If I had to pick one series out of DC’s “New 52” I’m most looking forward to, it would probably be Wonder Woman #1 — out this Wednesday 9/21! — from the team of Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang. For years, Chiang has been turning in some of the best comic book art ever, with a unique look characterized by thickly inked lines, and clean simple compositions. And fans have responded, snapping him his always welcome mash-up drawings (Teen Titans as The Breakfast Club! Batgirl on the Purple Rain poster!) and Con exclusives like hotcakes.
Luckily, we got to catch up with Chiang at HeroesCon and Baltimore Comic-Con this year, chatting with the always affable artist about his take on the Amazonian Princess, how he works with Brian Azzarello, and just what he thinks about those pesky pants. First, the HeroesCon interview:
MTV Geek: Let’s talk about the big news, Cliff… They just announced you’ll be drawing the brand new Wonder Woman. That’s huge!
Cliff Chiang: Yeah, it was great to have the news finally come out, because I’ve been sitting on it for the last couple of months, and trying to deftly evade questions about, “What are you working on?” So it’s great to see the news out there, and the really enthusiastic reaction from people!
Geek: Hey, I’m certainly enthusiastic! I can’t wait, but you’ve been waiting even longer… One of the questions in my mind about all the new titles –- but I guess to talk specifically about Wonder Woman –- is how long have you been working on this?
CC: I’ve been working on it for the past few months… I was actually talking to [writer] Brian Azzarello about doing it before that, but we had decided to go forward with another project. After a while, we came back to Wonder Woman, though, and said, “We have to do this.”
Geek: What’s the relationship like, working with Brian?
CC: It’s great! For both of us, I think it’s probably the most collaborative experience we’ve had. He usually doesn’t speak to the artist that much, but because I’m local, he’ll just call up and say, “I have this idea,” just to bounce it off me and see what I think. He’s of course free to do what he wants with it afterwards, and come back at it in a totally different way. But it’s great to be involved with the story at that early level, so that when I’m drawing the story, I know what’s going on in his head. It’s really fun.
And when I draw things, they go back to him, and he says, “I really like that, but what if you did this?” So we’re in this situation where we’re constantly improving each other’s work through suggestions. In Pixar they call it “Plusing,” when you change the sequence, and make it better.
Geek: Were you a Wonder Woman fan going into this project?
CC: Yeah, I am a Wonder Woman fan, that’s one of those weird questions where… I wasn’t reading Wonder Woman religiously, but I’m definitely a fan of the character, and the history of the character, and the reach that the character has.
Geek: Do you have a favorite iteration from the past of Wonder Woman? George Perez, Greg Rucka, Gail Simone…
CC: I like ideas and aspects of all of them, you know, and hopefully we can hit those notes in our book.
Geek: Your style is very crisp, very clear… You can look at a piece and say, “Hey, this is Cliff Chiang’s art!” Are you doing anything differently when you’re approaching Wonder Woman?
CC: I’ve been moving towards a style that has a little more texture, and energy. You can see it in the Zatanna issues that I did. I’m using the same ideas about shadows, and areas of black, but they’re not solid anymore, and the lines are not crisp. For me, I feel like so much of the world is becoming digital; and we’re reviewing these things on a digital platform – we’re going to be looking at things on an iPad, or a computer. So it’s important to celebrate anything organic. What I’ve been trying to do with my art, which has been feeling very graphically sharp, to soften it up, and make it feel more hand-done.
Geek: You’ve drawn pretty much all over the DC Universe at this point – magic with Zatanna, worldwide and street level with Green Arrow/Black Canary… Brian Azzarello has played around a lot too, but he’s still best known for street-level stories. Are we going to see more of a street level take on Wonder Woman?
CC: I think Brian is justifiably well known for the work he’s done on 100 Bullets, and Joker. At that same time, that kind of reputation – we used it to our benefit when we did Doctor 13, it wasn’t what people were expecting. So I’m hoping what we do with Wonder Woman will be… Pleasantly unexpected.
Geek: Without getting into spoilers, is there a Wonder Woman character that you would love to draw? Some sort of classic villain, or ally?
CC: I’ve always been partial to her classic rogues gallery, more Golden Age… One of my earliest jobs drawing was Wonder Woman: Our Worlds At War, with Phil Jimenez, which was a really cool jaunt through her history. I got to draw this two-page spread that was set in the Golden Age. It was almost historical pages of other scenes. So I really dig Cheetah. And I like Giganta, a lot. I’ve got this old piece where it’s Wonder Woman and Giganta fighting, and Wonder Woman is also fifty feet tall. So yeah, I’m a fan of her rogues.
And here’s Chiang at Baltimore Comic-Con talking more about the Wonder Woman relaunch, and creating real female characters: