Friday, July 2, 2010

Thoughts on Wonder Woman...

So, this week, the comics world was rocked by the announcement that Wonder Woman got a makeover.

When Fangirls Attack has a very nice, very complete roundup of the Internet frenzy that followed the announcement.   The Beat did a wonderful survey of big "name" covers through the ages.  Since others have done the work,  I'm just going to tell you how I feel about it:

I'm disappointed, but I know that ultimately, it doesn't matter. 

Wonder Woman has always been a figure that confused me.  I love the idea of her -- a female warrior, who prizes peace above all -- and think that the contradictions inherent in her character made her fascinating.  However, I'd say that at least half of the time that I read comics that feature her, I walk away disappointed. 

To put this in a visual format, I'm not sure how these two women can be the same person: 

On the left is the Alex Ross version of Wonder Woman, on the right, a cover by Brian Bolland.   The woman on the left is how I see Diana Prince in my head.  She's confident and strong.  She could kick your ass, but she'll try to talk it out first.  On the right, an extra from a soft-core porn Gladiator film.  

So, how can they be the same person -- is Wonder Woman role model, a symbol of feminine power and strength?  Or is she Wonder Woman: Bondage Queen?  I think until you answer that question, her costume isn't going to matter much. . An artist, particularly a cover artist, shape the way we view a hero, but editors and writers have to choose the characters destiny before the artists get involved.

That's why, more than Wonder Woman's new stirrup pants and Member's Only jacket, I was concerned by the new direction that the series is getting,
We learn that Paradise Island fell when Diana was just a child, when the gods withdrew their protection. Hippolyta and many of the other Amazons died in a last-ditch defense against an army with weapons that could kill even them, while some of her guards and handmaids smuggled a young Diana off the island. She was thus raised in an urban setting, but with a foot in both worlds, courtesy of her guardians and teachers from Paradise Island. They expect her to retake Paradise Island, defeat the army that’s still hunting for the escaped Amazons (and Diana in particular), and restore all her people to their previous glory. This is a lot to ask of someone who has no recollection of that world, and obviously has no idea about the timeline shift.
So, Wonder Woman is no longer a child of the gods, was no longer raised by a community of loving supportive women and no longer has the society of Amazons to support her and use as a model for her interactions with the outside world.  Basically, she just became every other superhero with a tragic past and a score to settle.  Boring.  Boring and wrong.

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