BRIAN AZZARELLO On Ending WONDER WOMAN #12 With a 'BOOM'

 Wonder Woman #12

Over the first year of Wonder Woman, writer Brian Azzarello introduced a frightening new take on the gods from her pantheon, winning critical acclaim and respectable sales for the title's approach to DC's mythological characters.

But at the end of this week's Wonder Woman #12, the title's cast of gods was expanded, as a "new" god was introduced to the title.

More specifically, a New God — the character Orion, who was previously part of a collection of New Gods originally developed by the legendary Jack Kirby

Yet Azzarello was quick to point out to Newsarama that it's only one New God on that final page of Wonder Woman #12. And while Orion's appearance opens the door for more New Gods to enter the world of Wonder Woman, it doesn't mean Azzarello's going New God-crazy in coming months.

Azzarello, who's been collaborating with artists Cliff Chiang and Tony Akins on Wonder Woman since its relaunch, has reinterpreted Wonder Woman's cast of gods to be more brutal and even creepy, much to the delight of the title's readers.

But the changes made to Wonder Woman have also prompted some heated reactions from fans, particularly when Azzarello tweaked the hero's origin to make Zeus her father and gave a disturbing explanation for why there are no men on Paradise Island.

Wonder Woman #12

With the surprising introduction of a New God at the end of issue #12, it looks like he's reinterpreting more DC concepts for the New 52. Newsarama talked to the writer to find out more about Wonder Woman, Orion's appearance and whether that means he's writing a revamp of the New Gods.

Newsarama: Brian, last time we talked, you said the first arc would end at 12 issues, but wow... you certainly had quite a tease at the end of the 12th issue for what's coming in the second year. Was this the plan all along, to move toward this new chapter featuring Orion after issue #12?

Brian Azzarello: Yeah, this is the end of the first year, and that was setting up what's happening next year.

Nrama: When you came up with the idea of portraying the gods a certain way, did you think all along that it would include the "New Gods?" Was that all one approach in your head?

Azzarello: Well let's not say the "New Gods."

Nrama: OK.

Azzarello: Let's just say Orion.

Nrama: The last line in issue #12 was "New Gods," so those are your words.

Azzarello: That's just to make it clear whose helmet that is. The tease is Orion. Right now, it's Orion.

I think Orion's a pretty good tease.

Nrama: So Orion plays a part in next year's stories, but not necessarily all the other New Gods?

Azzarello: Right.

Nrama: See, the reaction from fans is, "Oh, DC is bringing back all the New Gods, and Azzarello is doing it." But you're saying that it's just Orion. Are you saying not to read more into this than there is?

Azzarello: Don't get ahead of yourself. That's what I'm trying to communicate.

Wonder Woman #0

That looks like Orion on the last page, right? That's what you've seen. That's the only step. Orion.

Nrama: But you have approached the gods so far, in Wonder Woman, with a bit of a revamping from what they've been in the past. Are you approaching Orion the same way?

Azzarello: I think Orion is such a fantastic character already. A guy that's driven by anger is a character I can totally get into. I can write that guy.

But again, it's just Orion. And he's just going to be a guest star. Maybe. We'll see how it goes.

I don't want to tease too much other than saying that I think Orion and Wonder Woman interacting together is going to be something that people enjoy.

Nrama: Can you describe what Orion brings to the book? How does he interact with Wonder Woman?

Azzarello: I just think those two characters are perfect together.

Nrama: They're opposites.

Azzarello: They are. Doesn't that make them perfect?

Nrama: Perfect for a lot of tension.

Azzarello: Exactly. There's something very interesting about that mix.

Nrama: But this does open the door for other New Gods to appear in Wonder Woman.

Azzarello: I think it's kind of a natural progression with what we're doing.

Nrama: You mean building the mythological world of the DCU?

Azzarello: I think what we did the first year was build up Wonder Woman's pantheon of gods. Now we're going to bring in a few others, and it won't just be the "New Gods."

Nrama: In Justice League, we've been introduced to the New 52 version of Darkseid and Boom Tubes. Are you working on a story that fits within that continuity?

Azzarello: I guess. My editors will keep me in that continuity, but if you're asking if I'm tying into that somehow? No, I'm not. Not at all.

Right now, all I'm interested in is Orion. Probably Highfather too. Kind of need him.

I'm not interested in dropping all the New Gods immediately into Wonder Woman. There's a pace that I have for this story, and I know some people don't like it. But other people do. So it's just, like, trust my pacing.

Nrama: But Dan DiDio or Bob Harras didn't come to you and task you with reintroducing all the New Gods in 2013. It's not that kind of "event" type thing.

Azzarello: Oh, hell no. Hell, no. No. No, this is my idea.

Nrama: And it sounds like it's just character-based.

