When artist Liam Sharp found out that his run on Wonder Woman with writer Greg Rucka would come to an end, he wasn't quite ready to walk away from Diana.
And thanks to the receptiveness of his editorial team, he's not. This month, the artist is both writing and drawing a new Wonder Woman story that teams her with Batman and sends her into a mysterious realm based on Celtic mythology.
Launching February 21, the six-issue Brave and the Bold: Batman and Wonder Woman Newsarama talked to Sharp to find out more about the story, why Wonder Woman needs Batman's help with this new realm, and how Sharp's father-in-law helped inspire the story.
Newsarama: Liam, you just couldn't get away from Wonder Woman. I assume this is something you wanted to do, to stay with the character even though Greg Rucka left?
Liam Sharp: Yeah, when Wonder Woman came to an end, and Greg decided that he was going to move on - he had other stuff that he had to take care of and he didn't want to let anything slip, and it was a big decision for him to go, but he's very, very happy with what we've done. And in the end, he just thought, I don't want anything I'm doing to suffer.
So we've done some 25 issues and it's been a great run, and it's something we're all proud of. So he decided to step away.
And I wasn't quite ready to stop with Diana yet! She's been very good to me.
So I spoke to the editorial team - Mark Doyle said, "Well, pitch something that features her. Let's start from you dream project down." So the first thing I pitched was this idea. And I talked it through with Mark.
I've always wanted to do something with the Celtic mythology. It's something that I've always had a love for. There's never been quite the right time to do it. And this just seemed like the perfect opportunity - particularly with Diana. She's tied to that kind of material.
So it was very much like a snap... not decision, that sounds wrong. But everything fell into place - like, the stars aligned. And it was like, oh, maybe this is the time. Maybe it would work. And the more I thought about it, the more perfect it seemed.
Nrama: So what's the story like? As you mentioned, Diana fits with mythological creatures, but how does that play out in your story?
Sharp: It's interesting. When you start to scratch the surface, it writes itself quite quickly.
When I started thinking about what I knew of Tir Na Nog, which is the fairy realm in which the whole story is set, the concept behind that is that the old gods and fighting men of myth slowly disappeared underground. And in folklore, they became fairies and diminished. And people would visit that realm and the time would be different, and there are all sorts of folk stories about daughters being stolen away and turning up decades later and things like that.
There are all sorts of fascinating folk stories around all kinds of things - you know, like leprechauns and all that.
And this all ties into the fairy realm. But the more I thought about it, it's like, OK, so these gods disappeared under the ground a long, long time ago. So what happened to them? And what's it like in there now, as the world's progressed and we've forgotten about them?
It resembled the situation on Themyscira in that this is a place that's cut off from our world. It's a realm that has not tracking with the modern world anymore.
So what if these people are trapped? What if they've been trapped in there for, what's for them an even longer amount of time?
That was the set-up. We've got a whole nation of people who are basically in-fighting and troubled and stuck in this cycle of forgetfulness, which has to do with a bunch of spells that were cast eons earlier - for reasons that become apparent during the telling of the story.
Nrama: So what's Diana's role in the story?
Sharp: Diana's brought in more as a peace maker to help Cernunnos, who's a kind of Celtic god. He's the link of it all. He comes to get Diana and brings her in to bring peace.
And as they get there, they discover there's been a murder.
So Diana says, "Well, you know - I'm not an investigator. But I know a guy who's perfect for this, so maybe we can bring him in too."
Nrama: And thus Batman enters the story. So let's talk about the artwork on this, Liam. Are you getting to not only pull from these Celtic myths, but also invent visuals of your own? What's that process been like? I assume it's been fun for you...
Sharp: I don't think you could have much more fun than this in the comic industry. It's all the stuff that I love most. It's a sort of legendary, epic tale. So I've really had a huge amount of fun creating the look and feel of this realm.
I mean, in issue #3, it's almost like a tour around the place. So you see a lot of the crazy, dramatic landscapes and aspects of the place that are magical and otherworldly and different from our world.
So I had a hell of a lot of fun with that.
