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Wonder of Wonders: Paradise Highlands – Wonder Woman Thoughts from Scotland

by Martin Gray

WITH the San Diego Comic Con running this week we can expect a slew of announcements from the companies. New creative teams, new books, new characters.

There’s one DC-related announcement I’d love to hear before the convention centre doors finally close. No, not a new printing for the DC Super Heroes Super Healthy Cookbook – although that would be spiffy (complete with Wonder Woman’s Natural Soda Pop). What I hope for is the news that an all-ages Wonder Woman title is forthcoming.

After all, the last month has seen public awareness of the character at a high not seen since the 1970s, when Lynda Carter was twirling on our TV screens and a generation of future drag queens eyeballed their first
star-spangled hotpants. Love it, hate it or feel something in-between, the new costume gobbled up thousands of column inches and lots of airtime. For a few days we could chat about Diana of Themyscira to our friends, relatives and colleagues without watching their eyes glaze over. Suddenly, it seemed everyone had an opinion on Wonder Woman.

As is the way with these things, the media frenzy quickly died down, but there’s a legacy. It’ll be awhile before people will consider any of us a Suffering Saddo for having an interest in the Amazing Amazon. Some
non-comics readers have checked out the new-look Wonder Woman, a few will even look beyond the curiosity curtain and continue reading for awhile. Heavens, they may even hang on long enough for the inevitable return of the traditional look.

While waiting for that to happen, though, DC could be capitalising on Diana’s new profile by releasing more product. We know Adam Hughes’ All-Star Wonder Woman is coming. Younger readers of this column might actually live long enough to see the six-issue mini series, first announced at the 2006 Comic Con. Given Hughes’ long run of excellent Wonder Woman covers, it’s likely there’ll be cheesecake aplenty in the book, so that satisfies one sector of the audience. Before that, the regular Wonder Woman title has Diana in the supposedly more modern, modest new outfit … but she’s still sticking her Amazonian arse out a lot.

arse1arse2
*Diana’s new look doesn’t draw attention to … Lord, look at that bottom!*





I suggest there’s room for another portrayal of Diana, one more in keeping with her place in the public imagination – an all-ages, classic Wonder Woman. It would give a traditional Diana a presence on the comic shelves while we’re waiting for the all-new Emo Chick to find the funny. It would provide an entry point to superhero comic books for young girls and boys who would love to read about the lady on their lunchboxes, but have parents wise enough to steer them away from age-inappropriate material.

Diana already appears in the Super Friends book based on Mattel toys, but there she’s just one of the crowd (and that comic’s being cancelled soon, it seems). But a heroine with Wonder Woman’s recognition factor should be standing proud as the star of her own family-friendly series, one aimed at an audience slightly taller than the toddlers who copy the Super Friends’ adventures in Crayola.

The Johnny DC line shows that in the likes of Landry Q Walker and Sholly Fisch there are writers who could produce snappy Wonder Woman adventures with broad appeal. Their artistic partners, such as Eric Jones and Robert Pope, are highly capable of giving us thrilling, fun visuals that won’t place undue emphasis on any single – or double – aspect of the Amazon anatomy.

Month after month, these creators produce engaging, funny, deceptively sharp done-in ones for Batman: The Brave and the Bold (sadly, also an upcoming cancellation – hey, it doesn’t mean the guys aren’t good). Walker and Jones finally had a crack at a team-up between Diana and Batman a couple of months ago – issue #16, find the back issue or check out my blog for a review – and it was a delight. Given their head, I’m sure they could do wonders with our heroine.

egghead

*An egg-ceptional issue of Batman: The Brave and the Bold*





And if not them, writer/artist Ben Caldwell has certainly earned a shot at a regular DC book. His Wonder Woman strip in Wednesday Comics suffered from over-ambition, with too many panels crushed into the half-page slot – but the ideas were wonderful. Caldwell gave us his spin on Diana’s background, friends and foes and showed a real love of the character and lore. With 22 pages to play with, his appealing artwork could breathe. Not convinced? Take a look at his rollercoaster ride Dare Detectives books from Dark Horse, or check out Caldwell’s website: http://www.daredetectives.com/

ddare

*Ben Caldwell’s Dare Detectives showcases his knack for larger-than-life characters and situations*





There’s real wit in the work and I’d love to see his talents applied to a classic Wonder Woman. While Caldwell’s Wednesday Comics Diana was a reimagining of the character and her image, before that he collaborated with Nina Jaffe on children’s books showcasing a younger, more recognisible
Wonder Woman.

jaffe

*Caldwell skirted around the costume issue with Nina Jaffe*






I’m sure you could come up with your own roll call of creators who could produce a family friendly Wonder Woman, talents whose stories could be collected for the enjoyment of generations. The Marvel Adventures crew, for example.

