Wonder Woman's New Look

Once again DC shows it doesn’t know what to do with one of its iconic characters. In this case, Wonder Woman. Newsflash: The problem with Wonder Woman isn’t her costume. But this and some origin retconning is how they think she’ll be fixed.

DC describes the new outfit as “a Wonder Woman look designed for the 21st century” that will allow Diana “to be taken seriously as a warrior, in partial answer to the many female fans over the years who’ve asked, ‘how does she fight in that thing without all her parts falling out?’ …The bracelets are still there, but made more colorful, tied on the inside and over the hand, with a script W on each of them that form WW when she holds them side by side… and if you get hit by one of them, it leaves a W mark. This is a Wonder Woman who signs her work.”

The problem with Wonder Woman isn’t her look. It’s her personality. She has never been a warm, appealing character. She starts off with this man hater history which is a turn off, especially in a field where the majority of comics readers are men.

Secondly, while she does change her attitude somewhat when she comes ashore, the whole men are evil mentality continues. It’s misandry, plain and simple and that’s unappealing.

Third, she lacks personality. A character needs to be appealing in some way for people to care about them. Every writer of that character failed to give us a reason to give a damn about her. Being good looking isn’t enough, especially in a world were 99% of the women are babes.

Her backstory isn’t very well thought out. The guy who created her, William Moulton Marston, was a bit of a perv who was into bondage, which is why she got tied up a lot back in the ’40s.

Until she gets handled by someone who understands the problems with this character and knows how to really fix them, this reboot is going to be yet another in a long line of failures. I don’t see anything in the press about what they want to do to change that opinion.

UPDATE: Nikki Finke at Deadline Hollywood says “DC Ruined Wonder Woman”. I agree with GeorgeC that it’ll last two years at most before they revert to the old look. I give it a year, actually.

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23 Comments

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  2. There are a couple of rules that ought to be followed in modern comics —

    a) Never, EVER, F' with the looks of characters that have been around for 40 or more years…

    There's no reason to change the costumes for Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, or Spider-Man at this point in time.

    Occasional tweaks are fine — The Flash (Wally West) had a good costume tweak 20 years ago and Green Lantern (Hal Jordan) had a recent one (in Rebirth) but for the most part changes should be minimal!

    b) If sales are a problem, it's generally the writing and editorial on the character. Rarely is it an art problem unless a three-year-old is drawing the comic!

    c) Man-haters and characters that are “out-of-the-mainstream” are never going to sell well no matter what people on DC Comics, CBR, or Newsarama message boards tell you.

    There is no large audience in comics for man-hating lesbian characters or New Age/alternate-lifestyle/religion, etc. characters.

    d) Comic book readers generally HATE IT when long-established characters are killed off and replaced with teenagers or mocha-drinking white boys or ethnic types. See Blue Beetle and Green Lantern for good examples of this…!

    e) Wonder Woman will only work when she has a warm, appealing personality and acts somewhat like a normal heterosexual, dating woman.

    No one is saying all the Greek backstory has to be jettisoned but George Perez and DC editorial made a huge mistake writing a regular boyfriend (Steve Trevor) out of the storyline and trying to turn a warrior into the all-too-perfect pacifist. It was also a big mistake to throw the Diana Prince secret ID out of the equation a the time time.

    2/3 of those changes have been undone. Nobody's getting the characterization yet!

    There's the reason why Lynda Carter and Christopher Reeve worked so well as Wonder Woman and Superman respectively… They approached and treated the characters as human beings in and out of costume.

  3. But hey, the guy doing the reburbish job is J Michael Straczynski, and if it's one thing Joe Straczynski knows how to do, it's character development. Personally, I never really liked WW's costume, so I have no objection to the new duds. So let's wait and see if JMS understands what's wrong with the character and actually fixes the problem.

  4. Hmm. WW always struck me as a “placeholder” in whatever story she was in. Good luck to them with the reboot, but I just don't think there is any “there” there.

  5. I disagree with John…

    If anything, JMS shows a bit of contempt towards comic fans and tends to break what's not broken with icons.

    That's not understanding “characterization” or appreciating what's gone on before. There's a bit of arrogance and complete misunderstanding at work here. Who's more at fault — JMS or DC editorial — will depend on how the dice lands after it stops rolling.

