'IT'S ALL FAIR GAME'
PHIL JIMENEZ SHAKES UP 'WONDER WOMAN'
Note: Adult language used in the following story.
After a whole lot of fanfare, writer-artist Phil Jimenez has finally begun his run on "Wonder Woman."
Issue #164 was released by DC Comics a few weeks ago, and it marks the beginning of a year-long run by Jimenez, who is a lifelong fan of the character.
"This is a terrible thing to say, but I'm really happy at the number of people that really liked it," Jimenez told the Comic Wire on Thursday.
"Wonder Woman" fans are a tough audience, he said, each with their own particular favorite interpretations of the character.
"You're never going to find a consistent group with this character.
"Most of what I've tried to do is concentrate on the best of each run." With one exception: "The stuff I will never return to is the Taco Whiz era," he laughed.
"I will be trying to refocus her mission. By that I mean teaching people how to live together. ... There will be definitely be supervillains, and explosions and punches being thrown, but less of that in the context of being a superhero and more in the context of her mission."
That began with #164, which starts a four part story bringing the Wonder Woman cast to Batman's Gotham City to face some of their enemies working together.
"What I like about this story is that it's not just a Batman story, but in the next few issues, we explore faith and religion and how Wonder Woman's faith affects who she is. Without giving away too much, in the final issue, it's her faith that tells her what to do."
Following the end of the "Gods of Gotham" story arc with co-writer J. M. DeMatteis, Jimenez will be working with George Perez, who wrote the current "Wonder Woman" series longer than anyone else.
The arc returns Diana to Paradise Island.
"If she's supposed to teach the world peace, how can her homeland be fighting?"
Civil war has erupted between the two tribes of Amazons, those of Diana and those of her one-time successor as Wonder Woman, Artemis.
Artemis -- who sprang from the William Messner-Loebs and Mike Deodato run -- will be getting her moment in the sun in the next big story arc in Jimenez' "Wonder Woman."
"The potential in the character, to me, is so obvious, that I can't believe other people have missed it," he said. "One of my goals with Artemis is to take her to the next level, and I can't believe other people haven't seen it. It's not like I'm a genius."
Artemis will take center stage during the arc.
"In the civil war storyline, we get to see her with her people again, and we get to see what she's taken from her time with Diana, and as Wonder Woman, and she's become this natural leader. ... Why not really explore how her tribe really feels about her? Even in the Mike Deodato days, everyone thought she was the best of them. Why not play with that and make her their leader?"
One thing she won't be doing, though, is spending a lot of time training the next generation of heroes.
"She has better things to do than training Wonder Girl," Jimenez said. Previous writer "Erik Luke finished that in his run, and I don't have to come back to it."
Of course, Artemis' take-no-prisoners tactics aren't Diana's, so look for a bit of friction when Diana realizes just how dirty Cassie has been trained to fight.
As for the civil war story arc, "I'll be very curious to see if people like it or don't like it," Jimenez said. "A lot of people think I'm just reestablishing the George Perez years, but there's been a lot of drama since then. Hippolyta will be shown as both a good and bad character. ... [WW fans] are very, very protective of the way these characters behave. I think that prevents great story possibilities.
"A lot of people love Hippolyta as the new Golden Age Wonder Woman," which was introduced through a time travel story during creator John Byrne's run. "But the thing that sticks in my craw is that she got that position from setting up Artemis to die and maybe even Diana to die. And I think that would stick in Artemis' craw. ... [Hippolyta has] gotten a taste of being a superhero, and she likes it, and we get to see what happens to the island in her absence."
Of course, Hippolyta's superhero career in the revived Justice Society of America has been curtailed recently. Jimenez had requested that they cut back on their usage of her for this storyline "and they dropped her completely. If it's anyone's fault, it's my fault. ... The story happens a year after I thought it would."
Of course, even with her on the team, there's a limit to what her role could have been.
"My issue with her being in 'JSA' has always been -- and this is true of any team book -- is that them can't do much with her, so she's always stabbing someone with her sword" in the background.
