Wednesday, April 04, 2007

FREEDOM FIGHTERS versus SUPERMAN & BATMAN
Absolute Power Chapter Two: "What Price Freedom...?" (DC comics)
Where:
Superman/Batman #15 When: Early February 2005 Why: Jeph Loeb How: Carlos Pacheco

The story so far...
In a world without freedom, the intervention of Lightning Lord, Saturn Queen and Cosmic King is unchallenged.
The time travellers from the 31st century use their hindsight to capture and raise Kal-El and Bruce Wayne through their formative years, sculpting them into the ultimate dicators.

With their knowledge, they preemptively prevent the birth of the greatest heroes. Extinguishing any flame that may potentially rise against their 'sons' and the utopian they believe they have created.

Some flames cannot be extinguished, and lost in the sea of humanity is one such individual, who, once discovered by the Amazonian Wonder Woman, is reborn once more as Uncle Sam. Once in possession of the lost Green Lantern ring of Abin Sur, Uncle Sam and Wonder Woman go about starting a revolution.

Previous Form:
Wonder Woman (#130): Wonder Woman was defeated by Storm during DC v Marvel.
Superman (#6): Superman has victories over Hulk, Metallo and the Mole Man.
Batman (#1): Batman is the first ranked character to reach ten victories, having defeated the likes of; Superman, Captain Nazi, Captain America, Bullseye, Two-Face, Amazo, Slam Badley and The Joker.
Uncle Sam & The Freedom Fighters: None of the charter members of the Freedom Fighters have been featured on the site.
The Legion of Superheroes: No member of the Legion has yet been featured on the site.

Tale of the tape...
Strength: Superman 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Batman 5 (Professor)
Speed: Superman 6 (Speed of Sound)
Stamina: Superman 6 (Generator)
Agility: Batman 4 (Gymnast)
Fighting Ability: Wonder Woman 6 (Warrior)
Energy Powers: Superman 5 (Lasers)


You ever get that feeling you've done something before you've done it?
Yes, not only am I running a couple of days behind again, but I'm catching up by doing a post that I wrote a week ago! If you missed out on that, scroll back to see a big giant picture of Galactus...

Anyway, taking a look again at this one I can tell you straight up that it really comes down to the two major players on either side: Wonder Woman & Uncle Sam versus Superman & Batman.

Sam's in possession of what, in the regular universe, would have been Hal Jordan's ring, given to him by Abin Sur. He's a character who's all about chanelling the people's spirit and will, so he's pretty well in the driver's seat with the ring en tow.

That said, if you think Batman is scary in the regular universe, what about a world where he's willing to kill and has access to an entire world's technology and arsenal! Set your phasers to pee yourself, because that's bad news bears.

Some folks are a little uncomfortable with the addition of super strength and flight to Wonder Woman's array of skills and abilities. Personally I'm pretty fond of it, and think it slots her suitably into that top three echelon, so I'm quite willing to entertain the idea that she'll go toe-to-toe with Superman.
That said, I still lean toward Supes when it comes down to a knock down, drag out fight between these particular two super powers. He's got a wider margin for flight, the heat vision, and all those other wacky powers that come and go.

In the mid-card, the Legion of Superheroes will provide strong numbers against the Freedom Fighters. However, the distinct lack of personality and/or fashion sense will leave the future-kids up the creek with the Human Bomb for a paddle.

The Math: Batman, Superman & The Legion
The Pick: Batman, Superman & The Legion

What went down...
The Freedom Fighters launch their attack in the shadow of the looming Superman/Batman New York monument, a symbol of the liberty absent.
There they are confronted by a number of members of the Legion of Superheroes from the 31st century, all brainwashed to do the bidding of their adult counterparts who have orchestrated this entire world.

The Freedom Fighters are swift and uncompromising.
In the interest of the future and liberty they slay all who cannot be subdued without lethality. The distraction does, however, prove sufficient enough, and Superman and Batman soon teleport to the scene.