    I wish JMS would play with his own toys and leave the icons alone! (Heck, I wish editorial at both Marvel and DC weren't as clueless as they've been for the better part of 20 years now…)

    Didn't care for JMS' Spider-Man run or the redesign of Thor, either…

    The way he's rebooting Wonder Woman — and this unnecessary costume change — is not a good way to begin a run on the longest-running female character title.

    This is going to blow up in his face big time just like Byrne's revamp of Spider-Man did in the late 1990s.

    The licensing people and majority of comic book fans aren't going to let this redesign stand. There's too much invested in the traditional Wonder Woman for this to stand.

    It's a trashy outfit, too… Very much symbolic of the worst character designs that came from the 1990s. Very early 1990s Image. That should make most people with design sense shudder… BUT as I've seen most comic book fans can't color coordinate to save their own lives.

    A huge chunk of the online comments I've read are completely missing the mark on this one. They tend to be the people who don't understand the nature of icons and weren't Wonder Woman fans to begin with.

    ************

    Rule #5 in comics — don't let Jim Lee or Alex Ross design new costumes for icons!

    Mark my words — this isn't a permanent change. Two years tops, and BOTH the costume and JMS will be a distant memory in the Wonder Woman lore.

  6. IMO, most mainstream male writers don't do alpha women well.

    The characters often turn out as sort of bitchy men – who get lots of opportunities to humiliate and beat up much larger “sexist” men (and who therefore deserve it) while displaying their leather clad bodies to the male reader. This has become such a cliche that one wonders if it's because the audience likes it or if it's related to the sexual issues of the writer/directors.

    Perhaps it's time that a women, one without bitterness towards men, should take over the WW franchise for a while. It might even lead to more women reading mainstream comics. I think there are at least 12 now so it wouldn't be hard to add some.

  7. I agree. They either have PC men who want to prove how PC they are with the character, or gay men who want to prove how “sensitive” they are to women. In both cases it comes off badly. I also dislike the who waif who can bet up any guy concept popularized by people like Joss Whedon. Another tired trope. Doesn't anyone know how to write smart, believable characters who use their wits anymore?

    That's one of the reasons I like Doctor Who. He rarely solves problems with violence. He outsmarts his enemies. Such a rare concept nowadays. It used to be the staple of mythology and fiction.

  8. Good luck finding anyone WITHOUT issues who will want to write Wonder Woman!

    That's a big problem in comics now.

    Writers either bring their ultra-liberal politics into play (and it ruins characters like Captain America and Superman in particular) OR their personal issues.

    The next person to write WW should NOT be a feminist or “sensitive guy.” If he/she can't put their personal politics aside and do right by the character, they shouldn't write her, PERIOD…!

    ********

    I'm gonna get slammed for this — but I don't honestly think there is a woman writing mainstream comics now that can handle Wonder Woman. Honest.

    I just haven't read anything by any woman recently that grabs me and wants me to read more. The last time that I read a comic written by a woman regularly was probably in the 1980s which was about the last decade that there WAS consistent writing at either Marvel or DC!

    (That was Louise Simonson. She was also a very good Marvel editor…)

    To be more frank, I can't think of a single regular male writer in the comic field right now who would do WW justice, period.

    She's just one of those characters nobody does well.

    People are just going to have to throw away their hang-ups and write her as someone people can relate to — a big sister or the girl-next-door. <= This is a big part of why the Lynda Carter WW stands out so much. It's not just the fact that more people saw the TV show…

    Until someone with the writing assignment gets that through his or her head, DC is going to continue to go in circles with this character.

    Again, the last decade that these characters were done well on a regular basis — 1980s by my standards. Since the 1990s, they've just been handled miserably with the exception of the animated DC fare. Thing is that the guys who worked on the TV shows were fans of and grew up on the comic books produced between the late 1950s and 1980s. Made a huge difference for the quality of the product they produced for TV!

  9. but I don't honestly think there is a woman writing mainstream comics now that can handle Wonder Woman.

    Why would they have to come from comics? I would suggest Lois McMaster Bujold who wrote the Vorkosigan saga – which has a lot of action and a main character who's even weaker than most women and has to use his head to win.

