Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Wonder Woman Is Also A Comic Book Character!

Wonder Woman, Wonder Woman.
All the world's waiting for you,
and the power you possess.

In your satin tights,
Fighting for your rights
And the old Red, White and Blue.

Wonder Woman, Wonder Woman.
Now the world is ready for you,
and the wonders you can do.

Make a hawk a dove,
Stop a war with love,
Make a liar tell the truth.

Wonder Woman,
Get us out from under, Wonder Woman.
All our hopes are pinned upon you.
And the magic that you do.

Wonder Woman, Wonder Woman.
You're a wonder, Wonder Woman.

Hi there! Welcome to I’m So Glad My Suffering Amuses You, the blog that can make a hawk a dove, stop a war with love. I’m Dave-El and I’m fighting for your rights in my satin tights.

Yes, the Wonder Woman movie is coming and so far, the word is it doesn’t suck! Which puts it above Suicide Squad, Batman V Superman and Man Of Steel. In fact, the buzz on Wonder Woman is that it does better than simply “not suck”. It’s reportedly actually pretty damn good.

Well, that’s nice.

It’s nice to see a DC Comics movie actually get a high level of approval usually reserved for Marvel’s cinematic universe. But not only that, it’s good to see that the first major motion picture starring a female comic book super hero getting some really good reviews.  And even better, that the female comic book super hero is Wonder Woman, the first super powered woman to headline her own comic that was not a spin off from an existing male super hero.  As such, Wonder Woman holds a special place of affection for women, comic books or not. 

Most know of Wonder Woman from the TV show starring Lynda Carter back in the 1970s. Yes, the show was cheap and cheesy but Carter herself was a perfect choice to play Wonder Woman who looked like the character had stepped right out of the pages of the comic books. Carter’s Wonder Woman was strong and beautiful but she brought a sense of joy and compassion to the role.

Wonder Woman was part of the Super Friends which gave her even more exposure to a wide audience. Super Friends was no artistic achievement but it did show Wonder Woman on equal footing with the other male super heroes, a character of strength, competence and confidence on par with Superman and Batman. 

Wonder Woman/Super Friends model sheet by Alex Toth

Wonder Woman received more nuanced characterization but was still a strong and capable hero in the far superior Justice League animated series from producer Bruce Timm.

There are millions of women who are fans of Wonder Woman who perhaps never read a Wonder Woman comic book. 

The again, Wonder Woman has not necessarily excelled is in the medium of her birth, comic books.  Wonder Woman was created by writer William Moulton Marston who had a very progressive view of women as powerful and dominant. It was this perspective that informed his creation of Diana, a princess of the Amazons from long lost Paradise Island. Using powers and weapons of the gods, she came to man’s world on a mission of peace but more than ready to fight against tyranny, oppression and evil. 

But while Marston thought women were superior, he had a predilection for tying them up. Wonder Woman was forever getting chained up or bound with her own magic lasso. It is a standard trope for heroes to be caught in a trap. Batman and/or Robin would get conked over the head and wake up tied up to some dynamite or something. But Wonder Woman’s status of being tied in a trap was so ridiculously recurring in almost every story and several different times within a story, editors at DC had to constantly remind Marston to tone it down. One reason Marston got away with it as much as he did was his choice of artist to draw Wonder Woman.

Born in 1880, Harry G Peter was a magazine illustrator since the start of the 20th century. He was already an old man when Marston recruited him to draw Wonder Woman. Peter’s aesthetic was more towards children’s fairytales. For all the bondage stuff going on, there was a lack of sexualization in Peter’s art. After Marston died in 1947, H G Peter continued to draw Wonder Woman until his death in 1958.

Bob Kanigher took over from Marston and remained in charge of Wonder Woman until the 1960s. While Kanigher pulled back considerably from Marston’s excesses, he was prone to some really strange story ideas. After H G Peter, Ross Andru and Mike Esposito took over as the regular art team. With a cleaner line and more standard comic book style, Wonder Woman by Andru and Esposito was statuesque and beautiful but lacking in any overt sex appeal. Except for the costume, wonder Woman could have been your mom at a PTA meeting.

After a misbegotten effort to return Wonder Woman to a Golden Age style with Andru & Esposito doing their best H G Peter impression, Kanigher was off the book and a new direction was taken by Denny O’Neil, Mike Sekowsky and Dick Giordano. Wonder Woman was stripped of her powers and her alter ego Diana Prince became a super spy in the mold of TV’s Emma Peel from The Avengers. It was a move made with the best of intentions, to make Wonder Woman relevant to the late 1960s and showing how awesome she could be even without powers. 

However well intentioned, this new series sent the message that Wonder Woman could only make it by giving up power, the opposite message of the nascent feminist movement of the early 1970s. Gloria Steinem, the leading spokesperson for feminism, addressed the issue of Wonder Woman being without power directly to DC Comics who re-powered the Amazon Princess and put her back into costumed action.

The cover to the 1st issue of Ms. magazine; I think the art is by DC artist Murphy Anderson. 

But DC Comics didn't always seem to know what to do with Wonder Woman. Bob Kanigher returned to the title but was revising old scripts from the 1940s to be drawn as new stories. 

Dealing with a memory loss, Wonder Woman refused to rejoin the Justice League without testing herself. Various Leaguers took turns watching Wonder Woman to prove to her she still had what it takes. Below is the cover of one of these issues. This is the cover to the first Wonder Woman comic I ever bought. 

When the Wonder Woman TV series debuted, it was set in World War II. So the book switched to the adventures of the Earth 2 Wonder Woman in World War II; the book stayed with that long after the TV show moved to the present day. 

Finally, the book went back to Earth 1 and present day stories. Ultimately, Wonder Woman's title came to an end in 1986 with Diana being killed by the Anti-Monitor in the last issue of Crisis on Infinite Earths.

It was then that George Perez got involved, plotting and pencilling a new Wonder Woman series, crafting a new mythology on the blank slate left in the aftermath of the Crisis. 

It was perhaps the first serious long term approach to developing adventures for the Amazon Warrior. George scrapped the pastiche of gods and goddesses of the past, focusing on Greek mythology. This Wonder Woman had a point of view unique among DC's super heroes: she was truly an ambassador of peace first and foremost; but she was trained as a warrior. As a warrior, she could more of a threat than Superman or Green Lantern. Wonder Woman balanced the demands of peace and the power of war in a way no one else could. 

Since George Perez set the standard, Wonder Woman has attracted top shelf creators like John Byrne, Phil Jiminez, Greg Rucka, Gail Simone, Brian Azzarello, Cliff Chiang, Liam Sharp and more. 

The upshot is that Wonder Woman has been afforded more respect with creators who have a vision and a plan. Since DC's Rebirth initiative launched last year, I've been following Greg Rucka's return to this amazing character; paired with great art, Wonder Woman I would dare say has never been better. 

And at a time when Wonder Woman is about to take  the biggest stage of her career, in a major motion picture that is being talked up as one of the best super hero movies ever. 

The plan is for my family to see Wonder Woman this Saturday as part of wife's birthday celebration. I will have a write up about that on the blog next week.  

Until next time, remember to be good to one another. 

It's what Wonder Woman would want you to do.  

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