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September 15, 2009

Wonder Woman

We're not exactly avid comic book readers... but we are fans of strong, powerful women.

In the early 1940s the DC comic line was dominated by male superheroes. In 1941 William Moulton Marston, upon the suggestion of his wife Elizabeth, created Wonder Woman as a "distinctly feminist role model". In The American Scholar (1943) Marston wrote:

"Not even girls want to be girls so long as our feminine archetype lacks force, strength, and power. Not wanting to be girls, they don't want to be tender, submissive, peace-loving as good women are. Women's strong qualities have become despised because of their weakness. The obvious remedy is to create a feminine character with all the strength of Superman plus all the allure of a good and beautiful woman." [via Wikipedia]
So here's a guest blog from our friend cfc on the recent postcard campaign to get Wonder Woman the props she deserves:

Well, it's finally happened. For the last twenty-one years, my husband has been trying to get me interested in comic books. He even gave me an autographed Sandman(by Neil Gaiman) as a gift when we were first dating. I know – what a romantic. When I was a kid, I read Star Trek comics, Green Arrow, , you know, the usual, but as geeky as I was, I just wasn't very interested in reading them anymore.Archie
Until yesterday.

I was driving and he was reading his comic books. In passing, my husband mentioned that both
Superman and Batman comic books were coming up on their 700th issues and that it was a big deal. I don't really pay that much attention to the comic talk. "This is a big deal", he assured me. I nodded and tried not to get hit by a truck in the left lane. Then he mentioned that Wonder Woman was coming up on Issue #45.45? I thought that was impossible. Wonder Woman has been around since the 1940s. Hasn't she? I always thought that the big three were all about the same age. How is it possible that she is that much "younger" than Batman? Maybe Wonder Woman is vain and lies because she doesn't want people to know her real age? (In actuality, she is 65, having been created in 1941; only five years younger than Batman and seven years younger than Superman.)

What happened in the Wonder Woman series of comic books is that they've restarted her stories, and therefore restarted her numbers. It was noticed by some fans that if you added all the issues of her series that her #45 really equals #600, therefore putting her on a more equal footing with the men.

DC Executive Editor, Dan Didio, stated in his recent column DC Nation that he thought the renumbering was more conducive to getting new readers. (He may have meant younger readers, and that would also be fine.) The first thing I thought, personally, was that it was sexist. No one would reduce Superman's numbers. I simply don't think it would happen. Superman and Batman get a party, but not Wonder Woman.
He said if he receives 600 postcards from fans, they'll renumber #45 to #600 and Wonder Woman gets her due. That's great. She deserves it. But the more I thought about it, the more it bothered me. It really bothered me.

Now, my husband thinks that I'm being too hard on Dan Didio and pointed out that Mr. Didio didn't begin the renumbering. This is something that's been going on in many other comic books for years (
Green Lantern, , Aquaman, Doom Patrol and at least four more that he mentioned by name.) My husband is right. I am blaming one man. It's not his fault.

Renumbering, restructuring, restarting series was happening long before he came along. I just think that if this were Green Lantern or even
, it would have been a no-brainer to acknowledge #600. It certainly makes sense to renumber when the story ends and a new one begins. It's why we declare "life begins at 40" or 50 when we get divorced or lose a job or our kids go away to college.

This is the society we live in.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but it honestly reminds me of many women (myself included).
I have a Master's degree in education and was a teacher for over ten years. Now, I've spent just about that amount of time staying home with my kids. My youngest is three and won't go to school for two more years, which means I will remain out of the workforce at least until then.
I'm out of touch with new techniques for teaching, so consequently, a younger person just out of college - with the advantage of having just gotten the new educational information - will get hired before me. Even if I wanted to keep up with workshops and auditing classes, the amount of money I would have to spend would be astronomical, as well as the fact that we need to make the mortgage and car repairs. I've put in my forty quarters, but I won't get near enough money from social security to pay for groceries let alone a living wage.

I don't know when the idea of renumbering Wonder Woman's issues became about me, but it really bothered me. And the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to make a point. There is no just compensation for a woman to start over. We are not given credit for all that has gone before. We shouldn't need a postcard referendum to get Wonder Woman her 600th anniversary party. Superman and Batman didn't have to ask for it. Someone remembered.

