Ready to take a deep dive into the creative talent behind Knight Terrors: Wonder Woman? Join us as we sit down with Josie Campbell to ask the community’s pressing questions about our favorite Amazonian warrior — along with Mary Marvel, Superman, and many more!
Josie: Welcome to Episode 5 of the DC Creator Q&A Series! I’m Josie Campbell. You probably know me from the DC side from mini-series such as The New Champion of Shazam!, or the upcoming Amazons Attack mini-series — or you know me from TV, where I am the writer/producer of My Adventures with Superman.
Alright, let’s get to your guys’ questions!
Q: Thank you for doing this! You obviously did a lot of Fawcett Comics research when writing New Champion of Shazam! Was there a Golden Age story that inspired that mini-series more than any other?
Josie: I actually — and my editors know this — wrote my freshman college thesis on women in comic books, both on the page and behind the scenes, and that’s actually how I found out about Fawcett Comics. I hadn’t really known about them until then, and I got super into Mary Marvel then … like I was doing research for my thesis, but I was also going to the library and going to conventions and like, grabbing every old Fawcett comic I could find because I just loved them so much. So when it came time for the Mary series, I weirdly had too much knowledge? (laughing) So I had to sort of pair down a little bit.
There’s not one specific story that New Champion is based off of, but there’s a lot of parts I pulled in from both the research I did back in college, and just my love for Mary Marvel — things like Hoppy the Marvel bunny coming in, things like bringing in Uncle Dudley, who’s one of my favorite characters — I love him so much.
But yeah, there’s not one specific story, but like, a LOT of various stories I sort of pulled bits and pieces from to sort of create something that felt old to the comic and new to the reader.
Q: What is it like writing for a major crossover event with other writers? How is it different from writing a story arc by yourself?
Josie: Well honestly, a lot of it has to do with your editors. When I was writing New Champion of Shazam! we knew that there’d be some other things going on with Billy, but it was so focused on Mary, all I had to do was focus on the story, and me and Doc got to shape it the way we wanted.
For something like Knight Terrors: Wonder Woman, there’s a lot more reading everyone else’s scripts and a lot more coordinating with the editors. The editors were really the ones who were like, “Okay, this is what’s going on in this book, and this is what’s going on in this book.” And then I’m a nerd, so I insisted that they send me everybody else’s scripts, so I kind of read everybody else’s stuff — or the outlines that everybody had, and from there, I was like “Okay, this is sort of the niche that I can get into with Wonder Woman. This is the stuff that feels different from what they’re doing, but sort of is still in line with the whole horror theme.”
So very short answer to this is: you rely on your editors a lot more, and you read a lot more other wonderful comics!
Q: Which Justice League Dark member do you think works best with Diana?
Josie: I think there’s two things here. I think there’s a Justice League Dark member who works best with her, and I think there’s a Justice League Dark member that’s most fun to pit her against.
So who works best for her, I think, is Zatanna. I think they’ve got a lot of common goals, I think they’ve got a lot of the same “let’s cut through the bullsh** and get right to it”. And they’ve got a bunch of really fun, complementary stuff, especially some of their complementary scenes, and some of the stuff that Ram V and James was doing back in Justice League Dark.
I think who’s most fun to pit with Diana is Constantine, because he’s the opposite of her in every possible way — she’s optimism, he’s cynicism, she’s love, he’s smoker’s lung. It’s just a really fun combo. So yeah, I think her best teammate is Zatanna, and I think her worst-but-most-fun teammate is Constantine.
Q: You are so talented, and I love your stories! I was wondering what your all-time favorite comic issue is.
Josie: That’s such a loaded question! I don’t know if I have a favorite comic issue, but I do have what I think is most formative, which is actually the first DC comic I ever picked up, which is also the first superhero comic I ever picked up. So I’m old enough that comics were sold in CVS when I was a kid, so I went to the local CVS as a kid and there was an issue of Wonder Woman that like, I don’t know how I talked my mom into getting, but I got because it looked cool, and in it, it’s showing the era where like, Wonder Woman has to get a job and she’s been kind of kicked out of Themyscira, and there’s like — Circe and Aries are like, crimelords and hiding their identity … but the main thing I remember from that issue is it introduces a villain named Mayfly, who is a hemophiliac assassin, which is like, a little silly but in my head I’m like, “That means she has to be the best assassin ever, 'cuz if anything goes wrong, she’s dead!” And I love that comic so much. I read it all the time, I brought it with me, it’s what sort of got me into superhero comics and DC comics.
