The warrior princess Xena is 21-years-old this year, and a former Wonder Woman writer is helping revitalize her for her return in early 2018.
On February 14, Dynamite Entertainment launches a new Xena series by writer Meredith Finch and artist Vicente Cifuentes. While NBC's anticipated reboot faltered, Finch and Cifuentes are less than two months away from bringing the Thracian warrior back into the public eye.
Finch, who came to prominence writing DC Comics' Wonder Woman series, is an admitted Xena fan going back to her 1995 debut. Despite her devotion to the now classic character, Finch was able to critically re-assess it here and now to understand Xena's previous popularity, and what could make her popular again in today's landscape.
(And yes, Xena's relationship with Gabrielle is still a major crux of the franchise.)
Finch spoke with Newsarama about bridging from Xena fan to Xena writer, understanding the character's path from villain to hero, and comparing this warrior princess to a certain Amazon.
Newsarama: Meredith, what made you want to write Xena?
Meredith Finch: I was a huge fan of the TV series when it first aired. Xena: Warrior Princes and Hercules: The Legendary Journeys were the very first fantasy based TV series I had ever seen, and as a huge fan of the genre I was immediately hooked. Having the opportunity to write a character that had such a big impact on me as a young woman was an opportunity that I simply couldn’t pass up.
Nrama: What is your plans for the initial story arc in the comic book?
Finch: I want to reintroduce the character, who she is, and what she stands for to a new generation of fans, while walking that fine line to balance what returning fans expect from the character. I also want to go more in-depth into Xena’s journey from warrior princess to hero. I feel like it’s something we can all really relate to - the idea of being forgiven for past sins - and it’s hard to think of needing redemption from something more horrific than being a killer. There is a darkness to the character of Xena that I am really looking forward to exploring.
Nrama: I've seen some of Vicente's uncolored, unlettered pages... is that Gabrielle in the first issue?
Finch: That is absolutely Gabrielle in the first issue. As much as the title of the book, and the TV series for that matter, was Xena: Warrior Princess, there really is no Xena without Gabrielle. Gabrielle is the light to Xena’s darkness. She is the key to helping our warrior princess find a balance between who and what she was, and the woman/hero that she has the potential to become. I see Gabrielle as especially important to Xena’s development and journey toward redemption. And along the way, Gabrielle will have her own emotional journey to follow.
Nrama: Will any other characters from the show appear in the first arc?
Finch: As I said before this book is about introducing Xena to a new generation of fans while at the same time creating something that is loyal to the original material. There will definitely be other familiar characters from the show, specifically with respect to the antagonist in the book.
Nrama: You’ve said you watched Xena: Warrior Princess when it originally aired, so what were your impressions of it as a viewer?
Finch: As I mentioned earlier, I was a huge fan of the TV series and in the days before the internet and social media having a character on TV that was part of a genre that I loved made me feel very much like I was part of something bigger. In a lot of ways Xena exemplified the 20th century woman for me. She was strong and extremely capable, but never afraid to ask for help from those who were better qualified to give it in any particular situation. She was always about elevating those around her. I think the reason Xena has been so successful is that those are all still qualities that we can relate with today.
Nrama: When the thought came that you would write a new comic book series, how'd you go about re-assessing the franchise for storytelling opportunities?
Finch: The very first thing I did was go back and read through the most recent comics that had been written about Xena and see if there was something I felt like I could add. It was actually this process that helped me to realize that this was a character that really needed a reboot. There was so much assumed knowledge that I felt like she had become inaccessible to anyone but the hardcore fans. At that point, I went back and re-watched her Hercules episodes and episodes from the first season of Xena. I wanted to make sure I really understood who she was as a villain so that I could understand her transformation to heroine.
Nrama: Xena is sometimes compared to DC's Wonder Woman, and you're now one of the few who has written both. How would you compare and contrast the two?
Finch: Wonder Woman is trying to make the world a better place because of the deep and abiding love she has for humanity. In contrast, Xena is trying to make the world a better place as a means of atoning for her crimes against humanity. I think that naturally makes her a much darker, more cynical character. Xena operates initially out of sense of obligation verses Wonder Woman who operates always from a sense of love. Ultimately both woman rely on similar skills sets to resolve problems. I also see Wonder Woman, even though she represents love, as being much more alone and isolated than Xena who surrounds herself with people like Gabrielle who constantly challenge her to be better. I think that is why Wonder Woman stories for me always have a hint of sadness to them versus the humor that can found in Xena.
Nrama: What is your big goal with Xena overall?
Finch: Ultimately, I want people to read the book and just have a great time. One of my favorite parts of the TV series was that the characters didn’t take themselves too seriously. We are all having an amazing time working on this book and I hope that translates for our readers and they have as much fun reading it.