Let’s do an exercise: for one minute come up with as many male superheroes as you can. This was the list I came up with:
Now do the same for female superheroes:
I went through listing off the male heroes with ease. The female heroes however felt like diving into the the deepest parts of my fanboyisms. If it was difficult for me I cannot even imagine someone who isn’t a fan of comics having to list between eight to ten female superheroes. However, I would still believe that they could very easily list off ten to fifteen male superheroes. They might not know their stories but they would be able to identify them by name.
After I made these lists it occurred to me I have only read one comic/graphic novel from the Big Two (DC and Marvel) where the lead wasn’t a male hero. Which is Bryan Q. Miller and Dustin Nguyen’s Batgirl and their story arc The Lesson. Every other exposure I’ve had with female superheroes has been through independent publishers, team books, or television shows. Mainly: Justice League/Justice League Unlimited, Teen Titans, X-Men, and The Avengers. However, right now it seems that the team books are the only way of getting female heroes some of the spotlight.
I’m not going to lie, two months ago I wouldn’t have thought twice about the fact the majority of the comic properties I care about did not include a female lead in that stable. Why should it matter? I don’t believe I should feel obligated to read books and watch shows which feature female leads. However, a week after watching Yogawoman, I read a review of Wonder Women! The Untold Story of American Superheroines by Joey Esposito. I watched the trailer and was hooked. I e-mailed Nicole the link, told her I was about to watch the movie and it would be my first post once we figured out our new theme and layout. However, even after watching Wonder Women! I did not have a sense of the character of Wonder Woman. Yes, it was powerful to hear the impact she has had over the years and I can relate to how having a hero is essential to other people’s lives but there was a disconnect. I look at the two lists above after watching Wonder Women! and it makes sense to me why most of the girls I know don’t like comics. There aren’t many options for female leads. Yes, girls do relate to male heroes but I keep looking at the lists above and it says female heroes aren’t a priority so why should girls read them? I can talk anyone’s ear off about Batman, Superman, or Spider-Man but if you asked me about Wonder Woman I might be able to squeeze two minutes of discussion out. What is the reason for this? I love comics, I should know more about her. After all she is a part of DC’s Trinity but it feels like Batman and Superman get most of the shine and Wonder Woman gets the leftovers.
Growing up, my main exposure to female leads was Disney movies. Yes, looking back the thing which stuck with me most was the idea of love from them. And Nicole if you want to blame anything for my love for love, you can look at Disney. Yet, when watching them you never get the sense that any of the stories are just love stories. I wonder how the Disney Princess’ would be discussed if they were Princes instead? Would Ariel be talked about as if she threw away her life because she fell in love with a man from another world? Or would he be described as someone venturing into a new world and becoming an ambassador for his world and the new one? Would Mulan be scolded for not respecting tradition? Or would he be praised for saving his father? They might be described in the same way – however things point toward it being different. Yes, Disney incorporates love into their movies however they aren’t movies about love. They are about girls discovering who they are, where they fit into the world, and how they inspire others around them.
Listing off classic stories about Batman and Superman are no problem for me. However, a classic Wonder Woman story? I cannot name one. Lucky for me, with the New 52, I have an easy jumping on point for Wonder Woman’s on-going series by Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang. I am not sure what I was expecting when I got the trade paperback of the first story arc but whatever apprehensions I had were quickly washed away. Azzarello and Chiang immerse you in a very different DC Universe you might expect from a superhero book. Gone, are the gritty streets of Gotham and the sprawling skyline of Metropolis, instead the story starts from the view of the tallest building in the world with the Sun of a God. It is apparent from the get go that Azzarello and Chiang understand the power of Wonder Woman. She tangles with Gods both Old and New. Yet, it makes perfect sense, her origins live in myth. She is from the island of Themyscira, known as Paradise Island where she lives in a society of women known as the Amazons. Daughter of the Queen Hippolyta, forged from clay and granted life by divine intervention or as Azzarello and Chiang introduce her, the daughter of Zeus and Hippolyta. Wonder Woman feels just as ground breaking and forward thinking as the best Batman and Superman stories I’ve read. After finishing the first story arc I went and got the hardcover for the second story arc and finished it the same night. A Wonder Woman fan was born.
