Saturday, January 19, 2008

Great Hera! Wonder Woman Invokes Passion!

After one week of mixed reactions to the Playboy Wonder Woman cover, one thing is clear. We all have our own perception of the Amazing Amazon based on how we discovered her and our own personal experiences learning more about her, whether it be from television or print. What amazes me most is that the amount of passion a character like Wonder Woman can stir because of that sense of ownership.

To be clear, I most definitely include myself among the passionate. God knows that I feel a sense of ownership towards a comic book character that I continually try to deny. Why bother anymore? Reading about Wonder Woman’s adventures and comic books in general helped shape the person I am today. Whether I can simply claim that reading comics helped expand my vocabulary or simply made me want to be a better person, that impact has been made.

My first exposure to Wonder Woman was in 1974 when she was going through her own version of Hercules’ trials to regain her membership in the Justice League. Because of how I was initially exposed to Princess Diana, I have always been convinced that she was brave and selfless in wanting to prove herself. She was Wonder Woman after all, and hadn’t she been fighting crime since the 1940’s in one form or another?

One thing did confuse me. When I bought the 100 page comics, there were several back up stories that reprinted Wonder Woman’s earlier adventures. The golden age ones by William Moulton Marston and H.G. Peter were confusing to me at the age of eight. I loved how Wonder Woman kicked butt, but the dialogue about “loving submission” was a bit odd. I also marveled at how emotional Wonder Woman was during writer Robert Kanigher’s run. She looked so vulnerable as portrayed by Ross Andru and Mike Esposito, with nickel sized eyes and a tight hair style.

The child in me didn’t see past the shading provided in the storytelling. I simply enjoyed the surface of it all, which boiled down to Wonder Woman being a true heroine. She was brave and true to her friends. She was physically strong and could take care of herself. She was smarter then most and her detective skills were up there with those of the Dark Knight. How could I not aspire to such heights?

In the present, at the age of 41, my perception of Wonder Woman as portrayed in her older tales is quite different. I have come to believe that Marston created her as an antithesis of the male hero. He truly wanted her to be sexy and desirable, and had a definite vision of how she would be portrayed. As the inventor of the lie detector, her golden lasso was a key to her ability to break through the gray areas of life and get to truth and justice. If there was a bit of S & M involved, so much the better. Marston knew how to bring in readers. The titillation enthralled the men while the heroic aspect of Diana made the women enjoy her adventures. It was this incarnation of Wonder Woman that I would imagine Hugh Hefner discovered. (See furor listed at many places.)

Once the war had ended and the allies won, the overall scheme of comics changed from simply fighting the enemy to a focus on the home front. One thing to remember is that the portrayals back in the day of the Japanese, Germans, and other assorted enemies would never be tolerated today. With that in mind, is it any wonder that Wonder Woman has had to evolve as well?

There was a bit of a soft focus on Wonder Woman’s romance with Steve Trevor that especially surfaced after Marston’s association with the character ended. Diana showed more emotion, and promised to marry Steve when the world was rid of all evil. As we know now, that is a punch line that tended to get a bit old, resulting in the powers that be a DC killing Steve off and bringing him back no less then three times. In today’s book, Steve is married to Etta Candy and both are used as background characters, unless Gail Simone’s new run is planning to change that.

For the readers out there that were so invested in the Diana/Steve relationship, the end of it was a real blow. In the modern age, Wonder Woman has had a number of suitors, but none have lasted. That leads me to believe that there is a “virgin” or “untouchable” clause in her current series. Does that mean that men will lust more for her, because they can’t have her nor is it just dimming the fires even more? Many female readers would like Wonder Woman to find romance, much like Superman or Flash have. There seems to be an element missing that hasn’t been recaptured.

This all leads to the Playboy image and Wonder Woman’s portrayal as a sexual creature. Because of my introduction to Wonder Woman, I always felt she had a sex life with Steve, but a very monogamous one. Considering that she came from an island of women, I have always felt in the back of my mind that she was raised to understand a different realm of sexuality then the average person. Her “aunts” were nearly naked if not entirely so, and most certainly had relationships with each other. How Diana fit into this is anyone’s guess. One thing I have made my younger self understand is that Wonder Woman was raised to be comfortable in her skin, so that nudity and sexuality were not perceived as ugly or sinful. How she has managed to carry this all of with an air of innocence is beyond me, because she obviously isn’t.

That doesn’t mean I don’t feel proprietary about her and how she is portrayed. . Unfortunately, the younger self wins a few arguments here and there. When I watched the Wonder Woman series on television, I didn’t look at Lynda Carter as a “sex symbol” much as my male counterparts did. I wanted to go play “bullets and bracelets” and kick the bad guy’s butts. Evidently while I was busy fantasizing about being a hero, men were fantasizing a whole different way. I have been told that Lynda Carter has put a generation of men through puberty, and it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if that statement was at least partially true.

The cover of Playboy has really been a wake up call for me. I didn’t like the comparison of Tiffany Fallon to Lynda Carter because of my youthful perception of her. Did I even stop and think about the fact that she showed her boobs in a movie back in the day? Nope. After reading the Playboy blog, I understand that they realize that the comparison to Fallon was a bit of a stretch as well, but are standing by putting her on the cover in said body paint.

Bottom line: using Wonder Woman as a symbol of “sex in America” would make her creator proud. Marston lived an alternative lifestyle before it was even talked about in hushed whispers. His portrayal of Wonder Woman to the adult reader can be quite tongue in cheek at times. God knows that when Diana was tied up, spanked, or taunted, there was always a bit of an art of the tease associated with it. How Wonder Woman ultimately won over the hearts of so many young readers like me was through a character evolution that continues to this day.

Quite simply, Wonder Woman will always mean something different to each person depending on their exposure and opinion based on said exposure. I will always think of Wonder Woman as the best heroine out there. It doesn’t matter what you do to her- god knows I have had visions of her being portrayed in a porno saying “Great Hera, its huge” since this whole debacle started. Heh. Wonder Woman will always represent what is best about women to me. I can’t help it. It has been ingrained since I was eight, and I just can’t apologize for being so passionate.


John Holland said...

Have you seen Todd Klein's blog? Recently he's been talking about the redesign of Wonder Woman's logo and has some interesting history on the character and why certain changes where made.

Swinebread said...

WW is iconic not matter what, and like her fellow male supers she’s changed through the decades. That's what interests me the most about her. How she is a refection of her times and how she’s been ahead of her times as well.

…oh, and the thought of her and She-Hulk dating.

Heidi Meeley said...

John, I went over there and checked it out. It is incredible! Thank you for telling me about it. Diehard Wonder Woman fans have got to check it out!

Heidi Meeley said...

Swinebread, she is definitely iconic. I have been fascinated with Wonder Woman since the age of 8, and I don't know if that is good or bad. I just know that I still want to kick the bad guys' butts!

As for WW and She-Hulk.... I will just leave it right at that.