Fans who raised their eyebrows at the catty comments made by Diana to her mother, Hippolyta, in issue #164 about her shrine to her superhero adventures as the Golden Age Wonder Woman should be prepared for Jimenez to knock Diana, Hippolyta and Artemis down a few pegs over the course of his run.
"I think the only way you can raise superheroes up is knock them down, and have them climb their way back up," he said. Expect to see that in the coming year "in the biggest way."
And he knows that Wonder Woman fans are "precious" with their vision of the characters, but he's not going to let that keep him from telling a good story.
"The only thing I can be precious with the character is to not contradict what I see as their nature. Otherwise, they're fair game."
Jimenez is also going to rock the boat in Diana's personal life.
Wonder Woman formerly had a long-term love interest, Steve Trevor, whom she married in the final issue of her original series. The new Wonder Woman, who appeared after 1985's "Crisis on Infinite Earths" limited series killed off the original, has had various suitors, but no love interest that clicked. (Steve Trevor in this version of the series is decades older than Wonder Woman, and was soon married off to another classic supporting character, Etta Candy.)
Look for Jimenez to introduce a new love interest for Diana.
"When I inherited the book, it was not my intention [to introduce a new love interest,] but then I thought 'it's a huge aspect of the character, but it's missing,'" he said. "But then I came up with it, ran it past [DC editor-in-chief] Jennette Kahn, and she loved it."
Jimenez isn't saying too much about the new love interest yet, other than the fact that he's a new character, a mortal man "and he's unlike anyone Diana has ever dated before."
The new love interest works, Jimenez says, better than previous candidates (who have included Gateway City police officer Mike Schorr, the Greek god Hercules and the Hindu god Rama) have.
"My vision of the love interest is not, oh, it's just a random love interest. I've actually thought about who would be her love interest for a long time. ... It fits a variety of needs. Commercial ones, controversial ones, character ones."
As for when fans get to meet Wonder Woman's new beau: "She will first start talking about him in issue #168, but we won't see him until #170," Jimenez said. "The first date will happen, but not for a little while."This summer's big company-wide crossover will delay their first date, Jimenez said.
Of course, various "JLA" writers have toyed with the idea that Wonder Woman feels a mutual attraction with fellow Justice Leaguer Aquaman.
"I just think it's wrong. I mean, Aquaman's married!" Jimenez said. "Regardless of him, I'm more irritated with her being paired with these married men. Also, what does Aquaman have to offer Wonder Woman? He's this gruff, nasty man. I understand on the surface: They're both royalty, both from mythological tradition. I can see them being friendly, but what does he have to offer her?"On the other hand, her friendship with Superman -- much to the chagrin of his wife, Lois Lane -- will be an element throughout Jimenez' run, which will feature repeated crossover appearances in the two lines. (Both "Wonder Woman" and the Superman books share the same editor, Eddie Berganza.)
Even the Superman and Wonder Woman supporting casts will be crossing over next year: In January's "Superman: President Luthor Secret Files" #1, Jimenez tells the story of Wonder Woman's longtime foe Circe trying to seduce the new president.
"It seems like a little throwaway story, but it has ramifications later."
At times, the friendship between Wonder Woman and Superman has had an element -- or appeared to have an element -- of sexual tension to it.
No matter how controversial "Wonder Woman" fans find Jimenez' run, it won't measure up to the controversy that still surrounds "Shoot," the original issue of DC/Vertigo's "Hellblazer" #141. Written by Warren Ellis with art by Jimenez, "Shoot" concerns magician John Constantine's investigation into schoolyard shootings in America.
In the wake of the Columbine massacre in Colo., DC asked Ellis to make substantial changes to the story, which he chose not to do, asking instead that the story never be published. The situation precipitated his decision to leave the title in 1999.
Of course, an uncolored copy of the issue temporarily made it onto the Internet this summer, and many comic fans read the comic online or downloaded it to their hard drive."I'm of two minds about it being pulled," Jimenez said. "I actually think it's the best work that my inker and I ever worked on. And I think it's a very important story. So it's kind of a waste getting it pulled. But at the same time, I got paid for it. It's not my book. ... It's a strange place to be in, but I do think it was a terrific story."
