The ‘New’ Wonder Woman: Another Look

Posted: July 8, 2010 in comic books, Jeff Holland, revamps, Threat Quality
Tags: , , , , ,

OK, my turn weigh in on the whole “new” Wonder Woman.

(I may echo a few of Braak’s comments, but I wrote this first, I just took my time finding a bunch of pictures, dammit!)

So far, the response has not been kind among the comics fandom. Or non-fandom (warning: some terrifying Fox News-based comments there).

(Though Tim Gunn seems okay with it.)

Most important: This is primarily an attempt by DC Comics to boost the (usually pretty lousy) sales of the character’s book, especially since they’ve been trying like hell to get a movie made for the last decade at least.

So the logical thing to do – since a strong creative team doing pretty good work and nailing the character for last few years didn’t quite do it – would be to get a new, fairly high-profile guy to come in and revamp the property, complete with a new, movie-adaptable origin (setting up a parallel universe where Paradise Island blew up when Diana was a kid, making her an Amazon orphan who grew up in America) and yes, this new costume design.

Exhibit A

The hate for the new costume is not a huge shock. DC has a longstanding habit of outlandish revamps that are never meant to be permanent, just shocking enough so when the more iconic version returns, everyone breathes a sigh of relief.

Call it the New Coke strategy of character property marketing.

So, while the new look isn’t anywhere near as drastic as the Knightfall-era Batman replacement, or the Electric Blue Superman (which, yes, does sound like an exciting marijuana batch), it’s just different enough to get the attention of mainstream media outlets, which means mom and dad may see it on the CNN or the USA Today and ask you, “What’s this I hear about a new Wonder Woman?”

Exhibit B

(They will likely follow this question up with, “Does she still spin around a lot to get into the costume? Like [imitating a top with their fingers] WHIRRRR, WHIRRR, WHIRRR? Man, that Linda Carter was a cutie.” Ignore them. They are old, and that is their way.)

Let me help you answer them properly. You can tell them:

  • It was apparently the only way they could figure out to put Wonder Woman in a pair of pants for a change, since it’s hard to take the character seriously as a female empowerment icon when a lot of artists tend to draw her in high-cut panties (Google “Mike Deodato” and you’ll see).
  • It’s a necessary step to put Wonder Woman in an outfit that a marketable Hollywood actress might not immediately turn down the part over (and it de-ages her! which opens up the casting pool to include all those actresses you are too old to know).
  • It’s part of a year-long story that warps Wonder Woman’s reality into something she has to fight her way out of, back to the one that we know (warrior-ambassador to Man’s World from the hidden Amazon paradise of Themiscyra), at which point she’ll revert to some version of the more familiar costume (though ten bucks says they try to keep the pants).

That should shut their cantankerous old yaps. Now then:

Of COURSE I have complaints, starting with the fact that I’ve only recently started reading Gail Simone’s run (related note: everybody go donate to your local library) and it’s almost exactly what I hoped Wonder Woman comics might be.

Simone’s Diana is pretty awesome – confident, personable, action-ready, occasionally terrifying, and (because of Simone’s writing history) often pretty funny. She is a Woman You’d Like To Hang Out With.

Which, to me, solved the usual Wonder Woman problem – How to make her relatable – by simply making her, well, a pretty cool woman.

(Also she has a pack of over-eager talking ape-warrior-sidekicks living in her apartment. And they are a delight. Less interesting: foisting a government agent secret identity on her, which did gave her a nice supporting cast – including longtime sidekick Etta Candy, in a non-fat-joke capacity, and a potential non-useless love interest in DC Spy character Tom Tresser – but also included a lot of annoying complications, like her paranoid, Amazon-hating superior, J. Jonah Jameson Sarge Steel.)

Oh, and she fights monsters with BEOWULF.

So shucking all that great work to the side so J. Michael Straczynski can write, essentially, an all-new character with the same name, for however long that keeps his interest, is not an ideal scenario to me (and also reminds me of the time they failed to drum up interest in Aquaman by doing the same kind of thing).

Then there is the new design, which is Jim Lee at his…well, not his worst. You want to see yikes-level Jim Lee costume designs, imagine how close he probably came to something like this…

…in which case the published version isn’t really that bad. The problem is, it’s pretty much the design sense he’s stuck to since the early 90’s, (when in an attempt to be hip and modern, all superheroes inexplicably wore jackets). Also not helping: the choker and leggings suggest Wonder Woman as an American Apparel model (unpleasant for so, so many reasons).

