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AICN COMICS Q&@: Ambush Bug talks SUPERMAN & WONDER WOMAN with J. Michael Straczynski!!!

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AICN COMICS: Q&@ is our new semi-weekly interview column where some of your favorite @$$Holes interview comic bookdom’s biggest, brightest, newest, and oldest stars. Enjoy this latest in-depth interview filled with @$$y goodness and be sure to look for more AICN COMICS as we gaze into the future of comics every week with AICN COMICS: SPINNER RACK PREVIEWS every Monday and then join the rest of your favorite @$$Holes for their opinions on the weekly pull every Wednesday with AICN COMICS REVIEWS!

Q’s by Ambush Bug!

@’s by J. Michael Straczynski!

Hey folks, Ambush Bug here with another episode of AICN COMICS Q&@. So things are stirring up at DC with two of their major players. Writer J. Michael Straczynski is taking over both SUPERMAN and WONDER WOMAN. The biggest changes appear to be a costume change for Wonder Woman and a new, more human challenge for Superman. But JMS has a lot more on tap for this powerful pair. I had a chance to chat with JMS about his plans for both series. (EDITOR’S NOTE: Due to computer problems, I wasn’t able to have images for this interview, folks. Sorry.)
AMBUSH BUG (BUG): So Wonder Woman's got a new costume coming our way with in the newest issue of her comic. What's going to be happening in the comic that prompts the wardrobe change?

J. MICHAEL STRACZYNSKI (JMS): It's really a matter of form following function. The gods altered the timeline and removed their protection from Paradise Island nearly two decades ago. Diana, then a child, was smuggled out as her mother led the Amazons in one final battle.
She was subsequently raised in an urban environment, by her mother's guards and handmaids, who taught her about her heritage but she has little memory of it. Growing up with a foot in both worlds, she wouldn't be running around a big urban city in the standard togs. Something that was more subtle was needed by the situation, and keeping the signature icons lets us keep our stories in both worlds.

BUG: All of a sudden, this powerhouse who wore a skimpy costume is now more covered up and looks a bit more street savvy. How is this change going to reflect how folks react to Diana in the DCU?

JMS: Remember that since the timeline was changed, for most people who'd she'd encounter, this is how she's always looked. There are some, like the Oracle, who can see both timelines, but for most, this is who she's always been, so there wouldn't be a different reaction.

What kind of input did you have on Jim Lee's redesign? Were there any guidelines you gave him to spring from?

JMS: I gave Jim a lot of suggestions, but mainly of a general nature. I wanted something tougher, more street-wise, I had specific ideas about the bracelets, and the general notion of a more modern silhouette that incorporates some of her iconic pieces. It took us a few go-rounds to get there, but we finally did.

BUG: Are there aspects of the costume you weren't allowed to mess with?

JMS: Nobody at any point said "you can't do this." It was always down to aesthetics and making the look work in both worlds, so she can leave the jacket on and pass as more or less unnoticed, then open it or take it off and fly the colors.
I was thinking about this earlier today, and wondered...suppose that this new look had always been Wonder Woman's look. How would people react if we took a clothed, tough look and put her in a one-piece bathing suit? Rather than objectifying her, we wanted to focus on less flesh and more character, which is not always the way female superheroes are drawn.

BUG: Wonder Woman has a rabid fanbase who, in the past, have been very vocal about changes to Diana's character, yet in order to keep the character interesting, some kind of change has to occur (especially with a character as old as her). How do you change a character that is so iconic without losing those iconic aspects of said character?

JMS: Depends to a degree on what parts you define as iconic. She's still an Amazon (relocated, but still of that bloodline and still raised by Amazons), still Hippolyta's daughter, still a warrior, still fighting to protect her people, gradually growing into her full the basic elements are all still there.
It's a question of nature vs. nurture. How would she have grown up differently in this situation? How would it affect her? But she's still who she is.

BUG: So really, we're talking comics here, and in comics a return to status quo occurs about as often as status quo shaking change. How long before we see Diana back in the old skimpy costume?

JMS: That's a DC decision. She's their character, so as with any character, her appearance staying or changing is fundamentally their call.

BUG: What kind of exciting plans do you have in store for Wonder Woman in the coming months?

JMS: She's going to be fighting to stay alive, keep the army that's after her from killing other suriving amazons, and peeling back the onion to find out who did this, and why. At first, our emphasis will be on the guy leading the army against her...but he's not the endgame, there's someone standing behind him...and someone standing behind that person. At each step, the dangers become more substantial, the threat more real, and more of the mystery is revealed. And that mystery is two sided: who's ultimately behind the threat, and why would the gods do this to her in the first place? Did they do it for laughs, as the gods are sometimes wont to do, or are they afraid of something? The ultimate resolution of this may involve the survival of the entire human race.
Along the way, she's going to be meeting a whole new rogues' gallery, many drawn from greek myths we haven't explored previously. It's when she runs into the first of these, the Keres, who drag the souls of the dead down into the underworld and feed on them, that Diana begins to realize that there is more going on than meets the eye.

BUG: About your new SUPERMAN arc, from the looks of the teaser in SUPERMAN #700, it looks to be a pretty emotional story with Superman humbled by a human tragedy and choosing to ground himself and walk the Earth like Samuel L. Jackson in PULP FICTION or Kane from KUNG FU. Can you tell the readers what this arc is going to be all about?

