In this sweeping conversation, award-winning comics artist Phil Jimenez reveals secrets behind Wonder Woman: Historia, his DC Comics Black Label collaboration with writer Kelly Sue DeConnick!
Mythology has been central to several of Phil’s highest-profile projects, including War of the Gods, Gods of Gotham, and of course, Wonder Woman. And after 20 years of immersion in the topic, he has thoughts.
We cover Dionysus’ gender, post-toga Olympian fashion, and what makes Wonder Woman is such an enduring character.
Boston: [00:00:00] Welcome to mythic a podcast where we explore meaningful living through the power of myth. I'm your host. Boston Blake. My guest today is award-winning comics artist, Phil Jimenez. In addition to his extensive work for DC and Marvel comics, Phil has also worked as a creator in film and television. Traditional print media. He's done design packaging for toy companies. He's created large-scale artworks for public spaces, schools, museums.
In New York and Chicago. He's lectured at universities, museums, and the library of Congress on identity and diversity in entertainment.
And he mentors young designers at the Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum.
Greek mythology. Has played a major role in Phil's [00:01:00] work ever since his first published project DC's 1991 Wonder Woman crossover event, War of the Gods.
Currently he's working on Wonder Woman Historia. A collaboration with writer, Kelly Sue DeConnick, which is scheduled to be released just over a month from now. On November 30th, 2021. And I'll just say, I cannot freaking wait.
The art has to be seen to be believed and you can see some of it. Phil has previews on his social media feeds. On Twitter and Instagram, he's "at Phil Jimenez N Y C". And you might want to check that out as you listen to this episode.
I first met Phil in person several years ago at Bent Con a queer comics convention in Burbank, California.
I had been a huge fan of his ever since War of the Gods and meeting him, uh, I was kind of a fan boy moment. He's a scholar, as well as an artist. [00:02:00] He's also a deep and fast thinker.
Now, usually when I sit down to do an interview, I have prepared questions and a general sense of how I want to see or the conversation. My guest and I, we chit chat for a few minutes to get comfortable before starting to record.
Well, that didn't happen this time.
Phil popped up on my zoom screen and was already sharing how he was struggling to get Dionysus just right, why it mattered for HISTORIA for the character. I knew right then that what Phil was going to bring was way better than any of my preconceived ideas. So I put down my notes, I pressed record and we were off to the races. And what came out was a fantastic, deep and wide reaching conversation.
I'm biased. So I'll let you be the judge. And like I said, I highly recommend checking out phil's especially Instagram feed as part of listening to this episode, because we'll [00:03:00] be talking about images that he shared there now. Hold on tight because here we go.
Phil: It was just a figure. And he's just reclining. And I spent probably a day on this figure or more, and it's just.
Boston: I haven't seen any Dionysus imagery that you've done yet. What are you pulling from? What are the elements that make this Historia, Dionysus, Dionysus? What are the images.
Phil: Dionysus is interesting in Historia because he is, kind of a lithe she described him as slinky guy. Maybe gender non binary and the image that I am totally stealing from as reference is an old Bacchus mosaic.
It's actually a Roman mosaic and he's in this fabulous I'm not sure if it's pearls or beads, but he's in this sort of [00:04:00] skirt and outfit. He's writing a Jaguar as Dionysus will do. I'm like, that's it that's sort of music. And so I use this idea and then some other stuff that Kelly Sue sent me based on her description.
I have been able to draw him everywhere else. What's interesting is this is his big establishing shot. And so it's the only one that I get in this book. I may think I'm just succumbing to the pressure I want it to be right. Everything else that I've done on this book, not all the art is perfect, but it all feels right.
It feels right for the thing. And so I just want to get this right. It's a moment between Dionysus and Aphrodite and my take on this current costume, cause all the gods have various looks throughout. Except for Aphrodite who remains pretty consistent. I think each god gets two or three costumes and looks and whatever.
I did an interview this morning for DC comics for Wonder Woman's 80th anniversary. And the hilarious thing was the one thing [00:05:00] that I wrote to myself, I was like, oh, this is the thing I want to talk about. And of course we didn't. but I wrote them back as if I could just drop in this one little thing that would be great.
Boston: Can I get a scoop? What's the one little thing that you want to talk about for Wonder Woman's 80th anniversary.
Phil: One of the questions, is, what makes Wonder Woman and enduring character. And I think an interesting and enduring quality of that character is it asks of its creators and its audience.
some really tough questions about sex and gender and feminism and war and how we all feel about these things. And a big question, I think it asks is, is war a feminist ideal or idea? And there are different, there are different schools of thought on this. the other thing was can a single character.
Phil: And I know the answer of course, but I think it always begs the question. Can a single character embody, all of these conflicting ideas, or should they, The enduring thing to me about Wonder Woman is that even though [00:06:00] it's mostly subtextual, I'm not even sure people are cognizant of it.
Her primary enemy historically had been Ares or Mars, the god of war, but in mythological terms, in a Wonder Woman terms, what Ares represents essentially what we call today, a type of toxic masculinity. and that's, I think why she endures because in some level she is a force of resistance to that.
Marston called it. He said comic books, chief problem was their blood-curdling masculinity. That specifically what he was talking about. It's not that men are bad and I think he would hold himself up as an Apollonian type guy. and this idea that Ares, that Mars was a god out of control. This is what happens when that part of masculinity gets out of balance. This is what patriarchy is, is, is out of balance newness.
Boston: I gave a presentation in San Francisco and a woman asked me this fantastic question. She said, do you think, the 2017 Wonder Woman would have [00:07:00] been the hit that it was if Hillary Clinton had won that election?
