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Rileah Vanderbilt Owns Wonder Woman Persona

Wednesday, July 24 marked an internet sensation when this link shot across my Facebook timeline, shared by a friend of mine, that would lead to one of the most fun telephone interviews of my comics career.

Wonder Woman costume designs
Photos ©2013 Rainfall Films // all rights reserved. Used with permission.
Rileah Vanderbilt Owns The First Spot-On Costume in Wonder Woman's Legendary Existence
Photos ©2013 Rainfall Films // all rights reserved. Used with permission.

Now, I've been a Wonder Woman fan most all my life. However, after my grandfather got me that issue of Adventure Comics #411 featuring Supergirl in October, 1971, it would be couple of years later that I got my hands on an issue of Wonder Woman because 1971 was another dark and gritty phase for the Amazing Amazon. I was 7 in 1971, see, and my grandfather wanted me to have wholesome adventure within my age range. I can't fault him for that. The very idea of Supergirl challenging prejudice with an alien and a blind African American child had already launched me on a career in comics, political satire and social commentary, at that tender age.

Comic fandom has given mixed reviews on the various incarnations of the Wonder Woman costume over the years. From the 70s plainclothes hippie look, to the 2012 gritty leather costume, people have been trying to update the Amazing Amazon for the post World War II generation since, well, before Woodstock.

The trick has always been to keep Diana Prince in touch with her original Greek Amazon roots. DC Comic artist George Pérez was always the best at this. When Wonder Woman was rebooted in 1987, writer Greg Potter spent several months working with editor Janice Race on new concepts for the character, before being joined by Pérez. Inspired by John Byrne and Frank Miller's work on refashioning Superman and Batman, Pérez came in as the plotter and penciler of Wonder Woman. The relaunch tied the character more closely to the Greek gods and jettisoned many of the extraneous elements of her history. Pérez at first worked with Potter and Len Wein on the stories, but eventually took over the full scripting chores. Later, Mindy Newell joined Pérez as co-writer for nearly a year. While not as popular as either Titans or Crisis, the book was a very successful relaunch of one of DC's flagship characters.

In 2011, Wonder Woman was refurbished again for The New 52, to the dismay and delight of a great many comics fans. Reviews were mixed on this "darker, edgier" Wonder Woman, but the series continues to be popular.

In addition, the release of an article by during the writing of this article, pleads the case of a Wonder Woman movie: an event that has been long overdue.

"As Warner Bros. attempts to build their cinematic superhero universe, they need to remember the facts about the strength of female-driven movies in the action category, remember that women are are a major target audience who can help propel these films to great success, and remember that Wonder Woman is one of the most recognizable and consistently popular superhero brands that has ever existed. There’s no reason to deny her a place as a founding franchise in the new DC cinematic world, or to treat her as if she can only succeed if she is first introduced in Justice League and then spun off later.

"Give the lady her due, Warner, and audiences will respond."

Wednesday on Facebook, I was astounded to see a young woman not just wearing a Wonder Woman costume, but OWNING it. A glance at her page, clicking a few links, revealed this information: Rainfall Films has recently completed filming on a Wonder Woman short film, starring Rileah Vanderbilt and directed by Sam Balcomb. The project is currently in post-production and will debut in August. Further details will be released shortly.

Not shy at all about dealing with celebrities (over my lifetime, I have interviewed Ted Koppel, chatted at great length with Tory Johnson, Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs, Sergio Aragonés, and gotten current Wonder Woman artist Phil Jimenez briefly annoyed with me), I contacted Rileah Vanderbilt for a phone interview. She graciously accepted.

PH: Hi! What a pleasure to talk to you today!

RV: Thank you for contacting me! How are you doing?

PH: Thank you for calling me back! I'm great. You've caused quite the Facebook sensation today, with the release of that promo poster and press release. Among my circle of friends, I think that the consensus is unanimous: you have captured the look, spot-on!

RV: Ohmigosh, that's wonderful to hear that! We were hoping it would be well-received.

PH: So tell us a little about yourself! Who is Rileah Vanderbilt? I see you're already building quite the impressive resume in feature films.

RV: (Laughs) I'm a known geek, a comic geek. I really enjoy comics, video games, costuming, fantasy books, Star Wars and all things Sci-fi. I'm involved in a number of projects right now, and don't forget Team Unicorn.

PH: That's outstanding. You absolutely have to tell me--WHO is the designer responsible for that amazing costume?

RV: The costume was built by Helen Green, who was also part of the huge costuming team on TRON: Legacy and a number of other movies. The costume was actually designed by Sam Balcomb: he and his wife are both HUGE Wonder Woman fans. His wife knows every incarnation of Wonder Woman from the 40s on, and their dream was to create a costume design that held true to the mythos of Wonder Woman, her Amazon heritage and her Greek roots, and still be both authentic and functional.

PH: This is the first time that's ever been accomplished. I've done a series myself, House of the Muses, a historical fiction series set in Ancient Greece. When I laid eyes on the costume, it just washed over me: 'Wow, this is it.'

RV: That was what we were going for. I truly believe that Wonder Woman should be handled exactly like Thor. She is such a larger-than-life character, the mythos, the history, the roots in mythology, should really put her on a par with Thor. Look. You're going to think this is hilarious. I didn't even cry when I put on my wedding dress. But when I put on this Wonder Woman costume, assumed the mantle and the immense legacy and the whole mythology of it, something, this feeling, washed over me, and I started to cry. There was just something about it--

PH: Something deep inside you just said, 'This is it."

RV: Yes. It was a feeling that's going to be very hard to describe.

PH: So are there any plans to pitch this look to Warner Brothers?

RV: I don't know yet. This feature short was only intended to be a conceptual piece, so only time will tell.

PH: So what is it? A short feature piece, a demo?

RV: I couldn't even call it a short feature piece. It's a very short conceptual piece, about two minutes long, which was just intended to set the stage, create the mood, to draw the audience in. Rainfall is going to release the short sometime in August.

PH: Any chance we might get a link to the piece when it's released?

RV: We'll definitely let you know. :)

Now, Google is overflowing with fan outcry for a Wonder Woman film. Is there a stellar break-out role waiting in the wings for Rileah Vanderbilt? Only time will tell! Keep your eyes peeled for the Wonder Woman feature release from in August, 2013!

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Photos ©2013 rainfall // all rights reserved

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