Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Fighting Monsters

Last week I read two comics with Wonder Woman in them.

In one, she dealt with a pack of men verbally accosting her on a city street.

What would I do?!  I'm thinking the blond.

WW snaps them back with her Sassing of Truth (tm).

Oh, you're not a side of beef NOW; but wait'll Ed Benes gets a hold of you.

but then she is “saved” by a friend (Cathy) who is a nascent feminist with rudimentary combat skills. 

"In the gut, big boy" = worst battlecry ever.

And  then she yells at her for it.

"Next time,, Diana, I'll just sit by quietly waiting while people kick your ass, just like I Ching always told me I should."

Then Wonder Woman crashes at her pad, because WW is homeless and needs a job.

Ya know, I hear Taco Whiz is hiring.

But then she gets a job at local department store that caters to women and which supplies jobs to lots of local woman.  All Wonder Woman has to do is wear the store’s clothes and do a little PR about it.  It’s a great deal; easy work for her, free clothes, helps local women.

"This can't be real--clothes that aren't WHITE?!"

Until it turns out the owner is a kind of sexist jerk.  Turns out he’s sort of underpaying her for her advertising work.  

Not enough dog butts in today's comics, I say.

Turns out he’s not paying the female workers the going wage.  And he’s skirting the federal laws on equal pay by only using locally made goods, which means he’s not doing interstate commerce and is exempt. Or some such.  

I confess I had to look up "shuck".

And then the local feminists call Wonder Woman out on this, and she resists seeing it because now she’s kind of biased by her cushy deal with him.  

Yeah, Hera forbid the princess of a society of nothing but women should join an icky women's group.

But then her friend Cathy really calls BS on her, 

Quick, count the number of times you've seen anyone call Wonder Woman out like that.

and Wonder Woman is forced to see the truth, by the strength of the woman’s friendship and argument.

"CODE: I don't need you!"

But THEN the jerkwad sends bully-boys to harass the local feminist group that’s been dogging him about his unfair treatment of women.  

Effing ruffians, with their menacing and vandalizing!

And when Wonder Woman gets in trouble, she's rescued by a female guard-dog trainer and a lady blackbelt.

I'd bet anything Lady Blackbelt dated Julie Jively

she closes the whole operation down by reporting the guy to the police for OTHER illegal cheapstake business practices, like not having appropriate fire safety stuff, like sprinklers and marked exits.

Aw, shucks!

So WW's feeling pretty good about herself and her ability to fight crime with nothing but a white pants suit and an encyclopedic knowledge of local building safety codes.

"I wish I Ching were here to see this! Oh wait--that's right..."

But then ANOTHER group of women lays into her and the women feminists saying “Thanks crusading heroines!  We all just lost our jobs thanks to you, butt out!”  

Say, weren't you in the "New Guardians"?

And Wonder Woman’s all, “Holy Hercules, man’s world is effing complicated!”

Wonder Woman goes transquartomuralistic; eat yer heart out, Grant Morrison.

And in the other comic...

Me, too, Wonder Woman.

...she fought monsters.

Now, I have nothing against monster-fighting.  One of the great things about Wonder Woman is that she is a classical mythology figure who can fight monsters without it seeming odd.  And, yes, it is great to see WW smack down some evil monster.

But I can’t help but wonder whether her monster-fighting didn’t used to be a lot more interesting, relevant, and complicated.


John said...

Please let the banner-tearing ruffian be played by Bogart...

I do have to admit that "mod Wonder Woman" has been my favorite treatment of her, because it actually tried to embrace the times in a meaningful way.

And the dog anatomy lessons. But more the other.

As much as "relevance in comics" gets mocked, I kind of mourn the "Bronze Age that wasn't." Depowered Diana crusading for social issues. Superman's powers empowering the sand creature enemy, very possibly with Lois Lane as a black woman. J'Onn in The Man from UNCLE (Martin). Aquaman as whatever Skeates was implying with the "Prince Targo" story in Eerie. Man-Bat and his super-genius red-headed girlfriend biochemist.

Green Lantern/Green Arrow was kind of half-assed, granted (do "the black-skins" not live on Earth?), and Flash didn't really have a new direction (dimension-hopping?), but over the course of a few years ('67-'70-ish?), DC tried to re-envision their major characters and then...just gave up on it and retreated. And it's a shame, because a lot of them could've been really interesting.

But, then, we'd have lost out on Dr. Domino, so I guess it's a wash.

