You’re a Wonder, Woman

February 15th, 2007 by | Tags: , ,

My style is “War and Peace” – your shit is just the Cliff Notes
–El-P of Company Flow, “Definitive”

Thomas Wilde hit me with this term some years ago. “Nerd blind spots.”

Nerd blind spots are those things that you’re an inordinately big fan of, which leads to being more willing to try anything involving those things. An example is the guy who went to see each Star Wars prequel movie in the theater and had high hopes that “Maybe it’ll be good this time.” It leads to a furher loss of objectivity in an already completely subjective realm, i.e., opinions.

I’ve got a few nerd blind spots. The Jim Lee-era X-Men is one, to be certain. I’d love to own all of that in trades. Spider-Man is probably my biggest, as I’ll pretty much read something that guest-stars Spidey unless I know that it’ll 100% suck. In the same sense, though, I enjoy Spidey so much that I have this idea built up in my head of what Spider-Man should be, so I can be quite critical of Spider-books. I dropped Amazing Spidey when Mike Deodato came onto it, mostly because he was completely inappropriate for the book. Millar’s Spider-Man run sacrificed characterization for plot and turned out to be a fake Hush. That kind of thing.

A lot of people have these nerd blind spots, be it for characters, themes (noir, how I love thee), or creators. These aren’t bad things at all, I figure. If you enjoy a book, that is all that matters. Everyone needs, if not obsessions, at least pointed interests.

This ties in, at least a little bit, with something I’ve thought over before. What’re your definitive versions of characters? I don’t mean stories, necessarily, but the way they are drawn. Who’s Superman, for example, do you think of when someone says “Superman?” Who has put an indelible stamp on that character?

Definitive tends to imply that there is only one version, but that isn’t quite right. Spider-Man/Peter Parker takes a bunch of different forms for me. Jazzy John Romita’s cool version from back in the day is on the list, as well as Jumpin’ John Romita Jr’s recent look for the webslinger during his run on Amazing with JMS. Another notable is Humberto Ramos, who draws pretty much the perfect “big foot”-style Spidey, and Mark Bagley is another big gun. Those are the four people I think of when I think “Spidey.” Todd McFarlane used to be on the list, since he was really part of my first exposure to Spidey, but he’s been crazy out-paced. he still draws the best webs, though.

Daredevil, oddly, isn’t Frank Miller’s version. It’s Alex Maleev’s. Maleev made that book his own, and his noir stylings were pitch perfect. The X-Men are Jim Lee’s, through and through. More specifically, X-Men #1-era Jim Lee. His people looked like heroes. They were all strong, attractive, rugged, and powerful.

Superman is Ed McGuinness’s version, no question. Not even Frank Quitely could top it, despite the fact that All-Star Supes is a quality book. McGuinness brings a kind of pop comics exuberance to the character that I just love. He’s big, he’s burly, and he’s happy.

This ties right into my next point– Wonder Woman. This part of the post is due almost directly to Loren Javier’s post and the ensuing comments thread here.

I’ve got a real love/indifference relationship with the clay princess. I was never a fan of the tv show, and she was completely absent from the few DC comics I read as a kid. I don’t know that I could honestly call myself “a Wonder Woman fan.” She isn’t an everyman like Spidey, and she’s kind of a typical DC hero.

I mean, let’s be honest for a minute. The touches and homages to the WW tv show completely turned me off the series. It felt cornball to me, stupid. It was a straight fanboy story, get me? It’s the equivalent of what I’d probably write if Marvel came to me and asked for an eight-issue Spider-Man special. Kaare Andrews already beat me to a Hypno Hustler revival, but Big Wheel and The Prowler are still out there!

Don’t take this to mean that I don’t like Diana. I just like her in certain specific instances. JLA Classified 1-3 come to mind. Grant Morrison on words, Ed McG on art. She was cool, calm, and confident. Ed McG’s art gave her a real superheroic flair, too. She looked strong.

jla01.jpg jla02.jpg jla03.jpg
Ed McGuinness and Dexter Vines do Wonder Woman, words by Grant Morrison

bondagetherapy.jpg The real definitive Wonder Woman, though, is the one found in the pages of Joe Kelly and Doug Mahnke’s JLA. I found her to be more human than Superman and possessed of a dry, but sharp, wit. The second issue in their run featured her and Martian Manhunter doing a bit of therapy. It involved him transforming into a giant monster in what I figure is the embodiment of his id, being wrapped in the lasso, and being forced to speak the truth. When they’re done and going over what just happened, she remarks, “That’ll be two-fifty for the hour, by the way. Your insurance doesn’t cover ‘bondage therapy.'” She’s got a wry grin and you can tell that she knows how to lighten a mood.