It had not occurred to me because we were all ready to celebrate. It was going to be the year of the woman. We were all there for it. And instead it became like the year of resistance and Wonder Woman you know, stepping up to no man's land became something we needed in a way that we might not have needed. If we had gone down a smarter timeline.
Phil: Oh, I don't disagree at all. I've said before that Wonder Woman and certainly Black Panther, because they hold the same psychological space in their various purviews. are zeitgeist movies as much as they are good movies. The moment they hit was the moment they needed to hit. And they ended up representing something larger than a two hour escapist film. And so I absolutely believe that Wonder Woman timing mattered, timing of that film. And certainly the first two thirds of that movie really mattered. I do think it's really profound that in both the first and second film, what so many [00:08:00] people responded to and want more of are the Amazons.
So clearly that imagery, that idea, the sort of notion of this,tribe of powerful women,really resonated with almost everyone. I know, in some way they just wanted more. And I think that's telling.
Boston: Yeah, that's what I hear every time. I want more of the first, third of the movie. I want two hours of that or a series of that. Trina Robbins has an essay Wonder Woman, Lesbian or Dyke. And she talks about the idea of a woman only community that this is the fantasy, a place where women can go. Girls can go and just be outside of patriarchal history for just a second. I think men desire that too. I, I would love to see what that's like, although then you get there and you break it.
Cause you're the man.
it's funny. I joke about that a lot because, as I've gotten older, I think this is certainly a reflection of the politics of the day shaping ideology, [00:09:00] but I'm very into people, groups of people having their spaces. Like I don't need to be. Right. Like you have it. I have plenty go. During my interview earlier, I kept calling it Paradise Island, which I think matters.
I was having a debate with my best friend and he was giving me the central argument that the problem with utopia is that utopia is boring or dull. And I said to him, oh, no, no Paradise Island isn't a utopia because it's perfect. It's a utopia because there are no men.
Phil: And so the reason it's utopian is that whenever conflict arises and there can be plenty, ostensibly has no basis in patriarchy. whatever conflict arises is purely, I dunno, matriarchal is the right word, but it is free of the tethers of patriarchy maleness, man. and that's what makes it utopian, at least for those women.
Boston: I hadn't thought of it that way. It's their utopia because they get to solve the problems themselves. They emerge out of that culture [00:10:00] And they are resolved within that culture without this other influence.
Phil: And don't have to question the origins of their conflicts, is that based on some law or are we fighting over a man? Quite frankly. Or, our perception it's being shaped by patriarchal imagery.
Like just All that's gone, right. I'm, I'm reaching for low-hanging fruit, but to imagine a world . where all of that is absent. And so all decisions suddenly comes from within, and again , from this culture that they created free of that. That's what makes it utopia.
Boston: I always love conversations with you. We just dive right into the deep end of the pool.
Phil: I had lunch this weekend with an old friend. It was the second time in about a month. I hadn't seen for a long time. And we deep dove very quickly. It was not my intent the second time. It was like, let's have fun and gossip and be gay. But we dipped a very, very quickly, our respective spouses were there and I kind apologized to him and he's no, no, it's cool because I, he made a comment about it, like we got there really fast An interesting thing that's happened over the years. I think it's always historically true, but certainly [00:11:00] Trump years imposed, I just don't do small talk very well. My tendency is to deep dive quickly and I have to remember not everyone is interested or capable of that as I am.
I resemble that remark.
Boston: So this summer I did it was a certificate in applied mythology through Pacifica Graduate Institute. And I found 98 people who were as nerdy about mythology as I was. And it was fantastic because every one of us had spent a lot of time thinking about these particular things. And so when it came together, the conversation was rich and deep.
We talked about myths in media and myth in comics. Are you familiar with a man named David Odorisio?
I might be familiar with the work .
Boston: He has this incredible lecture on YouTube and I'll link to it in the show notes where he breaks down The Phoenix Saga and how [00:12:00] Jean Grey's body goes from being objectified in her first appearance, all the way through her being the Phoenix, and then the dark Phoenix, and then the problematic resurrection of the Phoenix.
Anyway, he was one of the professors for , this program. And one of the things that he brought up is that.
Boston: Not only are comics, not only can they contain modern myth, but they are repositories of spiritual information. Spiritual information is encoded into them. And , that really struck me. In Marston's case, it was Wonder Woman. Is theosophy like very deliberately encoded plus his disc theory and all of that. Grant Morrison put into The Invisibles his chaos magic.
I don't know how much of it is conscious. in a lot of cases. it just seems to emerge.
Phil: A couple of things I want to chime in about, because I had a very interesting conversation with Paul Levitz four or five years ago. because I had been asked by, Ramzi Fawaz do you [00:13:00] know, Ramzi?
He wrote this incredible book called The New Mutants, which I highly recommend. Not the comic, but it's a kind of an academic dissertation,framed by The New Mutants, the Marvel comics characters.
Phil: And, it's an intensely loving, rich book. Very easy to read, any breaks down the metaphor, power and symbolic power of many different groups of comic characters from the Justice League to the X-Men, But his real focus was on The New Mutants because he argued that beyond race and gender diversity, it was the most class diverse comic in comics at the time. And diverse in that the brownest boy who was Sunspot was the wealthiest, the whitest boy Cannonball was the, the poorest. and that that comic, the way it explored issues of gender, race and class, for its time was revolutionary.
