Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Starting Work Early

What with her role in the forthcoming Superman (et al.) film, I've been thinking a lot about Wonder Woman lately.  In fact, I've been reading Wonder Woman Unbound, a good new history about the character.  

I have quibbles with some angles the author occasionally takes in order to make his points (such as defending Wertham's analysis of Batman and Superman to make his condemnation of Wonder Woman seem worse), but anyone who actually takes the trouble to chart the statistics on how much bondage there was in WW comics versus her contemporaries' deserves kudos.

Spoiler: It's a lot.

I've learned more than a few things from this book already, and it's made me reexamine some parts of comic history. For example, author Tim Hanley has made me realize that quite possibly we owe the continuing existence of super-heroes to Dr Wertham, since their resurgence in the Silver Age was prompted in part by his evisceration of the popular horror and crime comics they superseded. 

Another thing I've learned is the brutality with which the mad man-babe Bob Kanigher devasted Wonder Woman's "Mod Era" cast in the process of returning her to her mythological roots.

"Without my magic bracelets,
what can I use to protect myself from sniper fire?
Oh! Hello, I Ching...!"

Steve Trevor, in fact, gets killed twice (don't ask).  And the disturbingly gratuitous death of an expy of former Wonder Woman editor Dorothy Woolfolk is, at best, in bad taste:

Ah, 1970s pop-culture New York City.

Hanley rightly points out that war-hardened Kanigher was a prolific writer, not a careful or well organized one.  He was repetitive, forgetful, and indelicate.  But his writing was not without poetry...

One of its unsung,
unknown, faceless millions is
starting work early.

With this heartless haiku, Kanigher used an unnamed sniper, who dies immediately by falling off the building and whose motives are never examined let alone explained, to begin the destruction of the Mod Era. Note well, modern readers; the cruel killing off of supporting and near-main characters was not an invention of the post-Crisis world.

What haiku can you compose reflecting on this, the return of the new original Wonder Woman?


Anonymous said...

What the hell, Bob K?
You ran out of room in your

John said...

There is a part of me--knowing full well that there's no evidence--that sometimes wonders if Wertham might have been supported by DC. For starters, it didn't just damage the non-superhero books, it wiped out a good chunk of the competition, especially (arguably their friends-turned-arch-enemies, so to speak) EC. In addition, the Comics Code mostly just formalized and implemented DC's existing code of content.

At the expense of, what, Bruce and Dick seem kinda gay if you take them completely out of context? With the market declining, it's hard to imagine a better outcome for DC.

Regarding Wollfolk/Cottonman, it's odd, but Kanigher also (I think you've mentioned it) launched himself into space along with the Creature Commandos, so it's at least possible that it wasn't a personal attack. More offensive, maybe, is that it's "Woman's Magazine," rather than Wonder Woman comics, which implies an attack on something like Ms., which would've been only a year or so old at the time.

I don't know that I buy the "not an invention of the Post-Crisis world" thing, though. I mean, clearly there are precursors and outliers, but it's like saying that we shouldn't make a big deal about literacy, because there were people writing three thousand years ago.

It's not the mere fact that it happens, but the frequency by which it happens and the mundanity of its shock value that's of interest and offense. It was stupid when Kanigher did it, and that act of stupidity doesn't excuse repeating it.

We stopped having anniversary wedding-that-gets-broken-up-by-a-supervillain issues, after all...

Bryan L said...

So many haikus, so little Tuesday:

Dottie Cottonman
Dies, brought down by sniper fire.
Question Jean Loring.

Back to red, white, blue
A damn good thing, you ask me
White pantsuits show dirt.

Poor I-Ching, now shot
Didn't see that one coming
Neither did I-Ching.

Scipio said...

"Neither did I-Ching."


Scipio said...

"We stopped having anniversary wedding-that-gets-broken-up-by-a-supervillain issues, after all..."


You mean, like the Green Arrow / Black Canary Wedding Special in 2007?

John said...

That's not fair. It's Green Arrow and Black Canary! I'm trying to find a good analogy, but they're possibly the most outdated characters in comics. The only time she didn't dress like a cigarette girl, it was that weird sweatsuit...

Plus, that's one prominent example as compared to how they appeared with regularity for something like twenty years.

The industry stopped doing campy Batman stories, too, but that doesn't mean that a limited amount can't get thrown back into the mix from time to time.