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A Comic Fan Searches For A New Hero: Part 9, Wonder Woman

A Comic Fan Searches For A New Hero: Part 9, Wonder Woman

Posted on November 13, 2013 by 

Check out the introduction for background on this series of posts!
Check out part 1: Green Lantern. Check out part 2: Captain America.Check out part 3: Wolverine. Check out part 4: Power Girl. Check out part 5: Aquaman. Check out part 6: Luke Cage. Check out part 7: Iron Man. Check out part 8: Spider-Man.

Who Is Wonder Woman?

Who Is Wonder Woman? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Wonder Woman! She is like the default female superhero for everyone, right? Is her recepetion as problematic as Powergirl’s? Kinda, but context matters. DC’s premiere leading lady, muse for Linda Carter and icon of throngs of girls who grew up in the 70’s. Greek powerhouse and all around feminist, Wonder Woman!

Who is Wonder Woman?

Wonder Woman, Diana, was originally thought to have been created by her Amazonian mother, Hippolyta, out of clay, and given life by the Greek Gods. Recently, is has been revealed that she is indeed yet another demi-god, given life by the loins of Zeus… with her mother Hippolyta. Regardless, she, along with all of the other Amazons on Themyscira (or Paradise Island, if you please), were forbidden from interacting with “man’s world,” untill Steve Trevor crash lands on the island on an unrelated mission for the US of A. Diana nurses him back to health and eventually is allowed to accompany him back to America, partly for love, partly to act as an Ambassador of peace to the outside world on behalf of the Amazons.

Is this character heroic?  Yes. Very much so. She is actually a very “classically”  heroic figure. That is, while she does have her moments of self-sacrifice, she is more often known by her heroic deeds, powers, position, and what she represents. She literally fights the good fight, on behalf of the good, against the evil, and wins. Thus, she is heroic. Right? (1 point)

Does this character represent the “powers” or fight against them? Depends on which powers, I suppose. She is an outsider as far as America goes, and yet, she has often worked for the American government or even for the military. She Fights against evil gods, but often represents the “good” ones (Greek gods rarely stay in those lines, though, lets be honest). She is a joiner, and usually joins the authority du jour, while at the same time subverting some major interests thereof. (.5 points)

Does this character kill? Yes. In fact, if there is one thing about Wonder Woman which sets her apart from her immediate contemporaries in the Justice League, it is the fact that, while she may not wish to be put in those situations, she has little to no compunction  about killing when necessary. Let me be clear, she is not the Punisher. She has a very strong “just war theory” attitude, and only kills as a last resort, but at a certain point, she simply no longer cares to be patient or creative, and takes the literal sword to the bad guys. (0 points)

Does this character have a spirituality? Yeah. She kinda can’t help it. The Greek pantheon of Gods are literally in every issue of her comics. She alternates between a being created out of clay by a god, to a child of a god, to a god herself. She interacts with mythical creatures, visits holy sites, and unholy ones, and magic and spiritual things permeate her being. She is often praying to Hera, and uttering other prayers to the gods, all the while fighting them at the same time. Complicated spirituality, sure, but a very strong spirituality nonetheless. (1 point)

Does this character have an interesting (and sustainable) story to inhabit? I would have said not really just a few years ago. Wonder Woman’s story is hard to get right. In fact, it is all about setting. Wonder Woman as a character foil for “man’s world” simply doesn’t work. She does work, and how, when she is allowed to thrive in her native environment, as a continuation of Greek mythology. When she is judging the gods, fighting them, and interacting with their Machiavellian schemes for humanity, she is brilliant. When she is simply the female Justice League member, hypocritical ambassador of peace, or Outcast Amazon, she really falls flat. Fortunately, she is in a Greek phase right now. (1 point)

Does this character have a supporting cast that isn’t just around to make them look good? Yes. Her supporting cast is building rapidly. She has brothers and sisters who are also demi-gods who are making regular appearances in her book as fully fleshed out characters in their own right, she interacts with the gods, who play second fiddle to no one, and she is playing protector for a powerless young mother and her child, who, despite no powers and no useful function, bring a human side to the story dominated by larger than life gods.  (1 point)

Does this character have a T-shirt I can buy in size XL? Probably not in a men’s XL.. (0 bonus points)

Does this character represent, in broad terms, an outlook on life that I can support? Not really. She is militaristic. She gets her way through force. Still, she is a prophetic voice in many instances for women’s rights… but I think her proclivity for interacting with the powers and working top-down is not my style.  (0 Points)

Are this characters powers (or lack thereof) interesting? Yeah. Although, I think more and more, writers are trying to make her the power equivalent of Superman, as if physical strength is what defines a character’s worth. The stronger she gets, the less interesting she becomes. Still, she can fly as well, deflect bullets with her magical armbands, and she can cajole the truth from anyone with her lasso of truth. Pretty cool.(1 point)

