With Thursday's debut of the digital first series The Legend of Wonder Woman, writer/artist Renae De Liz is writing the Amazon princess' origins the way she sees the character "in [her] heart."
Working with her husband Ray Dillon on inks and colors, De Liz will be telling a coming of age story about the character, offering a jumping-on point for new readers just a few months before Wonder Woman's introduction to live action film audiences in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice in March 2016.
De Liz is best known in the comics world for spearheading the Womanthology, the anthology series that that featured female creators and was funded through a hugely successful Kickstarter campaign. She's also won acclaim for adapting Peter S. Beagle's The Last Unicorn, Jennifer Love Hewitt's Music Box, and Anne Rice's Servant of the Bones, as well as creating the title Lady Powerpunch!.
Newsarama talked to De Lez about The Legend of Wonder Woman to find out more about the new approach she hopes to take to young Diana of Themyscira.
Newsarama: Renae, what's your history with Wonder Woman as a character, and why were you interested in creating a comic book about her?
Renae De Liz: As a girl, I was a huge comics collector of all varieties. Bone, Archie, Gen13, WildCATs, The Maxx, various mangas — I loved them all. I would always pick up Wonder Woman's book intending to buy it, and could never find anything that gripped me enough to do so. I loved Wonder Woman — just wasn't into the comics. (I've since caught up on many of her stories.)
Those feelings never really changed in 20 years. While I've always appreciated great aspects lent by her stories, none of them portrayed Wonder Woman the way I saw her in my heart.
Over time, I've discovered many people felt the same way, and were looking for many of the same things I was. So this is my attempt to bring out that Wonder Woman I had always wished to see, and to give a starting point for people of all ages who currently don't know her to easily jump on.
Newsarama: What's your approach to the character — who is she as you're writing her in this story, and what makes her tick?
De Liz: This series is a long transition from Amazon Princess to Wonder Woman, with much growth along the way.
Many may find this version of Wonder Woman is less verbose than others. She feels action is more important than words in most instances, but is very forthcoming should those words be necessary. She is the type to actively observe everything around her in order to form a plan, and then leap forward with strength and fire. She keeps mostly to herself, and is very careful to whom she opens up, and this may lead others to think she is somewhat cold and overly dutiful to begin with, but that's where people like Etta Candy come in, who sees past that and helps bring that inner Diana out to the world.
Throughout this series, her inner struggle is to find that balance between what Diana wishes for her life, and the needs/wants of others. Something I think we all deal with in our lives.
Nrama: Why do you think she's such an important icon for women in particular?
De Liz: We all know the basics of what makes her important to many women. She's from an all-female society, she stands up for women everywhere. She breaks the mold of what most people expected from female characters (especially early on). But I think she symbolizes many different things for different women.
Some things that make her an important icon to me, personally, are her powers, build, and status. Most female characters have mind powers, supportive powers, or status-changing powers. It they did have strength, most were scrawny or obviously drawn with a focus on her attractiveness rather than her power. Wonder Woman seemed above all of that most of the time. She not only has flight and super strength, she's built to make that believable, and taller than her male counterparts. Most people don't view her as yet another buxom heroine with a pretty face, she stands for something important, all the way up there with Superman and Batman. She's also not just an offshoot or version of a male character, she is her own. That is so rare for female characters and a big deal to me, personally.
Nrama: I know this is out of DC's main post-Flashpoint continuity, but with its digital release timed shortly before the upcoming live action film version of Wonder Woman seen in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, how much does this series tie into the continuity of movie?
De Liz: Absolutely none that I know of.
Nrama: Okay. Let's talk about your art. How would you describe your style in general, and who have been some of your influences?
De Liz: I'd say it's somewhere in the middle of realistic and cartoony. My goal as an artist is to keep the positive from both styles and form them into my own. I try hard not to look at other artists' work too closely, as I don't want to draw like someone else.
Of course, I grew up learning to draw while looking at other artwork, so there are influences that have been there since an early age. Particularly Rankin/Bass animations (Last Unicorn/Hobbit), Jeff Smith, manga, Disney animation, various video game and fantasy artwork and J. Scott Campbell are on top of that list.
Nrama: Getting into specifics, how would you describe the way you're approaching the visuals for The Legend of Wonder Woman?
De Liz: I try to create pages where you can really feel the environment and what the character is going through, so I focus quite a bit on character and atmosphere. Colors play a huge role in this, as I feel a story looks best when line work and color are balanced in just the right way, and Ray is an excellent colorist who knows just how to bring the mood out of every scene.
Nrama: Let's bring Ray into this now.
Ray, you're getting to ink and color Renae's artwork. How would you describe the visual style of the book?
