Even as DC Comics main line of superhero books prepares for an incoming Rebirth, some corners of the publisher’s world will stay the same. And one of the surprise hit initiatives by DC over the past year has been their pinup-themed, pro-feminist “Bombshells” line of comics, statues and art. That alternate look at the likes of Wonder Woman, Black Canary and more got a spotlight Saturday morning at the Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo (or C2E2 for short) with the Bombshells of the DC Universe panel.
Assembled on the stage were creators including “Wonder Woman: Earth One” artist Yanick Paquette, “Harley Quinn” artist Chad Hardin, “Bombshells” writer Marguerite Bennett and “Black Canary” artist Annie Wu.
The panel started with a recitation of the history of the Bombshells franchise – going as it did from collectibles line to variant covers to fully fledge comic series. Bennett explained that when she decided to set her story in an alternate World War II, she had to find a way to make the story work both as a piece of fun pop culture and as a real narrative. “How do you reconcile artwork that has this retro appeal, but can still be so positive when you’re looking at a period that is so dark and so grim?” she said. “I decided each of our heroines was going to start at a different place on the map and represent a different front of the war and a different genre, really.” She said that the ranges of characters went from a Looney Tunes-esque Harley Quinn to a horror-themed Zatana.
The writer praised her artist – the “other” Marguerite Sauvage – saying, “She brings so much elegance and eloquence to every panel,” she said. “Just look at [Batwoman’s] eyes – there’s so much insolence and self-confidence.” That tone came from the origins of the world where Bennett said, “I wanted to make sure that no heroine was a subordinate of the male characters…From the very beginning, there’s no Batman in this world. There’s Batwoman first, and we go from there.”
Talk of the long-simmering “Wonder Woman: Earth One” graphic novel from writer Grant Morrison came up. “It’s an origin story,” Paquette said. “When Grant tackles such a massive character, he usually goes to the early original issues and tries to find out the element that makes it tick. When he did ‘Action Comics,’ he went back to the proletariate history of the people idea that wasn’t in step with the modern representation…the ‘40s Wonder Woman is really weird. We’re not going that far, but we are exploring the idea of her being bound up not in a sexual manner, but we’re exploring that if man would submit to the wiseness of the women, the world would be better. There’s a fantasy and an erotic vibe to it, but it’s open-minded. We’re doing something less explicit in 2016, and so I can’t imagine people won’t be open to it now.”
The artist went on to show off some early pages, and he said that he was drawing from a European comics influence to approach the character – adding that within the course of the story there will be a costume change for Diana Prince. Additionally, eagle-eyed fans can look out for the sequence where the artist drew himself into the story as a womanizing doctor.
“There’s almost no physical violence. This isn’t your typical wrestling superhero book,” Paquette said of the story. “She chooses not to fight as a manner of principal. It’s something that’s different from the upcoming film where she looks like this warrior princess. That’s fine, but to me if you pump her up as a battle-ready female on the level of Batman and Superman, you’re pumping up the testosterone….I don’t like violence, so we want to make her more like another aspect of humanity that’s different from most men.” By the end of the story, Wonder Woman will reconcile not only the world of the Amazons and modern man, but it also will work to metaphorically link the character to modern feminism.
Hardin and Paquette discussed their varying approaches to drawing Wonder Woman. Hardin said when he has drawn the character, he tries to pay homage to her Greek origins by basing her look in part by looking to classical Greek art and sculpture. Paquette worked in “Earth One” to make her less explicitly American and instead playing up the red, white and blue elements of her costume in a more classical sense – for example making the stars on her costume six-pointed.
Wu told the story of when writer Brendan Fletcher reached out to her to work on the new “Black Canary” series. “I tried to play it cool because I didn’t want him to know how excited I was, but I knew exactly how it should look, but I kind of said, ‘Yeah, I’ll think about it,’” Wu joked. She said that the fishnet stockings were one of the first elements she wanted to bring back for the rock star take on the character. “It would be crazy not to bring them back, and in terms of the costume, no one said to me that we needed a singular costume for this series. It wouldn’t make sense as a stage outfit for a rock star…I tried to mesh iconic Black Canary and rock aesthetic evenly throughout the series.” That idea even stretched out to adding “fighting fringe” on her jacket for an upcoming issue.
“It’s not all fun and games for Black Canary on the road,” Wu said. “The story explores her backstory and her family life…Dina’s totally broke now, and all she wants to do is open a dojo and teach…she says ‘Fine. I’ll do this singing that I have a natural talent for but am not very into to make money’ but she ends up finding out a lot about herself and her power.”