Art of the Genre: Redheads hate clothes!

Art of the Genre: Redheads hate clothes!

Nope... you're wrong, this is Jirel of Jory, but nice try.
Nope... you're wrong, this is Jirel of Jory, but nice try.

I walked into work today, a holiday themed hot chocolate in my hand and was greeted by Kandi as usual, although her normally blonde locks were now blazing red. Granted it was eye-catching, perhaps even stunning, but as I looked at her from my office I couldn’t help but wonder what the obsession was with redheads… especially in fiction.

I picked up my phone, buzzed Ryan next door and hear the distinctive Black Hole Soundtrack ringer.

“Hello?” says Ryan.

“Hey,” I reply. “Did you see Kandi?”

“Yeah, why?”

“What did you think?” I asked.

“I thought she was channeling some Christina Hendricks,” he answered.

Exactly! Kandi turned from Barbie to Firefly’s Saffron in the course of a night, but she still had something going for her that the bulk of fantasy redheads don’t… clothing.

You see, redheads don’t like clothes… At least that’s what I was brought up to believe. I’m really not sure why this is considering that in my forty years on this planet every single redhead I’ve known was intelligently required to wear clothes because their freckled skin would burn a nice shade of crimson in less than five minutes if exposed to the sun.

Flipping on wiki, I quickly discovered that only 1-2% of the world’s population has red hair. This number can float as high as 6% in Northern/Western Europe, and 13% in Scotland, but that’s still pretty minimal in any case.

Caramon was a loser, but often losers get the hot girl...
Caramon was a loser, but often losers get the hot girl...

The gene for said hair is thought to be caused by genetic drift and not positive selection, although the combination of fair skin does suggest a lower melanin-concentration that confers an advantage for greater intake of Vitamin D under low light conditions, such as northern climes. This fair skin is counterbalanced when UV-radiation is strong making the individual at a higher risk of skin cancer. Thus, if you’re going about in the sun, especially around the equator, you’d want to wear clothes.

Still, this isn’t the case in fantasy fiction where two things are perfectly defined, 1. Redheads hate clothes and 2. They never have a freckle on their porcelain skin. In fact, there’s very little ginger in their make-up, but certainly a whole lot of Clairol Dye #5, just like the once very blonde Kandi sitting twenty-five feet from the door to my office.

Whatever the case, Ryan brought up a wonderful point concerning Firefly, and as I sat thinking of what tidbit of fantastic information I might share with my readers this Wednesday, I started falling into art, redheads, and the fiction that depicts them, both science and fantasy.

So, this week I’m going to give you a visual guide to five wonderfully fantastic redheads that as stated above, loathe the very thought of covering themselves with clothing.

Number 5: Jirel Of Jory

Ok, how many of you know Jirel? Show of hands? Really, that few huh? Well, for what it’s worth, you should know her. This creation of C. L. Moore is downright fantastic swords and sorcery fiction along the lines of many other greats of the Weird Tales generation.

She is proud, she is just, she is tough, arrogant, and yes, beautiful, and to top it all off she’s also the ruler of her own land that many would contend dwells in the depths of medieval France. Like most of her swords and sorcery brethren she must deal with fell magic, defeat armies with the skill of her blade and the quick wit of her mind, but damnit, don’t you dare tell her what to wear while she’s doing it!

Really?  Who is having more fun, the lamp post or the skeleton?
Really? Who is having more fun, the lamp post or the skeleton?

This red-maned siren likes armor, but only in the right spots if you know what I mean. To her, Charlemagne was a fool for covering his body in chain and scale, I mean, how can he be fit for a true combat in such a loadstone of attire? Jirel needs to dance among the combat, slice at will and not be encumbered by fool things like hauberk, bracer, or pointed helm!

She’s a redhead, by god, and redheads wear what they will, which is to say nothing but the finest in Cosplay porn… I mean cosplay ‘armor’.

