We spoke to J. Michael Straczynski last week about his launch of Superman, and now we've been given the chance to talk to him this week about his launch of Wonder Woman. The first issue of his run is in comic book stores now.
Big Shiny Robot!: When the announcement was made that you'd be taking over Superman and Wonder Woman, Superman sort of overshadowed Wonder Woman in a big way. I think it speaks a lot about Wonder Woman in general, but why do you think that was?
J. Michael Straczynski: I think it has a lot to do with the fact that Superman is so strongly identified with America, so much a part of our history as a country, and a national symbol. I don't think it says anything about Wonder Woman any more than any other character, it speaks entirely to the unique place occupied by Superman in our history.
BSR!: Despite that overshadowing, fan excitement over your run is high. Your track record with Gods and bringing them to greatness is very, very good. (Seriously, I'm a giant Thor nerd and your run was as good as my favorite Simonson runs). But how will this new Wonder Woman fit into the rest of the DC universe if she's not what we know. Will they remember her as she was?
JMS: As far as Simonson goes, honestly, I'm not fit to carry his pencil-box when it comes to Thor, but reviving that book and character and moving him to the top ten also required a fair amount of rethinking and looking for ways to make the mythic more appealing, and that was a terrific challenge that worked out well.
In the case of Diana, because the timeline was shifted, most people only know her as she is. But there are some in the DCU who can see both timelines...the oracle, in the 600 and 601 issues, and down the road, the Phantom Stranger and Deadman, among others.
BSR!: It seems like this gives you a fresh launching pad to completely redefine her character and her relationships within the DC Universe. Was that
sort of the point?
JMS: Very much so. Her character is solid, the writers who've written her are terrific. But over the decades, the world around her has constricted and gotten more insular and less accessible to new or casual readers.
So the key was to move her away from that environment and put her into another one, where her character could be more easily and accessibly seen. You can have the best garden in the world, but if you can't see it for all the brush, then the solution is to clear the brush.
BSR!: Wonder Woman has always been a very positive female role model, does this new version of Wonder Woman live up to that? Or will she be living up to that slowly along the way?
JMS: The best person to ask would be female, so I can't pretend or attempt to speak for them. What I can say is that this is a Wonder Woman who's had to deal with both an Amazonian and an urban upbringing, putting some of her dilemmas growing up much closer to the average person.
She's still a fighter, still battling for the good of her people, and searching for the truth, and that makes her a role model as much as anything else.
BSR!: How do you approach writing a strong female character differently than someone like Superman?
JMS: I don't think of it in those terms, I tend to go to the kind of people I like in general, and male or female attach what I see as the strongest attributes of what I like to that character.
So in my case, I've always been drawn to women who are strong-minded, independent, resourceful, and quick to speak their mind. To me, a sexy woman is someone who can think rings around me. It's more about what's between the ears than what's inside the bra.
That in sum may be why I've always found it relatively easy to write strong female characters, from Delenn and Ivanova in Babylon 5, to Jessica Fletcher in Murder She Wrote, and Christine Collins in Changeling.
BSR!: With her timeline changing, what does that mean for regular supporting characters like Steve Trevor?
JMS: That's one of those answers I'd rather answer in the telling than in an interview.
BSR!: What are you most excited about bringing to the table with Wonder Woman?
JMS: One of the things I enjoy most is parking the magical next door to the mundane, the surreal next to the real. I think the contrast throws both into stark relief, and allows for counterpoint and thematic motifs that you just can't get otherwise.
So the chance to play in that playground with Diana is very exciting to me.
BSR!: What is it about Wonder Woman that sets her apart from the rest of the DC Universe, in your mind?
JMS: I think it's her origins in mythology and history, the presentation of her as a warrior in the classic sense, and the degree that she has, as you noted, been such a strong symbol and role model for women of all ages.
I'm very much aware of all that, so I'm going to do my darndest not to screw it up.