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Sweeping Changes: Steve Orlando on Wonder Woman’s new era

It’s a whole new world for the world’s greatest Amazon.

With a special anniversary approaching, writer Steve Orlando is launching a brand-new beginning for Wonder Woman. Already no stranger to the book (having written a few one-shots and small arcs during G. Willow Wilson’s run), Orlando’s plans for the ongoing are now bigger and bolder than ever. How big? What about leading with love and standing for peace and truth before resorting to outright violence.

In the lead up to Wonder Woman #750, we talked to Orlando about taking over the title, the core values of Wonder Woman, and exciting plans for the character after this landmark issue, among many other topics.

Wonder Woman #750 hits comics shelves on January 22. The 96-page special book also features past stories by Gail Simone, Colleen Doran, and Mariko Tamaki, and other creators.

(Editor’s note: The art used in this piece comes from December 2019’s Wonder Woman #83.)

AIPT: What are some aspects from recent runs that you’re really excited to work with?

Steve Orlando: To me, Wonder Woman is going to feature the inventive, challenging plotting of Rucka/Sharp, the superhero action of Shea Fontana’s run and the intense emotional drama of Willow and Cary Nord’s run, even if it’s going to exist between new and surprising characters. Throwing back more, I think Diana will be recalling a lot of Phil Jimenez’s run as well.

The biggest question we’re drawing from recent runs is this — Themyscira, the real Themyscira, has not had contact with the outside world in a long, long time. In Issue 750, Wonder Woman redefines her mission on her own terms. Now that the Amazons again have contact with our world…will they have to do the same? Will Wonder Woman inspire her own people? Are they doing enough for their mission of peace and protection?

AIPT: What is an aspect of Wonder Woman that you feel often gets overlooked that you’re excited to bring to the forefront?

SO: I think Diana’s love is something we talk about a lot, but we don’t see it in use or in the spotlight as much as it should be. Diana is a fierce warrior, but to her, violence is a last resort. She would rather lead with love, she would rather care about those that feel no one possibly could. And in an era of self-interest and fear, that’s as radical and subversive as ever. That was on display in Wonder Woman #51, showing Diana’s work just to turn one enemy into a friend, and it’ll be on broad display throughout this run.

AIPT: When you look at the Wonder Woman rogues gallery, you see a lot of villains isolated in certain corners of Wonder Woman’s experiences.  This is despite the fact that classic Wonder Woman was one of the first to have a proper villain super-team facing her, Villainy Inc.  One of the few times we’ve seen them come together was with Phil Jimenez and Greg Rucka via Godwatch.  As a big proponent of synthesizing various elements and experiences across runs, is that something on your mind?

SO: Funny you should ask! You’re right we want to give love to elements from previous runs and you just might see a supervillain team, though it might not be one you’ve seen before. Wonder Woman Annual #3 kicked a lot of that off.

AIPT: Who do you view as the absolute pillars that hold Wonder Woman up, especially moving forward, and who are the core individuals try to tear her down?

SO: Wonder Woman’s core is a mission of peace, truth, and love. She is someone who would drop anything for anyone, if they were in need. She’d fly across the universe just to answer the call of “help me.” As for who stands in the way of those, there are the easy answers like Ares, Doctor Psycho, and Circe. But in reality, I think in a lot of ways, we all stand in the way of these missions, because a lot of time, these concepts are hard to live by. It’s harder to lead with these things in life. So it’s not that we’re supervillains, but Diana wants to save us all, so each of us – stubborn, imperfect, infallibly human, are people she must confront, and help to turn to her philosophy. But she won’t give up on us, she doesn’t know how.

AIPT: You’ve reworked a lot of classic Wonder Woman villains in your past issues, including Paula Von Gunther.  What was the inspiration behind the re-brand, and will other characters be getting similar treatment?

SO: Keep an eye out! Von Gunther to me was an important character to update since hers was originally a story of real hate and eventually, real redemption. And I think there’s no better character to show that Diana truly cares for her enemies as well as her friends. As for more reintros, well, stay tuned! We’d love for faces old and new to return to the pages of Wonder Woman.

AIPT: You’ve done a few one-shots or short arcs for Wonder Woman in the past, but now you are fully in charge of the ongoing.  Could you talk about the prep and research for doing the ongoing proper? How was it different? Beyond her history and backlog, which you’re familiar with, what stuff did you find yourself watching, reading and listening to? What do you find most informed your take on Diana, beyond her media output itself?

SO: The biggest change is the scale of story we’re going to be able to tell, first and foremost. We now have a chance to really do a big, sweeping, Wonder Woman epic that challenges her to the core. With a short run, I looked to her cross media appearances as well as recent history to see what we could mine as well as reaffirm. Now? We’re going all the way back to Marston. We’re being blockbuster big, but remembering always that Diana is a radical hero who is loyal to peace, to love, to the truth, above all else. And these days? That’s subversive as hell, and that’s drawn right from her original appearances.

