By now I’m sure you’ve heard the news. The Baltimore / Joe Golem universe is about to expand with a brand new series: “Lady Baltimore.” But who is Lady Baltimore? And why am I so ridiculously excited about this series? Well, it turns out the titular Lady Baltimore is my favorite character from “Baltimore,” Sofia, first introduced in 2013’s ‘The Witch of Harju.’
Be warned, if you are not up to date with “Baltimore,” this article is full of a whole lot of spoilers.
February, 1920, Lord Henry Baltimore and his companions came to Harju where they met a young woman fleeing from an undead man. The woman was Sofia Valk, and the undead man was her husband, Villem.
Villem had very recently become a murderous undead monster, but even before his death, you could have called him a monster. Villem had been an abusive husband, to the point that when he died, Sofia had felt nothing but relief.
Then the Witch of Harju came to claim Villem’s corpse and Sofia got in the way, and long story short, now she had a pissed off witch trying to kill her and the entire town of Harju basically tried to ignore what was happening so they wouldn’t draw the witch’s ire themselves. So, yeah, not a great time for Sofia.
But it was the crucible that transformed her. Sofia could have easily let herself be a victim, but she refused. Unlike so many others content to let Lord Baltimore and his companions deal with the horrors brought on by the Red Plague, Sofia was ready to fight. More importantly, she wasn’t some reckless fool—Sofia fought smart and learnt quickly.
After their run-in with the Witch of Harju, Sofia joined Lord Baltimore’s crew. Not one of them questioned letting a housewife join their group—in their eyes, Sofia Valk already a soldier.
May–July, 1920. In the short time Sofia had been traveling with Lord Baltimore, she’d already gained a great deal of insight into his character and could read him better than many of his companions. She also called him out when he treated others poorly, and forced him to acknowledge those parts of himself that were still human. The source of Sofia’s insight was that she felt herself drifting away from being human too. Like Lord Baltimore, she was driven by ghosts.
Around this time, one of Baltimore’s companions, Judge Joaquim Rigo, developed an interest in Sofia and sought to undermine the connection he perceived between her and Baltimore. Later, at the funeral of three fallen comrades, Rigo tried to convince Sofia to live a life with him and leave Lord Baltimore to his quest.
Instead, Sofia chose to bury her fallen allies. With nothing or value to bury with them, she pledged her persistence to them. She would not be deterred by their deaths, she would continue.
Not only could Sofia read Lord Baltimore and see through Judge Rigo, she was able to read her enemies. Sofia’s instincts serve her well—she knows when to hold her tongue and she’s often a few moves ahead of others. And while Lord Baltimore is single minded, Sofia knows a dead end when she sees one, and more than once this is what kept her and Baltimore’s allies alive.
Also, she turned out to be rather formidable on the battlefield.
But I think it’s fair to say this took its toll on her. In a half year of fighting alongside Baltimore, Sofia seemed to care less and less about her own life, becoming more fixated on simply killing the enemy. Over time, this effect deepened.
The next five years are a little vague. For the first three years she fought alongside Lord Baltimore and his companions, growing especially close to Harish. Eventually, Harish confessed his love for her and then. . . Baltimore faked his own death and he and Sofia vanished.Continued below
It’s never explicitly stated why Sofia turned Harish down. She certainly cared for him, perhaps even loved him, but it seems she never harbored any hope of surviving Lord Baltimore’s quest to kill the Red King. Marrying for love is an act of being hopeful of one’s future, and I don’t believe Sofia had any hope.
April, 1925, Sofia and Lord Baltimore came out of hiding to call their allies together in one final strike against the Red King. When she returned, it was clear Harish suspected something between the two. And it seems he was at least in part right. While Sofia insisted there was no romance between her and Lord Baltimore, we now know (thanks to the recent “Lady Baltimore” announcement) that she would have been Lady Sofia Baltimore at this point in time. Yes, she understood him like no one else did, and yes, she was his closest ally in his final years, but there was nothing like love between the two. Lord Baltimore’s heart had long since turned to tin,1 and even that still belonged to Elowen, his dead wife.2
And in the final battle with the Red King, both Lord Baltimore and Harish fell, but it was Harish that Sofia held in her arms. That said, in those last moments she called him friend—as close as those two were, I don’t think she ever thought of him romantically.
Sofia has been married and widowed twice now, yet I don’t think she’s ever been in love. Though she was expected to be nothing more than a housewife, Sofia made herself into a soldier, and that identity was all-consuming. Like all of Lord Baltimore’s companions, she chose to fight and the fight changed her. She’s quick witted, deadly with a blade, and dauntless in the face of death. If Sofia is on your heels, I don’t like your odds of survival.
Yet for all her similarities to Lord Baltimore, I’m reminded how human Sofia is, especially when I look back at her in ‘The Witch of Harju.’ The first time she meets Lord Baltimore, she sleeps under his guard. She knows fear and she knows it well, but she learns to master it. She isn’t some unkillable, unstoppable being chosen by god, she’s mortal and has to rely on her instincts and her allies in order to survive. Most importantly though, she isn’t doomed like Lord Baltimore was. Sofia, though she has fallen far from it, still has a chance to grasp hope.
This is who Lady Sofia Baltimore is. The circumstances of how she became Lady Baltimore and why, however, remain a mystery, one I look forward to exploring this coming June. . .
All art featured in this article is by Peter Bergting unless otherwise stated. Colors for ‘The Witch of Harju’ and ‘The Cult of the King’ are by Dave Stewart, ‘Empty Graves’ and ‘The Red Kingdom’ by Michelle Madsen. Lettering by Clem Robins.
Sofia’s exploits with Lord Baltimore can be found in the “Baltimore Omnibus Volume Two,” coming out March 25. And don’t forget to pick up “Lady Baltimore: The Witch Queens” #1 on June 10, 2020.
LADY BALTIMORE: THE WITCH QUEENS #1 (of 5)
Written by Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden
Illustrated by Bridgit Connell
Colored by Michelle Madsen
Lettered by Clem Robins
1 See Baltimore, or, The Steadfast Tin Soldier and the Vampire, “Baltimore: Chapel of Bones” #2, and “Baltimore: The Red Kingdom” #5.
2 Elowen, the first Lady Baltimore, died in the Autumn of 1915 when she was turned into a vampire by Haigus. See Baltimore, or, The Steadfast Tin Soldier and the Vampire and “Baltimore: The Plague Ships” #4. You can also read about her in an old Hell Notes article.