So people have been asking me lately about the new Wonder Woman costume and origin story that J. Michael Straczynski has put forth in his upcoming run on the title, making its first appearance in Wonder Woman #600. Fair enough – I’m the comic book guy on That Guy With the Glasses, so of course whenever there’s something that’s big news, people feel compelled to ask me my opinion on it.

On the other hand, people are asking me to give my opinion on something that hasn’t really happened yet, like asking me what I think about Saban reacquring Power Rangers – I’m happy that it’s coming back, but I can’t really give my opinion on a series that hasn’t been made and hasn’t aired and I haven’t watched.

But, hey, I’ve been giving my opinions about it on Twitter for the last few days and people are still asking (which is strange, because I always figured I had more followers on Twitter than I did my blog or the like), but yeah, let’s get it out of the way so I can just link people to it instead of repeating my points over and over.


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So this is Wonder Woman’s new costume and you want to know how I feel about it. Yeah, I hate it. Frankly, every time I look at it I have to remind myself that I’m not looking at Anita Blake or an Elseworlds version of the character or something from Project Rooftop. Wait, I take that back, Project Rooftop’s Wonder Woman costumes look better than this. They utilize her Greek origins or they emphasize her strength while staying within colors Wonder Woman actually wears. I’m sorry, but when I think of Wonder Woman, I think gold, I think red and blue, I do not think black and I don’t think unnecessary leather jackets. Frankly, this outfit looks like one conceived for the nineties, which is funny considering she DID wear an outfit like this in the nineties… and it sucked.

But we’ll get back to other Wondy costumes in a minute. So what prompted this costume change? Well, part of it was the revamped origin story that JMS is writing. Part of it was apparent backlash from women. Let’s look at this a little from a recent interview he had with Newsarama.

“What that says is that new readers aren’t sampling the book, and many of those who have been reading it, have dialed out or lost interest.”

I didn’t. I was really loving Gail Simone’s run on the book. I still encourage people to go out and locate the trades of it or order it online from Amazon or Barnes and Noble. But hey, I’m not everyone, so it’s possible her run just didn’t click with most readers.

“This is one of the surest signs that the stories, as good as they are, have become too insular.”

This is one of the eye-rolling things about movies, TV, and comics – blaming one particular aspect of it for its failure and with comics, something like being “too insular,” as if the reason we can’t get on board is because there’s too much history to it.

As I have said numerous times on podcasts, on Atop the Fourth Wall, and other places – continuity is not a problem for readers. Badly-used continuity is the problem. Referencing olders stories or materials should be done in a way that builds on what has come before while maintaining who the characters are at their core. JLA/Titans: The Technis Imperative is my absolute favorite comic book of all time, and it’s filled to the brim with references to the past of the Teen Titans, but that just makes me want to read those stories and find out what they’re talking about, and yet I don’t need those references to understand the story.

“This isn’t a reflection on the character, the writers or the fans, not by any stretch of the imagination. It’s a perception issue, and as a friend of mine once pointed out, sometimes the only way to see clearly through a stained glass window is to punch a hole in it.”

Wait, what? Ummm… if the stories are “too insular,” then yes, it is the writer’s fault for not making it more open to new readers. If it’s a perception issue, than the problem IS with the fans as well as the marketing at the company since they’re not doing what they need to do draw in new readers to taking a look.

“As I’ve noted elsewhere, Wonder Woman has, to an extent, become like a Ferrari you keep in the garage 24/7 because you’re afraid of denting it. It’s great to look at, beautiful in line and form, and as long as it’s in the garage, it’s safe … but that’s not what a Ferrari is for.”

…Are you seriously comparing Wonder Woman to a sports car?

“The second reason for a big shakeup is that frankly, it’s long overdue.”

Be fearful any time a creator uses words involving “shaking up the status quo.” The thing is, it’s hard for me to point at any particular book that currently HAS a status quo. Event comics, team book lineup changes, crossovers, multi-part stories designed for ease of fitting into a trade paperback, and just ill-fated directions for books mean that there’s very little status quo to be found in a lot of books. Teen Titans for the last few years, as an example, have had their team lineup changed repeatedly. Same goes for the Justice League. Creators leave or are unpopular with readers, editors get reshuffled, and plots are tossed aside or redone because one creator wants to use a character and internal politics at companies prevents them from utilizing them.

In Wonder Woman’s recent history in the past four or five years:
-Paradise Island was transported away during the events of Infinite Crisis.
-Wonder Woman got a secret identity and became a DEO agent.
-The Greek Gods were captured in Countdown for reasons that are still confusing and stupid.
-Paradise Island returned and lead to Amazons Attack, and I think we all know how I feel about that one.
-At the end of Amazons attack, Diana was forbidden from returning to Themyscira and all the Amazons’ memories were erased.
-The Amazons’ memories were returned and they returned to the island at the behest of a freed Zeus, who planned to strip them of their immortality as a reward for their faithful service. Zeus also set up a tribe of men as a counterpoint to the Amazons to try to finish the task they started in changing the world.
-Zeus expelled Diana from the island when she refused to follow this path and Diana renounced the Greek pantheon, pledging her fealty to the Hawaiian Gods (it’s complicated – read the trades)
-The DEO’s operations center where Diana worked was destroyed and she abandoned her secret identity.
-The whole thing turned out to be a plot by Ares and Zeus apologized for his stubborn ways and declared that Diana was right, allowing her to be loyal to her Gods again.