He asked me to do the entry on Wonder Woman and a new keywords book that just came out. And it's all about academic terms. [00:14:00] it's for academics. It's comics related terms because comics scholarship has sort ofexploded in the past five or six years and doing my research on Wonder Woman, I kept finding themes that would run through various iterations of the book, forties, sixties, eighties, et cetera. Repeated themes. In Wonder Woman's case, one of the ones I found really fascinating was the,, the notion of another Amazon replacing her for a brief period of time, and then Diana reassuming the mantle because Diana was the best Wonder Woman. in my conversation with Paul, he was like, You know why that happened all the time is because so many scripts were repurposed. And he said, if for Superman or Batman, a character or an event was very popular, there was a period of time in the sixties and seventies where they would just repurpose the idea sometimes even the same script and just rejigger it a little bit, and reprint a new version of it.
Phil: [00:15:00] I was taken aback because I thought, oh, these recurring themes, which must have some sort of mythic bent, if we're all tapping into them were actually results of corporate decision-making. And so of course, Artemis the redheaded, Amazon that replaced Wonder Woman in the 1990s where we placed Diana is Wonder Woman, was a riff on Orana who was a riff on this other character in the sixties, late sixties.
Diana was replaced for one issue. what's interesting to me is clearly that kind of story resonates with people, but it's reinforced not through myth, but through corporate decision-making. So just made me wonder a chicken or the egg, like what comes first. Clearly audiences respond to it.
There's something inherent in the story of, for example, someone who wins a title in this case, Diana wins a title on Wonder Woman that someone else sweeps along and takes out title from her. And she has to return it. that [00:16:00] seems a fairly universal idea. And that seems to resonate with many people and people love it. even when Hippolyta swept in and became Wonder Woman.
People love seeing , different iterations of Amazons in that armor because the stories are always different. So it resonates, it has mythic qualities, but it is ultimately, it is their result of corporate decision making because it made the money once.
One thing that that particular story does, it offers an opportunity to deconstruct,what makes Wonder Woman, Wonder Woman? Orana, that story she's going to win the contest at all costs, casualties be damned.
Boston: And so Wonder Woman is trying to save everybody while Orana's just trying to win. And Artemis just so much more complex and Artemis became a beloved character like in her own right.
One of the things that we got to see through her was something that might've even been missing in Diana with her at that time, this sort naivete and a bit of a goody two shoes.
And then we see Artemis as a [00:17:00] kind of take no prisoners. And it's when the two team up that you get this bad-ass femme force. even when Alan Alan Heinberg did Circe replacing Wonder Woman for a hot second. Circe is, rescuing trafficked women using whatever means necessary. And I'm like, Yeah, go girl.
Nevermind that she's also genocidal.
Phil: It gets tossed around a lot superheroes DC and Marvel, that they're modern gods, the gods wear spandex. Do you think that's accurate?
Oh my God. That's heavy and deep question. That feels like something I need to open up my books for. and open up my research for. I have very strong feelings about the word God, and gods both in the real world and out, but particularly as it pertains to Wonder Woman. I'm going to narrow the scope just a little bit. I'm from DC heroes to Wonder Woman, [00:18:00] DC too. I think our current and modern conception of godhood, particularly when we're talking about fiction is based on power, Physical power, as opposed to divinity, which does something else. So my understanding of, of God, religion, the divine, is these are unknowable things. and that through trying to know them, often through ritual reading of text or meditation and nature or whatever, we try to understand our own place in the universe.
I have a weird, hard time calling them gods because I attribute to godhood a certain quality and function. And here's the thing, I might be talking out of both sides of my mouth. Many of these characters probably do exactly that at their best. They ask their audience to reflect on their purpose and their function, their reason for being, to contemplate [00:19:00] their place in the universe to think of their responsibility to community, to think about things like, do we have souls? Are we interconnected, through a spiritual force beyond ourselves?
Phil: I think comic book superheroes can do that. And when they do that, perhaps they can be considered gods. But when I hear the term like superheroes or modern day gods, I really think that what most people are talking about is a highly secular view of what a god is-- of what God is.
And I think they're talking about often in terms of power level, and maybe a sense of grander and scope. I'm not sure how often they're talking about it from an internal, contemplative space. I don't think speaking about Superman or Wonder Woman as gods makes readers think about the origins of the universe, their place in it, what purpose their life serves in it.
Maybe they do. In the interview I gave earlier, I said that Wonder Woman gave my life purpose. I contemplate the [00:20:00] world in a different way because of her, because of the way she has been written. And it's funny, we talk about her and this is an interesting thing I think about a lot is, can we talk about any character separate from their creators? But Wonder Woman's adventures, that character, the various ways she's been embodied have driven me, personally and spiritually in ways that, as I'm talking around this question maybe are like God, in some way.
So maybe they are gods. I just think when people say that, I would be curious what they mean by the word God and how divine they think these gods are.
You said Wonder Woman or the way she was written, gave you a sense of purpose. How did you encounter Wonder Woman?
Boston: What was your first exposure and how did she give you purpose?
so my first exposure to Wonder Woman was actually the Brady Kids cartoon,
but then I got hooked on the Superfriends and then of course the Lynda Carter TV show. I can't honestly [00:21:00] say I remember which I'm pretty sure I saw super friends first and then saw the live action show and changed my life forever.
Phil: And what I mean by purpose was my instant connection to that character primarily is embodied by Lynda Carter, but certainly the animated show what ever it was, whatever spark it gave in my brain. I latched onto it and held onto it to the point where I was a teenager, a gay closeted teenager, and I needed to do something to escape the world I was in.
And, I decided I was going to write and draw Wonder Woman. At the time I was just going to draw Wonder Woman, cause George Pérez was going to write it forever. So that was my goal. to take over Wonder Woman when George Pérez left partly because of what he did with that character, partly because of my inherent love for that character.