The Ray is the first to take the bold responsibility of stopping the world's dominators, and he pays for it. Batman fires a clunky gun, blowing a hole through the Ray's head with a spray of blood and brain matter.

While the Human Bomb does his best to blast into the base of the monument, Wonder Woman launches herself at the Batman with a warrior's fury!

While Wonder Woman engages Batman, Uncle Sam uses the Oan energy of the Green Lantern ring to do battle with Superman. He creates a mighty eagle with the energies, channelling the will of the people, despite Superman's objective claims that the people bow before him.

Wonder Woman and Batman wage a war of words while they battle.
The Amazonian deflects an onslaught of razor-edged batarangs, whilst deflecting Batman's notion of a world where humanity desired only war, and needed to be protected from itself.

She takes a chop to the throat, but dishes it back, striking Batman across the face with the edge of her shield. He finds himself on the back foot, phsycially and philosophically as Wonder Woman speaks of a great age of heroes foretold by the Amazonian fates.

With a clear conscience, she strikes the deciding blow. Her sword plunges deep into his chest, and the would-be dictator dies then and there.

The blow is enough to inspire Superman's rage, giving him the maddened strength to shatter Uncle Sam's green projections, and thunder through him at lightning fast speeds to come to the aid of his adopted brother.

At the base of their monument, Superman cradles the frail human body of Bruce Wayne, and cries to the heavens for his mother and fathers. They hear, and teleport their sons to their space station high above the Earth.

Wonder Woman tends to Uncle Sam, but the bone shattering speed at which he was hit has already taken it's course. Like a flickering beacon of justice, Uncle Sam again ceases to be, no matter the strength of the people's resolve.

Cosmic King and Saturn Queen mourn the death of their pawn, and Lightning Lord approaches his emotional son. He directs his pain to vengeance, and with that, the Superman leaps away from the Watchtower, and hurtles back to Earth.

A streak of red and blue trails behind the Superman as he bursts through the atmosphere back to New York, and directly into the Amazonian warrior woman.
She pleads for him to remember a time when he was a great hero, but her words fall on deaf ears as he pounds his mighty fists like piledrivers.

Superman had been taught to be emotionally distanced in his rise above the mere mortals of Earth, but this battle is oh-so different. This battle is personal.
He snatches the broken Wonder Woman's lasso, and coils it viciously around her neck.

This time it's Wonder Woman's turn to die.

Meanwhile, within the depths of the monument below, the Human Bomb has penetrated the hidden fortress below, where the means to travel through time are held under maximum security.

Doll Man goes to work on the controls, with the Phantom Lady en tow, programming them for Smallville, Kansas, in a time before Superman was snatched from the Kent's farm and corrupted.

Shrinking Violet appears on the scene to prevent them, but the arrival of the Superman quickly dwarfs her. He pounds through the ground, furious at the audacity and ungrateful actions of his subjects.

He sprays Phantom Lady with his arctic ice breath, blowing her until her icey visage cracks and shatters. "Obey. Or die."

The Human Bomb warns the angered Kryptonian off attacking him, fearing the potential results of his explosive atomic energies should they interact with the activated time bubble. Superman does not take kindly to the advice.
Heated laser beams penetrate Human Bomb's costume and brain, resulting in an explosion that shatters not only the statue, but the entire world around them.
Superman condemns the world to death.

The hammer...
Well, despite destroying the entire planet, I'm going to give this one to Superman in the end on points. No bonus for killing the planet.

So, here we are, and here I am, at the conclusion of this entry for a second time. I can only imagine how many of you out there have felt the bitter sting of typing away for a lengthy time, only to impatiently go straight for the publish button without paying mind to a cautionary save. You can rest assured that I've reverted to over cautious saving every few paragraphs since then.

As I mentioned, and as you no doubt noticed, I am again running a bit behind.
Apart from being unwell for a little while, there's a slew of convenient excuses. I've got family returning from some time overseas, it's Easter, and I've been hard at work putting the finishing touches on my own comics work, which for all intents and purposes is print-ready. So, hopefully there'll be news on that in the coming months.