It doesn’t provide a new iconic image. It actually dates her. Worse, it dates her to the early 90’s, which is even more confusing and further suggests the outfit won’t last all that long.

But DC’s heart is in the right place. I just think there are ways to reduce the cheesecake factors of the costume while maintaining the basic iconic elements and without new, semi-erotic elements like the choker.

As Braak pointed out, she’s basically invulnerable, so Lee’s interest in adding “protective” garments (like a leather jacket with studded shoulderpads) is kind of pointless. You’re better off thinking like Grant Morrison did with Superman – realizing someone this tough to hurt probably doesn’t worry about it that much.

Likewise, Wonder Woman wouldn’t be all that concerned about her exposed arms and legs being injured. So covering up wouldn’t really be a major issue for her. (Also: Amazon.)

(“Well then why does she wear clothes at all?” Because she’s not stupid and realizes that might not be acceptable in this society. So there.)

So with that in mind: if you want to modernize Wonder Woman’s look to better reflect today’s female role models, and you don’t have to worry about covering up skin, but you DO want it to look a bit less erotic, where should you look? Female athletes! Okay! So, why not something along the lines of:

Wait, maybe not. How about:

Now we’re talking! Simone-era artists like Aaron Lopresti were working toward this already, but:

Remember, we're not judging the QUALITY of the image, just the basic ideas.

  • Reduce the belt to lengthen the torso (she’s like six feet tall, she shouldn’t look like Barney Stinson’s short-lady “half-boob” ideal).
  • Fiddle with the top to make it a tank or scoop-neck with short sleeves, so it doesn’t look like something she’d fall out of (or wear for sexy-times).
  • Revert the panties to the shorts she used to wear (also remove the unnecessary patriotic stars – no matter how ready Fox News is to complain about the lack of patriotism in comics – and line the shorts with white to keep the color scheme), and
  • Shorten the boots and remove the heels so they’re more like, say, kickboxing footwear.

A few simple design tweaks and you show the same amount of leg, but further down so it doesn’t have the same objectifying effect, while also keeping the red/yellow/eagle scheme in place on the torso without putting so much emphasis on the chest.

Or, y’know. Add Joan Jett’s jacket and remove all the established personality and continuity. Whichever.

It’s DC’s call, not mine, and so, America, get ready to see a bolero-jacketed, leggings-wearing, early-20’s Wonder Woman who doesn’t know what’s happening and does a lot of running around through America and asking annoying questions about its problems via awkward dialogue (yes I HAVE read JMS’s comics work before). This is what the next year is likely to be.

PS – Want to see what Joss Whedon’s Wonder Woman might have looked like? Have some concept drawings!

  1. braak says:

    Yeah, I don’t know; I still feel like you can’t really design Wonder Woman’s costume until we can effectively establish just what she’s for.

  2. braak says:

    Also, why does she need boots?

  3. Jeff Holland says:

    Why not boots?

    I’m trying to avoid arbitrary changes – she’s got boots because she’s got boots. There’s no reason to ditch them if you can just alter them. You want to put her in track shoes, be my guest.

  4. braak says:

    I’m just saying. Kickboxers don’t wear boots. Those are some bright red paramilitary boots she’s got on.

  5. Jeff Holland says:

    The boot size may have gotten a little out of control during the sketching process. Also the hand size. Apparently I like a Diana with great big hands.

  6. braak says:

    Well, she’s totally ready to stomp some sucker’s head.

    Interestingly, that’s probably going to be less dangerous than when she had super-stiletto-heels.

  7. Jerry says:

    This photo is why all the boys love Wonder Woman.

    Don’t judge me – it’s just hard wiring. (PS – Don’t worry it’s not a naughty photo)

  8. Jeff Holland says:

    Umm. Okay.

    Anyway, I always wondered why they never did any weaponizing of the stiletto heels. I mean, she can apparently throw her tiara around like a batarang, and her bracelets deflect bullets, so why can’t her heels, like, shoot out and stab a dude or something?

    Also she could carry around a compact that blows sleep-dust!

    I may be taking this in the wrong direction.

