This week’s Wonder Woman #53 written by Steve Orlando sees the end of the current arc, ‘Enemy of Both Sides’. The super busy scribe was able to take a break and talk to us at Monkeys Fighting Robots once again about all things Wonder Woman #53, Hypertime, and a even Jack Kirby!
MFR: Steve once again thanks for talking to us.
Steve Orlando: My pleasure! I’ll take any excuse to talk comics.
We talked about the last issue (Wonder Woman #52) recently, but for those who are jumping in with this one, can you tell us again what’s going on in ‘Enemy of Both Sides’?
Absolutely! Wonder Woman 52 saw Diana, Aztek, and Artemis infiltrate an extradimensional pyramid to rescue a lost Amazon hero. But when they got to the center, they found not a prisoner, but a sentry. They found Atalanta, Diana’s great-aunt, and a culture hero to the Bana-Mighdall, who for decades had been fighting to hold back an invasion from Thirteen Heavens, home of Aztek’s greatest enemy, Tezcatlipoca.
As we join Issue 53, our heroes have decided to take the fight to Thirteen Heavens and cross over into the Sphere of the Gods, where Tezcatlipoca’s terror armies are preparing to raze our world.
Also when we last spoke you said Aztek was one of the coolest characters for you. In this issue, you focus a lot more on Aztek’s enemy, Tezcatlipoca. What makes the Shadow King so dangerous? What makes him interesting to write?
You’ll see more about what makes Tezcatlipoca and the gods of Thirteen Heavens unique in this issue (hint: it involves how they see the world, versus how mortals see it). Tezcatlipoca, the Shadow God, is one of the great cyclical builders and destroyers of myth. He is utterly demeaning to humanity, made of matter that is so holy its mere contact with mortal flesh is corrosive. I find him so interesting because so much of our world’s creation narrative is cyclical. And Tezcatlipoca plays on that, tells Aztek that he and Quetzalcoatl, Aztek’s patron, trade places as creator and destroyer, hero and villain, every cycle of creation. He uses lies and insecurities to invalidate Aztek’s mission, and in doing so he pays tribute to many of the great gods of world myth, who often occupy oppositional roles, housing grand philosophical contradictions. Right now, Tezcatlipoca is a mad colonizing god who enslaves the very dead flesh of his victims, but who’s to say, in the world before this one, the roles weren’t reversed? Who’s to say anything we think is true and real from our small mortal perception is really what it seems.
I feel a strong Kirby vibe crackling through this arc. Was Kirby on your mind when writing ‘Enemy of Both Sides’?
King [Kirby] is always in my mind – his constant output and creativity are one of the driving forces in my life, as I wrote about a bit in the backmatter to my issue of Kamandi Challenge. I think we often talk about paying homage in art styles, but I think the true homage to King [Kirby] is to force as much raw creativity and love of comics into every page. And with The Enemy of Both Sides, with every superhero story I help tell, I try to do that to the best of my ability. He’s always in my mind, one of the angels on my shoulder along with Tarpe, Rutu, Morrison, Ostrander, Bulgakov, and Abramovic.
Steve, I also gotta give another shout out to the art team! This issue vibrates with energy. What did you think when you laid eyes on some of these pages?
Working with ACO and Hugo is always a privilege, and you can see why! These are folks that are pushing the boundaries of comics storytelling and never sacrificing propulsive energy in the meantime. They’re incredible, and seeing pages from them is genuinely surprising, it’s energizing for all the reasons comics is a great form. That’s the gift of real collaboration, you risk a bit, loosening up a script, but the reward is so great it’s an easy risk to take.
You kinda drop a bombshell here by revealing that the ‘Gods of Thirteen Heavens’ are Gods in Hypertime. What about the concept of hypertime made you want to bring it in?
I recently heard Grant Morrison talking about Hypertime, last fall, and I think it was a perfect fit for the themes of perception we’re playing within the story. Diana admits her shock in part one at not sensing the pyramid without Aztek’s help, and the story in general puts forth the concept that because of our human limitations, when we encounter gods, we’re really seeing the tip of the iceberg. We can’t conceive, can’t endure the rest of the aspect. To keep us sane, our body adjusts what we see.
And as Grant talked about Hypertime and how, for someone outside of it, time can be seen at once, like a flat plane in a way seen from above, I began to think about what the god side of Aztek’s war would look like. The best way for a mortal hero to fight a god who exists at all moments at once is with a legacy that extends forever. That, to me, is why the generational aspect of Aztek is so strong.
You seem to be having a blast writing these three powerful women. Anything in this issue a favorite moment for you? I loved Artemis saying “This is perfect!” in the heat of battle.
I love the moments that cast their reactions in quick succession, such as the reveal of Atalanta in Issue 52: “My god. My hero. My aunt.” I also do love Artemis’s ribbing of Aztek, which I think is a little bit of the tough older sibling, a little bit of a crush maybe too? Maybe she doesn’t know even, but Artemis has been a genuine surprise and blast to work with. The growth between her and Diana through this story is what I’m most proud of.
I do also always love a good Wonder Woman “HOLA!” (*See it above!)
Okay, now the ending is a bit of a cliffhanger and a shocker. So without spoiling much, can you tell us what is awaiting Diana when her invisible jet returns to the camp of the Bana-Mighdall in Qurac?
A collision of the past and the future! Can heroes ever really return home? The outside world changes you – Diana knows it, Artemis is realizing it, and Atalanta is maybe regretting it. Everything will come to a head at Bana-Mighdall, as the armies of Qurac wait at the door…but who’s really engineering this conflict?
Any interest in writing Aztek more? Have we seen the last of her in Wonder Woman?
I would LOVE to work with her more, or even see someone else pick up the baton and go ever more wild with Aztek’s story! Always interested- while she might have stepped out of Wonder Woman, who knows where she’ll show up next?