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clodia_risa said on July 31st, 2013 at 9:13 am

Your essay really made the problem of Wonder Woman clear to me. As much as I love her, she’s the very definition of a “Strong Female Character” – which is to say, she kicks ass, and doesn’t necessarily have any other characteristics beyond that. So man “Strong Female Characters” seem like they are there to show that women can keep up with the men, and I wouldn’t exclude her from that.

Which is why I implore writers for well-rounded and well-defined female characters. I don’t care if they’re “strong”, I care if they have goals and agency and characterization.

I will say that my definitive Wonder Woman is from the DCAU, just like most of my definitive DC characters are. But I couldn’t define her better than kick ass, diplomatic, commanding.

Batman, Superman, and Spider-Man all seem to be defined by the adversity that they face, not just the villains. Crime and the loss of parents, being the only one of your kind and potentially able to kill everyone with a sneeze, being an outcast. Seeing how I don’t want Wonder Woman’s adversity to be anti-feminists, because I deal enough with that in my own life, I’m curious what a good theme would be for her to overcome via beating up people. I want to see it and see it done well, I just don’t know how to get there myself.

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I always just thought she was unlikable because of her “preach peace but practice war” hypocrisy.

Now her sister/clone/magic-copy/whatever is a fantastic character with a convoluted back story that prevents her for being a higher profile character.

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@clodia_risa

The most logical theme I’ve heard for Wonder Woman is the search for Truth. After all she’s got a magic lasso that stops people from lying.

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The Unstoppable Gravy Express said on July 31st, 2013 at 11:15 am

The DC Amazons are immortals I think?

Hero from an earlier age + search for Truth and valour in modern-day cynical world = Captain America

So basically you could position a movie Wonder Woman to fill a similar role as Cap does in movie Avengers. A wise conscience to balance Batman’s brutal pragmatism and Superman’s super-reductionist idealism.

(PS man of steel divided fandom because you can focus either on the isolated bits that worked or the other bits that were stupid/sloppy/boring/washed-out/nonsensical/badbadbad. i don’t think “a good story” has anything to do with man of steel)

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The version of Wonder Woman that seems most interesting to me would be a mythological hero in the modern world who happens to be female. The distaff counterpart of Hercules, or lots of other characters from Greek myth, or movie Thor except not based on an existing character.

In the hands of a bad writer that could be just “kicks ass, and doesn’t necessarily have any other characteristics beyond that,” but it doesn’t have to be. Characters from premodern mythology are different from modern real people and most superheroes in a lot of ways. They’re often driven to their great deeds by either destiny in a fatalistic sense, or raging against the gods themselves. Hubris might be a problem. They come from cultures more driven by honor and shame than ours. They can also be frankly sociopathic in some ways, stealing, hurting the innocent, or resisting the authorities without a second thought if they have a reason. Moral dissonance is interesting. She wouldn’t actually act like that all the time, especially not after having been in this world for a while, but it’s the culture she’d come from.

The “magic truth powers” could be just one tool in her arsenal. You want a story about anthropomorphic personifications, I’m told it’s hard to beat Sandman. The “ambassador” thing could still be important somehow, but it doesn’t necessarily have to mean “preach peace.” The Jedi are ambassadors, SG-1…

I have no idea if WW has ever been close enough to my ideal version, and if so I don’t know under what writer, but it’s what I’d look for.

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Scavenger said on July 31st, 2013 at 12:30 pm

@beacon: That’s an interesting point…whereas Diana is problematic…Donna is easily defined. She basically your awesome super best friend.

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The current Azzarello run is the only one I’ve read more than an issue or two of. Really enjoying it so far.

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NCallahan said on July 31st, 2013 at 1:04 pm

I think you’re spot on with the comparison to Iron Man, and I think there’s a lesson to be learned from that. The RDJ movie pretty much stripped down Tony to a bare bones of his character and then added on to that as subsequent movies teased out what audiences did and didn’t like.

“Superhero from enlightened utopia tries to save our fallen world” is not a hard story to write. The only potential wrinkle is that WW’s premise has a lot of room for a feminist telling that various editors/producers may shy away from, but even though I’d think it’d be a lesser story, you can still write it without that.

Here’s the rub of it — Wonder Woman does have pretty wide public recognition. Marvel took a way bigger risk on Thor. Plenty of comic characters faced similar problems and managed to make movies that performed just fine. That Wonder Woman doesn’t get the benefit of this precedent does speak to a sexist bias, ultimately.

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I always thought captain America was a bigger risk than Thor. Thor’s silly, but if Transformers is going to make gorrillions just because its robots fighting each other… I mean Thor is built for big CGI action sequences. Meanwhile Cap is some preachy guy with a shield. Plus, half the world hates America. How are you going to get them to see “Captain America”?

Oh, but on topic. Yeah, I agree with Wonder Woman. She’s probably the most well-known hero that hasn’t had a movie yet. I’ll add one RDJ caveat tho: the Wonder Woman movie that defines her character will have to be good. If its bad, think Ryan Reynolds in Green Lantern.

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Amazon, left home to fight evil.

That’s your story. That is PLENTY to build a film on.

They made films based on “Irradiated, turns big, green when angry,” “wears robot armor,” and “Is a god.” They can make one based on “Is Amazon.”

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If there is a sexist bias working against a Wonder Woman film, it’s not just in people making movies: it’s in the audience too. Supergirl, Elektra, and Catwoman didn’t do so hot. Everybody on /co/ says the animated Wonder Woman movie was the best of the lot, but it didn’t sell enough to stop DC from going back to Superman and Batman. But then, on the other hand, the Resident Evil franchise, headlined by a female character, has been chugging along for five movies now, with a sixth on the way. The Underworld franchise didn’t do too badly either.

And public recognition doesn’t help if no one genuinely knows what to do with a character. That Wonder Woman television pilot was all over the map in all the wrong ways.

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At some point, MGK, you need to write a comprehensive article on why Doc Ock is Spider-Man’s true nemesis. Because nobody else on the internet seems to have done it yet.

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I actually disagree that there’s no definitive run on Wonder Woman. There is a definitive run: the original William Moulton Marston comics. That established everything that’s important about the character (and I do think most people have an idea of who she is that’s carried through the, admittedly few, TV and movie appearances): female royalty with mythic origins from an island of women, coming to the male-dominated world to promote her values and fight evil. Has a lasso that compels people to tell the truth and bracelets that deflect bullets. Even the idea that WW is the daughter of a deity is planted in the original Marston comics–if you’ve ever read her origin, it really, really reads like Marston wanted to make her the daughter of Hippolyta and Hercules, resulting from their love affair as chronicled in the original mythology. I suspect the only reason it was changed to that haphazard “made of clay” thing is that 30s morality had a bit of a problem with her being born out of wedlock.

