When we asked WONDER WOMAN artist Cliff Chiang if we could interview him late last week, he agreed and requested we ask him some thought provoking questions. Not a difficult task when you are asking the artist of one of comics' biggest icons what it is like working on her ongoing series.
Chiang was kind enough to discuss with us what he loves about Wonder Woman, what it was like coming up with the character designs of her supporting cast and why he won't be co-plotting WONDER WOMAN, contrary to a previous announcement by DC Comics. Check out the full interview below. Have you been reading WONDER WOMAN? Are you enjoying the series?
Comic Vine: In our humble opinion, you have been doing an incredible job on Wonder Woman as the series' artist. Were you a fan of her character prior to signing on? What kind of research did you do for the role?
Cliff Chiang: Thank you, that's very kind of you to say. I'm certainly a fan of what Wonder Woman represents. I'm somewhat familiar with past runs, and of course I'm a fan of artists like Phil Jimenez, Adam Hughes, Mike Sekowsky and Dick Giordano, to name just a few, but the beauty of the relaunch is that research is beside the point. You do want to be aware of what's come before, but not in a way that will keep you from trying different things. This is very much a reinterpretation of Wonder Woman, and I'm glad we have the freedom to do that.
CV: There is no question about it; Diana is an iconic character. Yet, some see her being an "icon" as a double edged sword. Many creators have struggled to understand her identity, humanize her. Some would even say that she is weighed down by all that she is supposed to represent. Do you think you have brought a new identity to Wonder Woman? In your opinion, who is she? What does she mean to you? Is she different than she used to be?
CC: I think there have been many different and amazing interpretations of the character over the years, but it's hard to call any of them more valid than another. In a way, the character from the comics is quite separate from the cultural phenomenon of Wonder Woman. People see her as the ultimate embodiment of feminine qualities, but individually we all have different ideas of what a great woman is. To me, the image of Wonder Woman primarily evokes strength and independence, while for others she is all about love and compassion. You can't please everyone, so I try my best to present the character as honestly as I can.== TEASER ==
CV: What is it like working with Brian Azzarello? What is the creative process like?
CC: It's easy, and it's open. I check in with Brian and ask some questions about where things are going, and occasionally make suggestions. Then I get a script and he gives me enough (golden) rope to hang myself. The script is usually pretty open, and Brian trusts me enough to visualize things and change elements if I see things differently. If it's a big change, I'll check with him to make sure it doesn't affect something larger, but that's about it. There's a lot of mutual respect for each other's ideas and a belief that the book is better if we're both allowed to do what comes naturally.
CV: An artist's vision for the characterization of a comic book character is equally as important as that of the writer. Now that you are being given the chance to co-write Wonder Woman, what qualities of her character do you want to see come into fruition? In what ways do you hope to influence her character?
CC: Actually, it looks like we won't be co-plotting after all. We were worried about the schedule, and I proposed it as an alternative if we were running late on scripts. But Brian's doing fine, so there's been no need for it. I'm still interested in trying it on a creative level, and I'm sure I'll be writing my own material in the future. As for Wonder Woman, I'll continue to try and bring out the personality and character we've established: a heroic woman who, in spite of her abilities and divine parentage, is as human as the rest of us.
CV: How (if any) has your experience as an Editor at Vertigo influenced the creative process on this series?
CC: I don't know that I'd call it experience so much as a mindset. Everything should serve the story, and cut out the rest. I try to make my art and storytelling as clear as possible, to make it easy for the reader to follow. The details are selective and, hopefully, nuanced.
CV: Which WONDER WOMAN character is your favorite?
CC: I had a lot fun drawing Strife. Her ultra-bitchy dialogue made it so easy to come up with great body language.
CV: In issue #7 you will be introducing Hephaestus and Eros. Where did the inspiration for the character designs come from?
CC: Hephaestus is kind of an old-school Kirby monster, with a dash of Hellboy, The Thing, and a monkey. We just wanted to have fun with him. Early designs for him were too human, but once I embraced the weirdness, it came much easier. Eros is a great, flamboyant character - a really good-looking scumbag Euro-hipster. My favorite moment was describing my ideas and Brian asked "What's his hair like, long or short?" "...Uh, both!" Brian was pretty skeptical, but he loved the design as soon as he saw it, and I hope he laughed.
CV: Okay, pants or no pants?
CC: Yes, I am wearing pants, thanks for asking!
CV: What do you think is Wonder Woman's biggest weakness?
CC: Haha, I feel like I'm answering questions for Wonder Woman's job interview. Her greatest weakness should also be her greatest asset, right? Well, I'd say her greatest weakness is that SHE CARES TOO MUCH. You'll find out what exactly that means in issue 7.
CV: As an artist, what is your favorite medium? What is the process when drawing Wonder Woman?
CC: I love pen and ink, though I'd love to dabble with more color work. Luckily, the covers have been a great outlet for that. Typically I draw 4-inch thumbnails drawing of the page right on the script, for easy reference. I just need to figure out the mechanics of the visual storytelling, so they don't need to be very detailed. I use those thumbnails as a guideline when I pencil, adjusting the relative size of panels for impact and pacing. Lately, I've been experimenting with pencilling digitally, which I then print out onto bristol board and ink traditionally. It's hard for me not to think in terms of black and white when I'm drawing, but I try to anticipate what works best in line art or in color. Matt Wilson has been doing a phenomenal job on colors, and we've developed a great rapport. Some pages it feels like he read my mind, while others are a revelation and make me rethink my approach.
The sixth issue of WONDER WOMAN hit shelves last Wednesday. Be on the look out for the series' seventh issue in stores on March 21st, 2012.