Acclaimed artist Sonny Liew takes on Wonder Woman

Artist Sonny Liew drew Wonder Woman as toned and svelte instead of with rippling muscles.
Artist Sonny Liew drew Wonder Woman as toned and svelte instead of with rippling muscles.PHOTO: WARNER BROS SINGAPORE/ SONNY LIEW

DC Comics' Wonder Woman is a powerful Amazonian warrior princess with rippling muscles, but you will not find much of that in Singapore artist Sonny Liew's illustrations of the superheroine.

In his version, Wonder Woman is toned, svelte and performs acrobatic stunts.

"If you think of superheroes, their muscles don't really make a difference. Their super strength doesn't come from muscles, but from strange sources, so there's no logical need for them to be muscular in that sense," he says in an interview with The Straits Times. The 42-year-old is the creator of acclaimed graphic novel The Art Of Charlie Chan Hock Chye.

He has created a series of illustrations of Wonder Woman that is being showcased at Books Kinokuniya until Sunday, in conjunction with the launch of the Wonder Woman movie this week.

The largest is an A0-sized centrepiece depicting the superheroine in an acrobatic pose while twisting off the head of a robot. His pencil sketches of the centrepiece work are also displayed.

"There are a lot of traditional superhero poses that you get on covers and posters and I wanted to avoid those and try something a bit different," says Liew, who based this artwork on a previous work of his.

  • VIEW IT / SONNY LIEW'S WONDER WOMAN ILLUSTRATION

  • WHERE: Books Kinokuniya, 04-20 Ngee Ann City, 391 Orchard Road

    WHEN: Till Sunday, 10am to 9.30pm (Sunday to Friday), 10am to 10pm (Saturday)

    ADMISSION: Free

This is not his first superhero piece. He has also worked on other superhero series, including DC Comics' Doctor Fate and Marvel Comics' Spider-Man.

While he says that female superheroes like Wonder Woman are often hypersexualised, this applies to male characters too.

"Just look at the scene in Captain America, with him holding back the helicopter, it was obviously a fan service. So I think this fetishisation or appreciation of the physical form happens with both male and female characters," he says, referring to a scene in the movie Captain America: Civil War (2016), where the titular character holds back a helicopter in a position that better shows off his bulging biceps.

In fact, things have gotten better in this aspect since the 1980s, he adds.

"Superhero costume designs these days are more practical and less gratuitously revealing than they were in some comics of that time," says Liew.

"At some level, the perceived core audience is still the teenage male. But demographics are changing and more women are reading comics these days, so they have to respond to that new diversity."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 31, 2017, with the headline 'No need for superheroes to be muscled, says graphic novelist'. Print Edition | Subscribe