Sunday, October 21, 2007

Welcome to the World, Baby Girl (Wonder)!: A Reflection on Recent and Forthcoming Wonder Woman Comics

An expanded “Amy Reads the Week” column for October 21st, 2007

Mr. Reads and I live in Quite the Small College Town, so that means, Gentle Reader, that there are only three ways home: Major Highway, Minor Road off of Major Road, and Even More Minor Road off of Major Road. I am, by nature, by choice, and occasionally—just occasionally, Gentle Reader!—by compulsion, a Creature of Habit. That is to say, often, I find myself taking the same route home, or to school, or to the store, because it is the most familiar route. It is no surprise, then, that by now, almost two years in the same house, that I know every bump, every pothole, every stop sign on these routes.

But lately, I have found myself traveling down Even More Minor Road because there is a house by which I am particularly intrigued, about halfway home. Not the house, necessarily, but rather, the cascade of green vines and blue flowers spilling over and along the fence of Said House. Perhaps it is my intrinsic love of All Things Colorful In Nature that makes me take this route home again and again. I find Bright Color in Nature absolutely fascinating, and not a little bit awe-inspiring. Despite my Rather Somber Attire—This Humble Author finds her wardrobe comprised mostly of various hues of blacks and grays—I do have an uncanny attraction to the Bright and Colorful. Splashed in with my blacks and grays are bright reds (my favorite color), ice blues, and brilliant purples. My decorating tastes are even more Victorian-eclectic: sleek modern obsessions with old cherry woods mixed in, a kitchen filled with bright red plates and accessories, a living room done in muted shades of sage and bright accents of maroon and purple and gold.

Or perhaps—just perhaps, Gentle Reader!—I take this route home because it is a Stolen Moment. There is something Rather Magical about these flowers. Late October in The South is a beautiful time. Leaves do change; flowers still bloom; peppers do ripen. These flowers represent possibility, and despite the fact that I Know Better, these flowers feel, to This Humble Author, at least, as if they are blooming just to make me smile.

A rather long Prologue to introduce the following three things:

1) I have had more than a few Stolen Moments this week, and that enabled me to read current comics.

2) Preparing for next semester has caused me to read old graphic novels.

3) The next Wonder Woman will be written by Ms. Gail Simone Herself.

Strangely, these are all connected.

As Constant Readers of Arrogant Self-Reliance know, such Stolen Moments have as of late been few and far between for This Humble Author. That is to say, between the Personal and the Professional, my life has been—how shall I put it?—Rather Overwhelming. Mr. Reads and I have managed to stay on top of our television watching, but just barely (I only need point to the two episodes of Torchwood, and recent episodes of Journeyman and Pushing Daisies that remain unwatched on our DVR to prove this point). I have managed to stay abreast of Comic News by reading My Brother and Sister Bloggers, but just barely. I have managed to keep my head above water in All Things, but just barely. Add in an upcoming visit from Parents Reads and everything has turned Rather Murky, at that.

But I have Stolen a few precious Moments, and in those moments, I have read Those Comics most important to me, with Wonder Woman at the top of the list. Wonder Woman #13 and The Annual both ask the same question as a natural setup for Ms. Simone’s impending run: Who Is Wonder Woman?

Gentle Reader, why must we ask this question? Is it because due to Passing from One Writer to the Next, Wonder Woman the Comic changed, so irrevocably and completely, in the One Year Later Crisis? Or did killing Maxwell Lord force the moment to its crisis (gratitude, Mr. Prufrock)? The Amazon Princess herself answers one version of this question in The Annual when she reminds Circe of her origins: “But I’m not even a real person,” Diana tells her. “I’m a Golem. A clay statue brought to life” (The Annual).

How strange that it is Circe who reminds Diana that loneliness and isolation, these feelings of insecurity, of fear after seeing the Eternal Footman hold our coat and snicker (again, gratitude, Mr. Prufrock) are the defining characteristics and great equalizers of Humanity. And even stranger, a second support by an equally surprising source: The Batman. Circe and Batman, two characters rooted deep in humanity, but never apparent until the situation explodes.