  9. Rick Russell says:

    I’m probably not “up” on current Wonder Woman origin concepts, but don’t some of her powers come from her armor? I mean, sure she’s a powerful warrior and nigh invulnerable (Tick-style), but didn’t the ability to fly and a handful of specific resistances come from her armor and boots?

    While it’s true that she might not worry about routine abrasions and bruises, Wonder Woman is a Greek immortal who would routinely face magically-enhanced dangers and weapons of supernatural origin.

  10. braak says:

    She used her braces to deflect bullets; I think that was the major one. I guess the implication then, was that she might be tough, but was not specifically bullet-proof. She can also through her tiara like a death-frisbee. According to the Wikipedia, her current ability to fly comes just from the assorted deity-blessings that she has.

  11. Carl says:

    Speaking of the early-90s, the new Wonder Woman has a real Courtney Cox thing going on. Am I right? Can somebody do Hawkeye reboot modeled on Matthew Perry? Hell, maybe they can cast the Justice League movie using all the actors from FRIENDS. You know, Matt LaBlanc as Batman, Schwimmer as Superman, James Michael Tyler as Aquaman?

    (Right about now, some blood should be shooting out of some TQ eye-sockets.)

  12. Jeff Holland says:

    @Carl: Look, I won’t lie – I enjoyed “Friends.” (Though catching reruns as a 30-year-old, I’m struck by how astonishingly neurotic everyone BUT Phoebe – the “weird” one – actually was. But anyway.)

    Weirdly, when you mentioned James Michael Tyler, I thought for a second you were talking about “Modern Family’s” Jesse Tyler Ferguson and…he’d kind of be a neat Aquaman, I think. But this digression has digressed!

    Like Braak, I checked Wikipedia’s “weapons” section:

    And yes, the bracelets, tiara and lasso were all forged by the Gods (though apparently not the eagle chest plate, which seems like a missed opportunity). So discarding them does throw yet another baby out with the redesign bathwater. Can’t say if JMS address that in his run, but I’d imagine so.

    Does this give us a better idea of what Wonder Woman’s supposed to “be about”? Ehhh…not at first blush. But that “lasso of truth” thing always sticks out at me as something that’s supposed to be thematic about WW.

    With that in mind, and extrapolating from Marston’s initial idea, the high concept of WW should probably be something along the lines of “Outsider Ambassador of Philosophical Ideals.” I can’t remember who mentioned this yesterday, but that probably should make her the most interventionist of the Justice League.

    Which doesn’t exactly nail down what her stories should be about, in the sense that Superman and Batman have a certain amount of story-engines built around their core character types.

    Except that it probably means she shouldn’t be written as a super-hero, and by that token some of the better writers have avoided playing her as a crime-fighter, and instead setting her against mythical monsters and mystical threats as she attempts to bring the Themysciran peaceful-warrior philosophy to the public.

    It’s a clash of storytelling ideas, though. Nothing quite sits right together, if that makes sense.

    And, two posts later (three if you count my “Trouble with Wonder Woman” post from earlier), we’re still not a lot closer to “solving” Wonder Woman.

    What the hell IS her role in the greater DC pantheon? Arrrr, this one’s more frustrating than I’d expected.

    Screw it, let’s just talk about Aquaman.

  13. RickRussellTX says:

    “Hey fish.”

    “Hello Aquaman!”

    “So, fish, is there anything going on down here? You know, crimes? Under the water?”

    “Hello Aquaman!”

  14. Jeff Holland says:

    Actually, one of my favorite running gags of Peter David’s Aquaman run was how often he’d run into ocean creatures who would turn out to be really, really stupid.

  15. braak says:

    Naturally, it was I, Braak!, who said that Wonder Woman should be a raging interventionist.

    Here is a serious question: how many superheroes actually fight “crime”?

  16. […] Jesus, But With More Punching After a week of trying and failing to get a handle on Wonder Woman, I thought it best to get back to basics with the character […]

  17. […] can argue a lot about what constitutes the “core” of Wonder Woman (as indeed we have), but, if you need to boil down the basis of most Wonder Woman stories, that’s it. Teaching peace […]

  18. […] this is Lee’s second chance to rework Diana, after a divisive new look to go with JMS’s coolly-received (and clearly abandoned) retooling. He’s managed to ditch some […]

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