The world is destroyed. The heroes have failed. In the four-issue Wonder Woman: Dead Earth, Diana wakes up after hundreds of years to a world that is now a wasteland, and it’s up to her to defend what’s left of humanity against giant monsters that roam the Earth…while she’s trying to figure out exactly how things got to this point.
DC Nation talked to writer/artist Daniel Warren Johnson (Extremity, Murder Falcon) about making his DC debut, the qualities that make Wonder Woman unique, and delivering “total wreckage” to familiar DC Universe locations.
What drew you to Wonder Woman for your debut DC project?
Her spirit and what she’s about is very clear and very universal. She really loves humanity. I was thinking to myself, what is it that drives that love? She’s more willing to say out loud to humanity, “I love you.” Whereas, Superman and Batman need to put on more airs about it. They can’t just come out and say it.
She’s tough, but she has this softness about her, and I really liked that. I liked the audacity of an immortal hero saying to a human, “I do this because I love you.” That line is in the first issue, actually. There’s a character who’s like, “Why are you doing this?”
“Because I love you.”
It makes this human character super-uncomfortable to be faced with this unconditional love. That aspect really got me excited.
I was thinking, what better way to explore how much a character loves a maybe-undeserving humanity than to really test the limits of where that love goes when confronted with the harsh reality of what humanity is capable of?
How do you describe the ruined world you’ve built for this series?
She wakes up in this world where there are these strange beasts attacking humanity, and there’s not that many humans left in the world. The entire Earth has been bombed. It’s basically a wasteland.
Within this world, humans are doing their best to survive, and when humans are trying to survive, a lot of times the worst parts of ourselves come out. So that’s on full display here in Wonder Woman: Dead Earth. It’s a challenge that Wonder Woman needs to walk into and address, and try to change for the better.
In what ways does surviving in this Dead Earth bring out sides of Wonder Woman that readers haven’t seen before?
I wanted to, from the very first page, put Wonder Woman off balance. She’s in unfamiliar territory, she doesn’t know how the world got this bad. She has to interact with it on a level where she’s really an alien. Her powers aren’t what they used to be. She can’t fly anymore. She’s still strong, but she’s not nearly as strong as she used to be. So, the stakes in the very immediate sense, the physical sense of harm being done to her, are higher. She’s able to be hurt.
I wanted to take the idealism of Wonder Woman and really put it to the test with this world. Does that idealism carry through to even the darkest of places? She’s immediately challenged in ways that she hasn’t been before. She’s trying to maintain her core belief systems about humanity, when everything she’s experiencing is challenging that.
Wonder Woman is alone. No one’s going to help her.
Visually, what’s your approach to Wonder Woman: Dead Earth?
Fantasy elements, but with Wonder Woman at center stage, mixed with these dynamic fight scenes. Because her changed powers are limiting her abilities, it allows for more of a down and dirty feel. In the first issue, she has a bar fight—she kicks a table into a bunch of warlords. I’m really excited about the concept of this very elegant figure getting down in the dirt. Getting to draw that is really fun, and it’s a way to reexamine the character.
It’s cool to be able to draw elements of the DC Universe but in complete and total wreckage. (Laughs) I got to draw the Batcave. That was awesome.
Wonder Woman: Dead Earth #1, written and illustrated by Daniel Warren Johnson, is on sale December 18 in print and as a digital download.