Five Questions with…
Q&A with comic greats regarding Wonder Woman

Beau Smith

Gail Simone: “We’re in for a treat here, guys.

Beau Smith is not the first name you think of when you think of Wonder Woman creators. He may not be a name you think of at all in regards to Wonder Woman, but that’s the tragedy of it. Beau didn’t write a lot of Wonder Woman, but he wrote her so dead on perfectly that it really made an impact. When his Wonder Woman spoke to his Guy Gardner, it had a humanity that was very touching.

More than that, he wrote one of the most frustrating bits of WW history, a crossover between our Amazon princess and one of her most famous fictional descendants, Xena, the Warrior Princess.

This is a bit of history even a lot of Wonder fans don’t know about, and not only are we hearing the story straight from Beau, we’re getting original art from the never-to-be book!

I’ve said this many, many times before, but Beau is a huge influence on me, for the way he blended action and comedy with genuine humanity. Beau didn’t follow trends, he just wrote, and continues to write, great stories. If you enjoyed my Wildcat and Lady Blackhawk stories in Birds of Prey, well, Beau is the reason, because his impact with those characters was such a big deal to me.

So, sit back and learn about an almost forgotten piece of Wonder history, and be sure to buy anything Beau writes, ’cause it’ll be GREAT.”

1) Okay, now, I’ve said this a million times, but the way you handle character is has been a huge influence on me, because you never went cheap. You always found a way to make characters interesting without punking them out or making them stereotypes. In particular, Guy Gardner was becoming a one-note joke until you started writing him. I think you did the same thing with Wonder Woman in her your few scenes with her. Was Diana a character who had been on your wishlist of character’s you wanted to write?

Gail, I thank you for the kind compliment on my writing and how it made a dent on you. I don’t know if that’s something you should brag about, but as long as the villagers aren’t chasing you down with torches in their hands, then I’m very flattered.

To answer your question, Yes. Diana/Wonder Woman is on my wish list and has been since I was a child reading her crazy, but wonderful adventures illustrated by Ross Andru. Please understand, I have a very odd wish list of DC and Marvel characters that I would love to write, Example: DC– Wonder Woman, Aquaman, B’Wana Beast, Citizen Steel, Vigilante (Cowboy Version), Challengers Of The Unknown, Sea Devils, Blackhawk, Hawkman, Congo Bill and a few more. At Marvel (Th ONLY publisher I’ve never written for in 22 years) Sub-Mariner, Red Wolf, Juggernaut, Ka-Zar, Sgt. Fury & His Howling Commandos, Modok, Skull The Slayer, Moonstone and Wyatt Wingfoot. I’ve been blessed with getting to write some of the other characters on my long DC list like, Guy Gardner, Wildcat, Lady Blackhawk and Catwoman.

It seems that everyone else always has the usual suspects on their list like Superman & Batman, I’ve got to shove words in their mouths through the years in Guy Gardner, a thrill yes, but not as much as it would be getting to add character to Cave Carson or Space Ranger. When I took over writing Guy Gardner in issue #20 one the first things I did was make sure I got to have Wonder Woman in the story. At the time, Wonder Woman sales weren’t all that great and no one was really fighting over what went on with her. My editors, Kevin Dooley and Eddie Berganza, let me have a lot of freedom. I wanted to use Wonder Woman’s clout to start my process of letting the readers see that Guy Gardner was more than the receiving end of a Batman One Punch-Line. I never knew when they were gonna yank me off the book, so I made sure I showed that Wonder Woman saw deeper into Guy than anyone else. That page (Issue #20 Page 10) is a true high point for me.

2) Well, it left a big impact, and undid a lot of the petulant bitchiness of both characters at the time .And again, she really seems to shine in her scenes with Guy. She seems to give him more of a break than the other heroes…she seems to cut him more slack, which is a bit of a break from how they had been portrayed before, but so much better. What made you give Diana that distinction there?

I always believed that Wonder Woman should be the smartest person in the room. I’m not talking book smart, we know she’s has the I.Q., that’s a given and has been shown many times, I’m talking about being able to see through the posturing, the B.S., the egos and images and really being able to size a person up, good or evil, pretty quick.

To me, Wonder Woman is a true leader and should have the most common sense of any hero in the DCU. By leader I don’t mean barking off orders, I mean the kind of person that people want to follow because of a respect that is not only earned, but you can sense the moment she walks into a room, this is a person I can count on when things turn ugly. She should always be the voice o reason and also last line you want to cross.

