When I was little, I loved and worshiped Wonder Woman and the Bionic Woman. I watched all their shows, had all their dolls, and secretly (or maybe not so secretly) wanted to be them. Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined the two would meet up one day in the form of an epic cross-company crossover comic book! (Animated feature, please?)
As A huge fan of the Wonder Woman TV series, it's no surprise I was super stoked about Wonder Woman '77. So, a few months back when Dynamite and DC Comics announced they would be releasing a Wonder Woman '77/Bionic Woman series, I nearly had an out-of-body experience. I was happy and relieved to see the series was to be written by my friend, Andy Mangels. If you think you are the number one Wonder Woman fan, think again! It's him. So, I knew Diana would be in good hands. (Now if only we could get him to write Wonder Woman '77 Meets Star Trek '66, drawn by John Byrne... ah, but now I'm getting greedy.
Luckily, Andy shares an equal reverence for Jaime Sommers, the Bionic Woman. Lindsay Wagner brought as much charm and charisma to her role as Jaime Sommers as Lynda brought to Diana Prince. The pairing is not only natural, it makes perfect sense. A woman made of clay and one of science. Ah, but I digress....
The first issue has us off to a good start, as the titular protagonists coincidentally meet as first responders to the "Kramer Building" exploding, the first of many nods to the respective television series. Happily, Mangels thoughtfully avoided using the trope of having the heroines engage in a meaningless physical cat-fight. Our ladies are too smart and classy for that!
The six issue series is set in the third season of each series in a shared world. Given their line of work, a meeting was inevitable, and we couldn't be happier. Andy spins (Pun intended!) an interesting yarn that is both faithful and thoughtful to the original series. Action, intrigue, and suspense - face it, fellow Amazons. This one has it all! The art by Hungarian newcomer Judit Tondora is solid and pleasing to the eye. Hopefully, her likenesses will add up a little more as the series progresses.
The colors by Michael Bortolo and Stuart Chaifetz are bright and complementary of both Tondora's art and the mood of the story. What can be said about the legendary lettering team of Tom Orzechowski and Lois Buhauils? On point as per usual. In the first issue, writer Mangels gives us an introduction to the main characters with a valid and intriguing beginning that promises to be an action-packed, fun-filled adventure ripe with nostalgia. I, for one, am looking forward to seeing how the series plays out. (Fembots! Please!)
Michael Fitzgerald Troy, Fanbase Press Contributor: Hi, Andy. Thanks for the interview. Congratulations on your amazing new project, Wonder Woman '77 Meets Bionic Woman, published by Dynamite and DC Comics. As I've known you for years, it's no secret to me that you're a huge Wonder Woman fan and connoisseur (mostly thanks to the Lynda Carter television series), but I don't think I realized you were just as much a Bionic Woman fan, as well. Tell us a little bit about what each of these characters mean to you.
Andy Mangels: They actually mean similar things, but characterized by different actresses. As a young gay boy in the early 1970s, while I liked Batman and Shazam!, I was drawn to the female heroines such as Wonder Woman, Bionic Woman, and Isis… and oddly, Aquaman on Super Friends. I think there was a part of me that saw that they were battling against sexism and really appreciated that — even if I wasn’t completely aware what sexism was — but part of me loved the mothering, protective aspects of their personalities. They were all the things you would want in a mother figure or a big sister or a teacher. They were strong, honest, confident, and thoughtful… and they could kick butt! (Aquaman just seemed like such a loner, like me. He was full of power, but he was on the fringe.)
The differences between the two heroines were twofold: Wonder Woman was magical, and Bionic Woman was science-based. So, I could love the adventures they had in different ways. And both Lynda Carter and Lindsay Wagner brought different things to their roles. Lynda was serene and calm and powerful, and Lindsay was often a bit goofy and funny and more of an earth-mother type. Now that I’ve grown up, and know what the two women are like in real life, I have discovered that Lynda has quite the goofy side as well, and some sly wit.
MFT: It seems too good to be true. How did you make this epic crossover happen?
ANDY: I was asked to pitch for Wonder Woman ’77 when they were just starting to develop it, and the cross-over was supposed to be the culmination of the first year of stories. When I didn’t get that series’ writing job, I asked DC if I could pitch the cross-over to Dynamite. On Christmas Eve 2015, I was given a wonderful present by DC’s Hank Kanalz: the go-ahead to pitch it. Shortly after the new year, discussions began between Dynamite and I, with DC overseeing. That’s a very short version of a much longer story.