In the mean time, what about this comic?
If you can imagine it, the last time I did this entry it was one of my laboured efforts, where maybe I lingered a little long on the one subject, and pushed through various ideas without really articulating them well. Hey, when I'm running behind, sometimes the Legion of Superheroes are enough to sap me of strength.

One of the points I did want to revisit, because I find it fascinating, is the closing stages of the battle between Wonder Woman and Superman.
Apart from being ironically topical off the heels of International Woman's Day last month, it's probably one of those things that has an air of controversy. Although, I don't remember there being any major rumblings about this particular issue, and I didn't use this extra week to polish up my research. [Someone light the Ragnell symbol!]

Superman fairly brutally beats on Wonder Woman, culminating in the full page splash pictured above. The scene where Wonder Woman, already bruised and battered, is choked with her own lasso, whilst exposing just the right amount of alluring waist and thigh. Disturbing, but still a little bit sexy!

Assuming this didn't cause a furor amongst the wacky fan community, I'm going to say I'm pleased. No, I don't indulge in the battery of women (or men), and I certainly couldn't condone any crime of the sort, but this is one of those situations where it's delightful to see reality and fiction suitably separated.

The world in which these heroes live is one of regular violence. Though we may not like to see the subject considered, assault of female heroes would surely be common place, and perhaps to fairly heinous degree.
For whatever reason, innocence has been a theme for comics for a very long time, and stories like Identity Crisis, which dared to breech the subject in a fairly flippant manner have cause phenomenal outcry from fans and commentators alike.

I'm not about to say injecting rape into regular comics is a healthy thing for the industry or reader, but what does please me about this fairly brutal depiction of violence [in Superman/Batman #15] is that it's honest, and it's real.

There seems to be a tendency to want to restrict the fisticuffs to the male characters, particularly if it's going to go beyond cartoony sound effects, but this simply doesn't ring true. Perhaps one of the greatest calls of precedent is the infamous Daredevil #181, where Elektra suffers the perils of being a costumed ninja in a world of criminals and adamantium bones.

From that point, certainly in the Daredevil title, there was a threat of violence to the characters that has rung true even to this day. Few characters have been as realistically battered as Daredevil, and we see that even in the most recent take on the character, with Ed Brubaker taking the stakes to imprisonment.

Superman/Batman seems to have it's share of detractors, as does writer Jeph Loeb. On this particular title much of that seemed to be directed toward the light hearted throwback style of the story telling, and the nature of stories with minimal consequence to the long term canon of the characters within.

Personally, I'm comfortable with that, and I'm going to go the other way.
Even if only in an alternate reality, I'm going to commend Loeb (and Pacheco), for their depiction of realistic violence inflicted upon a character who is a pledged warrior. She just also happens to be a woman.

The Fight: 5.5 The Issue: 5

6 comments:

XiahouDun said...

Hello. Saw this link on MKO and I wanted to respond to the section on the fight between Superman & Wonder Woman in that "Superman/Batman" storyline. I remember that issue well, in fact I own it because at the time, I was collecting "Superman/Batman." I'll also always remember that issue as being the moment I realized that I was a Wonder Woman fan....as bizarre as that may sound, being a story where WW is soundly humiliated and killed.

But anyway, you mention not remembering any controversy surrounding the issue...specifically the climactic battle between Superman & Wonder Woman. I assure you, there most certainly was from what I saw.

Let me first point out that no, it wasn't WW's defeat and demise itself that bothered me and other WW fans from what I saw. Obviously...this was not a WW story, it was not her book, and given the context of this paticlaur storyline, just about everyone knew things were likely not going to work out well for the Amazon. And I was not put off by the beating of a woman (wow, that sounds so wrong). I agree, within comics, it's foolish for heroines to be considered equal with their male counterparts while at the same time be treated with kids gloves.

