Welcome back to the dojo, Kung Fu Wonder Woman.
Before Wonder Woman’s ongoing title is relaunched with a new #1 in September, DC Comics’ “Retroactive” specials are revisiting the Amazing Amazon’s colorful past, beginning with the swingin’ ’70s, a controversial era under writer Denny O’Neil which saw the Amazon princess de-powered, given a new wardrobe and showing off some sweet Bruce Lee-inspired martial arts moves.
Toronto artist J. Bone, best known for his work on “Gotham Girls,” “Super Friends” and “The Spirit,” provides art for the one-shot that pairs a new story with ’70s-era reprints. Below he gives Comic Book Resources the scoop on finally getting his hands on a Wonder Woman title with a O’Neil-penned tale, as well as his take on the character’s ever-changing wardrobe, the recently panned pilot and why R&B divas should be considered for future live-action roles.
CBR News: First and foremost, I’m curious…is J. Bone your real name? If so, what does the “J” stands for?
J. Bone: It’s often assumed that “J. Bone” is a pen name, but it is in fact my real name. The “J.” is short for “Jay.”
At what point in your life did you discover your love for Wonder Woman?
My love for Wonder Woman is most definitely linked to the Lynda Carter TV series since I can picture no other woman portraying our favorite Amazon. Until I actually started reading comic books, the TV show and the “Super Friends” cartoon were my only exposure to Wonder Woman. All my love of the character starts with Lynda Carter.
You’ve mentioned before your love of her eagle emblem. Do you prefer it to the double-W she’s worn since the ’70s?
I do prefer the eagle emblem. It fits the shape of her bosom in a more pleasing way and is more fun to draw.
What about “Wonder Pants”? Does putting Diana in pants or leggings make for a nice visual break from her “bathing suit” look, or does it reinforce the notion that her original costume is too sexy and impractical?
I’ve never had a problem with the bathing suit except when artists would cut the bottom part so high that Wonder Woman’s wearing a thong. Putting her in pants definitely eliminates any chance of that happening. When I first saw the costume for the new TV pilot, I thought that despite the decrease in visible skin, the costume somehow looked more sexual than Lynda Carter’s “bathing suit.” The Lynda Carter era was practically chaste by comparison. But I think a lot of that had to do with the material used and the body language and pose. Similarly I’m sure we’ll see Wonder Woman looking “too sexy” even in her new leggings.
How did you find yourself working on this first “Retroactive” issue for Wonder Woman?
I don’t actually know! DC editor Kwanza Johnson contacted me one day asking if I’d like to draw Wonder Woman from a story written by Denny O’Neil. I believe my exact reply was, “I’d be crazy to say no!” Whatever magical planetary alignment occurred that inspired Kwanza to contact me, to that I am grateful.
O’Neil’s controversial run on “Wonder Woman” saw her bid farewell to her people and her powers in favor of opening a boutique and studying martial arts. This past year, Straczynski’s “Odyssey” storyline similarly switched up the status quo, sparking considerable debate amongst fans. Why do you think the character gets a makeover as often as she does, compared to her A-list counterparts?
I don’t know that she gets made over any more than Superman (long hair, electric blue, split in two, dead, alive again but in four incarnations, etc). I think one of the big problems with the approach to Wonder Woman is that some writers don’t know what to do with her. Most of the time she’s an Amazon first and we get stories involving the Gods and her Greek heritage. There’s nothing wrong with exploring that, but there has to be more to her character.
I must confess, however, that I haven’t actually read very many of her stories other than the older pre-Mod era run (in the “Showcase” collections from 1960-63). Back then, she was reduced to dodging Steve Trevor’s attempts to trick her into marriage — not exactly Wonder Woman’s finest hour. Alongside that silliness, however, are some fun superhero stories with giant snakes, mer-men, genies and dinosaurs.
Are you an especially big fan of the ’70s-era “Wonder Woman” books?
Yes and no. I’m a big fan of Mike Sekowsky’s art on the book, and I love the mix of stories told during that run. They range from spy stories to a meeting with Valkyries and a battle in a Hyborian Age, alongside the gang war/”West Side Story” tales in the urban gritty city. I love when we see our hero in different settings and fantastical situations. What I didn’t like was that Wonder Woman wasn’t Wonder Woman in costume in those stories. I’d have loved to see a barbarian version of her costume, or something inspired by the Norse gods in the Valkyrie story. One other good thing about that era is that Diana proved herself a hero even without her powers which is, I suppose, what that time period was all about.
Was it expected that you’d adapt your more cartoony style to reflect that of penciler Mike Sekowsky and inker Dick Giordano’s work on the book for this issue?
