How New 'Wonder Woman' Team Is Making a Mark on the Comics
Things are about to change for Diana of Themyscira.
Following high-profile relaunches for DC Entertainment’s Superman and Justice League comic book franchises, the new creative team of G. Willow Wilson and Cary Nord will be taking over the ongoing Wonder Woman comic book title in November with “The Just War,” a storyline that reintroduces the classic villain Ares, with a twist, and teases a status quo change for Wonder Woman’s home island of Themyscira.
Heat Vision breakdown
Ahead of their debut on the series, Heat Vision spoke with both Wilson and Nord about working on the series, and the influences and approaches to the character.
Willow, what is it like being back at DC? You’re well-known for co-creating Ms. Marvel at Marvel, and you’re about to launch Invisible Kingdom at Dark Horse, and now you’re writing Wonder Woman for DC. Your career started at the publisher with books like Cairo and Air, so what is it like being back?
G. Willow Wilson: It’s wonderful — not to make the obvious pun. It’s a really incredible body of heroes, it’s an incredible body of artists and writers, and it always feels like a great privilege for me to work with these people and in this universe.
Were you surprised to find yourself working on Wonder Woman?
Wilson: It’s really something I’m still pitching myself about. When I first talked to [editor] Chris [Conroy] on the phone about the possibility of writing Wonder Woman, I was kind of taken aback. How can you possibly add to the story of this character who’s been iconic for more than 75 years? It’s not an easy thing to do. It was exciting, but at the same time, I was always cognizant of the challenges [of writing for a character] who’s had such a storied history already, and for whom some of the greatest writers and artists in the industry, for a better part of a century, have been crafting stories and narratives and histories. I was really eager to jump in, but at the same time, every time I sit down to write for her, I’m like [deep breath], "Okay, how do we top what’s already been said?"
Cary, what brought you onto the book?
Cary Nord: It’s the same thing as Willow said. Wonder Woman is such an iconic character, it’s like getting the chance to draw Superman or Spider-Man. There’s just so much history, and the chance to get to do your take on it, is such a big draw.
Willow, you mentioned the different creators who’ve worked on the character, and there’s such an impressive lineup — William Moulton Marston, George Perez, Robert Kanigher, Greg Rucka — is there a particular version of Wonder Woman you’re both drawing on? She’s been presented in so many different ways over the years, from the Marston and Peters original through Mike Sekowsky’s de-powered version in the 1970s, and then what Perez and Rucka did — are there particular versions that are particularly “Wonder Woman” to you both?
WIlson: What’s interesting to me is, as you say, she’s had very different incarnations through the years, and the complexity that creates is very compelling to me. In terms of the stories I go back and find myself referencing the most, Greg Rucka’s run is really up there — that’s where you have the introduction of her Earthly nemesis Veronica Cale, that’s where you get this really wonderful synthesis of her unapproachable goddess-like, Amazonian side and also the nitty-gritty, what would actually happen if Amazons were real, what if they had an embassy, what if this was something we had to grapple with as a civilization…? I really like what Greg did to synthesize those elements and what he did with that combination.
But also, I really like the Marston stuff, the really early stuff. Back at that time, in the ‘40s and ‘50s, writers were not afraid of the surreal, the funny, the campy — they didn’t see those things to being inherently in opposition to telling a good story, or making a point, whereas today, I think our instinct is to take everything so seriously, and just make it as straight-faced as possible. I think there’s this largely incorrect idea that, if you have something to say, you have to say it as seriously as possible. You can’t say things with a smile. It’s not just Wonder Woman; all the comics of that era were able to tell stories that had real depth to them, and had something they were able to say while also cracking jokes, making visual puns — sometimes really bad puns of the regular variety — and so, I really am drawn to that as well.
Cary, similarly, there’s always been a very varied visual portrayal, from Harry Peters through to Nicola Scott and Liam Sharp’s work on the initial Rebirth issues. Is there a particular influence for you on your Wonder Woman work, even from your own back catalog? I admit, I first thought of your own Conan work when you were announced as the artist on these issues.
Nord: I don’t think I have anything specific. I’ve been aware of Wonder Woman since I was a kid, so I have decades of constant input of ideas of what and who she is at the time. I think that all comes together all at once when I sit here and draw her. I’m drawing on every bit of reference I’ve ever been aware of. Plus, when I approach a project, I don’t want to have too much [external] influence, because I want to say things in my own voice. I don’t really think too much about it — I have just developed an instinct for my work over all these years.
How aware are you both of Wonder Woman fandom, especially after last year’s movie? The pic, like the Lynda Carter TV show of the 1970s, really introduced Wonder Woman to an all-new audience for the first time, and she was so eagerly accepted by that audience. Does that feed into your work on this character?
