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Thursday, January 31, 2013

Columns: Pete and Wonder Woman

The haul.
I've been saying it a lot lately; I have a kind of a newfound love for Wonder Woman.
I was a born in the late 70s, and grew up with Wonder Woman reruns in the 80s.  When I think iconic female superhero, she is at the top of a short list.  But it wasn't until 2011 with DC Comics' "New 52" relaunch of the Wonder Woman title, that I finally cracked open a WW comic book; and I haven't been able to get enough since. 
When you start attending conventions regularly and your number one stop is the artist tables, it helps to have a go-to character when you see an artist you like and want to support.  Otherwise when you see that they have a metric ton of posters, shirts, postcards and keychains for sale, your choice is to either take out a small loan and buy it all, or focus on the one or two things you're enthusiastic about.  For most people I know, that comes naturally.  Manny has his Super-family fanhood, Scott loves Jean Grey, others gravitate to The Walking Dead, even Harry Potter... while Rosa and I have artists sketch the damn cats.
But if this year's artwork haul is any indicator, I have landed squarely on Wonder Woman.  And why not?  More people should be about this superhero, arguably one of the best written (male or female) in comics right now. 
So, in no particular order here are the five reasons for my love for Princess Diana of Themyscira.

Age ain't nothin but a number, Lynda....
"No!  I love your new look. I swear!"
1. She's my first (maybe second) crush!  Let's just start there.  Around the same time I first discovered my love for Princess Leia, (and Erin Grey on Buck Rogers), Wonder Woman, as embodied by Lynda Carter went ahead and notarized Pete's love for girls.  And for brunettes, as well, clearly.  After all, Lynda Carter may well be the most beautiful woman alive.  But she and WW are more than that.
Don't get me wrong, Wonder Woman's sex appeal has always drawn me as a fan, but somehow even though her costume is often more revealing than ... well, almost every other superhero's costume ... somehow it still doesn't quite seem that skimpy.  And on the one hand, it should.  It's a bustier, a tiara and a swimsuit bottom- basically what a contestant on Ru Pal's Drag Race would wear.  But on the other hand ...maybe it doesn't feel that way, because you still wouldn't want to be the moron to say something stupid to her about her outfit... (POW!)  or maybe it's simply because she doesn't look like eye candy in it.  She looks like an Olympic athlete.  Someone who could arm wrestle Superman, or help him catch an aircraft carrier!  In other words, she's beautiful, yes, but ...

2. She's a badass.  Just like the previous examples of Princess Leia and Wilma Deering, there is something special about a beautiful lady hero.  I've never had much use for damsels.  Why in the heck would dashing hero Pete have to come and rescue you, when it would be so much cooler for us to be blasting or bashing bad guys together?  (Yes, Princess Leia starts out locked up, but what does she do exactly four seconds after she gets out?  Starts shooting stormtroopers!  In the junk!)  I think my appreciation of Wonder Woman grew from crush to respect when I realized that she's not the one tied to the railroad tracks.  Ever!  I think that's where the appeal is for cosplayers, artists and fans in general.  She's the one we're in the stands rooting for.
"My headphones dont' tangle this much!"
One could argue that an invisible jet and a lasso that makes you tell the truth are lame.  I could also argue that so is a superdog, a pink bat suit, (or for that matter a female superhero who can fly and still wears skirts).  Those things happened.  When your character is more than 70 years old, you have to account for some silly things that seemed really cool at the time. (even though, I think the lasso is cool!)
But in the meantime, her strength, toughness, willpower, cleverness and fighting ability are anything but lame.  Yet for all those powers, abilities and even her weapons, what is most appealing to me is this:

