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'Nubia & the Amazons' co-writer Stephanie Williams on telling the next chapter of this essential DC hero
DC’s Nubia is ready to show the world who she is and what she is capable of.
From Wonder Woman herself, Diana Prince, to Donna Troy and Cassie Sandsmark, some of our favorite Themyscirans in DC Comics are celebrated by many and have seen a lot of adventures, all while enforcing the power of truth, love, and peace in man’s world. Since the 1970’s, we have also enjoyed stories involving other adored Amazonians like Hippolyta, Artemis, and Philippus but not every one has gotten their due.
Finally in the spotlight, DC’s Nubia is ready to show the world who she is and what she is capable of in her new comic, Nubia & the Amazons. Readers get to return to the grand and magical Wonder Woman lore, while still getting to explore the very authentic and human challenges people face everyday through Nubia’s adventures. Co-writer and lead scriptor Stephanie Williams recently gave SYFY WIRE some insight on her journey as a Black woman writing the series alongside Vita Ayala, and the importance of Black women in storytelling.
Nubia was first introduced in Wonder Woman (Vol. 1) #204 in 1973 by Robert Kanigher and Don Heck, as the long-lost twin sister of Diana and the daughter of Hippolyta.
“She challenges Diana for the title of champion and you have her show up in her full body armor ready to tussle.” Williams tells SYFY. “That to me was a character who was a go-getter, meant business when she showed up, a very skilled fighter, and a very confident fighter on top of that. I mean, you just show up on this island and you’re ready to take the head girl on and it took some gumption to do that, and I love that about Nubia.”
From then until 1979, Nubia made a handful of appearances but then disappeared from publications for 20 years. She was reintroduced in 1999's Wonder Woman (Vol. 2) Annual #8 with a new origin tale. Instead of being created from dark clay and given life by the gods, she sprung from the Cavern of Souls around the same time that Diana was born. Soon after, Nubia competed in a tournament for the title of “Champion”. As Champion, she was assigned to Doom’s Doorway, the gateway between earth and Tartarus guarded only by the best and most capable Amazons. Since then, Nubia has had a series of appearances and supporting roles – until recently.
Now, she has finally made her solo comic series debut in Nubia & the Amazons, where readers follow the newly appointed Queen Nubia of Themyscira in light of the events of Infinite Frontier #0 and Dark Nights: Death Metal #7. As the multiverse of DC continues to evolve to match the diverse and ever-changing world that we live in, her relevance to current audiences is all the more significant. This comic series not only signals the reintroduction of a beloved character and an expansion of the Wonder Woman mythos but it also indicates a surge of Black women writers such as Williams herself, Nnedi Okorafor, N.K. Jemisin, and Taneka Stotts, putting their imprint on comics.
Williams is no stranger to the world of comic books. In addition to her funny tweets, she has written for SYFY WIRE, Marvel, Den of Geek, and other outlets. She has also co-written on Marvel’s Voices: Legacy and is the creator of her own fan-comic series Living Heroes. However, taking the leap to writing for DC Comics was somewhat daunting.
“Prior to me even getting into comics journalism, podcasting, or any of that I was an [...] electron microscopist.” Williams explains. “It sounds like a really fancy title but as a researcher you get biopsies from procedures that people have done and you’ve got to [...] tell the story of a disease process.”
Despite the shift in her career interests, she recalls how her past experience had surprisingly given her the tools she needed for this new phase of her writing career.
“I guess the bachelor's degree of biological science wasn't a waste of those same research skills. I am using them now in something [...] as different as creative writing. I'm no stranger to adversity because I am a Black woman, so with that I felt like I was just already prepared. I was gonna bring my a-game all the time with this because [...] I don't know if this would be the only opportunity I ever get, so I want to make sure that I'm not writing to play it safe.”
Surely, Williams and Ayala lives up to the task. The series gets readers acquainted with new Amazons through the Cavern of Souls, one of which is transgender. “A lot of inspiration came from George Pérez's run of Wonder Woman,” Williams explains. “It just felt like a very natural thing to do anyway, but also a very simple way to just confirm and not leave it to subtext that there are trans Amazons.”
Additionally, after years of isolation guarding Doom’s Doorway and now without help from Diana or Hippolyta, Nubia embraces queenship and faces the challenges that come along with it. While the comic rediscovers a fictional world of wonder, gods, and monsters, there are many real-world parallels that can be drawn straight from its pages.
Nubia’s confidence, unwavering resilience, and grit is most notable in the displays of her personality in prior appearances. However, Williams and Ayala took strides to reimagine her more traditional portrayals to break the archetype of the “strong Black woman” that is normally used with Black characters that are women.
After decades of not seeing Nubia in prominent roles, Williams made sure that fans now get the opportunity to know her on a much more intimate level, all while still reminding us of why we love her. “My focus really was what else is there? So she's strong, she's been champion all this time, but why? What is it like when she's allowed to be vulnerable, and what are those thoughts and feelings? And the way that I thought of it – with her no longer being champion and being thrust into being a queen – that's a major change, Amazon or not.”
This theme furthered in seeing characters who are Black women being in community with, mentoring, loving on, and supporting one another. “There's also [...] opportunity to show Black women in friendship in comics, which we don't always get to see,” Williams says.
Nubia’s timely resurgence is a signal towards her ability to stay relevant after almost 50 years, and the types of representation that are being demanded from this generation of comic book readers. Williams reminds fans that “[Nubia] is an amazing warrior [...], but that does not mean that she isn't still human. So, [...] I lean into that because just for me, that was something that resonates with me and I hope that writing from that vulnerable place would resonate with others”.
Black nerds like myself have waited around for years to see Nubia get her due diligence and have also waited just as long – if not longer – to see them portrayed in ways that feel real to the human experience while also keeping the magic of comic books alive.
This type of storytelling is made possible by powerful Black women, such as Williams, writing about powerful Black women.