Gilbert Hernandez, Cat Staggs And Sean E. Williams Talk ‘Sensation Comics’ At SDCC [Interview]
Next month, DC Comics will launch Sensation Comics, a digital-first anthology series featuring new Wonder Woman stories from a wide variety of creators and styles. This approach follows in the footsteps of the acclaimed Adventures Of Superman series, and is similarly structured – a new 10-page digital chapter will be released each week, and the stories will then be collected in a monthly print edition, with paperbacks presumably to follow.
During last weekend's San Diego Comic-Con, we got the chance to hang out at the DC booth and have a quick round-table conversation with legendary Love & Rockets cartoonist Gilbert Hernandez, Smallville illustrator Cat Staggs, and Vampire Diaries writer Sean E. Williams, and ask about what they have planned for their installments of the new Wonder Woman book.
Comics Alliance: Sensation Comics is a chance to work on one of comics' most iconic characters, without being bound by modern-day continuity... It seems like a pretty impossible-to-resist formula, from a creative standpoint. How did you end up working on the series? Were you approached by DC, or was this something that you heard about and pursued?
Cat Staggs: I was approached. I got email from [editor Kristy Quinn].
GIlbert Hernandez: It's the same here, but it's always been a secret wish for most of us to do Wonder Woman our way. There are a lot of different variations, and a lot of them these days are very modern, harsh versions – I think a lot of writers and artists feel you have to make her hard to make her cool, and I don't think so. I think there's so much history in Wonder Woman that you can do lighter, go to that side of her…I always go retro, y'know? I grew up in the '60s, Wonder Woman is a particular icon for me, so that's where I'm going, early '60s Wonder Woman.
But oddly enough, I had done some drawings of her for charity, for people who told me "draw her the way you want to". So I drew her very muscular. And all the responses to [me working on this series] are "oh great, I'm glad you're going to do her that way", and I'm like "that wasn't the plan!" So now I'm just wondering, how buff am I going to make her?
Sean E. Williams: A little bird told me this was happening, an editor that Cat and I do Vampire Diaries with. So I shot a little email over and said "hey, can I pitch for it?" and shot off a bunch of ideas.
CS: The email I got was "would you want to do this?" and I said "YES"! And she asked for a list of writers I'd like to work with, and it just kinda snowballed from there.
CA: So Cat, which era (or eras) of Wonder Woman are you using as inspiration?
CS: Well, Amanda [Deibert] wrote the story that I illustrated, and we she went with a more modern Wonder Woman. I did a variation of the New 52 costume, which I really like – I love Cliff Chiang's costume, so we've got a variation of that. It's a modern-day story, but not necessarily tied into the modern-day DC universe.
CA: And you, Sean?
SEW: Ours is contemporary… And that's all I can really say about it. But it's a different Wonder Woman than we've seen before.
CA: So, Gilbert, is yours just inspired by an earlier era, or actually set in an earlier era?
GH: It's set in the late '50s/early '60s, except it's going to be on another planet, so you won't have the trappings of that era; the reader could just look on it as a modern story.
Although… I have to break my secret that there are a couple of guest stars in it. Supergirl and Mary Marvel are actually in it as well. They become a force to be reckoned with, because these are the days when Supergirl is 15. And you know how 15-year-olds are with power, they're not really able to keep it in check. And Mary Marvel doesn't know what the hell she's doing there, because she comes from another dimension. Y'know, before she came over to the DC Universe, she was from a different comic company, so she's like, "I don't know what's going on, but this is great!"
If you think about it, the classic DC characters that are still around, Superman and Martian Manhunter are the most powerful, physically. But they're not even from earth. The most powerful human in the DCU is Wonder Woman. Nobody ever thinks about that. And that's how I'm going to play her.
And that goes into the plot, too, where Wonder Woman is the most powerful Earthling, and that's what the story sort of centers on.
CA: So if it's not set on Earth, and there's none of those period trappings, are you planning to incorporate any elements of classic Silver-Age sci-fi design?
GH: I really appreciate the Adam Strange type of comics, and the Justice League, whenever they went to a planet. I liked that as a kid. Y'know, I liked Marvel Comics, but DC's were so naive and simple and so iconic – that innocent view of outer space and planets and things.
CA: And though I'm sure you guys can't actually talk too much about your plots, can you tell us about the formats you're working with? Are you doing single ten-page chapters, or multi-part stories?
CS: We're doing a ten-page story, which will be part of the first print issue. Gail [Simone] and Ethan [Van Sciver] have the first two arcs, doing two separate stories, and we follow them. If it could go on as a regular thing, sure, I'd be down for that. [laughs] But that's not my choice!
SEW: That's the great thing about Sensation being set up as an anthology series, is that we have ten pages to tell our Wonder Woman story with it not being tied to any other continuity. The story I wrote is in a totally different universe from any other. I mean, I'd love to see all of [these different takes] go to series!
CS: Just start 30 Wonder Woman books!
CA: So are you hoping to pitch more stories for the series down the line, with other takes on the character? A Golden Age riff? A plainclothes "Diana Prince: Wonder Woman" tale? There's so many other iterations...
CS: Why not?
SEW: Yeah! [laughs]
CS: I'd be down for any of them, quite honestly… More Wonder Woman books!
GH: A whole Wonder Woman family!
CS: All the Wonder Womans at once!
SEW: Wonder Woman Incorporated!
CA: And Gilbert, given that you're being given lots of freedom, and your story is a little more sci-fi, in terms of design are you altering WW's costume design at all?
GH: They allowed me to alter the costume any way I want, because these are so-called imaginary stories, I'm trying to get the most iconic, streamlined look for her. And I'm trying to give her…I don't think it's strictly necessary in comics, but I'm going to give her shorter heels, because the complaint is always that she wears spike heels. But then, I've seen Pink in concert, and she can do all those things in spike heels, so… [laughs]
CA: Sean, as writer, did you have any input on the design? Did that affect the way you wrote the story?
SEW: Yes, I didn't know which artist I was writing for, and so I did what I was imagining for the universe. She's got a very specific role in our story, so I described that to the artist, Marguerite Sauvage, and from what I've seen, she's totally knocked it out of the park. I think fans will be excited.
Sensation Comics debuts in September from DC Comics.