Steve Trevor and Etta Candy are at their most memorable and distinctive in the Marston comics, too. The ONLY thing I can think of that might have been added later is the invisible jet, and I’m actually not sure about that. The Marston comics are even expressly about gender politics, which everyone with any sense agrees is one of the most interesting things about the character, yet everyone shies away from, or else reduces her to a man-hating “feminist” (either in a misguided attempt to make her a Strong Female Character or in a negative, Frank Miller way). A movie that drew ONLY from the Marston comics would be a perfectly recognizable, and probably highly entertaining, Wonder Woman.

The fact of the matter is, while Wonder Woman hasn’t really accrued ideas and additional elements like Superman and Batman, she was a perfectly solid character right from the start, and in fact in many ways the original run has never been equaled. I think she’s been made a victim of the reflexive assumption in comics fandom that Golden Age comics can’t stand on their own and needed to be massaged in the Silver Age.

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John 2.0 said on July 31st, 2013 at 2:27 pm

Honestly, I think the problem is with those early Superhero characters. Wonder Woman is in that rarefied air where characters were really created before the formula of what a Superhero was supposed to be was really hashed out.

Superman and Batman are in that group too (with maybe Cap, and the Fantastic Four). But Superman and Batman have origins and clear precedents that make them easier to write and understand. Superman is Buck Rodgers or John Carter inverted (alien coming to Earth, rather than Man going to an alien world and getting fantastic powers). Batman is just a mish-mash of various pulp characters, from the Shadow on down. At heart they are both pulp characters operating in a pulp medium (which, I would argue, is why Batman is such a flexible character, because he can basically be ANY pulp archetype, from the hard-bitten detective, to the superspy, to the kung-fu master, to the dark avenger, but that’s a different discussion).

But that doesn’t hold for Wonder Woman. What’s her basis? Science fiction? Fantasy? Psychology? Her clearest antecedent is Superman, but she exists without the things that give Superman his anchor, and really before the things that make Superheroes interesting had been developed. It makes her more of a thing than a character, and that status is actually exacerbated by making her a member of the ‘Trilogy,’ because it reinforces the idea that she’s a ideal or symbol and not a character. Her personal iconography, and its adoption outside of comics keeps her in a weird sort of limbo, that I don’t think has really begun to dissolve until the New 52 take (which I completely love, by the way).

So I don’t know if you actually CAN make a successful Wonder Woman movie. The animated movie was pretty great, in my opinion, but I don’t think it would work in live action.

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@Andrew: I’ve actually heard that the Wonder Woman animated movie apparently ended up making as much or more money than any of the others, but it wasn’t an immediate success like the other movies. (I admit my references on this are vague, but I believe Joanna Draper Carlson had an article or two about this.)

While I agree she’s had bad luck in the writing department, there IS an institutional bias against Wonder Woman that to some degree prevents her from getting a real shot. Dozens if not hundreds of terrible Superman and Batman comics never stopped DC from pushing those characters. Batman, OK, probably didn’t need the push, but there was definitely an extensive era–the Bronze Age to the mid-90s, arguably–when comics fans were turned off by Superman for being “boring”, “too powerful”, “a goody two-shoes”, etc. That didn’t prevent DC from sticking by the character, building major “events” around him, etc. I can’t think of any similar attempts involving Wonder Woman; there were certainly creatives who cared about her and wanted to do their best to make her successful, but I really don’t see DC as an institution giving her a real push, and that makes a difference.

We see something similar happening in Hollywood right now–there was an article a few months ago pointing out that despite the massive success of “Bridesmaids” no one was rushing to make major female-centric movies, whereas even weakly performing genre movies starring dudes get all the chances in the world. It’s not that I think Hollywood is misogynist as an institution; it’s just run by dudes, who want to make movies for themselves. But they’re in a business that needs to service everyone. Comics are the same way, except they’ve been in “comics for the kind of people who make comics” has been default mode for DECADES. It colours people’s thinking and makes them gloss over opportunities, of which Wonder Woman is a BIG one. She needs someone embedded in DC fighting for her, and she hasn’t got anyone.

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@John 2.0: I’m honestly not sure what your argument is here. As I said in my post, I actually think the original basis for Wonder Woman is *more* solid than Superman, Batman, or a number of other Golden Age characters. She’s mythological in origin and derived from existing stories–everyone’s heard of the Amazons, whereas Krypton was something Siegel and Shuster made up. There’s a streak of SF added into the mix, but that’s true of the Lee/Kirby version of Thor as well, and no one kicks about that. And the gender politics aspect of the character is perfectly clear as Marston laid it out; you can disagree with it (as most people probably would) but you can’t argue it’s not firmly established in the original comics. The problem is that people have been dancing around it or flat-out trying to retcon it away for decades.

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John 2.0 said on July 31st, 2013 at 3:02 pm

@Prankster: But that’s not true at all. Superman and Batman have very clear identifiable roots in pulp culture. Batman being the clearest of all with the Shadow, but Superman has Flash Gordon, etc (Krypton is just as made up as Mongo). That gives them a clear context to work with in a pulp medium like comics. Wonder Woman does not.

Characters like Thor were obviously established 20 years after what it was to be a superhero had been nailed down. That’s my point.

I don’t have a problem with Marston’s politics or psychology. I think they’re very interesting, if not all entirely correct. But his intent in creating Wonder Woman was to create a character that would be the mouthpiece for his ideas. That’s great, but that also makes her…indistinct as an actual personality.

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Cookie McCool said on July 31st, 2013 at 3:11 pm

I would argue that the root of all those issues is still ultimately boobs. When boobs are a female superheroes most obvious assets (and how many b-cups do you see drawn?), it’s a moot point how awesome your origins could be or how rich and textured your world is. Until they take the t and a out, which will be approximately never, Wonder Woman is going to be hitting the glass ceiling the same as everyone else with boobs.

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At some point, MGK, you need to write a comprehensive article on why Doc Ock is Spider-Man’s true nemesis. Because nobody else on the internet seems to have done it yet.

