Wizards and Warrior Women, A Portfolio of Fantasy Drawings was published in 1978 and contained six plates illustrated by comic book artist Frank Thorne. Each plate featured a fantasy scene of several semi-clad barbarian women who all bear an uncanny resemblance to Marvel Comics’ popular Red Sonja, and a wizard who looks a great deal like the artist himself.
Thorne, who began his career drawing newspaper strips in the early 1950s before making the short leap to comics, wowed comic book fans in the mid-Seventies with his interpretation of the flame-haired ‘She-Devil with a Sword’. Although he only drew the title for a couple of years the chain-mail bikini-wearing warrior clearly had an profound impact on the artist. He claimed that he felt a special affinity with the heroine, loosely based on a character created by pulp writer Robert E Howard in 1934. According to Thorne: “Red Sonja is as real to me as you who hold this book in your hands… there is a strange, deep inner feeling that drives me to carry her standard. I love her”. Even after he left the title in 1978 Thorne couldn’t shake the character and he continued to draw analogues of her for years after –he just didn’t use her name. And it was a sign of his affection for the character – and of her increasing popularity – that he even began to frequent comic conventions dressed as a wizard (that’s him on the portfolio’s cover) where he would judge Red Sonja fancy dress competitions.
Frank Thorne’s Wizards and Warrior Women Portfolio contained six plates and was published by Schanes & Schanes, who were based in San Diego. Each plate was printed in black and white on thick watercolour stock and measured 11 x 15 inches. The printing was of a high enough quality that it allowed Thorne’s loose and flowing drawing style to really shine. The plates came in a cardboard folder – see the image below – which shipped in a large white envelope bearing the same image. The portfolio was limited to 1,000 signed copies, of which this is number 869 (Thorne’s signature is on plate #1).
I was a fan of both Red Sonja and Thorne’s wonderfully fluid drawing style and this portfolio was the first I ever purchased, way back in 1981. I’d seen an advert for the set in Fantastic Films magazine the year before (the July 1980 issue to be exact) and I’d kept my eyes peeled for it before eventually tracking down a copy in Birmingham’s Nostalgia and Comics comic shop. I paid £3 for it, a princely sum back then. Copies of the portfolio can still be found on ebay but they’re few and far between, and cost a darn-sight more than £3!
Here are the six plates and cover from Frank Thorne’s Wizards and Warrior Women Portfolio. Please note: all the plates contains some mild female nudity.
Plate 1: Tyana
Plate 2: Zohra
Plate 3: Alizera
Plate 4: Chyrese
Plate 5: Dahlia
Plate 6: Ghita