Brian Azzarello on giving ‘Wonder Woman’ an archrival to call her own

(CBR) Since her debut more than 70 years ago, Wonder Woman has risen, unequivocally, to the status of greatest female superhero in the history of comics and stands, unabashedly, as an iconic equal to Superman and Batman. But according to current “Wonder Woman” writer Brian Azzarello, Princess Diana of Themyscira has spent those last seven decades missing the one important element every great superhero possesses — a supervillainous archenemy to call their own.

Superman has Lex Luthor and Batman has The Joker. But Wonder Woman? She has Cheetah, yes, but the feline foe is hardly a match for the Amazonian Princess. For that very reason, Azzarello and artist Cliff Chiang pitched a massive arc to DC Comics that would not only re-imagine Diana’s origin as the daughter of Zeus and Hera, but introduce a new character into the character’s mythos, a rival unlike any other she’s faced before: First Born — her blood brother and eldest sibling.

The self-proclaimed “one with no name and crippler of souls” is a mountain of a man who marked his debut in “Wonder Woman” #13 by chewing the head off the first person he laid eyes on after thawing out from a 7,000-year long deep freeze. As Zeus’ oldest son, a witch prophesied that First Born would one day succeed Zeus as ruler of Mount Olympus, a decree which infuriated the Father of the Gods enough to sentence his own son to death. Conspiring with Hera, the witch saved the baby, but abandoned him in the wilds of Africa where he was raised by savage beasts. Beyond that, readers know very little about the mysterious character, but more will be revealed in his Villains Month one-shot, “Wonder Woman” #23.2.

CBR News connected with Azzarello to discuss the birth of First Born, not to mention the climatic scene in last week’s “Wonder Woman” #23, which saw Diana kill her brother War in a last ditch effort to stop First Born from taking the mantle of the God of War for himself.

Arguably the most controversial Wonder Woman comic book scene since she killed Maxwell Lord in 2005, Azzarello told CBR News why his hero had no choice in the matter, explaining that she will live with her decision as the new God of War. Azzarello also discussed the role of New God Orion in the series and why Superman will never appear in “Wonder Woman” as long as he’s writing the title.

CBR News: Last week, Wonder Woman was forced to make an incredible choice to prevent First Born from becoming the new God of War. But — she really didn’t have a choice, did she?

Brian Azzarello: Wonder Woman killed War to prevent First Born from killing him. If First Born would have killed War, he would have been the new God of War and First Born plus God of War equals bad news.

And now that makes Wonder Woman the new God of War.

Yep. By default.

Hades quipped that Diana would make an interesting God of War. Would you agree?

Yeah, I wrote the line, so I guess I agree. [Laughs]

While she remains every bit the Amazonian warrior we’ve come to expect over the years, your run has managed to humanize Wonder Woman and show her as a caring, compassionate character. How will she handle her new role amongst the gods?

It’s obviously an interesting thing for someone like Wonder Woman to become the God of War. I don’t know that anybody wants to be the God of War. If you actually talk to a soldier, they’re doing what they do out of a sense of duty. You want war to be the last resort.

Despite her killing War, Wonder Woman decided not to kill First Born, though she injured him at the same time. That’s good news for fans of the character, and it looks like we are going to learn more about him in the upcoming Villain’s Month one-shot. Can you take us back to his creation and why a monster like First Born is the right choice for Wonder Woman’s nemesis?

I thought she needed a monster. I thought she needed a foe that was worthy of her and her power. She’s in the Trinity, for chrissakes. She’s one of DC’s greatest and most powerful characters, and she’s got these villains that are beneath her that she shouldn’t have a problem dispatching. But look like what they’ve done to Cheetah, now. They’ve elevated that character.

But rather than take old ones, which I just wasn’t interested in doing, I wanted to do something new. That’s what been driving me and Cliff [Chiang] — to do something new. We’re not doing old Wonder Woman stories. We’re not referencing old Wonder Woman stories. Those stories are great. Most of them are available in trade, and you should get them and read them and enjoy them, but what we’re doing is new. We’re creating new characters in new situations in a new world.

The First Born issue is actually the next chapter in the story that we’ve been telling. Is it a standalone issue? Yes, but it’s also the next chapter of the story. Again, we’re following the plan.

And that plan included introducing the New Gods to the New 52. I especially love the interplay between Diana and Orion. Will he be sticking around for the foreseeable future?

Yeah, he’ll be around.

I guess the same can’t be said for Lennox, who died at the hands of First Born in “Wonder Woman” #22.

Well, he’s done in this story, but it’s comics — [Laughs]

With Lennox, Orion and First Born, you’ve introduced some powerful men into Wonder Woman’s life these past two years. But we’ve yet to see Superman, who is currently Wonder Woman’s love interest. I know you don’t love the Superman/Wonder Woman relationship but are we going to see the Man of Steel in “Wonder Woman”?

Superman’s in enough books. No, he won’t be appearing in my book.

By not being so tied to the ongoing continuity of the New 52 — The Flash isn’t showing up to help rescue Zola and Zeke — does that allow you and Cliff the flexibility to tell the stories that you want to tell?

We’re allowed to do it because we’re doing something right. [Laughs] We pitched this thing, this story, and we’re following the pitch. We’re not surprising editorial. We’re doing what we set out to do. We’re on a mission.

How long will the mission last? Do you have an end date to your run on “Wonder Woman” planned?

[Laughs] You’ll have to wait. I don’t want to give you a number, but I do have an ending.

Wonder Woman’s older borther, First Born, takes the spotlight in his Villains Month one-shot

  By killing her brother, Wonder Woman has become DC’s new God of War

“Wonder Woman” #23.2 “First Born,” by Brian Azzarello and featuring art by Aco, goes on sale September 25.