But when it say she gave me purpose, I, I think a lot of this is in hindsight, but she was a driver my whole life,seeking iterations of that character out. She was a form of entertainment. she was a [00:22:00] space for fantasy. And then, when I started drawing comics and, I realized she could potentially be a job. There was potential to actually do the work. And whatever that magic was, and I use the word it's broadest sense. It was a driver. It gave me something to focus on into college and beyond, and even today,getting ready for these interviews have been doing and seeing you like, just reviewing all the work I've done on Wonder Woman research just makes me happy.
It's a lot of joy and it's strange how, when I'm 51, so 46 years Wonder Woman on the brain have done me a world of good. I mean, I would be nowhere without her and the people that worked on her
Boston: So your first published work was War of the Gods,
Phil: 30 years ago.
Boston: Ouch 30 years ago.
And then when you took over the Wonder Woman book and you were writing and drawing, and you gave us Gods of [00:23:00] Gotham, which was restoring Wonder Woman to that mythology the mythological roots, you brought in a lot of Circe. Classical mythology has played into a lot of your work.
Boston: How do you relate to mythology yourself, as an artist, as a human?
it's different now than it was then. It's funny that you bring up Gods of Gotham. As many people know, Gods of Gotham, which I'm glad is as popular as it is, was not the book that I intended. Gods to Gotham was a terrible fight editorially. I had three editors on the first two issues, not because I was fighting with them, but because of just shuffling at DC comics.
And I wanted to do this Batman story. It was very clear in my head because I was very interested in notions of myth and divinity, and saw parallels between Batman's family and Wonder Woman's family. and Denny O'Neil, God rest his soul who fought me so hard on that book, cause this was back in the days when Batman only lived in the real world, and Batman was an urban [00:24:00] legend and he hated the idea that Batman was in the Justice League. He hated anything that sort of cracked what he believed was this veneer of reality, which is exactly what Wonder Woman did. And so he fought me a lot on that project.
Phil: And, one of his big things was that Wonder Woman could be in Gotham City, but no one could ever know she was there. so the story ends up being this strangely contained thing. And I was surprised by this because Danny, a practicing Buddhist, I thought he would totally be into these explorations of what divinity means.
What myth means. Batman is an urban myth. But he just hated the idea that Wonder Woman and her family would ever have been a Gotham City. Hated it. goal with taking on that book was essentially to do what Pérez had done, which was restore Diana's mission, which I felt had gotten lost, restore supporting costs or, or consolidated, the cast, make sense of all these various versions [00:25:00] of Wonder Woman streamlined her mythology, restore Ares as her primary villain.
and then again with Circe who I love as a villain,confront Diana with someone she actually hates. An interesting thing with Diana historically is that she will always find something redeeming in a villain. And I like the idea that there's one person on earth who she just despises.
Phil: Like if you were to get her in a corner, she would just go ballistic. And in my head, that was Circe. I love that there's this one person that gets under her skin more than anyone does. And Circe knows that. my approach to mythology at the time, 20 years younger, was a little literal and Pérezian. It was maybe more superhero God than divine God.
I wasn't thinking about god's his divine beings. I was thinking as Pérez -created beings who were in War of the Gods, and Pan had replaced one of them. Despite the fact that they were creator beings, it was established in War [00:26:00] of the Gods, by the Phantom Stranger no less, that there were still a couple of tiers of godhood above them.
So my sense of that, my sense of God and the divine and the gods and the mythology itself was still very comic booky, still very Pérezian because I was paying tribute to my art inspiration and his work, but also at 30 that's what my conception of gods and godhoods and mythology was, it wasn't till I left Wonder Woman and started doing a lot ofI would say deep dives academically, not just in the myths themselves, but in what myths mean and their function culturally that's, I think where my conception of what gods were changed.
Phil: And I absolutely believe it filtered into my approach. to the gods and Historia, who I think Kelly Sue DeConnick the, the end of the writer of the book establishes fairly early on that these are not what the gods look like, These are just some conception. This [00:27:00] is for us to understand them, To be able to follow their story, but they could look like anything. They're beings of, infinite power. but they had to look at something on the page. And so in some way, like , this is what we decided they looked like. But what I also did, I think this is going to drive some people insane is made this decision that these are symbols of gods.They're not the gods themselves. They're visual symbols that we are using to tell a story. So their garments are much more fashion-based. There's much more avant-garde design. One of the versions of Athena is like crazy avant-garde. It's not just a woman in a toga with a spear, although she does have the spear whatnot.
My conceptions of the gods and the myths were a mix of traditional, but also,I don't want to say conceptual because there's a lot more conceptual work out there, like higher end, but I think people will find it beautiful. I think some people are accustomed to choices.
Phil: For example, the gods are [00:28:00] multicultural. And that's on purpose because our belief, our working theory was that the Amazons, a multicultural race, would see their gods differently. So the gods in our book are reflection of the way the Amazon see them, or imagine them to be, based on what they know about them.
so I think people are going to flip out about that, that they're not all like Whitey Whiterson, Greek gods, the goddesses and the gods, they run the ethnic gamut I think it will be really interesting to see how people and how you specifically, what you think of Apollo. Kelly Sue's take on Apollo was much different than I'd ever seen in a comic.
Phil: He and Artemis are twins. They're young. so they are children essentially, like preteens, maybe. Maybe a little bit older, so their visuals they're kids. and I think that will throw some people off.
and when I say kids, they're preteen. So they're not babies. They're not like, Muppet babies running around, but they're not adults.
my first [00:29:00] thought is there's something super creepy about Apollo ,chasing tail as a 12 year old,a woman running and getting turned into a tree to get away.
