Wonder Woman: kNOCking heads

Wonder Woman polarizes the ongoing debate over live-action female superhero movies. Advocates for a Wonder Woman movie routinely pen supportive op-eds that offer suggestions to Warner Brothers and DC Comics, while detractors decry a live-action Wonder Woman movie as an obnoxious waste of movie funding better spent promoting other female minority superheroes.

To examine this debate, I sat down with Will West of williambrucewest.com. He’s forgotten more about popular culture than I’ve ever know, and he provides expert commentary on the history of Wonder Woman, financial pressures of superhero comics and the comics industry, the impact of feminist critiques of modern comics, and much more!

This is a discussion you do NOT want to miss! A half-hour of brilliant superhero comics commentary to answer the question: Why Wonder Woman?

Some choice quotes after the jump.

WW never really earned her spot in DC’s Trinity. She’s is there because they’re all basically in the same high school class together, and they remain friends. But some of them went off to dot coms, and some went off to Burger King. Wonder Woman went off to Burger King, but they still answer her calls. – Will West

… even if she looks like a stripper ar Mardi Gras, that suit is a symbol. just like that “S” means hope where he comes from, and just like Bats strikes fear in the hearts of criminals, that suit is a symbol to many people out there … – Will West

… The only reason we keep ever have this conversation about a Wonder Woman movie … is because White feminists want to see themselves …  – J. Lamb

Tell us your thoughts in the comment section below! Enjoy!

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8 thoughts on “Wonder Woman: kNOCking heads

  1. Enjoyed your discussion, guys, but really have to take issue with the assertion that no one talks about any Golden or Silver Age Superman stories (not knowing much about Wonder Woman, I can’t really speak to that). Yes, a few continuity elements were introduced on the radio serial, as you point out; but much, much more of the Superman mythos was not, but made its debut in the pages of Silver Age comics. Supergirl, the Legion of Super-heroes, Superboy, Braniac, Bizarro, Krypto and the Super-Pets. There are also plenty of Silver Age stories that really stand out, like Jerry Siegel’s three-part death of Superman story (decades before Doomsday), and his three-part “Superman’s Return to Krypton.” To say that “no one talks about” any Superman stories prior to “Whatever Happened…” in ’86 really doesn’t reflect reality, at least among Superman fans (and, I suspect, many superhero comic fans generally).

    The best characterization I’ve seen of Wonder Woman was in the “Justice League” cartoon. I’d watch more of that Wonder Woman anytime. So it is possible to present her in a compelling way in the modern era. (I’m not so sure you can have her “be whoever you want her to be,” though, no holds barred… there is already a fair amount of flak over Morrison’s upcoming Earth One Wonder Woman GN, for example, because of the liberties it allegedly takes with the character.)

    I will say you are right about her basically wearing a bathing suit being an issue for many parents. I know it was an issue when our then five-year-old daughter wanted to be Wonder Woman for Halloween. Fortunately, my wife was able to find her a Wonder Woman costume that had a nice, modest, star-spangled skirt (more in line with her original 1940s uniform)! Of course, the problem of too-little costumes is prevalent among female superheroes in general.

    I think you made some excellent points regarding white feminism and how there may be racism at work in the push for a Wonder Woman movie, and I appreciate hearing that perspective. I would buy a ticket for a Storm movie right now, if one were in the works! (Especially if it was also a Black Panther movie – I’d enjoy seeing Wakanda on the big screen.)

    Thanks for a good podcast! – Mike Poteet (@Bibliomike)

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    1. Mr. Poteet – thank you so much for reading and commenting! I’m extremely glad that this podcast provoked such an considered response. I find your criticism of our assertion that “no one talks about Golden or Silver Age Superman stories” largely valid. I daresay that it’s somewhat generational – for brothers like Will and myself, the mainstream superhero comics gained critical acclaim outside of the sequential art industry largely through the writing of Alan Moore, Frank Miller, and Neil Gaiman; their generation of comic writing defined quality superheroic capability for myself and many of my peers. Certainly Superman fans with more respect for earlier stories that examined the boundaries of Superman’s mythos would recognize that graphic novels as literature didn’t start with Alan Moore, so if you have more examples of this, please share.

      And I agree – Wonder Woman in the Justice League cartoon worked very well. It’s interesting – there’s been massive internet hand-wringing about including Wonder Woman in the Man of Steel sequel instead of greenlighting her own solo movie first. I think those critics forget how well Wonder Woman fits into the Justice League stories. I’m thinking especially about the Joe Kelly JLA trade Golden Perfect, where Wonder Woman’s single minded drive to invade a non-Western country to “save” a young mother and her child ends disastrously for the Justice League. In that story, Wonder Woman’s entire position as an arbiter of moral truth is questioned in an exciting and thought-provoking way, but without the other JLA characters, no one would be able to challenge Diana’s “might makes right” implications. It’s possible that Wonder Woman works better as a character in a superhero team, where other superheroes can question her philosophy, rather than in solo ventures where only villains question her perspectives.