"The issue I'm doing with Joe Kelly is going to be a day in the life narrated by Lois Lane," Jimenez said, "And that'll definitely be an issue.
"What I actually kind of like is that Diana has no clue" that Lois is bothered by her friendship with Superman. "It doesn't even dawn on her that it could even be a problem. ... Everyone in the office seems to want them to be best friends."
But don't look for Jimenez to further an actual romantic interest between the two characters, as happened in the 1996 Elseworlds miniseries "Kingdom Come," between a future Wonder Woman and a future Superman.
"The Kingdom Come relationship doesn't make sense to me. They're just wrong together. They have the trappings right, but they're ideologically so different."
Speaking of Diana's love interests, comic fans seem to forever be speculating about Wonder Woman's sexuality, given that she was raised on an island of immortal women who, for the most part, haven't encountered men in thousands of years. Jimenez doesn't buy it.
"The thing about the lesbian angle is that it's such a titillating thing, which is what annoys me. I think it's born out of 'ooh, isn't that hot.' But my instinct is just that I don't think she's gay," Jimenez said. "I think that Wonder Woman was created to promote the idea of equality between the sexes. I think she was created to be the perfect woman to someone else's idea of a perfect man. And I don't mean that in a disparaging way to same-sex relationships. She's comfortable with it, I just don't think she gives a shit."
Some might expect otherwise from Jimenez, of course, given his position as perhaps the best-known gay comic creator in the industry currently.
"I'm very comfortable being the poster boy" for gay comic creators, he said, "But I can't let a political agenda warp or change the character in a way that I don't think it can go.
"Most of the gay press is like 'so, you're going to turn her gay?' 'No.' 'She was raised on an island of women.' 'I know.'"
Some might find the idea of DC's "Wonder Woman" having any sort of buzz about it strange, given that Alan Moore has given his take on the mythological superheroine in ABC's "Promethea." Jimenez doesn't feel any pressure from Moore's book, though.
"I actually really like 'Promethea.' It's just conceptually different," he said. "I find that the pressure that I feel is far less from exterior pressure is far less from that than it is from fans and other creators who have such inconsistent visions of this character that it makes it hard to be consistent. ... I think that's an interesting aspect of the character, but also a frustrating one."
Jimenez is working hard to weave in elements of all the different Wonder Woman eras (except for, of course, the Taco Whiz era).
"How do I incorporate all the elements that don't make sense, and how do I make them cohere? That's been a little difficult, but I kind of validate everyone."
Among the elements of the past that will be returning to the pages of "Wonder Woman" will be classic love interest Steve Trevor and his wife, the former Etta Candy. In the day-in-the-life issue Jimenez is working on with Kelly, fans will finally get to see Steve's wedding day, via the Trevors' wedding album.
Jimenez hopes that's not the last time fans see Steve Trevor in the 21st century.
"I also want to use Steve's military expertise a lot," he said. "One of the things I want to see happen at DC Comics is swapping supporting characters. I want to see him used in a military capacity in other books."
Look for Jimenez to do a few smaller Wonder Woman-related things in the coming year, including a "Last Man Standing" article for Wizard magazine pitting Wonder Woman against Marvel Comics' Wonder Man.
"My goal is to tell a series of stories that will be worthy of her sixtieth anniversary year," Jimenez said. "I think we've got them. Each of the stories deals with a different aspect of her life. ... I would like to have, in my run ... a comic that people remember and enjoy."
"Wonder Woman" #165 is scheduled to go on sale December 27.
PALMIOTTI LEAVES 'DEADPOOL'
Marvel's Merc with a Mouth needs to find a new mouthpiece: Series writer Jimmy Palmiotti announced late last week that he will be leaving the title.
"Hey guys and girls, this may or may not be news, but I just wanted to announce that my last issue of writing 'Deadpool' will be issue 55," Palmiotti announced in an e-mail to the comics press on Thursday. "This issue will wrap up all the current storylines that Buddy [Scalera] and I have introduced and leave a clean slate for the next crew on the book. I really was originally just going to stay till #51, but working with Buddy and the crew at the 'Deadpool' office has been so much fun, they hooked me on for a few more. Working with Mike Marts and Mike Raicht has been a huge help with my work and I feel very lucky to be part of their team for as long as I did. We are definitely going to work together again very soon.