But if it’s such a great, obvious idea, why has DC not tried it? I dunno! Lack of faith in the character? Too busy turning kittens into ringslinging killers? Whatever the case, there’s never going to be a better time than now to give a zombie-free, kid-pleasing Wonder Woman book a shot. There are even suitable creators with holes in their schedules. Start with a year’s worth, see what the creativity is and how sales go. Who knows, DC may be pleasantly surprised at the results.

The Tiny Titans is a big hit. There’s no sign that cancellation is coming, the series collections are constant sellers, it’s spun off a couple of chapter books and won an Eisner Award. And that’s without a TV cartoon or
toy line to tie into. The secret? Finding creators who are the graphic equivalent of lightning in a bottle, in this case, storytellers Art Baltazar and Franco.

tiny1
*The Tiny Titans school their foes*






Aw yeah, my educator chum Sean Whelan, co-host of the excellent DC-focused Raging Bullets podcast, reports that his students can’t get enough of the Tinies; they’re constantly passing collections around the class, along with other kid-friendly stuff. These young ‘uns are the people who will one day pay the wages of DC staff, so let’s hope cancellations don’t dissuade the company from keeping up the admirable attempts at bringing new readers into the fold. I started reading DC at seven years of age. I’m now >cough< ... I bet I've forked out the equivalent of a year's salary for someone by now. But I'll be dead in a few decades, and with no one demanding my resurrection, DC needs to get on with finding the buyers of tomorrow.

If you're at the San Diego DC Kids panel scheduled for 11am on Sunday July 25, feel free to ask for a Wonder Woman all-ages book, along with your own pet projects (Legion of Super-Pet projects, I bet).

And if Dan DiDio is reading this (well, a chap can dream) and there's no such plan ready to be announced at San Diego, make something up. What would Wonder Woman's old publicity agent Myndi Mayer do? She'd bluff, that's what. So strike while the iron is hot and fake it. Assemble a creative team when you get back to New York and kick off the series with a special Christmas issue. Everyone loves Christmas. Everyone loves Wonder Woman. And there should be a Wonder Woman for everyone.

///////////////////

Martin Gray is a journalist in Edinburgh. He's a regular comics reviewer for, er, himself at Too Dangerous for a Girl and the Comic Buyer’s Guide. And if you haven’t listened to Raging Bullets, visit www.ragingbullets.com or find it on your favourite download portal thingie.

32 Comments

I would love to see an all-ages Wonder Woman book particularly since the main book seems ready to go “grim and grimmer.” I am very disappointed with the cancellation of “Super Friends” because Wonder Woman was always portrayed in a positive way. I agree with you on Ben Caldwell being a good choice for an all-ages book – he is pitching a manga version of Wonder Woman and when I asked about the idea the response was positive.

Co-signed to everything you just said DC Women Kicking Ass, and to the article in general. Would love to see more variations of Wonder Woman out there – and I’d absolutely love Caldwell to be involved.

Glad to hear people are interested in all-ages Wonder Woman books! At Stone Arch Books, we’ve teamed up with DC Comics to fill that need. Our DC SUPER HEROES chapter books feature original, action-packed stories starring Batman, Superman, and yes, Wonder Woman! All these titles are leveled for kids in grades 2–3 (but, of course, older readers will enjoy them as well!) and are SAFE for young readers — no swearing, no sexuality, and no excessive violence. The Amazon Princess has 8 titles all to herself and faces off against some of her most popular villains, including Cheetah, Circe, Morgaine Le Fey, Dr. Psycho, and others. Check them out at our website Capstonepub.com or this week at our Comic-Con booth #1016

Donnie Lemke
Managing Editor, Capstone Fiction

More Cosmic Adventures is my Johnny DC priority and I wonder if an all ages Wonder Woman title wouldn’t run too close to that. In Wednesday Comics she was the heroine in training and I can see Johnny DC doing the same. They like their heroes young and relatable, see Tiny Titans and Billy Batson. Or they want media tie ins.

I do wonder what is going on in Johnny DC with all those cancellations.

Steven R. Stahl

July 21, 2010 at 2:02 pm

Some non-comics readers have checked out the new-look Wonder Woman, a few will even look beyond the curiosity curtain and continue reading for awhile. Heavens, they may even hang on long enough for the inevitable return of the traditional look.

I saw numerous similar statements when WW #600 was released, but the reasoning seems faulty. Wonder Woman (WW) in her usual costume might be an “icon,” immediately recognizable, but being iconic and being commercially successful are two different things. WW isn’t a commercial success; hence the revamp, whether or not her changed appearance and situation are tied to a possible movie. If the new look is more appealing to new readers, why should they react positively to a reversion to the old look? Evaluated strictly on its merits as clothing, the traditional costume is ridiculous, and no arguments will change the mind of someone who wants the heroine to wear actual clothing.

