In DC's new The Legend of Wonder Woman, writer/artist Renae De Liz has consciously been trying to create a more diverse and accessible version of Wonder Woman and her world, reaching out to a similarly more diverse and newly interested audience.
Working with her husband Ray Dillon on inks, colors and letters, De Liz has won critical praise for the brand new universe she's created for Wonder Woman and her supporting characters. And if the book continues to do well, she's hoping DC will let her not only continue her story of the Legend of Wonder Woman, but to add other classic-but-accessible DC superheroes to the universe.
De Liz is best known in the comic book industry for spearheading Womanthology, the anthology series that that featured female creators and was funded through a hugely successful Kickstarter campaign. The creator 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!.
Now that readers have gotten their hands on the first print issue of the series, as well as the first few digital issues, Newsarama talked with De Liz to find out more about her hopes for the comic, including the other characters she wants to utilize to round out her version of the DC Universe.
Newsarama: Renae, this story begins with a child Diana, far from the Wonder Woman we are all used to seeing. Why did you want to tell this story from the point of view of a child? Was that important to understanding who she is — or to relate to her sense of longing?
Renae De Liz: It's important to understand where a character comes from in order to invest ourselves. Batman and Superman have backgrounds in a world familiar to us. We easily can understand and relate to the framework of their lives, what motivates them, and the dimensions of their personality, which allows for shorter origins.
Wonder Woman's origin is usually delivered almost as an afterthought, trying to make it as short and easy to understand as other heroes. I understand the reasoning behind that, and while giving the basic framework of her origin and immediately moving onto Wonder Woman works "enough" to get the story moving, rushing over her background makes it harder to understand the motivations behind someone from a completely different world than ours. We need to see those unique events that build her up to do things like entering the Tournament, or saving Steve, or fighting for the world, so we can better care about what happens to the hero later on. Many of these important events involve her early days, hence part of the story focusing on her childhood.
Nrama: In this story, Diana seems very set apart, different from her schoolmates because she's royalty, yet unable to fully agree with the path her mother wants for her. Was this something you see in Wonder Woman? Is it also part of making her relatable?
De Liz: She definitely feels like she doesn't belong, but not in a resentful, negative way. She senses need for her elsewhere than the places set out for her. She knows something is deeply wrong around her, so she would feel uncomfortable running around carefree with other children, or sitting still in the palace for her royal duties. It does makes her relatable because we all strive to find a place in life that feels right and sometimes it's not the path others expect us to follow. In Diana's case, there is an important underlying reason for her sense of being set apart, which is a story element learned later in the series.
Nrama: Diana is also a pretty quiet character. What do you think that says about her?
De Liz: She is one who prefers action instead of words, but speaks her mind when it's important or good might come from it. It's not in her nature to make small talk and sees little worth in it, however it doesn't stem from an uncaring place. In fact, she cares so much she's forever silently observing and gathering information to utilize later to help others, which she cannot do if she's too busy doing things she views as less important, like socializing.
While she seems cool in demeanor, that Amazon fire is always there, ready to jump out and save the day and protect the innocent, but she saves that fire for when it's necessary.
Related, her quiet nature is something that grates with the boisterous Etta Candy, who takes it upon herself to help Diana see the lighter side of life. This is something the overly-serious princess needs, and so Etta is critical to Diana's growth.
Nrama: Would you call this a coming of age story?
De Liz: I suppose technically, yes, however she is an adult in Legend of Wonder Woman #2, and has seven more issues where adult Diana's growth continues. By the last issue, she's just realizing her true destiny as Wonder Woman. It is only a starting point to major growth to come, which I hope to tell in Part 2. So while we do see her "coming of age," Diana will forever be learning and becoming stronger.
Nrama: Why did you want to use the character of Alcippe; what does she represent in the story — a spiritual and physical mentor?
De Liz: I never preferred stories that have males training Diana. It makes no sense for a character who stands for the ultimate strength of women. I also don't prefer super-powered gods undertaking the task, as if the strength of the women around her was not enough to train Wonder Woman. It needed to be one of her own kind — one of the best with thousands of years of Amazonian battles under her belt. That's where Alcippe comes in, to show her that true honor in combat comes not only with brute strength, but intelligence, instinct, and capability to understand your foe.