I do realize that the postcard thing established a buzz about the character that may not have been there, and it makes sense on a publicity level, but it seems as though the women need to ask for this instead of simply expecting it to happen. I still think that we should try to send in more than 600 postcards. What about 6,000?

So if you're so inclined, send your postcard to:

Dan Didio
c/o DC Comics, Inc.
1700 Broadway
New York, NY 10019

"Wonder Woman" image courtesy of NY Sun. "Wonder Woman #1" image courtesy of CoverBrowser.com. "Wonder Women" image courtesy of Amazon Princess. "Wonder Woman 1941-2008" image courtesy of RayCaspio.com. "Wonder Woman vs. Wonder Woman" image courtesy of Apropos of Something. "600" image courtesy of DC Nation. The Wonder Woman Chronicles Vol. 1 will be released on March 9, 2010.

Guestblog by cfc of A Writing Life


Anonymous said...

It's those evil right-wing conservatives writing in again. You know, the ones from the "Pure Fashion" thread. Rebooting a comic book franchise is not unusual. It's got nothing to do with gender. Most of the major male comic book heroes have also been rebooted from time to time. Superman, Batman, Spiderman - they've all been rebooted for one reason or another.

Age is a factor, of course, but that's more to do with targeting younger audiences, who are the major consumers of comic books. Let's face it, as we grow older our attention turns to literature and reading pleasures other than Batman, Wonderwoman, Archie & Veronica, Disney Princesses, Wolverine, etc. Happens to the guy comic book characters as much as the gals. So you cannot blame the comic book industry for reaching out to the next generation.

The other reasons for rebooting a franchise is because quite often the writers have written themselves into a corner and now confined to a box. So rebooting allows the franchise to freshen up and start over again, no longer confined to past storylines.

What will likely happen is that the old Wonderwoman will be relegated to an alternate universe, which is the usual retirement home for previous incarnations of a comic book character.

Anonymous said...

The issue isn't really that the issues were renumbered, so much as the fact that Wonder Woman has been around about as long as Batman and Superman... but wasn't getting the celebration or respect that her male counterparts were getting.

Anonymous said...

Evil right-wing conservative back...

That's because Superman and Batman are popular. But for every Superman or Batman, there's tons of characters who fall by the wayside, or are discontinued, or who become secondary characters for other headliners. That's just the way it works. Even Superman went through a bad spell where he was nearly discontinued, for being too Ward Cleaver, until the franchise was rebooted.

In the case of Wonder Woman, the reboot is a sign DC is trying to save the character.

Anonymous said...

Again... missing the point. The point is not just that Wonder Woman was renumbered, but that they weren't going to celebrate the fact that she had 600 issues because she was renumbered.

Hybrid Hopes said...

will spread the word.

La Sirena said...

I am sending a postcard and so will every woman in my family. I have loved Wonder Woman since I was a very, very young girl. My most-visited post is the one about Wonder Woman.

OK... enough about me.

I really enjoyed the parallel between your (guest blogger's) life/ career and the Wonder Woman "reboot". I agree, it's ridiculous that women have to ask for anything in this life -- but being a woman, I guess I've become desensitized to the ridiculous. Or maybe some of our power lies in our ability to reinvent ourselves (ex. Madonna, Wonder Woman, Guest Blogger and me)???

Perhaps once again, Wonder Woman stands as a powerful female archetype with lots of mythology behind her... a reminder to speak for TRUTH in this man's world which is no Paradise Island.

Yes, Wonder Woman, I number myself as one of the 6000 who stand up for you.

Dollface said...

I'll send a postcard!! Really awesome post.

Also, who is this "evil right-wing conservative" fellow? Is that a joke?

Jezebel said...

Dollface - Well, we assume that he or she is joking about the evil part, but not the conservative part. The Pure Fashion post is getting a lot of traffic from conservative religious sites, and I guess some people are sticking around to see what else us "sexually permissive feminists" like to write about.

Anonymous said...

LOL! Jezebel. Yes, we're joking about the "evil" part, much like you do in ESC. But we "evil" Catholic conservative parents are seriously grateful for your fisking of Pure Fashion, while not agreeing with all your points, of course. You've nevertheless stated, quite eloquently, what many of us have been saying for some time.