When Marie Javins was announced as Editor-in-Chief of DC Comics in 2020, the quote that accompanied her hiring stated, “As a young girl devouring comics of Wonder Woman, Nubia, and Supergirl, I never dreamed that decades later, I’d be at the helm of the mighty DC Comics.” A year later, on Wonder Woman’s 80th anniversary, the publisher is heading into an epic new age for Diana, Nubia, and the Amazons.
Leading into 2022’s Trial of the Amazons—the first Wonder Woman crossover event in decades—DC Comics is ramping up a series of new stories centered on the all-female race of warriors. The core Wonder Woman title reintroduces Diana after her inter-dimensional adventures and brush with death in Dark Nights: Death Metal, while Nubia and the Amazons takes readers back to Themyscira where Diana’s sister Nubia has taken the throne. It’s a huge moment for one of DC’s earliest Black superheroes and for the Wonder Woman family in general.
“I wish that was my pitch. But I can’t take the credit for that because [DC Associate Editor] Brittany Holzherr was already all over that,” Javins laughs. That deep passion for Nubia and Diana is shared by the pair, and is shaping the future of the publisher. But for Javins it’s all about expanding what came before. “My whole agenda is to build on things. One common approach people have is to reinvent. I’m not reinventing. We’re just building on the past.”
Nubia and Diana’s story in Robert Kanigher and Don Heck’s 1970s Wonder Woman series hooked Javins as a young comic book reader. The tale introduced Nubia, the sister of Diana, who at the time was also created from clay by Hippolyta. Though the arc was relatively short it made a huge impact on Javins, who was drawn to the superhero story about sisterhood.
“Diana had a sister! I followed that one really closely, I bought every issue. It felt like it went on forever!” But as Javins realized later on, Nubia was only in a few issues. That’s a feeling that Nubia & the Amazons writer Stephanie Williams could relate to. “I first heard about Nubia on the playground,” Williams recalls. “I found out that she was originally Diana’s sister and had been around since the 1970s. I thought, ‘There must be a ton of history for her, right?’ I quickly discovered that was not the case.”
Together, Javins, Holzherr, and Williams are changing that. Nubia & the Amazons boasts an all-star creative team, with Williams writing alongside Vita Ayala, and stunning visuals from veteran superhero artists Alitha Martinez, Mark Morales, Emilio Lopez, and Becca Carey. This talent roster is as powerful as the world it represents. The series establishes Nubia as the Queen of Themyscira, while giving readers insight to her new origin.
With that, the first issue changes everything we know about Themyscira with the introduction of the Well of Souls. “Shoutout to George Pérez!” Williams exclaims. “The Cavern of Souls was always a very interesting concept to me.”
The Pérez invention created a space where the souls of women who died violent deaths could be transformed into new Amazons in Themyscira. It’s also where Williams first saw the inclusion of different kinds of Amazons. That was something she wanted to expand on in her Nubia run. Enter the Well of Souls, which opens a direct gateway from the Cavern to Themyscira.
“I thought that that was just such a brilliant way to say on a divine level that everyone is welcome [in Themyscira]. So taking that idea and bringing it to 2021, it was important to both Vita and I that we include trans women in our Themyscira.”
While this is the first time that readers have been introduced to them, Javins tells us that trans Amazons have always been on Themyscira. “We are now focusing on stories of Amazons of color and trans Amazons in a world that is more ready to read about them,” Javins says. “But they have always been there.”
It was both a natural and radical choice. Introducing Bia, the first trans Amazon we’ve met in DC Comics, was a huge moment for Williams. Bia belies the comic book tradition of using trans allegory as subtext and instead creates a canon precedent.
“It was really exciting to me as a writer to be on the other side of the issue and see people pick up on that,” Williams shares. It also kicks down the doors for future creators. “Comics are strongest when people can pick up the pieces and keep the story moving. And this allows for a lot of writers to be able to do that.”
According to Williams, the Amazons also represent a chance to explore ourselves as well as the fantastical world of Themyscira.
