Saturday, May 1, 2010

I Could Never Be Your Wonder Woman

Above is the first Wonder Woman comic I ever owned, May 1980's #267, which came out of a grocery store three pack. I hadn't bought the discounted set for the Amazing Amazon, but the art was good, Princess Diana acquitted herself well in battle, and I enjoyed being introduced to her rather random guest star, Animal Man. I was already familiar with Wonder Woman before my memory centers had developed enough for me to remember a point of introduction. Whether it was the Super Friends cartoon, her live action TV outings, my Mego Pocket Figures toy, guest-appearances... I have fonder and clearer early recollections of the heroine than virtually any other super-hero or  recognized deity you could name.

I read the occasional Wonder Woman comic after that, often motivated by The Huntress back-ups, but nothing regular until the eighth issue of the George Pérez relaunch. I liked that quite a bit, but I was still buying my comics off the newsstand, and her distribution was poor. Once I started frequenting comic shops, I tried to start with the book again, but by then the art and writing had taken a serious nosedive. There was the War of the Gods crossover, but no one on Earth liked that, so I spent my money on Infinity Gauntlet instead.

Finally, driven by event fever and hints Wonder Woman was getting her turn, I tried the series again in 1993. I adored William Messner-Loebs' take on the character as a humanistic warrior with a sense of humor, just as concerned about getting a friend's child support checks flowing as she was battling misogynistic alien overlords. This led me to buying back issues, and I came to especially appreciate Mike Sekowsky's unusual 1960s take on Diana Prince as a depowered globe-trotting martial arts heroine. Again, this wasn't haughty royalty or a standard super-heroine, but a defender of those cast off and left vulnerable by a judgmental patriarchal society. It was a damned sight better than Wonder Woman fretting over Steve Trevor's romantic attentions and being emotionally battered by her fellow Amazons on a monthly basis, held up as some twisted interpretation of a "role model."

Over the following years, I purchased an entire set of Wonder Woman Volume Two, along with virtually every significant appearance of the character through into the aughts. For a number of years, Wonder Woman was my #1 favorite super-hero, bar none. However, it was an abusive relationship, as the Amazon Princess went from one terrible scripting stint to another, each creative team change lifting then dashing my hopes while still emptying my pockets. This lasted until Wonder Woman Volume Three, which I quit after the first long delayed storyline ended in 2007.

Back in the '90s, I switched my primary fan interest to the Martian Manhunter, whose history I've made a scholarly pursuit of online for about half of the last decade. I used to spend a lot of time on the DC Message Boards, and came to realize that not only wasn't my Wonder Woman being published, but that her fan base was so diverse, and so favored specific divergent takes on the character, there was no central interpretation for us all to rally around. Meanwhile, I still have plenty of boxes of Wonder Woman comics and memorabilia, some of which I like, and a great many more that could please get out of my house. I've long wanted to start a Wonder Woman blog to look through these books before showing them the door, but have just never had the time. I still don't, but that needn't stop me.

I'll offer posts here as often as I can, and hope for the patience of any readers who happen to turn up. This will not be your average Wonder Woman blog. I'm not female, I'm straight, I don't see Diana as a sex object, and I prefer the weird, off-brand takes on Diana Prince over the typical camp/earnestness that draws in many others. Hopefully we'll all have fun, and please, feel free to argue. There's a New Wonder Woman every few years, but I figure there's something at her core we can all enjoy, and true Amazons should be resolute when sparring over the details...


mathematicscore said...

Nice. While I've not quite gone quite full bore yet, my WW arc is similar to yours. I bought off ebay the vast bulk of the Perez series and War of the Gods from various quarter bins (mostly because I'm obsessive and I bought the Batman tie in off the stands and have wondered ever since if it was as good as the Grant and Breyfogle ancillary crossover...I'm prepared for disappointment) though I've read pretty much nothing of either, and have been following the current series (I too was almost lost but have been giving Simone the benefit of the doubt and have not yet been fully let down) but have never really figured out my connection with Wonder Woman. I think there are female characters out there more my speed, and I've read a half dozen different takes on her character that worked for me just in the last decade, so clearly she shouldn't be as attractive a character as she is. But her place as the only game in town for so long, particularly in the Super Powers toys, combined with the promise of her origins gives her a heck of a place in my heart. What little I've read of her early stories all seem to fall short of say, Superman or Batman's golden age awesomeness, but the concepts are there... Yeah, I'm rambling. It's been a long week.

