“I can quote it,” Nubia: Queen of the Amazons writer Stephanie Williams says of the first Nubia story ever published. “That’s how much I read it.”
First created by Robert Kanigher and Don Heck in the pages of 1973’s Wonder Woman #204, Nubia marked a historic moment for DC Comics at the time. This was the publisher’s first Black woman superhero. Not only that, she was initially established as Diana’s fraternal twin sister, lost to time and rival gods, returning to claim the title of Wonder Woman from her sister. For readers of the era, this marked something of a “soft reboot” for Wonder Woman, long before such a word was commonly used. It gave the creative team an excuse to re-tell Diana’s origin story, while adding new details that allowed them to bring in a substantial new character with deep ties to the title’s history.
“That’s something that happens frequently now in comics but there was something that even a a product of its time, there was something very genuine about it,” Williams says.
However, the modern version of Nubia introduced during DC’s Infinite Frontier special, and who Williams has now written in the pages of Nubia & The Amazons, Nubia: Coronation Special, and now Nubia: Queen of the Amazons, has a very different origin story, but Williams still took inspiration from those earliest tales.
“There were pieces of Nubia that was already there…you had an idea of who she was and who she could be,” Williams says. “It was leaning into who she could be with those foundational pieces. She was someone that was clearly extremely confident because how do you you just roll up on Diana, Wonder Woman herself, and say, ‘Hey, you have what’s mine, and I want to challenge you for it’ and actually, seemingly beats her but has to go back.”
DC continuity being an ever-shifting multiversal river meant that Williams, co-writer Vita Ayala, and artist Alitha Martinez had the opportunity to reinvent Nubia’s story for modern readers.
“When we were tasked with changing her origin, I was nervous about that,” Williams says. “How do you make this character stand on her own, but with respect for where she comes from? She’s still Diana’s sister, but not in the same way. I wanted folks, by the time they got done with the first series [Nubia & The Amazons] to say, ‘okay, that’s new.’”
Today’s Nubia may have a different origin story, but is no less badass. Her sisterhood with Diana is less literal, but she’s still a worthy champion of the Amazons, one who must spend her time guarding a mysterious (and deadly) dimensional portal on Themyscira. In other words, her career has been just as long and accomplished as Wonder Woman’s, readers just haven’t experienced those adventures with her yet.
“I [realized] the best thing for this character is probably going to be to treat her as though she’s been here the whole time, you just haven’t seen her,” Williams says. “And with her guarding Doom’s Doorway that kind of makes sense. She’s got a basement job, she’s night shift all the time…I’m just kind of thinking of what her life was that we did not get to see and how that shaped and molded her into someone [worthy of being queen of the Amazons].”
Despite Nubia’s story (so far) stretching across multiple DC titles (Nubia & The Amazons, which is then central to and crosses over with the Trial of the Amazons event, Nubia: Coronation Special, and now Nubia: Queen of the Amazons), it’s all one continuous story that reads like an ongoing series. While the majority of these books take place in the present day of the DC Universe, they also feature flashbacks to Nubia’s early days, with an extended origin story being teased out through them. Williams feels that origin is nearly complete.
“I think, by the end of Nubia: Queen of the Amazons, we’re just about there,” she says. “The best way to make her feel lived in is to make up this past for her because she hasn’t had one. That’s really where the idea of introducing those flashbacks and also her coming from the Well of Souls, to show she had a life prior. That just opened up the door to show…how she was always destined to be queen, queen of somebody, but definitely the queen of the Amazons.”
Nubia: Queen of the Amazons is out now. Listen to our full interview with Stephanie Williams here: