(Editors Note: All editorials are solely the opinion of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of DC Comics News or its staff.)
I really don’t understand the appeal of Wonder Woman. I realize admitting that kind of diminishes my credibility as a DC fan and, for those of you who actually follow this column on a weekly basis (there are none of you and I know that but shhh, I’m making a point) probably undermines the arguments I tried to make last week when I discussed sexism in comics.
Just to be clear, this isn’t an issue of gender. I enjoy and appreciate many female characters and am often saddened by the rampant misogyny that plagues comic book culture. No, this is an issue of characterization.
Wonder Woman is pretty much a de facto member of DC’s “trinity.” She, alongside Batman and Superman, essentially rule the DCU. Why? No idea. Batman and Superman sell more books, get their own cartoons, their own movies, their own video games… Wonder Woman gets a supporting role in the Justice League cartoon and one DTV movie that they apparently have no interest in making a sequel for. Don’t get me wrong, it was a solid movie, possibly even in my top 5 that the DC animation department has ever produced. But it didn’t get me to pick up a Wonder Woman comic.
Sure, she had her own live-action show in the 70’s, but that doesn’t mean much when you consider that even Captain Marvel appeared on screen around the same time. I mean, damn, he’s not even Captain Marvel anymore. He’s Shazam. He literally cannot even introduce himself without turning into an 8 year old. That’s really neither here nor there, but I wanted to say it.
So, maybe this is just a lack of exposure to the character, right? But these are still issues I have while reading her ongoing comic in the New 52. Well… mostly reading. I’ll admit, I’m a few issues behind. Learning her new origin story did kind of make me less enthusiastic about staying current.
I guess I just can’t get past the fact that her new origin doesn’t make any goddamn sense.
Growing up, she was given the horrible nickname “Clay.” Why? Because her mom supposedly molded her out of clay and wished her sculpture would become a real baby. Only that’s not true. That’s just a story her mom told her. And apparently everyone else.
She’s really the daughter of the queen of the Amazons and Zeus. So far, so reasonable, right? Not quite. See, if Hippolyta, Diana’s mom, was pregnant with a child for the standard 9 months, odds are that everyone on the island probably knew about it. I mean, sure, they may not have known it was Zeus’s kid, but there’s no way anyone was about to believe the clay thing.
“Hey, your majesty, where’d uh… where’d you get that kid?”
“I… I made it.”
“On the beach.”
“Out of clay.”
“I made it out of clay and told the gods to make it a baby. Which is why I was never pregnant.”
“So… you were just fat for 9 months?”
“I was… gathering the clay.”
“Um… Okay. Cool. Guess we’re all just going to mock your kid endlessly then.”
Oh, and by the way, all the Amazons are straight-up rapists now. Every 33 years or so, they assault passing ships, rape all the male passengers, and then murder them. Diana grew up with homicidal rapists mocking her for not being a product of homicidal rape.
At least she’s faced some tragedy in her life, now.
See, that’s my real issue with Wonder Woman. Prior to the New 52 (where, by the way, her personality shifts wildly from book to book), she wasn’t that compelling a character.
Superman was a lonely child who steadily realized that he was a freak and that the only people who would ever understand him were all dead. Batman saw his parents murdered right in front of him. Hal Jordan saw his father die (which, as I’ve explained before, ultimately set him down a rather suicidal life path). Barry Allen was told his father killed his mother and he spent his entire life trying to prove otherwise because he couldn’t dare believe that his world was that broken (i.e. literally the only thing I find compelling about Barry Allen). Arthur Curry was a freak in one world and fugitive in another. J’onn J’onnz saw the extinction of his entire species, then got transported to a world where he was a monster.
Diana was born in paradise to a mother who loved her endlessly. Prior to the New 52, she had a wonderful (pardon the pun) childhood. She had a strong sisterhood who always supported her and cared for her. She was imbued with incredible beauty, strength, intelligence, stamina, speed, dexterity, functional immortality, and the ability to communicate with animals (how that doesn’t come up more is beyond me). She was literally perfect. Now, as a demigod, she probably still is.
She faced no real hardship. She overcame no great obstacle. She just slapped on a bikini and said “look out world, I’m a superhero now!”
My inability to relate to her or care about her was never an issue of gender. It was just shoddy characterization. DC characters have always been larger than life. They’ve always been molded by tragedy.
Wonder Woman, ironically, broke that mold. I just didn’t care about the pieces left behind. I guess a more accurate title for this piece would be “Why Wonder Woman Kind Of Sucked Before The New 52.”
Another thing about the New 52 characterization that I appreciate is the destruction of Perez’s “chaste” and almost asexual Wonder Woman from the 80’s.
I’ve spoken at length about my hatred of Superman’s characterization from that same era, so I totally understand if you want to call me a hypocrite. It just never sat right with me that Bruce Wayne was off seducing Selina Kyle, Talia Al Ghul, Sliver St. Cloud and Vicky Vale, while Clark Kent couldn’t decide between Lois Lane and Lana Lang as he made sex tapes with Barda… and Wonder Woman seemed to have no real romantic drive. She was just born motherly. Grandmotherly, even.
Granted, in the New 52, I think they may be overcompensating with her love interests including Superman, Orion, and the perma-sad Steve Trevor. But she was a character steeped in kink when she was first created. Marston (who you may remember as the guy who invented the lie detector, hence the lasso of truth) created Wonder Woman as a bondage comic. It was an exploration of female sexuality and how it could be used to empower women as opposed to the relatively Victorian idea of the woman as submissive that ran rampant at the time (well, as rampant as “you… lie there while I touch your genitals with my genitals and NO TALKING” can run). Removing that was a disservice to the character. Grant Morrison is apparently planning to bring that back.
At the end of the day, I’m still going to keep on picking up Wonder Woman’s ongoing monthly title. And I’m really looking forward to Morrison’s take on the character with his Earth One book (hopefully it won’t be as terrible as everything else in the Earth One series). And I’ll be in line on day one if they ever get around to making a Wonder Woman movie. I just don’t think she deserves that spot as one of DC’s top three greatest characters.