Ray Dillon: Emotional, energetic, and expansive. Renae has a way of drawing complex emotions, scenes that feels like you could really be there, and movement in even the calmest scenes. It's a great mix of realism and animated. We've tried to really play with depth of field and using colors to give a unique feeling to each scene. Everything we do, from lighting to color choices, to textures and patterns are there to reinforce the mood, the feeling it gives you.
Nrama: I asked Renae this, but what about you, Ray? What are your thoughts on the character of Wonder Woman, not only as she appears in this comic, but as an iconic figure?
Dillon: Wonder Woman is a character I've always thought of as iconic and powerful but realized I had no idea what her origin was or powers or anything, really. I'd seen a few episodes of the show when I was really young, and I'd seen a lot of pinups of her, but never saw a comic or show that really pulled me in. Obviously everyone knows who she is, but I didn't know who she is and I think most people are the same way.
After starting work on this I realized how crazy that was. If you ask anyone what Superman's story is, or Batman, or Spider-Man, they know, but something wasn't being done to connect the average person to Wonder Woman, who's just as important and iconic as Superman or any of those. I think Renae has done an excellent job of giving us an origin story that will be memorable and engaging and allow for new readers to really get a feel for her. I'm a huge Wonder Woman fan now and I'm really excited for future stories that Renae wants to tell, too!
Nrama: Why do you think this comic is unique among other Wonder Woman stories?
De Liz: I've taken many elements from other Wonder Woman stories that I felt were important, and built upon the rest. So there is a lot of familiar ground, but I think my delivery of the story in terms of pacing, visuals, and focus are much different than most current superhero books. I wanted this to be a (most) ages book, so everyone could enjoy a Wonder Woman tale. I think people would find this lighter in tone than other renditions.
I was also given 270 pages to tell her origin story, so I had a lot of room to explore areas that have been previously quickly passed by or ignored. I've also brought back a lot of characters/story elements that haven't been seen in quite a while.
Dillon: I think it takes time to really give you a feeling of who Diana is, who Hippolyta is and how important Diana is to her, Etta, Steve, all the characters are really fleshed out. I feel like all these characters are real to me now and they're really great characters that I'd love to see more of. And this book isn't trying to be some new extreme or dark version of what's come before, it's paying tribute to her roots and is more a traditional superhero story, which I think everyone is ready for more of. We've had the dark stuff for a while now. Let's have fun and get back to superheroes being super!
Nrama: What can readers expect from the story? Can you give any set-up for the plot?
De Liz: This story follows Diana from birth as Princess of the Amazons, through her rise as Wonder Woman. We're on Themyscira for three issues and elsewhere for the remaining six. You can expect a lot of different locations, and transitions for Diana on her path to becoming protector of the planet.
Nrama: And we'll see Etta Candy?
De Liz: A more-to-the-original Etta Candy will be returning along with her own classic supporting cast, as I feel she was a very important character for Diana's story. Etta is bold, stylish, confident, and fun, and feels it's her job to draw Diana out of her serious shell and show her the lighter side of life. Etta is pretty critical to Diana's growth over the series.
Dillon: Etta is amazing. She's become one of my favorite comic characters ever. Just a lot of fun and she plays so well off of Diana.
De Liz: The main villain is one from her classic roster, who I felt best paralleled who and what Wonder Woman is. He's had many different looks over the years and wasn't utilized very much. Therefore I was able to embellish quite a bit in this area. Other classic villains appear here and there, with a hope to pit them against Diana in further stories.
You'll also find background characters/mentions from across the DC Universe, like Batman, Superman, Aquaman, etcetera, sprinkled here and there, but the focus is always on Diana.
Finally, there is an Amazon I know people loved from another series, and she is here, though her name is something else to begin with (as she too, has a story to tell about her rise as an Amazon).
Dillon: What I really love about this story is that it takes us through three major stages of Diana's life (over the 270-page story) all in vastly different settings, from childhood and beyond. I love getting to really experience this stuff through the way Renae has drawn and paced it.
Nrama: Anything else you want to tell potential readers about The Legend of Wonder Woman?
Dillon: It's a massive story that spans a lot of time. So, I just hope everyone buckles in for the whole ride. We really appreciate all the support. It's rare when a creator gets creative control over such an important and big book. So, I really want you to experience the whole thing like I have.
Nrama: What about you Renae? Anything else you want to add?
De Liz: Just to express my hope that people will have an enjoyable reading experience, and have fun getting to know Wonder Woman in this way. If this series is successful, I can possibly do much more. I usually dream big, so I'm prepared for what could come next. I've already plotted Part 2, and have years of stories beyond this and multiple other series in mind that branch from this. For example a more in-depth look at Hippolyta and her early days as the Golden Warrior who formed the Amazons, or some further adventures of Etta, as her story has much to be told. I also have further visions of other DC characters becoming established in the same universe as this one. Aquaman, Superman, and Cyborg would be next in my mind. So here's hoping!