Sunday, December 02, 2007

Finding Wonder Woman's "Voice" in Her Comic Book

Wonder Woman
Originally uploaded by Heidi Meeley
As I have been reading through Wonder Woman back issues and pondering the state of her book today, what has most struck me is how finding Wonder Woman's "voice" can be the toughest thing a writer can tackle. It isn't just about how Diana would tackle fighting crime or how she would react to a betrayal- it is also considering where her heart might be and how she would feel if a romantic situation would arise. Would she be flirtatious or would she be upset? How would Diana feel if a friend told her secret feelings or confided in her?

There is much to consider in finding and translating the "bone marrow" of a character and having it find a unique "voice" that can be found throughout continuity. God knows that in this latest run of Wonder Woman, she has been all over the board, which has made it impossible to lay a foundation for the tone of the book. Hopefully writer Gail Simone will stay on the book long enough to make this happen in a meaningful and memorable way that stays true to the character.

Tough order, huh?

What is unusual for me is that I find my feelings for Wonder Woman as a character to be almost sacred. When I see other readers have "pissing contests" to see who the biggest fan is, I want to run the other direction. In my mind it doesn't matter who has read her the longest or who owns the most collectibles. That is besides the point. What matters to me is my perception of the character. I know who I think Wonder Woman is, and it doesn't matter to me if anyone else agrees with me or not.

That being said, when I read the monthly title, I usually find at least one thing a writer has imbued the character with that I relate to. That helps me to establish a focal point that will further my enjoyment of Diana and her supporting characters. When I can find nothing to help me establish that rapport, it is a bit disconcerting to say the least.

My perceptions of Wonder Woman are as follows. I think that Diana is an overachiever who always pushes herself harder and farther then anyone else possibly could. She holds herself up to standards of perfection and tries to live up to them, which has hurt her in the past. Her physical strength and ablities are second to none, and she is a strategist on the battlefield. Wonder Woman doesn't pick a fight but she will not shy away from one. She is firm in her convictions and will not back down unless other lives are in danger. I think that is why it was not a tough choice for her to kill Maxwell Lord. In her mind it was for the greater good, and though she took no joy in it, she did it and was firm in her decision.

Romantically, Wonder Woman has been portrayed so many ways, yet has retained a quality of untouchable purity. Though she may or may not have been a virgin, and certainly was not by the end of the first series when she married Steve Trevor, she maintained a priority of fighting the evils of the world, and keeping her love life a private, almost sacred thing. When I see her in the current series, I am dissappointed by how poorly her personality has shown in respect to a potential relationship with Nemesis.

I want Diana to have a relationship. I just don't want her to be silly about it. I appreciated Phil Jimenez' take on Wonder Woman with regards to Trevor Barnes. At first she was a bit nervous, but when faced with the reality of her existence, she felt comfortable enough to let her guard down and be a bit flirty while maintaining her dignity. The scene in Wonder Woman #7 where she drops a wounded Nemesis for a swarmy comment just didn't work at all for me.

My bottom line on romance, is that I don't mind if she gets down to it behind closed doors, but that I want her to have a relationship that progresses at a realistic pace and I don't want her to be goofy about it. She is royalty, after all? That is one thing that has been lost in the shuffle.

As a princess of Themyscira, Diana isn't neccesarily prissy, but she has a great understanding of protocol. Having her act ditzy isn't within her character at all. Giving Diana a bit of a glamour is alright, as long as she maintains her priority, which is battling evil.

The "voice" I see in Wonder Woman is many faceted. She is dignified, yet calm. She won't back down from her beliefs but she will hear you out first. She is loyal to her friends and decisive with her enemies. When she meets a man she likes, she is womanly, but not goofy. She always remembers her "mission" but knows how to interact with folks from all social stations. That is what a princess does, after all.

What about you? What is the "voice" you see in Wonder Woman?


Craig said...

I'm still probably too new to Wonder Woman to have a well-informed opinion, but your argument is pretty good. WW probably shouldn't be goofy, and probably should take a fairly slow and realistic tact to romance. If wisdom is one of her strongest traits (over and above what Superman or Batman might possess), then she should be able to figure out that love can be fraught with ups and downs and ultimately needs to be founded on good communication. IMO.

Unknown said...

One of the things I'm hoping Gail Simone can bring to the comic is a sense of fun. I don't really feel like Diana enjoys herself enough, and I think that's something that's kind of been the status quo seemingly since the early 1970's.

I don't think Wonder Woman should be goofy, but I do think that she shouldn't be deadly serious either. One of the things I appreciated from reading both Marston's and Kanigher's Wonder Woman was that she really seemed to enjoy being Wonder Woman. She really seemed comfortable in her own skin, and it's something I haven't seen in some time (admittedly, I didn't read the Jiminez or Rucka runs, so I can't speak to those, just to the general tone I've seen her written with over the years).

As far as romance and sexuality goes, I think she should be aware of her effect upon men, and perhaps be slightly amused. I also think she should enjoy the attention to a certain extent--not overtly, but at least having an awareness.

I think she was really well written in Justice League Unlimited on television. I wouldn't mind a similar characterization in the comics.6659915

Heidi Meeley said...

Foolio, you said it, Brother. I don't think I could have articulated it better. In her wisdom, she can hopefully find the right way to find love and happiness. :-)

Heidi Meeley said...

Randy, you make some excellent points. I think you are correct in that Diana has quite an effect on men and that she does have an awareness of that. The fact that she can shake it off and have a good sense of humor about it is critical.

