"I need Wonder Woman to be a rebel. I need her to be against the systems that are in place now." Tom King on why Diana Prince is a different sort of superhero to Batman and Superman

Art from Wonder Woman #9
(Image credit: DC)

Wonder Woman relaunched last year with a new #1 under the all-new creative team of writer Tom King and artist Daniel Sampere. To say it has proved to be a bold new start for the Amazing Amazon is an understatement. The series kicks off with a woman - soon revealed to be one of the Amazons - protecting herself against a gang of violent bigots. This act of self-defence quickly sparks a political crisis which has seen tensions between the United States and Themyscira escalate to a disastrous degree. Meanwhile, a new villain, the ultra-traditionalist Sovereign, intends to bend Wonder Woman to his will.

As the series approaches its ninth issue - an intriguing detour that sees Diana imprisoned in body, if not in mind and spirit - we sat down with King to discuss the new issue (with mild spoilers), the origins of Sovereign, and why Wonder Woman is both a hard character to get right and his favorite ongoing comic book.

Covers from Wonder Woman #9.

(Image credit: DC)

Newsarama: Tom, we're here primarily to talk about Wonder Woman #9, which is a really interesting and different sort of issue. What can you tease about it? 

Tom King: The latest arc, 'Sacrifice,' is basically the three trials of Wonder Woman as the Sovereign tries to break her in three different ways. In the first issue (#8) he tries to break her using the rope, trying to get her to believe these things about herself that aren't true. And then with this issue he tries another method, which is isolation. Wonder Woman is a social creature, she's not a loner like Clark and Bruce. And Sovereign takes all of that away from her, so she has to find a way to fight and endure that. 

What will the third trial be?

The final issue [of the arc] will be her and Cheetah, and that's the final trial. And what you'll see is that it's called 'Sacrifice' because she's enduring these things for a reason, she has a greater plan.

Interiors from Wonder Woman #9.

(Image credit: DC)

Although this issue takes place in one location physically, mentally it takes place in many different places. How did you break down what those locations would be?

Yeah, I wrote this in a real stupid way! The issue is about how she escapes into her own mind and how she uses her imagination to connect with Steve Trevor, and uses her perception of Steve to get her through this tough time. A lot of superheroes fight back with punches, Wonder Woman fights back with love - that's her thing and you see that directly in this issue as she uses love to endure.

The easiest way to write that would have been to flash back and forth between her suffering in the cave and the dream sequences, but I decided, let's not show the reality that's being forced upon her and only show the reality that she is creating. And so the issue takes place in a thousand different locations, as she tries to find some respite from this torture she's undergoing.

A lot of the locations were inspired by going through Wonder Woman's history. So we see her in the '70s doing her kung fu thing, we see a classic Greek myth location. And quite a few were inspired by me just talking to Daniel and him saying "I want to draw a Gatsby scene. I want to draw Barcelona, the city I love." And so some of them were just places Daniel thought he could draw beautifully, and he did exactly that.

Interiors from Wonder Woman #9.

(Image credit: DC)

Diana and Steve are, in some ways, on the opposite sides of a conflict at the moment with the ongoing "Amazon situation." What does it say about their relationship that he is still the person her mind turns to?

I think that the revelation she comes to is that when you're in love with someone you share a piece of your soul with them. And so the Steve she's talking to is not just in her imagination, it's a part of him that he gave to her and she gave part of herself to him. That's the revelation that keeps her going: the love that I have put out into the world accompanies me even here in this dark dungeon.

That's a lovely counterpoint to #7, the outer space story, where she's very lonely despite having Superman right alongside her.

Yes, that's exactly it. That's exactly how it adds up.

Interiors from Wonder Woman #9.

(Image credit: DC)

You mentioned Sovereign a minute ago, and he's proving to be a really interesting villain. Where did he come from?

I was looking for what makes Diana different than Clark and Bruce. When people describe Wonder Woman, all of the adjectives they use could also describe Superman or Batman: she never gives up, she's good, she loves her friends. So what differentiates her? I think the fact that it's difficult to come up with that is one of the reasons Wonder Woman is both hard to write and it's sometimes been hard for the audience to kind of grip onto her. 

What differentiated her to me, in thinking about it, was: Batman enforces the law. His best friend is literally the police commissioner! And Superman, you can say so many things about Superman, but there's something wholesome and conformist about him. There's something in him that's status quo, in a good way, in a way I kind of love. He wants that wholesome Kansas vision of his parents to be spread out. It's one of love and empathy, but it's about keeping things the same. 

