The actors to hold roles in the DC Universe for more than ten years is a short list — and most of them began their journey in the DCU in Bruce Timm’s DC Animated Universe. Such is the case for Susan Eisenberg, who has been the voice of Wonder Woman since “Justice League” debuted at the turn of the century. Since her “Justice League” debut, Eisenberg has voiced the Amazon princess in a number of high-profile projects, including “Justice League Unlimited,” “Injustice: Gods Among Us” and, of course, “DC Universe Online.”
The MMORPG presents a unique opportunity for its voice cast, with Downloadable Content continuously expanding the game, requiring many of the actors to return to the recording booth for new dialogue. Such is the case for Eisenberg and “Amazon Fury,” a new Wonder Woman-centric DLC that sees Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons, gone mad as she allies with Circe and declares war on the world. Wonder Woman brings together an army of Amazons to help protect Gotham City and bring her mother back from the brink of madness. The first of three parts will be available this spring on PlayStation Network and the DC Universe Online website.
CBR News spoke with Eisenberg about her work both on “Amazon Fury” as well as her long career giving a voice to Wonder Woman across a diverse range of media, her thoughts on the casting of Gal Gadot as the Amazon princess in Zack Snyder’s “Man of Steel” sequel, the progression of comics media in pop culture and more.
CBR News: Susan, tell us a little bit about the work you did for the “Amazon Fury” DC Universe Online expansion. How did it compare to some of the previous voice work you’ve done for the game?
Susan Eisenberg: Well, this time it was a different story, so I appreciated that immensely. “The Sons of Trigon,” the other piece I worked on with this game, was more battle-oriented. This one will be, too, but what I loved about this piece is it involved my mother. So anything that can involve my mother and have a human aspect to it, I just loved that in the storytelling. Of course, you’ll have the battles and the force and the Amazon energy, but you also have a different dimension to it: this is my mother, there’s a loyalty to it, and yet she’s doing this thing that’s completely insane, and I’m trying to understand it. For me personally, that made me giddy.
You’ve played Wonder Woman in a vast number of incarnations over the years. How does the take on the character you play in DCUO — specifically in “Amazon Fury” — compare to the other versions you’ve lent your voice to? Where does this Wonder Woman fall in the spectrum?
I would say there’s a regal quality to her in this game. She very much feels like a princess, but a princess/warrior. Some of the other incarnations have been more about a battlefield Wonder Woman, so it’s just strictly fighting. Some of the stuff has been more personalized with more story. This has both, which I really love, because again, I get to do stuff with my mother and I get to be on the battlefield and be fierce. I always like it when there’s both, and this allows me to do both of that.
You’ve portrayed Wonder Woman longer than anybody else in the history of the character. What keeps you coming back to her, time and time again?
Well, I love that you make it seem like it’s my choice, or not my choice! That’s so flattering. [Laughs] The truth is that I have to be asked to play her. As an actor, you just want the phone to ring. Whether it’s DCU Online or Warner Bros., you want them to call you and say, “Please voice her.” Without that call, it’s just me in my living room. That’s not nearly as exciting as doing it on a sound stage in a studio. I’ve just been very, very fortunate that people have continued to hire me. I auditioned for “Justice League” in 1999. It’s over ten years, so as I’ve said to everybody, it couldn’t be a bigger privilege for me, truly.
Since you first auditioned for the character in 1999, there have been a lot of changes across the pop culture landscape. What’s been the experience for you in seeing comic book characters like Wonder Woman climb the hierarchy of pop culture over the years?
It’s thrilling! I think it’s exciting and thrilling. I have to say, I didn’t grow up in that world, in that universe, and I’ve tried to educate myself so much, whether it’s through Twitter or Comic-Cons — talking to the audience, because I’ve become the audience now, also. I can’t believe the popularity. I know these things have always been popular, obviously Wonder Woman and Superman and Batman; our universes and Marvel and all these other characters, but it’s on a whole other level right now, especially with the feature films. I feel guilty that it’s this popular, but at the same time, it’s also an enormous sense of responsibility because people have very high expectations for this character. What I’ve learned from social media, from appearances, from all of it — is how truly invested people are, men and women, in the character of Wonder Woman. To me, to feel that investment is an emotional relationship that the fans have, and they’re taken seriously now. If you’re a fan of this genre, you can’t help but be excited about that. It’s come out of the shadows, it’s mainstream now. I think social media has a lot to do with that. Comic book fans are not a timid voice; they are a loud, roaring excitable voice, and they’re definitely being heard.
I’m sure you’ve kept up with news about Wonder Woman in the upcoming “Man of Steel” sequel. Considering your years of experience with this character, what are your thoughts on Gal Gadot being cast as Wonder Woman?
