By Alicia Ashby
DC Comics is giving Wonder Woman a big push these days. She’s co-starring in their new weekly book, Trinity, where Kurt Busiek and Fabian Nicieza carefully explain how she’s one of the three superheroes who are more important than everyone else in the universe. She’s got a new direct-to-DVD animated series coming up, penned by fan-favorite comic book writer Gail Simone… who, hey, is finally salvaging something readable out of the 2006 relaunch of DC’s monthly Wonder Woman comic book.
You’d think people would in a frenzy of Wonder-mania, the same as we were during the great Superman media blitz that preceded the mediocre Superman Returns, or the Batman blitz that predated the total rad Dark Knight flick. And yet, and yet… look, let’s be honest: nobody cares about any of this. Nobody really cares about Wonder Woman. There have been times in the past when people sort of cared about her for awhile, but it’s wishful thinking to say she’s as important—or even as interesting—as Superman or Batman just because she’s nearly as old.
In fact, here are ten reasons why nobody really cares about Wonder Woman, even if they say they do. At best, people care about all the things that Wonder Woman could be, but isn’t, thanks to the character’s long history of editorial mismanagement, bizarrely bad writing, and a near-total lack of focus.
10) Madame, Please Put on Some Pants
Let’s start with a basic problem, the character’s look. Wonder Woman’s costume, much like Superman and Batman, hasn’t really changed that much since her Golden Age appearances. If you don’t believe me, then check out the cover of the first issue of her Golden Age series…
… and the cover of the first issue of her recent relaunch.
While the original, Golden Age Wonder Woman comics expressed little more than a wistful desire for something like a feminist movement (with spankings!) to happen, Feminism has become a real-world concept between then and now. Women dress differently now, for different reasons, and ideas about what a woman’s outfit expresses have changed.
In the '40s, a woman in short-shorts was telling you she was no housewife! She was going to go out and do all kinds of unladylike things that involved exercise and possibly building muscle. In the 90’s, a woman who’s rolling into battle wearing a leotard resembles… um… nothing so much as an extremely angry underwear model.
9) There Are No Great Wonder Woman Stories
If a friend of yours is getting interested in superheroes and asks for some really great story recommendations, what kind of thing are you going to tell your buddy to read? You’ll probably recommend stand-alone, influential stories featuring minimal continuity and big-name creators at the top of their game. If you buddy likes Batman, you’ll send him to The Dark Knight Returns, Batman: Year 100, or The Killing Joke. If it’s Superman, you can point your pal at Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow, Red Son, or Secret Identity. If it’s Wonder Woman… uh...
… shit. The best Wonder Woman ever manages is coming along for the ride in big universe-wide stories like Kingdom Come and New Frontier, or weirdo costume dramas like Wonder Woman: Amazonia. In terms of stories that would actually make you think Wonder Woman is a great character? Apparently DC’s got absolutely nothin’.
8) In Fact, Most Wonder Woman Comics Are Completely Terrible
Where Wonder Woman has seen the bulk of her superhero action has been in her solo comics, and as a member of assorted Justice clubs over the years. When she’s hanging around with a team, Wonder Woman tends to just be a bruiser who’s also good at restraining and extracting information from people. In an anthology, her solo stories could be a bizarre if welcome change of pace.
In her monthly comic, which DC doggedly struggles to keep in publication, Wonder Woman tends to be at her worst. There have been good runs, most modern and heavily revisionist, by the likes of George Perez, Greg Rucka, and the aforementioned Gail Simone… but the vast majority of classic Wonder Woman comic book stories are absolute dreck, and often to a far greater degree than your run-of-the-mill bad comics. I mean, just look at some of this shit. It’s like DC was hiring twelve-year-olds, and not talented ones like Jim Shooter, either.
7) Golden Age Wonder Woman Comics Were Really, Really Terrible
Now, Wonder Woman is bad throughout most of her “classic” period, which gives modern writers precious little to draw upon when trying to make her modern comics interesting. It’s not a case of her Silver Age being degenerate from more promising Golden Age adventures, either. If you go back to the original Wonder Woman comics done by her original creators… Jesus Christ. A Golden Age Superman or Batman story may be crude, but there’s still something fundamentally recognizable about it. You can imagine how the characters got from that old Point A to their shiny, modern Point B.
Wonder Woman’s Golden Age books are hallucinogenic nightmares of bad plot, arbitrary story, and lots of loving depictions of fetishistic behavior that are just quaint and ridiculous now. From the lousy lettering to the bad writing to the poorly-composed artwork, I’d be tempted to say that Golden Age Wonder Woman comics are just unreadable to the modern fan. Check out the examples below, and bear in mind that almost every single Golden Age Wonder Woman story is exactly this crude and insane in almost every single panel of every page.
And there are hundreds of them.
6) Her Lasso of Bondage
Wonder Woman’s signature weapon is her magic lasso, which modern writers desperately struggle to make interesting. It’s unbreakable, and can compel you to tell the truth, and would be appropriate for roughly a 4th-level campaign in D&D. Sometimes it’s almost sad how eager modern creators are to get more martial, interesting-looking weapons like swords and spears into Wonder Woman’s hands.
I can’t blame them, though. We covered a lot of the god-awful goofy baggage Wonder Woman’s terrible Silver and Golden Age comics saddle her with, but the Golden Lasso is probably the worst. You see, in the Golden Age, the Lasso compelled you to obey Wonder Woman’s commands. In part, this is because Wonder Woman was an agent of Aphrodite tasked with ending violence, and in part because her creator William Moulton Marston had some incredibly unusual ideas about world peace.
You see, “Charles Moulton”, as he signed his comic, had some very loving relationships that involved women he adored tying him up and probably spanking him. Somehow he moved from his own personal enjoyment to deciding that if the entire world could adopt a similar domination/submission fetish, the result would be world peace. Everyone would either have loving subbies to lovingly dominate, or be lovingly vice versa.
So, well… the comics are full to the brim with bizarre, uncomfortable shit like this.