No, the problem I and other WW fans (that I know of) had with this was the manner in which she was defeated and killed. I'll point to one crucial factor in the two page beat-down: Superman shatters Wonder Woman's bracelets. Superman, who's powers are not supposed to work so well against things magic, shatters Wonder Woman's MAGIC and UNBREAKABLE bracelets. And of course, to add further insult to insult, Superman procedes to strange WW to death were her own lasso. It wasn't so much fans were put off by a female character on the receiving end of violence, but that it was an iconic characters' trademark attributes being completely pissed on. It kind of read like someone slapping aside Superman's heat vision as though it's nothing and then smothering him in his own cape.

Let's also take into account what Wonder Woman's powers and abilities are supposed to be. She is supposed to be only a notch or two below Supes in power. Theoretically, what she lacks in raw power, she should compensate for with her great fighting skills. So theoretically, a true to-the-death battle between Superman & Wonder Woman should be something, I would assume, epic and potentially world shattering. However, here we see Wonder Woman easily broken and degraded in two pages. Scratch that; it was a page and a splash panel. Not to mention, Wonder Woman is supposed to be a highly skilled tactician. And according to the story, she'd been planning her rebellion against Supes & Bats for some time. Yet her master plan to save the world was essentially a poorly executed kamekazi mission if you think about it.

Like I said, it wasn't so much WW was beaten and killed. Not so much I have issues with superheroines being on the receving end from time to time. It was that the situation came across as a big ol' "Fuck you" from Jeph Loeb to Wonder Woman and her fans.

Which brings me to why I dropped "Superman/Batman." You metioned the title and Mr. Loeb's writing as being criticized...assuming it was the light-hearted tone of the book. Now for me, only speaking for myself here, a large factor that made me dislike the book (aside from rushed stories and cheesey dialogue) was Jeph Loeb's rather blatantly obvious fanboy love of Superman and Batman. The message I was getting from reading "Superman/Batman" was that everybody in the entire DC universe, except Superman & Batman, is useless, ineffectual, and just plain suck. Supe & Bats own everybody. Even though Batman perishes in his battle against WW...he, a human with no powers, puts up more of a fight against her than she puts up against Superman, even though they're almost equals. See I like Batman and Superman...won't say I "like" him, but he doesn't bother me. Reading "Superman/Batman" though, made me want to hate them. Imagine a 9 year old bragging in your face about how cool his favorite character is and how he could kick everybody's ass. That's what reading this comic felt like.

This now brings me to another reason I and other WW fans were put off by this presentation of her. Effort has been made by DC, especially recently, to get Wonder Woman to live up to her iconic status. They've been pushing her as part of "The Trinity." She's being featured more prominantly in important stories and her character is getting a decent bit of attention. However, stories like this, where WW is easily and casually squashed by Superman kind of seems counterproductive.

Let's look at the story itself: three villains from the future kidnap Superman & Batman in their youth and raise them to be tyrants. They also assassinate Martian Manhunter, the Flash, and Hal Jorden. Wonder Woman meanwhile, the supposed thrid part of the "Trinity" is overlooked. I mean, shouldn't the villains have wanted to raise her alongside Superman & Batman as well (which IMO, would've made for a mor einteresting story. How often do we see "evil" Wonder Woman?)...or at least want to take her out? The message this sends is WW is not worth the villains time. But okay, the story goes on with WW leading a rebellion against the tyrannical Supes & Bats. She fails.......miserably.

There's a reason a lot fans don't buy Wonder Woman as one of the pillars of the DC universe. They SAY she is...but rarely do we actually get to SEE that put into action.


Anyway, I'm not sure so much if I have any paticualr point to make here....just responding to your blog on the subject. Thank you.

Mike Haseloff said...

Yo! Thanks for the comments!

You definitely raise some interesting points, but I think they're mostly justified by context, which you yourself have sort of acknowledged.

I think the nature of the fight is really a symptom of two things.

Fans often discuss Superman in terms of fantasy fights, and the common points raised even facetiously are the super speed, super strength, and the way they can be used to create impossible odds.