I’ll second this. I’m open to the idea that Otto is #1 in Spider-Man’s rogues gallery, but as someone who hasn’t been a regular reader of the series in probably 20 years, it’s a bit counter to conventional wisdom as I remember it, and I’d be really interested to see the case for Otto presented instead of just assumed.

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pospysyl said on July 31st, 2013 at 3:22 pm

I’m curious as to why Otto beats out Osborn. The Green Goblin was central to possibly the most influential and important post-Amazing Fantasy Spider-Man story, evokes the Romita era soap opera aesthetic and provides a fallen father figure for Peter. Doc Ock works as a foil and is more visually dynamic with Spider-Man, but I don’t think he’s as important to the mythos. Seeing your perspective would be really interesting.

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clodia_risa said on July 31st, 2013 at 3:26 pm

@psych Interesting! I’m going to let that slosh around my head for a bit, but I like it!

Unfortunately, I’m afraid it’d hit a little too close to home with American politics right now, one way or another.

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In my opinion, Wonder Woman is an icon without a well-defined personality. Because of that they should just go ahead and align her personality to her iconic status. There is a huge need at DC for someone to personify heroism itself. She should loudly stand for not only Truth, but also Justice and the American (or Enlightened, if you prefer) Way. No other character at DC is currently doing that.

When a person puts on a four-color costume, their intention is to become a mythic figure. Wonder Woman is a great character to make that literal. Her character should revolve around her consuming need to be a symbol, icon, and/or myth. She comes from an island of mythic figures, so the desire to be heroic connects to her existing backstory pretty well.

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@John 2.0: My point is that I think the character is perfectly clear and distinctive, both in her personality, milieu and the overarcing themes of her story. Referring to the original comics, I’m not seeing how she’s any less of a character than Superman, who was defined by what he did and the cultural context he existed in(crusading reporter, standing up for the little guy); if anything, WW’s context makes her character a lot more interesting. She’s royalty, she’s from a utopian all-female society, she’s a weird cross between a dominatrix and a 50s mom. What’s hard to grasp about this? You keep bringing up the pulps as antecedents as if she needs to be a copy of something that came before to be clearly defined, which I don’t get. If you need a clear antecedent, it’s mythology (which informed pulps and superheroes in general, too).

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This post gave me something to think about while I was driving today, and here are some of the things I thought about presented in an incoherent mess.

Magic and mythology are inescapable in her origins. I think any movie about her should embrace that. Immortal Amazons, baby made from clay and powered by the Greco-Roman pantheon, divinely forged lasso, the whole nine yards.

She was raised by an entire society and has learned all of her skills from people with centuries of practice. She might not know how to drive stick, but she can hunt and fight better than just about anyone living.

She should be curious about the world she’s never known, but she’s not a myth-out-of-water like Thor was – she’s a confident explorer.

Also, she needs a mission and something to fold her into the so-far non-magical DCU movieverse.

So.

Themyscira has been the fortress that protects the real world from magical incursion for centuries. It’s not constant battle, but every single Amazon has decades of combat experience and Diana is a rookie only when compared to them. (If she’s in her late twenties in the film, she’s probably only got a decade of combat under her belt. Plus another decade of training.) They fight things from all the pantheons – trolls, hydras, lamias, you name it, all to protect our world from the magical nasties out there. The problem that sets the plot in motion is that the magical nasties have found other routes to Earth somehow, and so one woman has to go and warn the World of Man that trouble is coming… and although Diana is technically a rookie, her powers make her the single most capable fighter they have.

She is an ambassador of her land, bringing a message to our world, urging people to stand together and fight evil. She is a leader of warriors and an extremely lethal fighter. She’s good at political wrangling (thanks to her queen mum) and getting along with folks (thanks to being raised by her whole island) and she can kick ass like nobody’s business because she’s been chopping mythical heads for years.

This wouldn’t be an origin story like Batman Begins or Man of Steel – this would be an introduction story. World, meet Diana. She’s got something important to say, she’s got some ass to kick, and she’ll play nice… but only up to a certain point.

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By the way, you guys know Grant Morrison is going to be publishing a Wonder Woman graphic novel this year, right? (Possibly under the EARTH ONE imprint, I’m not sure.) I wonder if that could end up being Wonder Woman’s DKR/Year One/All-Star Superman/Birthright.

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Heksefatter said on July 31st, 2013 at 4:13 pm

Egg Fu? How could you forget her archenemy, Egg Fu?

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Ian Austin said on July 31st, 2013 at 4:42 pm

The easy solution?

USE THE BEST BITS OF EVERY INCARNATION and do the story as “Wonder Woman has lived for hundreds of years, and visited humanity hundreds of times in different guises when needed. So she’s been a ninja, a soldier, a journalist, a spy, a diplomat. She’s become dozens of myths, the friendly woman who shows up when humanity needs her, kicks ass, and then leaves in mystery.

Except her solo comic starts with her unable to leave, so now humanity has proof that a “God” exists, and Wonder Woman is forced to face the day to day reality of living among humanity. And it scares her, because its easy dispatching a harpy with a sword… It’s not easy having to do everything else.

She’d become the archetypal John Wayne figure – the cowboy who saves the day and walks away because society has no place for her… except, as noted, she can’t. And the story is her trying to get home, then realising she’s been home all along,

Immediate goal for her, conflict as well.

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A user named bluefall on scans daily did a fantastic series of wonder woman posts titled “When Wondy Was Awesome”. Its been some years since but the run that REALLY stood out to me and was the closest at setting something of a modern definitive aspect/supporting cast was the Rucka run.

Wonder Woman in the rucka run was now cast as the Themyscrian ambassador and was given a neat supporting cast and there was a lot of more political intrigue tied into the superhero shit. I highly enjoyed and its a shame it only ended because of fucking infinite crisis.

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Canukistani John said on July 31st, 2013 at 5:23 pm

@ Toby

An interesting idea – less an origin story from *our* (the world’s) viewpoint, but from Wonder Woman’s – this is the world’s first impression on her.

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Wonder Woman’s problem with archnemeses is that 1) Circe would be perfect but her motivation to hate Diana is never clear or consistent; 2) Doctor Psycho could be perfect if he wasn’t such a one-note date-rape monster; 3) Silver Swan? Not really scary; 3) Baroness worked as a WWII villain but outside of Red Skull there’s no way to make a Nazi villain work today without bringing in a ton of political flack. Diana’s stuck with Cheetah or fighting the Gods (usually Ares but nowadays the whole roster is against her). The current series seems to be working well by having Wonder Woman vs. Zeus’ Screwed-Up Family, but that can’t last long (villain decay will creep in for the Gods, turning them into campy easy-to-punch foes).

