Sometimes battles just feel personal. Since obtaining the shockingly powerful Godkiller Sword, the Cheetah has been carving a bloody swath through mortals, gods and Amazons alike, with each victory shaping her into a more frightening and formidable threat than she’s ever been before. Already we’ve seen her murder Aphrodite, plunging the world (temporarily, thankfully) into a dark, chaotic realm lacking all love. Now, the Cheetah has made her way to Themyscira, where she’s willing to slaughter all of Diana’s fellow Amazons, not to hurt Wonder Woman...but to help her?
Yes, in some twisted logic spun up by the sort of person who thinks selling her soul to a plant god is a solid life plan, the Cheetah is killing Amazons to provoke Hera into descending to Earth. Why? So that she can kill the goddess with the Godkiller and set Wonder Woman “free,” similar to the way she herself was freed from Urzkartaga.
I mean, her heart’s in the right place, right? Kind of? Look, we’re just happy to see that the invisible jet is back in what’s been a boisterous return to the book by writer Steve Orlando. While Orlando has written Wonder Woman before, he officially took the reins full-time last month. With his Cheetah-focused debut storyline now fully in gear, we spoke with Orlando about what we can expect from Diana’s long-brewing showdown with Dr. Minerva, as well as what lies ahead after this story wraps. Best of all, we have an exclusive first look at Wonder Woman #83’s big battle for you if you read to the end.
This isn’t your first time writing Wonder Woman for DC. You wrote an earlier storyline, didn’t you?
I did a five-issue storyline that bridged from James Robinson to G. Willow Wilson, then later on, when we knew Willow was going to need some time to get ahead, I formatted a guest issue for the middle of the arc that she was working on.
We’ve been around, but I approach Diana with trepidation every time, as anyone should since she is such an iconic and unique character, even among DC heroes. For Willow, the opportunity she has to take on The Dreaming is amazing. For me to be the person to pick up the baton for her now for a little while is super exciting. I do feel like I’ve visited enough that the fans know who I am and kind of know what’s coming. If they’ve liked what’s come before, it’s going to be more of that. Bigger, more exciting, more of Diana in the DC Universe doing the sort of things that I feel she should be about—interacting with female heroes, women supporting women, and female heroes inspiring each other in the most action-packed way possible.
A lot of your work at DC has been with female characters. Is that just something that’s happened, or do you enjoy writing female heroes in general?
The hope is that we can get to the core of any character we’re working on. I’ve been really lucky to work on Supergirl, and obviously now to return to Wonder Woman. On Supergirl, there were a lot of similarities. I wanted to show that even within the DCU, female heroes are inspired by and hold up other female superheroes. That’s why with Supergirl, when she’s having this intellectual joust with Cat Grant, she finds out that Cat is a big fan of Wonder Woman’s book, “Reflections.” Kara points out the book to win this argument with Cat Grant, and we see that even Supergirl, someone we think of as a hero, someone who is a hero, she has heroes too. That’s Wonder Woman.
So now, to be able to write the hero of all these other heroes, it’s insane. It’s a huge honor. I don’t have a particular preference for female characters, but I will say, I do hopefully show an extra amount of respect for what it is to be a male, especially to be a queer male, writing Wonder Woman and Supergirl because they are huge icons both in the queer community and obviously for female readers as well. When I’m on a female superhero book, I approach it with an extra amount of research, sensitivity and respect. It’s a huge responsibility. They mean so much to so many people, and I hope that comes through in the stories I tell.
Lately, it seems like depending on who’s been writing Wonder Woman, the comic has taken on different tones. Willow has really brought back Diana’s mythology and dug into some of the more fantasy elements, while Greg Rucka’s run was largely modern-day action and espionage. What sort of areas will you be drawing from during your time on the book?
It all interests me. Wonder Woman Annual #3 was really sort of a tone-setting book. I posted a few months ago that I was reading a lot of ’60s-era Wonder Woman, like the Mike Sekowsky and Gil Kane runs. I loved, not necessarily the no-powers aspect, but the thrill aspect of their Wonder Woman. I loved the sort of political superhero thriller that the book used to be. There were moments of that in Rucka’s run. I think that Willow’s done such an incredible job with the mythological content. Wonder Woman’s a mythical character, but I want Willow’s work to stand. I don’t want to step on that.
It’s going to be a superhero thriller book. I hate to say a “political” thriller because it’s not like we’re addressing the things that are going on in Washington, but Wonder Woman is an inherently radical character. Anyone who puts love above anything else, in the present context or in any context, is always going to be radical and subversive. So, in that respect, it’s still going to be a political thriller, which it definitely was under Rucka. But we’re also here to push Diana as a character and show her existing in the DC Universe as that strident, inspirational character that she always has been.
At the same time, so much has happened during Willow’s run. We’re going to unpack what happened with Steve Trevor and Leviathan. We’re going to unpack the fallout of “Year of the Villain” with the Cheetah, which is coming to a head. And as you saw in the annual, we brought back Warmaster, a Wonder Woman villain who hasn’t appeared in the comic since 2011, but at the same time, she’s a fixture. She’s appeared in Brave and the Bold, she’s appeared in the ’70s TV series, she’s appeared in the Golden Age. She’s going to come for Diana in a way that’s going to unify a lot of the past twenty years of Wonder Woman comics in a new and exciting way.
Is she going to be the main villain in your storyline?
For about the first ten issues. But I really love these runs like Gail Simone’s where the story’s ongoing. Yes, the annual will set the tone for the first ten issues, but then we’ll be seeding the next ten. The characters that appear and things that are set up in Willow’s run are going to come back to haunt Diana, as well. It all matters. I think that’s what’s wonderful about an ongoing book.
Next year, along with Wonder Woman’s 750th issue, we also have a new Wonder Woman movie. It’s safe to say that 2020 is going to be a big year for Diana. How does it feel being a part of it?
It’s surreal. It’s an honor to be part of the character when so many eyes are going to be on her. I feel like I have an extra responsibility to hold her up and present her in the best way possible. We’re doing that, not just by telling a story that makes her unique within the DC Universe and central to the lives of other heroes in the DCU, but by honoring some female creators that I’ve brought on with me that will be on future issues. What I’m super excited about is that in upcoming issues you’ll see that I’m also going to be working with some iconic female creators in comics that deserve a spotlight while the spotlight is on Wonder Woman. It’s one of the first things I fought for on the book, and when I found out that one of my longtime friends who’s been a female creator in comics since the 1980s is going to be joining us for a little while, I couldn’t have been more excited. This is the time because there are so many eyes on this. We can use this opportunity to spotlight not just Diana, but the people who have been doing her work within the industry since before I was alive.
First Look: Wonder Woman Comes Face to Face with the Cheetah
Wonder Woman #83 by Steve Orlando, Jheremy Raapack, Miguel Mendonca, Norm Rapmund, Marc Deering and Gabe Eltaeb is in stores Wednesday.