I think this story respects some of the restrictions placed on the character, but ultimately uses his role as a pseudo-evil dictator to open up to some of those possibilities. It suggests, through implication, that the nature of the character persists even under different conditions of nurture, but when the right trigger is pushed, this version of the character is quicker to jump to brutality and lethality than the "real" Superman ever would be.

So, in that respect, I think it's an opportunity to not only depict that stark contrast of character -- but it also opens Superman up to a hint of that unbeatable fight quality, against a character that can potentially stand up to him [in Wonder Woman].

The other major contributor to the way Wonder Woman is beaten -- particularly in reference to the armbands -- is the very nature of that whole 'magic' weakness.
We've talked about it on the site before [Superman #216], and the simple blunt answer is that Superman's so-called "weakness" to magic is more an aversion to that type of storytelling technique.

Superman's a character that popularly comes under attack for being 'too powerful', so in some respects it's unfortunate that in an effort to layer more variables into the character the 'magic' weakness has been canonized by certain takes on the character.

Ultimately there's no logic in the character that says an object that's inherently magical affects him more than otherwise. A magical feather is not going to slap Superman into submission.
It's simply a symptom of an alien pseudo science-fiction character coming to odds with a universe that allows the existence of logic-defying, science opposing magics.

So, it's not at all unfair to expect Superman to, exerting the full extent of his impressive strength, destroy the wristbands.

On a tangent; I personally rate Wonder Woman, in a contemporary context, practically on a par with Superman, so the effort put into deflecting projectiles with wristbands is something I'd gladly see gone. It's silly (but also beside the point).

On the nature of the story being a "fuck you" from Loeb, to WW.
I think apart from justifying the fight on it's own terms [as above], I think it's unfair to disregard the fact that character was used as a compliment to the character's stature.
There's also the fact that this is quite clearly a story built on a fun, DC-indulgent premise. So you've got the fact that WW very logically represents a line of defense against Superman/Batman as villains -- and then the flipside of just a fun use of the Uncle Sam character, who's maybe a little bit left field. I think that context alone really throws a message about the characters out the window, not that I think that's Loeb's intent, or style, to begin with.

But as I say, if I were to justify it on your terms of 'respecting' the character -- the fact that she's the only character not directly associated with Uncle Sam to be involved in this rebellion, is probably some kind of credit, albeit incidental.

That context also manages to bleed into the final point regarding WW as a third dictator.

The nature of the story as a fun DC-ingulgent read aside, I think the simple fact is that this is the Superman/Batman title, and the specific conceit of this zany tale of a world that could-be is that it recolours those lead characters in this light.

If it were a Justice League title, I could very realistically imagine the story turning the Trinity into dictators, but as a Superman/Batman story there's an obligation to those characters, and as the centre of a plot, it works.

It's also important to also consider yet another broader context, and that's that the story involves many depictions of a world affected specific to Batman/Superman. This is just one of the featured worlds where Batman/Superman's role shifts, so again, there's a very simple justifying context that helps solidify a story that's probably operating on a much simpler level than those justifications.

Outside of a story like this, however, I think you have a bit of a point. I think it's come up in other Wonder Woman posts that [Wander Woman], as a cornerstone for the DCU, she's certainly failing.

I would say one of the sad extrapolations of that is that this alternate universe story is probably one of the better Wonder Woman tales I've read in recent years. The character as a mainstream female icon has completely fallen by the wayside, and that Trinity status is probably more about an imagined perception of the character, and her role as a recognisable cultural icon, more than anything to do with comics today.

We sort of inadvertently highlighted that using our on-going rankings, highlighting the top 25 female characters. [When Fighters Attack!]
You'll see there, at the time, Wonder Woman comes in at thirteen (unlucky for some!), bumped out as top DC femme by Catwoman and Zatanna.

