Sunday, August 24, 2008

The Trouble With Wonder Woman

So my dork isolationist rant about the SDCC earned me a temporary traffic bump via a When Fangirls Attack link. That surely won't last, as I enjoy calling the Silver Age Wonder Woman a useless cunt far too much. However, a fellow link fed into my love/hate relationship with the Amazing Amazon, Ten Reasons No One Cares About Wonder Woman. I offer a rebuttal.

  1. Writer Alicia Ashby believes that Wonder Woman's exposed legs, which once represented athleticism, are now just an excuse for Ed Benes' Wonder Thong ass cleavage. I couldn't agree more. Yeah, I've seen too many pictures from this year's Olympic women's volleyball and gymnastics teams to dismiss the look as completely impractical and sexist-- but still kinda, right? My thought is that most women who want to dress like Wonder Woman for Halloween while the fellas are rockin' Spidey and Bat costumes add to the suit. Skirts, capes-- if our national dress-like-a-whore day celebration has little room for the heroine's comic book costume, something has gone terribly wrong here. Finally, Wonder Woman's look is just too busy for my taste. There are too many colors running through her general appearance, and all that exposed flesh just becomes another awkward addition to that overwhelming combination. The multi-colored knee pads and such sometimes added in the comics don't help.
  2. Ashby feels there are no great Wonder Woman stories to introduce her to new readers comparable to "Dark Knight Returns" or "Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?" Well jeez, why not throw in "Maus" or "Watchmen" as well? Batman and Superman have appeared in some of the greatest super-hero comic stories ever told, because DC has treated them as their most important properties for three-quarters of a century. There are few comic book heroes who have a "Killing Joke" under their belt. Meanwhile, Wonder Woman has been treated like three day old fish for most of her publishing history, and is still a national treasure recognized the world over. Seriously, I wasted most of my weekend pouring over foreign reprint covers online for an unrelated project, and Wonder Woman was everywhere, like the Brian Bolland British piece running above. This is why DC has finally begun to push the character with the same fervor as licensors have for decades, and why she rates in a "Trinity." I'd recommend any of the following stories, most available in trade paperback:

