Recently, I was able to interview Inkpot Award and USA Today best-selling author Andy Mangels about his work as the writer of the Dynamite Entertainment/DC Comics crossover series Wonder Woman ‘77 Meets The Bionic Woman. Mr. Mangels is the author and co-author of over twenty fiction and non-fiction books that cross multiple pop culture genres from comics to sci-fi. He has written for DC, Marvel, Wildstorm and Image comics among others.
He has appeared on-screen in series like Grimm, Leverage and the Librarians and has produced the yearly Women of Wonder Day event which has raised over $135,000 for Domestic Violence programs in three states. He is considered an expert in the world of Wonder Woman and I was eager to get his thoughts on this unique crossover and its nostalgic take on these iconic heroines.
DG: I have grown up with both of these series and was a huge fan. What gave you the idea to bring these two characters together in the same world?
AM: You know, when you’re a kid, you really don’t know much about licensing or network or company differences. You just want to see your favorite heroes and heroines meet. It’s so easy with action figures and dolls to create an adventure. Why isn’t it easy for the TV people to do it?
Wonder Woman and The Bionic Woman were two characters I felt really belonged in an adventure together, since I was a kid. They’re both strong and caring, they both worked for government agencies, and it seemed like their personalities would mesh well together. Alas for me, and millions of others, that TV team-up was never to be. But now I’ve got the chance to bring Wonder Woman and The Bionic Woman together in the comics, and fans and retailers are going nuts for it!
I wanted the series to concentrate on the things they had in common, and build a real, legitimate relationship, built on trust and honesty and respect. How often does one see that in a comic these days? There is conflict in the series, to be certain, and it’s going to get pretty major by the series’ end, but there’s no reason for the heroines to be conflicted towards each other. They’re both strong, resilient, and heroic women!
AM: Absolutely! There’s a reason that when I designed the cover for Aaron Lopresti to draw for issue #2 that I had all of those specific secondary characters and guest stars. I wanted to show a lot of allies and enemies, some of whom, or all of whom, will appear in the series.
I will say that issue #2 reveals who six of the villains in the CASTRA cabal are, and they’ve all “got history” with our two heroines. Two of them you saw shadowed in issue #1. There’s also a brief return of a supporting Wonder Woman character, in a scene which my fantastic artist, Judit Tondora, drew gorgeously!
We’re going to start putting some kind of “Dramatis Personae” in the book, for those people who may not be well-versed in the shows, or who might have not seen them for a while.
DG: When does this story take place in relation to Wonder Woman and The Bionic Woman series seasons?
AM: The story takes place during their third seasons, towards the end of 1977 and start of 1978. There are specific references to things that happened in previous seasons, so I had to anchor it at a specific time. That said, I’m writing the lead characters as an amalgam of my favorite character elements from all three seasons.
DG: You have a long history as an expert on the Wonder Woman series. Was there anything new about either one of these characters that you learned while writing them?
AM: Not a lot for Wonder Woman, though some things I did have to track down, because I refuse to get the details wrong. I had to chart Steve Trevor’s rank for myself (complete with time codes) because he had three different ranks in seasons 2-3. I also had to find IADC agent Eve Welch’s last name in the script draft for her first episode. And I used a Hi-Def screen capture from an episode that showed a map to figure out where a location was in the “real world.” With Jaime, I’ve tried to include other details, such as her mother’s pendant necklace, or references to her past adventures.
DG: Did you impose any limits or parameters on yourself as you were writing? Were any put on you by the publishers?
AM: One parameter I put on was that the book was going to be “All Ages.” I wanted the same audience who watched the shows, either originally, in reruns, or on DVD, to be able to read the book. There are a lot of kids now watching the shows with their parents.
I also tried to really reflect the style and tone and reality of the shows. There’s no point in making this series be the “Watchmen of TV cross-overs” because that’s not what would have happened on TV. I really treated this as if it were a massive TV cross-over of both shows, with an unlimited special effects and guest-star budget.
So far, the only restriction made on the series was that we had to change the Presidential seal in issue one. Even though it had been used on both Wonder Woman and The Bionic Woman, apparently there is a federal law about using the seal in a for-profit venture. To avoid jail time or a fine, we changed the seal slightly.
