Eisner Award-winning illustrator and writer Jill Thompson has been in the business for nearly 30 years, making a name for herself with such well regarded titles like Neil Gaiman’s Sandman and her own long running series Scary Godmother. But among Thompson’s earliest works was drawing Wonder Woman under writer George Perez, the man who reinvented Princess Diana in the ’80s and ’90s to great acclaim. Now, Thompson has returned to the world of the Amazons after a long absence in her new original graphic novel Wonder Woman: The True Amazon. Written and illustrated by Thompson, this is a fully painted graphic novel which gives fans a lush, new interpretation of DC Comics‘ #1 heroine.
So why the return to Paradise Island after so long away? Thompson told us, “I’ve been trying to get this out for a long time. I just had to find a place for it, and [DC co-publisher] Jim Lee said they would do it. I knew I just had a good story in my head, one where I know what happens next, and I can’t stop drawing or writing until I get it out, and that’s what happened with this one.”
With this latest OGN, Wonder Woman’s origins are re-explored and re-contextualized, with a lot of elements being reintroduced. Five years ago, writer Brian Azzarello, who happens to be Thompson’s husband, changed Wonder Woman’s origin to make it more “realistic.” Instead of being the gift of a clay sculpture given life by the Olympians, Diana was now the product of an affair between the Amazon Queen Hippolyta and Zeus. With this latest version of Wonder Woman’s origin, Thompson has gone back to creator William Moulton Marston for inspiration, and even more so back to the weird and lyrical nature of Greek mythology itself.
“The thing I wanted to accentuate was the fact that I love fairy tales and fables,” Thompson said. “So whenever I would describe this story or pitch it, I would always describe it as starting ‘Once upon a time.’ I always wanted to have the reader have the ‘omniscient narrator’ in their head. But I also always wanted it to be like a fable or a story that your grandmother would tell you. Something that was true… yet maybe also not true.”
Although Thompson went back to the original 1940s concepts for her new interpretation of Wonder Woman, she definitely added more Greek legend than has been there for some time, saying, “I tried to pull in the Marston original, but then I wanted to add in other historical tweaks, and add in things in that I really liked. I wanted to mix together the Marston origin, plus add the fables, plus the things I think define Greek Mythology. Things like there being some kind of curse, or Achille’s heel, or some kind of tragedy that goes along with the regular story. Something that either spurs your hero on, or ruins them completely by the very end.”
Perhaps the biggest change to this version of Wonder Woman, even more so than other recent updates to her origin story from creators like Greg Rucka and Renae de Liz, is that for the first time ever, young Princess Diana is portrayed as something of a spoiled brat growing up. Amazingly, the change works, and manages to give the younger Diana a very Marvel-like arc.
So why this change? Thompson said, “I have a problem with the idea of a perfect person. If you come out perfect, you either stay perfect, and it’s this kind of boring state to stay in, or you’re perfect and the only other way to go is down. But if you’re a perfect wonderful child on an island full of grandmas and aunties, you may end up very spoiled. And a lot of my favorite fairy tales feature a haughty princess or prince that need to learn how the other half lives, like The Prince and the Pauper. So I created a situation where Diana had to learn to be an Amazon, because she didn’t have to go through what the other Amazons did. So Diana’s motivation is different, but she still ends up in Man’s World, fighting for everything that’s right.”
Not only is Diana portrayed differently, but to a certain extent so is her mother, Queen Hippolyta, with Thompson showing a side of the regal leader rarely seen in other versions. “I saw (Hippolyta) as an amazing ruler,” Thompson said. “She’s very just, she’s super strong, has been the strongest leader ,and thinks of the good of everyone first. And to me, those are very mothering instincts.”
Thompson continues, “And then once she gets to the island, and her ‘children’ are taken care of and safe, she still has this need to be a mother, and she obviously is good at being a mother. But with the appearance of Diana, it would be such a novelty after hundred of years of just being around adults, of course you’d love to see that child’s face light up, you’re amazed at what they can do. We’ve all seen kids that can snow their parents… I don’t think it makes Hippolyta gullible. It’s just something that happens to all parents sometimes.”
Much like Grant Morrison’s recent Wonder Woman: Earth One graphic novel, Wonder Woman: The True Amazon gives us yet another distinct version of Diana for newer fans to latch on to. But the question remains: will we see more of Thompson’s take on Diana, in either a sequel, or maybe somewhere else? Thompson remains hopeful, mentioning one especial form she’d like to see the Wonder Woman story take.
“What I’ve really always wanted from this, was a Wonder Woman video game, and seeing that it was set on the island of Themyscira,” Thompson said. “Because of how I set up what the island is, a place for forgetful gods to put all their cool junk, it would be an interesting way to have adventure games that would include her. I have ideas for stories, I just don’t know if anyone wants anymore yet.” Well, count us in as those who certainly do want more of “The True Amazon.”
Wonder Woman: The True Amazon original graphic novel is currently available at comic book shops everywhere.
Images: DC Comics