That said, I like to think that the 30 years I’ve written for licensed properties ranging from Star Wars and Star Trek and The X-Files to Freddy Krueger and even Justice League characters had a lot to do with getting the project approved. And all of the writing I’ve done about Wonder Woman, and organization of charity events such as Wonder Woman Day/Women of Wonder Day, and the various Wonder Woman documentaries I’ve been in, probably helped as well.
MFT: Was it intimidating writing your childhood icons at all? I mean, not only was it the first time you would be writing them together- it's the first time ANYONE would be writing them together. This is a big deal to a lot of people. No pressure!
ANDY: It was — and still is — enormously intimidating. I’m still writing issues of the series, so there are a lot of hills left to climb. When I write Jaime and Diana, I say their dialogue out loud. If I can’t “hear” it in the voice of Lynda and Lindsay, out it goes for a rewrite. Getting secondary characters is a bit easier, but it’s imperative that I get Diana and Jaime’s voice right. I have a beta-reader, Paul Bisson, who is also a massive fan of the two shows; he ropes me in every now and then if something sounds off to him.
Beyond that, it’s so important to me that I respect both shows’ mythologies and history. Hopefully there will be nowhere in the series that a fan can say I contradicted continuity or gave Wonder Woman or Jaime a power they never had. I’m even researching things like ships and missiles and helicopters from 1977 so that I can get reference for the artist so that it looks like the 1970s. There is a tendency by some creators in “period” books to only get surface details right; it’s important to all of us working on this project that fans see and read this as if it were a six-part television cross-over with an enormous budget and massive guest cast list!
I’m also well aware that Lynda Carter and Lindsay Wagner will be reading these comics, so that’s not much added pressure, huh?
MFT: Was writing their first meeting as satisfying as you had hoped?
ANDY: It was so important to me that their first meeting not be fighting someone else, or fighting each other, but them teaming up to be heroines. I wanted them to save lives, meet, and find the kinship that I think they would naturally have if they were real. Neither Diana nor Jaime would be suspicious or capricious of the other, nor are either of them likely to throw a punch and ask questions later.
I will promise you one thing: nowhere in the series will Diana and Jaime get into a catfight with each other. Just not gonna happen. That trope is old and tired and has no place here. They have plenty of evil to fight against, and that’s what they’re going to do!
Also, that motif of them shaking hands at the beginning of issue #1 is representative of their future. They are not afraid to touch each other, and be soft and caring, even in the midst of soot and embers or battle. I think this book will pass the Bechdel Test with flying colors!
MFT: I think artist Judit Tondora is a good fit for the series. Her clean lines and clear storytelling serve the project well. How did you discover her work?
ANDY: Back in the early 1990s, I wrote a lot for Innovation Comics, the brainchild of David Campiti. These days, he runs Glass House Graphics, a talent warehouse for mostly non-American artists; he represents them as an American agent and gets them work. I went to Dave first and said, “Here’s the project, and it will involve a lot of actor likenesses. I don’t want anyone who traces photos. I want someone who can adapt the TV world for comics. And preferably, I’d like it to be a woman!”
Dave said, “I think I have the right woman for you.” Judit did some early character sheets, which weren’t 100% on model, but showed that she had potential. I saw some sample pages she did for Dark Horse’s Ghost, and it was clear that she had some great storytelling and layout chops. So, Judit came aboard — from Hungary — and then Dynamite decided we were going to shoot directly from her pencils rather than go to inks. It gives her work a softer quality, but requires a lot of precision.
I’m so happy with Judit’s work. Each issue looks better and better. Page three of issue #2 — the splash page — will take your breath away. And she’s handling everything I’m throwing at her in the script with skill and a great attitude. I predict she’ll have another comic assignment before the series concludes.
MFT: The mega geek in me is excited to see Tom Orzechowski and Lois Buhalis lettering. And don't get me started on that Alex Ross cover! The ultimate would be Phil Jimenez of course, and Adam Hughes. Any chance?
ANDY: Tom and Lois used to live in Portland, Oregon, where I live. They would come out to the Wonder Woman Day charity events, and I got to be friendly with them. I think I offered the job to Lois solo first, to have a female letterer, and I believe she was the one who suggested she do it with Tom. They’re both award-winning letterers, so they could handle it solo. But it’s kind of cool to have a married lettering team on this book!
