Azzarello Deepens "Wonder Woman," The New Gods & "Brother Lono"

#19 cover by Cliff Chiang, interior art by Tony Akins & Dan Green

Over a year and a half into the experiment that is DC Comics' New 52, and writer Brian Azzarello and artist Cliff Chiang are still sinking their mythological claws into "Wonder Woman." In fact, the pair are barely halfway done with their story that's part horror tragedy and part reinvention mythology.

"When we started, it was a mutual decision between Cliff and I to say 'Let's give it a year and see how it goes.' And we have enough stories to take it through three, but we decided to do one and see how it fit. Obviously, it's worked out well," the writer told CBR News while discussing his upcoming work with the publisher. "We have the story completely mapped out. There have been a few minor details that changed along the way, but we're fulfilling what we want to do. First year was establish the world. Second year was bring in the New Gods and knock the world down."

And while many fans are asking big questions over the larger role the Jack Kirby creations will play moving forward, the main driver of the book for the creators remains the open-ended nature of Greek myth. "I think it makes these characters easy to use in sequential storytelling, which is what comics are. The ending for most of the Greek gods is that people just stopped believing in them. But we personally have an ending. We know where we're going with this."

As for the book's new costar Orion and the rest of the New Gods, Azzarello promised a more central role for them starting with next month's issue #19. "We'll play with that a little bit. Right now, we're taking it slow as far as the New Gods go, though in this next story arc we'll definitely be ramping things up. You're going to see more of that whole particular world."

Though one major face won't be seen in the pages of "Wonder Woman": DC big bad Darkseid. "I think every Darkseid story ends the same. How about a little love for Highfather?" the writer laughed.

On the whole, the rollout for the New Gods in the upcoming "First Born" arc has grown out of the close collaboration between writer and artist. Azzarello said he and Chiang were not concerned with matching expectations from the original Kirby versions of the characters. "Well, we're not going to do them that way," he said. "You're not going to see a repeat of what you've seen before. Orion is recognizable enough, but he's also got a different look. There's a bit of an edge to this character that maybe wasn't there before. It's part of our mission is to reinvent these things.

"We work really, really closely together. It's probably the closest collaboration that I've had. And I work with guys over and over again, but Cliff and I talk constantly about this stuff -- nearly every day. He'll have an idea and call me, or he'll read part of a script and say 'I see what you're going for here, but...' It's really fun. And as far as what we're going for on 'Wonder Woman,' we totally get each other. There's not a lot of corrections to be done because we get the story and the look of it done before we even begin it."

"Wonder Woman" will turn the page to a certain extent in the next arc as the heroine's quest to save a baby fated for a central role in the future of godhood ties the various threads of the series together. "Actually, with a lot of the blocks that we've set up for the past 18 issues, #19 starts knocking them down," the writer explained. "A lot of things we've been hinting at are going to come to the forefront as far as what's been going on. It'll look like we actually had a plan."

Art from "Wonder Woman" #19 by Tony Akins

Azzarello added that the path to "First Born" went straight through Wonder Woman and what the team's conception of the character is. "Let's decide first off 'What is Wonder Woman?' and then 'What's the character arc we're going to be taking her through?' We're able to fill that in with some of these mythological ideas, which I was really interested in doing. That was a take we could do to freshen up the character by reinventing the gods. When we started this thing, we realized there's not a lot you can do with someone as iconic as Wonder Woman. You can't really reinvent the wheel, but you can put on some really sick chrome hubcaps."

Again, the writer didn't seem phased by expectations of the heroine as DC's -- and comics' -- #1 female character. "She is what she is," he said. "We've changed her a bit. I think we've given her a few more layers that the character needed. Yeah, she's the longest-running female character, but I don't think people were reading her that much. It's funny. She's well known. She's very iconic. But you ask people about her, and they have no idea. The TV show with Linda Carter is probably the best they can do."

While reinventing the Amazonian, Azzarello is also returning to the world of his acclaimed Vertigo series "100 Bullets." Though that crime conspiracy epic ended in 2009, the recently announced "Brother Lono" with art by original team of Eduardo Risso and Patricia Mulvihill will check back in with a number of cast members from their award-winning run.

"This isn't a '100 Bullets' story," he said. "We left some characters alive because there were other stories we had to tell. Eduardo and I said, 'Let's end it at 100, and if we want to come back these are the stories we can come back to do.' But the actual '100 Bullets' story is over. And this came into being probably two years ago. Eduardo and I were in Spain together, and it was the night that Spain won the World Cup. We were working on 'Spaceman' at the time, and we were in a cab when he just turned to me and said, 'I think it's time to go back to '100 Bullets.' I want to do a story about Lono.' So we hashed it out that night.

"I think it's great coming back because we're not just collaborators anymore. There's actual friendships there and pretty close ones, so it's good to be working with the same people."

"Wonder Woman" #18 is on sale now from DC Comics.

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Tags: dc comics, new 52, wonder woman, vertigo, new gods, 100 bullets, 100 bullets brother lono

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