"Currently, Buddy and I are scripting #53 and will soon be off to take on two other writing gigs as well as baby-sitting the 'Gatecrasher' and 'Surf & Turf' animation properties. This is a lot of work, even for me," he laughed. "I'm very excited at all these new projects coming my way and I hope everyone digs the rest of the 'Deadpool' issues we have planned. I think they're killers.
"Special thanks have to go to all the fans who have managed to keep 'Deadpool' alive."
Marvel Comics' "Deadpool" #55 is scheduled to ship in June.
SECOND COMING OF 'BATTLE POPE' IN 2001
Sure, Pope John Paul II may have had his own biographical comic in the past -- with plans for a new one next year -- but it's a cinch that none of his comics have ever featured half as much drinking, swearing or smiting of the wicked as "Battle Pope."
Series writer Robert Kirkman describes it thus: "It's judgment day and very few are worthy of passage to Heaven, not even the pope. Without God's vigil to keep them in check, the legions of Hell spill across the earth. The cultures clash, but eventually learn to coexist, leaving society ridden with even more corruption and immorality. God, feeling sorry for the humans left behind, sends Saint Michael to act as a guardian for the humans. The archangel fails and is held captive by Lucifer, a power-starved lord of Hell on Earth, as the crux of his diabolical scheme. To remedy the situation, God enlists the aide of the pope to rescue St. Michael, granting him power beyond belief and leaving his son, Jesus H. Christ, to assist him in his quest.
"Aside from the absurd title and premise, this is a 'REAL' comic," Kirkman told the Comic Wire on Thursday. "Granted it's not an epic or anything, but there is character development and the plot does advance from issue to issue. It's not like 'Groo' where nothing really happens from one issue to the next (I hate to use that example because I love 'Groo' so much). It's not just all about dick jokes, sex, and violence ... it's about dick jokes, sex, violence, and an unredeemable Pope's quest for redemption. And I try to make every issue at least partially funny, and I think I have so far."
"I'd agree with that," artist Tony Moore said, "He's no Don Martin (hey, who is?), but I'd say he's doin' a bang-up job. It's the action adventure emotional roller coaster thrill ride event of the summer ... and ... other seasons ..."
Of course, the most basic question is: Why a pope, battling or otherwise?
"Well, the initial idea was that the controversy would get us the attention two no-name comic creators need to sell books," Kirkman said. "The title alone makes people wonder 'what the hell is this?' And that's what you need in this business, the 'what were these guys thinking' factor. At least that was the idea behind it. If we decided to do 'cool muscular guy' instead of 'Battle Pope' I don't think I'd be doing this interview right now, it would have been lost on the shelves. We've already got the color disadvantage, the name disadvantage, the advertising disadvantage, and the fact that comics aren't selling that well to begin with. The deck is stacked against us so to speak, we can't compete with the big guys, so we have to offer something they can't, or won't ... like a book about an alcoholic womanizing pope. And sure we're going to lose the hard core Bible-thumping readers, but that's just because they won't open the cover. If they looked over Tony's art they'd buy it just for that, I think the guy's destined for greatness. But I talked it over with God and he said I won't go to hell for this, unless I use the 'F' word, he hates that!"
"I personally think God would dig it if we threw the F word in there," Moore said, "Especially if He said it ... but I guess since He told Robert not to, who am I to argue, eh? All He told me was 'make me look cool.' I think we've been doin' all right. Anyway, it's true. We hafta offer something nobody else has the cajones to offer. It's done the trick so far!"
"God saying the 'F' word?" Kirkman said. "That's a little too 'Erik Larsen' don't ya think?"
"Ouch! That's gotta sting coming from his #1 fan," Moore said. "Let's hope he doesn't read this ..."
"Yeah, uh ... Erik, I LOVE you!"
Cursing Supreme Being aside, one might think that Catholics still might have a problem with "Battle Pope." Not so, said Moore.