So, while I think there are simple retorts to your specific points, I can definitely agree with the broader points. I think the inability to position Wonder Woman as an indisputable icon is one of the things that makes her so interesting to discuss. It's just a shame that kind of intrigue hasn't been able to translate to to the page for most of the last twenty years.

xiahoudun84 said...

Hey again. I know it took me a long time to respond, but at first I decided not to because I feared it would degrade into another "vs" discussion and I fucking despise "vs" discussions. In my opinion, there are few things more assinine than engaging a long-winded debate over whether a fictional character can defeat another fictional character. Especially if the two characters are close enough in power/skill/etc. to be worthy of discussion...as writer, the only real answer I can offer is "Whoever the writer says will win."

But I changed my mind, because the issue I'm raising here is not whether or not Superman can defeat Wonder Woman or vice versa. The issue I had with this storyline was the utter disrespectful treatment of the character.

I never said Superman was "weak" against magic. I never suggested that Superman should respond to anything magic the same way he responds to Kryptonite. I said his powers aren't supposed to work so well. For instance, while a normal bullet fired at him would bounce off his chest with no harm...a magic bullet (not the one that killed Kennedy) WOULD injure him. While Superman could plow throw a steel door with ease, if said steel door has some kind of magic bind to it, he shouldn't be able to just smash his way through. And that's what we saw with his smashing of Wonder Woman's magic unbreakable bracelets.

But that aside, my point remains that displaying him shattering her bracelets regardless of explanation or whatever is disrespectful of her character. The only time her bracelets should ever be shown being broken or unable to shielf her from attacks, it should be at the hands of some uber-powerful villain and it should be treated as a "Holy shit!" moment. Even if you don't care for the bracelets, that doesn't change what they mean to the character. She does still need them in the story context because as powerful as she is, she is not invulnerable (As a matter of fact, I question why Wonder Woman is often pictured holding a shield...when her bracelets act as a shield. Seems redundant). But also, like I said, they are a trademark part of her character and a part of her as an icon and I think it's disrespectful to see that aspect of her pissed on because Jeph Loeb likes to show off how big Superman's dick is.

See I would have seen Wonder Woman being portrayed as the one to stand against Superman and Batman as a compliment had she not then been depicted as utterly useless. Yeah, she took out Batman (which shows the stature of Batman, since him being taken out qualifies as a grand triumph...even if it was by someone hundred times more powerful than him. Because he's the Goddamn Batman, after all)....only to then be smashed into the dirt by Superman in less than two pages. Even if it wasn't Loeb's intent to make the whole thing come across as a "fuck you" to Wonder Woman and her fans...it happened. I'm not demanding reperations or anything...just pointing out it happened.

As for the rest, discussing Wonder Woman's place in the Trinity and whatnot...that for me is a whole other speech and I'm not in the mood to do that much typing at the moment. Perhaps some other time...hopefully sooner than it took me to respond with this post.

Mike Haseloff said...

Ahoy again!
I try to service readers as best I can, so as you might have noticed, I'm usually pretty happy to engage in long winded discussions about the smallest of matters. :-p

On the matter of Superman's aversion to magic; what you're leaving off of each example is the specifics. A non-descript "magic bullet" shouldn't have any greater affect on Superman than an ordinary bullet. As previously described, it's the nature of magic as a logic breaking device that makes Superman unable to account for these types of weapons.

Magic can be as simple as mystically endowing an object to "weaken Superman." The logic is whatever the demand requires, so a bullet or door needs something more specific than just magic to work in that circumstance. Something that Wonder Woman's paranaphernalia does not entail. The bracelets are super durable, but they aren't especially resistant to Superman and his own super enraged strength.

If a crazed Superman beating the crap out of Wonder Woman isn't a "holy shit" moment -- I don't know what is.

I can appreciate your feelings on the resolution in the story, but I couldn't say they're valid for any change. The story progresses as the story requires, and the issues already described are vague justifications for that.
Ultimately, I don't think your prediliction for Wonder Woman, or dislike of events matter at all.