3. She's real.  In the DC Universe, there's a lot of heroes.  But at the top of the pyramid are the big three: Wonder Woman, Batman and Superman.  They have all earned their place there, thanks to longevity and certainly a dose of got-there-first originality.  But when I think of Superman, I think of the flying boy scout that he is.  That, despite being an alien, he is our true blue superpersona.  He's our ideal or at least what he thinks we want him to be.  In spirit, insurmountable goodness and optimism.  He leaps tall buildings to catch the bad guys or to rescue kittens.  And he's so superpowered, he's more or less immortal.  Which is why, to me at least, every attempt to introduce complexity or true danger feels horribly tacked-on.  I still want to be him, but there it is...
Batman is a different story.  He's human.  He's fallable.  He's dark.  Which is to say, he is crazy.  No matter how you shake that Magic 8 Ball, it says he's crazy ("Yes", "Definitely", "Outlook is Crazy", "Signs Point to Batshit Crazy," "Ask Again Later ... But Yes... crazy.") Yet, there's nothing as a kid that made me want to be anyone but Batman : the gadgets, the cape, the physicality, the ladies of Gotham ...  But in the end, he's no more relatable than Superman.  As a result of every new writer's attempt to "make it darker and see just how far we can take Batman," thereby dragging old Batsy through Hell and back all the time and pushing his sanity to the edge all the time, it loses me sometimes.  Intense and dark can be a really cool read, but when there's no peaks - only valleys - only oversaturated dark overtones, I get the same feeling I do when I look at instagrams.  Blech.  So, Batman, you're still my #1 guy, but when I look at Wonder Woman, I don't see a character I dream of being, i see someone I understand. 
In the "New 52" Wonder Woman #1, when we are re-introduced to Wonder Woman, she is Diana.  She is a Diana who is in no mood to be called Wonder Woman and not really interested in helping the young lady with the problem who just teleported into her hotel room.  She's weary. She's not in the mood.  She has her own stuff to deal with.  And frankly, like any of us, she can be frustrated by circumstance, pushed too far, be too impulsive or even too naive.  It can mean turning on her own teammates in a flash of anger as she did to Green Lantern recently (Justice League 11) or it can mean being unable to stop hoping for redemption of her greatest enemy (two issues later).


But despite all the sometimes-reluctant, imperfect hero characteristics ...

4. She is good.  I understand what drives Batman, I am sometimes confused by what makes Superman so good, but with WW, no matter the sacrifice, she is willing to step up and do what has to be done.  Not without fear and not always without hesitance.  But neither is she going to allow anyone else to suffer.  Maybe that's why among all her different continuities, she has served in almost every branch of the military.  Those values are reflected in someone who steps forward to serve.  If I were to point out her best instances of self-sacrifice, dignity and honor, my list would be incomplete, but a good look at the best of her moments is actually captured here by blogger Charlie Brooks.
No matter the medium or continuity, no matter the color of her skin or hair, or what DC "Earth" she's on, Wonder Woman has that quality.  I noticed it in the regal kind of toughness Carter brought to the TV.  I see it in the new books.  And! ...

5. I'm not the only one.  The best thing about being a Wonder Woman fan is that there are artists, cosplayers and fans who find something they relate to in WW, and often make their own. 
I thought i had seen every way one could draw Wonder Woman, but every month when I check out a Cliff Chiang cover I'm blown away by the sheer power he creates.  And I love all the different spins people put on her costume to maximize her warrior persona, her Mediterranean roots or her iconic status.  The same may be true for many other characters - I'm just glad it is also true for my favorite hero.

And she is just that.  Male, female or alien, there's a lot to look up to and emulate.  A lot to make a hero out of.  Yeah, I also still want to take her to the prom, but I'd settle for being a sidekick too. 

Some of my favorite cosplays below.
Back to the main page.

If WW was real, I am certain she would look
and be dressed like Meagan Marie
Another battle ready Wonder Woman.
Key chestpiece design element: straps!
Model: Sarah Scott
Photographer: Adam Jay

No straps on this top, but when wielding Thor's hammer, maybe
range of motion is more important.
The statuesque Valerie Perez.

Photog Eleanor Mayne captures a very ready-to-fight Athora as WW
Then, there's Yaya Han.
Otherworldly Yaya Han
Photo by Benny Lee


1 comment:

  1. Thanks Pete, honored to be amongst your selections and Wonder Woman of the Week!