Phil Hester visits Face To Greg to discuss Wonder Woman.
Greg: Welcome, all, to Face To Greg! It's been quite a while, I admit and apologize for. But here today is a returning guest, Phil Hester! Welcome back, everyone, Phil Hester! Thanks a bunch for your time, how is all going?
Phil Hester: I am fried. I've been pulling a lot of 18 hour days, but a freelancer has to strike while the iron is hot.
Greg: Oh, I definitely feel you. Now getting straight to the nitty gritty of the interview - news broke a few months ago that you'll be writing DC Comics' Wonder Woman. How did this come about?
Phil: JMS [J. Michael Straczynski] decided to focus on the GN side of his work at DC and that left openings on his regular monthly gigs. I knew Brian Cunningham from penciling El Diablo and had been pestering him with samples of my writing ever since. I guess I wore him down. It was a marriage made in heaven... and deadline hell.
Greg: Where you a fan of the character previously?
Phil: It might be impossible to be a fan of comics and not be at least a casual fan of Wonder Woman. I've been working in comics since I was a teenager, so I tend to follow pros I admire more than characters I'm fond of. So, I would read WW when writers or artists I admired were aboard. I was a huge, huge fan of the George Perez run.
Greg: Well as a comic book reader, I've noticed that while important to the DC-lore, Wonder Woman isn't a character who readers quickly rush to check out. Why would you think that is? What would you say to those particular readers?
Phil: I have no idea. I guess there's something to most comic book fans being dudes and wanting to identify with male title characters, but that's a bit simplistic and maybe too easy to overstate. I think she just needs some passionate stories to be told about her. She needs her, "Batman: Year One," or "Kraven's Last Hunt," a defining run. Don't know if I'm capable of that, but I think that's what might bring fans along. I'm trying. That's all I can say.
Greg: And who would you say Wonder Woman is? What is the essential core of this hero?
Phil: She's noble. Not snobbish, but always aspiring to do the right thing. Almost like an elemental avatar of justice. Sometimes that thirst for justice leads to force, sometimes to mercy. That's what makes her an amazing character. She's as committed to healing as much as interdiction. She's not out for revenge, or fulfilling a destiny, she's just good.
Greg: With that said, what are you looking to bring to the mythos exactly?
Phil: I want to find a way to reconcile the best of the old and the new. There's a tendency among comic book creators to throw out the stuff they don't like. I call it "Killing Krypto." If you don't like Krypto, just don't use him. There's no need to obliterate him from continuity. My goal is to pinpoint what's best about Wonder Woman and shine a light on it. I'd also like to give her some new villains. I'll be delving into some non-Greek mythology to do so.
Greg: And just which characters of the Greek mythos will find some way to appear? Will there be any particular Greek characters that haven't played a big part in her mythology previously?
Phil: Hey, you're in spoiler country. Lots of mythic characters we haven't seen to date. They will play big roles as both villains and companions/guides.
Greg: Damn! I was hoping I could sorta sweet talk it outta ya. Any love interests, at least? What can you tell us without spoiling too much?
Phil: Too early for that. Diana doesn't even really know who she is right now.
Greg: What kind of challenges are you planning for her to face, both physically and personally?
Phil: She's a kid in this arc, so she has a lot to learn about responsibility. She also has a bad temper, so she's got to learn to control that. She's going to learn the limits of unfocused rage. It's okay in a fight, but it debases your moral core, undermines your goals. She's got to turn blind anger into righteous resolve.
Greg: Going back to JMS for a little bit, how's the writing process exactly with him?
Phil: JMS left notes for me. A broad-strokes kind of story spine that gives me a lot of room to play. There's a climax I have to set up by 612 that only JMS knows how to pull off. I suspect he may be back to deliver that final blow, but if not, I'll have his notes to work from.
Greg: Oh ok, so I'm guessing he sort of has story beats that you have to reach or find ways to flesh out? Besides that, you're free to do what may come in that mind of yours?
Phil: Right. Not beats as much as goals. I mean, I'm writing the book just like any other writer would, but it's almost like I'm working within the confines of an event book and have to stay within certain broader parameters. I've been given a set of problems and the freedom to solve them, as long as the end result makes sense regarding what DC expected from JMS' run.
Greg: Tell me about the artists on the book?
Phil: We have a bunch right now. We're platooning the book to get it back on schedule. Our main man is the great Don Kramer with Jay Liesten inking him. Both guys are super talented. I wish the schedule situation were better for them, but they're still putting out beautiful work under less than ideal schedule situations. We also have Edu Pansica pencilling, who's been a real revelation. Remarkable inks by Marlo Alquiza, Wayne Faucher and Eber Ferreira. There's a fill-in coming up by Geraldo Borges that's going to blow your mind. Alex Sinclair's colors tie it all together and make it uniformly gorgeous. Plus, our long suffering letterer Travis Lanham manages to save our bacon by lettering this thing in record time. I'm really lucky to have such a team. Brian Cunningham and Sean Ryan are breaking their backs to get this book back on schedule.
Greg: Wow, that is a bunch! Going on to you as a writer, last time I chatted with you we spoke about putting yourself, either it was actual personal aspects or attributes. What would you say you've given Diana as a character from yourself, being her voice giver?
Phil: I'm a big softie, so I think I share her sense of sympathy. She's got a real caring spirit, and I hope I do, too. Believe me, I'm more Diana Prince than Frank Castle.
Greg: Ha! Well, since we have you here and I'm a big softie for the creator-owned... Firebreather! A TV special on CN based on your book came about not too long ago! How did it feel seeing your baby up on screen kicking butt?
Phil: Very surreal. I mean, Peter Chung and Cartoon Network knocked it out of the park, but it's just weird to see something that started in your imagination broadcast to millions of people. It was a great experience, though.
Greg: How has the reception been?
Phil: The numbers were actually pretty great and I've been asked not to talk about a potential sequel, so read into that what you will.
Greg: And what's going on with the current books now?
Phil: Andy Kuhn is working on them at his best pace. I have about 6 more issues to complete his origin, so we'll see how long that takes.
Greg: Now how would you say Duncan has developed from the original volume?
Phil: Like any real teenager, sometimes he's a douchebag. We're seeing that rash, cocky side of him more and more, but underneath it all he's still a sweet kid. That sweetness will be put to the test by his newly discovered extended family.
Greg: Yeesh. I'm guessing that's from his Dragon father's side. And what's going on with Golly!? That's my personal favorite from you.
Phil: Brook Turner is at work on a new one-shot. That's sort of how we're going to roll from now on. One shots and GNs. The wait for floppies was just inexcusable, so we're going to present complete stories from now on, be they 40 or 100 pages. The trade paperback collecting 1-5 of Vol. 1 will come out this April, and retailers will most likely not touch it with a ten foot pole. Who can blame 'em? If you want one you'll have to take Previews to your retailer and point forcefully.
Greg: Oh, that was no question. I'm willing to threaten for some Golly! Thanks for the time, Phil. But before we leave, there's a question a fellow poster from the boards wants me to ask. If I don't he'd be heavily pissed at me: boxers or briefs?
Phil: Boxer briefs, actually. Try not to picture it.
Greg: And there you have it, guys! Anything else you'd like to say before leaving?
Phil: I'm spent, y'all. Too much work for one soul.
Greg: Too much work for you, more reading goodness for us.
Written or Contributed by: Greg DAE