“I see them as a community of women who get to thrive in a way that we unfortunately cannot in the real world without being hindered,” Williams says. “But also I see them as a chance to really talk amongst ourselves about some of our own pitfalls… because just as the patriarchy can be upheld by men, it can also be upheld by women and people in general.”
Adapting and evolving the Amazons is key to the future of both Wonder Woman and Nubia. As Javins notes, there have been many interpretations but they’ve often been homogeneous and simplistic; they’re beautiful, they’re pacifists. Occasionally, however, creators diverge from that. “And whenever we diverge, things get very interesting,” Javins says. “So we’re investigating the society on Themyscira, but the thing is there are other Amazons in the world.” And those “rogue Amazons” are set to be key to Trial of the Amazons.
What does that event look like? While Javins doesn’t want to give too much away, she gave us a little insight into what we can expect. “There are occasionally different tribes, perhaps. Things are not all peace and happiness on Themyscira. There might be some conflicts. There might be people believing that they should run the global Amazon world.”
It feels right for Nubia, Diana, and the Amazons to be center stage at DC as Wonder Woman celebrates her 80th birthday. But what is it about the hero that makes her resonate nearly a century later?
“She’s aspirational, of course,” Javins tells us. “But Wonder Woman was created with an eye toward human psychology. So she was created through the lens of the values of 1941, as a symbol of empowerment for women and an iconic ideal. She was complex at a time when heroes were traditionally very simple. She’s half goddess, but she’s got some very core human conflicts and values.”
For Williams, it’s all about the Amazons as a whole and their magical homeworld. “We gravitate towards utopias,” Williams says. “We want to explore worlds where people are not limited by the things we’re limited by. How can you not love these women who are over six feet tall, strong as hell, and can hold their own while managing to have this secluded society for so long?”
There’s one conflict at the core of what makes the Amazons so timeless, and it’s one of the things that makes Williams so intrigued by Diana herself.
“The way they go back and forth between whether they should help Man’s World or not, I think there’s something very alluring to that,” Williams says. “Diana’s an interesting character because why on Earth would you want to leave Themyscira to go to Man’s World? While it’s great that you can seclude yourself and thrive, it’s even better when you’re able to reach out.”
It’s also something that is going to be key to the Wonder Woman books going forward. That vital contrast between the Amazons’ pacifist ideals and the reality of what upholding them really means is something that clearly inspires Javins.
“If your first solution is always non-violence, and yet you’re a society where everyone is constantly training for prevention of violence, that’s a very interesting contrast,” Javins says. “Then you take Wonder Woman and put her into Man’s World where she has to react with violence all the time. That’s the core conflict that makes her and the Amazons so interesting.”
The reason that Nubia and the Amazons, the current main Wonder Woman title, and Trial of the Amazons feel so exciting right now is because this is one of DC’s oldest and most influential heroes once again taking the stage in an entirely new way.
“My mission statement for Wonder Woman and the Amazons ties into my general approach to comics,” Javins says. “You can almost run a parallel of Themyscira with the comics industry. One of my talking points that I always go back to is that women have always been here. We are not new. And with Themyscira, it’s always been a complicated society. It’s not this sort of fantasy world that you might imagine. Themyscira is complicated, comics are complicated, and the Amazons have always been a part of this history.”
Building on that history is key. Collaborating with Alitha Martinez has clearly inspired Williams, who describes her first time receiving the pages back for Nubia as “mind blowing.” It’s no surprise as Martinez has crafted an aesthetic for the book which straddles the line between traditional superheroes and mythology. And there’s another juxtaposition that really spoke to Williams.
“I love the way Nubia and all the other Amazons are drawn because they may look strong, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t have the emotional range or the vulnerability,” Williams says. “I feel like the art does a really great job of playing that balance, so that we can see their softness. And there’s something left for interpretation, which is even greater.”
Aside from the obvious—more comics, animated and live action movies, and a greater recognition of Nubia as a top tier DC hero—Williams has an even more important dream. “I would just love it if the moment a small child walks into a comic shop or anywhere, when they see her or hear the name Nubia, they automatically know who she is.”