BRIAN AZZARELLO on Horror, Gods, Pants, & DCnU WONDER WOMAN
BRIAN AZZARELLO on DCnU WONDER WOMAN
Wonder Woman, who has starred in her own comics for more than 600 issues, gets a relaunch with a new #1 in September. Although she's one of the characters in next week's highly publicized Justice League #1 by Geoff Johns and Jim Lee, Wonder Woman's solo book has gotten less media attention, thanks in part to the silence of its creative team.
Written by Brian Azzarello with Cliff Chiang on art, Wonder Woman has also been the subject of some discussion regarding women's costumes. While DC chose to put the character in pants for the last year, the relaunch suddenly has her wearing a bathing-suit type costume again. While some fans prefer the more iconic look, others question why female characters wear smaller costumes than their male counterparts.
Then last week, Azzarello broke his silence during a short interview at a convention, getting comic fandom in a tizzy by calling Wonder Woman a "horror book."
What does horror mean? And who is this Wonder Woman? And what's up with her pants?
Newsarama finally got Azzarello to sit down for a few answers.
Newsarama: Brian, let's just start with the quote from the Coventry Telegraph from your interview at a convention. You said that Wonder Woman is going to be a horror book. Can you clarify that?
Azzarello: What can I clarify?
Nrama: Well... is it zombie Amazons and a vampire Steve Trevor?
Azzarello: No, no, no. [laughs] Although zombie Steve Trevor isn't a bad idea.
Nrama: Is it "dark and gritty?"
Nrama: She's still a superhero, though, right? After all, she's still running around in star-spangled pants.
Azzarello: They aren't pants. [laughs]
Nrama: Oh yeah. Star-spangled bloomers. But this continues to utilize the mythology we know from Wonder Woman?
Azzarello: I don't know that I'd say it's the mythology you know. I don't want to give you what you know.
Nrama: I guess what I'm getting at is... who is Wonder Woman as you start her series? Is she the character we know, the Wonder Woman who is recognizable by the public?
Azzarello: She's very recognizable in this universe. This isn't a hard reboot. It's a soft reboot. Her history's intact. She's still an Amazon. She's still from Paradise Island. She's tough. She's prepared. She's Wonder Woman.
Nrama: Then getting back to the gods in your story, are they her biggest challenge?
Azzarello: Yes! It's a bigger challenge than her wearing pants, which would seem to be a huge challenge...
Nrama: [laughs] Let's talk about the pants later. How would you describe the gods? Are they evil?
Azzarello: They're not evil. But they're capricious. If you read some of those Greek myths, they are... you said "dark and gritty?" Some of them are very dark and gritty. Some of them are very, very violent. They're not looking out for humanity's best interest most of the time. They're looking out for their own. And they get jealous. And they betray each other. And life is pretty casual to them, because they're immortal, after all.
That's something we're going to be playing with. We're taking Wonder Woman and we're putting her into the middle of that. You said clarification? I can't get any clearer than what I said. It's a horror book.
Nrama: I think the problem is that some people jump to the conclusion that a "horror" book will utilize some of the clichés of the horror genre. But I'm hearing from your description that "horror" is a description of the emotion you not only want to elicit from the readers, but what Wonder Woman is going through herself, right?
Azzarello: Yeah. I want this book to have a sense of peril in it. There are big conflicts, and the stakes are high.
Nrama: That's probably part of the problem with making Wonder Woman compelling, because she doesn't seem to be in peril. She's usually a cool, collected, heroic figure.
Azzarello: Yeah. That's difficult. It's the same difficulty Superman has. Not so much Batman.
Azzarello: Yeah, then everybody's in the same boat, huh?
Nrama: We've seen Wonder Woman dealing with the gods before, but it sounds like you're hoping to make this very different?
Azzarello: Yeah, because it kind of feels like the gods have always been somewhat sanitized.
Nrama: I think the difficulty is that these gods existed pretty much only for Wonder Woman. They weren't villains of the DCU. In the Marvel Universe, Loki is the reason the Avengers first teamed up. He was a god, yet he became a central villain and felt like a real threat.
Azzarello: Yeah. And if Cliff and I do our job correctly, people are going to want to use these gods in the DCU. These gods will have... what's the word I'm looking for? Legs. They should have legs.
Nrama: You'd told me before that you want this book to have "no cuddly gods." Would it be more accurate to describe the gods as "horrific?" Are they the "horror" in Wonder Woman?
Azzarello: Yes. That's it. Wonder Woman is not horrible. Her villains should be. And she will go up against characters that can take her out. And hopefully there will be a lot of fear in this book because of that.
We're pretty well along now. And there are some really, really jarring moments that happen throughout this book. And I think we're going to put people on the edge of their seats, which is where I want them, so I can kick their legs out from underneath them.
Nrama: We've seen Hera's name in solicitations. Do you want to say who the "big bad" is in the comic? I get the feeling it's not Ares, who's expected.