As for the covers, Alex Ross turned in a doozy, huh? Michael Adams did a masterful 3-D modelling job on his action figure cover, and regular cover artist Cat Staggs — the first openly lesbian creator on Wonder Woman — has done some dynamic looks.
The variant covers I’ve been involved with include past Wonder Woman artist Aaron Lopresti on issue #2, super Wonder Woman fan and past writer (RealWorlds: Wonder Woman) Glen Hanson on #3, and… an astonishing master in the field for #4 that will surprise everyone, and two previous Wonder Woman artists for #5 and #6. No hints other than that, except to say that fans should be thrilled.
By the way, as you’ll see in the back of issue one, there are a host of variant covers to issue #1 that are retailer exclusives for certain stores.
MFT: If fans demanded, would you be on board for a sequel?
ANDY: Absolutely. I’d be happy to write a sequel, or to write either character for their own books. There are half a dozen or more springboards planted for stories throughout the series.
And it’s not just fans demanding it. Pre-sales are through the roof. Which means that the retailers are supporting the book strongly as well. Every opportunity I get I tell people to go into their local comic shop and support them. I know online is easier for some, but comic shops are the foundation on which the industry stands.
MFT: What other '70s idols could you imagine crossing over with Wonder Woman '77?
ANDY: I have a t-shirt that shows Wonder Woman, Bionic Woman, Wilma Deering, Isis, Lt. Athena from Battlestar Galactica, and Ellen Ripley. Hard to imagine a cooler group than that. Unless, of course, you add the Charlie’s Angels in. All of them!
Originally, by the way, the pitched cross-over was Wonder Woman ’77 Meets The Six Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman, but Universal said we had to choose one character or the other. I felt that playing off the similarities and differences between Diana and Jaime would be more creatively fulfilling, and frankly, more fun. But Steve does have a presence in this series…
Finally, Christopher Reeves’ Superman should definitely share some comic pages with Wonder Woman ’77 in my opinion. There’s a little nod to Superman: The Movie in issue #1 of my series.
MFT: How exciting to be an important part of Wonder Woman's 75th Anniversary! What do you make of all the popularity and (much deserved) hype surrounding the character?
ANDY: As far as I’m concerned, Wonder Woman is the most recognizable female character in history. There is almost no other character than compares, who both young children and old people will know, and who is visually identifiable in almost every country in the world. I’ve discussed that with people before. Mother Teresa, Princess Di, Jackie O, Madonna, Cher, Marilyn Monroe, etc. are not well known worldwide, or by all ages. Buffy, Katniss Everdeen, Hermione, Minnie Mouse, Betty Boop, Dora the Explorer, Elsa, etc. do not all cross generational lines from old to young, and some have never been seen in many countries. Wonder Woman has been published and aired on TV in live-action and animated form worldwide. She is an unparalleled icon.
To be part of the 75th Anniversary year is stupendous and quite an honor. Having this series announced in the New York Times! Getting to see my name on a cover that has Lynda and Lindsay on it! It’s phenomenal, and I hope I live up to fan expectations.
MFT: How excited are you for the Wonder Woman film?
ANDY: I think the film will be a significant step for the character, and everything I’ve seen so far fills me with excitement. I actually love the World War I setting, even though it’s different from the norm; I think it will bring all sorts of story possibilities. I got to meet Gal Gadot and director Patty Jenkins at Comic-Con this year, and they were adorable. Gal loved my Wonder Woman print shirt, and also the tattoos of the bracelet stars that I have on my wrists.
MFT: Anything else you'd like to share with our readers?
ANDY: I wish I could tell you some of the surprises coming up, and characters who will reappear that you never thought you’d see again, from both Wonder Woman and the Bionic Woman. But I want each issue to have some surprises, some “holy cow!” moments, and some warm fuzzies when a favorite appears. I will hint that Aaron Lopresti’s cover to issue #2 has a lot of significance for the future issues, but readers will have to keep reading to find out why!
And I fought to get us a letter’s page in the series, so write in some good, old-fashioned letters to the book! There are other surprises yet to come…
MFT: Thanks, Andy!
ANDY: Thank you, Michael, and Fanbase Press!