The New Yanick Paquette Interview...
New Interview with Morrison About Wonder Woman Earth One From The L.A. Times
Wonder Woman is getting a modern makeover in an upcoming graphic novel by award-winning comic writer Grant Morrison and artist Yanick Paquette. “Wonder Woman: Earth One” reimagines the Amazon warrior’s mythic origin in a modern-day setting. The graphic novel follows J. Michael Straczynski’s “Superman: Earth One” and Geoff Johns’ “Batman: Earth One.”
For Morrison, who is nearing the end of his successful run with “Batman Incorporated” (issue No. 13 is due out July 24), writing a Wonder Woman book represented a chance to round out the trinity. Morrison has already written extensive Superman and Batman stories, but Wonder Woman has always been a periphery character in his work. Paquette (“Ultimate X-Men,” “Swamp Thing”) drew a handful of “Wonder Woman” books in the late 1990s.
The 120-page “Wonder Woman: Earth One” comes at a time when the lasso-wielding heroine appears to be on the brink of a popularity resurgence. The CW is developing a Wonder Woman television show, and many fans are pushing for a big-screen feature based on the Amazon.
Hero Complex chatted with Morrison about the character’s origins, previous Wonder Woman iterations, and his plans for the superheroine in “Wonder Woman: Earth One.”
HC: A Wonder Woman graphic novel is a hefty project. Why a graphic novel as opposed to a comic series?
GM: Basically, Dan DiDio came to me and said, “Would you like to do this Wonder Woman graphic novel?” It was never intended to be a six-issue series or any kind of limited series. It was a completely different format. I liked the idea of being able to write something that was like a novel, and also to tell a different version of the Wonder Woman story.
HC: So she was a character you wanted to tackle?
GM: Kind of. I’d done it before in “Justice League,” but she’s always been a kind of presence. And there’s something about the character that really annoyed me, to be honest, because I couldn’t quite get a hook on her. I felt like there were a lot of really strange contradictions in there…. And because it was a challenge to most people. If you read about filmmakers talking about Wonder Woman, it’s always, “Oh, we can’t make a Wonder Woman film because people wouldn’t buy into this, this, this or this.” So it seemed that it was a challenging character. And because I’d done Superman and Batman, I really wanted to do the DC trinity of major characters. So I kind of came to it ‘round the back door, but finally realized, “Yeah, I really want to do something with this and see if I can make it work in a way that I’d like to see it working.”
HC: How did you begin? Did you go back and read the original comics?
GM: I started with the first principles, which is what I usually do, and go back to the original creators’ intentions. I read up on the old William Moulton Marston [pen name Charles Moulton] stuff, with Harry Peter, the artist. And I also read up particularly on Marston’s domestic arrangements, which were the biggest influence on Wonder Woman, because he was a very progressive psychologist of the 1930s, and his wife was also a renowned psychologist, but they both shared a lover called Olive Byrne, who was the model for Wonder Woman. So they were in this very boho, free-love kind of experience, long before the ’60s and long after Rousseau and the romantics. He’s a very interesting character, and Wonder Woman was created as an opposition to what he saw as the bloodcurdling masculinity of the comics. He wanted to basically teach young men that submission to the loving authority of a clever and kind woman would be the best way to live, and it would end wars, and it would end the strife of men. So it’s a heady mix. He’s a smart guy, a smart woman at his side, with a younger smart woman with them. They were all together for the creation of this amazing character, so I felt that really, it wasn’t about superheroes at all. The whole essence of Wonder Woman is about a psychologist trying to teach us all a lesson. And although I don’t necessarily agree with Marston’s particular view on the world, or Marston’s particular kinks, I wanted to do something that at least lived up to those ideals.
HC: So it’s not about superheroes?
GM: It’s not a comic about superheroes punching each other. It’s about the sexes and how we feel about one another, and what a society of women cut off from the rest of the world for 3,000 years might look like, and what kind of sexuality, what kind of philosophy, what kind of science would that have developed, and how would that impact our world if it actually suddenly became apparent that these women existed. So for me, that was always the original Wonder Woman story, but when you hear it retold, there’s a lot of potential in there to talk about the way we live today and the way the sexes view one another, especially in an age when pornography has become so ubiquitous, to go back to this sort of strange eroticism that Martson had. I think it is a really interesting way to talk about the issues we have in the world today.