And that woman does look suspiciously like Extrano, now that you mention it. But other than that, this run is also one of the few times the art has struck me as feeling real. Check out the figures in the ruffian panel. I'll wait while it dawns on everybody who the artist is...

Anonymous said...

I've long said that depowered Wonder Woman could have worked; the biggest problem was that she was written as damaged goods and not a woman who doesn't need her powers to be formidable. Modern writers could have done much better with the concept. Even in this story, where most of the challenges are non-physical, imagine how a Joss Whedon or Gail Simone would have written her: a lot less gullible and selfish.

Nevertheless, yeah, some pretty heavy material for a funnybook to cover, and done a lot better than GL/GA.

Andrew said...

I like a good power fantasy as much as the next person. But your point is well taken, Scipio; it would be nice to read comics that aspire to do more than just convey power fantasies.

John said...

That's a good point, Anonymous, but I write that off (in a hypothetical longer-term run) as Diana actually being damaged. In the space of what amounts to an afternoon, she has lost everything in a life where everything so far had always gone her way.

I like to think that she would've come to terms with it soon, even though it probably wouldn't have been the case as long as contemporary middle-aged men were writing her.

Consider, after all, that it's only a few years prior that Superman would openly weep whenever a new superhero came to Metropolis and got any publicity...

SallyP said...

Well, nowadays she would just have put everyone to the sword, I guess.

I keep waiting for Oliver Queen to come in and start yelling at people.

Anonymous said...

"I like to think that she would've come to terms with it soon, even though it probably wouldn't have been the case as long as contemporary middle-aged men were writing her."

Diana's depowered phase lasted, what, a couple years, and I'm not sure she ever came to terms with it. I could easily be wrong; there are big holes in my comic book reading. What I remember is, she showed martial arts prowess all over the place, but it was always tinged with, "This is the best I can do now that I don't have any powers. Sorry." With a Whedon or Simone, it would be more like, "Powers or no powers, I'm going to take down Dr. Omnipotus, rescue all the hostages, and still get the Allen-West flower arrangements done in time."

Anonymous said...

Good comics should be about more than power fantasies. Well-written genre fiction should work on an allegorical level. But those allegories should seek to illuminate some kind of human truth.

But please, God, save me from people who want to insert politics into comics. They don't want to illuminate truth. They want propaganda. They want their political beliefs hammered down in bright, one-dimensional colors. And if the politics of the story don't match their own, then the story is horrible and evil and should be banned. The Left and the Right are equally guilty here (and anyone who thinks the problem is on just one side of the spectrum is probably contributing to the problem). We do not live in a world where people want to deal with the complexity and ambiguity that is at the core of most public issues. People want to be smug and self-righteous, listen only to other people who agree with them, and insult and dismiss people who have a different point of view. Comics fans on internet are exhausting enough without adding all of that to the mix.

And frankly, most comic writers don't seem to grasp even the basics of how government works much less have something interesting to say about political issues.

Scipio said...

Heh; that is definitely a problem inherent with letting comics writers and characters address issues.

Anonymous said...

Wait a minute... (yes, I'm as old as dirt and still remember that "I generally don't even like women" remark): Wasn't she re-empowered in the very next issue, after this one?

I'm actually loving the current run, even though it is in no way grounded in reality or socially conscious.

Multiversity is rapidly approaching. Perhaps we are about to discover that, on Earth 37, the non-powered but formidable Wonder Woman and July Jively are dating.

Anonymous said...

By the way: That last shot was from an "Aquaman" story, not a "Wonder Woman" one.

Anyway: I find it interesting that, in the current run, Wonder Woman is not only *fighting* monsters, but is now directly *related* to them. Looking at this from from an admittedly distorted angle, this is commentary on family dynamics that might be original to comics.

Scipio said...

Yes, that's why I described them as "two comics with Wonder Woman in them" rather than "two Wonder Woman comics".

Anonymous said...

That art ... Don Heck pencils, Neil Adams ink? I'm just guessing.

Scipio said...

It's Dick Giordano.

Unknown said...

Wasn't the cliffhanger in the mod Wonder Woman story never resolved? I believe the next issue was the story that in a mean spirited way wiped away the mod era and returned bathing suit Wonder Woman...

Scipio said...

It was a little more complicated than that, Flip, but basically...yes.

Either the readers or the creators were tired of Diana being 'in over her head' like this with modern social dilemmas and it all ended abruptly.