It’s week three of our interview series leading up to the publication of Wonder Woman Unbound, where we talk to cool and interesting people about their favourite versions of Wonder Woman and how she relates to their particular fields and interests. This week we’ve got Janelle Asselin!
Janelle is a former editor at DC Comics and Disney, and is currently taking over the internet via a variety of fantastic websites. She writes “Hire This Woman” and “Best Sequential Art Ever” for Comics Alliance, is the weekend editor for The Mary Sue, and has teamed up with the Ladydrawers to write “Don’t Be A Dick”, a comic strip for Bitch Media about the comics industry and gender diversity. She’s also expanding her Master’s thesis, an analysis of the comic book industry and female consumers, into a full-length book, which I am very excited about.
Perhaps as part of her continuing quest to take over the internet, Janelle was kind enough to chat with me about Wonder Woman:
Tim Hanley: What was your very first encounter with Wonder Woman?
Janelle Asselin: You know, I’ve thought about this for quite some time, but I’ll be honest that I cannot remember when I became aware of Wonder Woman. She was just always there, just a character that existed that I knew of and knew the general conceit of. I knew what she looked like and could pick her out of a lineup. However, I didn’t ever really experience her in media other than that.
The first real exposure I had to Wonder Woman was in the Justice League/Justice League Unlimited animated shows. Those shows were actually my first exposure to most DC characters other than Batman and Robin. She was pretty delightful there.
TH: What is your favourite version of Wonder Woman?
JA: While I’ve read a few Wonder Woman comics now, I have to say that my first Wonder Woman is still my favorite – I just love her presence in the animated shows! The art style is simple but she’s perfectly identifiable and as a character she seems to be pretty much exactly what I want Wonder Woman to be. She’s a little thrown off by the world outside of Themyscira but she never stops being strong, smart, and sassy.
TH: While you worked mainly on the Bat-books at DC, did you ever get to edit an issue with Wonder Woman in it?
JA: Actually, I worked on an entire graphic novel about Wonder Woman that will never come out! It was written by a couple of talented fantasy writers and focused a lot on the mythology of Wonder Woman. It was a really special project and a great experience (it was the only true graphic novel I worked on at DC as everything else was published in single issues before being collected) but there were some truly bizarre circumstances that led to the project being killed. It was because one of the creators, the artist Justiniano, was accused and then convicted of possessing child pornography. Internally the decision was made to halt all production on the book and cancel our publication plans immediately, which hit right as we were on the verge of finishing work on it. Justiniano was actually finished with his pencils completely, which made it insanely expensive at that point to have it redrawn. It’s sad because it was a gorgeous looking book, but I completely agree with the decision that was made because I cannot separate the creator and how they live their life from their work. While there were a lot of other lovely people working on the project who would’ve liked to see it published, I don’t think anyone ultimately disagreed that it should be shelved given the situation.
TH: If you were to edit a Wonder Woman story, what would you be looking for in terms of the writer’s characterization of her and the artist’s interpretation of Wonder Woman?
JA: I think the difficult thing with Wonder Woman is that she’s come to be a symbol for so many that a lot of people don’t know how to make her a relatable character. She’s like Superman in that she’s so strong and symbolic that it can be difficult for writers and artists to accept that she can also have a personality. So I think I’d look for a writer to make her both the strong, symbolic character AND the realistic, relatable person she is capable of being. Other writers have done it. It can be done.
As far as art goes, I think she should be drawn as muscular and a warrior. None of this T&A bullshit. I like the costume being kept close to her original costume (it’s just too iconic to really change and have it stick at this point) but I love the idea of it being more like armor. That just makes more sense, right? I love the way Cliff Chiang draws her, too, even if it’s not perfectly my ideal. He’s just such a skilled artist that I’d be happy to see him draw that book forever.
TH: As an expert on marketing comics to female readers, what do you think that Wonder Woman has meant for the comic book industry and female fans over the decades?
JA: Having a strong female character who can and should stand up there with Superman and Batman is pretty powerful. I think just her existence over the years has given female fans hope that as readers, creators, whatever, we could stand up as equals within comics. But the comics have also often failed female fans as creators seem to have an easier time figuring out Superman and Batman. I think Wonder Woman’s strength lies far from her comics, in her representation in other media. The importance of Wonder Woman to most women in the world is based on her iconic look and the way she’s been seen on TV – not based on her comics. But thanks to that importance, the character has stuck around in the comics despite lackluster sales and a great deal of confusion as to how to approach her. I think given a great feature film and an appropriate, interesting, and high-quality comic to go with it, interest in the comics could be kindled.
TH: Finally, if Wonder Woman were to leave Paradise Island and come to our world for the first time today, what do you think she’d find most surprising about it?
JA: That there’s any debate at all about women having equal rights with men and control over their own bodies? That at this point in our history, when we should have evolved, people are still being killed because of the color of their skin, their sexual orientation, or their gender? That millions of people care if someone named Justin Bieber got a DUI when people are dying in Cairo? There’s a lot of messed up crap in this world and honestly I think she’d be frustrated by a lot of it. But then, aren’t we all?
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The interview series continues next week, with an interviewee yet to be decided upon; it’ll be one of two people, depending on how things work out, and either way it’s going to be a fun one. Look for the next Wonder Woman Unbound preview panel this Monday, and the book itself is available for pre-order now, online or at your local comic shop.