Last month, starting on August 9 and ending on September 1, my relatively small collection of Facebook friends got to, on an almost-daily basis, have their news feeds invaded by what I had been calling my Wonder Woman Fact of the Day. The whole thing doubtless seemed somewhat random, and I couldn’t really keep it up once classes got started and my mind was occupied with other matters.
So, why did I do it? Late summer boredom waiting for classes to start again? Was I no longer able to contain my growing Wonder Woman fangirlism that had only begun in the past year, but has since spiraled out of control?
Well, the answer to both questions is “yes,” but there’s more to the story. So, let’s start with one fact that I always find amazing.
Wonder Woman was, for a story arc in the ’90s, a space pirate. That simple fact brings me so much joy, and I couldn’t help but share it with my friends on Facebook.
I love this fact because it’s something no one with a casual knowledge of Wonder Woman seems to know. I mean, we all have this image of Wonder Woman in our cultural consciousness of the beautiful, perfect woman in the star-spangled swimsuit. Much like many of us see Superman, we think of her as cheesy and corny, not as interesting or developed as Batman the Brooding Wonder.
And I do say “we” because, up until this past year, I thought that way too. I have only recently gotten into comics, and I started with Batman. Soon, I realized I wanted to read female-lead books, so I read Birds of Prey and immediately caught up on Gail Simone’s Batgirl series. I also read the pre-New 52 Batgirl series starring Cassandra Cain and Stephanie Brown. I loved all these female characters, and I couldn’t believe they didn’t have the position of prominence Wonder Woman, AKA (in my mind at the time) Superman-with-breasts, had.
A few things worked to change my mind. One was watching comic reviews by Lewis Lovhaug AKA Linkara on thatguywiththeglasses.com. In reviewing bad comics featuring Wonder Woman, he’d always talk about what a great character she really is, even though she has been misused and misunderstood. It’s also through him that I learned Gail Simone, whose work on Birds of Prey and Batgirl is what really brought me into comics, had written Wonder Woman for a time.
After that, there was only one real step to beginning to fall in love with Wonder Woman. I actually read her comics.
I know, right? It seems so obvious, yet so few of those who talk about Wonder Woman, write about Wonder Woman, and even who contribute to her character in comics seem to have bothered to actually get to know the character beyond the image at the front of our cultural consciousness.
Take, for example, an article in Glamour about women who try to “have it all” in their careers and personal lives. The article is adapted from “Barnard College president Debora L. Spar in her explosive new book Wonder Women.” Throughout the piece, Spar continually uses Wonder Woman as an impossible ideal for women, an unattainable level of perfection that is folly to pursue. As an added bonus, Glamour decided to include some photos.
I couldn’t help but comment:
If you can’t click on the picture, basically, I pointed out that Wonder Woman has never “had it all” nor should she be vilified by women for whom she would only hold respect and seek to help.
Glamour is not alone, of course, in misunderstanding Wonder Woman. Indeed, many people whom one might expect to know better have made similar misjudgments. Indeed, such is the case in the introduction to my hardcover copy of Gail Simone’s Wonder Woman: The Circle, a story arc she wrote for Volume 3 of Wonder Woman’s solo book.
The introduction is very complimentary, and it should be. The arc is wonderfully executed and compelling, highlighting Simone’s great talents for writing dynamic, kick-ass female characters. However, the author of the introduction, fantasy author Mercedes Lackey , seemed to be giving Gail Simone a little too much credit (a statement I have never written before and will likely never write again).
In her introduction, titled “The (Re)making of a Goddess,” Lackey begins with a blunt statement:
I have a confession to make. For most of my life I’ve found Wonder Woman kind of an embarrassment.
I should have liked her. The comics writers certainly intended for her to be the girls’ version of Superman. Here she was, Amazon Princess, strong, powerful and independent, the very icon of Woman, right?
Yeah, right. The very icon of Woman, who was relegated to being secretary of the JLA at its founding. Who ran around simpering after Steve Trevor like Betty after Archie…
After going through some complicated aspects of both narratives about Amazons and that specifically of Wonder Woman, Lackey begins her celebration of Simone.
Make no mistake about it: as a novelist, I am in awe of what Gail has done here. Not only in taking all of that backstory and integrating it logically and methodically, but in going where no writer has dared to go before, to the moment of Diana’s creation. It’s a brilliant solution to the very dubious problem of did-Hippolyta-break-her-vows-and-do-it-with-a-man-or-not. No dancing around avoiding it; Gail has gone right to the target and hit a bull’s-eye.
This comment confused me. Was there doubt about Diana’s origins before? Perhaps there was in the pre-Crisis-on-Infinite-Earths universe, but, from the mid-80s until the New 52 (which came out after this introduction was written), Diana’s origin has been that she was made from clay. This is not something Gail Simone made up. It has been a part of Wonder Woman canon since George Perez’s reboot in 1987, where he, too, went to Diana’s moment of creation. As the introduction was written in 2008, that means this origin had been Diana’s working origin for 20 years at the time Lackey was writing. I realize 20 years isn’t a lot in the history of a character who has existed since the 40s, but it’s long enough for the origin to be established fact.
Indeed, many of Lackey’s criticisms of Wonder Woman are largely out of date. It’s true that Wonder Woman was made a secretary, though I’ve read she was secretary of the Justice Society of America (not the Justice League) in the golden age of comics. That was in the 40s. As for simpering Steve Trevor and Diana’s obsession with him, this dynamic was also dealt with in Perez’s reboot where he remade Steve into an older-brother figure who was, instead, romantically involved with Etta Candy.
Wonder Woman also wasn’t created just to be a girl-Superman. You’re thinking of Supergirl.
