Interview: Lopresti and Simone Reunite for WONDER WOMAN/CONAN

Wonder Woman is certainly having a banner year, between the epic success of her film and a critically-acclaimed ongoing title. And now, two of Wonder Woman’s acclaimed past creators are back to tell a brand new story, teaming the Amazon Princess with the original Barbarian himself, Conan! Artist Aaron Lopresti and writer Gail Simone have returned to tell the tale only DC and Dark Horse could have brought to fruition — and they’re here to talk all about Wonder Woman/Conan for you.

Matt Santori: It’s so exciting to see you two back together on a Wonder Woman book, especially given its a return to the kind of sword and sorcery tale you told the first time around. Besides working with each other, what drew each of you to the project?

Aaron Lopresti: Subject matter!  Growing up in the 70’s, I was greatly influenced by Robert E. Howard, Burroughs, Frazetta, Barry Windsor-Smith, Ploog, Wrightson, etc. and all of the Sword and Sorcery along with monster comics and books that were so prevalent in the industry at that time.

Although Conan survived long past the interest in the genre did, there has not been much opportunity to do this type of work in my 25 year career.  This takes me back to the interests of my youth and really lights that youthful exuberance that I first experienced when I discovered comics. Gail writing was icing on the cake.  

Gail Simone: I have this odd little habit, which is that when I am doing an ongoing monthly, and a new artist comes on board, I like to ask them what they love to draw, and what they HATE to draw. It’s partly a creative bribe, because I’m shameless like that, but I also find that if you give a gifted artist the exact opposite of what they like to draw, you are really doing a disservice to the book.

I asked Aaron the first time we worked together, on Wonder Woman’s ongoing title, what he liked to draw, and he said immediately, “BARBARIANS AND MONSTERS,” and I love both those things, too. So not only did it give me a great excuse to write some sword and sorcery stuff, now, here years later, DC asked who I wanted to draw this historic team-up, and Aaron was absolutely my first choice. He draws a stunning Diana, and amazing barbarian characters, it’s just perfection on a page.

Barbarians and monsters, it does not get more fun than that!

MS: There’s been a fair space of time since your last run on Wonder Woman. Gail, what do you think has changed in Aaron’s work since your last time working together — and Aaron, same question for you about Gail?

AL: Tough question. I enjoyed our initial run on Wonder Woman and I am enjoying this script by Gail as well. There is an emotional depth to this story that you wouldn’t expect from a crossover of this nature.  I wouldn’t say that Gail has changed as much as I would commend her for maintaining her creative integrity and her personal accessibility despite her enormous success and popularity.

GA: That’s very kind of you, Aaron.  Similarly, I thought Aaron was amazing on our previous run. But you know, I have noticed that if anything, his acting has gotten even better. There’s so much subtle body language and facial emotion in his work now that I invariably end up cutting dialogue, because he’s already put it all in the art.

I don’t know if I have ever written an artist so many fan letters as I have to Aaron over this series. Aaron’s a talented writer himself, so there’s an extra level of thoughtfulness to his work, even in this bombastic setting.

MS: One of the most interesting facets about Wonder Woman is that she’s so many things at once — warrior, peace-bringer, super-hero, ambassador. Does that sort of mutability make the story you’re telling here more or less challenging from a characterization/visual representation point of view?

GS: While this is absolutely true, I think all of DC’s trinity are complex that way… Superman is an immigrant, a reporter, a warrior, an alien, a science hero, a brawler, a thinker, a romantic figure, a diplomat. He’s all of these things and many more. Listing everything Batman has been would make my head explode.

It’s one of the things I like about DC’s core characters, they have side-roads and alleyways and switchbacks. They’re never just one thing. I dig it.

My take on Wonder Woman has always been, whatever your favorite version of her is: it’s valid, it’s part of her. If you liked the bad-girl biker shorts WW, I think there’s room in her history for that. I hate to negate with that character.

AL: Wonder Woman is definitely complex. Physically portraying her as someone who is beautiful but physically imposing, as well as regal and at times sentimental, is a challenge. But thankfully I worked out most of those kinks on my first run on the character. Now it is just a matter of capturing the right expression or body language at the right times.

Gail has a good understanding of who Diana is, and that kind of consistency in the writing makes my job of interpretation that much easier.

MS: Does your take on Conan have the same sort of versatility of character, or does he simply capitalize on the tone of one aspect of his co-star?

AL: Gail digs into Conan’s psyche in this and we see Conan as more of a complex individual than we might have imagined.  It’s difficult for me because I expect Conan to be scowling all of the time (much like Batman) and never letting his guard down.  But he does on occasion in this story and I have the challenge of making him smile without looking wimpy or silly.

GS:  Ha! Aaron’s doing a magnificent job. The thing is, there are lots of different Conans, and if you are most familiar with the Marvel/Dark Horse version, that guy IS a scowler, and a brute, and all of that awesome stuff I love. A lot of the non-Robert E. Howard stories have that version, as well.

But if you read the Robert E. Howard stories, Conan is more verbose, he laughs, he even uses slang at times. He’s smarter, not just cunning. I wanted to show both sides. Aaron is a master at drawing that ‘Do Not Mess With Me’ version of Conan, and that is a constant.

But we also see a Conan who is experiencing some INTENSE emotions during this story.  That’s where the fun of it is, I think, Conan and Wonder Woman both challenge each other with their very existence.

MS: What do you think are the clearest contrasts and similarities to the two characters and how are you using those visually/textually in developing the story?

AL: They’re are both warriors but Conan is definitely rougher around the edges than Woman Woman. They both have their own sort of integrity and moral code but they are not exactly the same. Again it comes down to finding the right expression for the characters during any given interaction.

GS: This is where I’m lucky to have Aaron, because he can convey the doubts and rage and lust with his beautiful art, and I don’t have to jump in and intrude.  But if it comes down to it, it’s like this. Neither of these characters has ever faced anyone quite like the other before, and that is storytelling gold.

MS: Diana and Conan obviously start out in very different periods of time. Can you give us a little set-up for the story as it begins?

AL: Nope. But it is very clever. Ask Gail.

GS: I don’t tell secrets. Ask Aaron!

MS: Ha ha! Alright. You’ve spoken a little bit about new villainesses hitting the title. What can you tell us about the threats Diana and Conan will be facing?

AL: This is sword and sorcery after all.  There is some dark magic a foot.   The villains are at the same time beautiful and alluring and terrifying and grotesque.  A lot of fun to draw.

Variant cover by Liam Sharp

GS: Crows are a lot smarter than we thought, it turns out. Downright DEVIOUS, I might say.

I just want to add that I love crossovers, I love telling stories that have never been told ‘officially,’ that’s just absolutely my jam. And this is historic, the first time in HISTORY that Conan has met a DC character. I am just very proud that DC and Dark Horse both requested us for this, it’s the stuff I used to dream about writing, and now, here we are and I’m still trying to wrap my brain around it. I hope everyone enjoys it as much as we have!

Get ready! Because Wonder Woman/Conan #1 hits the stands from DC and Dark Horse Comics TOMORROW!

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