On Friday, March 25, even though she doesn't have top billing, Wonder Woman, a.k.a. Diana Prince, will make her big-screen debut in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.
It'll be an opportunity for audiences to get reacquainted with an iconic comic book hero — Wonder Woman is the most recognizable comic book superheroine in history — who hasn't gotten a chance to shine in mainstream pop culture the way other Avengers and Justice Leaguers have. And perhaps a new generation of fans will get familiar with her powerful story.
It's already happening in the comic books.
Earlier this year, DC Comics launched The Legend of Wonder Woman, a digital-first comic (meaning the comic is initially published in digital form and then, if it's successful, published in print form) from writer-artist Renae De Liz and her husband, Ray Dillon. It's a disarming, earnest, and entertaining read that reimagines and reintroduces Wonder Woman's origin story in a way that appeals to both established fans of the character and readers who are discovering her for the first time.
I caught up with Renae and Ray to talk about the comic, their goals in writing it, and what Wonder Woman means to them.
Alex Abad-Santos: What's the goal for The Legend of Wonder Woman? When you were tasked with creating this comic about such a well-known character, what was the one thing you wanted to get across?
Renae De Liz: I wanted to help the next generation of readers find Wonder Woman and love her, in a way that doesn't talk down to them or exclude current readers. I wanted to show another way to approach the character that was true to her roots and celebrates Wonder Woman without fundamentally changing who she is.
Ray Dillon: Really, I wanted to love and know Wonder Woman. Of course I wanted other people to like it and [for it to be] a book that kids could also get into, but as someone who always thought Wonder Woman was awesome and iconic I realized I didn't really know much about her. This series has definitely changed that!
AAS: Recently on Twitter, you talked about The Legend of Wonder Woman getting an Everyone rating, which means it's approved for young readers. Why was that so important for you?
RDL: I feel Wonder Woman should have stories accessible to everyone. Wonder Woman is the example of female strength and equality, and has been since her beginnings. These messages can now be shared with the younger crowd. I am proud of the E rating, as it takes extra work to achieve it, and even if I reach just one young person with a newfound love of Wonder Woman, then I will be happy.
RD: I’m happy The Legend of Wonder Woman can now be enjoyed by everyone. Don’t get me wrong, dark and gritty comics have their place, and some of my favorite comics are dark and gritty, but that doesn't have to be every book. We can have fun, adventure, fantasy, heroics, someone for us to look up to and inspire kids. Just because a book works for kids too doesn't mean it's childish. And books don't have to all be rated R and exclude kids from the audience. We need the next generation. And personally, I'd like to have more fun reading.
AAS: One of the things that's fascinated me about Wonder Woman was her origin story and how some people find it tricky. How did you approach that?
RDL: For me, Wonder Woman is simple because she is a hero who stands for truth and justice, and she's a shining example of female strength. Her origin has basic steps to follow, same as any other hero. However, Wonder Woman can be perceived as tricky because of heightened expectations and perceptions surrounding Wonder Woman, feminism, strength, and what many think a superhero's story should look like.
I tried very hard to focus on the character first, to [focus on] what makes her shine on her own. Whether I am successful in my delivery or not, I believe the approach I'm going for is the correct one for the character, and I can only hope I've done the character justice.
RD: I know anytime I had a chance to give the book a bright, colorful, heroic feel, I tried to do that. I tried to apply a lot of mood to it to make the world of Wonder Woman feel as important and vast as it should.
AAS: How does placing the story at the turn of World War II change the Wonder Woman story you tell? Does it change it all?
RDL: I think it reinforces Wonder Woman's place as one of the first and most important heroes, and her place in the Trinity. It returns her to the era [William] Marston created her in, and strengthens her as a critical pillar of the DC Universe. It felt right to me.
One of the assumptions I don't agree with is that you must place a hero in the modern day in order to relate to this generation. That is placing too much power on the technology and other peripheral experiences, and not giving value to the capabilities of readers to relate beyond their cellphones and computers. We all can relate, no matter what era, in those human moments. The ones that reach the heart.
From a storytelling standpoint, I felt it important for Diana to see the world at one of its darkest times. To see the extreme cruelty in the world and still decide to love and protect it.
RD: I thought that was a fantastic idea Renae had. [It] made Wonder Woman even more important to me. She's been around longer and even seen world war. I loved seeing this be a period piece, and Renae nailed the feel of it. I tried to do my best to make it feel nostalgic of the times, too.
AAS: Etta Candy, Wonder Woman's best friend, is a pivotal, hilarious character in the comic. Can you talk about her? What place does Etta have in Wonder Woman's life?
RDL: Etta is critical to Diana and Wonder Woman's development, and vice versa. Diana is pretty serious and dutiful. She puts her own life on hold in order to help others, which you can see as a child when she chooses to attend to her duties rather than play with other kids.
Etta is almost the exact opposite. She is bold and fun. She always speaks her mind, is a little self-absorbed and in constant pursuit of glitz and glamour. However, like Diana, she also deeply cares for others and is ready to leap into action to do what needs to be done. This is where they truly connect.
They are the perfectly balanced friendship, each having something to teach the other. I very much enjoyed creating their story and would love to tell it in its entirety in future volumes.
RD: Etta's role is being amazing.
AAS: What's the one thing that separates Wonder Woman from the other amazing heroes in the DC Universe?
RDL: I think it is two major things. As I mentioned before, Wonder Woman stands for the equality of all, so the sadly volatile perception of feminism today transcends her to a status with people that is more important and special than most other heroes.
But beyond her gender, she is a character who shows the strength of love for the world in the most powerful way. It disarms us all and makes us want to be better. There is no other character like her.
RD: She feels the most experienced to me. From her life on the magical realm of Themyscira to traveling to a completely new world, fighting in WWII, and saving the world before other heroes even existed. And if we get to do future books, you'll see how much more from all around the world she's experienced.
AAS: What kind of feedback have you received about the comic so far?
RDL: I've seen happiness that Diana is getting such a focused effort on her origins, and gratefulness that some of her classic elements are returning. I've gotten a ton of messages from parents on how wonderful it was to have a Wonder Woman series they can enjoy with their children, and those are the ones who make me feel all the hard work was worth it.
There has not been too much negative, thankfully, but obviously now that I've said that I've jinxed the whole thing!
RD: My favorite part, and something that has made me care even more about working on this than I already did, is seeing people just absolutely love it. Like, it really means something to them. And seeing it shared with kids — and girls in particular. I truly hope we've done a good enough job that little girls have a role model to look up to in this book. Pretty awesome seeing big bearded dudes loving it too. It's a diverse fan base, and we love them all!
AAS: Finally, we should totally be rooting for Diana in Batman v Superman, right?
RDL: Of course! She would be the one to rise above all the nonsense and do what needs to be done. That's something to always root for. Go Wonder Woman!
RD: I am. Superman and Batman fighting each other is silly. Knock it off, guys. You're superheroes. Diana, tell 'em what for!
The next issue of The Legend of Wonder Woman will be available on Thursday.