Diana Princess of the Amazons Creators Tackle Wonder Womans Childhood

Diana: Princess of the Amazons Creators Tackle Wonder Woman’s Childhood

Diana: Princess of the Amazons creators Shannon and Dean Hale and Victoria Ying opened up the world of Wonder Woman’s childhood for CBR.

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Diana Princess of the Amazons Creators Tackle Wonder Womans Childhood

Diana isn’t just an only child — she is the only child on an island of grown, accomplished warrior women. In DC’s Diana: Princess of the Amazons graphic novel, the Wonder Woman-to-be finds herself feeling alone, ignored and friendless. So, like her mother Hippolyta, she makes herself a friend out of clay. Much to her surprise, Diana finds her creation has come to life as a new friend named Mona. However, there’s more to Mona than meets the eye, and that leaves the Princess of the Amazons with some difficult choices to make.

Speaking to CBR, Diana: Princess of the Amazons writers Shannon and Dean Hale and artist Victoria Ying opened up the world of Themiscyra. They revealed what drew them to Wonder Woman of all the characters in the DC canon, how they realized they wanted to explore the loneliness of her childhood and why Diana and Hippolyta’s changing relationship seemed like the perfect jumping-off point to start the story. They also discussed the importance of showing diverse bodies and relationships, why it was key to show Diana making mistakes and more.

CBR: What drew you to Wonder Woman, of all the characters in the DC canon?

Shannon Hale: We first started with Diana. When we first talked to editors at DC, they were awesome. They were like, “You know, if you could pick any character, what would your dream character be? What would you want to do?” Diana was our first choice and honestly I didn’t think we were gonna be so lucky as to write Wonder Woman! They said yeah, so that was a dream come true.

Part of why I wanted to do Diana, personally, is not only because I have always loved Wonder Woman, but because I thought her story as a kid would be so fascinating. She grew up on Themiscyra as the only child in her entire world. What would that have felt like? And as a storyteller, I’m really intrigued by an idea like that. I think kids can really relate. Although they’re not the only kid in their world, everyone has felt like the oddball or the weird one and something’s different about me and have felt lonely. I felt this is a really great story to explore those more universal feelings.

Dean Hale: I love those becoming stories, like Smallville or Gotham or even Enterprise for Star Trek, when you’re able to see the ingredients that ultimately become this iconic thing. I hadn’t really seen that with Wonder Woman. I mean, I’m sure it’s there, but to be able to be part of that was great.

Tell me a little more about what inspired you to explore Diana’s loneliness with this graphic novel.

Shannon Hale: So not only is she an only child, but she’s the only child. Not only is she the only child, but everybody else is a perfect, immortal, amazing, adult warrior. Just a comparison of everybody has reached their full potential — except for her. So it really draws that out into relief. Everybody needs to feel seen and understood and it’s really hard to feel that way when there’s nobody your age or [has your] interests or no one you can directly relate to. So I was really fascinated with that aspect of it.

I remember watching the Wonder Woman movie that came out a couple years ago and I wanted to stay in Themiscyra because I was so fascinated with, “Wow, what is she feeling?” What is it like to be this kid there and have so much you want and be yearning for so much, and all these amazing examples around you and have no one who can really understand where you are, where you’re feeling at the moment.

There’s a lot of tension in the story between what Diana knows she shouldn’t do and what she actually does. How did you set about creating that tone?

Victoria Ying: I think that we’ve all kind of had that friend who’s kind of a troublemaker and you sort of know that what they’re trying to get you to do is maybe not what you should be doing or there’s just this feeling in your gut that you’re like, “Oh, I don’t know, there’s something wrong about this,” but you can’t really put your finger on it, but you want to be cool and stuff. I was really trying to get that across in terms of the art. I really wanted Mona to feel very cool and like Diana wanted to like impress her and wanted to go along with things, maybe not necessarily because she wanted to but because she really wanted to impress this other character who she perceived as being maybe more clever or smarter than she was in some way.

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Shannon Hale: The desperation to hold on to a friendship that’s so important to you, when your friend is asking you to do something that you know you shouldn’t be doing, but at the same time is refusing your friend the best thing to do either? As a kid, that’s a really complicated choice, because that friendship is so important. You don’t want to let your friend down. You don’t want to hurt your friend. Kids just do not have the perspective to be able to stand back and weigh the two options of, “Hey, what’s better, what’s worse here?”

