The current Wonder Woman writer says that people who reject the new canonical interpretation that Diana has slept with women just don’t understand the character. “You just don’t,” Greg Rucka told me yesterday. “That’s like saying Superman is into justice and the American way, but doesn’t give a rat’s ass about truth. It’s like, ‘Really?’”
I spoke to Rucka yesterday morning during the first day of New York Comic-Con. DC Comics is celebrating Wonder Woman’s 75th anniversary by showing high points from the character’s multimedia history in its booth, along with splashy events like a release of postage stamps. The spotlight on Diana comes at a time when the character’s backstory is being streamlined, which includes a new interpretation of the character’s romantic past where she’s been with both woman and men. In the interview that follows, Rucka talks about when Wonder Woman’s tangled history will start to resolve and his reaction to the outcry to saying that Diana is canonically bisexual.
io9: One of the things that struck me about your current Wonder Woman is the idea that the character is in flux. I know you’re not ignoring that it’s happened before, but when can we start to expect seeing stuff congeal into a new history or continuity?
Greg Rucka: So #8 is Bilquis Evely’s issue, which is an interlude. #9 is “The Lies,” again. It’s “The Lies,” Part 5. The whole Superman/Wonder Woman thing is addressed directly in that. So there’s naturally conversation about it. People are like, “Are you ever going to address it?” Of course I’m going to address it. But I wasn’t going to say it in issue #1. There was an organic place. This is the place it happens—and to answer the rest of the question, I’m not sure you’ll get the answers to the specific questions by the end of “The Lies,” by Wonder Woman #11. But, by the time you hit Wonder Woman #11, it will be much clearer exactly what I am doing to bring continuities into sync. And then the question will become, “Now that I’ve shown you how the crockery was broken, how is it repaired?” And that’s really what’s going on in “The Lies.” It’s not me going in and shattering dishes. It’s me going, “Here’s the box full of all the broken crockery... not all of it’s actually plates.”
You’re working in a shared universe, so you have to think about characters like Donna Troy, who also have knotty continuities. Is that part of your plan?
Rucka: No. To be very straightforward, the focus here is very tight. This is one of the things that I talked to Geoff [Johns] about initially, when they asked me to come and work on it. It’s one of the things I’d been telling to Doyle— my editors Chris Conroy, Rebecca Taylor... a thing that Liam [Sharpe] and I have talked about, Nichol and I have talked about. The focus has got to be on Diana and that immediate orbit. So it’s Diana, Etta, it’s Steve, it’s Barbara-Ann, it’s the villains that are in that tight orbit, as well. Once all of that is sort of fixed—and I mean that not as in “broken,” but as in “staked into position”—then we can start talking about what’s going with Donna. What’s going on with Wonder Girl.
Because Wonder Girl herself, there’s a huge continuity problem there. Cassie Sandsmark is really problematic, and I love the character. But you only get Cassie Sandsmark because John Byrne decided he was going ignore that all the Vanessa Kapatelis stuff. And so you’re like, why does my continuity allow a character teed up as one Wonder Girl, and then somebody cut into the front of the line and said, “No! Here’s another Wonder Girl!” What the hell, man? Honor the rest of the material.
It’s a difficult position you find yourself in. I feel like you’re putting in grace notes that nod at the George Perez iteration and some other stuff, too. But also not invalidating anything that Brian Azzarello necessarily did.
Rucka: No, and I think it’s important to try to find those things that, again, work and that are true. One of the things that I think did happen over the course of the New 52—and this is something that Geoff and I talked about—was that there has been this perception that Diana somehow doesn’t work.
Writers are brought in and they’re told, “Make her work!” And so they sit there and they try to reinvent the wheel. So, what’s the latest reinvention? We’re going to make the Amazons horrible people. She’s not going to use a lasso, she’s going to stab people with a sword. And that’s not Wonder Woman! That’s Red Sonja! And Red Sonja’s a totally different character, from a totally different continuity. Literally, what I have been told to do is “I want to see Wonder Woman again.”
