Wonder Woman visits Gotham in Gail Simone’s ‘Sensation Comics’ No. 1

Aug. 13, 2014 | 6:00 a.m.
Ethan Van Sciver's cover for "Sensation Comics" No. 1. (DC Entertainment)

Ethan Van Sciver’s cover for “Sensation Comics” No. 1. (DC Entertainment)

A feminist icon in a genre dominated by male characters, Wonder Woman has always been a pioneer in superhero comics, and this week, she boldly ventures into new territory with her first digital comics series, “Sensation Comics Featuring Wonder Woman.”

An anthology in the vein of the recent “Adventures of Superman” and “Legends of the Dark Knight” titles, this new series allows creators to tell stories set outside of DC’s New 52 continuity, giving them the chance to put their favorite versions of Wonder Woman on the page.

The Superman and Batman anthologies have produced some of those heroes’ most captivating stories over the last two years, and based on the creative team for “Sensation Comics” No. 1, it’s very likely that Wonder Woman will see the same kind of fortune.

Writer Gail Simone penned an exceptional two-year “Wonder Woman” run in the late ’00s, and she returns to the character accompanied by artist Ethan Van Sciver, a die-hard Wonder Woman fan who has been aching to collaborate with Simone on the character.

Transplanting Wonder Woman into Gotham City to face Batman’s foes, this two-part story also marks the return of Oracle, the former alter ego of Barbara “Batgirl” Gordon, who was paralyzed from the waist down in pre-New 52 continuity. It’s a prime example of the freedom afforded by these digital-first anthologies, and it will be fascinating to see what creative opportunities that presents for Wonder Woman down the line.

(For readers averse to digital comics, “Sensation Comics” will also be released in print each month, with Simone and Van Sciver’s story hitting stands next week.)

Hero Complex recently spoke with Simone and Van Sciver by phone to discuss their “classic” versions of Wonder Woman, the benefits of working outside of continuity and their collaborative process.

Hero Complex: How did this project come into existence? Did DC reach out to you?

Gail Simone: DC came to me, and Ethan and I love working together. Writing “Wonder Woman” in the past, Ethan used to talk to me about that all the time. He wasn’t the artist at the time, but he was like, “Oh, I would love to draw ‘Wonder Woman.’” When this opportunity came up I was like, “Oh my God, this would be great.” And we’re really excited to be able to do this finally. And I’m telling you, Ethan does an amazing Wonder Woman, an amazing Oracle, and every character that’s in here, it’s like the best classic version of that character you can think of. It’s quite amazing.

HC: What are the benefits of working on these digital-first comics set outside of the New 52 continuity?

GS: The fun part about it was that we could take what we feel is our favorite version of the characters, and that’s what you see in the story. So there’s a lot of freedom in not having to be in actual continuity. Also, just telling a one-off story where you have that kind of freedom was really an amazing opportunity and it made it so it was really exciting to work on because it’s the best version of this character that we could think of for this story. And then when Ethan brought the art to it, that brings that forward even more.

HC: What is that classic version of Wonder Woman for the two of you personally? What are the qualities that attract you to Wonder Woman as a character?

Ethan Van Sciver: For me, the classic version of Wonder Woman was the one that I first saw at age 5: Lynda Carter, who was the most beautiful woman I had seen up to that point. I absolutely loved her costume. I love primary colors on superheroes, I don’t know why, I just think they’re fantastic. And really, I don’t think too much had changed from the Lynda Carter Wonder Woman design to the one Gail Simone was working on four years ago. I just thought Wonder Woman should be statuesque and beautiful, she should be able to stand toe-to-toe with Superman and look extremely powerful.

GS: Yes! For me, not only is it about her look, her stature, and the beautiful, iconic Wonder Woman poses that we see her do, but it’s about her attitude as well and the contrast of her compassion with her warrior side. I think that not all artists can capture all that at once, whereas Ethan definitely captures that completely. Some of the panels and the poses and the facial expressions in this issue demonstrate that so perfectly, and to me, that’s what says Wonder Woman.

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Wonder Woman graces the cover of Ms. magazine's first issue in 1972. (Ms. magazine)

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Ms. magazine brought Wonder Woman back for its 40th anniversary issue. (Ms. magazine)

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Soon after her All Star Comics debut, Wonder Woman was featured in Sensation Comics No. 1 in 1942. (DC Comics)

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Wonder Woman in Sensation Comics No. 46. In this 1945 storyline, the baddies give Wonder Woman's boyfriend Steve Trevor special powers to be stronger than her, hoping he'll force her to marry and become a meek housewife. In the end, Wonder Woman sticks to her guns and Steve happily submits to being the weaker of the two. (DC Comics)

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In this 1957 Wonder Woman No. 90, the Amazon princess has to babysit an elephant, a whale and a dinosaur in order to raise $1 million for charity. (DC Comics)

ww wonderwoman105 1 Wonder Woman visits Gotham in Gail Simones Sensation Comics No. 1

In 1959, Wonder Woman's origin story was revamped. Issue No. 105 reveals that the Queen of the Amazons formed Diana from clay, and that her superpowers are gifts from the gods. (DC Comics)

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In the late 1960s, Wonder Woman gave up her powers, started a mod boutique and worked with her mentor I Ching to learn martial arts. Here, she is shown in the August 1970 issue Wonder Woman No. 189. Her powers weren't restored until 1973, partly at the urging of Gloria Steinem. (DC Comics)

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Cathy Lee Crosby played Wonder Woman in a 1974 TV movie "Wonder Woman." In the film, the heroine has no superpowers, but rather is a world-traveling spy, inspired by the I Ching era of the comics. (Warner Bros.)