Number 4: Tika Waylan Majere

I love Tika, but who didn’t in the 1980s? This Dragonlance lass, a girl of common birth better suited to wielding a frying pan in battle than a sword, made all young boy’s hearts flutter with her auburn curls and utter devotion to the oaf that was Caramon Majere.

Weis and Hickman once wrote that she acquired armor from the battlefield, her outfit cobbled together with what she could find that would fit. What did fit? Well, a harem-slave’s skirt, a Kentucky hill-country tattered chain vest a size too small, and a Road Warrior inspired set of shoulder pads from two separate suits of plate. Can you say mid-drift? Ye-haw!

Don’t try to confine this girl with your defensive minded ways because she’s not having it. Nope, haven’t you read the manual, redheads hate clothes and especially armor that might… let’s say protect their vital organs from falling onto the ground with one clean strike of a scimitar.

Number 3: Dawn

Ok, I’m going to have to take the obligatory shot at comics here. Sure, this is an easy task, I mean it’s like throwing stones into the ocean and trying to hit water as there are so many examples of non-clothing friendly comic babes but in this case I’m going to go for a personal favorite, Joseph Michael Linsner’s Dawn.

Ok, so she's got a coat on over her bathing suit in this picture but my point stands...
Ok, so she's got a coat on over her bathing suit in this picture but my point stands...

Dawn is so blatantly against clothing that she carried no other purpose in the first twenty or so issues of the Cry for Dawn comic than to straddle something on the front cover in lingerie because she didn’t even appear within the comic itself.

Does sex sell? Well, in this case yes, and Linsner was so cavalier about it he actually printed an issue with that very question on the cover next to Dawn preparing for… well, I’ll just leave it to your imagination.

When Dawn at last got into the pages of her own book she was little better, her hatred of clothing only matched by her the unreal shine of her strawberry-blonde hair and the gravity defying perkiness of her double D breasts.

Her story is ambiguous at best, officially ascribed as the goddess of birth and rebirth, but I’d like to personally believe she’s actually fighting demons for an urban fantasy wiccan coven sponsored by Victoria’s Secret. I guess with only her womanly wiles, three tattooed tears falling from her left eye, and a rose on her right wrist, a girl has to do what a girl has to do…

Number 2: Lara Croft…

Ah, dear Lara, the poster child for tomb raiding. Quick question, who is the better tomb-robber, Indiana Jones or Lara Croft? Actually, it’s a trick question as Indiana doesn’t ‘tomb-rob’ or so he says, but still these two icons of the genre are diametrically opposed not only on how they do their job but also how they dress for success.

Indiana… sturdy trousers, boots, leather belt, leather belt pouch, bull-whip, revolver, button-up safari shirt, leather jacket, fedora.

Lara… Daisy-Dukes, boots, web harness, several semi-auto pistols, knife, T-shirt [preferably two sizes too small], sun glasses, and a hair tie.

Let’s see, if I’m going spelunking in some ancient equatorial ruin with bugs, traps, snakes, sharp rocks, etc, what do I want with me… In this case, nothing Lara possesses save perhaps a knife and web harness. For what she’s doing, Lara equals an epic fail, for selling video games to teen boys however, epic win!

Battle ready?  Not so sure I'm buying it...
Battle ready? Not so sure I'm buying it...

Yep this redhead is all about the bounce, and please keep the clothes away from her because it stops her range of free movement… right…. Right?

Number 1: Red Sonja

Ah Red Sonja, how do I love thee? Well, not much actually, but she’s certainly claimed the top spot on our list as the most recognizable fantasy redhead of all time. Only the aforementioned Lara can match her in media spunk, and as the legend goes no man can match her at all.

I guess when you’re predestined to be undefeatable then what you wear really doesn’t matter. Still, her choice of clothing is a bit of a hard sell in that this Roy Thomas and Howard Chaykin comic version was raped by a murderous barbarian leader and then granted her skills by the red goddess Scathach for the purpose of revenge. Unless Sonja wants to torture men with viewing what they cannot have, then I’m at a loss, but whatever the case, Sonja defines the fantasy genre’s view like an episode of ‘What Not to Wear’, literally.

