09.12.2008

Wonder Woman – Why I Don’t Really Care

Wonder WomanA 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.

Character Positioning

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.

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9 Responses to “Wonder Woman – Why I Don’t Really Care”

  1. Erika Says:

    Dag! Very strong points here, and you know how I feel about Wonder Woman. You’re especially right about her not having the equivalent of a “Killing Joke.” As much as I enjoyed Perez and Rucka’s take on her, I’m not sure I could put that stuff up there with the best superhero story arcs of all time. Donna Troy? Don’t care. Hippolyta? Ditto. This last issue, in which Nemesis goes a courtin’ to Themyscira, is very good — but if I’m being brutally honest, very little of that had to do with Wonder Woman herself. She’s still too remote a figure, IMHO.

  2. Steven Marsh Says:

    Few points:

    1) About the “fact” that Wonder Woman needs to be continually published: once true, but hasn’t been for a while. See
    http://goodcomics.comicbookresources.com/2005/06/03/comic-book-urban-legend-revealed-1/ for details.

    2) Although not something I’d want to see time and again, Wonder Woman’s depiction in NEW FRONTIER was very interesting and alien.

    3) In the same way that Alan Moore’s SUPREME comics are some of the best Superman comics done in decades, his PROMETHEA covers much the same ground as Wonder Woman and is very, very good (although, again, not as memorable as the Supreme/Superman moments).

  3. rob! Says:

    this post, sadly, works well for aquaman–like him, ww has been batted around, revamp to revamp, so that its all a giant pile-up and no one can tell you anymore what’s canon and what’s not.

  4. Old-Wizard.com Says:

    Well said. May the hairs of your beard never fall out!

  5. Sghoul Says:

    Someone brought up Aquaman…and it’s a good point. You love AM, You love Firestorm. Despite them being batted around. Despite their original origins being somewhat weird or lame.

    Any character can be good if written well. I am digging the Flash rogues right now. Most of them are one gimmick lame-o’s. But written well, I find them compelling. I think WW can be the same, without having to totally change her mythos.

    I DO however think a re-boot would be nice. I think Gail having to try and keep all of the crap that came before burdens her. And based on how she refuses to publicly admit that anyone ever has done anything crappy, I feel that rather than change them herself, she is embracing them. And most of them are bad. Take the love interest. I like what Gail is doing…just not WHO she is doing it with. It seems forced. like She was told or decided to follow someone elses path and is trying to make it work.

    As for your ambivalence for the character, I think that is just built up apathy because of past stuff. I feel the same way about Superman, despite everyone raving about John’s run on it. And I don’t think a reboot or anything could change that.

    If they did totally change the character, you might like it, but that goes the same for pretty much anyone. I mean, I thought Ted Kord was cool in idea, but never cared. I like the new Blue Beetle. But the two really share nothing but a name. They could have called the new guy some other name and I would have liked it just as much.

    In summation, I don’t think there is anything wrong with the current concept. Superman is the same one dimentional concept he has been for years, but people are digging the current run. I do agree that the baggage holds it back. At the same time, I think people are also holding it to higher standard. Because WW has stunk for so long, I think people are expecting some kind of miracle plots. What we have has been fairly standard but IMHO good. Gail reveals some biggle plot regarding her mother’s past enemies, Dianna goes to a planet to help some warrior people’s that have her on a pedistal, she had her powers stolen and fights a demon along side Beowulf. Sounds good to me.

    But you will never care about WW until you actually give it a chance. And I don’t see that happening unless they do a total character change, which isn’t going to happen any more than it will to Batman or Superman or Flash or…most of the DC mainstays. Some characters you just won’t get.

  6. Shag Says:

    Sghoul – Thanks for the comment. I definitely see your side of the issue.

    It may possible to make Wonder Woman interesting without much tweaking. However, she still lacks the powerhouse stories the other icons feature. Where is Wonder Woman’s “Dark Knight Returns”, or “Man of Steel”?

  7. Shawn Says:

    A League of One by Christopher Moeller is a great book.

    This post highlights the reason why a movie is far off. Joss Whedon said Wonder Woman would use the invisible jet rather than have the ability to fly, in the script he had been writing. Seems odd to me, just let her fly.

  8. Rene W. Says:

    Thanks so much for vising me :) You have such a fun blog!!!

  9. Annie Says:

    Excellent summation. I’ve read comics since I was a kid and the Trinity thing always rings hollow to me. I love strong female characters so it’s frustrating that I can’t bring myself to care about where Wondy is going. I thought Gail would be the person to make me care or Rucka…but neither could manage it. Maybe it is that she’s just a character that I’m not into but it’s odd since I love characters so similar to her in pop culture.

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