The problem was that the Post-Crisis reboot, which did a decent job of setting up an origin, blew it by trying to send a warrior woman figure into the world as an “ambassador of peace” and constantly undermine all that by her fighting 90 percent of the time. Post-Crisis Supes and Bats didn’t have that problem.

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Heksefatter said on July 31st, 2013 at 4:13 pm:

Egg Fu? How could you forget her archenemy, Egg Fu?

It’s very simple. Step 1) forget the silliest Yellow Peril villain ever created. Step 2) move on.

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I think I get Doc Ock and Spider-man (and have always agreed with it…). Otto has always been dark Peter Parker – a science nerd caught in an accident taking on the identity of an eight-legged creature, only a bad guy. It’s a very natural fictional nemesis relationship.

The Green Goblin’s beef with Spider-man is something that had to be built up between Peter andthe Green Goblin. You also have to decide which Green Goblin – Norman’s problem is that the character spent almost 25 years dead; Harry’s problem is that he was a very personal foe but never as big a threat as his father and spent fifteen years dead and came back as a friend (as Norman could be the bad guy).

For completness’ sake: Otto was dead for two-and-a-half years.

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Wonder WOman’s biggest flaw is she is an A-list property with a B-list character. She has no real tragedy like Batman and and Superman. And giving her one feels kind of creepy.

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Let’s just take a moment and say a silent prayer of thanks that the David E Kelley series never metasized into anything regularly shown on television and avoided piling additional embarrassing and difficult-to-reconcile baggage onto the character. I may not know what Wonder Woman is, but she’s not goddamn Ally McBeal.

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SIlverHammerMan said on July 31st, 2013 at 7:58 pm

I also call for a post on Doc Ock as Spidey’s arch-nemesis.

Personally I’ve been a Green Goblin guy for the longest time, but some stuff I’ve read recently has me reconsidering. I’m still kind of set on the Green Goblin as Spidey’s greatest villain, but Ock might just be a better arch-nemesis. The reason for this, I think, is that the Green Goblin feels like a more finite threat, a single long story. Norman goes crazy, becomes the Goblin, kills Gwen Stacy, dies, then Harry takes up the mantle, does some stuff, and also dies. It’s a quality story, but not one that I think lends itself to constant clashes. The Greeb Goblin should be a burst of insane violence and evil that’s over quickly but has long lasting effects. Doc Ock on the other hand doesn’t feel like he has a single story to tell and as such is able to work well as a recurring threat.

Maybe that’s not the greatest reading, but that’s just what I’ve come up with so far as I think about this more.

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Wolfthomas said on July 31st, 2013 at 8:03 pm

I think the Wolverine coming from a race of feral Mutants was actually ret-conned away recently by Jeph Loeb himself.

Remus, Romulus sister, revealed that it was all just a bunch of lies and Romulus’ true goal was to create a feral mutant race, not recreate it.

But yeah it sucked real hard.

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I’ve long maintained that the best thing Norman Osborn ever did was die immediately after killing Gwen Stacy. It made him this force of evil that struck hard, took something Peter held dear, and then became impossible to strike back at. Before that, his only real hook was knowing Pete’s ID, which was kinda novel back in the day but it never had real staying power because of the convenient amnesia thing. It left him in a state of being very threatening until he wasn’t anymore. By dying, it moved him up to mythical levels, especially when his last act was trying to kill Spider-Man.

So before he was brought back he had two MOs, the guy who knows the secret and untouchable evil hurting Pete from the grave. The first isn’t unique anymore, and the second obviously doesn’t work if he’s alive. The limitations of the character himself, and not just the idea of the character, are made plain by the fact that he was resurrected and immediately shoved into a Lex Luthor role he was never suited to. Goblin circa 1970 could hold it together long enough to run a gang, but never long enough to do some ludicrous long term Machiavelli crap. He was a mildly interesting maniacal guy with a cool look before he died, and since then he’s been floundering for an ID of his own.

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I think the Marston version of Dr. Psycho would make a perfect arch-enemy. Unlike the post-Crisis version (whose motive I never got), he was a man convinced he’d been betrayed by a woman and now obsessed with forcing all women back into subservience (his initial plot involved convincing the government to take women out of war work and back into the kitchen). That’s tailor-made for this era.
I agree with Prankster about Wonder Woman having had a definitive run, but I agree with MGK that her handling since then has been insanely inconsistent. Superman and Batman have definitive runs because they have stable backgrounds: Gotham City and Metropolis, Lois, Commissioner Gordon, Alfred. Wonder Woman writers have changed her from military to boutique owner to UN investigator to astronaut to military, and changed her base of operations and her supporting cast every time. That makes it hard.
Supergirl has had the same problem. Pre-Crisis she was college student, TV producer, drama student, school counselor, soap opera actress, with correspondingly shifting location and supporting cast.

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@KD: Yes yes yes yes yes. Rucka’s take on Wonder Woman was the best I’ve read, starting with The Hiketeia graphic novel. He reconciled the whole “warrior of peace” thing by making her both strong and compassionate. Strong enough to easily mess Batman up, and compassionate enough to do it for a good cause and only when provoked. Her supporting cast was not so great, but Rucka didn’t have much time to work on them before Infinite Crossovers derailed his story.

Apparently, one of the reasons Rucka left DC is because Didio took WW: Earth One away from him and gave it to Grant Morrison. As much as I’m excited to see Morrison’s story (and Yanick Paquette’s art), I think I’d rather see Rucka’s take.

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Really, no definitive Wonder Woman? I’ve heard some dumb things on the internet before, but this one takes the cake. Rucka got WW right and actually made Ares someone everyone in the DCU should fear. My biggest complaint about WW was during Amazons Attack, it showed Ares pinned on the wall by Granny Goodness. Now as a GOD of CONFLICT, you would think that with all that conflict going on, he would easily be able to pull himself off the wall, decapitate a 3rd tier Superman villain and then assume command of the situation. But then that’s what happens when Will Pfeifer is writing and not Rucka.

Honestly, before Rucka’s run, I thought of Wonder Woman as a joke myself. After reading those stories, it changed my whole outlook on the character. Honestly, what other “Superhero” would have snapped Max Lord’s neck to save the day? Certainly not Superman or Batman. Black Adam maybe, but not the boyscout and brooder.