HC: Wonder Woman was one of the few superheroes created as a mainstream model for girls, not just a male audience. Are you hoping to attract a broader female audience with your retelling?
GM: Absolutely. We’ll see what happens. It all depends, I guess. It has a lot to do with marketing and the kinds of interviews that we do. But yeah, I was speaking the other day, and I said, “This is a book for mothers and their daughters,” so hopefully that will stand. But I think it’s better for teenage girls. I think younger girls, it may be too strong for them. But certainly teenage girls and their mothers.
HC: Wonder Woman is also one of a handful of heroes who uses diplomacy as much as strength. Did that factor into your take?
GM: What I’m trying to do here, and what I’ve done with Superman and Batman, is just try to embody the character on the page. All of the characters and the different things the characters meant to different generations, I wanted to get them all into this portrayal, so that these aspects are important. Also, Wonder Woman is the goddess of truth, so what does that mean? That was a big thing in the ’90s. So we’re going to bring that in — what happens to someone who’s the defender of truth when the truth is the thing that can actually destroy them? … We’re also going to deal with the notion of Wonder Woman having a costume, which I think is almost ridiculous. So we’re playing with that a little bit and doing something different from that, which surprisingly nobody has ever done. We’re going to do something with how she looks, which is quite different.
HC: Gail Simone and Brian Azzarello have both been lauded for their approach to the character in recent years. What aspects of those portrayals do you want to keep, and what do you want to leave behind?
GM: I didn’t want to be too influenced by those at all. The only influences I really wanted to have was the original Marston stories with Harry Peter, and also the Lynda Carter TV show, which I thought was a really good and workable translation of the Wonder Woman concept for a mass audience. I like it for that reason, and also Lynda Carter just embodied the character so beautifully. But she didn’t really get to do the stuff that the original Wonder Woman got to do. So for me, the idea was putting those two things together. In terms of other people’s versions of it, I really liked Gail Simone’s, and I’m loving what Brian Azzarello’s doing right now, but I didn’t want to be influenced by those, so I didn’t do a lot of reading on recent stuff. I just accepted that the other writers who are contemporary with me have done their own brilliant versions of this, so I wanted to do something a little different.
HC: What does your artist, Yanick Paquette, bring to the table?
GM: Just a brilliant skill for drawing. The first 15 pages are basically a retelling of the Greek myth as filtered through the original Wonder Woman story, where Hercules has enslaved the Amazons, and Hippolyta’s in chains, and basically the Amazons escape and declare that they will establish a paradise island far from the gaze of men. So he’s sent in that entire sequence now, and it’s just this beautiful mural, and he’s done all this amazing decorative stuff with baubles and shattered shards of Greek pottery. And all the scenes are drawn in this flat, graphic style of Greek art, so it really is the most amazing thing. And also what he does is he makes the women very glamorous, which I think is quite important. Wonder Woman, it’s a feminist tract, it really is. It’s a statement. But in the original, the Amazons on Paradise Island were all wearing the most beautiful 1930s makeup, you know eyeliner and bee-sting lips. I think we wanted to keep that aspect. Even after 3,000 years of separation from men, they still wear cosmetics. And there’s something really odd and ritualistic and fetishistic about that that we’ve kept. He captures those aspects of it, which I wanted it to have — the eroticism of Wonder Woman — and he does a brilliant update of Harry Peter’s approach.
HC: Wonder Woman hasn’t found that mainstream interest in recent years that Batman or Superman have. Why do you think that is?
GM: I just think that nobody’s told the great story yet. It seems a shame. She did have mainstream interest back in the original. So again, that’s why I’ve always gone back to it. Wonder Woman was a very high-selling comic back in the 1940s. It was really successful. But the sales diminished as soon as Marston died. So obviously whatever weirdness he brought to it was actually part of the DNA of Wonder Woman. We’re trying to bring some of that back. It’s a different version of it. It’s a modern strain. It’s by a writer that doesn’t necessarily agree with Marston’s philosophies but at least wants to honor the weirdness of what he was trying to do, and the message he was trying to bring to young men.