Saturday, 23 April 2016

Legend of Wonder Woman Artist and Writer, Renae De Liz, Nominated for an Eisner Award

It has been an interesting week to be a comic book fan. Amongst the top conversations that took place this week was perpetual Hollywood racism in the form of whitewashing Japanese characters from Japanese manga and anime in an industry that already offers little opportunities to Japanese actors. To top that story was DC's infamous firing of respectable executive editor, Shelly Bond, from Vertigo, sparking an angry enough response from fans and industry professionals alike by publicly exposing DC group editor Eddie Berganza as the serial sexual harasser they continue to employ despite the real damage and trauma he caused to various women who worked for DC over the years. The outrage was so strong, his name was trending on Twitter for 24 hours, much to DC's shame.

With all that's happened this week, there is a lot to be embarrassed about in both the entertainment industry and comics community. Despite all the gunk and rubbish that surfaced this week, however, there is one very bright light at the end of this dark tunnel of comics news that is worthy of celebration: the nomination of Legend of Wonder Woman writer and artist, Renae De Liz, for an Eisner Award for Best Digital/Web Comic.

This is very big news on multiple levels. The first is that it gives legitimacy to digital comics as a respectable outlet for the medium, which could effectively encourage DC Comics to utilise it more in the future. It could even lead DC to decide to eventually publish a whole line of comics set in a Digital DC Universe, effectively reaching more readers in ways that the more traditional format does not. Another reason that this is big news is that it puts a major female talent like Renae De Liz into the larger spotlight, which means she will get noticed by more publishers (including Image and DC's corporate rival, Marvel), which will boost her career opportunities. (I'm very confident she'll win the award for 2016). The last reason this is big news is because it'll put DC Comics in the spotlight for something genuinely new and innovative that they did on the front of female representation worthy of praise instead of perpetual criticism for sexism.

Without question, this is the best news I've heard all week. Not only have I been enjoying De Liz' Legend of Wonder Woman every week (and talking about it every month with the print release), but it is a genuinely good comic that is worthy of the larger recognition it is getting for the boundaries that it's pushing in a good way. As a story, it has a very cinematic flow to it, very similar to Christopher Nolan's Batman Begins from 2005. Like a film, it has a beginning, a middle, and an end. The first act provides a detailed exploration into the history of the Amazons and how that factors into the upbringing of the comic's lead heroine, Princess Diana of Themyscira. The second act is Diana's entry into the outside world (the world we know) and how she adapts to an environment that's so modern and radically different from the ancient civilisation that she is used to with Themyscira. The third act sees her transition from the princess who is destined to inherit the throne from her legendary mother, Queen Hippolyta, to the mysterious warrior who fights for peace and justice in a time of war, leading people to call her 'The Wonder Woman.'

De Liz' craft as a writer is impeccable. Through meticulous world-building and thoughtful execution, De Liz has successfully created a standalone comic (should I say graphic novel?) for the ages. Whereas monthly comics read more like TV shows where each new story arc feels like a new season, De Liz's miniseries reads like an actual film with strong potential for future instalments. If Legend of Wonder Woman is Diana's equivalent to having a Captain America: The First Avenger film, any sequels to this story would definitely feel like a genuine new chapter to this character's story, much in the same way that Captain America: The Winter Soldier did for Steve Rogers.

Another way De Liz' comic challenges the status quo is the continuity with which she chose to base her Wonder Woman's mythology on. Whereas mainstream comics and even Hollywood have this weird obsession with the Silver Age to the point of upholding it as DC's pseudo 'Golden Age' and basing every narrative on this particular continuity, De Liz' story takes the character all the way back to her actual Golden Age. De Liz revives all of the original ideas and concepts her original creator, Charles Moulton Marston, instilled into the character 75 years ago, and reinterprets them for a modern audience.

It's incredibly rare these days to come across a creator who loves and respects DC's Golden Age as much as De Liz does, most likely because DC rarely shows interest in their own Golden Age mythology. They therefore probably don't feel as inclined to hire writers with a fondness for this particular continuity to write for their mainstream books. Of all the writers DC has hired over the last four decades, only four mainstream writers stand out has having that same love for the Golden Age lore: Paul Levitz, Roy Thomas, James Robinson, and Geoff Johns--all men. To see a woman take on the Golden Age mythology and put her own spin on it with just as much vitality and depth is truly refreshing and groundbreaking.

Among other things that truly standout about De Liz' Legend of Wonder Woman is her affinity for writing very human characters. Whereas we're accustomed to fictional characters subscribing to various archetypes in most fiction, De Liz' characters read like human beings who are very life-like, complete with complex thoughts and emotions. She doesn't just do this for her main protagonist, Diana of Themyscira, but she does this for all of her supporting cast as well. From Queen Hippolyta to Alcippe to Antiope to Etta Candy and even the characters that appear only once in her story are written with a lot of heart and depth. There is literally not a single important character in this comic who exists as background decoration (as we often see with mainstream comics) and get their due and page space.

In addition to solid characterisation, De Liz is equally skilled at selling her story and characters with her art. Her pencils coupled with her husband Ray Dillon's inks and colours produce some of the most lavish pages you'll ever see in a comic. The landscapes and creatures of Themyscira look like something out of a Hayao Miyazaki story, the cityscapes of Boston and Paris are as illuminating as you would expect for the 20th century, and the people that populate Wonder Woman's world are as lively as the people you see in real life. You have characters of varying age, background, and ethnicity, and the book has one of the most diverse populations of women you'll ever see in a DC comic.

Each character is drawn with their own distinct features and body size, complete with their own personalities and unique body language. You have a character like Etta Candy who is full of pizzazz and you have a character like Alcippe who thrives gloriously in battle. Without the combination of thoughtful storytelling, diverse characterisation, and rich artwork, Legend of Wonder Woman wouldn't be what it is. The best part is this book is put together exclusively by two people and not by the usual five-member team you typically see in most comics. Renae De Liz tasks herself with writing the script and drawing the pages, while her husband Ray Dillon tasks himself with inking it, applying the colours, and lettering it. He even at times pencils certain parts of her comic to maximise the feel of a character like the Duke of Deception.

On the whole, De Liz' Legend of Wonder Woman is a truly revolutionary work in every way, and worthy of the recognition she is receiving for it. It will no doubt pave the road for the future of the medium and maybe even DC Comics themselves. If she especially wins the award for Best Digital Comic (and I'm confident she will), this could also broaden both her and Ray Dillon's future with DC Comics and even allow them to realise the other projects they pitched to them. They could even be given the opportunity to write for the mainstream comics, which is something I would like to see happen. Given the strong handle both have on the Golden Age Wonder Woman, I would love see them take over the entire Earth-2 Justice Society franchise where the Golden Age Wonder Woman was prominent in. Not only do I want to see how they'd write her in a team of superheroes, but I'm also confident they would give us the Earth-2 Justice Society we want and need. I know I would love to see this husband and wife team do their own interpretations of each of these characters, especially the successors of DC's Golden Age Trinity: Huntress, Power Girl, and Fury. Those are comics I'd buy without second thoughts.

1 comment:

  1. I hope they win the award, they really deserve it, so far my favorite ongoing title.