For Phil Hester, the chance to write Wonder Woman is his chance to show a large readership just what he can do.
The opportunity to write Wonder Woman came Hester's way just as the lead character experienced a revamping by writer J. Michael Straczynski and artist Don Kramer. While Kramer is staying, JMS is leaving his highly publicized runs on both Superman and Wonder Woman as he concentrates instead on writing the sequel to his hugely successful DC book, Superman: Earth One.
Until now, Hester has been a freelance writer working on a variety of comic titles in multiple universes, most recently Gen 13 at WildStorm, Green Hornet for Dynamite, and his creator-owned Image series Firebreather, which was adapted into a Cartoon Network film of the same name.
While he's worked in the DC Universe before as both a writer and an artist, Wonder Woman is his highest profile gig. Newsarama talked to the writer about how he intends to approach the character as he takes over with Issue #605.
Newsarama: Phil, how did you hear about the opportunity to work on Wonder Woman, and what did you think of it? And why were you attracted to it?
Phil Hester: I heard about it when Brian Cunningham called my studio to offer me the gig.
I assumed, like most DC readers, that JMS would have the book tied up for the immediate future. We're all disappointed to see JMS go, but the opportunity it presented me was thrilling.
I always felt like I wasn't a "professional" writer because, while I could write my own characters, I feared stage fright when presented with certain company-owned franchises. I mean, I'd be fine with Swamp Thing, The Demon or Ragman, but I always pictured myself freezing when asked to write Captain America, Green Lantern or Superman. Wonder Woman was definitely a deer-in-the-headlights proposition for me, but by the time I fell asleep after Brian's call I had filled a notebook with Wonder Woman ideas.I'm attracted to the book on many levels. First, it's Wonder Woman! Then came all the career and financial considerations. This is a big chance to show a huge audience what I can do as a writer. Plus I have a kid going to college in two years; I need the scratch!
Nrama: What is it about your skill set that you think made DC want you for this project?
Hester: Good question. I think at the heart of most of my work is emotion. Every character I write — The Coffin, Deep Sleeper, Firebreather, the Gen 13 kids, and even The Darkness — winds up going through some kind of transcendental rebirth. That sort of big picture change is at the heart of this Wonder Woman arc.
I don't think much of my work, but I think I have a knack for turning familiar situations on their head with a small tweak in plot or character, sometimes even just dialogue. I think Brian Cunningham saw enough of that fresh voice in my work to give me a shot at doing it on a big stage.Nrama: Had you been reading Straczynski's Wonder Woman? What did you think of it?
Hester: Yes. I admired his willingness to take real chances with the character. It's not often that a massive entertainment company will hand you one of their true tent pole franchises and say, "Go nuts." I can't say much more about it without revealing upcoming plot points, but JMS has a road mapped out for Diana that will take her new and exciting places. That is something particularly hard to accomplish with a 70-year-old character.Nrama: So it sounds like you've been given the notes from JMS.
Hester: Sure. It's perfect for me because it has very clear benchmarks, but a lot of room for me to improvise. Diana must reach certain story points, but how I get her there is largely up to me. I've been allowed to create new characters and revamp old ones.
Nrama: So it doesn't feel restrictive?
Hester: In some ways, it's no more restrictive than working on any corporate character. I mean, Spider-Man writers must abide by whatever the Marvel Architects set out for the coming year. This isn't much different. In fact, I may have more latitude than writers working under these mega-crossover conditions.Nrama: How do you hope to approach Wonder Woman's character?
Hester: I see her as the personification of honor in a fallen world, almost like an elemental representing the better nature of humanity. She won't be infallible, but she will always be striving for justice.
Sometimes that results in mercy and understanding, sometimes in ass-kicking.Nrama: Just a review for people who may not be up-to-speed on what's happened with the character, what's Wonder Woman's status as you start your run?
Hester: She's a very young woman that is learning about her Amazonian heritage piecemeal from an Amazon Diaspora exiled from a destroyed Themyscria. Certain parties never want her to assume the full power of her legacy and are hunting her down to prevent that.
This Diana is not an alien in the Patriarch's World, but someone with a foot in both our reality and Paradise Island. So, while she knows how to duel with short swords, she also knows how to download music to her iPod and hail a cab.Nrama: What can you tell us about what's coming up for Wonder Woman?
Hester: Action. It's comics, folks. For every line of purple prose, I promise a broken nose or pushed over skyscraper. Readers will see new takes on familiar characters, and villains from a truly global pantheon of gods, demons, and monsters. Nrama: Will your run extend beyond the initial story arc planned by JMS?
Hester: That depends on the fine readership of Wonder Woman. I hope so.Nrama: Anything else you want to tell your fans about your upcoming run on the title?
Hester: I'm laying it all on the line here. This may be first and last time at the big dance, so you'll see me hustle for every last ounce of excitement I can wring from this arc. I can make no guarantee you'll enjoy my work, but you damn well will get your three bucks worth.