David “aegisbearer” Berger: “Okay, folks, so I asked some people I know whose names might be familiar to you to ask Gail five questions (although, as you will see, some of them asked multi-level questions… those cheeky devils!) They are Carol Strickland, Robert Jones, Jr., Phil Jimenez, Erick Padilla Lizama, and Antony Coukos. I hope you enjoy reading these responses, and please feel free to discuss them!”
Q1: CAROL STRICKLAND asked, “How much do you work with your artist? Do you turn in a script without consulting them, or do you discuss it with them as you initially structure your story, or perhaps when you get to a particular sequence? Does the editor act as intermediary? Do you ever set aside parts of your script for the artist to work more freely with the visuals (i.e.: “Then they have a big fight that lasts for five pages. It takes them from the edge of the solar system to the jungles of South America and then as Diana delivers the final wallop, Earth blows up.”) and tidy up the script afterward? Do the artist’s strengths and weaknesses affect the way you write your script?”
Hey! This is supposed to be five questions TOTAL. You guys are SO CHEATERS.
Hey, Carol. The fact is, regarding story itself, I am not hugely collaborative. I don’t generally find that process very helpful, frankly. There are a lot of great writers, Mark Waid is one, who get a ton of input and make it work, but I like to go think of an idea and then carry it as far as it can go myself. I like to sit in a dark room, in the middle of the night, no noises, no distractions, no email, no music, nothing, and just write and write. The one time where I am okay with other people’s input is at the idea stage, the very conception of the story. Other than that, I find that construction is so crucial to the comedy and the surprises that I can’t just insert stuff from others very well. It becomes a lot less personal. When you’re doing a crossover, it’s a little different, you HAVE to make the beats fit and I do enjoy that, but it’s a different kind of storytelling. The interesting thing is for the first time, I actually AM collaborating with someone and it’s a lot of fun, so there might be more of that in the future.
One thing I DO talk about with artists is, I regularly ask them what they would LIKE to draw, and a story will often come out of that. Aaron Lopresti loves to draw monsters, so that comes up often. Nicola Scott hates drawing cars. She actually draws beautiful cars, but we do avoid them, mostly.
The editor watches over things, sure, but ‘intermediary’ isn’t the right word–I nearly always get along very well with the artists I am lucky enough to work with, and we don’t really need a referee. We communicate a lot just on our own. When you have an experienced artist you trust, you make a lot of suggestions as a writer, but you trust them to change those if they like. I will often say, “Okay, I think this will work best as a stack of rows, but feel free to go another way if you like.” Aaron and Nicola know I completely trust them to make changes if they have a better idea. THAT part is truly collaborative.
I don’t do anything like, “they fight for five pages, go wild.” I think that is making the artist do my job. It’s cheap and lazy. The artist can make it BETTER, but those beats are essential to the story. I had an artist say that he once worked on a book where the writer, a well-known guy, had a fight scene in one issue, then cut and pasted the entire fight scene for another issue, only changing the name of the villain. That’s ridiculous. There is SO much character in the way the players behave during action sequences…it’s what separates, say, DIE HARD from the latest crappy Steven Segal film.
I don’t write Marvel style at all, it doesn’t work for me. I kind of hate it. And yep, you’re always writing, not just to an artists’ talents, but also to their tastes and beliefs. It’s a lot to consider.
Q2: ROBERT JONES, JR. asked, “Some writers have stated that Wonder Woman is an inherently political character. Do you believe that’s true? What, if anything, do you believe is political about Wonder Woman and how do you deal with it if you deal with it at all? What do you think feminism looks like in the 21st century and how does Wonder Woman play into that? What do you think about the ways in which Wonder Woman and gender politics gets addressed outside of the main title–like Frank Miller’s take in All-Star Batman or the Wonder Woman animated film?”
Again with the cheating!
I think it’s the opposite. I think it’s that Wonder Woman is a mirror, and the READERS are inherently political. In other words, people regularly bring elements to her character, for good or ill, that have nothing to do with her origins or how she is actually portrayed. One person sees her as a champion of gay rights, which has been so far, mostly subtextual if there at all, while another might DISlike her because she’s ‘constantly preaching that men are bad,’ something she ALSO never does. You would never convince these people that it’s their own beliefs they are imposing on the character, not in a million years. But I see it every day, in the way each new story is so wildly interpreted.