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Wonder Woman teamed up with other DC superheroes in "Super Friends," a television series that ran from 1973 to 1977. (Warner Bros.)

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Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman in "The New Adventures of Wonder Woman," which ran from 1975 to 1979. (CBS / Los Angeles Times archives)

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Wonder Woman was rebooted once more in 1987. Above is George Perez's Wonder Woman No. 1. cover. (DC Comics)

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Wonder Woman was a key player in the animated TV series "Justice League" and "Justice League Unlimited," which ran from 2001 to 2006. (Warner Bros.)

%name Wonder Woman visits Gotham in Gail Simones Sensation Comics No. 1

Wonder Woman was again rebooted in 2006. Gail Simone took over writing duties for the comic beginning with issue No. 14, and was applauded for her portrayal of the heroine. (DC Comics)

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Wonder Woman got her own animated movie in 2009. Keri Russell voiced Wonder Woman, and Nathan Fillion voiced Steve Trevor. (Warner Bros.)

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In the 2010 animated series "Young Justice," about younger heroes trying to prove themselves worthy of joining the Justice League, Wonder Woman takes on Cassie Sandsmark (Wonder Girl) as her sidekick. (Warner Bros.)

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Adrianne Palicki played the title character in the never-aired TV pilot "Wonder Woman" in 2011. The show, from David E. Kelley, was never picked up -- effectively canceled before it even began. (Justin Lubin / NBC / Warner Bros.)

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Wonder Woman got a makeover when DC relaunched 52 of its most popular titles in 2011. (DC Comics)

Even though I love her costume, every time they change her costume, I don’t get all that worried about it because, to me, that doesn’t make Wonder Woman. Wonder Woman is about her sense of justice and compassion and taking care of things that other people may not be able to, but she does have the ability to do it. She’s also brave. She doesn’t have the fear of stepping in and doing that when she can, and all those attitudes are what make her such an amazing, long-lasting character, besides being gorgeous and all those things. Ethan just got the whole package.

HC: Why did you want to bring Wonder Woman into Gotham City for this story? How does that setting change the visual approach?

GS: When we were first talking about what could be a fun story to do for “Sensation Comics,” we had a few ideas that we hit back and forth a little bit, but Ethan was like, “I want to do her in Gotham.” And then as soon as he said that, I just imagined Ethan’s art doing Wonder Woman in Gotham and I was like, “I think you’re right. That’s going to be amazing.” And then we were off. This will be very cool to contrast that gray and black with Wonder Woman’s bright and shiny colors. And she has a different approach than Batman for how things should be resolved.

EVS: I don’t think I’ve ever seen Wonder Woman fight Batman villains before. I guess I’ve seen her fight the Joker a couple of times, but it just seemed like an interesting place to put her. As we said with what’s visually appealing about Wonder Woman, there’s a sense of kindness about her. Even though she’s powerful and brave and everything, like Superman, there’s got to be a sense of kindness and sweetness behind her eyes. And putting her up against Gotham’s villains would really test her patience, and I think that’s an interesting thing that’s happening in Gail’s story. It very much did test her patience.

GS: And I thought it would be interesting as well to see if her techniques would work in Gotham.

HC: Ethan, are you making any changes in the art to accommodate the digital format?

EVS: No, not really. There’s a specific design layout that you have to do so that a page will fit on someone’s iPhone or iPad properly, which doesn’t allow for splash pages. It only allows for half-page splashes, which we use quite a few times. But other than that, no. I just draw the way I always do and hope people like it.

GS: They will like it. And also, we’ve got an amazing colorist, Brian Miller from Hi-Fi, who did a really saturated color scheme for it that I think is amazing because we’re so used to seeing Gotham all the way from gray to black [laughs]. It’s completely different, and digitally — I just went over it again this morning — it’s incredible. It really is.

HC: How has the collaboration process been for the two of you?

EVS: It’s been fun. We’ve worked together quite a bit over the years on a few things — “Firestorm” was a good experience — but I think this was the first time we were able to really completely do what we wanted to do. From the start of this project, I think what was so appealing to us about it was that both of us have a big spot in our hearts for Diana, and to be able to just do whatever we want to do with her, my first reaction was, “Oh, great! Now I get to draw an issue of Gail Simone’s fabulous ‘Wonder Woman’ run.” Which is something that I always envied. If there was an extra issue in Gail’s “Wonder Woman” run that was available just for me to draw, that would be just an ideal situation. That would be a fantasy. We were able to make that happen, and I think it was very sweet. It was a really good creative collaboration. A good experience. I hope to do it again, I think we should do more.

GS: The sad thing is there’s just one Ethan “Wonder Woman,” and that’s what’s killing me because Ethan is one of the artists that — and I suspected this before, but until seeing the first pages come in, I didn’t really grasp it like I do now — he is an artist who gets Diana. And he likes Diana. And not all artists do that. Some artists draw her because she’s beautiful and she’s iconic and that’s what they think about her. But Ethan gets the whole package and the dimensions, and you can really see that in the art. As I was writing the last pages of it, and seeing the last of the artwork come in, I was in remorse. Meanwhile, I was happy because we have this one story out there, but remorseful because it’s just — oh man, this was so fun and it looks so amazing.

EVS: We’ll do it again, Gail.

GS: [Laughs.] I’ll take you up on that.

– Oliver Sava | @LATHeroComplex

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