More on Wonder Woman's New Look:
As writer J. Michael Straczynski transforms Wonder Woman, he'll be working with artist Don Kramer on how to visually approach all the changes.
The new Wonder Woman creative team introduced their drastic change in direction for the ongoing title in today's milestone Issue #600, which includes short stories from a variety of creators. Kramer and Straczynski will launch their run on the title with July's Wonder Woman #601.
Kramer has been a DC exclusive artist for most of his comics career, with runs on JSA with Geoff Johns, Batman with James Robinson, and Detective Comics with Paul Dini. Now he tackles the artist duties on Wonder Woman, although it's not the Amazon princess most people would recognize at first glance.
The artist's most obvious change to Wonder Woman's look is the new costume designed by DC Co-Publisher Jim Lee. But the character also gets a new origin, an altered history and a different supporting cast.
Within the comic, the changes are caused by an alteration to the timeline 20 years ago when Paradise Island was destroyed. Although Wonder Woman doesn't immediately realize her past has changed, she'll soon find out something's wrong and will begin working to correct the timeline.
Newsarama talked to Kramer about what he thinks of drawing the new costume, how he approaches the altered Wonder Woman character and what readers can expect from the story by JMS.
Newsarama: When did you first hear you were going to be drawing a new costume for Wonder Woman, and what did you think of the idea?
Don Kramer: Pretty much immediately, when they gave me the Wonder Woman job. They told me about the new costume. And I was kind of hesitant about it, because when you get to draw Wonder Woman, you're expecting the classic costume.
But then when I heard the story and where we were taking it, I thought it was very appropriate and thought it would work. And I became a lot more excited about the project.
Nrama: Have you been given details about what elements do what?
Kramer: Not much! [laughs] I got the same image you've all seen. So I've been working from there, and I've made a few minor tweaks.Like her tiara, which I changed around just a little bit from what Jim had wanted. I just wanted her to look a little tougher. Jim's tiara looked great, but to me, it spoke to her being a younger princess, which made sense. But for the fights she was doing, she struck me as being tougher than that. And I wanted that to be portrayed a little more in the tiara, giving it a little heavier weight and a "W" design in there. When I tweaked that, I felt a little more comfortable with the way it looks. Other than that, it's pretty much exactly what Jim had designed.
I had one minor request for her to have the choker necklace, but that's for reasons further down the road in the story. It's based on my preference as far as what I know of what's coming in the story.
Nrama: So there's a meaning behind that choker?
Kramer: For me, yes. I haven't really talked in length to JMS about it yet. I actually need to mention it to him. [laughs] I don't know if the story is still going to go there, but for me, that choker is representative of something.
Nrama: What's your favorite thing about the costume?
Kramer: The fact that she's wearing pants. I think that's a very cool thing. I'm of the contention that her running around in a bathing suit didn't work well for her in battle, so I'm a big fan of the pants. That's my favorite part of everything. That needed to happen.
There's also this eagle design in the artwork that people might not have caught in their first examination of it. It's kind of subtle. But I think that's a really good choice by Jim.
I'm still getting used to the shoulder pads on the jacket though. There's some line work in there that I'm still kind of baffled by sometimes. I just don't think the same way that Jim does. He has a better grasp on that cyber punk "tech" look. He has a little bit of an animated feel. I mean, it's awesome. I really wish I could think like that more sometimes. And there's just a hint of that in her costume, in those shoulder pads. And I'm still kind of getting used to that.
Nrama: Obviously, you're drawing a different costume, but do you also feel like you're drawing a little bit different character?
Kramer: She's the same person, but she's a little more streamlined character, and a bit more ferocious. At least in what I've seen of the story so far. She's younger, and she's been raised in a different environment. But she's the last hope for the Amazonian race. She feels that weight and the pressure and the responsibility of her role, and she's basically on a crusade to save the Amazons and possibly save her timeline in the process.
Time has been changed, as people have read in your article with Straczynski yesterday. And she'll start to discover that in the story. But for now, it's more desperation and a sense of responsibility that is driving her. So she's a little more ferocious than she normally would be, when it comes to taking action on things.
It's a war that's going on here. In what I've drawn so far, she's been on a one-woman crusade against these forces that have tried to destroy the Amazon race.
Nrama: When you point out that she's younger and more ferocious, how do you portray that visually?