Mahnke’s is tall, well-built, regal, and the “wet hair” look (as a friend termed it) was an inspired touch. She resembles, if you’ll pardon the term, the “warrior princess” she is. She looks like she could beat up certain bad guys with just a look. It also helps that Kelly’s stories were, in general, very, very good.

One of the stories that I think is pure WW is “Golden Perfect.” For continuity’s sake, it takes place shortly after Diana’s mother dies. A mother escapes from Jarhanpur with only her life intact and begs Wonder Woman to help her get her son back. The JLA hem and haw over it, but Wonder Woman has no time for it.

teleporters.jpg “Her three year old son is being held as a prisoner of the state by a dictator who intends to enslave him to a life of servitude. We know she’s telling the truth, because she told me so while wearing this. Why aren’t we in the teleporters already?”

Decisive. Resolute. Imperfect. Imperfect?

Yeah, imperfect. Diana is quick to anger and can be very “my way or the highway.” When she’s confronted with the fact that Jarhanpur is not quite the hell she envisioned, and that both the dictator and the mother are telling the truth, she stops. The boy belongs with his mother, but he is also the heir of the throne of Jarhanpur. Taking the boy would destroy paradise and leaving the boy would wreck his mother. She doubts the lasso, and the lasso breaks, taking truth with it.
It’s eventually revealed that the death of her mother shook her more than she thought. In Batman’s words:

None of you, including Wonder Woman, felt she was being objective in this case because of her mother’s death. I think she over-compensated, and let the boy stay despite the obvious betrayal to her ideals and her heart. Somehow, this betrayal affected the lasso, which somehow then led to the unraveling of truth.

redemption.jpgShe doubted the lasso, doubted herself, and paid the price. Later on, of course, she regains her poise. Her duty is to safeguard the truth, and when confronted with a truth she didn’t want to see, she balked. She put her passions and fears before the truth, in her own words. She asks forgiveness and renews her belief in her duty. She creates a nonviolent solution to the happenings.

This story here was one of the ones that made me genuinely like Diana. It showed that, former goddess or not, she can still make a mistake. She still thinks with her heart, and sometimes, being a hero is tough.

For some reason, I don’t really feel Diana most of the time. Kelly and Morrison did a bang-up job with her, and I think nailed exactly how I expect her to act. She’s portrayed as almost a warrior-priest, whose emotions and such are just as important as her fighting prowess. She’s that middle ground between Superman and Batman.

I’d like to see more stories like that. I think that they’d be interesting. This is kind of obviously my Marvel bias talking, but I’d like to see more DC heroes with feet of clay.

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4 comments to “You’re a Wonder, Woman”

  1. You’re definitely right about the Ed McG ‘Superman’, I am consistently let down that every other artist doesn’t see that his design is how Superman _should_ look.

    I haven’t read JLA Classified 1-3, and laughed out loud at Wonder Woman’s “I’ve heard that about you, Arthur”. Awesome.

  2. The touches and homages to the WW tv show completely turned me off the series. It felt cornball to me, stupid. It was a straight fanboy story, get me?

    Oh, David, David, David…you obviously don’t know the thousands upon thousands of gay men who fell in love with Wonder Woman through the TV show. 🙂

    Seriously, Lynda Carter’s representation of Wonder Woman is spot on.

    I’m going to assume your exposure to the Amazonian Princess has been Post-COIE. While there are several things I love about Perez’s re-launch set up Wonder Woman to be less human that her pre-COIE counterpart by taking away her secret identity. Without a secret identity, she has had no touchstone to humanity and, because of that, it has been too easy for writers to portray her as above it all.

  3. Whoops, by straight there I didn’t mean hetero, I meant it as in… hm. I guess it equates to about “it was a fanboy story, through and through,” but not quite. Georgia slang creeping into my speech again 🙂

    And yeah, WW has been completely post-Crisis for me.

  4. I like WW, but I don’t claim to know who she is, if you follow me.

    Some stuff works for me and some stuff doesn’t. If she’s gonna be killing people, though, I’d prefer it be a future or alternate version of her.