When it comes to winning hearts and minds, Wonder Woman’s Amazon heritage might just have a sinister streak — and their same tactics may come back to haunt Diana of Themyscria in this week’s Wonder Woman: Earth One Volume 2. Writer Grant Morrison spoke with reporters about the overlap between mind control, pick-up artists, and how the culture clash between Paradise Island and Man’s World might reflect the modern political sphere in the Amazing Amazon’s sophomore outing.
“In the world we live in of fake news, of simulation, of AR, of all of these things that have blurred the divisions between what was real and what is fantasy, this went right to the root of the Wonder Woman concept,” Morrison said. “She's someone who stands for truth. She's an avatar of truth in a world where truth has become impossible to detect these days.”
Following her journey to Man’s World in the first volume of the original graphic novel series, Morrison said that this second installment follows Diana as she finds her own place as a teacher at Holliday College, all while navigating the challenges of her friends, unseen enemies, as well as fallout from her mother’s past on Themyscria.
“[Diana] was a scientist, she was a healer, and I thought, what is her actual mission in an actual world? It's not that she comes in and fights crime. That's almost like seeing one of the British royal family fighting crime — it's not really the thing that's going to happen,” Morrison explained. “She has a job. She tries to fit into our society, but at the same time has the option to do something bigger. She represents the bridge between her culture, our culture, and she sees that she has a positive role to play.”
Morrison said that much of he and artist Yanick Paquette’s inspiration for this installment came from examining Wonder Woman creator William Moulton Marston’s original Golden Age philosophies for the character. “If Marston's ideas were taken seriously - and those are very strange ideas - and you put them in the context of today's politics and gender politics, the whole thing that we're dealing with has become quite provocative, I think,” Morrison said.
Much of this is because the Amazons as a nation adhered to a very different set of rules for truth and justice than we might be used to. “Here's a separatist race of technologically advanced superwomen, but they're quite happy to use mind control on their enemies,” he said. “That's the idea of weapons of peace that will just control you, and tell you what's right.”
Yet these themes of control — particularly taking the Amazonian code of submission and using it to rob their enemies of their agency — comes back in Wonder Woman: Earth One with Morrison and Paquette’s reinvention of Doctor Psycho as less of a clear-cut, obvious villain, and instead made him a cautionary tale of a particularly exploitative subculture.
“The original Doctor Psycho was a hypnotist, a mesmerist, you know, this kind of 1940s idea of the creepy hypnotist — your eyes would go blank and you would do as he said,” Morrison said. “And we thought what's the contemporary, modern version of that? So I was looking towards the kind of NLP, mind control, MK Ultra, those ideas — particularly of the pick-up artist community.”
With the character evoking certain scripts and gestures from the pick-up artist playbook, Morrison said that Paquette used Nick Cave as an inspiration for the redesigned Psycho, but looked at other “ugly-handsome” celebrities such as Matt Smith.
“He has these amazing resources at his disposal. He can organize entire scenarios which involve hundreds of people, dozens of people, as many he wants, to get locations, and he can basically twist your idea of what's real and what's not,” Morrison said, adding that Psycho’s slicked-back hair and lion-shaped cane was also meant to evoke the toxic masculinity of Hercules, one of the villains from the series’ first arc.
Because of Psycho’s seduction of Diana, Morrison said that supporting cast members like Steve Trevor and Etta Candy have reduced roles in the sequel by design, as Diana finds herself more isolated and more susceptible to Psycho’s schemes. But discussing Trevor, Morrison said that he was skewing away from the character’s traditional romantic role: “This guy looks out for you, he cares about you - he's actually like a really good best friend, it doesn't have to be a sexual partner.”
Yet Morrison also added that there will be plenty of action in this second volume, particularly as we witness Uberfraulein and her Nazi forces attempt to invade Themyscria during World War II. “A lot of people say, ‘I want to punch a Nazi.’ Most people don't punch anything. Most people don't get into fights,” Morrison said. “So I think we have our cake and eat it, to a certain extent, we at least get to see them being punched.”
With numerous villains and a major status quo shift in this series, Morrison said that this installment would raise the stakes dramatically for Diana, setting up some big villains for the third and final arc.
“When we did the first [volume], it might have only been the first one, we hadn't worked out the trilogy aspect of this yet and I thought at the time that maybe this would be my one shot at Wonder Woman, so it's quite complete in a certain way,” Morrison said. “But for the second one we thought, yeah, we can really do the Empire Strikes Back here… this is the part where, you know, the good guys go up against something that you would test the values and tests everything they stand for.”