The look of the character shouldn’t be more important than the content of the stories about her. It’s the lack of content — “Is there anything new we can do with _____?” — that makes a character unsuccessful. I suspect that the WW fans who are insisting on a return to the old look, or who believe that a return to the old look is “inevitable,” don’t really care whether WW is successful in terms of storytelling. They’ll willingly read minor variations on standard plots indefinitely, long after other readers become bored and quit, because they get so much out of the artwork and familiar character bits.

SRS

Thanks for the comments, folks.

”If the new look is more appealing to new readers, why should they react positively to a reversion to the old look?”

Steven, I didn’t say that any new readers would necessarily react positively to the return of the old look, just that they might see it.

Nikki, I want more Cosmic Adventures too. Writer Landry Q Walker has been talking to DC about a sequel, so fingers crossed.

funkmasterdre

July 21, 2010 at 2:49 pm

I totally own a copy of the DC Super Heroes Super Healthy Cookbook. Never made a recipe from it though.

Me neither, but isn’t it a hoot?

Completely agree with this article (and nice to see one of my countrymen contributong to my favbourite comics blog!).

*contributing

Should proofread before posting when typing on my phone.

Cheers Rob, I’m in Scotland but am English. Still, we’re both on the islands, wot?

*contributing

Should proofread before posting when typing on my phone.

(*favourite)

@ Steven R. Stahl:

I am afraid that you are conflating two very different issues.

With regard to commercial success, Wonder Woman is rather plainly an enormous commercial success. Her sales may never have been consistently great, but the property has generated DC enough money to keep it in the family for almost seventy years. I know the legendary story of Marston estate requiring the book to be published for DC to retain the rights. That assumes that she was a sort of licensed property and should not be judged by the same standards as other corporately-owned superheroes. However, consider the sheer number of licensed properties that DC and/or Marvel have let lapse over the last seven decades. Fans routinely talk about properties like G.I. JOE, CONAN, TRANSFORMERS, ROM, MICRONAUTS, the old STAR WARS comics, the old STAR TREK comics and many, many others as successful. None of them have lasted a fraction of the length of WW. Nor are there any indications that DC has ever been motivated to publish titles for any reason other than profit maximizing.

Calling Wonder Woman commercially unsuccessful is, frankly, a bit silly. Even if the title was cancelled tomorrow, she has clearly consistently returned at least a modest profit to DC for a very, very long time.

The aesthetic question has been beaten to death. I have never been a believer that there was ever anything especially wrong with Wonder Woman’s basic costume. Nor am I inclined to pre-judge the story JMS wants to tell based on a bad costume re-design.

Great piece! I am so excited I can’t imagine the letdown if Didio doesn’t announce this.

You have a typo BTW. You wrote Diana of Themyscria when you obviously meant Diana of Staten Island… or didn’t you read the JMS story in #600 yet? ;)

Ha, nice one, Ignacio! You scared me, for a second, there.

And I wish I were at San Diego, I have a few questions – and compliments.

Dean, cheers for some terrific points.

You know, I would be really happy if ass shots of Wonder Woman were dropped from the title, never to be seen again. Come on, DC, give her a XENA style leather battle skirt over shorts.

I would absolutely buy a Johnny DC Wonder Woman comic, especially if it featured a team-up of Egghead and Egg Fu.

That said, I still think the way to go with Wonder Woman is to have her as the anchor of DC’s new line of WWII comics.

I’d love to see a Caldwell-inspired kiddie book for Wondie! And if DC wants to test the waters more than the upcoming chapter books, they could reprint a “Best of the Wonder Family” tpb. Those were the stories that hooked me way back when I was in elementary school. A little rewriting of word balloons and they’d fit a similarly-aged modern audience very well.

Really, where is the next generation of comics readers coming from? Or is DC so sure that superhero comics are heading quickly for the grave that they aren’t going to reach out to the folks who will eventually be contributing to their retirement plans?

Wondie, like Capt. Marvel and Superman, is at heart a bright hero. As such, she’s perfect to intrigue and inspire youngsters.

When I showed initial support for Wonder Woman’s new look, I was under the assumption that her pants would be drawn like, y’know, pants. Those panels make it look like she dipped her rear in black paint. :(

Yup, Carol. It’s weird that in an interview today, on this very site …

http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=article&id=27340

… Geoff Johns talks about how important the Marvel Family is to DC. Begging the question, of course, of why the mainstream Marvel Family is allowed to be such a mess.

As for the Billy Batson/Johnny DC version, I’d not be surprised if DC weren’t planning a Digest or regular-sized anthology featuring some of the series about to be cancelled.