Kelly Sue is actually telling a pretty hardcore feminist tale. It's a modern tale for modern audience. So her conceptions of the gods are through modern eyes and she makes no beef about it.
Her idea of old myths are modernized and so I think mythological literalists might have some problems.
Phil: Because she's also, re-imagining several of the goddesses through a feminist lens. And certainly the gods. Although I don't think he's much different in previous Marvel or DC comics. I mean, Zeus is an asshole, but what I like that Kelly Sue has done is that she's, I mean, he's very funny and has tons of character, but he's clearly not a good person, I and he epitomizes this is a certain kind of masculinity that is terrifying and destructive. [00:30:00] And she goes there with that. Apollo epitomizes a certain kind of, like masculine, sociopathic beauty, all those wonderful things, little blonde boys get away with 'cause they're so cute. Cause they're so prized in our society. So she explored some of that in Apollo, anyway, I will let her fill you in on the rest.
One of the things that has always troubled me in Wonder Woman for some reason is, and I think that I actually think this has a lot to at the Pérez iteration. It's people who demand a certain sort of fealty to myth.
Well, that didn't happen in the Greek myths, and like well, none of this happened. Also, there's no Orthodox version of a myth. There's no singular version of a myth. You can find iterations of any myths and myths need to change and grow and evolve to suit the needs of the people reading them.
Phil: And one thing I've grown tired of,, in the past couple of decades is arguing often with Wonder Woman fans about [00:31:00] their strange need to have the mythology in the book seem accurate to Edith Hamilton? in ways they don't demand of any other mythology represented in comic book fiction.
That's something I've been very, very curious about.Why? You don't care that much about the Norse gods over in Marvel. You certainly don't care about Aztec or Hindu gods, that's not your thing, but somehow the Greek gods in Wonder Woman, if they not mythology, if not represented accurately in their heads, it's wrong.
You talked about how you and Kelly Sue were approaching mythology for Historia, these gods, what we're actually seeing are visual representation of ideas of these gods.
Where did this conversation start with you and Kelly Sue? What did these early conversations look like between the two of you?
Phil: Oh, God, I'm trying to remember. Kelly Sue's not a Wonder Woman person. So her knowledge is cursory. I, which I [00:32:00] loved. So I have this well-known feminist author coming out of this material with the most smidge of an idea of much like 90% of it.
And so we were suddenly deliberated to think about these characters anyway, we Part of her mission statement, was, the continued rehabilitation of Hera as a figure, as the goddess of women, that was very important to her. and a reexamination of her relationship with Zeus, and why she didn't help the other goddesses create the Amazons So I think the conversation started with what are her conceptions of these goddesses based on her reading of a myth, a little bit of Wonder Woman, and the feminist lens through which she saw that. And then we set up a Pinterest board and started putting up stuff. And then I brought my own thing where I was like, I don't want to draw a lot of people in togas.
There are togas, but not a lot. I don't want to do George Perez all over. [00:33:00] George has been done. I've done George, What do I have to say about these characters? This has been my approach to a lot of God-like figures in recent years, as I approached them as elemental forces, Zeus is, entire body literally looks like a storm.
He's a naked man, His skin is blue. There's lightning coursing through. He's like literally a living storm. I did some research on Demeter, her patron animals are snakes and lizard.
Like She was a snake goddess. So just thinking about that, I was like, oh my God, that imagery is really incredible. In the creation of the Amazons, they revert to these primal forms. Foundational forms. Hera, because we just think it's funny, never appears in the same costume twice, which is a lot of work, but it was also like her and that was just fun for me, but it also meant that every costume had to have some meaning or some, nothing was random.
and every scene that she's in a new costume, there was a reason. Some were big and fun, buoyant, very draggy, others were much more [00:34:00] subdued and darker. There's one where she's in her realm of power that's probably the most toga-y. Also anyone that sees it, it's going to be like, oh, Alexander McQueen.
Phil: Oh, like Galliano. Like they're going to see the fashion influence is hardcore. I gaveHippolyta a butterfly dress, which is very Alexander McQueen. As a matter of fact, I must've been in my head because when I went back to look at the reference and we go, this is actually very similar. So the modify that a little bit, but the idea for Hera of course, the butterflies, which are so beautiful are also food for her peacocks, you know, and all the murders that, uh, so, um, right.
Like they all flutter about, and it's all very pretty, but you know, then she's like pluck and she feeds the peacock. cause she's constantly surrounded by peacocks. Athena has two very avant-garde looks. So there were several things that went into this. Kelly Sue started with a re-interpretation of who these goddesses were.
She started appending grass more to say, this is what I would like them to look like. [00:35:00] And it was it matched my intent very closely. We squabbled very little over what things look like, Like we were on target almost 95% of the time. The thing I had to get used to was the notion of Apollo and Artemis as childlike.
Phil: I had made them a little bit older, but once I saw them as kids, as 12 year olds it opened up them visually, it was stunning. how great that was. She and I had a difference of conception about Ares.
And in the first volume, Ares It's not actually a huge character. Zeus is a much more present, figure in the first volume than Ares is,much more imposing and potent. And my conception of Ares based on these mythological readings was say, he's just like the hot frat guy, who's a racist piece of shit, but you still want to fuck him. Right. Like, and it has, it's so much to do with our eroticization of war, and entertainment. he's just a manifestation of that. Like he's just hot [00:36:00] and terrible. And in my head, it's a little bit of a commentary on the terrible things, we, particularly I would say gay men, are willing to get over when we see someone that's physically beautiful.
Phil: So Ares again, is this sort of toxic masculinity personified, but in a more sexualized way. and she was fine with that.
