So, this blog is supposed to be about my experiences in the fandom learning curve. I’m constantly exploring new fandoms, hopping from TV shows to movies to books. And, recently, I’ve been dipping my toe in comic book fandom.
I can say without exaggeration that comic books are the hardest fandom I’ve tried to get into. This isn’t like catching up with a TV show, where all it takes is free time and a Netflix account. Despite being a pretty dedicated reader for the last several months, I know I’ve only scratched the surface of the comic cannon.
Still, after immersing myself in the DCAU for a while and checking out some of the animated movies, I decided I had to give comics themselves a try. And, I decided the characters I was interested in were the women. Now, as I go into this, I’ll be explaining a lot that people familiar with comic books already know, so I’m sorry if this gets a little patronizing.
Why the women? Well, truthfully, I didn’t know that much about them. There have been no good superhero movies featuring a female main character, and the cartoons left me wanting to know more about those characters. For example, Wonder Woman is heavily featured in the fantastic Justice League and Justice League: Unlimited DCAU series, but her background and her character are severely underdeveloped. Her birth/creation is barely touched upon, and the essence of Diana as the “Spirit of Truth” is pretty much absent.
Batgirl (Barbara Gordon) is given a fun role in Batman: The Animated Series, but I was never sure how old she was supposed to be. I also think the episode toward the end of the series where Nightwing teams up with Catwoman is one of the most uncomfortable mixes of sexual repression, desire, and oedipal undertones I’ve seen. As Catwoman, (who was/is in love with Batman) hits on Nightwing (batman’s protege/ward/son) who had a relationship with Batgirl who is, in turn, crushing on Batman (to reiterate: batgirl’s ex-boyfriend’s father). Just…wow.
NOTE TO SELF: AVOID READING FREUD WHEN DEALING WITH SUPERHEROES…and Harry Potter (seriously, you don’t exactly need to be an expert in psychoanalytic theory to see the Freudian implications in those books).
Anyway, long story short (too late), the thing I loved about reading Wonder Woman and Batgirl/Oracle (all 3 modern versions of Batgirl, though I focussed on Barbara Gordon) was truly getting to know these characters. I liked seeing the grouchy Oracle interact with her best friend, Black Canary, Cassandra Cain show so much emotion without speaking, and Stephanie Brown overcome everything life (and the DC editorial staff) had thrown at her to become the best possible person, let alone hero, she could be. I love the current Batgirl monthly title by Gail Simone that explores issues like PTSD. It was nice to really meet characters instead of just seeing more stories about characters we already know like Batman (who is awesome, but he’s had how many movies and TV shows, animated and life action, made about him now?)
I also loved realizing that, no Wonder Woman isn’t an unforgiving, grudge-holding person like she is in the animated series. I must say again, I love those shows, but I really don’t think they captured Diana as well as they could. I suppose a lot of that has to do with choosing to focus so much on Hawkgirl (whose story line is heartbreaking and beautiful in those series, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything). Instead, Diana’s the woman who let a grief-ridden green lantern (not one of the ones from Earth) beat her in his frustration and anger, and, when he finished, kept her hand extended to him in peace.
People say Wonder Woman is a complicated character, and that’s why she hasn’t had a live action movie yet (Or that her rogues gallery sucks. But seriously? You can’t make Ares a good villain? Because they did pretty well with that in her feature-length animated movie). And, yes, Wonder Woman is complicated. She has a complex morality, as she is simultaneously more forgiving and compassionate than Superman and Batman but is also more willing to use deadly force if the lives of innocents are at stake. Wonder Woman spent much of her modern years without a secret identity, yet she must, and has, undertake multiple roles as a Wonder Woman, Princess Diana of the Amazons, and simply Diana. But, isn’t complex good? Isn’t that the whole reason we’re supposed to like gritty versions of Batman and be charmed by Tony Stark even though he’s a complete jerk? Isn’t that why the new Man of Steel movie is going to focus on Superman as an outcast rather than just as the “Big Blue Boyscout”? As long as you understand the heart of Wonder Woman, that she’s the loving and compassionate spirit of truth, and you let her kick ass the way she has so many times in her comics, you can make Wonder Woman a popular figure.
Indeed, that combination of compassion and kick-ass seems to have worked well for the Hunger Games franchise and the Snow White character from Once Upon a Time. Why shouldn’t it work for Wonder Woman?
So, what does all this have to do with fandom? Simply put, I think these female characters deserve much bigger fandom attention. Barbara Gordon and her Birds of Prey deserve a better adaption than they got in that TV show that clearly wanted to be Charmed, and Wonder Woman deserves her own big movie. I don’t want these adaptions just because I think they would be awesome, I also want them because I want to talk to people about Wonder Woman and have them think of something aside from the old TV show theme song. I want to say “batgirl” and not see people mentally rolling their eyes as they imagine some cheesy distaff side kick.
Fandoms are about communities, and new, good, adaptions of these characters, or the many other awesome comic book characters who haven’t gotten a chance to shine yet, would grow those communities. Then, I could actually find half-way decent Wonder Woman fan fiction that isn’t about whether she’s in love with Superman or Batman.
Now is the time for this. With the popularity of female action heroes running pretty high these days, it’s time to put away the excuses and just make a good movie. There’s plenty of wonderful material to draw from, you just have to keep the actual characters, and not some weird Hollywood makeover in mind. Barbara Gordon is the bookish daughter of Jim Gordon (AKA The best man in Gotham) who fights to make a difference no matter what odds are stacked against her or who tells her she can’t. Diana is the princess of her people and the embodiment of truth whose mission is to spread peace throughout the world.
Wouldn’t you want to know more about those characters? I did, and I still do.
The link blog I retrieved the picture from had it captioned:
“This is what awesome looks like” http://kissmywonderwoman.blogspot.com/2011/09/wonder-woman-wore-booty-shorts.html