JMS: What it's definitely not going to be about is Superman moping around the country feeling lost. I have no interest in writing that story, and I don't think people have any interest in reading it, either.
It's about reconnecting, in a vital and personal way, with the country that was and is his home. The analogy I've used elsewhere is when a married couple renews their vows. In a way, that ritual is even more important than the original wedding, because now the honeymoon is long over, the years have passed, and we love that person with their faults and flaws, not in spite of them.
So I want to create a situation where we see ourselves through Superman's eyes, and him through our eyes, to see where we are and what he can, or should, or shouldn't be doing.

BUG: How is this Superman story different from other stories written about the character?

JMS: It's different from the recent arcs which have put Superman in deep space and on epic adventures in all the obvious ways. But it's similar to the sorts of stories that were written about him when he first debuted. Superman was launched as the court of last resort for the average guy without access to expensive lawyers or low friends in high places. He battled against those who tried to harm or take advantage of others, who preyed on the less fortunate. So we're going back to that kind of storytelling for a while.

BUG: One problem I've always had with Superman is that I've always felt difficult connecting with the character and it seems to be a factor in other folks who aren't so interested in the character. Is this new "Grounded" arc a response to this disconnect folks may have with the Man of Steel?

JMS: To a degree. I've often heard from others their difficulty in identifying with someone who's that powerful and invulnerable. But while his skin can't be easily pierced, his heart can be pierced as easily as yours or mine. So if we concentrate on that aspect, I think we have a better chance of creating a connection with folks who may have that concern.

BUG: It's a Superman book, so there's got to be some pretty formidable foes coming for Supes. Can you clue us in on who Superman will be facing while he's "walking the Earth"?

JMS: It'll be about 30% powered enemies and the rest are more personal stories. In the first full issue, he has to deal with drugs in the inner city, and a woman intent upon suicide. What can he do? How much can he actually do to stop this?
Yes, he can pull her down from the building she intends to leap from, but that doesn't solve the problem that put her up there in the first place. He can chase away the drug dealers, but they'll just set up shop somewhere else.
So he will have to find ways to solve problems that go beyond what he's generally called upon to do. You can't punch inequuity in the face, can't outrun hopelessness, can't fly circles around our drive toward self destruction...but at the same time, he has to find some way to deal positively with what he encounters.
There will be some answers along the way, but they will never be easy answers.

BUG: I really like the premise of this story and being a person who normally doesn't follow the Superman titles, I'm surprised at how interested I am. How do you plan on reeling in folks like me who don't get Superman and get them to check out this new arc?

JMS: I've started practicing voodoo. I'll let you know how it goes.

BUG: There wasn't a lot of focus on Superman's famous supporting cast in the teaser in issue #700. How do they factor into this new arc?

JMS: We'll see some of them from time to time, but again, they're not the point. We are the point. So that has to be the focus.
Lois will show up here and there, starting in 601, and a few others will come alongside him from time to time, more along the lines of "what the hell are you doing?" kind of way...but mainly, it's him and us.

BUG: How are you managing to keep up with the responsibilities on three major DC titles; SUPERMAN, WONDER WOMAN, and THE BRAVE & THE BOLD?

JMS: Did I mention the voodoo thing...?

BUG: One BRAVE & THE BOLD question...ok more like a request...please keep the offbeat pairings like Aquaman & the Demon coming. That issue was one of my favorites of the past year. With such a vast cast of characters at your disposal, are there any characters you are just itching to pair up in the book?

JMS: In forthcoming issues, we've got Phantom Stranger and Supergirl, Jor-El and Jonathan Kent, Batman and the Haunted Tank, and coming up shortly, the Legion of Substitute Heroes and the Inferior Five.

BUG: Back to SUPERMAN, with you writing both WONDER WOMAN & SUPERMAN books, will there be a crossover at some point?

JMS: Yeah, I'd like them to cross paths on the road at some point. That could be massively fun.

BUG: Last chance, why should folks run, drive, or fly their invisible planes to their local comic store to pick up WONDER WOMAN #600?

I think the main incentive is that this is a good jumping-on point for new readers. This is a character set against a modern setting but with mythic roots, fighting tooth and nail to save her people and stay alive...there's a mystery behind this...and there's a very different vibe to the way we integrate the mythic and the modern, almost a Sandman vibe, for lack of a better (or less grandiose) parallel. Mainly: it's going to be fun and exciting and strongly character-based.

BUG: Last, last chance, why should folks seek out SUPERMAN's new "Grounded" arc starting in last week's SUPERMAN #700?

JMS: Because it will improve their love lives, eliminate wrinkles and aging, shine their car like nothing they've used before, enlarge whatever parts of their body they believe is in need of expansion, and their teeth will be whiter and brighter than ever.
And did I mention the voodoo thing...?

BUG: Thanks for taking the time to answer these questions and be sure to check out JMS’ new arcs starting in SUPERMAN #700 and WONDER WOMAN #600 in stores now!

Ambush Bug is Mark L. Miller, original @$$Hole / wordslinger / reviewer / co-editor of AICN Comics for over nine years. Check out his ComicSpace page for his entries in Cream City Comics’ MUSCLES & FIGHTS VOL.3 and MUSCLES & FRIGHTS VOL.1 anthologies. Bug was interviewed here & here (about AICN Comics) and here & here (on his VINCENT PRICE PRESENTS: THE TINGLER comics). Bug’s latest comic is VINCENT PRICE PRESENTS #21: WITCHFINDER GENERAL (available in May’s Previews Order # MAY100828) on sale in July. Fanboy Radio recently interviewed Bug about it here. Bug was also interviewed here & here about his upcoming original vampire miniseries NANNY & HANK (available in June's Previews Order #JUN100824) due out in August.

Editing, compiling, imaging, coding, logos & cat-wrangling by Ambush Bug Proofs, co-edits & common sense provided by Sleazy G

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