Boston: The idea of making him gorgeous, you know, he was always presented that way in Greek statues. He was oddly desirable and the consort of Aphrodite, this idea that love and war, sex and war go together. both elements of passion. the other thing I think of is that Ares... Zeus and Hera didn't like him. he was the son, you know, why can't you be more like your brother, Apollo, kind of thing.
I pointed out to Kelly, Sue. I think it's very interesting that Hera's children. Ares is probably the most impressive, but he's a douchebag. [00:37:00] And then, Hephaestus, poor guy was in the cellar.And then their two daughters were unimpressive in terms of their purview.
Boston: Who were their
Phil: it was It was Hebe, the cup bearer, and Alethia the goddess of childbearing, although I swapped her out visually for Iris, the goddess of the rainbow, just cause I wanted to try her. so she's, and I think Iris was listed as one of Hera's handmaidens, but what's interesting is to me just about Hera's children...
This is a spoiler. when Hera declines to join the other goddesses to create the Amazons. And she's like, I have my reasons. And nobody believes Artemis is just like, she's just afraid of cat or w or whatever.
Artemis is pissed off because they need her and Hera has got some other plan doesn't understand. but nobody understands. And that's part of Hera's burden she has a vision that she can't share. I was able to draw a scene where she's being attended by, Hebe and Iris the cup [00:38:00] bearers. She's got her head down the whole time. She's clearly disappointed and Iris has pissed off.
So she's taken out to her coat and putting on new clothes and clearly there's anger in her face. And Hera looks at her and it's all silent unless Kelly Sue added dialogue. I don't know. It's all silent. and Hera just walks off. Hera can feel the disappointment of these people, these gods, these women around her, but cannot yet explain her choice-making.
That was all me. So Kelly Sue just let me put that in. I'm so interested in the relationships with these minor gods as well. we covered the bigger Pantheon, but there were others, particularly their children What about them? and we didn't have a ton of room for it in the first volume, which is why I'm hoping that Kelly Sue and subsequent volumes will let us explore.
When you were growing up, what were your favorite stories? [00:39:00] Nursery ryhmes, children's books, movies, comics, cartoons. As far back as you can remember.
Strangely, as a child, I sought out my fiction in TV. I was not a big fiction reader. I was a non-fiction reader, dinosaur books, animal books, books on geology, mythology, I guess would count as fiction, but I did not read a ton of fiction as a kid. I watched a ton of fiction, so cartoons, adventure shows, but I would watch anything.
I was also a museum kid and I've told this story many, many times because I love it. So I would go to any museum from the time I was five years old, I started at La Brea tar pits, but I would go to art museums and strange oddity museums and miniature museums. It didn't really matter. The Getty. And create these fabulous stories about the relics within the cases. And Diane Nelson, former president of DC comics said, that's why you like them, because of the stories in the cases. I've been telling stories in my head, re-imagining the world I live in, since I can remember, [00:40:00] but, I actually blame TV for my love for superheroes because of cartoons more than comics.
Do you remember the earliest cartoons you would have watched?
Superfriends., Scooby-Doo. Freddy was my first crush that I remember having, what I remember, and I hope that it's a true memory. It's that I just wanted to hug Freddy. I wanted to be his friend because at three or four, that was the only conception I had.
That's what my idea of what love was, whatever that puppy love I had for him. but all those Hanna-Barbera cartoons and certainly live action things like Land of the Lost, but Super Friends Scooby-Doo Josie and the Pussycats. I'm sure if it was on TV on Saturday morning after 7:00 AM, I was obsessed.
Did you watch the Dungeons and dragons cartoons?
and have you and your adult life revisited The Odyssey of the Twelfth Talisman episode of that.
gay, gay, and a [00:41:00] half. the whole thing is how Eric has finally found a boyfriend. And my crush was on Hank.
Phil: The ranger,
Boston: The ranger, Yeah.
Phil: As long as it's not the Barbarian. My crush was on Diana, the Acrobat.
What is something that you believe to be true that you cannot prove, or that cannot be proven at all?
Interesting question. I am constantly questioning everything I believe all the time as I get older, to the point where, I don't think it's good because I end up in paralysis, because I caveat everything. And part of that's an attempt to be fair, consider things from multiple sides, and to consider the limits of my own intellect and experience. And so many things I believe to be true, I'm like,maybe I'm wrong about that. I constantly undermine my sense of, authority to believe certain things. Let me add another dimension to the question. Making room for all of that, that any belief that you share right [00:42:00] now is something that is currently up for debate, or is something that you could change. I'm not asking you to share a belief that you're going to hold unequivocally until the day you die, but just as you see the world today.
Phil: I will need to return to that. that's probably one of the hardest questions I've ever been asked in an interview.
Boston: Oh, I win.
Phil: You do. You totally win.
in what ways are you the same now, as you were, when you were a little kid?
An interesting thing, despite the last question about questioning myself is, I'm actually horrified at my age that I think I'm exactly who I was when I was a kid. One thing I've come to believe that I cannot prove like I think we'd be on the shadow of a doubt is I generally think we are who we are by a certain age.
Phil: And we can learn to sort of work around our faults or lean into our strengths. but I generally, I'm not sure I believe in arcs for people. I think some people can [00:43:00] change perhaps. but I think maybe it's changing behaviors as opposed to changing self, like I absolutely the older I get, I'm like, oh my God, I'm exactly who I was when I was 15 in the best and worst ways.
and I see that in a lot of people, I think that's, that's true. but there are certain things that still trigger me, that make me really happy. I still react to certain things. I crushed in the same way as, it's so startling to me. I forget my age. Sometimes I think of myself as a teenager. And I'm like oh, I'm not that. This behavior is probably gross to someone. I don't even think about it.