Where in all of that is a status quo that has lasted enough years for there to be something that needs to be “shaken up?” The problem with a lot of writers is that they DON’T read the books that came before, so they have a preconceived notion of who a character is and what the stories have been like.

Now, I’m sure you’re all wondering what the hell this has to do with her stupid new outfit. Well, it’s at this point where we get to the big evidence that JMS has never read Wonder Woman before.

“Her look, her dynamic and the sorts of stories being told have ossified over the years. Other characters have had their image buffed and altered over the years, but absent the regrettable mod look of the 60s, Wonder Woman looks pretty much the same now as she did in 1941.”

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What you’re looking at are seven of Wonder Woman’s outfits over the years. Now, I do apologize for having to reduce the size of the picture in order to make it fit the blog size, but it should be clear enough to see that not only has Wonder Woman’s image HAS altered over the years, for better or worse. The earliest one depicted here is the one second on the left, and even that’s not what she looked like when she started. The breastplate has gone through numerous changes, as well as the star pattern and the size of the hotpants.

Now some of you are probably thinking, “Well let’s face it, Linkara – Wonder Woman’s not an American, yet she’s wearing the American flag on her ass. Changing it up a bit is good.” Fair enough, but then again that’s ignoring the various origins that have come up over the years. She’s worn it as the colors of the nation she was going to, it’s been pointed out that white stars on a blue background isn’t exactly an american invention, and honestly when I look at Wonder Woman, I notice the gold areas more than the rest, much like how on Superman your eye is drawn to the “S” on his chest instead of the rest of him. The symbology is important.

But hey, it’s not a bad point… but I just don’t like the costume they went with. As I said, black is not a color I think of when it comes to Wonder Woman. The costume on the far right is the one she wore in the nineties, and it’s drawn a lot more flattering here than it ever was in the actual comics. It’s just ugly – some characters can carry a jacket (Animal Man, Firestar, Rogue) and others can’t. Wonder Woman is one of them – she comes from a Greek society of warrior women – they didn’t wear jackets.

‘But wait,’ many of you have asked me, ‘Aren’t you a feminist? Aren’t you happier now that she isn’t wearing a sexist bathing suit and is actually wearing pants and showing less skin?’ Well, let’s address that last part first – she’s not really all THAT much more covered up. She’s still got exposed cleavage and frankly most comic book artists draw pants on women as skintight to the point that it might as well be spray-painted on anyway. And even then, as I said, the Project Rooftop examples had plenty of costumes with pants, but they weren’t black. And in case you’re wondering if I’m just misinterpreting the colors and it’s really dark blue, check out the article or buy Wonder Woman #600 for yourself – they’re black.

Now let’s address my feminism. This is once again a misinterpretation of what feminism is – the thing is, showing skin is not the problem. I mock it in a lot of books because it seems like a lot of women’s costumes are designed to show as much skin as possible for titillation reasons. Instead of designing costumes that are logical for a character based on who they are, their origins, or their thought process, they’re designed so that they can ride up a woman’s ass and heterosexual men can drool at it. Part of feminism is that you don’t have preconceived notions about a person simply because of how they dress, how society might look at a girl or a woman in a mini-skirt and think to themselves, “they must be a slut,” when in reality they could just really like mini-skirts.

Costumes themselves are not necessarily sexist one way or another and the same goes for Wonder Woman (though I continually groan in frustration whenever an artist decides that Wonder Woman’s lower half rides up her ass like a thong). How the characters are written and how their body language is portrayed is what makes things sexist one way or another. Frank Miller writes Vicki Vale to be obsessed with superhero penises and put in the script that he wants Jim Lee to sexualize her for titillation, making her into nothing more than an object to be gazed at, describing in detail that she should be in skimpy attire and that her ass should be front and center for the reader. THAT is a sexist portrayal.

Artists drawing women so they’re bending over more, positioning group shots so that women are showing off the curvatures of their bodies instead of standing or sitting naturally is a sexist portrayal (unless it is within the character’s nature to be doing so). Drawing women’s nipples poking through their outfits, while possibly a hint of realism due to the nature of their costumes, is a sexist thing to do – this is a medium where apes can become knights, Amazon Princesses can become ambassadors in between fighting mythological creatures, and aliens can shoot laser beams from their eyes. There’s a degree of logic that’s necessary for story structure or when science NEEDS to be consistent for a plot point. Asking why Wonder Woman’s breasts don’t bounce out of her bustier is an unnecessary question to ask (unless it’s for humorous purposes) because we’re already working in a world where she can deflect bullets with her bracelets and possesses super strength and a lasso that compels the truth.

