Monday, 15 June 2009

Frank Thorne

Today is the birthday of comics' greatest dirty old man, Frank Thorne. Here's Frank, working hard at an editorial meeting with his publisher.

Of course, you can't talk about Frank Thorne without talking about Red Sonja. And you can't about either of them without talking about The Wizard & Red Sonja Show.

Starting around 1976, Frank and the bevy of beauties pictured above appeared at conventions, enacting a performance piece based on everybody's favourite She-Devil With A Sword. It was an instant smash, and has since become part of comics' folklore. Let's take a closer look at each of Frank's Sonja's, purely for historical purposes you understand.

This is Linda Behrle, an actress from New Jersey still working today, who at the time had appeared in various successful stage productions. She also later went on to play Ghita Of Alizarr on the covers of the various reprints of that series.

As the convention appearances became more popular, the play got more involved, and so attracted more actors. Here's Linda with David Mead as Mikal The Wanderer.

Also donning the chain-mail bikini was Angelique Trouvere. Angelique was a night club dancer, and probably the first Sonja, doing the routine at the New Jersey club she worked at in November '76. She'd already appeared on various Vampirella covers as the sexy space siren ( Go hunting through those back issues now! ) and portrayed Sonja as she if were Mae West. Frank, for the first time, played Thenef The Wizard. Later that year, he had the idea to stage a lookalike contest called SonjaCon, which eventually led to the convention appearances.

Dianne Dekelb was the next one to appear as The She-Devil, going the traditional costume route for SonjaCon, but eventually deciding to be faithful to the real origin, by appearing in the shows as Red Sonya of Rogatino, the russian privateer from Robert E. Howard's original story Shadow Of The Vulture.

And here's Wendy Snow, a Nordic fantasy artist from Boston, with her own version of the costume. Apparently, while appearing as 'Big Red' at the '77 Boston Globe Book Festival, several exhibitors complained about Wendy's lack of clothing. The management agreed, and she was banned from wearing it for the rest of the festival. Spoilsports.

Here's Angelique, Frank & Wendy at a convention. Now, I ask you, who could possibly find that offensive?

But the most well remembered Sonja has to be, of course, Elfquest's very own Wendy Pini, actually the winner of that first lookalike contest that started the whole thing rolling. Here's Frank & Wendy.

Later on, New York Comic Art Con organizer Phil Seuling was invited to appear on popular TV programme The Mike Douglas Show. He was also asked to bring along somebody dressed as a comic character, everybody at the network naturally assuming there'd be some guy dressed up as Superman or Batman. Well, Phil didn't bring Batman.

Frank & the girls' show lasted more than a few years, and appeared at many conventions. Here he is with the two Wendy's.

While here's the whole cast of one production. And yes, that is Rascally Roy Thomas living up to his name there in the middle.

Yeah, ok, all this feminine pulchritude is all well & good, but what about the damn comics?! Well, for those of us unlucky enough to have missed The Wizard & Red Sonja Show in all it's glory, Frank was good enough to immortalize the whole thing in the following comic strip, and here it is!


  1. most excellent! there's nothing like a chick in a chain mail bikini to brighten up even the most rubbish of Tuesdays!

    it's amazing how much I forget as the years go by. the whole Red Sonja show thing had completely slipped my addled mind. thanks for the memories, pete!

  2. I got to see Frank, Angelique and the two Wendys at a Seuling Con Sonja Contest in '77. That was the year they had to move the New York Con to Philadelphia for reasons I don't recall. Since the MIKE DOUGLAS SHOW was done out of Philly, I think it's a safe bet that Phil and Wendy's appearance there was the same weekend I saw them! In spite of Wrightson, Windsor-Smith, Jeff Jones and a ton of NYC pros, the only autographs I got that weekend were from Frank (who did a little sketch!) and Wendy Pini (whose chainmail was quite intimidating to 18 year old me).

  3. See, that's why, as great as my personal Bronze Age was, I sometimes wish I'd lived in the US. I don't know that there even were british cons at that time, certainly not ones with the benefit of nubile lasses...Don't suppose you still have that Frank sketch to show us, do you Steve?

  4. Are you kiddin'? Thought I'd blogged it before but doesn't look like it. Watch my blog!

  5. Ack! One of those "two Wendys" is my sister, Linda! The other Wendy is the pirate version of Red Sonja in the lower right hand corner or the group shot with Roy Thomas. And I think the Sonja who was banned was Destiny. She got in trouble for too much lower exposure and reappeared with liberally applied band-aids. Don't even ask...

  6. Two years after the most recent post; is anyone still reading this? In any case, I just got the link - and thank you, Pete, for a very nicely balanced and upbeat reminiscence of those wonderful, heady days from the late 1970s. Although I could wax outrageously long-winded about the experience, I'll hold that in check and simply reply to something Steve posted (about being intimidated by Wendy's chainmail): I suspect the reason is that hers was the only costume that was made from actual steel. If memory serves, Angelique Trouvere's used belly-dancing coins (very thin), and Wendy Snow's was foil-covered circles of cardboard. But Wendy Pini wanted the costume be as accurate as both the artwork from the comics, and the fact that it was supposed to be armor, would demand. So I had to scout out several hundred nickel-sized steel disks (roughly 2 mm thick), and then drill tiny holes into every one of them (breaking many bits in the process) so she could sew them to a wire and leather armature for the top piece, and a leather breechcloth for the bottom. The entire costume weighs over 20 pounds, and as Wendy often says, hers was the only Sonja costume that clanked. I suspect it was that, coupled with her dead-on serious take on the character, that intimidated. Heaven knows, it intimidated me at times!

  7. Linda Behrle to me,still looks pretty hot.Having her play about with swords,pretty sticks my then teenage mind.She acted all cool,as she did not notice me and my eyeing beautiful woman dressed as Red Sonja.