Fighting for your rights,
And the old red, white and blue!”
Hmm. Doesn’t have the same ring to it. Yesterday saw the release of Wonder Woman #600, a special issue commemorating the first lady of comics, her history, character, legacy and oh, by the way, here’s a new origin story, costume and character. Wait…what? If there was any warning of this departure prior to Tuesday, I completely missed it. Of course, I’ve been drunk for a while, so I’ve missed a lot of things. The finale of Lost. The fall of the Berlin Wall. The moon landing. But this…this I think I would have noticed.
Wonder Woman is an icon, perhaps even more so than Superman and Batman. I can’t really explain why that is. Is it the Lynda Carter effect? (She writes a hell of a good intro to this issue.) Or is it because Wonder Woman is the alpha female at the top of the superhero pyramid? There’s something untouchable about her. She is a princess after all. However, the success of the Batman films have made everyone look around and take stock of their comic book characters. Who’s dark and edgy enough to be in a movie like Dark Knight? Superman? No, he’s a boy scout. Wonder Woman? No, she has little white stars on her panties.
As a Shakespeare geek, I never think it blasphemous when some troupe takes Hamlet and sets it on Wall Street or in outer space, because art has to reflect our modern dreams and fears in order to be relevant. So, why am I slightly bothered by this re-vamp of our favorite Amazon? I don’t know anything about the DC cabal that makes these decisions, but I can’t help imagining a bunch of middle-aged white guys sitting around and deciding what’s hip and young and fresh. “Hey! You know what was cutting edge? Superboy’s costume in the 90s! Let’s have her wear that!”
I’m not opposed to Wonder Woman getting some new duds. (Though I am opposed to comic book writers who keep telling the press that women like to change clothes a lot and wear accessories.) And maybe this new ensemble will grow on me once I see it in action a little more. Honestly, the costume is the least of my concerns. We only get 10 pages in the Wonder Woman #600 issue to try to make an evaluation of this new direction. They’ve taken her childhood off the island and placed her in an urban setting. The tale of a white girl with a tiara growing up in the projects gives her more street cred among, well, middle-aged white men, I suppose. To hammer home the point that this isn’t your grandmother’s Wonder Woman, they even have her sassing her elders, which, in this case, is a bunch of hooded watchers of some kind, warning them, “Don’t even go there with me.” Hey, I said this isn’t your grandmother’s Wonder Woman, except your grandmother has been saying “Don’t go there!” ever since she caught an episode of Friends by accident while in the hospital having her hip replaced.
Whatever has been going on in Diana’s new life, she’s through with it and goes to the Oracle for answers. The Oracle (not the Barbara Gordon kind) is a blind girl who dresses either as a prostitute or Black Canary. It’s always hard to differentiate those. Anyway, once again proving this is the book for a new generation of readers, Blind Canary repeatedly asks Diana for some gum. Because if there’s anything kids like more than Superboy’s costume and re-runs of Friends, it’s gum.
I’ve been reading the interviews with J. Michael Straczynski, where he tells us this is the Wonder Woman of the 21st century, the evolution we’ve all been waiting for. Except, I haven’t really been waiting for it. Perhaps some of our more diehard Wonder Woman fans can let us know if perhaps they’ve been waiting for it. Again, we only have 10 pages to work with until next month, but I’m already deeply concerned about what this reboot does to her relationships with Superman and Batman, Cassie and Donna, as well as longtime friends like Steve and Etta. All gone? And what about Achilles? (Maybe Gail will use him in Secret Six or Birds of Prey.) Plus, Straczynski promises she lacks some of her powers and will have to learn and earn them along the way. So, we’ve got an orphaned princess, with no friends or family and little or no powers. Why, she could be a Disney princess! And little girls just love those Disney princesses.
Despite my misgivings, I’m resisting the urge to pass final judgment on this experiment. And it is an experiment. An alternate time line and mystery must be unraveled. If the fans reject it, I’m guessing the mystery will get solved pretty fast. And make no mistake, Wonder Woman has fans…just not enough. For as long as I’ve been reading comics, I’ve heard that for all her iconic stature and position in DC’s Trinity, Wonder Woman doesn’t sell books. Her animated DVD failed to compete with the titles of her male counterparts, though her film was far superior to previous DC offerings. A live-action Wonder Woman movie has been in development hell for years. Is it possible that Wonder Woman has as many fans as she ever will? And that it’s just not enough?
Rest assured, we will be watching the developments closely. Who knows? Maybe in a few months we’ll look back on this moment and laugh, forgetting whatever Wonder Woman used to be and fully embracing what she has become. In the meantime, I can’t help but feel very lucky. With all the misery and suffering in the world, I spent a couple of hours today worrying about Wonder Woman. That is a privileged life, my friends. And I am grateful. And as Lynda Carter says in her foreword, “Who knows? Maybe Wonder Woman can save the world.”
Just not in satin tights.