I did attempt to mimic Mike Sekowsky and Dick Giordano’s art as much I possibly could. The idea of these comics is that the original creators were back to tell one more tale from their era. Both Mike and Dick are now gone, so I was asked to draw in their style. I tried to capture some of their poses and page layouts without resorting to swipes or direct reference. I’m sure readers will let me know whether I passed or failed in my attempt.
From the synopsis, it sounds as though Diana has made her way back to Paradise Island to assist her sisters. Wasn’t her homeland in another dimension at the time?
I believe the story takes place today, in current continuity, with Diana being teleported to another world where she is again powerless and wearing her Mod fashion. On the first page she’s in costume, and I chose to render her as Mike Sekowsky drew her when she was still Wonder Woman (classic hair, bigger trunks, eagle emblem).
Was there any sequence in particular in the issue that you made you smile, either as a fan or from an artistic standpoint?
Wonder Woman, or rather Diana, meets some famous characters both historical and fictional, and those battles were my favorite elements to draw. In a way I did get to draw Wonder Woman as a barbarian (or at least, she’s wielding a sword).
What made you decide to go with a triptych approach on the cover, with three Diana’s? Were there any other concepts you considered?
The idea for the Triptych came from the reprint issue covers Sekowsky created during the original run. Diana would be shown standing between the two covers reprinted in the interiors of that month’s issue. I paid homage to those covers with Diana reflected in mirrors in place of comic book covers. It gave me the chance to draw Diana in her white jumpsuit and in her traditional Wonder Woman costume for the cover, as well as the white Mod pant suit.
After 10 years in the industry, how did it feel to finally get the chance to work on a character you so love? Did you feel any extra pressure?
I definitely felt a lot of pressure to do her justice. And I’m still worried about what I drew and how it will be perceived. I’ve actually drawn Wonder Woman twice before — once in the “New Frontier” one-shot where Wonder Woman and Black Canary investigate a notorious men’s club, contributing a little to the women’s movement, and again drawing two years of covers for the “Super Friends” book. Both previous approaches were definitely in my cartoony style, the latter based on the Mattel toy line. My approach to the character, in whatever style I’m drawing, has always remained the same, however. I always try to draw Diana with a grace, elegance and confidence that is my Wonder Woman ideal (back to Lynda Carter).
Did you get to collaborate with Denny O’Neil as you worked?
I was given the finished script and drew it as written. I had no contact with Denny.
In interviews, O’Neil has since said of his reinvention of the character, “Boy, did I screw that up!” Did he take this issue as an opportunity to set things right, in a way, by bringing her back to her people instead of focusing again on boyfriends or a spy story?
There is an element of trial and redemption in the story. I’d not heard this quote from Denny, and it gives a little deeper meaning to the last panel of the comic book now (which you’ll have to wait to see when the book comes out).
Do you think people’s negative reactions toward the Diana Prince/mod era have softened over time?
I wasn’t aware of any negative reaction, but most of my friends are comic book artists, and I think we respond to that era with a love for Sekowsky and Giordano’s artwork rather than what was going on with the character.
How did you celebrate completing this issue?
I had a few celebratory martinis and spent more time with my special guy once all the work was done. Summer had also just come to Toronto (where I live), and I spent many days outside and at the beach.
If given the chance to return to the book, what would you like to do with Princess Diana?
I’ve got more than a few pitch ideas for Wonder Woman which I won’t elaborate on since I hope to still show them to DC some day. What I’d like to see with Diana is more superheroics in a wider variety of settings. If the gods of Greece are real, what about Hindu gods or another visit to Norse mythology? I love sci-fi so I’d probably throw in some space stories, as well.
Just to throw something else out there — when casting for a live-action Wonder Woman, I’ve always thought of Beyonce. I just think she’d look fantastic in the part and be able to pull off the grace and confidence I think of when I think of Wonder Woman. I also mocked up a shot of Jennifer Hudson (from her recent album cover) as the Amazon Princess which Phil Jimenez posted on his Facebook wall (to very mixed reviews). One of my pitches involves Wonder Woman’s soul inhabiting the body of a Beyonce-type — a young girl given the powers of Wonder Woman and what she would do with those powers.
What other projects are currently on your plate?
I recently inked Darwyn on a James Robinson Shade story. The pencils on that are amazing! A few other projects are in the works, but it’s too early to announce anything just yet.
“DC Retroactive: Wonder Woman – The ’70s” hits stands on July 20. To keep up with J’s latest sketches, pay a visit to Blah, Blah Blog!