This story isn't a fourth-wall breaking plot designed to antagonise Wonder Woman fans. This is a story about a world where Superman and Batman are unrelenting dictators.
There's nothing to point out.

xiahoudun84 said...

Ah, but a magic bullet would not intself be potentially harmful to Superman...it would have to be a bullet magically enchanted to say "pierce anything it hits." Meanwhile, Wonder Woman's bracelts are magically enchanted to be unbreakable. The only being capable of breaking them should be a being/god of superior magic power....who is not Superman, right?

Semantics of the laws of comic book nature aside....no, it didn't come across as a "holy shit" moment; for two reasons. The first being, as you've said, the storyline and the Superman/Batman comic is meant to be self-indulgent fanboy-pleasing nonsense. Which only makes the shattering of Wonder Woman's bracelets all the more insulting since it was treated as a throwaway shock gag in a meaningless story designed to show off how "terrifying" Superman can be if he gets "really, really mad."

Which brings me to the other reason: it wasn't really shocking because many fans have been more-or-less conditioned to see Wonder Woman presented as a jobber. And it's here I'll transition to the other topic of discussion....

I think the idea of Superman, Batman, & Wonder Woman being this sort of "trinity" that serves as the nucleus of the DC universe is a nice idea in theory. It makes sense, seeing as they are three of, if not the, top icons in comics. Few would debate Superman and Batman's stature, and there should be no denying that Wonder Woman is the pre-eminent icon of female superheroes. I do believe that is an icon worthy of notice, so I support the idea of she being presented as a major character within the DC universe. And as a WW fan, it's nice to see her get some recognition.

However, I think the flaw with the whole "trinity" thing this: although Wonder Woman has long been an icon, the idea of that actually meaning something is fairly recent. It does seem that only recently did someone at DC say "Hey, Wonder Woman is an icon....that should mean something." So we get this "trinity" thing...even though for decades Wonder Woman has been, more often than not, little other than the "token broad" of any story outside her own title. The obligatory female character thrown in to prevent the group/story being a total sausage party.

I think most of the people who support the "trinity" thing believe in the idea in theory. As the iconic superheroine, Wonder Woman should be a character of some importance, right? However, a lot don't buy because, as of now, she being an icon is the ONLY reason she's considered somewhat important. And that alone is not enough to justify a character's worth. Why should fans believe Wonder Woman to be a character/icon on par with Superman or Batman? How many times, outside her own title, has she been the one to save the day? How many times was she the crucial factor that brought about the bad guys' downfall?

What was Wonder Woman's contribution to DC's first mega-event, Crisis on Infinite Earths? Screaming out "NO!" as Anti-Monitor melted her down to clay. Even now...what did she contribute to Infinite Crisis? She stopped the fight between the two Supermen and convinced Batman not to kill Alexander Luthor. Sure that's fitting in she's a peacemaker character...and those bits were crucial in their own way...but it's nowhere near as memorable or viscerally appealing as beating up Superboy-Prime or destroying the doomsday machine. I recall in an issue of Wizard, they ranked the top female characters...and in each piece, described their defining moment. What was Wonder Woman's? During Our Worlds at War, she got her ass kicked, but managed to buy the other heroes enough time to stop Imperiex. Hey that's well and good in it's own way...but, in my opinion, it should be the defining moment of a character who is supposed a major icon.

Now, I'm not saying they should immediatly thrust her front and center of any and every story....but no one's going to buy her as one of DC's "Big Three" when her only true contributions to any story is standing around and indirectly helping another hero save the day. It would be nice if, some day, we get to see a event story where it comes down to Wonder Woman being the deciding factor of the story. I'm not expecting it in Final Crisis. From what I've been reading about the story thus far, it looks like we're going to see WW, as they say in the wrestling industry, "doing the job." And I'm not alone. When they announced that WW would have a "confrontation with Mary Marvel," most Wonder Woman that I've seen were the least excited about it.
Like I said, we've been conditioned not to expect Wonder Woman to excell or look good anywhere that isn't her own book.