Why is it that people always confuse “all ages” with “only for kids?” The former only implies that there’s nothing on them that you’re afraid minors might see- sex, graphically violent deaths etc. The later involves stuff kids care about such as playing games, silly jokes etc. All-Ages comics (and cartoons) are a natural evolution from kid-safe to more adult material, paralleling the human development- maturity is about understanding the serious stuff in life and how to deal with it- relationships, work, death etc. An all-ages comic CAN have stuff a kid might not be interested in -politics, for example- and it either introduces him to the subject, or, he ignores it in favor of the colorful figures fighting bloodlessly. His choice. Adult readers can read it without feeling their intelligence is being insulted as well.

I feel that we are lacking a lot in all-age comics these days- look at DC: with the cancellation of most Johnny DC titles, the choice is either Tiny Titans or the mainstream universe where people get SKINNED ALIVE in “Brightest Day” (yeah, real bright.) There’s no DC Universe comic that can be considered safe all the time now, when even Teen Titans springs gruesome deaths on you without warning. And I think it’s because the DC higher-ups DON’T CARE. They have given up; they’re selling only to the older audience that wants skimpy costumes and bloody violence, and barely make token efforts towards getting younger readers interested. Or even the not-so-young who just want to enjoy a series without cheap shocks in it.

If it weren’t for that great crossover issue when Uncle Scrooge ripped off Jughead’s arm and raped Little Lulu with it, I would have given up on comics when I was a child.

@ Sijo:

I would hope that any “All Ages” title that DC produces is targeted at kids. If that excludes adults from enjoying it, then I think that is probably a good thing.

The issue is that “general audience” entertainment is vanishing across all media. Movies are targeted to young families, dating couples and various segments. Entire television channels are programmed by the audience that they intend to reach. Even the news is targeted to a specific audience. Therefore, a Wonder Woman title that appeals to tweens (and especially tween girls) probably would do very little for you or I. Provided DC could produce such a thing and get it into the hands of said tweens, that strikes me as good news for both the medium and the character.

I think DC would be wise to look very hard at their entire line. They need to really think about their audience(s), what content is going to appeal to the most profitable audience segments and what formats are right for that content. They have invested a lot in the chasing the dollar of the hardcore “super-fan” over the last decade. It has driven more casual fans like me toward the margins, or out of comics entirely. Sadly, I really do not think that it is possible to go backwards at this point.

The best alternative is to make better use of their multiple lines. Prospective digital readers probably don’t look like comic shop readers and neither of them much likely resemble book store consumers. Why try to sell the same stories to all of them?

if not ben caldwell then j. bone. i’d love to see j. do more wonder woman like his strip in the new frontier special. plus, just look at his blog, he has some serious love of diana.

Much as I loved Linda Carter, nowadays it would be terribly cheesy. As for a reimagining, why not instead of re-doing the costume, (and these buns look like she could crack walnuts with them), why not give her her rightful place – at the head of a cohort of Amazons, who handle, not just single villains, but groups of them? So many opportunities were lost by just making her ‘fierce’ (as Tyra would say – petulant to everyone else). Good article – plenty to think about.

Oh good news from San Diego, Dan DiDio says there will be new superhero stuff from Johnny DC.

http://robot6.comicbookresources.com/2010/07/sdcc-10-didio-johnny-dc-titles-really-not-cancelled/

Excellent article Mart. A short time ago on the WW CBR board, I posted the suggestion of a WW all ages title where Diana and Donna are foreign exchange students at a charter school where Steve Trevor is the lead cadet in its ROTC program. In believe Ben Caldwell would be ideal to write an all ages WW title in any way he sees fit, just as long as Giganta is in it. ;)

Cheers Gene, and thanks to everyone for some fascinating (and generous) remarks. I’m optimistic that at some point DC will have a crack at an all-ages Wonder Woman title.

Resurrect Martin Gray! And Brian Cronin!

I’m in broad agreement with what you’re saying here Mart, just as I also recognise the line between commercial and comic-book success that Dean discusses above. But the most important sentence for me in all that you’ve written is the following;

“These young ‘uns are the people who will one day pay the wages of DC staff, so let’s hope cancellations don’t dissuade the company from keeping up the admirable attempts at bringing new readers into the fold”

Short-term thinking is characteristic of most human endeavour, and there’s enough of what passes for success in DC’s offices at the moment to make everyone involved feel that things are going well. But my years of teaching saw comic books go from being a form that every student recognised and could read to the province of a small number of fans who could make sense of pages which their peers often couldn’t engage with, even if they’d wanted to. The “fans” will pay today’s bills for DC for a while, but when they’re gone? I would hope that somebody decides to invest in a massive loss-leader programme and gets exceptionally cheap comic books for kids out into schools across the USA. And Wonder Woman, as you rightly discuss, would be an excellent property to place at the forefront of such a programme.

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