It's just been a joy. I haven't been slavish to the mythology. Some of the kings - I've compressed some aspects. So maybe three kings became one king. The way the characters interact is unique to this story, although it does owe a lot to the old myths. And in issue #4, there's a whole sequence where Batman and Diana are told about all these ancient stories and their past - and that is pretty much as writ and true to the mythologies, as near as I could without completely derailing the story.
So it's an adaptation, but it's honest to the source material or as sympathetic as I could make it to the source material while still exploring it as a potential new realm for us to go into.
Nrama: Wonder Woman is a little different under every writer. How would you describe your Wonder Woman?
Sharp: I've done everything I can to make it clear that she's the same Wonder Woman as the one Greg wrote. I fell in love with our Wonder Woman. I didn't want to write her in a different way, and I didn't want to change anything about her from the version that we had.
So I'm hoping that the people who enjoyed our run will feel that it's the same character and it doesn't feel like a different character.
It's very hard to avoid that when new writers and new artists come onto the book. You should expect that there's going to be a new interpretation. But in this instance, except for the fact that the environment is quite different to what Greg might have come up with, and obviously we tell a different kind of a story, I feel and hope that my Diana is the same Diana. That's certainly what I've tried to do.
She's still with Steve. I couldn't imagine them not being together, in terms of being a part of what made her special, at least to me, when we were doing the story.
And the relationship she has with Batman is purely the relationship she has with him when they're in the Justice League. They're old friends and colleagues. And they know each other very well.
And she brings him in because it's the right man for the job.
So that side of it was good fun.
Nrama: Are you working with the same art team that you worked with on Wonder Woman?
Sharp: I'm not! What's lovely about it is I've got Nicola Scott's colorist. Working with Laura Martin was wonderful. She's one of the most singularly brilliant colorists in the entire industry, in my opinion, that I've been lucky enough to work with. And I felt like Romulo Fajardo Jr., who was doing Nicola Scott's run, was equally amazing. And every time I saw her issues, I was blown away by the work he did.
And it's just kind of nice that part of her team is now on this book, which for me is almost like a bookend for the whole of our two ends. It kind of keeps it in the family a little bit.
Nrama: Do you feel like your art on this is different? Or maybe just the colors?
Sharp: I think my art kept improving through my whole run. I definitely think this art is my best art yet. I think I continue to improve. And I think that Romulo's work is slightly different, but I think it's appropriate for the story.
I think whenever you work with somebody new, that happens inevitably, whether it's an inker or colorist or whatever. It feels part of the same family of books. It's different, but I guess it's got a little bit of what Nicola had in her run, and it's got a little bit of what I had in my run.
But I think the art's better because I feel like I'm more consistent. And I feel like I'm doing the best work that I've done.
Nrama: It sounds like this is a story you really love - not only because you love the character, but you have a specific affinity for the Celtic myths.
Sharp: Yeah. The other thing that makes it extra, extra special is that my father-in-law, who sadly died in the summer last year, he's Irish. He was Irish. My wife's half-Irish.
We spent so much time talking about this kind of stuff. Every time I went to Ireland or to his house, he would always be saying, "You have to do a comic of this material! You've got to do all these old folk stories and all the old kings of Ireland and all that stuff." He used to always push me on that.
And it was nice that I was able to get this off the ground and approved before he passed last summer. And he was really thrilled about it.
So it's very much dedicated to him as well. Danny McCormack - he was a brilliant bloke.
Nrama: We've talked about Wonder Woman, but there's plenty of Batman in this Brave and the Bold, right? And it's so unusual seeing him in these types of landscapes.
Sharp: Definitely. I obviously lean more toward Wonder Woman, because she's the character I'm associated with after doing that work. But Batman has a big role to play too.
A big chunk of it is an investigation, and it's them trying to figure out what's going on - who killed the king? Why are they trapped in Tir Na Nog? What are the various factions, and which are the bad guys - if there are bad guys?
Diana and Bruce play the role of us as readers, trying to lead us through and figure out what the story is.
So a big chunk of it is investigation. Some of it's kind of a tour of this new realm. So you get a sense that the place is also a character in the story.
That was something I was very keen to do that's a little bit different, I think, to a lot of books. You get time in the place and you get a sense of the place. That was important to me.
And then it gets very, very epic and very big at the end. The last issue's going to be hard to draw - it's going to take me time to draw!