So let’s look at what we’re doing in Year One. Trying to honor the Perez origin—because Marston’s original origin is so vague! It’s literally a two page origin and you’re like, “there’s no character there,” because he wasn’t interested in the character. He was interested in the ideas and concept. In 2016, we want stories about character, so we understand the motivation. Themyscira has to be paradise. It’s gotta be Utopia. It has to be a place that once she leaves it, that’s sacrifice. Her willingness to go, “I will never go back there,” is huge. It’s her defining heroic characteristic. And it’s a characteristic that we lose, and we’ve lost it over and over again, because God knows, for the last 10 years, every other story has been sent on Themyscira. So Themyscira needs to be rare. And one of the goals here is to say, “It is rare. We’ve got to make it rare again.”
But you’re not necessarily saying, “She’s never going home again.”
Rucka: “The Lies” is about how she can’t find her way home. At the end of Wonder Woman #9, she finds her way home. But the arc is called “The Lies.” The arc that will follow it is “The Truth.” The arcs right now are “The Lies,” “Year One,” “The Truth,” “Godwatch.” All right? And Godwatch, the artist who follows Nicola will be on that, and much as we’ve been running these two parallels and they inform each other, “Godwatch”/”The Truth” run parallel, but toward the end each will actually break.
Ten years have gone by since your last run on the character. What’s different in your approach? Obviously you have a whole other set of continuity fractures to deal with, but what about you as a person has grown and is different?
Rucka: I am older and wiser and, as a result, I think more considerate of the rest of the canon. I think you see a lot of new, young writers come in and they get their crack at Batman, and they get their crack at Aquaman or whatnot, and throw the baby out with the bathwater. There was a time, once upon a time, that when the writers changed on a book you could hardly tell. And I’m as guilty of this as anybody else. In my younger days, I’d be like, “I don’t need this, and I don’t need this, and I don’t need this...” and it would be done for an ego that said “this isn’t mine,” and less because of a rejecting of what didn’t work. I think this is common all throughout the industry.
I like to think that I have gotten older and wiser enough to go, “the things that I am changing, I am changing with deliberation and with great care,” and with an eye toward wanting to build a legacy that will outlast us. One of the things I was asked to do on this run is build a Diana so that when the next person comes along, there will be a continuity. When I leave the book, the next writer, whoever he or she may be, shouldn’t have to reinvent the wheel. Ideally, they will go, “If nothing else, ‘Year One’ is a fixed point, ‘The Lies’ and ‘The Truth’ are fixed points on the character’s current map.”
So, were you surprised that the whole sexuality thing blew up the way it did?
Rucka: Yeah! I generally was.
Because you took it as a given?
Rucka: Yes. Because a lot of people already did. I suspect what we’re seeing is the sturm und drang from a small, very vocal minority—the same people who felt that Ghostbusters with a female cast somehow invalidates their childhood, which is bullshit—and these are people who don’t read the book. And they don’t know the character. It’s 2016. And this is an asked and answered question. We’re done with this. Get over it. So I was surprised, and at the same time I’m not surprised, because Trump has a reasonable chance of winning the presidency. And the reason that Trump does is because he’s tapped into the wave of fury and despair of the dinosaur that is dying. That’s what this election cycle is, and you’re seeing it globally. A whole bunch of people have realized, “Holy shit, the way I think is broken and wrong and outmoded and the world is changed and I’m going to die out and I’m going to take you down with me if I have to.” He’s another example of that.
Because there’s nobody in the world who can look at Wonder Woman and go, “I love this character, I believe in what this character stands for,” and then say, “...AND I CANNOT ACCEPT THE FACT that she would accept an individual’s consensual love any way imaginable.” If you don’t accept that, then you don’t understand the character. You just don’t. That’s like saying Superman is into justice and the American way, but doesn’t give a rat’s ass about truth. It’s like, “Really? Excuse me. Moving on.”