  10. Right now, the only franchise I can think of that has interesting female characters is the video game Mass Effect. It does not matter even whether the characters you encounter are human or alien, people are People, and that's how the game threats its characters.

  11. I dunno, I like the way Jim Lee draws Batman, but that's just me. If anything, his version of Batman is a fresh take on Frank Miller's image of Batman.

  12. Agreed. And that's a fundamental truth most writers fail to grasp. They fail to write about real people. Perhaps because they don't even understand them or want to. Yet that is what fiction is all about. It's about giving us insight into reality, even when the story is unreal like a video game.

    I love Mass Effect, BTW. Those two games are like good SF novels come to life.

  13. … But Jim Lee was drawing a classic costumed version of Batman — he really wasn't redesigning the costume.

    The main difference between the way Jim Lee drew Batman and most artists before was that he preferred the traditional “blue take” on the outfit instead of the grey and black outfit that became popular after the 1997-1999 Batman animated episodes.

    Whenever Jim Lee (or Alex Ross, for that matter) tries to reinvent the wheel, he really screws it up!

  14. I won't disagree that there are great writers outside of comics but then again some of the WORST ideas from the past 20 years have come from people who WEREN'T comic book writers to begin with. Most of those guys were screenwriters or (in a few cases) novelists and failed comedians.

    Didio was a production head and worked at companies like Mainframe before coming to DC. Quesada's more from an indie comic book scene. They've both done wonders for the comic industry in the US!

    (Sarcasm intended… They're unmitigated disasters as EIC's. DC's been running in circles for years and I can't even recognize the Marvel characters anymore… They act like completely different people from what I used to read.)

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  16. Well right now Jim Lee is in charge of designing DC characters for the upcoming DCU MMO so lets wait and see how fans themselves like the designs. As far as I can tell, he his doing to the rest of the DC characters what he did to Batman. Keeping with the traditional look while giving a 21st century feel to them. Heck, the Lex Luther character in the game still has his classic Purple and green armored suit, but newer, “smoother” look to it.

  17. I'm old enough to remember when they introduced the Lex Luthor costume George Perez came up with. FUGLY! IMO there's nothing classic about that. It blows. I prefer Luthor's gray prison clothes to that from the Swann era

  18. Comics by their nature, IMO, are basically action movies on paper otherwise there's no point to them if their just going to be nothing more than a cerebral mind trip. Might as well just read a novel. Why else is Batman and Superman THE comic book Icons? It does not mean that comics can't be deep or shouldnt have interesting dialogues nor should they be limited to costumed heroes, but they do need to be exciting.

    To each his own I guess but that's the point of having an artist “Draw” a story to life if it's one that has mind blowing action scenes and interesting character designs. If the story is going to be 90% dialogue then there is no point in having it drawn in the first place.

    Now don't get wrong, I am liking the new Doctor Who t.v. show, but sometimes (and in my case most of the times) you want to watch a character like Jack Bauer or Batman who takes a more direct ass kicking approach to solving problems. Does not make a story any less deep or less interesting because of such characters.

  19. Heh, well I think by keeping some of these lame costumes the artists are kinda staying true to the DCU's light heartedness. It's not really a universe that takes itself too seriously if you looked at it as a whole. And that's always been it's appeal IMO. Call me crazy, but I've always thought of the DCU as the Disney of superhero comics. They just happen to have costumed heroes instead of funny cartoon animals.

  20. As far as Doctor Who goes, I like the fact that he always tries to find a solution other than the obvious violent one. It makes him stand apart as a character from all the other ones out there. He is the only pacifist hero I know of who actually works. Because he does have a dark side, which he always tries not to show, but every once and awhile it comes out and woe be unto his enemies.

  21. What's your opinion on the Jack Harkness character though who is like oppisite of Doctor Who when it comes to solving problems? Do you think the writers made him gay for the sake of being a gay action hero and mess with the minds of hetrosexual sci-fi fans?

  22. That was producer Russel Davies', who is very gay, doing. He was creating his show Torchwood and introduced the lead guy in an earlier Doctor Who episode. Davies was always putting gay jokes in hos episodes. Maybe that's what he was trying to do with Capt. Jack. You'd have to follow his interviews.

    They are bringing Torchwood over here, some cable network will be producing it with Davies at the helm

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