Friday, March 23, 2012

wonder woman 7: what the hell just happened?

One of my favorite comics right now is Wonder Woman.  I know, I’m as surprised as you.  Wonder Woman has always been a weird ass comic.  Every time someone new takes over, it’s like everything that happened before doesn’t count, there’s weird mythology stuff, she’s wearing a weird fucking America bathing suit even though she’s fucking Greek, plus it’s like Xena, but written shittier and her villains suck.  Yeah, not a ton of reasons you might want to read her book.

But here’s the thing, her book is totally awesome right now!  Or, well, it was, until this week.  This week… well let’s talk about why it’s awesome before we get to that.  First off, the art right now is amazing.  It’s being drawn by a guy named Cliff Chiang, and his art is phenomenal.  Second, it’s being written by a guy who I’ve loved for years, Brian Azzarello.  He wrote the best crime comic ever written, called 100 Bullets.  Together they've put together an interesting supporting cast, drawn Wonder Woman with more dignity than she's used to, and put a level of thought into her universe that I'm not sure we've seen previously.  Join me after the jump to find out more.

Basically they’re writing Wonder Woman like it’s an urban fantasy.  You ever read American Gods?  It’s like a Pulitzer Prize Oscar Emmy book.  I dunno, big ass book awards, it won them.  Neil Gaiman wrote it.  But basically it asks you to look at a world where Gods live their lives here on Earth, as people.  Especially powerful people maybe, but people.  You get to take a look at what they’re like when they’re not reading pronouncements or seducing mortals or whatever.  It’s a cool book, you should go read it.  

So, you remember back when you were learning about mythology back in school?  And you remember how Zeus used to sleep with mortal women?  Yeah, in the comic, Zeus has a one night stand with a woman named Zola, and now Zola is pregnant.  So Hera teleports over to Zola’s horse farm (I dunno, there’s like horses on her property, do you farm horses I’m from the city) and she slaughters these two horses with a magic scythe, and these like centaur monster warrior dudes crawl up from out of the beheaded horse corpse and try to kill Zola.  I know, that’s fucked up, right?  But Hermes the messenger shows up and saves Zola, and like teleports her over to Wonder Woman’s house.  And there’s fighting and monster killing and all the good stuff you might hope for in a comic book.  

Besides that fighting what’s cool about it is just how flawed and human all the gods are made to look.  The stilted, aloof, kinda Star Trek horseshit you might expect, none of that.  These are incredibly powerful people who will kill and maim and backstab anyone they need to.  And there’s monsters.
Now, with that said, they’ve made some changes to Wonder Woman that not everyone is super excited about.  Her origin used to be pretty simple.  Hippolyta is the leader of the Amazons, a tribe of peace-loving ladies who lived on an island, invisible to the world.  But Hippolyta was desperate for a daughter, so she molded a girl out of clay, and asked the gods to give it life.  Her wish was granted, and a baby Wonder Woman was born.  Kind of goofy, but whatever.  That was the story for decades.

In the new book, Wonder Woman is the product of a one night stand between Hippolyta and Zeus!  Some people on the intertubes were very upset.  Me personally, I don’t give a fuck.  Clay is boring, and the Zeus thing was something we had never seen before.  But yeah, some people were upset.  There’s a blog I really like called DC Women Kicking Ass and here’s what they had to say about it:

I am not happy with this change. I am giving up a lot and the book needs to deliver a kick ass story to justify it. The fact that the team has already done so much outside of this change for the better and that they have a very firm grasp on their story makes me believe they can.

Superman and Batman would never have had their basic origin fundamentally changed. The fact that Wonder Woman’s has been encapsulates a lot of the problems with female characters at DC. But I’m willing to step over this line for a story that will elevate Wonder Woman and open the door for more female characters on the A list. A rising tide raises all ships, right? But this is it. Wonder Woman is a great character with a rich history; no more big changes.

So yeah, that’s an idea of what some people were saying.  The thing with comic books is, there’s a rich history, and it’s a costly history.  If you’ve bought every single issue of Wonder Woman, you’re talking a huge amount of money.  That’s money you’ve invested in this character, and it’s money you’d like to see mean something.  If you wave a wand and say, all that shit didn’t happen, people get upset.  Not me, I don’t care, but people.