With Guy, Diana could see that under all the Jack Russell Terrier barking there was a fellow warrior. A warrior that was not just looking for a battle to fight, but one to win and for the two most important reasons, to fight for those that are too weak to do it themselves and because it’s the right thing to do. Diana sensed that with Guy and related to it far more than she did with some heroes that she had fought side by side with for years. So many writers today have forgotten the simple and true reason to have a character act like a hero and help others—Because it’s the right thing to do.

Two related questions at once…

3) This is what I really wanted to talk about, Wonder Woman vs. Xena. Now, this is an amazing little curiosity in the WW story, and even some of her hardest core fans don’t know about it. You let me read it a while back and it’s just a rip-snorting story. Can you tell us a little bit about it and how you came to be involved, and what you liked most about the project?

4) And what happened to that story, why didn’t it come out? What happened?

My Guy Gardner editor, Eddie Berganza knew that Wonder Woman was on my wish list. For years I had badgered him that readers really needed to see the other side of Wonder Woman. They all knew of her origins, her iconic status as a leading DC character, but I still felt they didn’t really know her. She had always been an authoritative figure, super serious and in some cases semi-cold. I always felt this was more of a weakness than a strength for her. I felt the readers deserved a chance to get to know her as a friend and make a true emotional investment in her.

I think that’s the genius of a TV show like LOST. It’s not really the fantastic situation that the characters have been placed in, yes, that is a major part of the allure, but that wouldn’t mean a thing if the writers hadn’t made us feel that those characters were our friends, that we knew them and liked them. They made us care and that’s why we come back.

I thought that Wonder Woman needed us to like her and know that she was more than a one note character. We all know she can be deadly serious, but we never had the chance to like her as a friend. At the time, DC was very proactive about crossing over with other companies and characters. They were in touch with what the readers would like to see and read. It was a reader’s daydream and DC was making dreams come true for their readers/consumers. That should always be the major goal of marketing and creative talent. Publishers/editors should never think that the comics they publish are for them. We all know they aren’t the consumers. They don’t pay for their comics. The readers do.

Eddie told me that they had had signed a deal with Dark Horse Comics to do a Xena Warrior Princess crossover. Eddie suggested Wonder Woman. Eddie suggested me. Like the character Earl on the TV show My Name Is Earl, I thought I had another character to cross off my list. If pink were a manly color, then I was tickled pink and would wear it proudly.

Eddie and I were both huge fans of the Xena TV show. (This was happening just at the time it was announced the show would soon end.) Even though the show would be ending soon, that didn’t matter. The TV show had/has a large, hardcore following and again, Xena meeting Wonder Woman was a daydream of a lot of people. As a 48 page prestige book, Wonder Woman vs. Xena would be a very good seller and one that could stay in print for a long time or spark other annual meetings. I was a big fan of the light-hearted episodes of Xena where they would place tongue in cheek and have a good time. Ratings showed I was not alone, because those episodes always spiked in a major way. I sent my proposal into Eddie and suggested that this be one of those types of stories.

Eddie and assistant editor, Maureen McTigue loved it. Dark Horse loved it. There was love all around. It was almost an orgy only no one was a pretty as Brad Pitt and Megan Fox. This was one of those moments as a writer that you start doing the story and you just can’t type as fast as the thoughts are coming out of your head. I was literally having the time of my life. That thrill got even bigger when DC okayed my personal choice as the artist for the book—Eduardo Barreto.

Eduardo is one of the most under rated craftsman in comics. He is a brilliant story teller, a master of expressions and action and the man can flat our draw smart, attractive women. The hair on the back of my neck would stand up when Eduardo’s pencils came in on the fax machine. It was like he was in my head and pulled each scene out and drew them. I never felt so damn lucky in all of my writing career.

Okay, the sun can only shine for so long. Let’s get to the thunder clouds: After the script was done, turned in, approved and paid for, the Xena TV show ended and Dan DiDio came on board at DC. In the huge job of having to oversee everything at DC creative, I got a letter from DC telling me that Dan figured that without the show being on TV and it wasn’t in their best interest to do the book now. I was disappointed and disagreed. Marketing and business 101 in the comic book direct market will tell you that there IS an audience for Wonder Woman and Xena going toe to toe. TV show or not. I was also told that Dan wasn’t a fan of humor with their icon heroes. Wonder Woman being one of em’.

Just so you’ll know, the whole point of writing this script was to have it be like one of the light hearted episodes of Xena that Sam Rami and the cast pulled off so very well. As y’all know, I am a huge believer in having a sense of natural humor in characters… all characters. It’s what makes them real and most importantly, an emotional investment to the reader. I never blamed Dan, I don’t know if that part of the story is even true because I didn’t hear it from his own mouth, I got it second hand. If anything Dan had my pity. Coming in, he had a hell of a job to do. From the looks of DC with Green Lantern and the Flash, it looks like he is doing things right.

