Listing all of Andy Mangels’ credits would take pages. He’s written numerous comics including Boba Fett: Twin Engines of Destruction, ElfQuest: Blood of Ten Chiefs, Justice League Quarterly, and many others. He’s co-written numerous Star Trek novels with Michael A. Martin, directed and written DVD documentaries including an award-winning He-Man set, he’s the writer of Lou Scheimer: Creating The Filmation Generation, is an activist for LGBTQ rights, is the founder of Women of Wonder Day (formerly Wonder Woman Day) which benefits victims of domestic violence, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Now’s he’s writing Wonder Woman ’77 Meets The Bionic Woman for Dynamite, co-published by DC, bringing together two classic TV series. He recently told Westfield’s Roger Ash about this exciting upcoming project.
Westfield: What attracted you to the project?
Andy Mangels: I’ve been a fan of both Wonder Woman and The Bionic Woman since they debuted, in 1975 (Jaime Sommers first appeared on The Six Million Dollar Man that year). There were a few years there when there were a number of super-powered heroes and heroines on TV, and I watched as many of them as I could. Wonder Woman was by far my favorite, but I also used to make bionic running sounds when I would crash around in the Montana woods, hoping to run into Bigfoot.
I actually proposed this project to DC a while back, and was cleared to write it late last year, for Dynamite. It’s quite literally a dream come true, but not just for me. I have heard from hundreds of fans online who have said they’ve waited decades to see these two characters meet! As kids, we played with our action figures and dolls to create team-ups we never could watch or read… now, some of those team-ups are finally happening!
Westfield: What makes this a good pairing?
Mangels: Both Wonder Woman and The Bionic Woman were revolutionary on television as some of the first shows to star women that weren’t comedies. In addition to that, they were action-adventure series, which was even more of a rarity for female characters. There had certainly been precedents, such as Batgirl or Emma Peel, but they were too few and too far between, and none had headlined their own series.
The other appeal for the series then was the actresses, Lynda Carter and Lindsay Wagner, who brought such grace and humanity to their characters, not to mention beauty. And while some people deride the shows today as campy, I maintain that both actresses did not “camp” up their roles, but actually worked very hard to make them strong women, and friendly and relatable. It was a tactic that was successful. Viewers saw them as combinations of protectors/mother/sister figures, friendly and fierce, and beautiful.
Now, for the comics, what makes them a good pairing is that they’re both strong, capable, intuitive women who work for government agencies, which is the start of what brings them together. From there, they realize that it’s not only the agencies or democracy itself that are the target… they are both targets as well!
Westfield: Will any of the other members of the TV cast be involved in the story?
Mangels: Absolutely they will. The story is set during the third season for both series, and members of the supporting cast from all three seasons will appear. And it’s not just the main cast; there will be cameos and surprise appearances by fan favorites and one-shot characters as well. One of the covers for issue #2 is by Aaron Lopresti, and he does 20 supporting cast members as heads in the background. Will some of them appear? Yes! Will all of them appear? Will there be more than those 20 who appear? Read the series to find out!
Westfield: What can you tell us about the story?
Mangels: There is an evil cabal named CASTRA that has some horrific plans, and some of its members include villains from both Wonder Woman and The Bionic Woman. They are opposed by various government agencies, including the OSI (Office of Scientific Intelligence), who are all overseen by the IADC (Inter Agency Defense Command). Jaime Somers works for the OSI, and Diana Prince works for the IADC, so they’re called in to help with the crisis… but not before their alter egos have had their own first meeting!
From there, there are a lot of surprises to come. We don’t have a TV budget to worry about, so if I want an army of combatants to fight, I can ask Judit Tondora to draw them! If I want to go to specific really cool locations, I can do that. If I want to use the invisible plane more, or show some spectacular stunts, it’s all on the table!
This is not a drawn-out “wait for the trade” kind of story with tons of double-page spreads and big pin-up art. Every issue is crammed full of story, and every issue will end with a cliff-hanger. I want fans to feel like they’re getting their money’s worth on every page, and leave them breathless in anticipation.
Westfield: You’re working with artist Judit Tondora on the series. What can you say about your collaboration?
Mangels: This is Hungarian artist Judit Tondora’s first major series, and I can safely say that she is a future star. I’m glad we’ve got her locked in for six issues, because once this comes out, I’m sure she’ll get some offers from the major companies. We found Judit through David Campiti’s Glass House Graphics (Dave was my editor back when I used to write for Innovation Comics) and she has been a dream.
I ask a lot of Judit. Not only are pages averaging 6-8 panels, but everything is period, set in late 1977. So in addition to getting her literally thousands of images from both shows for reference on actors and locations, I’m getting her specific reference for props and clothing. In the first few issues, she has to draw period-specific cars, clothes, artillery, warehouses, military vehicles, tactical gear, a private jet, a roadway tunnel, and more! She’s also gotten to redesign a Wonder Woman TV villain who is evolving into a character we know from forty years of comic appearances… but the villain is designed as if they would have been on the TV show!
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the other artists contributing. Filipino artist Michael Bartolo is turning in some great colors, and as you’ll see, he’s using a brighter palette than many digital artists use, befitting this project. The legendary husband-wife team of Tom Orzechowski and Lois Buhalis are doing the lettering, and it will also look period-specific, and in the case of some captions, exactly like it did on the TV shows. And we have a knockout set of cover artists: Cat Staggs is doing our regular covers, and our variant covers start with Alex Ross and Michael Adams for the first issue, past Wonder Woman artist Aaron Lopresti on issue #2, plus some fan favorites and big names for other issues!
Westfield: Any closing comments?
Mangels: I’ve been a comic fan and reader since I was a toddler in the late 1960s, and I’ve worked in comics retailing in the 1980s and started my writing career in 1985. I’ve been in this field for a long time on all sides of the fence. I know there are a lot of readers who have been crying out for comics that are fun, and which speak to the things they love about characters they have read forever. Nostalgia is a powerful motivating force.
Wonder Woman ’77 Meets The Bionic Woman is the ultimate nostalgic love letter to fans. Everyone involved is taking the utmost care to make sure that you enjoy the book, that the characters and continuity are correct, and that readers feel not just satisfied at the end of each issue, but excited!
If you’ve ever enjoyed watching either Wonder Woman or The Bionic Woman — and that’s a tremendous lot of you given that the series are still running on MeTV and Cozi TV — you will love this series.