So you know, now I’m older, I like a lot of things, but I think that that issue — that one that got me into enjoying comics — is the one that I would have to say is my favorite.
Q: You’ve written for Shazam and family, Wonder Woman, and Superman. What other DC characters would you like to write for next if asked?
Josie: This feels like another one where there are so many answers to this. I mean, I’ve gotten really lucky, I love Superman and I got to write him in TV form. I think in comics, I would love to write something with Supergirl, she’s one of my favorites. I love the Superman family altogether.
And then I think the answer that feels very different from all the Superman and Shazam stuff I’ve done — I’d love to write Catwoman. I really love Selina Kyle, she’s really fun. I love her '40s glamor comics where she’s coming out with her pearls and her two panthers, just robbing people. So yeah, doing something with either Supergirl or Catwoman would be just wonderful!
Q: How do you write such compelling stories that combine heart, humor, action and emotion so consistently? Do you add a layer with each revision? Do your editors help add layers? What magic are you using?
Josie: Thank you, Felix! That’s really nice!
For me, part of it is just that I’m writing what I would like to see as a fan, on the screen or on the page. A lot of this comes from just love, and comes from loving these characters and really enjoying writing these characters.
For the actual writing process, I think the nuts-and-bolts answer — which is a lot less fun — is I outline a lot. I do a lot of outlines, I’ll sort of talk about in my outlines not just what happens, but what the character arc is, where their emotional start is, where their emotional midpoint is, and where they sort of end up with their emotions at the very end. And then I also always try to include sort of a theme of like, “What am I playing with?”, you know? For New Champion of Shazam! the theme was identity; not just who is Mary, but who is Mary as the new Shazam? Who is Mary as this girl who is going to college? Who is Mary when she’s got all of the world around her telling her who she should be?
For My Adventures with Superman, that theme was choosing to be a hero. You may come from a different planet or a different country, but it’s not where you’re from, it’s who you are and what you choose to be that matters. All that stuff sorts influences each other, and then I sent it to my editors and they publish it, and then I hope that you guys like it! (laughing)
Q: Favorite Superman villain (other than Lex since he’s usually everyone’s favorite)?
Josie: That’s true! (laughing)
So, I’ve got two answers. I was a kid of the '90s, so Cyborg Superman is one of my favorite villains. I love Hank Henshaw, I love the look of Cyborg Superman, I definitely — when Reign of Superman was coming out after Death of Superman — I was definitely a kid who was like, “No no man, I think Cyborg Superman might be real Superman,” and everybody was like, “No, you’re foolish!”
But Cyborg Superman was like, you know, I’ve loved since I was a kid. I think the other one, which I learned about sort of doing deep dives when I started writing this stuff, is Atomic Skull. He looks great, his name is awesome, he’s just a really cool older character that I would love to see more of in the DC Universe.
Q: What was your inspiration to make this great horror story [Knight Terrors: Wonder Woman?]
Josie: Yeah! So Brittany Holzherr was my editor, she came to me and said “Hey, there’s this event happening, I don’t know if you’re interested in maybe writing something on the Wonder Woman side?” and I really leapt at the chance, and that was the Knight Terrors event. And so she told me a little bit about it and the thesis, which is just every single comic is tackling what that hero’s greatest fears are, and sort of tackling this in this very Freddy Kreuger, nightmare/dream scenario sort of way. And as soon as she said that, I was like “Oh! I know exactly what Diana’s greatest fear is. It’s herself!”