So, yeah, my problem with the costume is from a purely aesthetic sense and the reasons for replacing it are pretty weak, in my opinion.

“Finally, there’s the problem of her being overwhelmed by her mythology and her supporting characters. When writers don’t know what to do with a character, they build up the supporting cast and universe to kind of hide that fact. After a while, you can no longer see the character for the underbrush. When that happens, you need to bring out the weed-whacker to clear some of that away so you can focus on the main character.”

That is one of the dumbest things I have ever read. Wonder Woman’s entire character and origin are built around Greek mythology. The Gods are an intrical part of her birth and upraising. WHO SHE IS as a character and a person are determined entirely by her life experiences and her connections to the Greek Gods. If you strip that all away, you are not writing Wonder Woman, you’re writing an entirely new character with a different origin. And that’s fine, but you don’t need to tear down what came before in order to tell about this new character.

And how exactly is Wonder Woman overwhelmed by her supporting characters? I’ve been reading Wonder Woman for the last few years and have read trades of stories that happened well before that and I have never seen her be “overwhelmed by her supporting characters.” While it’s true that many writers will do away with the previous supporting cast and put in their own, Wonder Woman has always been the central focus of the book and she’s always a major player in the events that unfold.

Not to mention that “bringing out the weed-whacker” as described by JMS is NOT how a good writer handles things. If the writer feels that not enough emphasis has been placed on the main character, then you WRITE ABOUT THE MAIN CHARACTER. As the person actually writing the book, you are capable of writing what YOU want to write. You think the supporting characters have too much focus? THEN DON’T WRITE ABOUT THEM.

“It’s all part of Straczynski’s attempt to give Wonder Woman a more realistic, grounded approach that contrasts with her still mythical background. He compares the effect to what Neil Gaiman did in Sandman. While this fresh, new Wonder Woman exists in a tough, urban world, she also interacts with a few surviving Amazons and their mythical world that still exists in the shadows.”

…I was under the impression JMS had read Sandman, but apparently he hasn’t in a while. While there is an element of urban reality present in the book, the fantastic and mythical elements of Sandman are the primary focus of the book, as it should be with Wonder Woman. Why? Because she’s WONDER Woman. She comes from an island that regularly interacts with Gods and monsters. She has gone into space and fought off aliens. She has ventured into the depths of hell and she can lift heavy things. The book she be all about the wondrous, the fantastic, the things that we don’t see in everyday life. If he wanted gritty, realistic, and grounded we’d be reading crime dramas or the more grounded Batman stories. Forcing the mythological elements into the shadows just makes her into a generic crimefighter who has some ties to mythical elements.

“Nrama: It sounds like she’s turned into a woman who is much more realistic, at least in our world. A little less untouchable and god-like, and a little more familiar. Is that accurate? And was that a goal?

Straczynski: Yes. Again, the goal is to make her more interesting to and accessible for a readership that genuinely wants to like this character, but have found the picture-frame surrounding her less than interesting.”

Making her more like average schlubs makes her LESS interesting, not more. In Gail Simone’s last two issues on the book, Wonder Woman fought off an invading force of brutal space Amazons that slaughter a population, take natural resources, and then recruit women into their brutal environment to be new soldiers in their force. She did so while always appealing to their better nature and her allies were a group of albino gorilla knights, government agents, and an Olympian riding on a two-trunked elephant. This is the kind of thing I want to see in my comics – not grounded stories about a woman “more realistic” and “accessible,” but larger-than-life situations where you’re not sure how they’re going to get out of it, but that still emphasize the heart of her character and continue to offer a hand of compassion.

I would go on, but I think I’ve made my point by now. I will read the first few issues of this new run. I freely admit that in the interview, JMS has said that she’s trying to put the old timeline together again and it’s likely from that that in six issues, everything will be back to the way it was and people will forget about it.

However, reading this interview does not give me confidence that JMS understands who Wonder Woman is. The Wonder Woman I know of comes from the three other main stories in Wonder Woman #600, someone who can rally a force of superheroes together, a woman who can understand the nature of any living creature’s soul, their needs and anxieties, and a competent superheroine that can work with others while performing otherwise impossible feats. Not so much the Geoff Johns story, though, since he keeps trying to push this idiotic idea that she isn’t human.

And just to avoid a couple of posts that people are sure to make:
-Yes, JMS wrote One More Day, the infamous Spider-Man story where Spidey makes the deal with satan to end his marriage. And YES, he WAS in favor of the story. His objections to the book were in that he had written up a plan for how the continuity worked post-devil deal, but Marvel rejected it and said they were just going to play it fast and loose since “It’s magic, we don’t have to explain it.”
-JMS IS capable of fantastically good writing, like in Babylon 5 or Thor, and yes even during his run on Spider-Man (Aunt May discovered the truth about Peter, Peter became a science teacher, etc. were excellent story ideas and executed brilliantly, IMHO). It’s part of why I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt. However, sometimes some writers just aren’t suited to writing certain characters.

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