Azzarello: Since you would expect that, then no... it's not Ares. I'll just say... expect the unexpected.
Nrama: What's the setting for the comic?
Azzarello: It's global. We jump around in the first issue. We're in Singapore. We're in Virginia. We're in London. And that's going to keep up.
Nrama: Will we see Wonder Woman dealing with the rest of the DCU, or are you establishing her own corner of the universe?
Azzarello: There will be some DC characters in Wonder Woman. But the most important thing for us right now is... first, right out of the gate, we've got to establish what her corner of the DCU is.
Nrama: You mean the supporting cast?
Azzarello: Yeah. And what are the games? What are the games that are being played on her?
Nrama: Is her mother part of the series?
Azzarello: Yeah, her mother's going to be in the book.
Nrama: What about other characters we know from her world, like Artemis or Silver Swan?
Azzarello: Not so much. You will see some. I don't want to give you anything that you've had. I want this to be a new experience for people.
Nrama: It's interesting that you haven't been talking to the media about this until now. It's been tough for me to get you to sit down for an interview. Why the silence?
Azzarello: We wanted to keep a lid on it for awhile. I just want the story to speak for itself.
I think it's great that all of you want to know what's coming in Wonder Woman. You're acting like it's Christmas Eve and you're children. But it's also like you're going to get executed in the morning. You've got apprehension and you're excited. And it's great.
Nrama: I can understand that opinion, but going with your Christmas analogy, there are a lot of presents under that DC tree, and some of them are going to attract more of us kids than others. If you want us to choose Wonder Woman, you've got to give us a hint about what's inside that package.
Azzarello: Yeah, I think people are very, very curious about what's in this book. But I just don't know what I can say that's going to get anyone more excited. You know?
I can say this: Cliff and I, on a book together. On Wonder Woman. I mean, I think that was exciting when it was announced, right? People were like, "what the hell?"
Nrama: It's certainly what I thought. But I think that's because people associate you with... well, for lack of a better word, "tough" characters. Like Batman. And for some reason, Wonder Woman isn't seen as that same kind of "tough."
Azzarello: But she is tough. And I don't write just tough characters. I write weak characters and everything in between, but it's just the situations that these people find themselves in that makes it interesting. That's what makes it compelling. How do we deal with conflict?
Nrama: So do you have a plan of this being a long-term conflict?
Azzarello: Right, it's a long-term conflict. We've got a big plan.
Nrama: You've got to be aware of the challenges of this character. She's considered part of DC's iconic "Trinity" of characters, but her sales don't indicate she's on the same level as Superman and Batman.
Azzarello: Right. Does the Trinity exist in comics? I don't think so. Other than her "power" level. Is she as popular or as needed in the DCU as Batman and Superman? As it stands right now? I don't think so. And that's something that Cliff and I plan to address.
Nrama: Superman and Batman play so well against each other, because each has a role that's so distinct in the DCU and so different from the other. Are you kind of figuring out what Wonder Woman's role is?
Azzarello: Yeah, that's what we're working on. And the way to make this Trinity real is to make this book "can't miss" every month. You've got to read it 'cause you've got to see what happens next, to generate some excitement with her.
Nrama: Do you feel like you're working harder on this than you have on other superhero books you've written?
Azzarello: Harder? Yeah. I am. There's a lot more world-building going on. So that makes things even more difficult.
Nrama: Are you having to coordinate this with Geoff Johns as he writes Wonder Woman in Justice League?
Azzarello: Not yet.
Nrama: Is that because his book is set in the past for the first six months?
Nrama: OK... now let's address Wonder Woman's costume change.
Azzarello: [Laughs] Yeah, those pants.
Nrama: Does it bother you one way or another? Do you care about what she's wearing on her legs?
Azzarello: Of course not. I don't care. It's not important to the story.
Listen, if it were my choice? She's be wearing that skirt!
Nrama: Wait a minute. Is that a hint? Why the skirt?
Azzarello: Because it looks good! Like her original costume? I think that's great.
Nrama: So apparently you're not making all the decisions about her costume. But you are making the decisions about the story, right?
Azzarello: Yeah, the story's all ours.
Nrama: How is it working with Cliff again?
Azzarello: Oh, it's great collaborating with Cliff again. He's doing phenomenal work.
Nrama: He's collaborating on the world-building?
Azzarello: Uh huh.
Nrama: Anything you can tell us about his designs?
Nrama: [laughs] Well, Brian, it seems that you've said just about all you're willing to say about Wonder Woman. Any final words?
Azzarello: Just.... people need to relax. Stop worrying about her costume. Everybody wants to know all these details about what we're going to do and they're getting all worked up, but it's not a hard reboot of the character. We're still writing about Wonder Woman. Our job is to make it a can't miss book, month after month.Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's FACEBOOK and TWITTER!