Vaughan & Chiang's "Paper Girls" Builds a Familiar Yet Disconcerting World
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.
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.
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/
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
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.
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.
Comics Should Be Good accepts review copies. Anything sent to us will (for better or for worse) end up reviewed on the blog. See where to send the review copies.