Mark Waid, guestblogging over at John Rogers’ pad, gets it right about the basic inner story of Thor. And then someone else adds in comments:
…the most perennially troubled titles are the ones that have been the most disconnected from their simple concept. Wonder Woman is the classic example. It was a title the was gender and power. That included sex, which is why it was slowly scrubbed of its original theme. Now, it is about nothing, which is why it gets re-booted every fifteen minutes.
This is of course correct, but “gender and power” is a very generic way of talking about what Wonder Woman’s core story is about. It is about a woman in a man’s world. You don’t need to focus on sex to write that story – Buffy the Vampire Slayer covered a lot of this ground and although Buffy had her share of romance and doin’ it, most of the time that ground was mostly secondary to her story as a whole, which was often about reconciling femininity with being a kick-ass hero who was also doomed, doomed, doomed.
Now, drop the “doomed” part and you’ve got Wonder Woman. Except Wonder Woman stories are never actually about that. Has “woman in a man’s world” even been mentioned once in Trinity, which – last I checked – is ostensibly about the ideas and motivations behind Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman? No, not at all – instead we get some vague blather about Diana being a “bringer of peace,” and so forth.
And, of course, let’s be honest: “woman in a man’s world” is a hard sell in comics. Most of the readership is male and most of the creators are male, and most of them are not particularly interested in reading feminist literature unless it is disguised in some way (cf. Buffy, which is also a genre television show; ditto Xena, Warrior Princess).
I’m not sure if this is because the idea of “woman in a man’s world” is so explicitly feminist, and that men are traditionally sort of crap at writing strong feminist narratives no matter how personally enlightened on the topic they might be. (Even Joss Whedon, the poster boy for men writing strong women, has been accused – and not unfairly – of fetishizing “strong women” rather than simply writing stories about women.) But it’s a good point to remember; after all, if you are a male writer, the odds that you will be comfortable writing about Diana’s experience as a woman in a male-dominated world (and more importantly, finding that male-dominated world to be odd or irregular or irrational or improper) are just going to be lower than the odds that you will be comfortable writing Diana as a relatively asexual being.
Even Gail Simone (and I’ve quite enjoyed Gail’s run on the book thus far) treats Diana’s sexuality with relative kid gloves. I’m glad to see her starting up a romance with Nemesis – who, incidentally, is a vast improvement over douchebag Steve Trevor, who should die in a swamp1 – but come on, said romance has been so tentative as to almost seem editorially mandated that all pains be taken to make sure Diana doesn’t come across as a slut or something. (Because when I think “asexual society,” I think the Amazons?)
Woman in a man’s world. It’s not rocket science. It’s not irrelevant to comics readers (much as some might wish otherwise). But it’s definitely edgier territory, and there’s a political aspect to it that a lot of comics fans might not appreciate.
Also, the invisible plane. What is up with that?
Top comment: The invisible plane is a metaphor for the glass ceiling!
Except that Wonder Woman can control how much it can be lifted, so that doesn’t work either. — Eli Balin
- Dying in a swamp is the new dying in a fire! [↩]