Her scale-mail bikini was defined by artist Barry Windsor Smith, and it leaves very little to the imagination. Sonja becomes all fanboy’s perfect fantasy woman, beach ready and willing to lop heads, but only one man can truly have her… and I know they’re all secretly thinking its them.

So, what say you to this list of mighty women? Has it as cheaply reduced the worth of these particularly strong female protagonists to little more than strippers set free in a fantasy novel? Why we as a society continue to feel that strong female role models must be shackled with the sexual bondage of slutty clothing is beyond me, and yet it continues unabated no matter what hair color the women have. Painfully, for the purpose of women in fantasy, reality must be suspended because in this genre, panhandled to the male youth of the U.S., sex sells… just as all the above heroines can well attest.

Notify of

Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Ryan Harvey

Close. The ring on my cellphone is “Carol Anne’s Theme” from Poltergeist. If I could find a Black Hole ringtone, I’d get it.


I suddenly have the urge to leave my desk, walk-out through the office’s revolving doors, and go to a strip-club. 😉


oh..I should clarify..go to a strip-club with at least one red-headed dancer, but with modern hair-coloring products, I’m sure that won’t be hard to find. 😉

Sarah Avery

Um, if you actually read the words in C.L. Moore’s description of what Jirel of Joiry wears on her descent into the hell dimension in her basement, it’s pretty practical. The chainmail bikinis, etc., are completely extratextual. I admit, though, that the paperback collection of C.L. Moore stories I bought when I was 13 has cover art that decks Jirel out in full-coverage plate armor that is quite bodacious in its curves. Protective, but far from discreet.

Your question of whether kickass fantasy heroines are cheapened by the images used to sell their stories is a good one. In some cases, the stories start out as pretexts for selling the images, rather than the other way around, and sometimes it’s downright hard to tell. I only speak for myself, but when I was a kid in the 80’s, female protagonists who kicked butt were so rare, I learned to get over my annoyance at the cover art pretty completely. (I had less patience for bad writing.)

If you look at the beefcake covers on paranormal romance novels now, they objectify men at least as much. Not only do vampires hate clothing — apparently many of them do not have heads. Perhaps an actual face would just be a distraction from the six-pack abs for the art directors’ imagined readers.

I was not previously familiar with Dawn. My first thought, trying to reconcile the summarized backstory with the image, was, “The goddess of birth and rebirth needs firearms?” My second thought was, “If I’d had firearms handy either of the times I actually gave birth, nobody would have kept me waiting that long for pain meds.” So okay, she can have firearms and hate clothes, but nobody who’s been in the birth biz long enough to be a goddess of it has a figure like that. Just ask the Venus of Willendorf. (But don’t put her on the cover of a fantasy novel–it would never sell.)


With regard to Red Sonja, you say “Her scale-mail bikini was defined by artist Barry Windsor Smith”. IIRC, Barry depicted her wearing a mail shirt (and hot pants). The actual chain-mail bikini was a Frank Thorne depiction, I think – and Frank would actually do a touring show with him dressed up as a mad wizard and someone else actually dressed as his version fo Red Sonja.

For my money, the chainmail bikini thing was summed up by Red Sophia in the early days of Dave Sim’s Cerebus the Aardvark. AT one point, she whips off her chainmail bikini top and asks triumphantly “What do you think of THESE?!”, to which Cerebus’ studied reply is “they;d probably heal if you stopped wearing that.”


Pretty sure Lara Croft has brown hair, no matter how red it may look in a stray image here or there…

[…] you don’t like art featuring half-naked ladies, you might want to skip this article from Scott Taylor at Black Gate about fantasy art featuring redheads. If you do, consider it an early holiday gift. The ladies in this art must be allergic to […]

[…] you don’t like art featuring half-naked ladies, you might want to skip this article from Scott Taylor at Black Gate about fantasy art featuring redheads. If you do, consider it an early holiday gift. The ladies in this art must be allergic to […]

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x