DC's new miniseries Odyssey of the Amazons gives the immortal women of Themyscira a new origin set years before Wonder Woman's birth.
Written by Underworld creator Kevin Grevioux with art by Ryan Benjamin, the story takes the approach of an epic poem, showing how Amazons were gathered from around the world and brought to their island home.
Newsarama talked to Grevioux about the genesis of the origin story, how it informs the modern portrayal of Wonder Woman, and what readers can expect of the story's journey through the ancient DCU.
Newsarama: Kevin, is this unique approach something that DC wanted you to do, or did you have input into the idea?
Kevin Grevioux: It was a combination of both. I was called in to DC to pitch a couple of ideas, and I had ideas for Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Aquaman - you know, some of my favorite DC characters.
And at the time, I came up with a Wonder Woman story and assignment that I wanted to do. It was going to be a two-issue arc. I came up with a new Amazon and a hint at an origin of where these characters possibly came from, because we haven't really seen that in the same way over the years.
As you know, there have been four or five iterations of Amazons over the years, because there have been that many DC universes. You've got your Golden Age, Silver Age, pre-Crisis, "New 52," and now this new one.
And then DC Co-Publisher Dan DiDio had this idea that he wanted to see the Amazons in the past. He really liked that idea. He's always liked Jason and the Argonauts. And The Odyssey.
With that in mind, I said, "OK, what kind of story can I come up with that is like that? That is like an epic poem, so to speak?" And that's where I came up with this idea.
Nrama: Is the story an origin of the Amazons?
Grevioux: It's an origin of sorts. The Amazons are on this fact-finding mission to find others of their kind, of their ilk, who are popping up around the world. It was a mission given to them by Hippolyta.
The story asks the question: how is it that Themyscira became populated with women? They had to come from somewhere."
So my idea was to answer that question. How did they gather Amazons? Where did they come from? Why were they put on Themyscira? Why do they come here?
And so that's the story.
What winds up happening, when their mission is complete, some of their number get kidnapped, and the question is by whom? And for what purpose? So the story becomes an adventure as they investigate why the Amazons were kidnapped, and what that kidnapping could mean in a mythological sense, and how that could affect the world.
Nrama: Is Wonder Woman a part of it at all?
Grevioux: She is a part of it in that we see where she came from, what informed that fantastic character we know today, as far as her personal philosophies and her culture. Where does that come from? She doesn't make an actual appearance, but we see what made her the character we know and love in modern times.
Nrama: What are these characters like - the Amazons of ancient times?
Grevioux: The Amazons are strong characters, to be sure. But they're also still human, even though they're immortal. Some of these characters don't understand who and what they are, what their mission is, what they should be doing. But you also get a lot of, I guess, hesitation on some part. At this stage, they're questioning: Should they be doing what they're doing? And that causes conflicts.
Those conflicts are the basis for the problems they end up having in this story. And it's about them coming together as sisters and really finding a common ground to maintain their cultural integrity, learn and finally, be triumphant.
The leader of the group we're following is Hessia. She's a consummate leader, strong-willed, stalwart, knows her mission, but she has her doubts about whether or not she's doing the right thing, because her personal feelings are coming into the fray, as she wants to see more of the world.
And of course, one of the Amazons has a conflict with Hessia because she thinks Hessia is taking too many chances. They're risking their lives to find "other Amazons." And there's a question about whether she's risking their lives too much.
And we have a younger group of Amazons who feel that they're not given enough responsibility. And when they try to take charge, they wind up messing up and causing other problems.
Nrama: There is so much action in this book, and it takes place in ancient settings, so the art is an important part of telling this epic story. What was it like working with Ryan Benjamin?
Grevioux: First off, Ryan is an amazing artist, one of the best in the industry. And I hope to work with him on other things for a long time to come. We've been friends for awhile.
I think he has a sense of subtlety as well as a sense of power. His imagery is off the charts in terms of designing the characters and creating a world that we only had hints of before.
We have Amazons from different cultures, and so he designed a basic Amazon-type of armor which is augmented by cultural motifs of the cultures that each of the Amazons have come from. So they maintain their individuality. And he's designed that in a fantastic fashion.
Nrama: The design combines with the narration to give it the epic feeling you mentioned before. Did you have an influence for the approach you took? Was it The Odyseey, as you mentioned before, and thus the title?
Grevioux: I am a huge sword and sorcery fan. I wasn't as much a fan of the Conan comic books as I was the Conan novels. Also, there was Kane by Karl Wagner that I really loved. And I loved the epic poems of the past. My favorite is Nibelungenlied, which is a Germanic, Norse poem of the story of Siegfried. (Why that hasn't been made into a movie, I will never know.)
So I wanted to bring that sort of sword and sorcery, archaic, epic poem feeling to this. Those epic stories gave me a kind of template on which to base the environment of the Amazons story.
Nrama: You mentioned all the iterations of Wonder Woman over the years. Do you have a personal favorite?
Grevioux: That's hard. I think maybe George Pérez, because he ushered in the post-Crisis version. He gave her curly hair. And it's like, yeah, she's Greek. It's stuff like that. He made her a stronger character. I like all that.
But although he's probably my favorite, I like what Mike Deodato Jr. did. I like what John Byrne did. I like what Phil Jimenez did. So there are other guys who got in there and did some really cool things that I enjoy.