But the thing is, I kind of love that. I think comics can be a lot more interactive than they are. Moreso than film or prose, even, because comics is a set of still images where the READER is forced to supply all the moments between those images. You guys have to fill in what happened between panels one and two. I love that, and when it’s really cooking and the writer knows what he or she is doing, you become so engaged that you end up hearing the voices and imagining the sound effects and seeing all the action unfold. It’s tremendously imaginative for the reader and I believe that’s why some perfectly smart folks simply can’t read comics. They don’t have those tools for whatever reason, that all comics readers seem to have.
I’ve said it a lot, I think Wonder Woman is, not so much political, but definitely inspiring to those who are looking for inspiration. I think she works best when, instead of delivering a message, she simply IS the message. She does right, rather than TALKS about how others should do right. So she is a doer, an accomplisher, and not so much a pundit.
My thoughts on feminism are going to be long and detailed, but people familiar with feminism realize that there have been waves, and adjustments of how it is perceived and presented, over the years. Feminism has moved from a position of anger, as has the civil rights discussion, more towards a more encompassing and forgiving philosophical base. But at it’s heart, the idea has never been, WE SHOULD HATE MEN, except in the views of zealots. The idea has been WE SHOULD TREAT PEOPLE FAIRLY AND WITH RESPECT. But that idea is so simple and truthful that it’s hard to fight with, so there’s a vested interest in trying to continue to portray the men-hating myth.
I haven’t read any Frank Miller for a while. Respectfully, because he’s done some glorious work, I think he’s got a pretty unhappy view of women as whores, bitches and victims, and…I’m sorry, it’s all so juvenile. I can’t be offended because I can’t read it without laughing at how stupid it all is. I don’t have any anger at this stuff, there are people who find it ‘edgy,’ or whatever. I think you can do a pretty fair Wonder Woman satire in that style, maybe that’s his intention. But his track record on this stuff is so oogy for so long, I haven’t really kept up. I look at the Jim Lee art and move on.
The Wonder Woman movie had a lot of first wave gender politics that I wish hadn’t made the cut. I love and respect everyone involved in that film, they’re friends of mine and I think they did a fantastic job of everything else. But I found the discussion about opening car doors to be completely baffling. I’ve talked to them at length about it. They know I don’t love that stuff. BUT, what I did discover, and I’ve talked about this before, is that there is a whole generation of kids who missed that first wave of feminism, and their only exposure to the equality argument is people yelling at each other over the internet.
For them, the movie is a chance for families to actually TALK about this stuff for a change.
So that’s very positive.
Q3: PHIL JIMENEZ asked, “Most, if not all, writers tend to write Diana quite formally, which tends to lend a certain…air about her (she suffers for it among non-WW fans, I think; one editor once told me he thought she sounded uppity and cold because of the way everyone had her speak.) I guess I’m curious — does Diana’s “voice” come as naturally to you as say, Etta’s (which you nailed instantly?). From where do you draw your inspiration for her voice, her syntax, her way of speaking? Do you think it helps or hurts her commercially if she speaks with a more formal command of the language as opposed to a more pedestrian, every day approach? Does it make her seem arrogant or ‘uppity?’”
OOOH, EVEN PHIL JIMENEZ IS A DIRTY CHEATER ON THE FIVE QUESTION RULE!
Phil, I love you, by the way. You have been a great friend and a huge supporter, and I just thought I’d get that out.
I spend a lot of time on dialogue. When I returned to comics a few years before I went pro (I had quit reading comics for a while), I found to my disappointment that the bombastic and exaggerated speech patterns of the past had been replaced by this terribly dreary ‘realistic’ dialogue, that frankly isn’t realistic at all. It’s just dull. I don’t know if I want to live in a fantasy world where demi-gods and rooftop vigilantes speak like the guy at the gas station. I like the idea of dialogue as the ultimate Rosetta Stone of character, I like dialogue that moves and thrills and inspires and breaks hearts and tickles ribs and causes heat and friction even when the readers aren’t expecting it. Not saying I ACCOMPLISH all of that, but I find that infinitely more thrilling than the ten millionth bland coffee shop scene.
So I don’t mind characters with extreme dialogue. But when Diana talks like Thor, I think she loses something. She becomes harder to relate to at all. It works for Thor, but not so much for Diana. If you read my issues, you will see that Diana is constantly trying to put people at ease…the way she speaks to an average citizen (where she is at her most human) is different from how she speaks to other Amazons (who actually PREFER her to use a more Princess-like diction and manner), and that’s something very deliberate in all my issues. Diana is used to people being in awe of her, and she doesn’t really enjoy that, more than that, she doesn’t find it useful. So verbally, she’s always extending a hand, like a welcome gesture, with her words. I like her to sound slightly formal, but always dead on point and not evasive.