Kramer: A lot of it is guided by the story. Her youth is portrayed as she's discovering things, and she's not at the power level she once held, so she's more acrobatic and more athletic. She's not as strong as we expect her to be, so she has to be quicker. I'm trying to portray her youthfulness through that.She's also a little younger emotionally, and you'll see that visually as well as through the story. Someone a little younger might have less control of their emotions, at least not at the control level we grew to expect from Wonder Woman in the past. She's being portrayed in her 20's, so that's what I'm trying to depict.
I'm retaining her overall body language, though. She's still the same person, so it's not so much that. Just the costume, with the tank top and the pants, and the activity level she has to use and her emotional reactions. It all helps to convey that younger, more streamlined and determined look for her.
Nrama: JMS mentioned a few new members of the supporting cast. In her new origin, Wonder Woman has been raised by "Guardians" — did you design the way these beings look?
Kramer: Yes, but there were several redraws on them as we worked to achieve exactly what JMS was looking for. But we got it right after a few sketches. We see them in Wonder Woman #600, where the Guardians line the wall to where the Oracle is. They're veiled, and you can't really see their faces or even their body. They've been with her since before her both and are part of the Amazon race.
They're very dangerous, and they're protective of Wonder Woman. They've stayed underground for a very long time. And you really don't want to see them if and when they come out. They're very, very dangerous.
Nrama: We've also seen this "The Oracle" character in preview images. Did you design her? And what was the thinking behind the way she looks?
Kramer: Yeah, she's kind of a punky, young goth girl. She recalls images of herself in Amazon time. But now, in this reality, she's kind of a goth version of a teenage girl. The "teenage goth" description was in the script by JMS, but I just took it from there and came up with her look.
I added the necklaces, and some of them are religious in nature. I thought that would be appropriate for an oracle. She wears a lot of jewelry, so she has this visual look about her that is both current and modern, but has a mystical feel about it.And I had actually envisioned her with black hair, but Alex came back with the blonde hair, which gave it a really great look, since I had drawn a lot of black in it. She looks very real.
Nrama: He's also talked about the Keres, which are a new threat for Wonder Woman. Can you tell us about the way they look?
Kramer: I'd rather let the artwork on those be a bit of a surprise, but I was just introduced to them in the script as wearing a battle armor suit. We've got some ideas in place, but I can say that they're going to be formidable.
There are a number of other characters that show up in Issue #601, including Wonder Woman's mother, Hippolyta. We'll see some of the destruction of Amazon Island. I've actually had to draw a lot of destruction in the first couple issues. But that's not the main focus. That's in the past. She's either remembering or being introduced to the past in order to move forward.
Nrama: What's been the biggest challenge as you draw Wonder Woman?
Kramer: Well, deadlines are always the biggest challenge, but right now, I'm still getting used to the costume. It takes a little bit of time to get comfortable with. I've been constantly referencing it to remind myself of the finer details of the costume. You have to remember exactly what line goes where.
I'm actually getting to the place where I don't have to do that too much anymore, as I get more and more comfortable with the new look.
Nrama: Then as a flip side to that question, what's your favorite thing you're getting to draw?
Kramer: The conversation between The Oracle and Wonder Woman. I just really enjoyed that area where they were, and drawing that location and the characters was a lot of fun. I think people can probably sense and feel it.
One of my other favorite things comes up in Issue #601, and that's some of the Amazonian battles.
Nrama: What do you think of the story you're getting to draw?
Kramer: The emotion and urgency. The stuff I've read has been a really great, fun script so far. I've really enjoyed it, a lot. I'm looking forward to where he goes with this because it's been terrific so far.
Nrama: You mentioned earlier that she "needed" the pants. Do you feel like she needed this whole approach?
Kramer: Well, I'm sure there were various ways it could have been done, and I am a fan of her traditional costume. But within the context of the story that we're telling, the changes are very appropriate and it all works.If people would be willing to give it a chance.... I know there are some traditionalists that are really against the idea of a new costume. But you learn very quickly within the first couple issues that this really did need to happen. It really distinguishes the Wonder Woman comic, plus it's appropriate for the storyline. I think it works really well.
And it's drawn a lot of attention to Wonder Woman. Unfortunately, her character hasn't had a lot of attention over the last few years.
I know some people are put-off by the idea of the new costume, and believe me, I was right there with you. I was drawing Wonder Woman, and I wanted to draw the Wonder Woman with her iconic outfit. But if they give the story a chance, to use me as an example, it doesn't bother me in the least now. Once I read the story, I have no problem with it whatsoever. I think it's fantastic.