"I've got several Catholic friends that dig the hell outta the book," he said. "Some of them won't let me around their parents, but they buy the book regularly and are always making sure to stay in the know about the whole project. Considering it's really not about Catholicism as much as it is the icons, I mean, that's the real meat of it, they don't feel like their belief system's been trashed or anything. Besides, anyone who's had a history class knows our pope's not doing much of anything popes haven't done before."
"Yeah, most Catholics seem to dig the book, some down right love it!" Kirkman said. "I've gotten many a letter from former catholic school attendees that like seeing the pope kick ass! Larry Young ('Astronauts In Trouble') LOVES the book, and he's Catholic. Besides, I don't really touch on a lot of Catholic subject matter in the book, aside from using the pope. My treatment of Jesus probably gets me in more hot water with Baptists, I don't think they like seeing Jesus so ... mellow."
"Yeah, my little brother had to endure Catholic school, he thinks this stuff's pretty funny even though he's not a comics guy," Moore said.
With a "mellow" Jesus and a womanizing, hard-drinking, butt-kicking pope, the title seems like it would be a genuine irritant to more devout comic fans.
"Not really, and I'm kinda disappointed," Kirkman said. "I expected book burnings by now, I don't think a lot of people were paying attention! I think there's a couple of grandmothers out there that are disappointed in Tony, but other than that, nothing. Well, we did get one nasty hate letter, but it was so cryptic I couldn't really tell if he hated the book or not. And there was this one guy at Wizard World that picked up the book grunted and walked away, maybe he didn't like it... or he might've had to take a dump. Who's to say? For the most part response has been overwhelmingly positive! I guess that means we're ALL going to hell doesn't it?"
"Not me!" Moore said. "My grandmother prays for my soul regularly. Screw Robert! HAHA!"
Actually, the book's Jesus H. character has been a problem for a few people.
"I've had a couple people agree to do short stories for 'Battle Pope: Shorts' under the stipulation that they didn't have to draw him," Kirkman said. "I slipped him in one of the scripts and the guy drew him without complaining. I've had a couple people tell me I went too far, but again no real negative feedback. Of course, Tony draws him SOOO cute how can you do anything but love the little guy! And those shorts are adorable!"
The initial "Battle Pope" miniseries has now wrapped, but more is on the way next year.
"Well, the trade paperback will be out in February, it'll have extra pages and a rather large sketchbook section for those completists who feel cheated when the trade doesn't have extras (I know they exist because I'm one of them)," Kirkman said. "And in March we'll have 'Battle Pope: Shorts' out, which is a 48 page collection of 'Battle Pope ... Shorts' featuring Pope, Jesus, and the gang. With art by Tony, Shane White, Brian Despain, Terry Stevens, Mark Kidwell, Matthew Roberts, and myself. I decided to put my talented friends to use and let me tell you so far this book is looking GREAT! Most of these guys are too busy getting PAID for doing art in other fields to try and break into comics, and it's a good thing 'cause they could cost some people their jobs. Then in June we'll be publishing an anthology book called 'INKPUNKS' quarterly, look for a formal announcement on that in February. It'll be the first book that Tony and I are publishing that we had NOTHING to with and if it turns out selling better than 'Battle Pope' we'll be pissed! Until the checks start rolling in. We'll also have another Pope mini-series ready to go for summer time too! We're planning on having a busy year!"
"Hopefully, we're gonna be there to quell your hungers on a more regular basis from here on out," Moore said. "If Robert gets his wish, something terrible will happen, forcing me to have to drop out of college and become his permanent art slave, and the book will go monthly or some crazy stuff like that."
"Well, I don't know about monthly but I'd be nice if you could do more than four books a year!" Kirkman said. "But yeah, if all goes well, we could be publishing a book every month from June to December in 2001!"
REVENGE OF THE COMIC BRIEF
Here's what's news (and press releases) in CBR's Comic Brief since the last edition of the Comic Wire:
- Claypool Comics solicitations for April, 2001
- Judges Named for 2000 Eisner Awards
- Chris Oarr departs Comic Book Legal Defense Fund
- Top Cow to launch 'Obergeist' under new Minotaur Press imprint
- Alternative comics artists and publishers return to San Francisco for two day event