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I loved Rucka’s run, but I think his setup for the character was a little too “West Wing”-style intellectual to become the default for the character.

As others have already said, the lack of consistency has really killed Diana’s comic incarnation. There’s no consistency to her supporting characters, or her villains, and the only consistent setting is Themyscira/Paradise Island (which also remains really unexplored, to be honest, perhaps because ‘paradise’ is a hard place to set stories without undermining the basic idea).

I think William Marston set the tone for the character in one very significant way: the character’s conception is entirely bound up in Marston’s very personal philosophy about feminism, sexuality, etc. Wonder Woman’s Golden Age version is the product of a very specific vision, one that none of her subsequent writers have or could share. Every subsequent writer has tried to fill that vacuum.

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One reason I think that Wonder Women hasn’t had a ‘definitive run’ is that fewer attempts have been made to create one.

Look at the list. Superman: multiple comic titles and stand alone stories. Spider-Man: multiple comic titles at once. Batman: multiple comic series and stand alone stories. Wolverine: he’s everywhere the X-Men are.

The more times you take a character off the shelf the greater chance you have of making something definitive, the one that clicks. In that regard, Wonder Woman appears about as popular as Aquaman as a character for writers to develop material for.

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Sean Bircher said on August 1st, 2013 at 6:51 am

I think most of the non-comics-reading audience would say the ’70s TV series is Wonder Woman’s definitive run.

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I enjoyed Perez’ run, but I wonder if it shouldn’t take part of the blame for the weakness of the supporting cast. Pre-Crisis, Steve Trevor was always in there as WW’s love interest (except for getting killed to kick off the martial-artist period), but Perez shifted him to supporting character and he’s stayed there.

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I agree that the lack of a setting is a real detriment to Wonder Woman’s character. For most of her history, wasn’t Paradise Island/Themiscyra off limits to men? Not a great place to set stories if 90% of your friends are guys (at least in the Silver Age).

By making WW an actual ambassador from Themiscyra, Rucka at least gave her the embassy to work out of. And she had an army base or something when she was Diana Prince, right? Those places are too bland, though.

I’d like to see her get a real base of operations, like the Fortress of Solitude or the Batcave. She wouldn’t have a zoo like Superman, though. She’d have a garden with repopulation programs for endangered species. And she wouldn’t hoard technology like Batman; she’d share the advanced tech of Themiscyra with people who would use it for good.

But that would just add to the problem, wouldn’t it? After my run as writer, someone would just come along and blow up the Wonder Palace, and we’d have to start from scratch again.

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As Sean Bircher points out, the ’70s TV series with Lynda Carter actually comes pretty close to establishing the “Definitive Pop-Culture Wonder Woman”, as the ’66 Batman show did for a while, and later the Animated Series (even more so than the Burton movie, for all its visual and raspy-voiced aesthetics).

She works with the military. Diana Prince and Steve Trevor act as Lois Lane/Clark Kent, though there’s room for examination of military culture and sexual politics with reference to Diana’s home country and warrior upbringing.

Of course, I still hold that Wonderella has captured the character almost as well.

Moulton Marston and the TV Series both give you plenty of fodder for a Wonder Woman story; just raise the stakes. Modernize the “Lost Island” ideas, though keep the mythological connections. F’s sake, Snyder could make a Wonder Woman movie just by remaking 300 with a lady Gerard Butler.

Clash of the Titans meets Captain America, and you’re done, right? Just with a slightly better script?

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The short version:

Wonder Woman is a pastiche of herself.

Donna Troy has been both the same and the reverse since the ’80s being (traditionally) the only one that remembers the prior reboots. (Power Girl sort of did that until 52.)

I fully expect her to show up in a mental institution from trying to keep it all straight in her head…

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BlueBlaze88 said on August 1st, 2013 at 12:39 pm

OK, I’m writing as someone who is familiar with Wonder Woman but I don’t know much about her and am not a Fan, and I’m honestly asking because I’m honestly curious…

Why try to make her work? Sure, she’s famous or at least known, but that has so much baggage that it’s not be necessarily a good thing (the things people know about her are obstacles to mainstream success, or at least additional obstacles on top of sexism).. Her costume is especially sexist (maybe not The Worst, but pretty bad, especially for an A-Lister), her power set is either bland and generic or kinky/sexist. Every version I’m familiar with (admittedly not many) is whitewashed – not a dark skinned, kinky haired amazon but a statuesque WASP with alabaster skin and freaking blue eyes.

So sure, you can give her a pair of pants, make her magic invisible jet a stealth jet, and addresss all the other issues that keep her from being a serious, popular property, but it would entail changing so much, and there is so little good material at core (or, as MGK put it, no definitive version) that I don’t know why you wouldn’t just write a proper non-ridiculous, reasonably cleavaged super heroine from scratch.

Again, I’m seriously asking, not dissing the property or trolling… I don’t know enough about her to say She Sucks, I just have no idea what fans see in her that’s worth fixing/saving.

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Pantsless Pete said on August 1st, 2013 at 1:30 pm

I think possibly the biggest piece of baggage that she’s carrying around is that Wonder Woman’s job in terms of marketing, for a fair chunk of her history, is to be The Woman.

So she’s always been there because they need something to sell to girls and something to make the line up look less like a complete sausage fest. It also means she’s become a feminist icon because she’s the superhero for girls and thus she makes a handy shorthand for girls and women being super.

Looking at it, I think the kinda of…calculated nature of why the character has been pushed has meant it’s been built up without the character itself being built up.

That’s not to say that Batman and Superman, with Superman creeping towards the last 30 or years of Mickey Mouse on occasion aren’t just as calculatedly marketed but there’s a certain sense of ‘Here’s a girl character, I guess. For Girls. She looks like this. ‘without much else of the character being carved in stone.

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Pantsless Pete said on August 1st, 2013 at 1:41 pm

Thought thinking on the TV show, if there is one character who seriously really should have a Smallville/Arrow style CW show and would probably benefit massively from it in terms of getting their narrative house in order?

It’s freaking Wonder Woman.

