A murder mystery is pulling science fiction heroes Dejah Thoris and Barbarella together in a crossover launching this week- and up-and-coming writer Leah Williams is enjoying the match-up.
Barbarella/Dejah Thoris by Williams and artist Germán Gárcia juxtaposes Barbarella (whom the writer calls a "pansexual, blonde, space James Bond") with Dejah Thoris ("passion and warmth") as they're both pulled from their worlds - and their times - to a mysterious water planet to find a murderer.
Williams spoke with Newsarama about the Barbarella/Dejah Thoris limited series, on weaving together these two disparate characters, and yes - the romantic tension.
Newsarama: Leah, what is the most interesting parts of Barbarella and Dejah - and how do you hope to show that to readers?
Leah Williams: For me, the most interesting parts for each of them is how their respective personalities have developed over a period of decades. More specifically, these characters have changed many times and even though their paths have never crossed since they’re from different properties and over a millennia apart in time periods, modern characterizations of Dejah and Barbarella have both landed them with characterizations that are wholly unique and yet somehow perfectly and uniquely suited to each other.
Writing this miniseries has made me feel first-hand the exact kind of thrill that writing an unconventional crossover like this can provide. Seeing them interact - the very real differences and miscommunication mishaps that their different backgrounds and worldview would give them, and the fact that they are both fiercely sharp individuals who don’t tolerate their own ignorance - this is the thrill. That; and the moment Barbarella lays eyes on Dejah she’d definitely be like “Well...hello.”
Nrama: First off, how do such disparate characters meet each other?
Williams: It’s entirely set up by someone in Barbarella’s timeline who knows how to manipulate the universe to the extent that he designed a very intricate traversal of time and space just to produce the circumstances under which the two precise individuals he needed to help him could meet and get to work.
Nrama: The announcement said this concerns a murder mystery - who is murdered?
Williams: Doctor Gitu - a multiverse-renowned scientist and philanthropist.
Nrama: How did the idea of this crossover come about? Did you come up with it, or did Dynamite bring it up to you?
Williams: Dynamite editor Matt Idelson approached me with just the pairing and I immediately got excited about it because I know their characters, and can see how the dynamic would play out.
The potential challenges Matt proposed first were just the logistics of how to get them together - Dejah traveling to the future, Barbarella traveling to the past, or the mysterious third option of both of them ending up somewhere else in time entirely. That’s the option I went with, because I thought it would be more fun to see them both out of their element and having to work together in a hostile new environment.
Following that, Matt and I started tossing ideas back and forth about how to make it work, and had a lot of fun collaborating on the initial direction and plot. Really intricate time travel stuff can be tricky in any medium, let alone one with finite page limits. But we pulled it off and I’m really proud of the work we did getting there.
Nrama: And what do you think of the pairing of Dejah and Barbarella, now that your deep in it?
Williams: I love writing them together. They play to each others’ strengths and weaknesses, and while there is an understandable animosity when they first find themselves thrown into this strange new situation; they are both smart enough to quickly figure out that they’re in this situation together and are better off cooperating with each other to get home. Barbarella’s calm, clinical, aloft approach to the chaos pairs so well with Dejah’s passion and warmth.
Nrama: You brought it up in the press release, so I have to ask - can you tell us more about this "romantic tension" you mentioned?
Williams: I call Barbarella a “pansexual, blonde, space James Bond” and the way I imagined her reaction to someone like Dejah starts with just a calm and detached consideration before Dejah’s strong personality shines through, and then her consideration shifts to a genuine interest. In developing this dynamic, I took inspiration from Mike Carey’s current run of Barbarella and Amy Chu’s current run of Dejah Thoris, which are both amazing.
Nrama: Big picture, what are your goals for this series?
Williams: My goal is to stay true to their characters while delivering a fresh, taut, and otherworldly thriller. I also hope readers can pick up on the love I feel for this project and these characters.
I know they’ll be able to see love just in Germán Gárcia’s art alone - every single panel is lovingly articulated. There’s so much amazing detail and dynamism thanks to him, and everything about the way the book looks feels lush. Another goal for this series, I guess would be to continuously sing his praises and spotlight how much art direction he’s contributed to this series, because he took the script and turned it into something next-level amazing. I hope he gets recognition for this, because he’s done something incredible with this miniseries.
Collaborating with Matt Idelson and Germán Gárcia has been a blast, and I wish there were more than four issues!