For over 50 years, the hero known as Red Sonja has made her name across pop culture as a warrior who dispenses with demons, eliminates evil, and makes war with monsters who’d plague the innocent. And for nearly 20 years, Dynamite Comics has followed the comic book tales of the character as she deals with deviltry with extreme prejudice.

It’s that focus on Sword & Sorcery that made writer Steve Niles the perfect creator to put his spin on the fighter of fiends most fierce and feral. Known for masterful horror tales—including the seminal comic classic 30 Days of Night—Niles is focusing his writer’s lens on a new yarn featuring Red Sonja in Red Sonja: Empire of the Damned, which debuted this month from Dynamite Comics. Luckily for us, Empire of the Damned lets Niles let loose, with a spotlight on warlocks and magic and, as he puts it, “Monsters. Lots of monsters.”

I spoke with Mr. Niles recently about the idea behind Red Sonja: Empire of the Damned, his history with the character, how his work in horror informed his approach to Empire of the Damned, and how Red Sonja’s sensibilities gave him his creative hook.



FreakSugar: Before we get into the book itself, what is your personal history with Red Sonja?

Steve Niles: I really enjoy Sword & Sorcery, especially growing up immersed in Conan, particularly the magazines. The Marvel comics were all so fun, and they included the appearance of Red Sonja so I was very familiar with her. Her character has always resonated with me, and it’s been great to have the opportunity to write about her. I like a good fighter.

FS: On to Red Sonja: Empire of the Damned, what is the conceit of the story?

SN: There’s a lost magical kingdom that may be full of riches. Red Sonja learns about this legendary valley brimming with treasures, which was enchanted and destroyed by a warlock. While embarking on her quest to find it, she discovers that everyone she meets may not be who they appear to be.

FS: This is your first time writing the character. How did that come about?

SN: Matt from Dynamite wrote me if I had any interest and I immediately said yes and came up with a pitch.

FS: What was your entry point to writing the character? What gave you your hook?

SN: Monsters. Lots of monsters. I decided to have her fight monsters and showcase all of Red Sonja’s most renowned combat skills, with no time for idiots, always on guard and on point.

FS: Youre working with a stacked creative team. What has that collaboration been like?

SN: It’s been fantastic. [Artist] Alessandro [Amoruso] brings so much to the table. I just love the art. He adds all kinds of cool details and does great battle scenes. I love the colors too. [Colorist] Salvatore [Aiala] is great!



FS: Youve brought to life so many phenomenal horror tales. Are you applying any of that horror sensibility to Empire of the Damned?

SN: Definitely. When they considered hiring me to write for Red Sonja, I wanted to ensure that I could inject a good amount of horror into the storyline. My focus was on developing monsters for Red Sonja to battle.

FS: The character of Red Sonja has been in pop culture for over 50 years. What do you think has made her such an enduring character?

SN: Red Sonja is a serious warrior; she embodies strength, resilience, and individual empowerment. She’s a standout character in the realm of fantasy literature because she’s so legendary, the likes of Boudicca as a brilliant fighter, pretty much unstoppable.

FS: Following up on that, who is Red Sonja to you? What drives and motivates her?

SN: The realm of monster hunters is my favorite, so I wrote her in that vein.  She fearlessly navigates treacherous lands and battles all kinds of creatures. She really craves that tension of confronting each situation, and she has the bravery necessary to face anything and fight through it all.

FS: What comics are you reading right now?

SN: Monica by Dan Clowes.

FS: Do you have any other projects down the pike youd like to talk about?

SN: I have a graphic novel coming out later this year from Storm King Comics Dark & Twisted Label called The Killing Hole. I’m very happy with the way it turned out and I hope people will give it a look.

FS: If you had one final pitch for Red Sonja: Empire of the Damned, what would it be?

SN: I really had a blast writing Red Sonja, and I hope you enjoy reading it. I’d love to do more!

Red Sonja: Empire of the Damned #1 is on sale now from Dynamite Entertainment.

From the official issue description:

After landing in jail following a night of drunken revelry, Red Sonja hears an outlandish story from a fellow inmate. Deep in the mountains lies a dead city in a valley with no name. Abandoned and forgotten, its fields and streets are littered with the bones of two armies, all destroyed by a curse from a warlock who has long since vanished, along with his vast treasure – untold riches just waiting to be taken.

At least that is the legend. But Sonja’s cellmate Morgo has more than a diverting tale – he’s also got a map that says this legend could well be reality. All they need to do is break out of lockup and hit the road – which may be easier said than done!

Crafted by legendary writer STEVE NILES (30 Days of Night, Simon Dark) and rising art star ALESSANDRO AMORUSO, Red Sonja: Empire of the Damned #1 delivers monsters, magic, and mayhem in equal measure – all wrapped up in sumptuous covers from JOSHUA MIDDLETON, JOSEPH MICHAEL LINSNER, JOHN TYLER CHRISTOPHER, and cosplay by RACHEL HOLLON!