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Sisyphus said on August 1st, 2013 at 1:49 pm

On the Green Goblin vs. Doc Ock (and this is really the wrong place, but…)

A real arch-enemy should be, in every characteristic you can define, either a direct opposite, or they are a funhouse mirror reflection of the protagonist. Batman and the Joker are a perfect couple. Batman is moral; he has a code and he follows it no matter what. The Joker is amoral: he has capricious whim and will do whatever he feels like at that moment. Batman either works alone, or with a few people that are basically a family to him. The Joker surrounds himself with thugs that he regards as totally expendable. Batman never kills, the Joker kills when it’s funny to him. Batman is generally grim and pensive. The Joker is whimsical in every sense of the word. Batman is, really, an insane reaction to the death of Bruce Wayne’s parent. What he does is completely insane, but it’s insane in that it is hyper-logical; he can do this and it will help the people of Gotham, and no one else can. The Joker is insane in a complete lack of logic. Batman is defined by a specific event in his past. The Joker doesn’t even have a past that he recognized.

For Spiderman, Doc Ock is the perfect reflection and opposite. Both are scientifically inclined. Both have powers that reference 8 legged creatures. Peter is plagued by self-doubt and humility. Otto is arrogant. Peter hides his identity. Otto refuses to do so to the point of not even trying. Peter’s powers allow him to move with agility and strength, personally. Otto’s rely on controlling a set of arms that make up for his personal lack of physical power. In their first encounter, Otto beat the crap out of Spider-man (and, on several occasions, has done so).

Goblin is a good villain, and a good story. However, he’s not Spider-man’s arch enemy.

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@BlueBlaze88: I think the reason to “make Wonder Woman work” is that she’s a great character. Sure, she can be written in a sexist way, but that’s not everything about her. She exists in a world where mythology, magic, and technology coexist. Vaughn and Staples created the same kind of world in SAGA and it’s a huge success.

In addition: She’s an ambassador from a secret culture. And her strengths and weaknesses are very particular to her. Superman can stand around doing nothing while he’s shot at all day. Wonder Woman has to defend herself *with a pair of bracelets.* That takes some skill. She can talk to animals. She acts from compassion. She has access to an insanely imaginative technological armory (bracelets, lasso, invisible jet, Purple Ray, anything else the scientists on Paradise Island can think up) as well as the patronage of mythological figures who sometimes want to kill her.

Frankly, there’s so much good stuff about Wonder Woman that the difficulty in writing a “definitive version” of her probably comes from trying to fit all of that into a single book.

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BlueBlaze88 said on August 1st, 2013 at 4:55 pm

@Thom H. – Thanks; lots of stuff I didn’t know. I definitely agree that the bracelets are awesome (probably the only part of her costume I like).

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Les Fontenelle said on August 1st, 2013 at 6:33 pm

I FULLY agree that Rucka’s run was the closest Wonder Woman has ever gotten to a “definitive” version since Marston. Her greatest story ever? That’s easy: her televised battle with Medusa, where (spoilers) WW blinded herself to win in a magnificent moment of badassery (and later she got her vision back as a gift from the gods after an epic quest through the underworld). If you adapt THAT into a movie, it will blow everyone’s minds.

And her movie costume should look less like a playboy model’s swimsuit and more like this:

http://www.bite.ca/bitedaily/2011/03/top-10-wonder-woman-costumes/amazonian/

I rest my case.

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Les Fontenelle said on August 1st, 2013 at 6:36 pm

Another look at what a good movie-WW should look like:

http://www.pajiba.com/assets_c/2011/03/Xena-thumb-295×495-22267.jpg

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@Les Fontenelle: That story made me cry the first time I read it. Rucka’s storytelling for that first long arc on WW was amazing, and I couldn’t believe it culminated in such an act of self-sacrifice. BAD ASS.

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Les Fontenelle said on August 1st, 2013 at 10:45 pm

In case someone is curious about the climactic scene I mentioned from Wonder Woman’s greatest story, here’s a recap with the key pages:

http://goodcomics.comicbookresources.com/2009/09/11/a-year-of-cool-comic-book-moments-day-254/

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Farwell3d said on August 1st, 2013 at 10:54 pm

I grew up in the era when Gobby was dead, dead, dead, and the notion that anyone other than Doc Ock could possibly be Spider-Man’s greatest nemesis has always struck me as not only wrong, but absurd.

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I blame Robert Kanigher. Marston gave Wonder Woman a solid supporting cast, and a rogues gallery who even all teamed up together once.

After he died, Kanigher slowly dropped all that structure, other than a whiny one dimensional Steve Trevor, in favour of one off flights of fancy and no continuity. Which continued into the late fifties, when he noticed that Batman and Superman were both building up families and so rather than adding new characters or bringing back old ones, he made the absurd choice of having Diana team up with herself at different ages.

And then after a few years he got bored with that and threw them away, and dabbled in a bit of retro-golden age, before he finally left the book. Then we got a few years of white pants suit Wonder Woman with the kung fu kicky action, before that was dumped too.

And by then it was too late. There was no definitive supporting cast, and the comic couldn’t hold a writer for more than a few months, so anything one set up, another ignored, all the way up to the end of the Bronze Age. And pretty much ever since.

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SIlverHammerMan said on August 2nd, 2013 at 1:30 am

Okay, so that Wonder Woman scene with the blinding is pretty hardcore, but it raises a lot of questions.

Like, why did she need to blind herself? Couldn’t she just…. close her eyes and not peek? And if Medusa’s plan is to turn her gaze on the people, why not just tell people not to watch? Or jam the signal? And how are people watching Medusa on TV, yet somehow not being affected by her gaze in that fashion? I mean if her plan is to look at the camera deliberately then surely her doing it incidentally would have the same effect. Also, who is filming this?

I probably wouldn’t be questioning those things were I seeing this in context, but that scene in isolation has an awful lot of “wait, but….” elements to it.

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dogheart said on August 2nd, 2013 at 2:58 am

I need that Doc Ock post like I need air.

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Calling the Green Goblin Spiderman’s archenemy is somewhat like calling Bane Batman’s archenemy or Doomsday Superman’s archenemy: it emphasizes a solitary event over a long time organic history with other characters.

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Les Fontenelle said on August 2nd, 2013 at 9:31 am

SilverHammerMan, WW couldn’t just close her eyes because Medusa’s voice had the power to compel people to look at her – when Medusa’s speech balloons turn purple, that’s her using that power. This is why WW began the fight blindfolded, and when the blindfold was ripped off she had to improvise.

Nobody was warned of Medusa’s plan of turning her gaze on the viewers; the transmission interrupted all channels through magic and Medusa only told WW about the plan during the battle (and there were no microphones). IIRC the TV transmission was being created by the same coven of witches that blocked off the stadium from outside interference, Medusa wasn’t working alone.

