Wonder Woman is, of course, an Amazon with extraordinary powers, but she also represents the most aspirational qualities of humanity. And that’s being put to the test in a big way in new eight-issue series Wonder Woman: Evolution by writer Stephanie Phillips and artist Mike Hawthorne.
In Wonder Woman: Evolution, Diana is plucked from Earth by a distant cosmic entity and cast as Earth's proxy for a trial judging humankind's worthiness to exist in the universe. No pressure. What follows is a sci-fi epic with Diana forced to navigate a series of cosmic challenges, looking to save humanity without losing her own.
DC Nation spoke with Phillips about the big questions asked by Wonder Woman: Evolution, working with Hawthorne in his DC debut, and how this story aims to examine who Diana is underneath the familiar iconography.
Stephanie, what’s it like as a writer to be simultaneously writing one of the most popular morally ambiguous characters around in Harley Quinn, and writing one of pop culture’s most virtuous heroes in Wonder Woman: Evolution?
This is the best part about writing for DC—the characters, especially female characters, offer a lot of diversity that is so much fun for a writer. Harley gets to strangle psychiatric orderlies with a feather boa one day, and Wonder Woman is fighting a hoard of alien foes with sword and shield the next.
Despite those differences, I think there’s some overlap in terms of both Harley and Diana looking for ways to relate to the world in the stories I’m writing for them. Albeit, they obviously have drastically different approaches to trying to make sense of their roles as heroes (or antihero in Harley’s case). They’re still thinking through their relationships to humanity and the ways that the world is changing around them.
What are you looking to explore with Diana that readers may not be used to seeing from her?
I’m interested in exploring Diana beyond the symbol that is Wonder Woman. When Mike Hawthorne and I first started working on this story, one of our first steps was to actually remove traces of “Wonder Woman” in order to push Diana and really consider who she is beyond the costume, the iconic bracers, and of course, her lasso.
While we are putting Diana through a series of cosmic challenges, this story is a very grounded approach to looking at Diana’s relationships in the DC Universe. This means there will be lots of cameos in the series! And, of course, though there’s plenty of philosophizing about getting older, heroism and humanity, there’s tons of action. Diana is an incredible warrior and that’s absolutely on display here!
Mike Hawthorne is a familiar name to comics fans, but this is his first big DC story. What’s it been like working with him and seeing this story brought to visual life?
I’ve been a fan of Mike’s work for a while, so I’m incredibly excited to get to work on this story with him. Working with Mike is like working with someone I’ve known for years—we share ideas and feed off of what we are giving to one another as we’re compiling all the puzzle pieces of Wonder Woman: Evolution. The entire team is absolutely incredible—Mike, Adriana Di Benedetto, Jordie Bellaire, Tom Napolitano—and I’m lucky to work with them all to bring this story to life.
What can you reveal about the villain of the series, and how they’re looking to test Wonder Woman?
As the story opens, it appears that the antagonists are a group of god-like beings who are here to test whether or not humanity should continue to exist. They argue that humankind have overstepped their evolutionary bounds and threaten both Earth and the universe beyond. With Diana serving as a proxy, she’s brought to a neutral planet to participate in a trial that tests her mentally and physically in order to determine whether humanity should be destroyed or not.
As the story progresses, however, I think the line between villain and hero is going to blur and shift. As readers get further into the story, there might just be an unexpected villain emerging. Everything might not be what it appears…question everything.
How much fun are you having leaning into the cosmic/sci-fi aspects of this story?
I’ve always been a huge sci-fi fan and I’m thrilled to get to blend two things I really love: space and Wonder Woman! Mike and I were also really excited for the chance to give Diana a new look that would complement the change in setting. She has all-new, sleek, metal armor with a gold and black finish that we hope readers love as much as we do.
At the same time, I know this is a personal story asking a lot of big questions. As broadly as you’d like to discuss at this point, what are you looking to explore in Wonder Woman: Evolution about humanity and Wonder Woman’s relationship to it?
Earlier this year we all watched Hurricane Ida strengthen into a category five storm and do irrevocable damage across the east coast. Fires threaten the west coast, COVID-19 is still not under control and there is continued hesitancy to discuss humankind’s effect on Earth. These are concerns that I need my heroes to address. I need Diana to think about these issues and how they relate to being a hero, as well as in what ways heroism in the 21st century might even need to evolve.
Personally, Diana is not only thinking about her role as a hero of Earth, but she’s also thinking about her life retrospectively, tackling big questions about her own happiness and satisfaction with decisions she’s made.
Wonder Woman: Evolution #1 by Stephanie Phillips, Mike Hawthorne, Adriana Di Benedetto, Jordie Bellaire and Tom Napolitano is on sale now in print and as a digital comic book.