Etta is actually much more bombastic than Diana, which is why I think she makes a better companion and sounding board for Diana than some of her academic friends. It’s why the enthusiastic Cassie and Vanessa made such good sounding boards, as well. They humanize her in contrast.
I don’t like the idea of an ‘uppity’ Wonder Woman because that implies an elitism that she doesn’t feel. BUT, I do think Diana knows how to put on the princess face when necessary. A lifetime of duty taught her that!
Now I’m interested to hear how YOU thought of Diana’s voice and syntax, Phil.
Q4: ERICK PADILLA LIZAMA (of the http://mujermaravilla.blogspirit.com website) asked, “Imagine for a moment change is in your hands. That everything is possible and you move the threads of fate. So, if you could help create two other Wonder Woman monthly books, what characters, stories, villains, artists and writers would you choose to strengthen the Wonder Woman legacy and mythos and why?”
See, this is why I love Nerites (and everyone go look at his site, it’s awesome). He is no CHEATER!
Okay. First, just so everyone knows, we ARE working on more Wonder Woman product.
We had some VERY close calls that were canceled for various reasons and are being re-tooled. But some cool new stuff IS coming, and some of it is from Wonder fans who are well known but who have never worked in comics before. I have been working to make this stuff happen and DC WANTS it to happen, so supporting these books will absolutely be the thing that determines future spin-off titles.
But if I had my choice, I’d like a quartly anthology of SENSATION COMICS. Andy Mangels had an idea that the book would have a Wonder Woman lead story, and then back-ups featuring the characters who first appeared in Sensation, like Wildcat and the Black Pirate. I would like the lead stories to be untethered, meaning they don’t HAVE to connect with the main book–so we could have manga WW, sci-fi WW, whatever, by a new creative team each time.
For the second book, I’d either like a WONDER FAMILY title, with Donna and Wonder Girl and Artemis stories, or perhaps a team book with Wonder Woman in the lead.
Those would make me really happy.
Q5: ANTONY COUKOS of ExperiencetheWonder.com asked, “Wonder Woman has long been respected as a revolutionary who champions the struggle for justice, equality and the empowerment of women. As her writer, you have control over that moral compass. To what extent do you feel a responsibility to use the character to address inequities in today’s society?”
Another great website owner…go click on that link, you won’t regret it!
Okay. This is a tricky question, because again, we get into that situation where there’s a danger of exchanging the action and thrills of a great adventure comic for speeches and moralizing. However, Wonder Woman is more closely about real world problems than say, Superman or Green Lantern, and some of the issues where she has dealt with teen suicide or domestic abuse have been very powerful. In those stories, the way the writers made it work was to shrink the issue down to a single person. Diana can’t actually fight domestic abuse, or at least, I could never in good conscience write that story. But she can fight for a single VICTIM of domestic abuse. She can do a story about a single shelter. She can’t punch suicide in the face, but she can deal very painfully with a friends suicide and that works both dramatically and ethically.
The thing is, Diana is much more relevant to the real world than most superheroes. She’s never been about stopping some deformed metahuman from robbing a bank, she’s usually had some social issue that drives her more than simple adventure or crimefighting. So it’s not cheating to use her in that capacity. One of the things I wanted to establish is how people look at her differently in the DCU…she’s carrying around this aura that even her enemies respect and even her friends fear a little bit. There are statues of her on the Khund homeworld because they assume, as the best warrior on the planet, that she is naturally the leader. Achilles respects her almost instantly the moment he meets her, he can’t avoid it. The JLA all defer to her somewhat when the battle starts. So, her perspective is different, I think.
I am skeptical of deliberate allegory, but you can’t help but imagine how Wonder Woman would feel about the state of eternal war as practiced by the nations of our planet and warned about by Orwell. I think she’d have little patience for it. In the latest issue, she has a moment of clarity where she realizes she’s been behaving exactly like the world leaders she’s condemned. I think that’s a key moment, and a moment only Wonder Woman, of all superheroes, could truly pull off. There’s a reason why this issue starts with her punching an enemy blindly and thoughtlessly, and ends with her holding out the hand of truce, in other words.
It’s because she’s Wonder Woman, and she learns from her mistakes. That’s her best message, right there, possibly.
Thanks for the questions, everyone!
(Aegisbearer here: Thank YOU, Gail!)