Since Gail did such a great job with Dinah and Babs, I am really hoping she can inject that self-awareness and sense of humor into Diana here. That was one thing I liked about Jimenez' and Rucka's runs. They gave her a bit of a personality in which she was aware of her surroundings and her effect on things and did what she felt best to interact with others. A great example is when Lois spent the day with Diana in "A Day in the Life" and the two got to talk about the nitty gritty of how Diana perceives herself. Co-written with Joe Kelly, I think it is an excellent character study.

Having watched Wonder Woman evolve since issue #212 of the first series, I have always been fascinated to see the character grow and change as the times have. I sometimes don't think she is "my" Wonder Woman anymore yet she retains the core of what was envisioned. I think she is still a strong role model for girls in many ways.

Thank you again for your excellent post here. It was very thought provoking!

Chris Arndt said...

The voice is part of it.

Part of it is how she relates to her supporting cast, which in my mind, is somewhat a lost track after the Crisis... she had this wonderful bit where as a hot, beautiful, clever, smart, stunning warrior woman she had no equal and the closest she could come to among human men... is an army officer.

Just like how one has to struggle for Superman to find his mortal counterpart, the only counterpart for Wonder Woman is a man who is all he can be.

Or is Steve Trevor Air Force? No matter.

Putting that aside, I can set aside the notion of secret identities but it's still a bit stuffed for me that Wonder Woman runs around with no way to identify to normal folk.

and of course I miss the old Paradise Island. I was more magical and less.... obsolete.

If there is any two things that George Perez did that I detest it's retconning WW's date of entry into Man's World (which can be fixed while keeping Perez's stories in the canon)... and retconning it so that Amazons' Island is a damned time capsule: thousands of years of non-technology and non-growth.

Howzabout the Silver Age view? Leave it to the Silver Age to inject REAL goshdam WONDER into your comic book canon, and make an elaborate comic book universe.

Why is Paradise Island without men? because the Amazon's immortality is maintained by magic and if "a man had set foot on Paradise Island" the Amazons would lose their powers.. well, lose their immortality! The devil is in the details!

What do Amazons do without sex, romance, men, or manly things? They invent! A race of immortals with no opportunity for procreation would either fight gladitorialy (and the Amazons did compete that way) and they would invent Silver Age super-science! Old style Greek architecture with light switches! Why? They had initiative! and nobody of the opposite sex to distract them!

What is the voice of a woman that came from this? I don't know. Look at my writing! Do I seem like the kind of guy that knows the voice of a woman?

I've been reading Wonder Woman for as long as I can read..... 22 out of 26 years, right? I'm not new to the character at all. I have read her in nearly every incarnation except for that one bit with I-Ching. I should know what Wonder Woman sounds like. Except all I know is when the character sounds wrong.

But as a symbol manifest of ideal womanhood, I imagine she's charming as hell, flirtatious when appropriate, definitely enough to make you not afraid to approach but not so much as to give you the wrong impression. CHARMING enough to make any man not jealous that he ain't dating her and satisfied enough to be her pal.

That's right: a personality beautiful enough to disarm male lust. But all of that is about relationships. How she relates to other characters. What is her voice? I don't know.

As much as I like the comics I'm pretty sure John Byrne didn't quite get it right. Did his immediate predecessor? What was his name?

Carl said...

My first real encounter with WW was way back in the late 60's JLA comic. I read a few issues of her book, but my male friends mostly would deride any guy caught reading it. Oh well. She was an okay character, but in JLA see seemed to be just one of the boys. Then came the generic super-sappy "Super Friends". Wow, she looked great, sounded great and had all the trappings but the series was just so damned painful to watch unless you were under 12 years old. Then, the teen years and Linda Carter. Good God. While the show went from a tongue-in-cheek WW II Batman style camp to updated to current times just awful, Linda Carter was so sweet and earnest and just DDG, she WAS Wonder Woman.
Welp, then after several reboots, retoolings, revamping, retcons, deaths and so on, I tried for so long to hang on to Wonder Woman. Love Perez and Wolfman. Byrne, okay. Kind of dropped in and out of the series 'cause, well, it seemed like once I got a grip on the changes, here came more. It was like trying to grip a rope that someone kept cracking. And I tried on the latest reboot.... but got tired of waiting all that time. I still get the comic for my eldest daughter but not for me. Oh yeah, another plot that didn't help me stay interested was the totally unbelievable Batman/Wonder Woman 'romance'. I'd sooner believe Superman was cheating on Lois with WW then that. And I also agree the JLA/JLU animated series was dead-on and of course, that was my girls's first real encounter with WW and they both love the character a lot. I guess now that the book is finally on time and in good hands I could give it another shot...

Nerites said...


I've been a fan for 20 years.
Her George Perez version still sounds strong in my mind.

She's the voice of passionate compasion and love. She does not hesitate to take action, but she would use diplomacy first.

She's Wonder Woman, but before that she's Diana, the most beautiful, intelligent woman in the DCU.


Chris Arndt said...

I think the Batman/Wonder Woman romance idea is fine and workable.

The execution was rather... eh...

The cartoon did it better.

Chris Arndt said...

"She's the voice of passionate compasion and love. She does not hesitate to take action, but she would use diplomacy first."

In other words she would threaten to beat someone's head in so she wouldn't have to beat their heads in.

"She's Wonder Woman, but before that she's Diana, the most beautiful, intelligent woman in the DCU."

The Amazons invented the light bulb in 4 AD I bet. Diana can actually program her VCR.