Doug Mahnke has been saying for years that he wanted to put his individual stamp on Wonder Woman, and now he's finally getting the chance to do it.
Beginning with November's issue #13, the artist will be joining writer Peter Tomasi on Superman/Wonder Woman. The superhero couple, who started dating in 2012 after the DCU was rebooted the year before, has been dealing with relationship difficulties and major villains over the last year since their book was launched by Charles Soule and Tony Daniel. (Soule is moving on to a Marvel contract, Daniel to writing and drawing Deathstroke.)
Mahnke has been working in the comics industry several years, being one of the creators behind The Mask series for Dark Horse Comics in the '90s. More recently, he's been working for DC Comics, providing pencils for high profile projects like Green Lantern and Justice League with Geoff Johns and the last two issues of Final Crisis with Grant Morrison.
Newsarama talked to Mahnke to find out more about his approach to Superman and Wonder Woman and their relationship in the New 52.
Newsarama: Doug, how has it been working with Pete Tomasi?
Doug Mahnke: Pete and I go way back. He was my first editor at DC. I also know Pete pretty well because Pat Gleason and I are friends, and he's been working with Pete awhile now.
Nrama: Oh yeah, you and Pat used to share a studio in Minnesota, but last time I talked to you, you weren't doing that anymore, right?
Mahnke: Yeah, but we're back to doing that again. So I'll hear Pat talking to Pete and I've seen how he works with him, and of course, I've known him as an editor, so I've got a real comfort level with him.
But when I talk to Pete about the book, I don't necessarily put my two cents worth into the direction of the book, but I do like to discuss individual snippets or concepts of what I'd like to bring out in the character. So he and I talked quite a bit about Wonder Woman. Because Superman's a no-brainer, you know? If you make him complicated, then you're making a mistake. I mean, he's this iconic figure, and whenever you leave what you'd consider to be Superman, you ultimately have to come back to it.
On the other hand, we feel like we can give Wonder Woman a unique perspective. I mean, it won't be groundbreaking or anything. But it will be nice if it's noticed, how Pete's writing and how I deal with the art chores.
Nrama: So for you as an artist, is the main attraction of this comic getting the chance to draw Wonder Woman?
Mahnke: Yeah, yeah. It really is. I totally admit it. You know, when people talk about Wonder Woman, I feel like it's a character that people are always saying, "Are we doing the right thing with her?" It's been hit or miss. And some people are never quite sure. You know, are we getting Wonder Woman right?
She's an extremely interesting and powerful character. And when you look at everything that's been done with her over the years, the variety and the different focuses on different kinds of stories, you can't help but ask, or at least I have to ask as I work on this book, is there a way to handle her that makes her even more intriguing and interesting? That's what I want to do.
I've certainly been around DC long enough to see her go through a few changes in the hands of different creative teams. And everybody brings their own thing. So I'll finally get the opportunity, I think, to try to do what I can do. My desire is to get close to this character, and I hope people identify this version as the "Doug and Pete's version" of Wonder Woman.
I'm really excited about this project because of that. You'd think after 26 years drawing comics, 20 almost exclusively with DC, there's not a lot to get me excited working on these things, because I have been around them for so long and drawn so many angles on these characters and yet this one does. I mean, there have been other noteworthy things in my career that have gotten me excited. I've worked with tremendously talented writers — all the years I've worked with Geoff [Johns] have been great, and I got to step in and work with Grant [Morrison]. These things are all noteworthy, and I'm not dismissing them at all, in terms of their impact on my career and the excitement of doing it.
But Wonder Woman, honestly, is something that's been in the back of my mind for a long time. I think, because of my Greek heritage, I have that in my mind as well, you know? This is a superhero that has ties to Greek mythology.
Nrama: "Mahnke" is a Greek name?
Mahnke: [Laughs] No, no, that's German. The Greek is on my mother's side.
Nrama: Ah, OK. How do you pronounce Mahnke anyway? I don't think I've ever asked you in the past.
Mahnke: You know, I answer to anything, so people can just say it however they want.
But yeah, people have asked me in various interviews over the years whether there's any character I'd like to do, and I've always brought up Wonder Woman. And here I am.
Plus, I get the added bonus of having Superman in there, to go along with the Wonder Woman ride.
Nrama: Do you guys contrast the two characters and their perspectives?
Mahnke: Yeah, there's this scene I drew, in the first issue, where Wonder Woman is a little taken aback by the way Clark deals with some emotional things. Although Clark isn't human, he's a Kryptonian, he was raised as a human, so he reacts to things a little different than her. So it's really neat to be able to portray that part of what makes her different.
Nrama: It's interesting to hear you talk about Wonder Woman being the main attraction for you, because some fans have worried that Wonder Woman will be playing second fiddle to Superman in this book.
Mahnke: No, no.
Nrama: Not to you, it sounds like.
Mahnke: When people would ask me what book I was going to work on next, I habitually said "Wonder Woman/Superman," instead of Superman/Wonder Woman, so that's kind of where my mind was at, if that's any indication.
Nrama: The solicitation for your first issue mentions the villain Atomic Skull and Major Disaster. Anything you can share about the threats in this first storyline?
Mahnke: Yeah, I worked with Major Disaster years ago. When I was working with him, he'd become a good guy. But clearly he's back in bad graces. And Atomic Skull is a bad guy for them to fight against, and for others to fight.
Nrama: Can you describe anything else about what you're doing with Wonder Woman? You keep talking about a unique approach. I know you're bringing a Greek heritage into it, but can you describe anything else that you and Pete have talked about?
Mahnke: Honestly, I don't want to say too much about it. I want people to read the issue and see what they think. I'm interested to see if people pick up on it, and I'm excited to see what they think of the first issue.