Azzarello: Yeah.

Nrama: It's not about revamping the overarching concept of the New Gods. It's about which of DC's mythological characters you want to bring into the book.

Azzarello: Let's bring Orion in and then see what happens. You know? Like I said, there's been a lot of blow back for the Wonder Woman stories, but I think these first 12 issues have really developed organically. You know? And it's like, trust me on this one. It's like, just let me do this.

Wonder Woman #13

And you know, after we're done, you can say, like, "man, that sucked," or "boy, I'm happy to have those on my shelf."

Nrama: This issue also had an important moment as Wonder Woman took off her bracelets. What did that moment represent to you?

Azzarello: It represented a lot of things. But I think one of the most important things is choice. And I don't mean that in a political way. I mean, Wonder Woman should have the choice to do whatever the hell she wants, which is something I think she's lost.

She should be able to be as big of a hero as Batman or Superman without her last name.

Nrama: Woman.

Azzarello: Yeah, her last name is woman. And for some reason, that has made that character lesser. And I don't think she should be that way.

Now we're getting philosophical.

Nrama: Yeah, but I could tell the bracelets, while they obviously held a cool story moment for issue #12, were also symbolic. At least it felt that way for me. But are you tiptoeing on the line of "Wonder Woman as a feminist" with that statement comparing her to Batman and Superman?

Azzarello: No, that shouldn't be what she's about either. She is just such a great character. That's what I'm saying. She is not a lesser character. I think she's smarter than the bulk of them.

But I'm not just talking about powers and match-ups. People like to say, "Oh, can she beat up Superman? That would make her equal." But that's ridiculous. Do you know what I'm saying? She has to be able to beat him physically to be his equal? I don't think that's right.

I mean, just look at how well she has survived what we've put her through. Her mother's dead now; her whole family's dead, or turned into snakes. But she has the ability to move on. That makes her strong to me. And realistic and identifiable, because it's what we all have to do.

As you can tell, I'm very invested in this character.

Nrama: Which you should be.

Azzarello: Yep. That's my girl. She used to be a character I didn't care about. Now I do.

Nrama: But let me just try to understand what you're saying with this idea of equality. Are you saying Wonder Woman has as much potential as a character, and as much potential to "save the universe," as any of the other DC characters?

Azzarello: Yeah! And she isn't usually given that opportunity.

Nrama: And that brings us back to that idea of freedom and choice we were talking about with the bracelets. You're saying she shouldn't be relegated to stories that shackle her.

Azzarello: Exactly.

Nrama: As long as we're talking about challenging stories, let's talk about what you have coming up in September. What are we going to see in Wonder Woman #0? Is it going to have Orion in it?

Azzarello: It's going to have somebody else. Listen, issue #0 is fantastic. It's Cliff and I — oh my God, it's just something that will be very different. It's not going to be like anybody else's issue #0. I guarantee that.

Wonder Woman #14

It's an incredible story. I think people will love it.

Nrama: When you say there won't be another issue #0 like it, is that from a structure standpoint? Or are you just saying that based on the story?

Azzarello: From a structure standpoint, there won't be another one like it.

Nrama: So it's mainly the way you approached doing a #0 issue.

Azzarello: Yes. The way that Cliff and I have approached the issue #0 is radically different from the way anybody else did.

Nrama: But it does tell a story from before the relaunch? We'll learn a bit of Wonder Woman's history?

Azzarello: Issue #0 is going to set up Wonder Woman's back-story and what happens in the next year.

Nrama: But we have to wait two months to find out more about Orion?

Azzarello: Yeah, you'll have to wait two months. But the wait is going to be worth it.

In the first year's story, we wrapped up some of the questions. But there are some plot threads that we have to pick up. We closed some, but there are others we've opened up. Those will all be picked up in issue #13.

In issue #0, we're going to hint at them.

Nrama: Solicitations indicate that Ares also plays a major role in the upcoming storyline. Does the story focus on him as well?

Azzarello: Yes, but he won't be the only one that plays into it.

Nrama: And I don't suppose you can hint anything about Zeus and the baby and the other plot threads we've still got going in the title?

Azzarello: I think issue #12 was a perfect ending for the first year. There's a new quest, there's new villains, there's new heroes — it's like, what is going to happen next? And people are screaming for what's going to happen next. It's great.

Nrama: That's what comics are.

Azzarello: Yeah! We did it. We did it. The ending of the first year was like, "boom."

Nrama: Literally, "boom."

Azzarello: Yeah. Did we need to drop a bomb — or a "boom" — with the last panel of that last issue? Yes, we did. And it's not the last boom. I mean, issue #13, there's going to be a few more booms. It's going to be.... let's just say Cliff, Tony and I are all looking forward to what's coming up. It's going to be a lot of fun.

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