Now, I’m not saying Wonder Woman’s perfect. She’s had some rough patches in her time. But, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t actually get to know her before badmouthing her.
So, what better way was there for me to let my friends get to know Diana than by instituting a Wonder Woman Fact of the Day?
Let’s return to our story about my crusade to educate my 70 friends on Facebook (yes, I have that few) in the ways of Wonder Woman.
As I stated at the beginning of this post, my very first Wonder Woman Fact of the Day sprung out of the pure joy and admiration that came from knowing that, in the 90s, Wonder Woman was a space pirate. That is just something no one with a casual knowledge of the character would guess.
It seemed only fitting then, that I share more of the glorious tidbits of information with my friends on Facebook. So, the next day, I posted a new Wonder Woman Fact of the Day that I thought most people would be surprised to learn:
Yep, there’s the woman who “has it all” working at a Taco Whiz to scrap together just enough cash to pay rent.
After beginning with some of the more surprising facts, I decided to include basic WW facts that would give my dear Facebook friends some foundation in the character.
This post was special to me, because it was the first time I realized I wasn’t just spouting out facts to the wind. People were not only reading these posts, but enjoying them. So, obviously, I had to keep it up.
Next, I decided to demonstrate just how badass Wonder Woman can be (and free my friends from the false impression that Wonder Woman is in any way “lame”) by sharing one of my favorite moments from one of my absolute favorite Wonder Woman writers, Greg Rucka.
My next post was less glowing. I did think it was pretty interesting that Diana was, for a time, a full-blown goddess (without having to have Zeus as a dad or killing the god of war as has happened in the New 52), but the storyline that got here there was confusing and, in my opinion, not handled very well at all.
So, if I wasn’t a great fan of this story, why include it? Well, while I don’t like the story leading up to this moment, I really enjoy Diana’s story as an extension of Greek myth. I love her interactions with the gods, and the aura and presence her close relationship to the gods gives Diana. It is, to me, one of the most fascinating aspects of reading Wonder Woman.
For my next several WWFOTDs, I decided it was time to further introduce Diana as a person beyond the superhero. Diana’s mission goes far beyond her identity as a superhero. She’s the avatar of truth, an ambassador, and a person who strives, through her love of the world, to make it a better place.
Incase you can’t enlarge the above post, here I’m discussing “A Day in the Life.” This issue, wherein Lois spends a day with Diana for an article. It’s an issue that is powerful, funny, and shows Diana’s strengths and vulnerabilities. It also features some of Diana’s more quotable moments. I’ve quoted a few lines in my post, but I’ll copy them here, so you don’t have to click on the picture.
If the prospect of living in a world where trying to respect the basic rights of those around you–and valuing each other simply because we exist–are such daunting, impossible tasks that only a ‘super-hero’ born of royalty can address them…then what sort of world are we left with?
Women and their children must no longer fear abuse anywhere in this world. They must be given information that will help them remain economically self-sufficient and in control of their bodies and reproductive lives. The foundation’s mission statement promotes the liberation of men, women, and children from the terrible problems that stem form antiquated religious philosophies and patriarchal fear–by educating them about alternatives. All human beings deserve to live on this planet without threat of violation, physical or spiritual, simply because of the body they were born in, the gender they were born to, or the region in which the live.
I have to tell you, reading those lines makes me want to stand up and cheer. Of course, there are many who find Wonder Woman’s politics off-putting. Many are uncomfortable with straightforward feminism in characters such as Wonder Woman, and it’s been used many times as the reason it would be “difficult” or “challenging” to make a Wonder Woman movie.
To a very small degree I understand this, but, in a world dominated by movies and television shows about manly men advocating manly maleness, it’s nice to have a voice for women who is more than a straw-feminist who hates all men.
Indeed, not only does Diana not hate all men, she loves everyone, as I pointed out in my next WWFOTD.
My next post was a bit of a sidetrack, and grew out of what I had taken on as a day-long project.
That post is related to this picture I drew over most of a Saturday using oil pastels, copying one of the images from the graphic novel.
The rest of my posts fell into one or more of the first three categories I described, fun/surprising facts, background info, and getting to know Diana. I won’t give a long explanation for each, (though I do encourage you to read the captions) as this post is already getting lengthy, but here they are. I present the remaining WWFOTDs.
So, drive on by that comment, I came to post my last WWFOTD. And what better way to end it than by discussing one of the supposed banes of Wonder Woman’s character: the infamous Lasso of Truth.
By this point, however, I had grown a bit tired of not only thinking up new WWFOTD to post everyday or every couple days, but I was also tired of finding the best images to include. Classes had started, and I had other obligations.
Yet, it seems, I had succeeded. Both in comments on Facebook and in person, multiple people told me how much they enjoyed reading these little tidbits, some of whom surprised me, and some have even told me they miss them. It gives me even greater pleasure that, not only did my friends enjoy my WWFOTD (or at least had the sense to lie to me about it), but they remembered them.
And maybe it was just a small group of people, but I like to think it made some sort of impact. At the very least, everyone knows better than to say Wonder Woman is lame near me.
I can only hope that others will take up my little crusade to educate the public about Wonder Woman. Once people are educated about this interesting, powerful, and dynamic character, hopefully some will realize that much of the badmouthing, excuses, and whining that stand between this character and her rightful place in popular culture are outdated and ill-informed.
This is important not only in the context of the ongoing “Where’s my Wonder Woman movie?” debate, but also in the context of this character as a feminist icon and a role model for women. It’s important for us to accept such icons and role models, acknowledging the flaws, but also embracing the strengths. Wonder Woman is not standing in the way of progress for women, nor is she barring men from her love and compassion. She’s offering an open hand and an open mind.
I believe we can offer her the same.
Addendum: I did have one last WWFOTD recently, if only because I learned something I had to share.