WIlson: For my part, I’ve tried to stay true to Wonder Woman’s comic book roots. As people know if they’ve seen both the comic books and the movie, the continuity is pretty different in both. I think one of the reasons the movie works so well is that it’s very new-viewer-friendly; you don’t have to go into things knowing decades of Wonder Woman’s backstory. You could go into it knowing nothing other than, say, her famous lasso and costume — and if you’re alive on this planet, you probably have run into that at some point. It works so well because it does a good job distilling her [comics] history into something that anyone can enjoy, which is great.
One of the things about doing the comic is that you do take all that history into consideration; you’re creating for a different audience [than the movies]. I think every time a new creative team takes over a book, they want to make it as new reader friendly as possible to add new readership to the book, and they do it via extemporaneous explanation that hopefully doesn’t weigh the narrative down too much. But I think comic book readers are familiar with this in a way that the general viewing public may not be, and that’s what makes it more fun — you’re bringing back a villain who maybe hasn’t been seen for 10 or 20 years, and you just drop them in. There’s a group of people who’ll be super excited to see them! That, to me, is what’s cool about the book; that you get to use that history and allow it to inform your interpretation of the character.
And with your Ms. Marvel work, you’ve experienced such a passionate relationship between the character, the fans and yourselves. Is that something you can see happening with Wonder Woman, as well?
Wilson: I’m still getting to know that core Wonder Woman fandom. Writing Ms. Marvel really changed the way that I write, really. It changed how I think of myself as a writer, because there is a very close connection between the character and the readers. At conventions, I’ve held them as they’ve sobbed, I’ve taken pictures with their kids and their dogs, we’ve talked about their costumes, all that stuff, and that’s a really really powerful thing. It really did shape how I relate to that character and that audience.
Wonder Woman, obviously, has a much longer history in comics and in general pop culture, and so she has a fanbase that spans all ages. There are people who’ve been watching her since they were kids, when Lynda Carter was on TV, or even before that, that remember her from that post-World War II era, all the way through, maybe, the Justice League cartoon was their first exposure to the character. So it’s a much more varied, at least in terms of age, audience. As soon as it was announced I was writing this book, I started hearing from them, of course. (Laughs.) "Please bring back this character’ or ‘Please never mention this character ever again!"
There’s such enthusiasm there that runs really deep. It’ll be good over the next few months to get to know those readers, and have a relationship with them hopefully in the way I have a relationship with the readers of Ms. Marvel.
Is there a moment, working on this book, where you stop and realize, "Oh, I’m working on one of the most iconic fictional characters of the 20th century"?
Nord: Yes, definitely! (Laughs.) It can be daunting — for me, anyway; the more I start thinking about it, the more I get choked up. I try not to think about things like that, just in terms of not getting caught up in how many eyeballs are going to be on it.
Wilson: For me, on balance, it’s fun. Writing — and I’m sure for Cary, it’s the same with his visual work — it’s kind of you alone in a room with your thoughts and your tablet, your computer, your drawing board. It’s very easy to get so lost in your own head that you lose touch with what happens when the book is out in the real world. Having that connection with readers — which can be good and bad — has a feedback that you wouldn’t otherwise have had. It’s useful, I find it compelling, especially now with the advent of social media so you start hearing from people on the day it appears in the comic book store. It makes it feel like a much more connected way of working, instead of just being isolated. That helps propel me through the next issue, the next arc, whatever. Having that relationship really helps.
So, what can you tease about your work on the book? What are you most excited for people to see?
Wilson: Well, storywise, we start with a very classic Wonder Woman scenario: Steve Trevor’s gone missing, and Wonder Woman wants to go find him. And then we try to hold it upside down by its ankles and see what falls out of its pockets. It starts as a very classic story, and almost immediate there’s a twist that I think takes it in a new and exciting direction. I think there’s material in there that will be very satisfying to long-term readers of the series, but at the same time, there will be a convenient doorway for new readers to get into the character.
Nord: For me, it’s all about my portrayal of Wonder Woman and her world, and whether it resonates with people. It’s always interesting to see another artist’s take on a character, doing things that are hopefully unique to them and hasn’t been captured by someone else before.
Wilson: Can I say something I love about Cary’s art?
Wilson: As he’s been sending pages in, I’ve really been struck by the way he’s able to balance Wonder Woman as this powerful, unearthly person, and at the same time, make her very human in her expressions and the way that she sits and stands. I think that juxtaposition, between the powerful, remote kind of individual and this intimate, real, human character — it’s something that really resonates with me, and I think will with readers, as well.
Nord: Aw, thank you! (Laughs.) I appreciate that.
Wilson: I just sent him an email saying, "These are great!" but now that we’re on the spot together, I thought I’d tell him again.
The first issue of G. Willow Wilson and Cary Nord’s Wonder Woman run, No. 58, will be released Nov. 14.
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