I just met an actor recently and, I've met him a few times, it was funny because I was just so excited to talk to him and then I was like, but I felt like I was on.
And I forget how we were talking earlier about deep dives, like when I'm on, I'm on [00:44:00] and I'm a lot to take. And, I could tell he was like, whoa,pull it back. I was reacting like an excited teenager, as opposed to more of an ideally balanced, adult.
Boston: Ideally balanced adult. Oh boy.
Ideal. I'm not saying realistic, but then ideal. As I get older, I realize I have fought certain things in my system for so long. And I think I'm learning to not fight them to be like, oh, that's how I am, for good or ill.
Boston: Have you ever encountered a phenomenon that you just cannot explain and if you have, or haven't, how do you think that has affected your worldview?
Phil: Well it's interesting you say, cannot explain because in my head I haven't explanation.I can think of two or three things I believe are a supernatural. One I remember was when my first boyfriend died. and the first night I went home, a light in my bedroom sort of mysteriously.
I had an overhead light and just came on and it, it would flicker on and off for the [00:45:00] first several days after he died. And I remember saying something effective, I'll be okay. And it went off and it was never went on again. And, I, I basically told Neal and the universe, I'm going to be fine. To an outsider who believes in the supernatural, like he was checking up on me. And then once I said that it was good.
The second thing I ha th the night my mother died, I had a very vivid dream of her soul leaving her body, giving a quick kiss to me and my boyfriend, and then taking off.
And I found that strangely comforting because my mother had a really difficult terrestrial life. Her life on earth was hard from beginning to end. And what was really nice about it was the sense of liberation. She was free of this body that had been plagued her whole life, by abuse and self-inflicted, and certainly brought about by others.
And, she just had a really tough and she, you know, she died of cancer. And so I loved the idea that she was free of [00:46:00] that. it was such a vivid dream. And I don't know if it was my mind comforting me or not, but, it brought me great joy and it's when people would say oh, she's right there with you.
I'm like, no, she's not. I'm glad she's not. She's finally out, doing what she should like her she's free of that. she doesn't have to be around me. I'm actually okay with that. but those two experiences, I probably the closest things I have to, supernatural events or things that would be considered inexplicable, but to me made perfect sense.
Boston: That's beautiful. Thank you. And my last question, when in your life have you experienced ecstasy?
God, it's so funny. I have been thinking about this a lot. I've been talking to a couple of friends of mine, how, as we've gotten older, but particularly post Trump because of, the past five years, we have forgotten how to experience joy and we don't experience it without skepticism. We never just experience [00:47:00] joy without question.We approach it, or we experience it, knowing that it will go away. And it's really sad. I've been reading a lot of things about age. Late forties in men tend to be their unhappiest times.
Phil: I'm textbook when it comes to midlife crisis and all these sorts of things. but a lot of it has to do with, I think, the passing of my mother, the new 52 came and sort of wiped out. And when I say wiped out, like it, it disconnected me from this world and this line of characters that had meant something to me for 30 years.
And it's so fascinating because it wasn't like, how could you, it was just a sudden like,oh, I don't have that anymore. And then of DC comics moved from New York to Los Angeles and the company changed and it was this weird thing where it took me several years to realize, oh, what I loved is gone.
It just sits an exist in the same way that it did and it's not coming back. and [00:48:00] that, and then coupled with, the Trump years, et cetera, I just forgot what it's like to feel joy and or ecstasy. I'm being very honest right now, but, I have had probably two or three experiences
what's it called of transcendent sex where I'm like, oh,this is ecstasy because. I don't even feel like I'm in my body right now. Like it is so transcendent. I feel so connected. that's what this is. I'm really grateful for that. Cause I'm not sure how often that happens for people.
And it was with people I cared about, which makes it even better. and then what else? I think my mission for the next 20 odd years, will be to do my best to re-experience joy, transcendence, ecstasy, because I feel like I have been unable to do so for so long because I don't trust it.
thank you not only for sharing the moments of ecstasy, but also for that response to it.
Boston: because that's [00:49:00] why I included this question. Because I was trying to reconnect to it myself and I want to hear other people's stories. There've been so many fights to fight.we've just been fighting for so long, and fights that need to be fought.
the last, possibly the last throws of this iteration of patriarchy, The Trump, just that constant pain and struggle, waking up to the daily damage report for four years and and then COVID, and I couldn't find it anymore.
Boston: And one of the things I love about you sharing it being transcendent moments in sex is that's deep connection with another person.
and someone you love, I mean, Yeah.
Boston: You can have transcendent sex with a stranger, like that's possible, but that's not what you described. And what I think is really important, the reason this question exists, something that I believe is important is finding joy on earth, finding joy in life, [00:50:00] because that's what makes it good to be here.
The fights will always be there. There's always going to be struggle. There's always going to be challenged. There's always going to be one nightmare after another. If that's where your attention is, but finding moments of joy, finding things in life that you love, that's what makes the fight worth doing?
Not just to wipe out the injustice, but to be able to enjoy life.
So I've been going to Provincetown now for 20, some odd years and through COVID. I was there for extended periods of time, six or seven times. And. It was fascinating how happy I am there. And I went multiple times because I wanted to see how much of that happiness was real or how much that joy was momentary.
Phil: And so I went from month. I'd go for weeks at a time. I went and winter, I went in fall. I went in, height of summer. I only went once this summer to make sure that what I [00:51:00] was experiencing was I guess, real or not fleeting. But my continued returns there, I felt lighter. I felt joyous.