AIPT: We’ve seen you pull from a lot of different corners of Wonder Woman.  You’ve written about her deep sense of compassion and love as she mentors and rehabilitates Mayfly, you’ve pulled from Aztec mythology and connected a rarely-used pantheon of Gods to Bana-Migdhall and the larger Amazon mythos, and now you are wrapping up an arc with Cheetah.  What’s your favorite “corner” to pull from?

SO: I love love love the Amazon lore, which we touched on with the Bana-Mighdall arc. But it’s less about the Greek Myth aspects for me, and more about the wild science, the whimsy, the idea of this society that’s lived completely uninfluenced by some of our world’s strongest influences for so long. To me, there should be a bit of the recent House of X to the Amazons — they don’t need to be like us, they built their world, their paradise, from the ground up. And exploring that world, itself often a rebuke of ours, will never get old to me.

AIPT: It’s clear that your take on the lasso, the Golden perfect itself, is based on Gail Simone’s interpretation.  How did that inform your own approach and spin?

SO: I loved what Gail did with the Lasso, expanding on its basic lore in a wonderfully creative way. Knowing this was something Diana can do made me really think about the truth, and how she could bring different people into the lasso and still get different results, as we saw with Grodd in Wonder Woman Annual #3. It also made me wonder how the other lassos out there work.

AIPT: You’ve already done the annual with ARGUS, you’ve had Silencer show up, so the espionage elements are obvious. How much of that spy angle do you plan to play with, given it’s inherent to the characters and themes?

SO: I love that ’60s era of Wonder Woman because it showed how Diana can work in so many different, unexpected situations, and pushed the character somewhere new. So while we will be dropping in on the world of espionage, those elements to me are actually even more so a remind that we have to do the same now – push Diana into unexpected, challenging, surprising scenarios where you’d never imagine Wonder Woman, and that’s where she’s needed most.

AIPT: How do you view Diana’s relationships with Steve Trevor and Etta Candy? They’re sort of the iconic Lois Lane/Jimmy Olsen figures of the Wonder Woman mythology, but how do you interpret them and see them personally? What makes them resonate for you?

SO: Etta and Steve know Diana better than most, but I think what I love about them is they’re not defined by her (and neither is Lois, by the way. Jimmy? Questionable. Though his series is really proving him a standalone). Both Etta and Steve are wildly driven, inspiring characters. As we pick up this run, Steve and Diana have been pulled apart, and the question remains how they, and should they, reforge what they had? But in the mean time Steve will be appearing in new places and be vital to the DCU. As for how Etta has been holding up: Wonder Woman #751. She’s got a new gig, and she’s saving more lives than ever.

AIPT: Clark and Bruce both have firm, powerful settings to operate from in Metropolis and Gotham. But Diana’s sort of lacked such fixtures. She has no Midway, Opal, Central, or Coast. Gateway was sort of a big attempt to give her a specific fictional city that didn’t quite stick. Places like NYC have been tried, among many others, but you’ve taken her back to her Perez roots of Boston. Could you talk about the that choice?

SO: Diana coming back to Boston was about this run paying love back to different eras in Diana’s past. So getting her back to Boston let us homage the Messner-Loebs run as well as Perez, as well as give Diana a fresh start from the chaos she’s been experiencing recently after the death of love. Boston is meant to show folks we’re looking at ALL of the history and telling a grand, holistic story with Diana — there is good to be found in everything that’s come before.

AIPT: Elsewhere in the DC Universe, we see Clark Kent expose his secret identity. Wonder Woman briefly and occasionally used a Diana Prince persona, but she is by and large the most public major hero.  What about Wonder Woman’s identity and her pursuit of truth makes a second persona unnecessary or even impossible?

SO: I don’t think it’s impossible, there has been incredible Diana Prince eras. That said, for someone who lives so stridently by the truth, I think at this point in Diana’s life, a secret identity seems counter to her mission. She is Diana all the time, she is Wonder Woman all the time. If people are going to buy into her mission and philosophy, there can be no secrets or subterfuge. With a mission as grand and challenging as love, she has to lead with honesty – that starts with her identity. Whenever you meet her, you’re getting the real Wonder Woman.

AIPT: What is the most challenging part about writing Wonder Woman?

SO: Remembering the seeming contradiction of Diana’s mission is the greatest challenge to me. A lot of folks say she’s a warrior for peace, and she certain is an incredible warrior, but I’d prefer to say she’s a guardian of peace, a guardian or love, a guardian of the truth. Diana isn’t unwilling to engage in violence, but it’s a failing for her as much as the other person when she has to. It’s a last resort. She would rather defuse, reform, and listen. But if people are in danger, if peace is threatened and reason and resolution cannot win the day, she will act decisively. There will always be violence in Diana’s life as long as people fear peace, love, and the truth. But key for me is to remember that she never leads with it. As she says in an upcoming issue — “Those most familiar with war must always be ready for it…and do the most to prevent it.”

AIPT: I have to ask since you’re obviously a massive fan of the Messner-Loebs era, is there any chance of Space Hero or Taco Saleswoman Diana?

SO: Well, we do have Maxima showing up soon and she is from space…

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