Dean and I have four kids and we really wanted to allow Wonder Woman — this girl who becomes Wonder Woman, becomes this amazing goddess of a warrior hero — allow her to be a kid who can make mistakes and doesn’t always know exactly the right thing to do and really let her be human in that way and exploring the complicated nuances of friendship seemed like a great way to do that. What were you going to say, Dean?

Dean Hale: It was mostly what you were gonna say. Just how high the stakes are because it’s not like there are other fish in the sea. This is the fish. This is the only friend that’s there, so you’ve got to hold on to that.

Diana Princess of the Amazons Creators Tackle Wonder Womans Childhood

In your story, Diana is a flawed character who has to learn a big lesson by the end. Why was it important to show her make mistakes along the way?

Shannon Hale: I think there is this really impossible standard for female characters. You’re absolutely right. I think male characters are allowed to get messy and make mistakes, and females are held to a different standard. There are certainly so much fewer female characters out there to begin with, and then there’s always this term applied to female characters: Is she likable? She has to be likable. I just hate that word so much! Who cares if they’re likable? What does that even mean?

We don’t have to feel like we would be friends with every character that we’re interested in reading a story about. I think that’s a terrible standard to be there, but I want my characters to be interesting. I want to understand why they do what they do. I want to be interesting enough to follow what’s happening, but I don’t necessarily need them to be perfect or likable.

With Wonder Woman, the bar is so high for this person who grows up to be and we still want to see those amazing traits that are in Wonder Woman. We will still want to see that in young Diana. We want to see her strong sense of right and wrong and justice and her inclination towards action and jumping in and doing something. If you see a problem, you jump in and you do something about it and wanting to protect those that can’t protect themselves. We want to see all of that — she’s had that in her all along — but give her some space to be a kid who doesn’t know the right answer to everything. She’s got so much potential but doesn’t always know where to point it. I think that’s true of any kid.

Dean Hale: I think one thing, too, is that you can kind of short-circuit the cultural tendency or indignation in the same way that, like through science fiction, you can talk about political or social issues and have people actually be able to think about that without their walls coming up. But when you’re telling a story about a kid, people are much more likely to feel like, okay, they’re choosing, they’re growing. At least hopefully, you don’t get the default “This person has to be a perfect woman” right now because they’re a kid.

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The changing relationship between Diana and Hippolyta really set the story into motion. Why was that the perfect place to start?

Shannon Hale: It really seems on its face to be a friendship story, which it is certainly is — there’s a lot of elements of it. From the beginning, Dean and I really conceived of it as a mother-daughter story. Everything that happens, happens because there’s a chink in this relationship between the mother and daughter. If that wasn’t there, the story wouldn’t have happened. So we wanted to start with the mother and end with the mother.

You know, with our kids, we’ve seen them as they grow up. Sometimes they lament that they’re not little anymore. They felt more lovable when they were little. They got more attention when they were little. They felt like they mattered more when they were little. I think that’s a universal feeling with a lot of kids. It was interesting to ask that question: would that also happen with a kid who’s the only kid? It felt really true that, yeah, “My mom is the queen, she gets busy.”

At a certain point in a kid’s development, adults can conform to the trap of being like, “Okay, now it’s time for you to just grow up, so I don’t have to worry about you anymore.” I think it was a good reminder for us and hopefully for any parents who read it that, you know, let the kids be kids! They’re awesome at every age, and to notice them and value them at every age.

Diana Princess of the Amazons Creators Tackle Wonder Womans Childhood

In the background of Diana’s story, Hippolyta appears to have her own little love story. Can you confirm that she and Phillipus are in a relationship? Why was it important to you to show that?

Shannon Hale: I can confirm that was our intention. I do feel passionately about making sure that all stories are representing the world as it is, and there are queer people in our real world as well as they should be in the imaginary world. I think it can be very powerful for a kid who’s never seen themselves or their family represented in a book before to see that, however subtly represented to them. It can validate them and make them feel like they matter. So representation is important to us, for sure.

Also, it’s just logical. I mean, there are only women! Are they all single? None of them have relationships and life partners and strong emotional connections with certain people they bond with? Of course they would!

Dean Hale: I wanted Diana to have more than just one parent — like, someone who was closer to her.

Shannon Hale: Speaking as someone who was a single child of a single mom.

