At the 2018 New York Comic Con, we had the opportunity to sit down with comic artist Yanick Paquette. The central topic of our conversation was, of course, his latest work WONDER WOMAN: EARTH ONE Vol. 2, which is essentially a modern retelling of Wonder Woman‘s classic origin story. While Wonder Woman reigned during the interview, I also had the time to ask him about his artistic influences as well as his nature-based masterpiece, SWAMP THING.

[Editor’s Note: The transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.]

ComicsVerse (CV): The first thing we have to talk about is WONDER WOMAN: EARTH ONE volume two coming out in just a few days. Why did you think this part of Diana’s life needed to be told?

Yanick Paquette (YP): Amazingly, this book is amazingly well-timed. Have you read it?

CV: Yeah. I loved it. It was amazing.

YP: Well, the thing is when you… I need two years to draw those things. I mean, it takes forever, and Grant and I are putting in a lot of energy. And we don’t quite know, when we start, when it’s going to actually hit the market. And we certainly didn’t know what would happen in the world at the same time. So this book deals with a lot of the same issues we’re dealing with in the real world — about the power of men over feminism and trying to control things. We’re talking a lot about control and some abuse also, and the quest of what a woman should try to debate. And, get this, a bit wild idea of feminism that she had because it’s the brand of feminism from the 40s that the Amazons had.

CV: While you were working on this, did Morrison or you try to kind of gear it in a certain way to work with the current political climate? Did you change it as you were working on it to kind of react to that?

YP: Well, not really. When we did the first one at the end of it and when we’re talking about the second volume, and a third volume, that was in 2016. The atmosphere by then was that the feminist movement will reach a milestone and we’ll get a first female president. And in a context where she would slay this dragon, the end, the bus at the end of the video game type monster. So it was this big moment coming up and we were convinced that was the outcome of it. As it turned out, it wasn’t. And this must have steered Grant into a different direction.

Then there’s the #MeToo movement also. There was some reference to it in the comic. So there is for sure influence. Grant is very sensible, I feel, to the world and it will adapt. And because we work 10 pages, 20 pages at a time, it’s always a work in progress. So there’s always a moment where we might let our sensibility of the moment steer that story into a different direction or focus on something else.

CV: So artistically, what did you think was the biggest challenge of working on this second volume as an artist?

YP: Yeah, the problem with EARTH ONE, it’s the same with the first and the second, is the world building aspect of it because everything, it needs to be built, right? So, you know, traditionally the Wonder Woman world is a Greek world. I mean, if you look at the Perez or even the Azzarello interpretation of it, when they flee to the island, they come, they go with their culture and they stayed there for thousands of years, which makes not much sense for us and Grant. So the premise is that while they will keep evolving, they will create a culture, a technology, books, there’ll be plays, they’ll be discovering clothing. And because they live in peace for 3000 years, they are superior and everything, that forces me to come up with some visual that fit with this crazy reality.

So every time I need to draw a door knob or an element or a spoon, I need to figure out what they have because it doesn’t exist. At the same time, I need to find a way to make it clear that it’s coming from the Greek but also influenced by nature because that’s all they got on the island. They look at each other as a woman form but also birds, seashells, and whatever nature they have access to. And so all these graphic elements I try to incorporate into the visual culture. So it’s fun, but it takes a lot of time.

CV: It looks like it takes a long time. It’s beautiful artwork. Kind of going off of what you said about nature, I know in your SWAMP THING series, you said that you kind of worked off of your knowledge of insects and nature. Can you kind of expand on that a little bit?

YP: Yeah. Well, way before doing comics, the kid that I was, I had a dream and it was entomology. So the collection, I had a huge collection of insects that I still have by the way. I was going into that branch of biology, but I was still drawing on the side, just for fun. And eventually I realized that my childhood romantic vision of entomology was not really realistic. I got this idea that I would be some sort of Indiana Jones into the jungles, finding cool insects and giving them my own name because that’s what you do, by the way, in biology. When you describe a new species, you can call it your last name. Some dream like this. This would be my pretension.

CV: The Paquette spider?

YP: Beetle or whatever Paquette or something. And so that’s not at all what entomology… Well, some entomology… They’re masters, that’s what they do, but most of it you work with agriculture and try to prevent pests to eat grains or something.

CV: (laughing) Ah, that’s so interesting.

YP: It’s not the same thing. And I went into comics thinking that none of my love of insects and nature will actually play at all. Well, unless I’m drawing Blue Beetle. And even then, you know, it’s not a beetle for real. And so, when we got to do SWAMP THING, and I was a big fan of Swamp Thing before because he was Bernie Wrightson’s character, which was my first introduction to American comics. Being French Canadian, I was most exposed to Europe and stuff and Swamp Thing. Well, not Swamp Thing per se, but Bernie and then later on, Swamp Thing was my first connection to American comics.

When they did the New 52, they offered me a bunch of titles to choose from and one of them was SWAMP THING and I signed it. The opportunity of going back to my childhood, almost like my love of the character and that style of very dramatic, lush, visual, but also my notion of knowing what nature looks like and trying to take advantage of it.

CV: Nice. I’m glad you mentioned your early love for European comics. I was wondering if you can still see any of those influences in your current work?

YP: It’s harder to tell now because I’ve been here for a long time, doing American comics. But when I first started in the beginning of 2000, end of the nineties, comics were still a monthly thing and people had to go fast. And that was… there were no special teams or no special projects. It was all monthly booking. When you signed in you had to survive. A lot of the guys and girls that were doing it, mostly guys back in the nineties. They were not doing that much research for backgrounds and stuff like that because they had to go fast. And especially if you go to Istanbul or Paris. They would draw like a very horrible Paris with the Eiffel Tower or some type of Eiffel Tower in the back there.

And because of my love of European comics… European comics are 44 pages and you’ve got a year, two years to do it. So all the research is awesome. Every single panel is research. These guys, they need to draw Venice, they’ll go to Venice for a month and take photos and watercolor just to prepare for the book. And so that was my world and that was my inspiration at least. I was very big into doing my research and trying to make my backgrounds as accurate and culturally relevant as possible.

In that period, I think that was a difference, maybe, against other artists at the time. Nowadays, people have the time and they have Google image so there is no excuse to do an awful Paris. You google, you can street view the place and most artists take advantage of this technology to get access to these references. I remember had a vast library of everything. I would go and buy grandfather clock books just in case I need to draw a grandfather clock. Maybe, maybe not. That was before the Internet. So you couldn’t search like “grandfather clock.” I do that on Google image and I got 16,000 hits of cool clocks. But back then I needed like a book on clocks and on every other element. On spoons, again.

CV: Just one last fun question. If you could redesign one character, who would it be?

YP: Um, Black Manta. I just find it ridiculous. I mean, some people miraculously almost manage to make it look scary and tough, I don’t know. But his helmet just… no. It needs something deep.

An actual mantle like the beast. I don’t know.

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