Some of my favourite moments from the animated movie, the New 52, and Wonder Women! are (spoilers ahead):
The animated movie is quite violent and there are many sexual innuendos present. However, my favourite scenes are not one which involve battles, but are of Diana interacting with man’s world for the first time. When her and Steve Trevor first land in Central Park, there are a group of boys who are playing pirates. Off to the side a young girl is crying, Diana comes over to comfort her and asks what is wrong. The little girl explains the boys won’t let her play because she’s a girl and they need someone to save. Diana picks up a stick nearby and explains to the young girl how to sword fight before encouraging her to go play with the boys. Another scene which stands out is when Diana and Steve go to a military base to find Ares. When they enter a secretary drops a pen on purpose and asks if Steve would pick it up for her. This action disgusts Diana and she asks the woman, “Is there something wrong with you?” The secretary asks what she means and Diana tells her that she seems to be in good health, so there is nothing preventing her from retrieving her own pen. The secretary scoffs at her before Wonder Women proceeds to pick the desk up off the ground and return the pen. The best scene is the discussion Steve and Diana have about men; she views them as she has been taught, they are a threat and will corrupt everyone. Steve tries to reason with her and explain that every nice thing a man does for a woman isn’t to further some diabolical goal to keep women oppressed. The final scene of the movie is striking. There is a bank robbery while Diana and Steve have just finished grocery shopping. She runs off to save the day while Steve warns her to call if she’s going to be late because he doesn’t want dinner to get cold.
The moment which resonates with me from Azzarello and Chiang’s books is when Wonder Woman is blackmailed to marry Hades. Since Hades is incapable of love he wants assurance that Diana is sincere. In order for her to prove her love he fastens her golden lasso into a noose. The implication being, if she does not she will be hung. Wonder Woman does love him but will not marry him because as she explains, “BIND ME? WITH PROOF – NOT TRUST? I WON’T BE BOUND THAT WAY TO ANY MAN…WOMAN…OR GOD.” With that proclamation she attempts to escape hell. Her friends arrive to help her and Hephaestus explains to Hades why their family disappoints them. He tells Hades they have the capacity to do better. They simply fight each other to fight instead of fighting out of love. Wonder Woman explains to Hades that he can never love anyone because he does not love himself. Hades releases her and goes to contemplate what she has said. He peers into the mirror Hephaestus brought as a wedding gift. Before departing Wonder Woman shoots Hades in the heart with Eros’ guns in hopes that he will love himself.
My favourite part of Wonder Women! has to be when the film shifts its focus on how Wonder Woman affects fourth grader Katie Pineda. She believes not enough people know about Wonder Woman and what makes her a great character. Katie loves Wonder Woman because, “She’s strong, amazing, and she saves a lot of lives.” Katie applies the lessons and example Wonder Woman sets to help deal with bullies at school and explains to the audience the bullies simply haven’t figured life out yet. Wonder Woman helps her understand that no matters what happens now, it’s small stuff because she has the confidence that she’ll fulfill all of her dreams.
Amazon, Warrior, Princess. From Wonder Woman’s creation those three words have defined her character. While these words are essential to her character I feel as if they are restricting. They are the surface of Wonder Woman but how do those labels relate to each other and her view of the world outside of Themyscria? You get a sense from the on-going comic but Azzarello and Chiang are building Wonder Woman into something new and unexplored. For a more classic Wonder Woman story I opted to watch the animated movie from 2009 titled Wonder Woman. I have seen about 90% of the DC Animated films, the fact that Wonder Woman was not a part of the 90% should be considered a crime against fanboys and girls. The movie gives you a perfect sense of who Wonder Woman is. If I was to describe Wonder Woman, it would begin with Amazon, Warrior, and Princess. She’s a leader of women in a world of man. She’s a fighter and defender of the innocent and unlike Batman or Superman she will kill if necessary. She is proud, loyal, and fierce. While Batman relies on fear, Superman lives to inspire the best of mankind, Wonder Woman’s defining traits are trust and love. She loves everyone. The love of life is what drives her. While to some love seems like a weak emotion but what’s weak about caring for others?