Dean Hale: An only child! That’s right. I would have liked to have another mom very much. [laughs]

Can you talk a little bit about fleshing out the Amazons’ world and making it more inclusive?

Ying: Oh, yeah, definitely. I mean, in our script, it was always said that we wanted to have as many races and body types represented because — although it’s a race of warriors — there’s a lot of different types of warriors, a lot of different body types. So, as I was drawing these characters, I wanted to make sure that we got the broad spectrum of them, like some bigger bodies, really strong bodies and people with really big legs or big shoulders, because that’s how women’s bodies are.

I went to an all-girls school, so I kind of know what it’s like a little bit to be from an island of women. Our sports teams were the best in the state because we didn’t have to split money with a boys’ team, and so I got to see all these different types of athletic women, like the water polo girls looked really different from the tennis girls, who looked really different from the basketball girls. That was something that I was thinking of when I was drawing them.

Can you tease your favorite moment or scene?

Shannon Hale: You know, every time I’m asked this, I like to think of a different part. My little superhero nerd heart! I just love when Diana, who doesn’t think she’s strong enough, gets that moment where she is strong enough. She can do this. So that makes me very happy. Part of the reason why she has that confidence to tap into the power that’s already there is because she has someone who believes in her. Her mom communicates that to her. I think that all of us can do so much more, are capable so much more when we have that support system of people who believe in us.

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Dean Hale: The part that gives me the feels when I see it is actually the last page, when Diana says, “I’m unstoppable,” and her mom says, “I know.”

Ying: For me, my favorite part was probably the scene between Mona and Diana and just having a conversation about what it’s like, about what they’re feeling, by sharing that small, intimate moment. I think it’s just really cool to see female friendships and that closeness. So even though it’s a very small thing and it’s just two characters talking, it’s just my favorite scene and I had so much fun drawing it. It was just subtle, little emotions — it was two talking heads — but at the same time, trying to make that interesting and trying to make those emotions come through.

Shannon Hale: We also really enjoyed your chicken, Victoria. That chicken had a lot of personality.

Ying: I really like dumb chickens, because I just think that they’re supper funny.

Shannon and Dean, this isn’t your first foray into superheroes; you also wrote The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl novels. How did you change your approach between Diana and Doreen?

Shannon Hale: They’re such different characters! I mean, Doreen has so much personality. She’s just oozing personality, just so much confidence. One of the funnest things about writing Squirrel Girl was writing this completely optimistic, confident middle school girl. How often do we get to see that? That was why we wanted to put her in middle school. It’s like, “We don’t get to see this enough at this age!” So that — I mean, gosh. Dean, you talked about it being therapy to write.

Dean Hale: Oh yeah! Absolutely. When I would be totally depressed and nihilistic, but I had to write the next chapter in Squirrel Girl, I’d get into her head and I’d be like, “Ah! You know what? Everything’s going to be alright!”

Shannon Hale: Diana is totally different. I mean, she’s gonna be Wonder Woman! The Wonder Woman, like the quintessential superhero. It’s so amazing to get to write someone that has resonated throughout my entire life as a role model, as an aspirational figure, since I was a little kid running around in my underoos imitating Lynda Carter’s twirls in the family room.

But how we approached it differently? I mean, I think with every character, you just really look at who they are, their personality, their circumstance, where they are with their family. You just ask yourself all those questions. You really try to get in their head: “Okay. So what would this feel like? What would this be like? What kind of choices would they be likely to make?” I’ve written 35 or I don’t know how many books and it doesn’t matter if they’re superhero or not, you treat every character just like [you’re] trying to make them a real individual and try to be true to who they are and have the story follow that.

Diana: Princess of the Amazons by Shannon Hale, Dean Hale and Victoria Ying is now on sale from DC Comics.

Meagan Damore has served as a CBR Editor since January 2015, though she got her start as a staff reviewer in 2013. She discovered comics thanks to the plethora of movies and television she grew up with, like Batman: The Animated Series, Spider-Man, the original X-Men film trilogy, X-Men: Evolution and Justice League Unlimited. She picked up her first comic in high school and fell instantly in love with the medium. Later, she took her love for pop culture with her to college, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts from Suffolk University and a Masters Degree in Literature from University of Massachusetts Boston. She loves to apply her education to her work writing editorials and conducting interviews. You can catch her writing on Agents of SHIELD, the Arrowverse and more right here on CBR. You can also find her on Twitter at @metathor.

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