old, I was too busy being outraged by the marginalisation of a female character by the phallocentric comic-book industry.

At least that's what I tell people.