You read correctly, after reading Megan Fox and B M Bendis go off on my favorite Amazon, I felt compelled to defend the Princess of Themyscira. If you don’t like it, too bad. I’ve been enjoying the adventures of DC’s third pillar in their “Holy Trinity” for years. Yet, my ratio of enjoyable Wonder Woman stories versus crap stories trends worse than Frank Miller’s good work versus suck.
Why? Well, sadly most readers and even more non-comic fans don’t take Wonder Woman seriously. To horny fanboys, she’s just the first in a long line of hyper-sexualized females, drawn in anatomically impossible poses. To non-comic book fans, she’s pretty much the same thing. To some feminists (at least those I’ve spoken to directly), Wonder Woman personifies everything wrong with women in comics. They have a point, having a strong and powerful female character would be a fantastic role model, if only she didn’t dress like porn star. (Although one could argue that male characters aren’t any better. I mean male and female figures within comics are nigh impossible, that is the point of fantasy).
However, it is a sad fact that almost all female superheroes do indeed look like they belong on the cover of Maxim Magazine. Now, I’m not going to spend too much time on the unnatural body designs of these heroines. The men don’t do better in the realistic physique department. In fact, I’m willing to wager only about .00005% of humanity has the figure of your most average of superhero (JLI Ted Kord not withstanding). Of that percentage, even fewer can get into the poses of said superheroes. Now, as is often the case when such an argument reaches fever pitch, someone brings comicdoms most prominent female character to the stage… Wonder Woman. She is one of the few (and possibly only) female character that isn’t essentially an estrogen clone of her male counterpart. (Yes, there have been great strides in original female superheroes, but in the eyes of laymen, Diana Prince is it). Wonder Woman is this enigma within the world of superhero comics. No one seems to ever “get her”. One moment, she is this completely powerful and independent character that stands just as strong (and often stronger) than her male counterparts… Then, she diverts to this out of touch ditz who doesn’t even know how to pump her own gas… To then sway into a ball-busting man hater who thinks us dudes are nothing but disgusting sperm banks. Next, she is the leader of an entire race of warrior woman… Finally, she becomes Superman with ovaries. So, what gives? Which Wonder Woman is the correct Wonder Woman?
Maybe a little bit of each. She has the potential. Gail Simone’s turn at the Golden Lasso has been an example in extremes. From utterly compelling stories, to what feels like a thematic re-hash of “Death of Superman”. However, unlike most writers, Gail is taking some interesting risks with Wonder Woman. Such a complex character should be a joy to write. Think about it. She comes from a race of warriors that have no problem dealing out death if it is needed and warranted. Your own social views on capital punishment don’t enter her views. Some people, in the heat of battle need to be stopped and if Wonder Woman does it with the edge of her blade or twist of her arms, so be it. Yes, I was one of the people that had no issue with Wonder Woman snapping Maxwell Lord’s neck. Sometimes a person just needs killing and Wonder Woman is the only “big” hero in the DC Universe that can honestly get away with it and not have the reader gasp in disgust. (Shock, perhaps, but not disgust).
On the flip side, Wonder Woman was sent to “the patriarchs world” to bring peace. Although she can bring down the pain, it is generally the last thing she wishes. Even more so than Superman, she is the warrior with a compassionate heart. Wonder Woman wants nothing more than to teach humanity how to live their lives in peaceful coexistence. Yet, she always keeps that armor polished and that sword sharp. Then again, she is a queen. In every sense of the word. She rules an entire race of women that were long ago subjugated under tyrannical Gods, only to earn their own freedom through bloodshed and Spartan tenacity. Can you imagine writing a character that at one moment can see the beauty in life, only to make a life and death choice the next? Wonder Woman is so many a mythological goddess’ rolled into one bullet stopping hero. She is the hunter, but she can cradle and protect the smallest of babes. She is a vicious warrior, but her compassion can stop a killer just as effectively as her fist.