Wonder Woman Crucified for Milk

Wonder Woman Crucified for Milk (Photo credit: jooleeah_stahkey)

Note about Wonder Womans’ real-world origin and history: Wonder Woman was created by  William Moulton Marston, who was a self-proclaimed feminist, psychologist, and inventor. Marston modeled Wonder Woman after his wife and their poly-amorous relation, Olive Byrne, a student of his. That is problematic enough at some point, but Marston’s idea of breaking out of traditional gender roles was obscured by his fetish with female bondage, which of course, he saw as liberation for women. As such, Wonder Woman was originally dressed in something between an American flag, a WW2 soldier’s pinup, and a bondage outfit. In addition, the bondage themes that ran throughout Wonder Woman’s early years were incredibly offensive, and even became part of the character’s makeup in that she lost all of her substantial powers when she was tied up by a man (see example above). Regardless of the point he was trying to make with that, what ended up being the case was that Wonder Woman was tied up, bondage-style, with breasts heaving, nearly every issue. Now, she is usually dressed in something akin to a swimsuit with traces of metal, and although women should be allowed to wear what they want, she certainly doesn’t represent most of the feminists I know, who would encourage champions of feminism away from exploiting their bodies as the artists of Wonder Woman seem to do. Still, let us not allow Wonder Woman’s sordid past to derail us from enjoying the evolution of the character and what she CAN represent going forward.

Verdict: 5.5 out of 8 points 

Tune in next time for a discussion of John Constantine…

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Today Was Wonder Woman Day!?

Wonder Woman as she appeared in the 2009 anima...

Wonder Woman as she appeared in the 2009 animated film Wonder Woman, voiced by actress Keri Russell (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

DC Comics has yet to announce a live-action television series or film for Wonder Woman but that does not mean there is not a demand to see more Wondy.  In San Antonio, one comic book shop is auctioning art work for anti-domestic violence charities.

h/t to Bleeding Cool for the story.

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@PBS 's #WonderWomen: White Feminist Superheroines And Invisible Women Of Color

gina torres wonder woman

“This post has been cross-posted from my Blerd Theologian Tumblr

Tonight, I watched PBS’s Independent Lens’ episode entitled, Wonder Women: The Untold Story of American Superheroines. To be honest, this documentary played out unfortunately like a piece of white feminist triumphalism, when it really did not have to. My favorite comic writer Gail Simone said at the conclusion of that Wonder Woman was a feminist symbol of hope and inclusion. The vision for the future promoted by this text, however, was one of racial exclusion and classist & ableist propaganda. Wonder Women was not a documentary geared towards ALL American women, but specific white American women with middle & upper class privilege.

Let’s go through the U.S. American history lesson we were given, shall we? Wonder Woman was the comic book version of Rosie the Riveter during World War II, and afterwards, her and Lois Lane were depicted as less ambitious. So basically, white women were told to take care of homes! Okay, but this WAS NOT THE EXPERIENCE OF ALL WOMEN! No, this documentary spoke to the white side of segregationist economics and white women’s experience, but when it comes to blacks, perhaps those women who were HAD NO CHOICE but to work (because choice is a luxury, based on class, don’t forget that), Wonder Women could not address this issue.

Moving on, let’s read about the Women superheroes who inspired the women’s rights movement in the 60s and 70s. Big surprise: All white, all without disability, and with class privilege. Yeah, a picture of Storm from Marvel’s X-Men was put up as a token. Yeah, they talked about Nubia as “Wonder Woman’s sistah counterpart” but that was false. Any google search will show you that Nubia was a villain, and has since the 70s, fallen off the face of the DC universe. What an inspiration!

Wonder Woman. Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Xena the Warrior Princess. All able-bodied. All white women written by white men. At the conclusion of Wonder Women,the documentary shameless did a highlight reel of famous American women, and showcased WOC such as Supreme Court Justice Sotomayor, Rosa Parks, and others. It’s funny that this played out sort of like Season 7 of white feminist legend Buffy, where the show all of a sudden becomes more culturally diverse, as if the first six seasons & it’s First World Western feminist vision didn’t happen!

In Buffy, a number of POC scholars have taken issue with portrayals of racial minorities in the BuffyVerse, and DC Comics (as much as I’m a New 52 fanboy), continues to have more problems than Marvel (but atleast DC doesnt have the Doctor Voodoo problem– you can look that up). Works of fantasy, myths are always social and political. Pop cultural exclusion leads to perpetual political exclusion, and that’s what we continue to see, esp when it comes to voting rights, access to public education, and the prison-industrial complex.

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