Another part of the problem stems from writers and editors who either don't care or don't get her as a character. Personally, I think that's a shame, because I think Wonder Woman is a very interesting character with a lot of untapped potential. Consider, she's been around since the 40's and think about how much has NOT been done with her. Even the obvious cliche stuff. We've seen plenty of "what-if" stories involving Superman and Batman. But how many have we seen of Wonder Woman? How many "evil Wonder Woman" stories have their been? Or "what would happen if there was no Wonder Woman?" There are actually a handful....unfortunately, I think they all still involve Superman, and put more attention on him. Aside from just being a change of pace, these types of stories would establish what Wonder Woman is and why she matters by showing what she is NOT and how fucked up the world could be without her.

Problem there is a lot of writers don't seem to care enough to bother or simply don't understand her enough. I think a lot of writers just see her as either a "Superman with boobs" or they think she's too complicated. "She's here to teach peace...yet she's also a warrior?! That makes NO sense! No one can possible live at that speed!" Personally, I don't see what's so baffling about she being a warrior who is also an ambassador of peace. She teaches peace and tolerance...yet fights evil and defends the innocent. I don't understand why that's a hard concept for some, but some writers I've seen get completely thrown by the idea...apparently thinking a warrior can not possibly have any interest in peace.

It's this line of thinking that leeds to inconsistent characterization which has also hindered WW through the years. Some take her to one extreme....as a naive Pollyanna. Others take her to the other extreme....a hardcore zealot.

For instance, during Infinite Crisis and the lead-in, Greg Rucka spent a good deal of time establishing that Wonder Woman only killed Max Lord because she believed she had no other choice. He went at great length explaining how she didn't want to do it, she tried to reason with him, and that it was only a last resort. The you got Geoff Johns in the first issue of Infinite Crisis having her immediatly trying to chop Mongal's head off without second thought. Granted, Mongal is a mass-murdering alien warlord and Max Lord was just a guy with mind control powers...but it kind of makes WW look like bit of an ass to have her one minute claiming murder was only a last resort, than another minute going straight for a kill shot.

I have nothing against Geoff Johns...for the most part, I like his work. But he cannot write Wonder Woman. I know many WW fans think he despises her and has some agenda against the charcaters....but I think he just doesn't get her. He seems to have trouble understanding the subtletly of her character...often portraying her as an icy, overzealous, and unpleasant bitch...from what I've seen. As a matter of fact, Greg Rucka was asked on his website what he thought about the scene with Mongal and he said, pretty much: "It was out of my hands."

Inconsistency is a problem for Wonder Woman, not just in characterization, but also power-level. She's supposed to be only a notch or two below Superman...which could be mean anything, really. Meanwhile, some creators refuse to accept that and act like we're still in the 70's. Also, despite her great power, she's still vulnerable to bullets...which understandably confuses some people. Wonder Woman's power level is in a weird place where some feel she's TOO strong...others, she's not strong enough.

Like the whole "She's a paradox" thing, I think this shouldn't be as big a problem as some make it out to be. Personally like Wonder Woman as a powerhouse character. Further, I like that she's a powerhouse....yet not the absolute strongest like Superman. I think some creators just don't take enough advantage of that....which goes back to some creators just don't seem to care enough about her to do anything worth while with her.

Consider: if Superman fights Mongal, it's pretty much a straight brawl. "How many times must Superman hit Mongal before he falls down." Wonder Woman meanwhile, while she can match Mongal, would have to rely on more than pure power and utilize her fighting skills and perhaps somestrategy. IMO, a potentially interesting story.

I think Wonder Woman should rightfully be considered a major character in the DC universe. However, she does have a lot of porblems holding her back...and a lot of them are interconnected. But I think they can be solved, some with great ease if someone would only other.

I'll leave it at that for now and gather my thoughts for Part II of my Wonder Woman hurangue.

xiahoudun84 said...

BTW, apologies, for typos. I was writing on a program that lacked spellcheck. I just noticed I misspelled Mongol several times among other glitches.