Here is a little summation of the plot for the book then I’ll follow it up with some art and script. Wonder Woman vs. Xena: PPV (Pay Per View) The Princess War Diaries. Things are slow. There are no current wars. Ares—The God Of War is bored. One evening in between inflicting his irrated behavior on those less than him, Ares decided to “portal surf” to ease his boredom. While surfing through the different times and dimensions Ares comes Earth in current time where he finds Wonder Woman and Wonder Girl in a training session.

Ares is attracted to this scene for a couple of reasons. One being that the Wonder Woman and Wonder Girl remind him of the Xena / Gabrielle relationship and the other reason being that Wonder Woman ain’t bad to look at. The idea to stir the bucket of ox manure and see what happens interests Ares a great deal. He favors pulling Wonder Woman and Wonder Girl into Xena’s time and world. It appeals to him to cast out rumors that a warrior princess and her younger partner are wreaking havoc and mayhem on innocent villages and their people for no other reason than it’s a bad time of month to be in their way.

He chuckles at the thought that he will have his own goons do the real damage and destruction leaving signs and more rumors that it was the two women warriors that did the dirty deeds on these poor folks. It excites him to think that by doing this it will guide both Wonder Woman and Wonder Girl to seek and hunt out these two that are throwing donkey dump on their good names. Xena and Gabrielle seek to do the same.

Ares loves the idea of Wonder Woman and Xena doing battle in what he bills as “Warrior Princess-Wet Tunic-Mud Battle-To The Death-Pay-Per-View-Extravaganza”. He figures all the Gods will tune in for this and he will no longer be bored. A little more Tabasco sauce is thrown into the mix when word of these two destructive divas that are tearing up the countryside reaches the male dominated city of Testosterone.

This city is run by Bolos, the most manly man in all the land, the most massive male chauvinist pig ever to burp out ale and slap a serving wench on the ass. Bolos is a large powerful man, an incredible brawler that can withstand huge amounts of pain. He never admits to being wrong, defeated or needing directions. He has a very hairy chest and never wears a shirt no matter what the weather. Bolos decides that these two women need to be tamed and shown their true place in a man’s world. So he and his army of knuckle draggers go in search of these liberated ladies of war.

What we get is a knock down, drag out battle between Wonder Woman and Xena along with Wonder Girl and Gabrielle as the under card fight. There is also the added attraction of Bolos, his all too macho merry men and a trio of female mercenaries that decide their title as the toughest women has been challenged. All of this because Ares and his buddies are bored. At one point in the story we’ll have Wonder Woman wearing Xena’s outfit and Xena wearing Wonder Woman’s. Why? Because it’s too good not to happen. This is a story of friendship, loyalty, action, humor and respect that is learned and earned. Without any conceit, (And I have lots) I think this was one of the most entertaining stories I’ve ever written with mainstream characters.

I’m not saying that if this book would’ve been published it would’ve changed the world of comics. My hopes would be that it would’ve given other writers of Wonder Woman, DC and the readers the chance to say they know Wonder Woman a little bit better and that they truly like her as a person. That’s she’s really a true friend.

5) Argh, see, that just makes me so sad, that THIS project was cancelled, to make room for what, another team relaunch that didn’t make it? GRRRR! Okay, I’m suggesting to everyone that they pick up GUY GARDNER: WARRIOR, but finally, can you let your fans know what you’re working on now, and what you have coming up? Where can a new reader see your work?

5. Here’s what I’m currently doing:

DC Holiday Special 2009 (B’Wana Beast)

Wynonna Earp: The Yeti Wars (IDW Publishing 2010)

The Green Lantern Corps. Annual (DC Comics 2010)

Captain Action (Moonstone Comics 2010)

Dottin’ The Eyes Column (The Comics Buyer’s Guide)

Busted Knuckles Column (www.comicsbulletin.com)

Far From Fragile Column (Impact Magazine)

Beauology 101 (Westfield Comics www.westficledcomics.com)

Me again, hope you’ve enjoyed this little peek into what could have been…even cooler, Beau is gracing us with some original art and script excerpts. WOO WOO! If they’re not up right away, they will be soon.

Thank you, Beau, you crazy cowboy, you!

Image: http://westfieldcomics.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2009/07/Beau-Smith-at-the-Flying-Fist-Ranch.jpg

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