That was all explained in the story itself; the handful of pages on that link were the culmination of a months-long storyline. That scene is just a fragment of the climactic fight. You’re right, it would all make more sense reading the complete story.

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Mr. Whiskas said on August 2nd, 2013 at 9:56 am

Wow, what a great site and discussion. Lots of thought provoking insights here.

One thing that I think would be important to a Wonder Woman movie is to have a definitive villain who is intertwined with Wonder Woman’s ‘coming out’ story. I say ‘coming out’ because I think the way to tell WW’s story is the way that Marston did: a man (Steve Trevor) blunders into an amazing matriarchal society, and Wonder Woman is there. Wonder Woman is there to show him this amazing world (and what or world could be like if women had more say). Then you have an emergency in the outside world, preferably one related to how Trevor got there in the first place, the contest to see who will be the Amazon’s champion to the outside world which WW wins, and then WW goes out and saves the world.

Now that’s just Marston’s story, but I think that is about as definitive a backstory for WW that you get. Not only oft referenced in comics but also on things like the Super-Friends cartoons and the 70′s live action show.

But you can’t stop there, the problem is that in Marston’s story WW goes on fight the Nazis, they are the world threat and certainly fit the bill at the time. But, no Nazis today. And I don’t think you can replace them with current geo-political threats (WW fighting Islamic extremists would be interesting, especially with the element of mistreatment of women in that movement) because she has to fight someone ‘super.’

But that’s the problem I see. Who will she fight? As noted her rogues gallery is weak, and many would never translate to film very well. But perhaps more importantly whoever is chosen should have their origin story intertwined with Wonder Woman’s. Superman’s Zod and Luthor have this and Batman has this in Batman Begins. Additionally, they need to be a world threat, and one outside of WW’s world (else no real ‘coming out’ to save the day). I think Cheetah could translate to film and is a great character, but I don’t see her as a world threat or intertwined in with WW’s story in a way that would work.

Perhaps the answer is that the outside threat has to be something like Kobra (DC could sure use a staple bad guy organization like Hydra and AIM), and the loser to WW in the Amazonian trials to represent to the outside world could go join them and provide the super-foil to WW.

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OK, I’m writing as someone who is familiar with Wonder Woman but I don’t know much about her and am not a Fan, and I’m honestly asking because I’m honestly curious… Why try to make her work?

I’m not particularly a fan of Wonder Woman either, but I’m interested in the discussion for a number of reasons.

For one thing, DC is going to keep trying to make her work, because she’s by far their biggest-name heroine. I realize neither of the Big Two are all that great with their female characters, but at least Marvel has had Storm in a leadership position since all the way back in the 70s, and there are several other notable X-women, and Black Widow is well-known at the moment thanks to the movies. DC has Wonder Woman and… Wonder Girl. Power Girl, Catwoman and Zatanna have all the problems you attribute to Wonder Woman but worse, Hawkgirl is well-known from the cartoon but not in the main DCU, and so on. (I’m exaggerating a bit, but not too much, I don’t think.) DC pretty much has to make Wonder Woman work, so they might as well do it well.

Secondly, I think she has potential. Several ideas in this thread look good. I’d read that version of the character I described up there. I don’t think I’d read Thom H.’s version, but there are worse ideas out there. The ambassador/politician version of the character is relatively unique.

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Mr. Whiskas said on August 2nd, 2013 at 10:30 am

Why try to make Wonder Woman work? Iirc there are only three heroes that have been published continuously since the Golden Age: Superman, Batman and…Wonder Woman.

That’s why. No other heroine character comes close.

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Regarding the need for an ongoing villain in her origin, the comics (both Marston and Perez) already have one: Mars/Ares, the God of War. He’s one of the probably three candidates for archnemesis she has.

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chiefsheepy said on August 2nd, 2013 at 12:25 pm

Once again I submit that WW’s defining villain ought to be Vandal Savage, the embodiment of the Patriarchy.

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Brian T. said on August 2nd, 2013 at 5:33 pm

I would totally read or watch Toby’s proposal.

Maybe it’s because I’m a big urban fantasy nerd, but I definitely think focusing on the monster hunting and the warrior culture is the way to go. I loved it when George Perez changed Hippolyte from some blonde gal dressed like the statue of liberty who seemed to spend most of her time explaining why she wouldn’t lead the Amazons into battle to a warrior in bronze armor armed with the traditional Amazon double-bladed axe.

“My” Wonder Woman would be similar to Toby’s. The Amazons would wear sensible clothes and armor instead of sexy outfits, and they would be known for things like their archery skills and their experience dealing with weird supernatural problems.

My big thing is that Wonder Woman would just be invulnerable instead of having a magic force field that doesn’t stop bullets, or whatever the latest excuse is for her continuing to need to block bullets with her fashion accessories. Before the “new 52″, she was invulnerable to fire, could survive unprotected in space, and she had a force field that protected her from most things (and got stronger when she crossed her arms in front of her for some reason)… but she still could theoretically be hurt by a bullet or possibly an arrow with a narrow tip. Why, other than tradition?

Screw that. Either she’s invulnerable as long as she wears her bracelets, or she got dipped in the same stuff as Achilles or something. I have always found it silly that she could survive having huge boulders dropped on her and survive fights with giants and stuff like that, but a sniper with a silencer might get lucky (or at least, that might have worked before Rucka gave her Daredevil’s radar sense or whatever the deal was there).

I’m not totally sure why they felt it was necessary to upgrade Wonder Woman’s powers to the point that she was comparable to the Martian Manhunter or possibly even Superman but then left her with a weakness that would mean she would be in trouble in a fight against Deadshot, or even some gangbangers doing a drive-by. To me, that’s almost as dumb as the Martian Manhunter fainting when he gets near fire.

“What happened to Wonder Woman?”

“Ten guys with AK-47s. Even she couldn’t block every rifle bullet.”

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Brian T. said on August 2nd, 2013 at 6:23 pm

My last comment was way too long, but I have more. I never really understood why Wonder Woman needed to be able to fly under her own power and operate somewhere in the Captain Marvel power range.

I kind of prefer the Golden Age Wonder Woman, who could run fast enough to keep up with a getaway car but was really more like Hourman in terms of how strong she was and stuff. That made the whole thing from before Crisis on Infinite Earths about how her powers were at least partly derived from special Amazon training programs make more sense.

