Steve Orlando is no stranger to comics fans. Currently killing it on Wonder Woman, the scribe has also written Midnighter, Justice League of America, Batman/Shadow, Batman and many more other DCU characters. Steve took a little bit of time out of his herculean schedule to talk to us at Monkeys Fighting Robots about Wonder Woman #52, what makes Diana Prince so important, the awesomeness of the new Aztek, and much, much more.
Steve, first of thanks for taking the time to talk to us at MFR!
Steve Orlando: It’s my pleasure!
So Steve, for those who haven’t been reading, can you catch them up on what’s been happening in Wonder Woman?
SO: Wonder Woman has just been through an emotional ringer, banished from Paradise Island, unpacking how she feels about the discovery and loss of her brother, and most of all, I think…wishing she could get back to work. There’s peace to be made, and she is conscious of that verb: “make.” She knows peace isn’t something you just find, you work for it, you create it, and she’s ready to roll up her sleeves.
Between revelations like Jason and Grail, and without a way to go back to Themyscira, Diana is also struggling with her view of the Amazon legacy. Here she is, a lone Amazon Warrior in Patriarch’s World, but how has she changed, how have the people she’s meant to represent change? Finding kinship and community where it truly lies, not where we wish it could be, is a big theme for our arc.
What makes ‘The Enemy of Both Sides’ such a good jumping on point for readers?
SO: ‘The Enemy of Both Sides’ is a relatively simple adventure with a strong emotional heart, which makes it a great on-ramp for folks. This is Diana at her most pure, fighting for peoples and cultures abused, inspiring others to fight with her. And through Aztek and Artemis, we also get an unusually broad set of perspectives on who Diana is – we don’t just see her as she wants to be her, but through the eyes of not just a budding hero and fan, but a jaded peer and naysayer…at first, at least.
This issue features the latest Aztek as a major character. What drew you to the character/concept of Aztek?
SO: Have you seen that design? Aztek was always one of the coolest characters in comics when I was coming up. But more than that, the new Aztek, Nayeli Constant, is as new to the heroic world as some of us may be to Diana, and to DC Comics. Like us, she’s jumping head first, the lone warrior in a war that’s already gone on for centuries, learning as she goes, and catching up on the battlefield. Faced with the monolith of Continuity, she is in many ways us, and she gets to ask the question we might ask, while at the same time showing herself to be a hero.
Why do you think the character gels so well with Wonder Woman?
SO: Aztek is someone who is inspired by Diana, but not cowed by her. She is fiercely confident about what she knows and excels with but is strong enough to admit what she doesn’t know. So often, Diana’s legacy is misinterpreted as one of either warlike violence or naive compassion. Loving Submission is a complex concept, as is fighting for peace, and strength itself. In Aztek, Diana is heartened to see someone who understands or is on the way to understanding, the nuance of strength.
Along with Aztek, Artemis is a big player here too. What are your thoughts on her?
SO: Artemis is incredible, she’s become the surprise of my entire run. Because in many ways, ways that are different from Aztek’s, Artemis is our mouthpiece. She’s the one that doesn’t buy into Diana’s message, she’s too cynical, too jaded, and what’s more interesting is that when it comes to Themysciran Amazons in general…she might be right! But her mistake is assuming Diana is like all the rest. She gets to misbehave when Diana doesn’t, but always learns the price of that in the end. I think we all have a bit of her in us, the one who gives the middle finger to the rules. Sometimes that’s a bad thing, but sometimes…it’s just what you need.
Let’s focus on Diana for a bit. What draws you to Wonder Woman?
SO: I spoke about it above, but it’s her compassion. Because compassion is hard. Anger is easy, a warrior’s death is quick. As she says in Wonder Woman 51 – what is the more enduring, riskier fight? To the death? Or to life?
Diana’s greatest asset isn’t her superpowers, it’s that she never takes the easy way. She takes the right way, often when I personally wouldn’t be strong enough to do the same. Her powers mean no one’s going to stop her from doing the right thing, but I think even mortal she’d be the same person. A million people might turn away from someone in need that they’ve never met, but Diana would defend that person with her life, damn anyone who tries to rationalize anything else.
What makes her so important to the DCU?
SO: Diana is the lynchpin of the DCU, in my opinion. While she’s associated with the Trinity, her origins cast her actions in a different light to me than Batman and Superman, both of whom are understandably driven by tragic injustice, be it of a robber’s gun or a planet’s core. Superman is closer, inspired by the humble upbringing his parents gave him. But Diana, I think, looks at the world every day and see her motivation not in the past, but in the burning present. She sees the injustice of the present and wades into it every day, ever vigilant. And even seeing that, even as the world may fail to live up to her hopes, she never gives up on it. Diana is driven chiefly by love, and that makes her unique among the DCU’s icons. Loving something means not just sticking with it when it’s good, it means raising it up, supporting it, and forgiving it when it falls. That’s how Diana feels about the whole world and even the other heroes of the DCU. I think even they know that her door is always open and that in her presence a plea for help given honestly will never be ignored.
Have you always wanted to write Wonder Woman?
SO: I have! Diana is an incredible character, but it is extremely intimidating. Seeing people meet Gal Gadot at SDCC 2017 really put it in perspective for me, watching men and women of all backgrounds, young and old, moved to tears by what she created through Diana. I know without fail Linda Carter has inspired the same, and that’s because of Diana’s power as an icon. It’s because of her acceptance, her reverence, for all. So going into Wonder Woman, I thought long and hard about Diana. It’s a heavy baton to pick up, but as the story unfolds, my chief hope is we’ve done her justice.
Wonder Woman #52 has some beautiful art by Aco, David Lorenzo, and Romulo Fajardo Jr. What was it like working with this team? What did you love about their art?
SO: It’s a dream – ACO and Rom have been with me since Midnighter, and I’m lucky any time we can work together. Both elevate every page they touch, and ACO has only become MORE inventive and surprising in our time together. Every time we work together, whether it’s Milk Wars or this, I try to challenge ACO and Rom, and every time they turn back work that is even more innovative than I would have imagined.
Can you tease us where the title may be going?
SO: All over the world! Enemy of Both Sides will take us from the jungles of Mexico across the Atlantic to Qurac and the current home of the Bana-Mighdall. This is big adventure in every page! And Diana is at its heart, with Artemis at her side.
And finally, you’ve written all over the DCU, from Lobo to Dick Grayson to Midnighter and now Diana Prince. Is there one or more DCU characters you are dying to write about?
SO: There’s so many! Right now the Ditko creations are on my mind: Odd Man, Hawk and Dove, the Creeper (LOVE the Creeper), and as always my favorite character is Martian Manhunter. J’onn is always going to be my #1.