Because, you know, Diana is a character who embodies love and forgiveness, but when you are a character who embodies those things, then that means you have to hide if you ever feel darkness, you have to hide if you ever feel rage or hate, and it’s something that consumes you a little bit. So from that, I sort of jumped in — I love body horror, big Cronenberg fan, and I love Greek myths, so that sort of all came together and I came back to Brittany like, “Hey, I’ve got this idea, she’s sort of in the labyrinth, the labyrinth is sort of her own mind, and it’s her greatest fears, which is these versions of herself.”
And from there, we brought in Juan Ferreyra, who is SO good and instantly picked up what we were putting down, and yeah! We made a really fun horror comic that’s basically based on the idea that Diana has to be good and light all the time, so how does she deal with the fact that she’s a person and she has negative emotions?
Q: Hey Josie! Besides Diana, who is your favorite member of the Wonder Woman family?
Josie: I like a lot of the newer characters who have been brought in over the last couple of years — like I really love Yara, I really love Faruka, I really love the expanded Esquecida tribe. But again, kid of the '90s, one of my favorite characters is Cassie. I love Cassie Sandsmark. She was my Wondergirl growing up, you know — Donna’s really fun, but Cassie was the one that like, again, I got introduced to in the Wonder Woman comics that I was reading as they were coming out. I love Cassie in Young Justice, I love all the other media that she’s popped up in, so yeah. I really love Cassie; I really love that the world of Wonder Woman, though, has been SO expanded, and now when you ask a question like, “Who’s your favorite hero of the Wonder Woman family?” it’s larger than just like, Wonder Tot or Wondergirl! There’s so many characters.
Q: What was the process in choosing the characters that will play a role in Amazons Attack? Might we see other members of the QQ family during the series?
Josie: So, for Amazons Attack, I kind of went about trying to choose characters that both I liked and were sort of important to the overall Wonder Woman family, and that kind of exemplified different points of view.
We have Nubia, who is coming from Themyscira, who’s made these decisions to open up Paradise Island to the world, and as we’re seeing in Tom King’s run, there’s some unforeseen consequences with this.
Faruka is in because I really love her attitude and she just doesn’t — like everybody else is speaking like, highfalutin like, “The gods are here,” and Faruka’s like, “Yeah that’s fine, let’s cut to the chase.” And Faruka is there as sort of the representative of the Bana-Mighdall.
And we have Yara, who again, is one of my favorite new characters who’s also got a really fun spirit, but she’s sort of representing the Esquecida. And then we’re bringing in my girl Mary, both because I love Mary and because, you know, I got the chance to really tie her really tightly to the Wonder Woman family as she’s now getting her powers from the patron goddesses of the Amazons. Each one brings in a perspective of their respective tribes —or man’s world, in Mary’s case — and a lot of the series, without giving out spoilers, is kind of about the preconceptions people have of the Amazons and the image that they have of the Amazons coming out of the stuff that’s gonna start happening in Tom King’s run. I can’t get into more than that.
As for other members of the Wonder Woman family, you guys will just have to read and see!
Q: Hey Josie! I loved your work on both Knight Terrors: Wonder Woman and Mary Marvel! Which JLD member is your favorite? I liked seeing their nightmare worlds in Knight Terrors!
Josie: So really the trick is, when you get to write this, you get to put in your favorite characters, so you know, top two faves from Justice League Dark — I love Constantine, I was a big Hellblazer fan, I love everything Constantine is in, I’ve read everything Constantine is in … to quite Marge Simpson, I just think he’s neat!
On the other side, I just really love Bobo. I love Detective Chimp. I love that he is the world’s greatest chimp detective … any chance you get to write a chimp or an ape or a gorilla in DC, you gotta go for it.
And then my third favorite Justice League Dark character — which I wrote a little bit, but I’d love to write more — is Etrigan. I really love Etrigan. I really love the rhyming stuff, I really love the dichotomy between him and Jason Blood, it’s just such a fun, rich character. If I ever got the chance to write more Justice League Dark, for sure I’d try to put more Etrigan in.
Josie: Alright, that’s everything! Thank you so much for your questions and for joining us on the DC Creator Q&A Series, and congrats to @FelixLeiter for winning the signed copy of Knight Terrors: Wonder Woman!
Thank you all so much! Keep reading!