Why does this matter? Why do I need to understand Wonder Woman? The first thing which comes to my mind is: girls need role models too. Because not having role models can make having an identity complicated. Why should I care if girls have role models? I care because my friends like to joke that I’ll have a daughter one day and she’ll be a little heart breaker and melt my heart. If I should have a daughter I want her to have the experience I had when I was a kid with superheroes. It is a realization that the world is bigger than me but since Batman has tackled it, it means that I can too. Fictional characters are metaphors and reflections of the real world, they teach us about life, about how we should act and treat others. Superheroes above all accomplish this because they are created to never let us down. If I should have a daughter I want her to be able to list off role models easily. I want her to know she has female heroes she can look up to.
If I have a son I want him to understand that a strong, smart, and powerful woman is not weird, or threatening, but normal and good. I want my son to understand this because he’ll have his own Wonder Women in his life. Whether it is his mother, grandmother, aunt, friends, teachers, girlfriends, or wife. This is why it is important to me: Wonder Women are a part of my life and I have one to thank for our new layout. I know Nicole won’t take full credit for it but she deserves 99.9% of the credit. I realize we’ve been gone for awhile but we wanted to make sure everything was how we wanted it before we posted anything new. We’re back after a brief hiatus and the posts will be coming through out the summer. We don’t have all of our content planned but we’ll figure it out. Enjoy our new look. We believe in it and remember, like you, half of it is here because of a woman.
It’s Like I Have ESPN or Something – Nicole
Wonder Woman drowns me in a profound tide of uneasiness.
There’s a Wonder Woman Irving describes – the brave leader hammering her way through a male-dominated world of mythology and patriarchy. Then, there’s a Wonder Woman on bumper stickers – the stunning vixen with notable knockers who kicks male butt in an artfully misogynistic cycle that turns males on. Then, there’s a Wonder Woman costume at a comic expo – proudly displaying one woman’s love for comics, her chest, and her loud feminism. Then, there’s a Wonder Woman costume in a playroom chest – donned by a little girl, one who wears the costume to imagine, to escape to a world where her hero is exactly who she needs it to be. But wait, is this Wonder Woman the same as a Wonder Woman costume worn by a little girl forced to wear the girl costume in order to play with the boys dressed as Superman and Hulk?
Who are all these Wonder Womans? What do they do? What do they mean? Are they real? Imaginary? Are they us? Are they me?
What do I want to take, to learn, to borrow, from each Wonder Woman?
Are there good Wonder Womans? Bad Wonder Womans? Fat Wonder Womans? LGBT Wonder Womans? Student Wonder Womans? Male Wonder Womans? Hesitant Wonder Womans? Religious Wonder Womans? Racialized Wonder Womans? Activist Wonder Womans? Abused Wonder Womans? Dad Wonder Womans? Political Wonder Womans? Pregnant Wonder Womans? Wonder Womans?
One Wonder Woman?
I don’t know what Wonder Woman is for me. Often I’m bothered by her. Occasionally I’m annoyed with her. I’m frustrated with her. I’m angry with her. I’m confused by her. I’m called to think by her. I think she’s backwards. I think she’s progressive. I think she’s dogmatic. I think she’s a male pawn. I think she’s a good starting point for feminism. I think she needs smaller boobs. I think that her boobs shouldn’t matter.
I think Wonder Woman is confusing. And I’d encourage you to imagine her as complicated too. Maybe that’s how we tap into this power of Wonder Woman that Irving’s talking about?