I’ve been asked that a lot and the truth is, I don’t know her very well. I just want her to do well. I want her to do well so that the character can stay on the scene. There have been so many characters that play Batman, I don’t think we should put it all on Gal and what her performance [is]. I hope it’s a tremendous performance, but we’ve run through a lot of Batmen, and Batman still endures. So, regardless of what Gal does, Wonder Woman will endure. I just hope she hits it out of the park so people will say, “See? She’s fantastic and we love her and we’re going to keep with Wonder Woman.” Because there’s been a lot of disappointment from the fans that Wonder Woman isn’t front and center. I hear that a lot, so for the fans, for women everywhere — and men — I hope she’s hugely successful in the role.
Looking at the evolution of comic book media from its inception to the modern era, it’s definitely taken a darker tone. Looking at “Man of Steel” compared to the original “Superman,” looking at “Batman Begins” versus the original “Batman,” there’s definitely a darker modern tone. Has that shift toward a darker tone influenced your portrayal of Wonder Woman at all?
No, because my portrayal of the character is what the project is asking me to be. Who she is in “Justice League” is not the same person she is in the DC Online game. She’s not the same in the game “Injustice,” she’s not the same in “Justice League Unlimited” — they’re variations on the same person of course, but what your take is and how she’s written, how she’s envisioned, changes. It’s your job as an actor to bring that to life for the writer, for the creator, for the producer, for the director. I try to do that for every project, and I think there’s room for all of them. I think that fans love the darker pieces, but I think they also love — the original “Superman” movies with Christopher Reeve were historic, they were iconic films. I think there’s room for all of it. I don’t think one sets the tone, I think there’s space for all the different tone. Even if you look at the cartoons on Saturday morning — some have been darker and some have been lighter. People have said to me that “Justice League” wasn’t really for young, young children, and that was true. There was a darkness to it, even though it was a cartoon. Then, there are other shows that have so much lightness to it and celebrate that universe, and that’s also fantastic.
Across all these different versions of Wonder Woman you’ve played, do you have a favorite?
Well, I’m doing this interview for the DC Online Game [Laughs] So, I want to stay in that vicinity — I’m playing her now, and she’s magnificent in this game and it’s been really enjoyable — not just dealing with Alex Keller, who directs me, but everybody involved has just been incredibly wonderful to work with.
Having said that, the “Justice League” Wonder Woman is always going to be nearest and dearest to my heart because she was created by Bruce Timm, written by the late, great Dwayne McDuffie, directed by incredible people like Dan Reba — Kristopher Carter and I were talking about the theme music the other day on Twitter. This is an extraordinary team, and it’ll never be revisited because we lost Dwayne. I think when your first experience is like that out of the gate, it spoils you, but it also makes you realize how completely lucky you are. So, that’s the template, but every time I get to put on the bracelets, it’s a good day.
I don’t mean that literally, just so we’re clear. [Laughs]
Getting back to “Amazon Fury,” have you had a favorite piece of dialogue to record so far?
Well, it’s funny, because I thought there was going to be a lot of Hera, but when I recorded last week, I was talking to Athena. I wasn’t used to the Athena conversations, but the truth is the dialogue, there’s not one line I can pick out. The conversations with my mom were just fantastic, so it was a lot of dialogue that I loved. But every time there’s a different universe — “Trigon” and now “Amazon Fury” — I get catapulted into a new storyline and I get to play it out. Honestly, it’s not one line or another line, it’s that I get to go and work as Wonder Woman for the day. It really can’t make me happier.
I feel like the opportunity that DC Universe Online presents as an MMO is especially unique in that you have the opportunity, as Wonder Woman, to speak to physical players. Granted, the dialogue will be similar for most of them, but are you ever aware of the fact that you get to speak directly to people that have been fans of yours for years?
I’m very aware of that, because people will tweet me about it, and they’ll talk about the game online. They’ll say they just played it, and tell me their thoughts about it. We have a conversation. I don’t think you can play a game like this and not be aware of it. I love that people can do that because they’ll get all giddy about playing with Wonder Woman or training with her — they’re excited by that. If that’s the reaction we’re getting, then everyone behind the game is doing their job. I always feel great when fans will write to me on Twitter and mention that. Because that’s what we want — you want the fans to be invested, you want them to be involved, you want them to be playing beside you or as you or with you in all of these games.
Winding down, beyond “Amazon Fury,” when will fans get to hear you again as Wonder Woman?
[Laughs] I can’t really talk about that right now, unfortunately! The thing about being an actor is that you never know when the phone is going to ring and you never know if the phone is going to ring, so you live in that limbo place. But I always trust there’s something on the horizon, and thankfully, there has been that phone call, and I trust there are going to be a lot more. In fact, I know there are a couple of projects out there. But I can’t disclose that right now. You know how it is — you’re sworn to secrecy about certain projects.
“Amazon Fury” will be available in Spring on PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4 and PC.