    • "Diana Prince: Wonder Woman" Volumes 1-3 by Mike Sekowsky, Denny O'Neil & Dick Giordano
      A lot of people are critical of these stories, but compared to the Superman comics of the day, they're the bee's knees. After years as a lovestruck weakling fool, Wonder Woman starts earning the name, even without her powers or traditional costume.
    • "Wonder Woman: Gods and Mortals" by George Pérez, Greg Potter & Len Wein
      Do I like that Paradise Island was turned into a low-tech shelter for immortal rape victims? No, but it made for a heavy story worthy of consideration, especially when placed against the comparatively slight Byrne "Man of Steel." Are we now at the point where George Pérez's incredible art is to be taken for granted?
    • "Wonder Woman: Challenge of the Gods" by George Pérez & Len Wein
      The best Wonder Woman story of the 1980's. Includes the wonderful, text-driven "Time Passages," reflecting on people's initial reaction to a Princess of the Amazons in Man's World. Also, the suspenseful introduction of a dynamic new Cheetah and the titular epic.
    • Wonder Woman #66-71 by William Messner-Loebs and Paris Cullins
      Diana is cast in a "women in prison" movie, which proves an insightful character study of the heroine; while also mixing the mythological, science fantasy, and BDSM favored by Wonder Woman's creator with an exciting modern presentation.
    • Wonder Woman #72-75 by William Messner-Loebs and Lee Moder
      Humorous, humbling and humanistic, these stories serve as an excellent primer to the Wonder Woman mythos, as well as offering her most relatable representation ever.
    • "JLA: A League of One" by Christopher Moeller
      A "back door" fully painted Wonder Woman graphic novel, in which she's forced by fate to battle each of her fellow iconic heroes in turn. Gorgeous and well crafted.
  3. I can't argue with the opinion that "Most Wonder Woman Comics Are Completely Terrible." It is true. I own her entire Post-Crisis run, and reading it has caused me emotional distress. Many of the Pérez illustrated issues suffer from Pérez scripts, which became a full-on blight once he quit art chores. The second half of Messner-Loebs' run read like self-parody, only "enhanced" by the bad girl art. The only thing worse than John Byrne was most of Eric Luke's run. Phil Jimenez made Pérez's writing seem like Alan Moore by comparison. Rucka was at best serviceable, and as always completely derivative, but in this company a highlight. The less said about most of what came before or since, the better (Simone excluded, at least until I read a trade.)
  4. I think that "Charles Moulton" and Harry Peters are an acquired taste, preferably with lots of wine to go with the cheese and crackers.
  5. Personally, I think the Lasso of Truth is a grand conception with a wealth of meaning. I think the main problem with it is the avoidance of bondage and submission references in present tales. Subversive femdom philosophy is at the heart of the character. It is as essential to Wonder Woman as the empowerment fantasy of Superman and the fascistic underpinnings of Batman. Used correctly, it makes a Batarang look like child's play. Speaking of which, weaponized razor sharp tiaras and phallic swords in Wonder Woman's hands are truly, remarkably obtuse.
  6. Hating the Invisible Plane/Jet is hating Wonder Woman, and I will not abide. Allowing Wonder Woman to fly under her own power makes her Superman with tits. Part of the point of the character is that she is meant to carry others with her on her missions. All Aquaman did in all the years Super Friends was on the air was sit in the Invisible Jet while Wonder Woman showed how a super-heroine kicked ass. Girls have hundreds of heroines to choose from who fly like Supergirl, but only one they can imagine themselves as while pretending to pilot an imaginary aircraft. One of the best scenes in "New Frontier" was Diana piloting a jet made partially visible by her own splattered blood! The lack of an Invisible Jet is part of what makes the Lasso of Truth seem stupid, because why rope something when you can just grab it-- exactly like fucking Superman does?!?
  7. Alicia Ashby has varying degrees of merit to her arguments, but virtually none when she proclaims all Wonder Woman foes terrible. On what grounds? She offers none! She just keeps calling them all "lame-asses" and "shit," with no explanation.
    • Cheetah: Ashby offers a scan from an early Cheetah story that plays out almost exactly the same as Sam Raimi/Willem Dafoe's take on Green Goblin from the first "Spider-Man" movie. That seemed to play to the tune of what, $400,000,000? Cheetah was great on the Super Friends and Justice League Unlimited animated series, which ran for years. The Pérez reworking of the villainess was all the better. The fuck?
    • Circe: "doesn’t count - she sucks?" Elaborate some, maybe? A Circe stand-in was used in one of the best JLU episodes! The notion of a sorceress who can turn men into animals and must kill Wonder Woman to insure her immortality is crap for what reason exactly?
    • Dr. Psycho: a misogynistic midget who casts illusions? Fuck you, your homicidal clown, and your Rogaine tragedy-- I want to see Peter Dinklage accept an Oscar for his stunning portrayal in the motion picture! Best. Villain. Ever!
    • Ares/Mars: The God of War! When has the Flash ever fought a God of War?
    • Dr. Cyber: an international queenpin of crime turned hideously disfigured super-scientist out to swap her brain into Wonder Woman's body? Sold!
  8. Everyone does hate Steve Trevor, but for two totally different reasons. Golden Age fans hated him because he was such a little bitch, he just didn't measure up as a love interest or companion. When the Candy Girls pown you, get out. Silver Age fans hated him because Robert Kanigher reversed the dynamic by turning Wonder Woman into his bitch, disparaging the heroine. Modern Age fans don't really know the guy anymore, but he left a vacuum that recast Diana as a frigid ice queen rubbing herself off to Superman's picture every night. Wonder Woman needs a redefined Steve Trevor, or she needs to become a lesbian. This Nemesis shit won't fly any higher than the various other Trevor surrogates over the years, but Diana must have a romantic element within her series.
  9. Wonder Woman needs a supporting cast like Legion of Super-Heroes needs a deboot. It isn't that she hasn't had good prospects in the past, but every incoming writer "shakes things up" by dumping everyone. On the plus side, that means there's been no Jimmy Olsons to deal with, but on the minus side, no Alfred either. Memo to DC-- please reintroduce and remodel the following at your soonest convenience: Queen Hippolyta, Steve Trevor, Etta Candy (fat only,) I-Ching, Tim Trench, Nubia, Donna Troy, Julia & Vanessa Kapatelis, Phillipus, Ed Indelicato, Artemis, Joanna & Cassie Sandsmark...
  10. Since "We Already Have Superman," let's focus on what has made Wonder Woman unique over the years, rather than tear her to pieces and homogenize her. This includes: the warrior/evangelist dichotomy/symmetry, rigid adherence to a message of innate (if "loving") superiority of women over men, the military/intelligence community background, Invisible Jet, lack of invulnerability, Lasso of Truth, the steampunk-style mysti-science, the routine presence of confederates on adventures, conflicting world myth/religions in contemporary or unusual settings, ideologically motivated foes, the overbearing and ever-present authority figures, the heroine as lusty adventurer or subversive element rather than crime buster, and on and on. See, given just a bit of thought, I think it's pretty clear Wonder Woman owes no more to Superman than any other super-hero. In fact it was Superman who adopted much of Wonder Woman's personality and tropes going into the Silver Age that eggs on these comparisons in the first place!


Anonymous said...

My God. You get it. You get Wonder Woman.

Honestly, I think you'll like part of the Simone run. She spends a while tying up stuff from previous authors, but the things you list in #10 start to show up more and more and more and more... before DC ends Simone's run in favor of something stupid. *SIGH*

Diabolu Frank said...

I'll have to give Simone another shot in the future. I didn't like the first trade, but some of what followed has gotten credit from reputable sources...


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