A lot of people were a little weirded by that change, but they liked the story and were willing to roll with it.  But that rolling ended this week.  In Wonder Woman number 7 it was revealed that the Amazons were not peace-loving utopia living hippies who happened to believe in swordsmanship.  Oh no.  Amazonian women would creep from their island in the dead of night, board boats, and find some sailors.  But Amazonian women are no ordinary women, oh no.  They have magical super vaginas that fucking murder you when you have sex with them.  They’re not even warriors, they’re just an island of fucking succubi.  

So, having sex murdered their sailor friends, they get pregnant.  When they have their girl babies, they are welcomed to the family, given a sword and some birkenstocks and told to have a nice life.  Being vaguely familiar with how babies work, perhaps you’re asking yourself what do they do when they have male babies?  Well my friend, since you asked, here’s what they do with the male babies.  They leave them on the beach at low tide, and wait for them to drown.  Swear to god, that’s in the book if you read closely.  

This is completely fucked for like a million reasons.  Amazon Island is a feminist utopia and the Amazons are more advanced than everyone else on the planet.  In every possible way.  You know why? Because they don’t spend all their time killing each other and doing dirt like every other society.  The Amazons can be warriors when they have to, but left to their own thing they’re peaceful and awesome and what the fuck are they changing this shit for?

Let’s take like basic morality out of it, yeah it’s awful and rapey and retarded but ok, what about Wonder Woman?  She’s been living on the island for a while, right?  She didn’t notice any of this going down?  She didn’t wonder, hey friends, where are you guys going and why don’t you need panties there?  She didn’t notice all her friends getting pregnant and having babies?  And then she didn’t later notice when a couple of her very pregnant friends spit out a baby but don’t now have a baby to show people, and have a vague look of “oh fuck I’ve just killed a baby?” I don’t know what the fuck any of that is about.

And ok, if you’re a big time mythology buff, I bet you’re thinking to yourself, well, isn’t that how it is in the real myths?  Didn’t the real mythological Amazons do that shit?  Sure, that’s in the myths.  But when you do comic books about mythological people, you take some shit out.  I’m not a huge fan of Thor, but I bet there’s not a ton of storylines that deal with Thor raping people and murdering fucking babies.  If that made the movie, I’m sure someone would’ve mentioned it.

Another thing that bothers me is like, where do we go from here?  A few issues ago Hera turned all the Amazons into snakes, and Wonder Woman was like running around trying to save Zola and fight Hera and it’s a whole big thing called “the plot of the fucking book”.  So now what?  She saves the Amazons from being snakes, and then casually asks, hey guys, what’s all this rape and sailor murder about?  I don’t understand where we go from here.  

So wrapped up in all of this are feelings that I don’t personally have:  the woman feelings.  I’m not a woman.  I don’t have to deal with sexism or being paid less, or being called a slut for wanting birth control.  There’s extra stuff going on here that I can’t speak to.  For ladynerds this is a huge fucking deal.  Wonder Woman is one of the very few female comic book characters who isn’t a derivative of a man, and who has her own book that sells well. They’re already kinda pissed because I don’t know if you’ve ever looked at comics but… not a ton of shit there for ladies.  And that makes it even worse.  If there’s like 3 examples of women in your company, they better be some good fucking examples.  And this week’s Wonder Woman kinda killed that.  

The worst part is, I'm not sure what there is to be done.  With comics, you have to write your stories way in advance so there's time to draw, ink, letter and then print the finished book.  So even if, upon seeing that fans were not too pleased by this recent turn of events, what's to be done?  The writer's off down the rabbit hole dealing with future stuff, the next issues are half-drawn already, who would change it?

So, am I done with my brief adventure of reading Wonder Woman?  I'm honestly not sure yet.  I know there are people out there who've already removed it from their pull lists.  I get that impulse.  Weirding all over a feminist icon isn't without consequences.  I figure I'll check in next month, see what's happening, maybe read it in the store.  Past that, I can't rightly say. 

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