Gail Simone: “Mark Waid might at first seem an odd choice for this series of mini-interviews, but truthfully, the portrayal of Wonder Woman in Kingdom Come had a big impact on the way she was portrayed for a long time. I believe some of that portrayal is even in her character in the Justice League Unlimited cartoons.
Beyond that, Mark wrote a very powerful and lively WW in JLA during his run on the monthly book AND the beautiful oversized graphic novel, Heaven’s Ladder.
Interestingly, Mark and I began our friendship in some ways over a disagreement over the final scenes with Wonder Woman in Kingdom Come. Additionally, when he had decided that he wanted to have a female villain in JLA, I became a ridiculous fangirl and created four female villains for him to use. Those ideas eventually became, 1) Mary Zero in Deadpool, 2) Black Alice in Birds of Prey, and the one he did acually use (and improve upon) The Queen Of Fables, who has become an enemy of Diana specifically, the evil stepmother who believes Princess Diana actually IS Snow White.
It’s weird how the tendrils spread out.
Mark is one of my best friends and one of the best writers in comics, and yet, Wonder Woman has always been a challenge for him to write for some reason.
I asked him why.”
1) Okay, Mark, we’ve been friends for a long time, and most people might be surprised to learn that one of the first email discussions we ever had was me writing an obnoxious fan email to you about Wonder Woman’s portrayal in the great KINGDOM COME, which you wrote.
Back to that in a minute, but first, I know you’ve said in the past that you have had a hard time writing Wonder Woman, but I think you did a GREAT job with her during your JLA run. SO let me ask you, what is it about Wonder Woman, first, that you LIKE? And are there any classic Wonder Woman stories that you did enjoy(Technically two questions. Be quiet!)?
First off, the truth is I barely know you and I’m constantly having to look up the spelling of your name. so dial it down.
But, yes, that was some of our earliest contact, and I still appreciate the kind words about KC.
What is it about Wonder Woman that I LIKE? This is a complex question with a bunch of answers, some of them not very good ones. The first dumb answer is that “She’s a DC character,” and that means I automatically like her. There are no DC characters created before I became an adult that I’m not loyal to.
I love her toys. Seriously. The magic lasso, the boomerang tiara, the invisible jet, the bracelets. She has cool toys. A magic lasso that’s indestructable and makes you tell the truth–name me three other super-hero tools that are that covetable.
I like the costume, and not in a perv way. I like the colors, I like the paradoxical patriotism.
I L-O-V-E the way she’s become an emblematic symbol of joy and empowerment to little girls the world over.
I love the mythology of the character–and I mean “mythology” in the truest folk-saga sense, as her history is every bit as inconsistent as any myth. But that didn’t keep me from reading the Wonder Woman Encyclopedia from cover to cover when I was 14.
And, on an “I’m projecting this more than working off actual evidence” level, I love her message of spreading peace and rationality in an irrational, angry world.
That said, I’ve read every Wonder Woman story ever published (and was even an editor on the book for about an hour-and-a-half in the late 1980s), and I honestly can’t think of a single “classic” Wonder Woman story or one that moved me. That’s not a slight on the fine creators who’ve worked on the book, including my pal George Perez or you, whatever your name is, again; it’s just a personal thing that I like the character in concept more than the actual stories. To me, the library of Wonder Woman stories is really kinda just one big red-and-blue blur. No offense. I think you, in particular, have done some great stuff with the character.
2) Ah, you’re a flatterer. But the flipside is of course, what is it that you find more difficult to wrap your head around?
You and I have corresponded about this before, so forgive me for repeating myself, but I cannot wrap my head around the concept of Peace Through Fisticuffs. Writing Diana in KINGDOM COME was the first time I ever really had to think about the character from the inside out, and I came to refer to her home, at least to myself, as “Paradox Island.”
I also have very little affinity for magic- and myth-based heroes, being the science guy that I am. Inarguably, my two least favorite Big Name characters are Wonder Woman and Thor, and they always have been. So that’s a problem for me, finding something in her world that I can connect to besides her toys.
But, and this is not exactly your question but it fits in, the biggest stumbling block I have about writing Wonder Woman or getting into her world is that, unlike Superman or Batman or whoever, it’s impossible to take Wonder Woman “back to basics” and rebuild on her from William Moulton Marston’s foundation because his take on her involved so much sexual commentary and sexual politics that you would NEVER be able to carry that into modern WW stories without DC and Time-Warner losing their minds. Moreso than even Superman, the Wonder Woman world has really been bleached of its fundamental characteristics. I honestly believe that the key to my fully understanding Wonder Woman enough to feel like I “get” her is for me to figure out how to really, truly interpret in modern language what Marston was trying to say about men and women and their roles through the symbols of bondage and light s&m that peppers the first years of that strip in a way that’s quaint and innocent because we’re seeing it from a distance but which would be inflammatory today.
3) Again, it’s funny you say this stuff, because as you know, I thought the WW portrayal in your JLA was very strong and fun, and the Heaven’s Ladder was a BIG influence on me… I always wanted to tell a story with Diana and the Khunds because of that book. Let me ask it this way, if you could write Diana any way you wanted, is there a Wonder Woman story you would actually like to tell at this point?
Not until I can crack that whole psychosexual element.
4) Okay, it’s odd when I hear people say that. WW is a little kinky, so what? We don’t pull back from that with characters like Emma Frost or Iron Man or whomever, do we? But about Kingdom Come. Batman and Superman in that book both are a little wacky, but principled, whereas Diana becomes almost completely unsympathetic in the end. You know this has been something I disagreed with, but I could be completely reading it wrong. Do you think Diana’s cause is at all just in the book’s climax? She seems pretty cold hearted for the most part.
She is pretty cold-hearted at the end. I’ve said to you before, one of my failings with that story is that I never could fully understand Wonder Woman–and, so, she became a plot device more than a character. To some degree, that’s because the story is really about Superman and everyone else is a “plot device” to some degree or another, but I do regret overcompensating to make her unsympathetic. I just really (without Batman around at his side) needed someone whose strident decisions could contrast with Superman’s growing equivocations.
5) She does work as an unstoppable force to Superman’s immovable object, that does make sense. Lastly, You already know I love your current work at Boom, particularly Irredeemable and The Unknown, both great, great stories with a darker side than we have seen from you, for the most part. Can you tell us a little about what books you’re working on currently, and what’s upcoming for you?
IRREDEEMABLE, with artist Peter Krause, is my BOOM! baby right now–the story of what happens when the world’s greatest super-hero becomes the world’s greatest super-villain, and what it takes to drive him to that point. Issue #6 just came out, and it outsold #1, so we’re really taking off.
I’m also doing THE UNKNOWN and its sequel, THE UNKNOWN: THE DEVIL MADE FLESH for BOOM! with artist Minck Oosterveer, a supernatural detective story starring the world’s pre-eminent detective, Catherine Allingham, a cross between Sherlock Holmes and Bette Davis.
At Top Cow, Kenneth Rocquefort and I are doing the CYBERFORCE/HUNTER-KILLER five issue mini that relaunches those properties. At Marvel, I’m still doing issues of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN and I’m doing a Dr. Strange relaunch, titled simply STRANGE, with Emma Rios that comes out in November.
And still writing THE INCREDIBLES for BOOM! Kids.
Man, I need to go lie down.