Many fans raised an eyebrow when it was announced Brian Azzarello — the Eisner Award-winning co-creator of grit and grime crime series “100 Bullets” — was going to unleash “Wonder Woman” on DC Comics’ New 52. Teamed with long-time artistic collaborator Cliff Chiang, Azzarello has delivered arguably the most original interpretation of the Amazonian princess since her 1987 relaunch helmed by industry legend George Perez.
And if the first year of the critically acclaimed series, which featured Wonder Woman re-imagined as the daughter of Zeus, wasn’t big enough for readers, Azzarello dropped a bomb last week on the final page of “Wonder Woman” #12. Or more specifically a “BOOM.”
Speaking with CBR News, Azzarello confirmed the pulse-pounding page featured the New 52 first appearance for Orion, but the writer wouldn’t go as far to say that the New Gods as a whole would be descending upon Earth and Olympus in the coming year.
The fan favorite writer also discussed the popularity of breakout characters like Hermes and Strife as well as, a re-introduction of Wonder Woman’s Silver Age bracelets, the importance of letting the character build strength (and readers) without crossing over into other DC Comics series and why it was important to clarify the character’s current age.
CBR News: Let’s start with the question everyone is asking: Based on that oh-so familiar helmet you and Cliff Chiang left readers with on the last page of “Wonder Woman” #12, can you confirm we are going to see Orion and the New Gods in your series in the months ahead?
Brian Azzarello: Well, you’ll see that guy that you are looking at there. [Laughs] But seriously, no, I’m not saying any more. You got enough a tease in that last page, okay.
But that is Orion’s helmet.
So, let’s break that page down a bit. The top two panels are definitely colored with blue tones, and the bottom two panels are red. Are the competing colors representing something specific in the story?
Those two parts are happening in two different places.
Is the character breaking through the ground in the second panel the same one holding Orion’s helmet in the third panel?
Why are you asking me these questions? [Laughs]
Because everyone that reads “Wonder Woman” is talking about that page.
I know, but I just want you guys to enjoy it. Enjoy the suspense. I’m not going to tell you anything. Just enjoy it. I think it’s great that everybody is talking about it and they all have their different theories. I’m not going to wreck that conversation for anything.
I can appreciate that but how about this? What do you think about the New Gods as a concept?
I have read a lot of New Gods. I liked all the [Jack] Kirby stuff. It’s crazy.
Does your story tie into what Geoff [Johns] and Jim [Lee] did with Darkseid in “Justice League”?
I don’t think so. We haven’t really spoken about that. So I don’t know.
Alright, let’s leave that line of questioning. In this last arc, not a New God, but the Greek god Apollo climbed to the top of the food chain in Olympus. Along the way, he was challenged by Wonder Woman who truly unleashed her powers by removing her bracelets. I love this shift from the bracelets being utilized to stop bullets to a virtual harness or handcuffs that Wonder Woman uses to minimize her powers so she doesn’t go berserk and become too powerful. That interpretation of the bracelets hasn’t been used for quite some time, right?
Right, but that’s something that we planned on touching on from the beginning. It’s one of things I really liked about the Silver Age Wonder Woman.
I love that as Apollo rises to the top, he represents big business coming to Olympus. He’s decked out in the power suit; skyscrapers are bursting through the ground. We’ve left the mom and pop shop and the heir apparent is ready to bring the family business into the 21st century.
Yeah, that’s right. He’s Michael Corleone. [Laughs]
Another major plot thread in this most recent chapter is that Zola’s newborn child has been kidnapped and, spoiler alert here, the culprit is Hermes, a character that has become a fan favorite over the past year. Are you surprised by the character’s popularity?
I think that’s great. It means Cliff and I have succeeded in our job. The last time we talked, I told you that we were going from the ground up and building a new supporting cast of characters. That Hermes has received that kind of popularity in a year and that people are saddened by this apparent betrayal, yeah, that speaks to us doing our job. [Laughs]
A key word there is “apparent.” Hermes isn’t actually the bad guy here, is he? Hermes thinks he’s doing right by the baby and this is all going to be a big misunderstanding, right?
You’re going to have to wait and see.
This issue also has Hera transformed into a mortal by her son. Will her journey be explored further in the months ahead?
That’s definitely going to be touched on next year. You’re asking me all of these things that are going to happen. I’m not going to tell you what’s going to happen. If I wanted to tell you, I wouldn’t bother writing the book.
Okay, let’s talk about this first year. Is there a character or plot thread that has transpired which has developed differently than you originally set out to do?
Hmm. No, Cliff and I had these characters pretty well fleshed out. So no, no characters have really surprised me in terms of going in a different direction. But the character that I love to write is Strife. I wish we had more room for her.
She’s another breakout character from this book. She’s so much fun. What about a Strife-centric standalone issue?
If I did something like that, the Wonder Woman fans would call for my head. They just want Wonder Woman in their book.
I think I know how you will answer this one based on how you normally build your stories, but how important to a strong lead like Wonder Woman is a strong supporting cast?
I think a strong supporting cast is just as important as a strong lead, certainly, and so is the world that you put her in. When we set out to do this, we wanted the book to be different than the other ones. We thought that her family and the mythological roots is what would separate her from the other superhero books.
Is “Wonder Woman” a superhero book?
Do I think it’s a superhero book? Ah, she wears a costume. That’s the qualifier. But sure, it’s a superhero book. If that means people will buy it, then yes, it’s a superhero book.
How important to you was building this new universe for Wonder Woman without crossing over with one, two or ten other New 52 books?
I don’t think I would be doing it if I didn’t have that kind of freedom. Let’s just say that I have fielded calls about her being in some other books right now, but I think her just being in “Wonder Woman” and “Justice League” is enough right now. It’s so important to establish her and build her as a strong character. Once that’s all done, then she can go guest star in somebody else’s book. But let us finish what we’re building right now, first.
Oddly enough, there is a lot more freedom with Wonder Woman than there would be with Superman or Batman. There is a lot more freedom. I am allowed to say, “No, let’s keep her out of other books right now.” You can’t say that with Superman and Batman. Superman was in the first issue of “Swamp Thing,” for Christ sakes. Why was that? To get people to buy “Swamp Thing.” [Laughs] With Wonder Woman, we’re allowed to be a little insular. It’s not going to last. We can already feel the pressure.
I know you thought Wonder Woman, pardon the pun, had the legs to carry a big story but having worked with her for a year or so, what is about Diana that you find makes her such a strong character?
She’s got this unerring confidence about her, and that’s something that makes her unique as far as some of these superheroes go. A lot of superheroes are built from self doubt, and I don’t think that’s how she’s built. She’s confident. She’s strong. She has a particular way of looking at the world and she doesn’t really waiver.
One last housecleaning question for you. In last issue, it was noted that Wonder Woman was 23 years old. Why the specific age?
She came to man’s world five years ago when she was 18. That makes her 23 now. It’s just simple math. [Laughs] And it’s her in the New 52. By doing that, I took away any debate, because I know there was some, of how long she’s been around. Has she been around since World War II? Is she immortal? No, she’s 23.
“Wonder Woman” #0, written by Brian Azzarello and featuring art by Cliff Chiang, goes on sale September 19.