It all began with a series of statues. The Ant Lucia-designed DC Bombshells featured pin-up inspired, retro-styled takes on DC Comics’ best and brightest female heroes, but these interpretations simply could not be contained.
Last June, DC dedicated its variant cover theme for the month to Bombshells. In May, the publisher announced a new digital first “DC Comics Bombshells” ongoing series from writer Marguerite Bennett and artist Marguerite Sauvage, set in an alternate version of the DC Universe where super-powered women take charge and fight behind the scenes and on the front line of World War II. The first arc stars reimagined versions of DC’s iconic trinity — in this world Batwoman, Supergirl and Wonder Woman — and tells different types of stories based on each hero’s specific niche.
Following the release of the first digital chapter of the series on July 25, CBR News spoke with Bennett about the different genres they’re exploring with “Bombshells,” developing the WWII-inspired world, and working with Marguerite Sauvage.
CBR News: Starting off, how did you become involved with turning DC’s “Bombshells” into an actual comic?
Marguerite Bennett: I was an enormous and vocal fan of the “Bombshells” designs all over social media. Last [June], they had the month of all the “Bombshells” variants by Ant Lucia and all these fantastic designs, and there was such an enormous fan response. People just love this art and love this reinvention of the heroines. The variant covers went through the roof, and so DC took notice of how much people love this and were like, “Well, we essentially have a universe waiting to have its story told, and if this is something that people would really enjoy, then we should do this.
Jim Chadwick, our fantastic editor, approached me about it. I could not say yes fast enough. I was just so over the moon to be able to tell a story like this and with such iconic heroines. We’ve been working since last September. I had to stay hush about this all the way until May of the following year. We hit the ground running and came up with so much story. It’s going to be ongoing and so I’m going to go until they stop me essentially.
And you have such a great trio to start off with.
Yes, they are killer.
Tell me about these versions of Batwoman, Supergirl, and Wonder Woman.
So what we wanted to do, how the entire story is formatted is that it’s going to be digital first, which means that a ten-page story is going to come out every Saturday. It will be digitally available. Then one week out of the month, it will come out in a traditional thirty-page issue. Every one of those ten-pagers is going to be focused on a different heroine.
Our very first one is going to be Batwoman, and then Wonder Woman, and then Supergirl and Stargirl, and then Zatanna. Then, we’re going to move on and incorporate more and more heroines, and they’re going to start crossing over with each other. We wanted for each of those ten-page stories to help world-build — not just establish their character and their journey but also enrich this complete universe that we were trying to define. We had the idea of looking at the art and media of the forties and of the war.
What we’ve done is Batwoman is going to be in this adventure reel — sort of cheesy radio announcer; very pulpy. Then Wonder Woman’s going to be a war story. Supergirl’s going to be a propaganda film. Harley Quinn is going to be this Charlie Chaplin-esque farce, Zatanna is a Hammer film, Aquawoman is a romance. With every one we have a different genre. We wanted to establish this as a complete world that runs the same spectrum. We want it to feel alive. It is no one single genre.
One of the major conceits that we wanted to have is that no heroine is derivative of a male counterpart. The women came first. Our triumvirate is not Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman, our triumvirate is Batwoman, Supergirl, and Wonder Woman, and we’re running from there.
What’s it been like working with Marguerite Sauvage to develop the visual side of this world?
She is so fantastic. You know, we’ve been joking about working together for two years because she’s the only other Marguerite in comics that I know. Murder, Monsters, Mayhem, Marguerites was my proposed tagline. They did not go for it. But she is just tremendous, and there is such a sense of grace to all of her art work. In some places, things that I didn’t put in the script she incorporated into the art, and it was like, “This is fantastic, we should explore this.” She’s such a wonderful collaborator. Of all the projects we’d get to work together it happened to be this. She is really incredible.
After our first arc, we are incorporating other artists and it’s sort of funny how we went about finding them. We’re working with a bunch of folk who were known and very well loved in DC, but keeping up with a ten-page weekly schedule — that’s like thirty to forty pages a month. And so we thought since each heroine operates within a different genre, it would be fun to find artists that correspond with that so that it can feel complete and independent. So, we have a horror artist on Zatanna, we have a much more romantic artist on Aquawoman. How we went about finding some of those is — I don’t know if you’ve seen it, but I’m a huge fan of the movie “Mad Max: Fury Road” that just came out. I was just going crazy retweeting all this Furiosa art, anything I could find. And when we were looking for artists to incorporate on “Bombshells,” I went back through, and we found artists from that artwork. Stephen Mooney and a bunch of other folk. It’s just so funny — the fans are the reason we have “Bombshells.” Their response is why this book exists. In the same ways, fan response to “Mad Max: Fury Road” is why we have the artists that we do.
I’m curious, I know this is a parallel universe and it’s fiction, but did you find any restrictions while working in the time period?
I’m so glad you asked that question, because I’ve tried to tell people that it’s not actually going to be a World War II story as much as it’s going to be an alternate history of World War II because there are elements that I really — when I see my heroes, I don’t want them to be downtrodden, frankly.
Often the media, especially with female heroes, focuses first on the level of sexism, or the level of brutality that they have to face. But when I see my heroine, I don’t want to see her brutalized first. I want them to exist on their own terms where no one questions it. What I wanted to do was to essentially restructure that timeline and have social movements that have already taken place. There is no segregation here. I wanted to get rid of that first and foremost. Women’s lib has already happened in a lot of ways. I wanted to be able to have that freedom.
Another issue [we have] as Americans, especially, is we have this tendency to accept the media that’s discussed the war more than the [actual] history. We have these White actors in these movies, and we have this idea that it was a White war. That completely glosses over the contributions of people of color except in these very specific and again, often brutalized and downtrodden circumstances, so I wanted to get rid of that. It’s just so funny because folk have this reaction because, “Well that’s not historically accurate” because they’re getting other media that is in itself not historically accurate.
“DC Comics Bombshells” #1 is available digitally now; the first print installment is scheduled for release August 12 from DC.