Garrett Blair's pin-up art has a je ne sais pas quoi of extremely captivating; one can say that all his drawings are of the same girl, with only eye and hair color variation, but that, by itself, it’s not a minus – that’s only proof that in comic books it’s the costumes that identify (and sometimes define) the character. And so Blair morphs her ideal girl into every comic book character that ever fired his (and our) imagination, presenting them to us through color, costume and attitude. By such criteria he, and his Savage Land series of drawings, are fan-favorites. By the same token, the image above, displaying our beloved Red Sonja in a contemporary coy pin-up pose is a fail, for it poses her out of character. It still has the same erotic allure of all his drawings, but the pose clearly demolishes the sense that it is Sonja we’re looking at, and not some unnamed sketch with hair colored red and a chain mail bikini from the mental prop department for fantasy/female warrior characterization.
Not so with this second drawing, of a Red Sonja in chains. Here we can feel that it aims to represent the Hirkanyan warrior: the expression on her face and the emerald fire in her eyes, screams loudly that she is not pleased by being bound. Her countenance is that of someone beaten but not defeated. It doesn’t spell fear… it’s more annoyance for the clearly erotic bondage – this is not a Sonja that has been captured by someone bent on killing her. Oh no. The way the rope goes around her breasts, pushing them together, accentuating her cleavage, is the work of a fine connoisseur of erotica. She’s not there to be tortured, but to be ogled. Laura Mulvey, eat your heart out!
This third image does not need a story. It is a picture of calm dominance. Sonja has lost her top, but she is not covering her breasts in fear, prudishness or in a defensive way. Her hands are merely serving as mediators. Her expression tells us that she could as easily stand in proud topless that it wouldn’t nick a inch her position of power. But she knows that her nudity holds us entranced… it holds a great sway over us. And so, she teases us. Men, hummf.
The two images above represent the battle damage that every Sonja fan dreams of, and that every feminist Sonja fan deplores. It represents the prurient side of comic book costuming, the essential unreality of the diegesis, the all-consuming male gaze that demands that Sonja’s chain mail be broken but that her skin should not be marred by the slightest scratch. And one would despair of trying to imagine the sword swipe that could so damage Sonja’s bikini bottom. They are clearly images of fantasy, a fan wet dream, a bit of over-eagerness, a piece of adolescent bad taste and a confirmation (note the blood on her blade) that whoever sees Sonja’s breasts, dies! What a way to go!