      After reading your comment, I’m now looking forward to Wonder Woman Earth One; I didn’t know Morrison was writing that, and I’m eager to see what he comes up with. Thanks again for watching! Maybe we’ll get a Storm movie sometime in the next twenty years, but it’s a shame that the hoopla over a Wonder Woman film must be excised first. Hit me up on twitter @SnoopyJenkins.

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      1. Thanks for the response (and please call me Mike!). I don’t know if the Superman thing is generational, or just investment in the character. He’s my favorite, so I’ve read a fair amount of his older adventures. I would temper my earlier comment by agreeing that he becomes a lot more interesting (in my opinion, anyway – or at least interesting by modern sensibilities) post-Crisis — but, yeah, much of the mythos they play with now was established way back when.

        You may be on to something about Wonder Woman working best in a team setting. While I think Storm was more or less underused in the X-Men movies, at least in X3 she is leading the team. My son (12 years old) just watched X-Men and X2 for the first time, and was really impressed with Storm. She gets some nice character moments in X2 with Nightcrawler, especially.

        I haven’t read “Golden Perfect” – I’ll have to check that out. Thanks for the tip! One nice WW solo story (but it is the only one I know of) is Paul Dini’s tabloid-sized story, with the Alex Ross art – the title escapes me at the moment. (But, there again, Dini was one of the great Justice League cartoon writers, along with Dwayne McDuffie.)

        Going to find you on Twitter now. Thanks again!

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  2. It’s very disturbing how there isn’t a single adult super heroine who can appeal to all age groups and still be a modern, strong woman. In the Hunger Games saga the heroine, Katniss Everdeen, is a reluctant teenage heroine. She lacks the resolve to stand up to the evil around. So she struggles to survive. When it comes to stand alone heroines with powers the last popular ones were the Power Puff Girls and Sailor Moon.

    But when it comes to charismatic heroines they aren’t hugely popular. Back in 2010 the ones I remembered where Lt. Alice Malvin from “Pumpkin Scissors” and Lisbeth Salander from the Millenium Trilogy. Both are involved with deadly conflicts but carry a resolve to do what’s right. This year I chose the sixteen year old Mineva Lau Zabi from the original Gundam saga. She’s the daughter of the family that started a great war that killed off half of humanity. Her early years were spent as a figurehead. But at sixteen she returned to the spotlight and has the wisdom and fortitude to know her family was wrong. Episode 6 of Gundam Unicorn is a great example of her leadership. I have never seen Wonder Woman or Storm display that much maturity. They have to be seen as bad ass to get respect.

    Next year the only female lead movie adaption will be of the graphic novel “The Scribbler”. However, protagonist suffers from multiple personalities, which doesn’t do well for the scorecard. Hilary Swank was supposed to produce the sci-fi action film “Shrapnel” but it’s in limbo.

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    1. BernieB – thanks for reading and commenting! You make a very strong point – America’s entertainment industry hasn’t quite produced a superheroine who operates on screen as a strong, modern woman. I’m interested in interrogating why that failure persists. One reason I believe this continues to happen is the complete confusion regarding what a ‘modern, strong woman’ would mean in a superhero context. Is she a businesswoman? A homemaker? A genetic researcher? A tennis star? Completely A-type, or fun-loving and carefree? All of the above? Take Will West’s discussion of Wonder Woman as a character based in ‘love’, to counteract the violence-as-sole-conflict-resolution-tactic we see from Superman and Batman. With respect to her origins, it’s not possible to equate this original intent for the Wonder Woman character with her modern interpretation at all. If anything, WW is more violence-prone in the comics and DC animation than her male peers. So, there’s confusion: until Hollywood gets a handle on what a modern, strong woman is and could be, they won’t portray a woman with superpowers with enough intelligence to be relatable on screen.

      Not to mention that the strong, modern woman concept may be too highbrow for superhero movies. You could do a modern woman is a superhero film modeled on The Dark Knight, where the context of the film resembles modern urban America. But how does a modern woman interact with the world of the Thor franchise? Or any Marvel property, for that matter?

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  3. i’m not white and im not a woman but wonder woman is MY idol. she is my favorite super hero of all time, someone i can relate to and inspire to be like. she is strong, honest, courageous, gentle, compassionate, spiritual (praise aphrodite), and just straight up cool. sorry if you cant jump on the train of awesome that is wonder woman. i own every comic of wonder woman and they are ALL great. my favorite run is phil jimenez’s run, perez is a close second.
    you mention watchmen (crap) and batman (super crap) and that has to do with your tastes and the people you choose to surround yourself with. if you knew me watchmen and batman (yuck!) would never be mentioned cause they are non factors.

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