In a comic book market dominated by established male superheroes, Ray Fawkes is thrilled to be working on a book that's not only brand new, but features a character he calls a "wickedly cool, totally powerful and bizarre female lead character who isn't anybody's girlfriend or sidekick or apprentice."
For Fawkes, that's worth pointing out, because the message about Pandora as a strong, lead female character — and her skills as a bad-ass, heroic fighter — are getting lost behind her connection to the New 52 reboot and the current DC event Trinity War.
But in this interview, Fawkes throws a big — nay, massive — wrench into the fan speculation machine by questioning whether his Pandora has anything to do with the creation of the New 52. And he describes a future for the character that sounds different from what readers may be expecting.
Pandora's story is drawn from ancient myth: She's the girl who, in prehistoric times, opened a box (known from then on as "Pandora's" box) and released evil into the world.
In the DCU version of Pandora's story, after she innocently opened the skull-shaped box, a council of wizards treated her as a criminal, sentencing her to walk the earth forever, putting painful scars onto her face.
But over the millennia, Pandora has decided to fight the Seven Deadly Sins she released from the box, trying to save humanity from their evil influence. To assist Pandora on her heroic quest, she spent her time learning a variety of skills — the power of nature from Druids, the binding of spirits from wizards, the wisdom and magiks of healers, and the fighting skills of masters around the world.
Her ally in the battle against evil is a weapons master named Marcus, who seems to be based in Baltimore, Md. She also has a couple of adversaries hunting for her — government agents.
Of course, readers of Trinity War know that the character has been sidetracked from her mission because she's been told to open Pandora's box and end her curse. (For even more details regarding the clues we've learned about Pandora's box in Trinity War, check out our "Trinity War Weekly" discussion with DC Editor Brian Cunningham.)
But Fawkes is hoping Pandora's story outside Trinity War is compelling enough for readers to give the comic a chance after the event ends.
Newsarama talked to Fawkes to discuss Pandora's role in Trinity War, her role in the creation of the New 52, and what comes next for the hero in the DCU.
Newsarama: Ray, it's looking like the Secret Society of Super-Villains is manipulating the Justice Leagues in Trinity War. Yet Pandora seems to be operating completely separate from any of that. She's just this badass girl that wants to open that box and make things right. But with the Secret Society seemingly manipulating things, can you tell us if Pandora's story (and her goal) has anything to do with the Society?
Ray Fawkes: If Pandora's being manipulated by something, it's much bigger and weirder than the Secret Society. Up until now, she's paid them little heed — in her opinion, they're just representatives of the greater Evil that she's vowed to destroy. In the world she's looking to create, they wouldn't exist at all.
So I guess that makes them her enemies.
Nrama: We've been getting lots of clues about the true nature of Pandora's box. But presumably, the mystery of Pandora's box will have a resolution by the end of Trinity War. How does that influence the Pandora series going forward?
Fawkes: You'll see. The truth about Pandora's Box — at least from Pandora's perspective — will be both painful and liberating. That's all I'll say right now.
Nrama: We just talked to Editor Brian Cunningham about this week's Pandora #2 and its ramifications on Trinity War. But what comes next in Trinity of Sin: Pandora #3? What are you allowed to say about August's issue?
Fawkes: Nothing! I'm sworn to secrecy until Trinity War and Pandora #3 play out. All I will say is that when Trinity War comes to its explosive conclusion, Pandora's own story is just beginning.
Nrama: Then let's talk about the future of the series, after Trinity War. How will Pandora's overall experience in Trinity War impact the ongoing series?
Fawkes: The repercussions of Trinity War and its follow-up will ripple through the series for quite some time, I believe. Let's not forget that the world at large suspects Pandora of some pretty heinous crimes at the moment, and there are going to be consequences.
Nrama: We know that something big happens at the end of Trinity War, which leads into Villains Month and the Forever Evil mini-series. Is the Pandora series affected by Forever Evil?
Fawkes: Yes. Pandora will suffer the effects of Forever Evil in a very personal way.
Nrama: It's obvious there's a lot more to Pandora's story that people think. But it looks like October's Pandora #4 picks up the story we saw at the end of issue #1, where Pandora is simply hunting down the Seven Deadly Sins so she can free the earth from their influence. Is that accurate?
Fawkes: Pandora will make a startling discovery about herself and the Seven Deadly Sins in issue #3, and that will put her back on her initial quest, with renewed purpose.
Nrama: Then is October's issue almost like a new #1 for the series, as she begins anew after Trinity War?
Fawkes: I'd think that readers could pick up #4 as a "first issue" and take it from there — I make an effort for that to be true of any issue — but it's certainly not the beginning of that particular mission for her. As we've seen in issue #1, that mission began 10,000 years ago.
Nrama: It's interesting to note that we can't really see Pandora's face on the cover of issue #4, except in a reflection. Is there a reason for that?
Fawkes: Actually, the reason had to do with considerations of taste. The concept for the image was initially extremely gory, and we had to make sure the result could sit on the stand without violating the book's rating (or the boundaries of taste). Pay close attention to what you do see on that cover, and you'll figure out why we had to hide her face.
Nrama: Looks like bullet holes, but I suppose we'll have to read the issue to find out. Besides being an important part of Trinity War, Pandora is also the one character who seems to be linked to the creation of the New 52 itself. Can you give some clues about where we're going to find out more about why/how Pandora created the "New 52" universe? Will your series be revisiting that?
Fawkes: The question is there, isn't it? I suppose, before we consider getting to that, we should ask a few others. Like, for instance: does Pandora know she had a hand in creating the New 52 universe? Is this Pandora the same as the one who triggered the change? Is there anyone else who might know what happened? Would there be personal repercussions to the manipulation of reality on such a wide scale?
Nrama: Whoa, now you're really messing with my head. She might not be the same Pandora? She might not know she did this?
Fawkes: I like asking these questions.
Nrama: It sounds like there are a lot of wild plans for Pandora in the future. Is there any final message you want to make sure fans know about the series?
Fawkes: All I want to say is that I've heard a few fans wondering aloud about Pandora's fate after Trinity War, and expressing doubts that her story would continue beyond the crossover. I want to assure them, and anybody else reading, that not only will her story continue, but it'll be like nothing else DC is publishing at the moment. I think it's amazing that DC was willing to launch an ongoing series focusing on a completely new character in this market — and not only a new character, but a wickedly cool, totally powerful and bizarre female lead character who isn't anybody's girlfriend or sidekick or apprentice — and I'd like to hope that everybody who says they're looking for something unusual and unexpected will be picking it up.