Now that I think about it, Wonder Woman is a pain in the ass to write.
As you can clearly see, everyone has their own opinion on which Wonder Woman is the “right” Wonder Woman. People love a Wonder Woman that kicks butt and takes names, but don’t want a “ball buster”. People want a compassionate Wonder Woman that helps runaways, but they don’t want some bleeding heart. People want a Wonder Woman that is drop dead gorgeous, but she better not look like a sex object. Perhaps that a good starting point. Perhaps you just can’t have a character running around in a bikini, a golden tiara, and a golden bondage rope and still be taken seriously. Maybe it is time to shake up the look of ‘ol Diana Prince.
Maybe once she stops looking like a cheesecake pinup of Betty Page people can take her seriously. Now, the powers at DC have tried this before. However, it was in an era when many a comic book writer was trying to give female character an equal footing. Sadly, that often meant turning them into leather-clad vamps that read a lot of Ms. and need no man telling or even suggesting what to do. Well, as none of those incarnations exist in modern comics, it is clear that no one bought it. It takes a lot to evolve an established female character, and simply slapping some tight leather pants and cropped hair is gonna’ do it.
Why not go to Wonder Woman’s mythical roots?
Amazons Attack wasn’t the best story ever, but the general Amazon design was spot on perfect. These are warriors garbed in the traditional Greek trappings. Sure, the legs are still bare, but ain’t no one pulling their underwear out of their butt while laying the pain. So, that is a start. Get rid of Wonder Woman’s pasties. I know they are hot, but we can all admit that they look friggen stupid? Can you imagine standing with the fully clothed JLA? (Damn, even Vixen and Black Canary have the good sense to keep their Daisy Dukes covered). Now that we’ve given her some honest armor covering those more sensitive bits below the waist, it is time to move on up the torso. Oh, that fabulous Wonder Woman torso… Subject of many a joke… Sure, she isn’t at Power Girl levels, but one can tell she was given life by a horny ‘ol Zeus. Okay, now that we’re all done being letches, lets cover them bad boys up.
Yes, you heard me… Enough with the Wonder Woman cleavage! Look, she ain’t bullet proof (hence the bracelets). She needs something to stop the wayward gunshot…or megaton death ray. Again, take from history. Craft her a modern and efficient bit of chest plating that draws from her Greek heritage. Okay, now we are getting somewhere… Onto the tiara that everyone mocks. You know what? Keep it. It is an iconic element to her look and she is a friggen queen. Her majesty needs her crown. Those bracelets? Again, an iconic element of Wonder Woman. A) they stop bullets and B) they are a reminder of her ancestors enslavement and all she fights against. Also, can we please get rid of the stupid high heels? Honestly. No one can fight in high heels. Look, I know all about suspension of disbelief, but come on! There is a limit. Look, she can slip on some sexy stilettos at the next JLA / JSA Thanksgiving Dinner, but when she’s trading blows with Granny Goodness, the Prada gotta’ go.
And finally… A little extra… Give her a cape!
What? Don’t laugh… Come on, you know it would look cool. I’m not talking a Superman or Batman style cape… No, I’m talking about those bad as hell cloaks the Spartans went into battle wearing. Okay, so maybe it wouldn’t be all that practical. However, sometimes you just do things cause it looks cool and I’m telling you now… A decked out Wonder Woman with a half cape billowing in the wind would look cool. Damn cool!
Hm, I’ve noticed that my answer to correctly writing Wonder Woman is completely superficial. Interesting, in my quest to de-objectify a female character I’ve turned her into an object. Not sure what that says about me. Perhaps just noticing that is an important first step in writing strong and believable female superheroes. Without resorting to very tired and insulting stereotypes. Maybe it does take a simple surface change to point a character in the right direction. To coin an extremely tired cliche?… Perhaps the clothes do indeed make the man… and woman.
And maybe writers will stop saying she has dozens of STDs…