I’m thinking something like this. The Greek pantheon blessed her in various ways. Hermes gave her incredible speed. She was granted superhuman strength, agility and senses. She was given invulnerability like Achilles.

The problem is that even though she can bench press several tons, exceed the speed of sound, jump over stuff like on the Lynda Carter show and so forth… there are inconvenient limits to the gods’ blessings. Her invulnerability, for example, is fine against pre-gunpowder weapons but grenade shrapnel and bullets hurt when they hit her and man’s world might have something that could kill her. So, the gods gave her magic bracelets that protect her from harm as long as she’s wearing them (deflecting bullets with them is just something she does to show off). They gave her other gifts to help her out. For example, she has a pair of winged sandals she uses to fly. Athena gave her a magic sword she sometimes uses to kill monsters. She uses a special bow sometimes when it would be helpful to have a ranged attack.

Wonder Woman might not be able to beat Superman in a fair fight, but who cares? She is awesome because of her skill set and her resourcefulness. She is practical, an excellent strategist and extremely likeable even though she is also a pragmatic killer.

She also has a knack for learning languages and is fascinated by other cultures. She loves learning about other ways of life and is able to win people over by showing some sensitivity to their cultural values.

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On the one hand, Byrne wanted WW to be second only to Superman in strength. And that level of super-strength pretty much demands invulnerability both in terms of being able to punch things without destroying your fist and in terms of surviving blows from the kind of foes that can challenge such strength.

On the other hand, blocking bullets with her bracers might be the most fundamental iconic thing Wonder Woman does. More so than the lasso or the invisible plane, I’d say. And however ridiculous the idea is, it’s a totally badass thing for your hero to do.

One possible solution might be to play with her invulnerability being magic with arbitrary limitations. Maybe she’s only invulnerable against weapons that existed in the time of Greek legends. Perhaps the wording of a blessing from the gods, “no peril in this world can harm her” has the technicality that it only applies to perils that existed when the blessing was given. So a sword, a punch, a falling boulder can’t hurt her any more than they would Superman, but a bullet or a laser gun she has to block with her bracelets. It would be a nice inversion of mythical heroes/villains that can only be harmed swords and other ancient weapons.

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After reading some of the other comments here, I think I’ve found another good reason to make Wonder Woman work: To present feminine characteristics as strengths.

Her compassion, her curiosity about and connection with other people, her passion to make the world a more peaceful place for everyone — all of those things deserve to be attached to a character who is strong, smart, assertive, and self-assured.

She’s what more women would be like if they didn’t live in misogynist societies. And that’s a great role model for anybody to emulate. It’s why Wonder Woman falls so flat when she’s simply portrayed as the sexy, female Superman. She’s so much more than that.

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Kristopher A. said on August 3rd, 2013 at 1:00 am

Deflecting bullets with the bracers despite being invulnerable can be logically explained in a lot of ways:

1) It’s instinctual. She’s still vulnerable to magically weapons (example: Arrows fletched by Hephaestus and his artisans), so she always deflects things on instinct; that’s how she trained. So when someone decides to try and use a magic bullet on her, she isn’t going to get caught flatfooted like Superman might with a bullet made of Kryptonite.

2) It’s to limit collateral damage: by deflecting the bullets, she can put them right into the ground rather than risking ricochets hitting a bystander. So there’s a basic purpose behind it.

3) It’s intimidation. She isn’t dodging your bullets: she is purposefully bitchslapping them out of the air. Instead of Superman’s “Yeah, you can’t hurt me” nonchalance, it sets her up as a more serious “I don’t take any threat lightly”.

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Brian T. said on August 3rd, 2013 at 9:21 am

I like the cut of your jib, Thom H.

@ other people: I still don’t like the “bullets and bracelets” thing, even if it is traditional.

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Candlejack said on August 3rd, 2013 at 1:18 pm

I saw a little girl walking around Walmart yesterday in a Wonder Woman costume, presumably just for the joy of it. That’s reason enough to keep trying for a Wonder Woman film.

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[...] An interesting take on a Wonder Woman movie from MightyGodKing, a.k.a. Christopher Bird. He talks about how Wonder Woman isn’t as strictly defined as, say, Batman or Superman, due to the creative control the various people who write her have over her story. But he’s also arguing that a Wonder Woman movie would provide that structure and make her as popular as Bats and Supes. [...]

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strawhair said on August 5th, 2013 at 7:55 pm

In truth if I were going to write Wonder Woman – note the strain of grandiosity, take with grain of salt, etc. – I would use as many of the Golden/Silver Age tropes as possible. If taking over the title in previously ongoing continuity, keep the great bulk of the previous writer’s infrastructure. For example Azzarello’s mythic grotesque villains are a good innovation and worth keeping. If there’s another continuity shuffle – and who are we kidding? – just go right back to Diana Prince, bespectacled lady bureaucrat with a crush on Steve Trevor.

The goofy stuff from old WW comics should be in the forefront, in any case. Why? Because they haven’t/wouldn’t prevent the character from kicking ass. And because hiding from Silver Age silliness bespeaks a lack of confidence in the character. How are readers supposed to invest in her if she’s ocnstantly under construction? The reason Spider-Man still appeals to readers/cartoon watchers/moviegoers isn’t because Doc Ock and the Vulture aren’t silly bad guys, at root. It’s because whatever else the writers do they show confidence in the material given.

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My husband hates this idea but I still think that what WW lacks and needs is a tragic event setting her into the path of heroism. Spiderman has his uncle Ben, Batman has the Waynes, Superman has his whole planet exploded and to take the point home the new movie has his father killed in front of him. Even Thor has Loki even though it was live character development. The most powerful the character the more you need a reason for the audience to care, IMO.

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Candlejack said on August 15th, 2013 at 3:22 pm

I agree with your husband, Ana.

I get frustrated when every hero seems to have the same motivator in his or her background. It’s boring. And offering the same old thing they’ve seen in almost every superhero so far is, in my opinion, pretty much the exact opposite of giving the audience a reason to care.

Personally, I think a Wonder Woman movie should skip doing any kind of in-depth origin. She’s an Amazon, she doesn’t need a reason to want to fight monsters. She just needs a reason to get off her island and start playing tourist.

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[...] people think Wonder Woman is hard to write for (an idea Christopher Bird examines and demolishes here), then the very thought of writing for Harleen “Harley Quinn” Quinzel must surely [...]

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