A recent post on my friend Erika’s blog, “I Don’t Read My Blog Either“, got me thinking about the character of Wonder Woman. Quick aside before I get into WW, I gotta say that is a brilliant name for a blog! Hats off to Erika on that!
Here we go… I don’t think very highly of Wonder Woman. There… I said it. I know that as the predominate female superhero icon it’s politically correct to stand up for her. Well, I don’t really feel there has been that much to stand up for in a long while.
I do like the core concept of Wonder Woman. However, I don’t really get excited when she shows up in a comic nowadays, and there are tremendous chunks of her back story I really couldn’t care less about.
Things I like about Wonder Woman
I love the old TV show with Lynda Carter. I’ve liked certain periods of Wonder Woman’s comic. Surprisingly, I enjoyed John Byrne’s run even though that particular run has the most convoluted continuity as he attempted to “fix” Wonder Woman’s history. I love Wonder Woman in the Justice League cartoons. I love that Wonder Woman is super-fly hot. I love the rare occasions when she’s allowed to kick ass in the Justice League comic book. I love her in “Kingdom Come”.
So ultimately, I do like the character of Wonder Woman. I just don’t care for how she’s been developed in her own comic for the past few decades.
Wonder Woman’s Profitability
Wonder Woman is clearly DC Comics #3 character from a marketing point of view. Walk into Target any day of the week and she will have the most merchandising (right behind Superman & Batman). So from that perspective, Wonder Woman is a success.
However, in regard to comic book sales she’s usually a poor performer. The Wonder Woman series is always struggling to get readers. According to the September issue of Diamond Comics Previews, Wonder Woman was the 57th highest selling comic for the month of June 2008. That makes her comic DC’s 13th highest selling title. That puts her behind the Superman books, Batman books, JLA, JSA, Green Lantern books, the Titans books, and even the abysmal “Superman/Batman” book. She barely beat Booster Gold and Batman & The Outsiders. Not very impressive sales figures if you ask me for your #3 character. And this is during a period when they’ve got comic book superstar Gail Simone writing the book.
Legend has it that if DC Comics ceases publication of the monthly Wonder Woman comic book, the rights of the character revert back to the creators estate. This would explain why DC has continued to publish this comic without fail for so many years regardless of its profitability.
In recent years, DC has been spinning Wonder Woman to be part of their “Trinity” of icons; Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman. To anyone who’s been reading DC Comics for while, this concept feels really forced and rings hollow. I don’t like being hit over the head repeatedly that Wonder Woman is one of the pinnacles of the DC Universe and yet she doesn’t have the stories to back it up. You look at Superman or Batman stories and fans can point to a handful of outstanding stories immediately (“Dark Knight Returns”, “Killing Joke”, “What Ever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow”, “Man of Steel”, etc..). Can Wonder Woman fans do the same? I know George Perez’s run is highly regarded, as well as Greg Rucka’s. But were they really that great, or just better than anything anyone had done with the character before? And can you point to a particular story (six issues or less) within that run that you could hand to a non-comic book person and have them be blown away?
Alicia Ashby over at Topless Robot really argues this point better than me, so here is a link to her post, “10 Reasons No One Cares About Wonder Woman”.
So DC wants Wonder Woman to be their #3 character, yet comic book sales are poor… what should they do? …
Rework the Comic Book Version of the Character
As I mentioned, I really couldn’t care less about the majority of Wonder Woman’s back story. I’ve been a reader of Wonder Woman at different points over the past 25 years. Even with collecting at various times, I still don’t care about much of her mythos. I think one of the big hurdles is that her origin isn’t very approachable for an outsider.
I personally think DC would be better off re-booting her completely. Keep the look, keep the powers, keep the lasso, keep the warrior princess idea, keep Paradise Island, but dump everything else (i.e. the Greek mythology connection, twin-sister garbage with Donna Troy, time traveling mother who was in WWII, being created from clay, etc). If you don’t know about Donna Troy being Diana’s mirror duplicate, or Hippolyta’s time traveling trip to WWII, then you are better off for it.
DC should spend some time researching why exactly Wonder Woman merchandise sells so well. Take that feedback and roll it into the character. Do Wonder Woman lunchboxes sell because of her ties to Greek mythology? I don’t think so. Figure out the reasons for her success in merchandising, and make those the core concepts of the character in the comic book. Ignore the rest of her back story and fill that in with new ideas that are approachable to new readers.
I’d be okay with some radical changes too. For example, if they made Wonder Woman native American instead of Greek, I’d be fine with that. The key is to stick to the core concepts of what makes the character popular and make the rest more approachable to new readers.
PS: I’m looking forward to the upcoming direct to DVD animated movie starring Wonder Woman. I’m hoping they will take how she was in the Justice League cartoons (as well as “New Frontier”) and incorporate those bad ass traits.