Loneliness is a defining characteristic of humanity, Circe tells Diana, and then points to the arrival of other superheroes to demonstrate how far from “alone” The Amazon Princess really is. Loneliness is a defining characteristic of humanity, as is love. Who better to remind Diana of the love she has from friend (and foe) alike than The Batman? Forged in love, existing in loneliness, desperately forming family after family after family, but loving and loved alike, The Batman speaks to the idea of identity formation, of the need for family and friends. He and Diana understand each other. More importantly, he understands Diana, because they are so very much alike.

It is this approval, this support, this identity-building from The Batman that seems the essential part of this chapter in Wonder Woman’s life. Batman, who turned from her so completely after the murder of Maxwell Lord. Batman, who helped her form her secret identity—who helped Diana Prince come to life—now helps her understand it. Batman, in forgiving Diana, forgives himself.

In the end, The Annual is the classic story: “[…] the servant of the gods sent to teach mankind” has “learned to be human, instead” (The Annual). Wonder Woman is the Outsider, the Other, who both teaches and learns. And in the lessons she learns lie the import of her role here on Earth.

I am Rather Ashamed to admit the following, Gentle Reader, but I have never read The Watchmen. Tragic, I know, and Quite Worthy of the Revoking of my Comic Fan Card. But my Reading Relationship with Mr. Moore is Rather Complex, at best, and Rather Shaky, at worst, for reasons Rather Inarticulate, in all fairness. But like in Wonder Woman, in Rorschach we see the Outsider’s ability to read the Inside; or, we see how the Other is a reflection of Society.

I’ve not gotten that far into The Watchmen yet, so I’m not sure that my Comparison of Rorschach and Wonder Woman (and thus of Batman, too) as The Outsider as Reflection works completely, but this idea of the Other, the Outsider, is one that appears in comics again and again, and one I’ve discussed on this blog again and again. Wonder Woman, Othered in so many senses as a Woman, a Woman made of Clay, an Amazon, a Strong Woman, a Physically Strong Woman sent to Man’s World could work as a Symbol of Women’s Struggles on just one of those levels. When written well, she functions as a Symbol on all.

It seems no Wonder (!!!), then, that Wonder Woman has been taken as a symbol of the second- and third-wave feminist movements. She means so much to My Big Sister Feminists’ Generation as a representation of Women’s Equality. To My Generation, slightly younger, perhaps more wide-eyed when reminiscing on the Woman Wonder, she is a steady symbol, a rock in the sometimes precarious field of equal representation in pop culture. She’s the symbol feminists had, and got to wear, too. That is to say, Wonder Woman was the Hero of Girl Reads. She is the Icon I treasure as Woman Reads.

Because of this, I never felt the need to ask, “Who Is Wonder Woman?” because I already knew. She was us all. She is me, this Girl-Child turned Woman, this once-wearer of secret identity under banal school uniform. Wonder Woman is, above all else, the potential for greatness. She is a Wonder, a Wonder Woman, and despite the shakiness of the last year, I have laid down my $4 each month to ensure that DC Comics knows that I support her. And now, for our loyalty, November brings Gail Simone to the Wonder Woman table.

Who better to reveal the humanity of the Other than Ms. Simone? Welcome to Tranquility, Gen-13, and Birds of Prey all demonstrate her ability in making the Outsider a symbolic, sympathetic, and above all else, recognizable character. Ms. Simone’s empathetic approach to her characters, and of course, her writing ability, makes her an ideal choice to write on the Amazon Princess. Mr. Rucka brought us Wonder Woman’s Otherness; Mr. Heinberg brought us Wonder Woman’s Confusion. Ms. Simone, I believe, will bring us Wonder Woman, Herself.

And I, for one, am thrilled Beyond Belief.

Second-to-last paragraph slightly edited, Gentle Reader, on 10/22/07.

1 comment:

Kimberly said...

I really liked your opening paragraph it had a certain indescribable quality that a Pushing Daises episode has, and episode 3 is just about as a good as anything I've seen on network tv the season (well maybe not quite as good as episode 1). It is funny that you should mention the Watchmen because I too just started reading it last night. I checked it out from the library last week. You see my sister lost our copy of the Watchmen (Or maybe it was my Dad) and I've been waiting for more then a year read it. Thanks for reminding me that Gail Simone is going to start to writing Wonder Woman, I will have to add it to my pull list. Have a good week.