Wonder Woman has returned home to Themyscira — and she's brought new series writer Steve Orlando with her.
After two guest stints on Wonder Woman, the DC 'exclusive' writer has taken over the title post-G. Willow Wilson and into her upcoming milestone #750. It's a tumultuous times, as the gods have returned while her relationship with Steve Trevor is on the rocks.
Newsarama spoke with Orlando about his recently-launched Wonder Woman run, as well as his concurrent work on Gotham City Monsters.
Newsarama: Steve, this is your third run on Wonder Woman, but first as more than a 'guest' writer. How excited are you to be getting back to Themyscira?
Steve Orlando: I'm very excited. I mean, every time I've visited it's been a little different. My first time, we knew I was going to be bridging from James Robinson into Willow with a quick crossover appearance by James Tynion IV, obviously, before Willow picked it up.
And then the second time, I briefly came back, it was about sort of pushing forward Willow's story but also telling a single issue story and now we're using where Willow's story ends as this starting line to just sort of blast Diana back into the DCU in a whole new way.
Themyscira's finally back, the Amazons are finally back, and in addition to that, this is going to be a book that hearkens back to what it was when I was younger in the ‘90s, which is like... It's a superhero thriller action book with radical love at its core, and I think that's what makes Wonder Woman special. For the first time there's an open playing field ahead of me to get that done.
Nrama: Cheetah will be featuring really prominently in your first arc. Can you tell us a little bit about that? It seems like the Cheetah doesn't really understand that she and Diana are maybe at cross purposes right now.
Orlando: Well, I think that... So Cheetah is figuring into Willow's run and is going to figure, yes, into our first arc before she hops back into the Legion of Doom's activities. She's everywhere, but luckily, pretty fast. And the thing about Cheetah is when you look back at her initial relationship with Diana and what Rucka and Liam Sharp did, they have a very intense, passionate relationship. And so they’re at cross purposes because Cheetah is only trying to repay the debt that Diana...
In her mind, she owes Diana and because of the lives, when Diana saved her from Urzkartaga. But like that friend that always has good intentions but does everything the wrong way, Cheetah's going about it in the Cheetah way, which is a primal and aggressive and with very little caring for collateral damage, because she essentially thinks that she's doing what's best for Diana even though Diana can't see it herself.
And that obviously puts in cross purposes, because ancillary life is not that important to Cheetah. She is vengeful against all the other Amazons for never letting her into Themyscira. Now that she's there, she has a meeting with some characters that are pointing her in a new direction towards this path of repaying her debt to Diana. And there's really no price she won't pay to do that. And of course with Diana every life is equal in value. So that's something she can't stand.
Nrama: And in Gotham City Monsters — what else can we expect from that? I feel like the final page of that issue with Bennett cut in half and Frankenstein has done it, and how do you get from there to this team that's coming together to face down this threat that nobody else in Gotham cares about right now?
Orlando: Well the rest of Gotham is a little preoccupied with Bane running the scene.
Orlando: And I think that when you do monster books, and especially these with the characters we have in Gotham City Monsters, storytelling and character beats are as loud as possible. And when you have vampires, which can regenerate and turn into mist and things like that, a slap on the shoulder is not really going to do it.
I mean Frankenstein is this huge Miltonian sort of like tragic hero and everything he does is larger than life. And so he's not just going to scold Bennett and tell him to get out of the way. He's going to act. And so that's why that happens. And in the same way, going forward, yeah, I mean it's a little Monty Pythonian in some ways, because it is only a minor inconvenience for Bennett to be cut in half, but it still means something to him, you know? It's the message behind being bisected by Frankenstein more than the act itself.
And so these are characters, they're drawn together basically by their hatred of Melmoth and then what they can learn from each other is going to be a longer journey over the course of the whole series.
And as to what's coming, much like we did with Unexpected, much like we did with Electric Warriors, this is a monster book, it's going to get wilder and wilder and wilder and that's kind of our obligation. We have such cool, unique monster characters, especially once Batwoman enters the book. Just such a wide variety of personalities. We got to give you the monster on monster action that you expect from this and so far, I've scripted the whole book, so far everything has gotten through that I’ve put in, and it's only going to come faster, harder and more exciting.
Nrama: And with regards to the character designs in Gotham City Monsters, one thing that I really loved about the book was ... I mean Frankenstein looks like he walked off the set of the "Black Parade" video from My Chemical Romance, and I don't say that in a demeaning way. I think that a lot of times when it comes to modernizing monster stuff, you get people going for sexy in a way that's really cheesecakey. What did you and the Gotham City team talk about when you were saying like, "Okay, here's how we want these characters to look. This is a book about monsters in a way that needs to feel fresh?" Did you have any conversations about the designs, either with Frankenstein or characters like Lady Clay in particular?
Orlando: Well, I mean Amancay Nahuelpan is the lead on the designs and he did an amazing job, as you said, and I think for him, I know as we talked about it, it was about making sure that all these characters truly have different exciting sort of visual forms and outlines. Orca has a presence on the page that's different than Croc's even though they're both large characters.
We have a lot of these characters that are sort of primal like Lady Clay, people like Orca and Croc or you have a character that's manicured like the Red Phantom. And so a lot of it comes from this idea contrast as to what you see on the page. And we're very lucky Doug Montey's Frankenstein design basically unchanged for Gotham City Monsters, it's nearly perfect.
But I know from talking to Amancay, and we talk a lot, the key is maintaining a contract between these characters and showing that they do really come from different worlds. That's when the personalities and the art and the tension of the book's slip out but it plays through in the art as well.
Nrama: With Gotham City and also with Wonder Woman, if there's any one character that you could have the opportunity to bring in that people might think is unexpected or somebody that you wouldn't really anticipate seeing there, in terms of monsters, who would you want to bring in? In terms of Wonder Woman, either folks from her past or other villains, who would you want to explore in the future?
Orlando: Well, I'll say this, with the upcoming Wonder Woman arc, DC challenged me to use the character that at first I really was like, "What am I going to do?" Then as I thought about it more I was like, "Oh, wow, there's actually a fascinating contrast between these characters." So as you see issue #83 and #84, which are coming up, you'll see who that was. And it was definitely a scenario like we said, it was completely unexpected and it was a challenge that I loved and I learned a lot about her and a lot about Wonder Woman as that book went on.
And a lot about this Wonder Woman book, as I said, has been about tracing her, again in the DCU, it's a superhero book and it's about female heroes supporting female heroes. So a lot of the characters you see, even in #82, are going to be unexpected appearances, but they become foundational for me and I'm very excited about that. I mean we have two queer women of color in the first issue. We have, a slight spoiler, one of the first meetings between Wonder Woman and the Wonder Woman of China, so much of these characters holding each other up. To me, that's what a Wonder Woman book's about. And getting to do that is very exciting.
As monster characters go, I'll tell you the one I would love to use is Super Demon from the Multiverse. We may have some Multiverse appearances in the book which we will also shock you but that super version of Etrigan, I love. And also the demon version of Abin Sur, the Green Lantern from that world, is really awesome as well.