It’s week six 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 Matt D. Wilson!
Matt is a writer at Comics Alliance and AV Club, and is also the author of the new Monkeybrain digital comic series Copernicus Jones: Robot Detective, which is drawn by Kevin Warren. The concept is pretty self-explanatory: He’s a robot AND a detective. Matt also co-hosts two great podcasts with Chris Sims, War Rocket Ajax and Movie Fighters.
Today, we’re talking to Matt about villains. He wrote The Supervillain Handbook: The Ultimate How-to Guide to Destruction and Mayhem and a sequel, The Supervillain Field Manual: How to Conquer (Super) Friends and Incinerate People, so he’s uniquely qualified in the field of villainy. We chatted about Wonder Woman and her rogues gallery of super-villains:
Tim Hanley: What was your very first encounter with Wonder Woman?
Matt D. Wilson: At a guess, I’d say the Super Friends cartoon. But also, and this is not a joke in any way, I became really familiar with the name because my mom would often say, when my brother and I were asking her to do too many things at once, that she’s not Wonder Woman.
TH: What is your favourite version of Wonder Woman?
MW: I’d say the version in the comics right now, at least the one in the Wonder Woman title, the one written by Brian Azzarello. I think playing up the Greek myth part of her background is the smartest thing to do with her, and Azzarello has made those characters really interesting and colorful. I also really like the concept of Wonder Woman serving as the protector of a human being with a special purpose. In some ways, she’s become DC’s Thor, and I think that fits her just right. Also, I love the way Cliff Chiang draws her.
TH: As an expert on supervillains, what do you think of Wonder Woman’s rogues gallery? Who are her best and worst supervillains?
MW: Along the lines of that last answer, her best and most enduring villains are the mythological ones: Hades, Circe, Apollo, Ares, Hera. They have the most immediate connection with her, which leads to the most drama. After that, it’s Nazis. Nazis were such important bad guys for Wonder Woman that they set the whole first season of her TV show in World War II, after all. For flat-out supervillains, I like Doctor Psycho. He seems like the best foil for Wonder Woman, honestly.
She’s got plenty of bad ones: Angle Man is so goofy they keep changing him. Blue Snowman has an interesting underlying concept, but is still a person in a big, silly snowman costume. Egg Fu may be the worst of the bunch. He is an egg and a racist stereotype. I mean, yikes.
TH: How does Wonder Woman’s rogues gallery stack up against those of other superheroes?
MW: Badly. I suspect if you ask someone on the street to name one of Wonder Woman’s villains, people who could easily name the Joker or Lex Luthor or Dr. Doom, they’d be hard pressed to say anything other than Nazis. Barely any of her comics villains ever showed up on the 1970s TV show, even after it moved to present day. I remember an episode with Toyman, but he’s a Superman villain.
Giganta and Cheetah were the only ones to make it to Super Friends. Somebody could possibly name them, I suppose. But for the most part, they’re almost completely forgettable. I think DC is still looking for a nemesis for Wonder Woman that can really stick.
TH: What advice would you give a supervillain for how to best defeat Wonder Woman?
MW: Get out of the way. One of the most compelling things about Wonder Woman is that she’s got all the power of Superman with an extra dose of warrior ruthlessness. Trying to challenge her head-on is folly. Just look at what happened to Maxwell Lord (for those that don’t know, she broke his neck). So I’d go the subterfuge approach.
Also: Don’t tell your henchmen or any pawns/decoys you have working for you anything. That lasso is tricky.
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?
MW: That there’s an entire movement of men who say feminism is oppressing them. I’m revealing my writer cards here, but if I was creating a new villain for Wonder Woman, I’d make him a men’s rights activist.
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The interview series continues next week with TWO very talented comic artists; I think I’ll keep it a surprise, just because surprises are fun. 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.