Diana learns how to fight, yes, but it's the lessons of Amazonian honor that truly make up the structure of the future Wonder Woman's style of combat.
Alcippe is essentially Diana's second mother, even though she initially despises the young princess. Alcippe is one of the small group of Immortal Amazons, and her history is steeped in violence and hardship. Her methods of training are often cold and tough, but Diana finds spiritual freedom under Alcippe from her overprotected life. She helps Diana fulfill that desire for training to protect those she loves, as well as her inner yearning to explore and discover the world around her. She is free around Alcippe, despite being rigorously trained.
She will always be one of the most important people in Diana's life, and their relationship is extremely important all the way through the final issue and beyond.
Nrama: Can you describe your approach to Alcippe, both in the way she's written and drawn/colored?
De Liz: I wanted her to be the ultimate "Knight in Shining Armor," but with focus on honor and morality over brute strength. Her past was riddled in violence and vengeance, so the Alcippe we see in this story is actually tamed somewhat by her choice for a more peaceful path, but that fiery, hot temper which fueled the legendary warrior of times past is still present.
Alcippe is also very traditional in her approach to things. For instance when Diana chooses to practice with only a rope because it means less bloodshed, Alcippe is against it, feeling more traditional weapons are only suitable.
Visually I wanted Alcippe to look very muscular, to always stand tall, and for her presence to always feel important. As Captain of the Guard, she is usually wearing armor representing Hippolyta's colors and Golden Eagle symbol.
Nrama: The island feels more multicultural than ever. Was that a conscious choice?
De Liz: Yes. I felt the Amazons, who are supposed to represent the best of humanity, should be very diverse. In this story, when Hippolyta first formed the Amazons, women from every part of the world rallied to her side. So every color, age, and size is represented amongst their population. I just don't think an all- or mostly white, eternally young, attractive and perfect people are very inclusive or exciting. Every woman should feel like she could be an Amazon.
Nrama: The story and art really capitalize on the magical setting of Themyscira. Did you and Ray discuss this being part of the story and how to approach this setting? Can you share some of the techniques you used to accomplish it?
De Liz: After The Last Unicorn and Peter Pan, creating magical worlds is a very familiar endeavor. Colors are such a huge part of it, and Ray knows just how to paint the world to feel beautiful, magical and mysterious.
But I also find being careful with establishing shots is important when it comes with conveying magic and mystery. If in the first panel you see everything awesome all at once, something you'll find common in a lot of movies these days. There's not much left to discover, and we're left out of experiencing these things with our characters. A little at a time is best.
Themyscira should be a place we never fully understand, and will never run out of surprises and adventures for those who dare to explore it.
Nrama: At the end of the nine issues, do you have other stories in mind for Diana? Could there be a second volume or even a continuing series?
De Liz: I have the second story ready to go and pitched. There's still so much character growth still to be done, so many exciting villains to bring back... this Wonder Woman title could easily be ongoing for years and years, and the structure for almost endless adventures is just right there. But I'd be happy just to get to do Part 2, because there's still some major aspects needing to be established for Wonder Woman before I can feel okay leaving the character.
Nrama: What are your hopes for the future of these stories?
De Liz: My overall goal is to create accessible Wonder Woman stories for anyone, new readers or seasoned, and to show the strength of women in a way that is powerful and natural to the character. I especially hope young readers find a Diana they can look up to, without stories that talk down to them. Wonder Woman should be for everyone, after all!
For future stories I want to further explore Diana's character, her allies, and to re-introduce classic villains unique to Wonder Woman and give her a world as defined and familiar as Batman's and Superman's. I've pitched a series based on the Amazons as well, to help build this world even further.
Beyond that, I want to introduce other DC characters in this same universe, ending in a large Justice League arc, and create a clear an accessible line for anyone who wants to discover or rediscover characters who are staples in the DC World. There are so many fun adventures just waiting to be told, and I hope I get to tell them!