Long before Princess Diana left the shores of Themyscira, another Amazon — Hessia — went out into the world to rescue and re-discover her patron-blessed sisters in the world at large. Telling that epic tale of ancient Amazon legend is writer Kevin Grevioux, who sat down with Comicosity to talk about his first work for DC Comics, the cast of the upcoming series, and why his vision of Paradise is more multi-cultural than in the past.
Matt Santori: Tell me a little about how you came to be on Odyssey of the Amazons and why this project in particular felt like a good fit for you?
Kevin Grevioux: Well, I was contacted by DC to come in and pitch. I had pitches prepared for some of DC’s top characters — Superman, Batman, Aquaman, Wonder Woman, Martian Manhunter — and even a new character of my own. They weren’t sure at the time what they wanted to do. This was right before Rebirth, so I was just going to do a small Wonder Woman story arc before Rebirth started.
I came in with this new story, part of which involved the discovery of a new Amazon. But when I came back in, Dan DiDio had this idea to make it more like the Iliad, Jason and the Argonauts, or The Odyssey. What I did was find a story I could tell that would be that kind of epic poem. Which is where we are now.
MS: First and foremost, your focus is on Hessia as the lead character. Why was she the choice to lead and what does she bring to the table?
KG: I had been given some books that featured Hessia and when it was clear that DC wanted to see some Amazons of the past in action, she was a great choice. I had not been familiar with her, with all the changes in the DC Universe over the years. So, I made her the focus of the book, and then created all the other characters. It was my responsibility to make her a strong character.
MS: Can you give me a quick rundown of a bunch of the characters you created for readers coming into issue #1?
KG: OK. You have Thekla, who is Hessia’s second-in-command. She’s seven feet tall, beautiful beyond compare, but also a fierce, unparalleled warrior. Probably the strongest Amazon from the island. As Hessia’s captain, she’s responsible for getting the troops in order. She’s fiercely loyal to Hessia, but also has the fear that Hessia has become a little disconnected.
Hessia is suffering from what you would call the “wunderlust.” She recognizes this, and wonders if she’s pushing them all too far, as the other Amazons accuse her of doing, waging these wars around the world, trying to find these other “Amazons.”
Are they really Amazons? What’s going on? Is she going too far to carry out Hippolyta’s demands? This all causes self-doubt in Hessia, leaving her to ask if she’s risking their lives. But at the same time, she thinks, “I want to get off Themyscira and see the world.” She wants to find out what the world is about, because Themyscira is isolated. For the Amazons to be whole, she believes they need to see more of the world.
Narkissa is kind of like her nemesis. She’s another Amazon sister who feels like Hessia is taking too many chances and she’s risking lives. And that cannot happen.
You also have a group of younger Amazons, some of whom just came to discover that they are indeed Amazons. Themyscira was populated by all woman at its creation, but they had to come from somewhere. Some of them just discovered that they are actually Amazons. All these women knew up until now is that they were immortal, and stronger for some reason. And faster than the fellows in their own culture.
How can this be? When the Amazons arrive, then, they can say, this is how we know.
Some of the younger ones are really full of themselves. Some are very unsure. One of them, Demetria, wants more responsibility. She takes too many chances, and what happens as a result is she ends up getting her sisters in trouble. And that’s what precipitates the full thrust of the story.
MS: It is a really interesting thing to look at the Amazons as broadly multi-cultural and not just Greek women.
KG: Yeah. Of course there is this push for diversity, but you don’t want diversity to feel forced and get in the way of strong and pure creativity. But based upon how diverse the Amazons have been pictured in the past, it was important for me to get a bit more into why Themyscira can be so diverse.
Now, we see Amazons from Samoa, from Aztec civilization. Hindu Amazons and Japanese Amazons. African, Persian, and Germanic Amazons. In all these cultures around the world have grown these exceptional women. And what this series does is ask the question: How did this come to be?
MS: There’s this common question with Wonder Woman, but it really extends to all of the Amazons: this idea that their primary mission is peace, but they are simultaneously great warriors. How do you negotiate that?
KG: Simply put, when you negotiate peace, you must come from a position of strength. Their overall philosophy and mission is to find information and common ground. But you can have no peace without being strong enough to keep it.
In terms of culture, they are at the pinnacle of everything they need to be in order to be a strong nature. They are strong in commerce, and they know it. They are strong in arts. They are strong in statesmanship. And they are strong in military might. That’s what you have to be.
MS: How has working with artist Ryan Benjamin been on the series?
KG: Ryan is fantastic. I think he is one of the best artists in the industry and he brings with him a real sense of imagery for the time period. His designs are off the charts in giving each Amazon a personality specific to their culture.
What I tried to have him do is create a standard Amazon motif or armor and then add cultural motifs from wherever they came from to give it individuality. He did so in a fantastic fashion.
MS: Last up, we see a glimpse of yet another mythological culture in issue #1 — the Storm Giants from Norse Mythology. Any teases for other mythologies we can expect to run across as the series progresses?
KG: You can guess if you’re dealing with the Norse, who might appear in the book. I don’t want to give too much away. You will see some other characters from DC in the past, as well as other mythological characters from art history. There are a lot of surprises in store.
The six-issue mini-series, Odyssey of the Amazons, begins next Wednesday, January 25, from Kevin Grevioux and DC Comics.