Monday, 16 January 2012

Warrior Women - who's your favourite?

Conan the Barbarian, Red Sonja in a swordfight vs Belit
First of all I'd like to say thanks to Pat of Silver Age Comics and Paul D Brazil of You Would Say That, Wouldn't You? for giving this site a plug on their own blogs - although Pat has libelled Booksteve terribly by making out he's to blame for this site. Paul currently has a short story crime anthology out, that he's edited, in aid of the Children 1st charity.

But that's the present. And, because I hang around with intellectuals, I know that any history professor'll tell you the past is a far more exciting place to be.

That professor'll no doubt reveal that the past was a world of muscle-men in loin cloths, monsters, demons and sorcerers. It was a land of helpless wenches, duplicitous princesses and narked-off witches.

It's also a world of warrior women.

That leads me onto today's topic of debate. I think we all love a good warrior woman but that raises the issue of just who was the best of Conan's various fighting females?

I was going to launch a poll straight off but quickly realised there'd no doubt be someone I'd missed off. And so I'll do my usual thing of throwing it out to you the reader to give your opinions before I launch that poll.

Off the top of my head, I can think of three main warrior women from the Conan-verse: Bêlit, Red Sonja and Valeria. Speaking personally, I was never a fan of Bêlit, finding her a bit annoying, especially in her insistence on being in issue after issue after issue. I also worried that all that fur had to itch. Plus she ended up dead in the original Robert E Howard tales, which was the kind of downer you don't really need from your heroines.

But when it comes to Valeria and Red Sonja I've always been genuinely torn. I encountered Red Sonja first but I've always suspected that, whatever the origins of her name, Roy Thomas based Red Sonja very strongly on Valeria. Valeria also gets brownie points for having been in Barry Smith's masterpiece Red Nails. Then again, The Sonj was in Bazzer's last story in the monthly Conan the Barbarian mag, which was pretty classic-tastic too. Valeria always seemed a bit more mentally stable to me than Sonja but, then again, I suspect Sonja'd flatten her in a fight.

Anyway, that's my thoughts on the matter. But what about you? Conan's warrior women - who's your favourite?


Aggy said...

It's hard to go against Bêlit. Sure her Marvel costume was a little uncomfortable looking, but its comics. Compared to the average woman in comics it's not a bad outfit. Certainly better than the outfit she wears in the original stories (a girdle and jewellery). But she managed to lead a pirate ship and control a horny Cimmerian. She did die in the comics, issue 100 saw Roy Thomas finally run out of stories for her,

As the vote really needs more than 3 I nominate the unknown woman on the cover of Conan the Barbarian 1. The comic is the only one I ever hung on the wall and she left an impression. Oh generic Conan cover girl 1, what ever happened to you?

Personal side note, my local comic shop was in dire straights in the early 90's and I lent the owner money to stay open. As part of my repayment was the complete run of Conan 1- 275 including the King Size annuals. Totally worth it!

PS My editor is away at present, when she returns she will correct all spelling and grammer errors...

Dougie said...

I like Smith Sonja better than Buscema or Thorne Sonja. But I like Belit better still because she was much more interesting:ruthless,obsessive and lethally pragmatic but tragic too. I bet she was some impossibly distant relation of Elektra.

I nominate Zenobia though, as a wild card, because she is ranked alongside the others in the Manotaur annual I read last summer.

My captcha was "prose"- aptly so, since I've got 50 essays to mark by Friday

Boston Bill said...

Bêlit. I loved the furry outfit. She may not have been as good with a sword as RS, but she came with her own pirate ship and crew. She seemed like a natural fit with Conan. Oh, and she really was a major character in a Robert E Howard Conan story.

Looking for other nominees? Would Grace Jones as Zuma from the 'Conan the Destroyer' flick count? You'd like her to be on your side during a barbarian free-for-all, wouldn't you?

Anonymous said...

Oh not too many ongoing characters in this areas (as far as I can think lots of one offs) However, for me it has to be (just) Red Sonja (loved the BWS and Buscema versions though the Dynamite comics version is wearing very thin on me) from Belit with Sif (from Thor)not far behind that - Other characters I liked were Valeria (Conan character appeared in the Thomas/BW Smith stunning "Song for Red Sonja" think she appeared in a couple of other stories also) and Shakiar from DCs Warlord I used to love that Mike Grell comic, Frank Thornes Ribit (and no doubt a few other less than wholesome Mr Thorne Female S&S characters) - just to add a name there as also a UK character during the 80s indie explosion (from Harrier comics) called Red Fox (though I thought it was pretty poor but it was popular) and would Zena count there was a pretty good Dynamite comic series of her - Pretty sure I ve missed someone from Heavy Metal etc (or novels like " Raven, Sword Mistress of Chaos" but not sure if she ever had a comic) McScotty

Taranaich said...

Valeria, personally: while Belit is indeed fascinating, I just love how Valeria is painted as being pretty much the closest anyone, male or female, comes to being Conan's equal. Plus she got her skills through hard graft and practise, not from a goddess's pity. Of course, if I'm going the pedantic Howardist route, it'd be because Belit wasn't a warrior in "Queen of the Black Coast" - a captain, queen, priestess and badass, but not a warrior - and Red Sonja really is Roy Thomas' creation.

Athgul said...

Seems I would go for Yaremis quite rocked for me in Witch Shall be Born. She started of weak assed and soon found strength with Conan's help. But suppose I will have to go with REH Red Sonya from Shadow of a Vulture story. She was quite believable in this story as a woman warrior. When I read some stories about woman warriors, I flinch sometimes at what people write and think that is highly unlikely, but Howard kept his womens feet on the ground it seems....sourceresses though can get away with more :)

CARL001 said...

I love Red Sonja,i used to read her in the old marvel comics drawn by Frank Thorne.His style of artwork added the age to the story i thought.
I have read most of the original Conan books by Howard but cannot recall reading about Red Sonja.

Steve W. said...

Thanks for all your suggestions. The poll's now up, so nominations are closed.

To simplify things, in the current poll I've only included characters from Conan. Once this poll's done, I'll launch a separate poll for warrior women from other places - and include any non-Conan nominees from the comments we've had on this post.

Paul D Brazill said...

Thanks for the mention, mate! I'm getting hot an bothered by that pic ..matron (etc)

Ed Catto said...

Well, my (new) favorite is Savage Beauty - from our new series! The first issue is free in digital format on ComiXology and iVerse's Comics Plus!

Anonymous said...

Zenobia was not a warrior, but she has the distinction of being the only Conan heroine who never needed to be rescued by him.

Conrad Knight Socks said...

Sonja's my favourite by a country mile.

One worthy mention though is a little-known one ... Sargon: Mistress Of War from First Comics' "Warp!", which was itself based on a play (!). Sargon is massively influenced by Sonja, with vows she's taken etc., but with an even more ridiculous costume and genuine superhuman strength and other powers. She rocks!

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