Wonder Woman, she's the rebel. That's not what she wants. She wants change. She wants to go against the system, as opposed to enforcing and reinforcing it. And that's where I was like, "I need Wonder Woman to be a rebel, I need her to be against the systems that are in place now." And - stealing from Stan Lee's Hulk - the greatest thing to rebel against sometimes is the United States. And that's sort of where Sovereign came from and the idea that there's this secret king of America who subscribes to a very backwards view of how women should be, and how his empire should be, and how power should be restricted to one man and one family, and having her say, "No, there is another way." That's where Sovereign comes from.

Covers from Wonder Woman #9.

(Image credit: DC)

He feels like a very relevant villain right now. There's been a resurgence, particularly online, of people expressing these hard line attitudes. Were you surprised by how timely he has proven to be? 

I think the thing that most surprises me is people saying "Stop mocking me!" or associating themselves with Sovereign. I always want to say to people, "You're not the bad guy! This is not you. You are not the evil version, you can be the good guy here." 

I was half raised by my grandmother - a wonderful human being with very traditional values. She would be on Wonder Woman's side in this!

Sovereign is a radical. He's as bad as Lex Luthor and the Joker. He's the bad guy. Don't associate yourself with him! Have confidence that your values are better than his. I'm not yelling at anyone with this villain, just like if you're a realtor you shouldn't be mad at Lex Luthor. Maybe you're a good realtor! You don't have to be Lex Luthor.

Interiors from Wonder Woman #9.

(Image credit: DC)

We're approaching the end of your first year on Wonder Woman. How are you finding working on this book?

Working with Daniel is wonderful. I love working with the editors, I have a dream team on it and they're giving me a ton of room to run. It's a hard book because she's a hard character to get a hold of, but it's the book I most want to write. My schedule is getting tighter because I'm doing all this Hollywood crap - which I love! - but I'm not letting go of Wonder Woman because I love it. 

It's been much bigger than I ever thought it would be - the sales are great, we keep selling out - and I'm surprised every time that people are talking about it. I've been in comics a long time and people generally don't talk about Wonder Woman, so I guess I'm just surprised. There's so much conversation about Wonder Woman and that makes me happy because comics have to be a ticket to a conversation. It's not a 15 minute experience, it's a month long experience of you having read it and engaging with the work.

Do you have an overall plan for this series and where it's headed or are you taking it one arc at a time?

I think we have the first 25 mapped out at this point. The Sovereign story will end by issue 20-ish, and then we'll move on to the next thing. We have a big crossover event coming for next three issues after after the 'Sacrifice' arc. And then we begin an arc in #14, which is gonna be the biggest issue since #1. That sets up the final confrontation with Sovereign and then we're launching into a new arc after that, so that's how far ahead I am.

Covers from Wonder Woman #9.

(Image credit: DC)

As you just hinted at the Absolute Power event is coming up. What's it like for you as a writer on an ongoing series when these big, line-wide events happen?

It can be awesome. One of my favourite issues I've ever written in my life - and one that had a huge impact on my life - was I did a Green Lantern issue for The Darkseid War crossover, that Geoff Johns wrote, with Doc Shaner and I. It was just a single issue and you know Geoff's like, "You have to do this and this and this." And yet, in that space, we were able to tell what I consider to be one of my best single issues. It's fun to be in that space, because you can really run there. You can do what Alan Moore did when he was given Crisis and Swamp Thing. You can make beautiful gold out of the thing. 

When I was on Batman I got to be fairly isolated from all that. We had The Button crossover, but basically not much. When I started Wonder Woman they were like, "Tom, do you want us to isolate you?" And I literally said to them, "No! I want this to be old school. I want this to be like when I was reading Avengers and Inferno happened and then Acts of Vengeance happened. I want to be like Walt Simonson and make something awesome out of it."

You know, Tony Daniel is coming on and we're gonna do some crossover issues and do the best we can with the material that Mark Waid gives us and then go back to our story. And that's just what comics are. I just want to participate in essential superhero comics and to do that you have to write crossover events, and I'm excited about it.

Wonder Woman #9 is published by DC on May 21.

These are our picks for the best Wonder Woman stories of all time.

Will Salmon
Comics Editor

Will Salmon is the Comics Editor for GamesRadar/Newsarama. He has been writing about comics, film, TV, and music for more than 15 years, which is quite a long time if you stop and think about it. At Future he has previously launched scary movie magazine Horrorville, relaunched Comic Heroes, and has written for every issue of SFX magazine for over a decade. He sometimes feels very old, like Guy Pearce in Prometheus. His music writing has appeared in The Quietus, MOJO, Electronic Sound, Clash, and loads of other places and he runs the micro-label Modern Aviation, which puts out experimental music on cassette tape.