DG: How has the collaboration between the two publishers helped you in developing the story?
AM: DC Comics and Warner Bros. and Universal want to make sure their property and characters are treated with respect. From the start, they’ve known I have a huge respect for the characters and their continuity. So, they’ve been great at working with me, and approving the book!
DG: Is the mystery villain introduced at the end of the first issue someone we might have seen before on either series or is it a wholly original character?
AM: Which one? The person in the cloak at the IADC, or the man in jail? The person in the cloak is a TV character who has metamorphosized into a character from the comics. The man in jail is someone from one of the TV series.
There are so many fans calling out for their favorite characters to return, so there are not going to be a lot of wholly original characters. Almost every person who had a speaking line in the comic series is originally from one of the shows, or they’re a real person in a special cameo.
DG: Without giving too much away; How far-reaching will CASTRA be in both this series and future adventures for either character?
AM: One of the thing some reviewers have noticed is that CASTRA is a cabal. That means that the people who are working together now may be working for a common goal, or multiple goals. It’s not an organization like HYDRA or SPECTRE, with an overarching figurehead. As the heroes will find, CASTRA is a lot larger, and more potentially contentious, than they originally thought.
The main portion of CASTRA that Wonder Woman and the Bionic Woman must deal with is somewhat akin to their “Legion of Doom.” Whether CASTRA will be a threat again after the series ends, remains to be seen!
DG: One of the things I admired about the writing in this issue is that you showcase the prevailing male attitude of the day in relation to the capabilities of these female characters. Was that a conscious decision to give the reader a sense of some of the obstacles these two heroes faced as women in the male-dominated Intelligence services?
AM: Thanks for pointing that out. NSB Chief Jack Hanson had previously appeared in The Bionic Woman/Six Million Dollar Man cross-over “Kill Oscar Parts I-III,” and while he wasn’t written as quite so much of a sexist there, he was just generally a jerk, especially to Jaime, and was condescending to women. I definitely wanted to point out that in organizations that were male-dominated, that the women were working just as hard, and just as effectively, as the men.
Look at Eve in this issue. When the IADC was taken over, she was one of the few who got some licks in before things went south. It was said about Ginger Rogers that she had to do everything that Fred Astaire did, but backwards, and in high heels. That’s the environment that Diana Prince and Jaime Sommers and Eve Welch are in, at that point in history.
The irony is, of course, that Diana and Jaime are two of the most powerful agents that the government has working for them.
DG: Are there any other crossover style event comics that you would like to write in the future?
AM: I’ve been fortunate to get to work on so many great licensed properties in my career, from Star Wars and Star Trek to Freddy Krueger and The X-Files to Iron Man and more. I’d love to return to some of them, but I’m not sure they would be good in cross-overs.
That said, I’d love to cross-over more strong female characters. Wonder Woman and She-Ra, Bionic Woman and Black Widow, Charmed and Sabrina, etc. Who knows if such things could ever happen? And I’d love to write more adventures of the TV Wonder Woman, and Super Friends!
DG: Thank you again for taking the time to answer these questions. I really enjoyed this first issue primarily because it took me back to my childhood and the nostalgia I felt watching these two iconic shows. I can’t wait for the next issue.
AM: Thank you, Deron! I love writing comics that are a kind of wish fulfillment for the audience. My favorite reviews so far have said this could have been a great TV cross-over since it fits so well. Nostalgia isn’t a bad thing, and one doesn’t have to “darken” or pervert nostalgia for audiences to enjoy it.
I really think that readers want to see more pleasantness and excitement in their comics. At this point in time, we really need to have our spirits lifted by heroines who are honest, strong, brave, and selfless. Hopefully WONDER WOMAN ’77 MEETS THE BIONIC WOMAN will be some of that lift!
You can learn more about Andy Mangels, his causes and pick up his fantastic work through his website www.andymangels.com. He has links to his Youtube videos, his singing group and even a virtual Wonder Woman museum that showcases the character not only in comics, but also in memorabilia.