In a new interview, writer Kelly Sue DeConnick and writer/artist Phil Jimenez say quite clearly their goal with the graphic novel Wonder Woman Historia: The Amazons is to smash the old patriarchy and reflect a greater sense of “queerness.”
Discussing Historia Book One for DC’s blog, DeConnick talks about how, tired of women being put on a pedestal in a certain way by male writers over the years, she wants to revise Amazonian history to fit her impression of the now.
Admittedly not interested in Greek history or doing more than “some research,” DeConnick stated she listened to hours of lectures. “But it was a little bit like learning the rules so you could throw some of them out,” she explained.
“Because this is fiction, and when we write about the past today, we’re not really writing about the past,” she added. “We’re writing about today. There’s no point in making art about the past unless you’re using it to talk about the present or the future, because the past is past.”
DeConnick was then asked how she balances the utopian “peace and love” image of the Amazons with the proud and fierce warrior race they’re also known to be. Her response was the portrayal is dividing and unhelpful rather than “equalizing.”
“I think there is a thing that happens sometimes when men are trying to celebrate women. And this happens sometimes when women are trying to celebrate women as well, but it happens a lot when men are trying to celebrate women,” she said.
“Women get put on a pedestal, in a way that suggests that women are just ‘better,’ right?” DeConnick continued. “That they’re ‘more communal’ and ‘gentler,’ and ‘more nurturing.’ They’re not aggressive, like those ‘terrible, awful men.’”
She would add, “And putting someone on a pedestal is just another way of putting them in a box. It’s not helpful. It’s limiting. It’s not equalizing. It continues to other us.”
In conclusion, she said, “So, the idea that a society of women would be more communal makes a lot of assumptions about women that are sort of essentialist, and really discounts how much of the way women are has to do with what women are asked or forced to do culturally.”
DeConnick soon made the observation that Amazons are warriors protecting peace “as a survival adaptation,” which “transcends gender and is just a historical notion.” She adds there’s nothing “particularly new or incongruous about that” except for one “hiccup.”
“Where people have the hiccup is like, ‘But they’re women!’ Like…yup!” she stated.
From there, Phil Jimenez chimed in to expound on how Wonder Woman has brought sexuality and queerness to the table since the 1940s when William Moulton Marston created the character and weaved his fetishes into the book.
“We all know the Marston stuff was mired in Marston’s own fetishized view of sex and women, but it’s still amazing work to me because of the fact that this was 1942, the middle of World War II, and it was so clear and obvious on the page,” said Jimenez. “It’s still quite stunning as a historical artifact.”
Of course, the Comics Code swooped in and changed all that until George Perez came along in the 80s but that’s all an aside for Jimenez who is more concerned with how he defines “queer” and represents it to his liking. “I use ‘queer’ in the broadest possible sense,” he said.
“I don’t think of it exclusively in terms of sexuality so much as the notion of the queering of the world,” Jimenez continued. “I think of being queer as being anti-tradition, anti-patriarchal, as something that upends kind of a traditional and often conservative, regressive point of view. So, the way I use ‘queer’ is a huge part of it.”
He would add DC bringing him onto Historia automatically makes the title queer and he’s glad to be working on it with Kelly Sue DeConnick because of their mutual “sociopolitical ideologies.” Said Jimenez, “It’s all there.”
Explaining why he likes working on this comic, he continued: “I love this work because it is, to me, clearly the work of a woman and maybe less clearly, but certainly I can see it, the work of a gay dude.”
He’d add further, “So, I think it is inherently queer, in its way. Again, using my broader definition of ‘queer.’ It just has a proud and profound feminist point of view, and that thrills me because I think that queers our industry a little bit.”
Jimenez could queer the industry but, for DeConnick, it gets broader than the broadest use of “queer.” She wants to change what readers think they know – about Amazons and everything.
Calling Historia “a textbook for a history of the Amazons that is intended for an audience of young Amazons,” she declared “the thing I would want you to take away from it is the idea of questioning the version of history that you have always been fed.”
She goes on, “Our opening contract with you is, ‘Forget everything you think you know.’ The narrator says history is written by the victors, and in the war between the Amazons and the gods of men, the Amazons lost.”
DeConnick continued to make her point that reveals her true intent with Historia, inadvertently or not.
“So, the version that you have read was written by our oppressors,” she said. “Probably there is no objective history, and the truth may lie somewhere between. But you’ve heard theirs—this is ours. And if there is a thing to be taught, it is to consider the source. Remember that history is stories.”
Wonder Woman Historia: The Amazons was announced back in 2018 as part of DC’s Black Label and has been years in the making. Book One is available now in print and digitally.