Luke said...

I love the idea of WW moreso than the way that character is written I think.

You are right about the diversification and further niche-ification of WW fandom. There's a lot of wackos out there who love Diana and they are convinced that anyone who likes a take on Diana which is not their take is ABSOLUTELY WRONG. I mean, generally speaking Superfans can agree to disagree on Pre-Crisis, Post-Crisis, Modern, whatever, and even the Kyle and Hal fans have entered an uneasy sort of truce. But the Amazon fans are the craziest I have ever encountered. They put Titans fans to shame in the loony department. This doesn't help Wonder Woman much either.

You want to know my take? Wonder Woman's biggest problem is that she is a symbol. And everyone's got a different idea of she should stand for and at least half of that "everyone" is a radical type who wants to take her into man-hating territory. I never got that vibe off the old Golden Age stuff in the formative years. But thats just me. I could be wrong.

Much like I often get shouted down when talking about Luke Cage since I'm white, views of straight men who like Wonder Woman are often ignored. Hopefully your blog will be somewhere where those opinions are allowed to be aired.

Diabolu Frank said...

Luke, deja vu, but sharing in caring. I never heard back from that last long email. Too much?

M.C., I read two of the Simone trades, and they irritated the crap out of me. I think Simone is one of the finest writers working, but her best stuff skews really dark. The combination of black humor and sadistic violence could be exactly what Plastic Man needs to return to greatness (Ethan Van Sciver wouldn't hurt,) but on Wonder Woman it feels wrong. The first year of Perez got dark at times too, but it had an innocence and nobility to it that redeems it. I definitely recommend reading those when you get the time, though #8 offers a solid recap of the first seven issues on its own.

Anyway, it's sad that a character recognized around the world with seventy years of history is still so ill-defined and far shy of her potential.

Also, I will be covering other DC heroines on this blog. I'm not sure who exactly beyond the Huntress, but let me get this thing off the ground before I make any promises. I may stick with WW-related gals, or not, depending.

Luke said...

Frank, I have been away fishing and super busy at work is all. Plus I thought I would share my thoughts for the rest of the WORLD to see! MWUAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! FOOLS! I'LL DESTROY THEM ALL!

Diabolu Frank said...

In my little pop-up comment greeting, I briefly had the lyric "Stop a bullet cold, make the Axis fold." Your comment makes me regret losing it, madman!

mathematicscore said...

I enjoyed the super ape sidekicks, and the Achilles turned out better than Hercules in drag from the first arc... but you do have a poin that Simone hasn't been as effective as she has been on Birds of Prey and Secret Six. I think that owes a lot to the aforementioned inherent difficulties with the character given her history, both fictional and real.

She is so closely tied to the women's movement, and the "ideal woman" has shifted several times, and continues to do so. It's a farely unique conundrum. For instance, MM may have some conflicting interpretations, but they're all in the same neck of the woods as the old Detective comics strips, and most interpretations have either cemented or quickly been done away with. Wonder Woman's popularity means she is used a lot, and often at cross purposes... An interesting subject, to say the least!

Diabolu Frank said...

M.C., I remember hearing a lot of griping about the Gorilla City troops online, but I liked them alright, up until they kind of played out as a deus ex machina. They were Golden/Silver Age wonky, which the book could use more of. I only read the Achilles portions from the trade with Genocide, so I only vaguely recall his role in the book.

I have nothing else to add. You said it! :)

The Irredeemable Shag said...

Frank - Congrats on the new blog! Because you don't already have enough to do. ;)

I struggle with the character of Wonder Woman, like many people. Nearly two years ago I wrote a piece on why I didn't care about Wonder Woman. Most of it still stands.

Good luck on your new blog! I'll stop by from time to time!

The Irredeemable Shag

Diabolu Frank said...

Shag-- I remember reading that article, and may address it in the future. There's a lot of valid gripes to direct at Wonder Woman, and I support a good many of them. Still, I got love, and hope to spotlight some good material others may have missed. Alternately, there's truckloads of bad material I'll cop squats on.