My friends there made me feel joy. I wanted to celebrate my friends there and it was real it's one of my drivers I think, is to be there is I see it transforming COVID it's been transforming for a while, but COVID like accelerated a lot of things. And so there's a huge mass of wealthy people that have moved there.
Phil: The tenor of the town has changed. You can feel it. but what it still has, and it would be unfair to say that it doesn't has like traditions still maintained, primarily gay people and artists who just float about in the streets, doing your things. 90 active galleries are really healthy, gay.
Like it feels like you're in a gay town, even though technically are not. So there's no sense of, imminent physical danger, It's easy to forget [00:52:00] about being gay there or not forget about it, but not be worried about it. To celebrate it because that's just the nature of the town.
But one of my thoughts was I want to be there and be a part of that tradition and be a part of that spirit. Cause it feels good, but also stem the tide and what little way I can. And what I see is this sort of encroaching, sterilization right by the kind of gentrification that is happening by other gay people.
it's not just old, straight people.
having just returned. I'm like, what I love about it is my friends, including some black friends who of course are skeptical predominantly white spaces and rightfully so are like, this is magical.
Phil: How does this place exist? I don't get it. My best friend was just like, I don't understand how it plays like this exists. And I said, I don't either, but what I do know is I want to make sure that it continues to exist. And that seems to be like, a mission that would not only give me purpose, but bring me joy.
[00:53:00] astrologically, I'm a cancer with Scorpio moon and Scorpio rising.
Almost all of my planets are in Scorpio or Cancer, except for Venus, which is in Virgo. What that means is that I do love through service. So another thing that appeals to me about that is providing a home where friends can go. Cooking for people.
I find that brings me if not ecstasy, intense joy. it's very Cancerian idea, but creating like a home for other people chairing mothering. I like to believe like I finally became a daddy, but I think I'm more of a mommy. the idea of making sure everyone has what they need it brings me purpose and seeing my friends happy brings me joy.
Boston: In my coaching practice, I use mythic archetypes.That Hestian and Demeter, vibe of protection and care and gathering around the hearth and the meal and creating home. That's just what I hear in that. It's really beautiful.
Phil: It is very funny because Hestia and particularly Demeter in Historia are two of my favorites and has just quite [00:54:00] quiet. She only has one big moment. but Demeter, like I go all out on and I, I fucking love her. The more I read about her, the more I love her and Kelly Sue's written some amazing scenes with her inherit, like fantastic sisterly scenes.
I like I'm obsessed with. they're great. Really great. that was unexpected how much I would grow to love those two goddesses. I truly believe that what Kelly has done is create something utterly worthy of, of Wonder Woman fandom. I really do believe that. there's one big change. I think people will freak out about, but when you know why, and when you see the result that storytelling result of that change, or oh my God, of course.
It's so brilliant. That's the one thing I'll be curious how people, cause it took me aback. And then when she explained I'm like genius, she treats all of these characters with great deal of respect.
And that's, what I like about it so much.
Boston: How can people see your work and where [00:55:00] can they find you?
Phil: Oh, the standards. I'm @philjimeneznyc, Instagram and Twitter. my Twitter following is bigger than InstagramI'm almost never on Facebook anymore. deliberately,I don't have a brain that can manage, Facebook algorithms.
Phil. Thank you so much for sitting down with me being so generous with your time, for always being so kind to me and always being so enthusiastic in conversation.
I really appreciate everything you bring to my life, both as a reader of your work, but alsoas the human you've been.I consider you a friend, even though we've only met in person a couple of times.
Boston: Thank you for that. I said this, I would be no one without people like you. Like you support me and I'm grateful for that. Also. I happen to like you, why wouldn't I want to talk to you? no, it's actually, it's a lovely gift. And that, my friends, was Phil Jimenez. Thank you again, Phil, for bringing so much to our conversation and to [00:56:00] your fans.
And thank you to our listeners. What did you think? Please let me know in the show notes comment section over at mythicpodcast.com, where you can also find other episodes and a host of other resources.
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- [00:00] Introducing Phil Jimenez
- [03:30] On the design of Dionysus
- [05:16] Wonder Woman as a force of resistance to toxic masculinity
- [17:28] Are superheroes modern gods?
- [31:55] The rehabilitation of Hera
- [35:29] Ares: The intersection of war, eroticism, and entertainment
- [38:56] Five epic questions
- [55:00] Wrap-up
- GRAPHIC NOVEL: Wonder Woman: Historia
- PRESENTATION: "Phoenix Force & Feminine Jouissance" by David Odorisio, PhD
- BOOK: The New Mutants: Superheroes and the Radical Imagination of American Comics, Ramzi Fawaz
- COMICS: War of the Gods
- COMICS: Wonder Woman Omnibus by Phil Jimenez
What did you think of the episode? Let me know in the Comments section below. Or tweet me @mythpod!
Making this podcast is a pleasure, but it also takes a lot of work and time. If want to support the show, I’d be honored if you’d Buy Me a Coffee.
About Phil Jimenez
Jimenez has also worked as a creator in film, television, traditional print media, and design/packaging for toy companies; has created large-scale artworks for public spaces, schools, and museums in New York and Chicago; lectured at universities, museums, and the Library of Congress on identity and diversity in entertainment; and mentors young designers at the Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum.
Considered one of the most prominent gay creators in mainstream comics (Entertainment Weekly, the Advocate, OUT magazine/Out 10 alum), Jimenez also teaches life drawing at the School of Visual Arts in NYC.
He is currently drawing Historia, the Black Label graphic novel written by Kelly Sue DeConnick for DC Comics.