Monday, April 02, 2007

Who the Hades is Wonder Woman?

I just don't get Wonder Woman. I don't understand her character. I don't get her appeal.

I get Superman. I get Batman. I get Catwoman, Batgirl, Black Canary, Captain Marvel, Mary Marvel, Supergirl, Power Girl, Big Barda, Manhunter. I understand these characters. I understand what attracts me to these characters (or other fans to these characters). I feel that I have a good idea of what they would and would not do, say and would not say.

But Wonder Woman? Clueless.

Which is to say, I have no idea how to write her, what her reactions to the world are. How would she react to criminal, a dictator, a monster, a killer, in a way that is noticeably different from Superman, or Batman, or any other member of the Justice League?

Even the usually awesome Justice League cartoon couldn't quite get a handle on her, as her character slides from naive teenager in season one (worrying what she is going to say to her mother after running away from home) to angry warrior woman in the first season of Justice League Unlimited to Ambassador and inspirational Leader in the last season.

Who is this woman?

I understand her appeal as an icon, a symbol of women's power. I understand the appeal of a wonder woman, a being who steps out of myths in the "real" world, bringing a era of gods and monsters with her.

But who IS Diana, clay golem, Amazon princess, ambassador for peace, warrior for Justice? What does she like? What does she fear? What amuses her? What angers her? Gods, I don't even know her favorite cookie!

I've heard this complaint before, and people have said the problem is that Wonder Woman doesn't have a civilian identity, a place she can go to be human (arguably, this is what the new Wonder Woman series is about, but it's hard to tell). But I call shenanigans on that! There are plenty of superheroes with negligible civilian identities, but that doesn't mean they lack character!

Take the late Superboy. From 1993 to 1998, he had no name other than Superboy! A clone of Superman, a superhero literally since conception, no part of his background has anything civilian or human to it... but that didn't mean his character couldn't be defined, or his strengths and weaknesses, triumphs and tragedies couldn't be relatable.

Similarly, J'onn J'onzz, the Martian Manhunter, is a shape shifting telepath, FROM MARS, who witnessed the death of his entire planet. We shouldn't come close to understanding him, but we do. We understand his loss, his alienation, his anger, his wry humor, his love for Chocos.

So what the hell is wrong with Wonder Woman? Why can't I know her, why can't I get her? Is there just too much there? Too many writers over too many years imposing their unique visions of a strong woman onto one character, until the original is lost? What is her core, her essence? What the heck is going on?


Lyle said...

I didn't read much of his work, but I've put the blame on Perez for this one. I've had the same problems when I've tried to read his WW run and none of the writers to follow him have managed to give a better idea of who Diana is, aside from being really really perfect, except when she screws up.

Ami Angelwings said...

That's a good point. :O I think the problem with WW is that the other characters were created with the character or at least the power in mind first, and they evolved from there.

Wonder Woman was created to give girls a female superhero role model. :O Everything else was added later. And I think that's the problem :( Writers approach WW now as "female superhero, role model for girls", but they dunno WHO she is. WE dunno who she is!

She's just.. there... she has to be there b/c otherwise the Big 7 Justice League would be all men... and she's... Wonder Woman! But other than feeling like they have to use her, nobody seems to know who she is. :o

Steve Flanagan said...

A major problem with Wonder Woman is that the original, defining version of the character or series can't be used as a touchstone by its current creators.

Assigned to Superman? Make it like Siegel and Shuster, filtered through Weisinger/Binder.

Batman? Kane/Finger/Robinson, seen through the lens of O'Neill/Adams.

Fantastic Four? Do it like Stan and Jack.

And so on.

But Wonder Woman? Marston/Peter is just too weird and kinky to use.

spencer said...

it seems like what she is missing is the "great event" that defines her. now, granted, i'm not the most up-to-snuff person on WW. she never interested me and still doesn't, although the lastest JLA stuff with her is the best I've seen.

Nerites said...

I get her because it's easy to read her.
She believes in fair game, a good world, peace and smiles.
Things I like too.

She's a paradox, reared to peace in a warrior's way.
I love her.