Axel-In-Charge: Waid & Samnee on "Black Widow" and the Dawn of the All-New, All-Different Era
How do you top turning a matriarchal female society historically depicted as honorable in your comics into absolute monsters? For starters, you assign creators that either don’t know what feminism means, or worse, do know and are still afraid to use that word to describe the preeminent female hero in the world. In 2012 I thought feminism had been destroyed at DC Comics but I was wrong, because there were further lows to which we could descend.
We have found new depths as a creator (David Finch) assigned to the most important woman in comics doesn’t know what the word feminist means, or much much worse, knows what it means and doesn’t think that Wonder Woman is a feminist, in other words, he doesn’t believe that Wonder Woman believes in equality of the sexes.
You know what I can’t believe? That this kind of thing can still happen in the year 2014.
Is assigning an artist known for his sexualized female characters and afraid of the word feminist and a rookie (his wife, Meredith Finch) with three credits to her name (I can only find one) what Diane Nelson was talking about weeks ago when she responded to shareholders unhappy with the portrayal of women at DC, saying that they would be pleased by the changes in two years time?
I can’t imagine this is what she meant.
And yet here we are.
There are so many problems here it’s hard to know where to begin. But before we start, let’s have some clarity on the word Feminist. Here’s what it means:
adjective Sometimes, fem·i·nis·tic.
1. advocating social, political, legal, and economic rights for women equal to those of men.
2. an advocate of such right
It’s not a bad word. In fact, it’s a wonderful word. It means great and positive things for all people.
Yes, there are outliers that believe something different than this, something more extreme, but there are always going to be outliers and extremists. And I’m sorry that a whole bunch of people in the world want to use the outliers and extremists of feminism to jettison a belief in equality, but it’s simply not acceptable for reasonable people. Not in 2014. Sure, there are nuances to feminism, but I assure you, when the average person calls themselves a feminist it simply means they believe in equality. So the question isn’t why are you a feminist, the question is why isn’t EVERYONE a feminist. We need to change this wrong-headed perception NOW so that instead of people scrambling away from the word feminist, they are ashamed to identify as anything BUT a feminist.
But even if we’re a ways away from everyone being comfortable calling themselves feminists, certainly Wonder Women of all women, of all superheroes, should be allowed to be a feminist and her creators shouldn’t be afraid to give her that label. Wonder Woman of all characters should not only identify as feminist but she should own it and inspire others with it. Hell, she was on the cover of the first Ms. Magazine FORTY TWO YEARS AGO. Ms. Magazine an “American liberal feminist magazine” by definition, more than 40 years ago chose Wonder Woman as their “cover model”…how can it even be in doubt in 2014 that Wonder Woman should be a feminist down to her very core of who she is, what she means, what she represents?
For those still playing catch up, after David Finch and wife Meredith Finch were announced last week as the new Wonder Woman creative team (beginning in the Fall of 2014 with issue #36) they gave a number of interviews including one with CBR where they said several alarming things between the two of them, but most notably there was this from David Finch:
“I think she’s a beautiful, strong character. Really, from where I come from, and we’ve talked about this a lot, we want to make sure it’s a book that treats her as a human being first and foremost, but is also respectful of the fact that she represents something more. We want her to be a strong — I don’t want to say feminist, but a strong character. Beautiful, but strong.”
While I’m sure it was not a calculated comment (and Finch has since offered a well-intentioned but classic non-apology apology via twitter) it’s incredibly alarming that half of the creative team either doesn’t know what the word feminist means or worse, knows what it means and doesn’t believe Wonder Woman is one.
This comment is particularly upsetting because Finch is certainly the more powerful side of this creative team with a ton of experience under his belt compared to his wife’s three comics ever published (I could only find 1 co-writing credit – perhaps the others are yet to be released?). Even so, Meredith Finch is the writer for the book so she surely sets the tone, right? Well, earlier in the interview she claims David Finch is her “ace in the hole” and
“…he’s so steeped in the comic book industry, that if I have a question or I need to know something about comics lore, I have my own personal encyclopedia who lives in my house”
So her encyclopedia of comics lore is afraid to call Wonder Woman a feminist? This should be extremely alarming to anyone that knows anything about the character or dares to love her. I’d be slightly less worried if Meredith Finch had ever said the word feminist or feminism in the interview herself but she actually goes out of her way to avoid the word. In fact, she goes out of her way enough that it almost feels like editorial decree. And perhaps it is. Perhaps she’s an innocent bystander in all of this, simply toeing the company line, and if she is, my apologies to her, but I guess this is the downside of getting to write the most famous woman in comics.
But there’s more to worry about than just the feminism issue, especially if David Finch is her “encyclopedia” on Wonder Woman. David Finch refers to Diana as being human – certainly not accurate to Azzarello and Chiang’s run in which she’s a demi-god and not really accurate to what DC has on their own wiki — that she’s a supernatural being born from clay, bonded with the soul of an unborn child, bestowed with gifts by six Greek Gods, and raised by a matriarchal society of immortal Amazon warriors.
Words shwords, his meaning is obvious, he wants her to be relatable, which is not unreasonable, but it’s just one in a series of damning word choices that should have all of your alarm bells firing.
All of this doesn’t even include the fact that these words come for one of the worst choices for an artist for Wonder Woman that I could possibly imagine. David Finch is a talented guy, and DC is obviously a fan given the opportunities he’s been handed, and he undoubtably has a big following of comic fans, but he’s not a good fit as an artist for Wonder Woman if you are interested in her being taken seriously as a warrior and superhero. When it comes to women, Finch generally draws highly sexualized women. Regardless of who they are, his characters tend to look like cheerleaders, damsels in distress, and sexy femme fatales. Wonder Woman is none of these things, nor should she be. David Finch’s first image of Diana (at the top of this post), though better than some bad previous takes (see below), is already full of male gaze with Wonder Woman posing tits and ass out, back arched ridiculously, not exactly a battle tested warrior, more a lingerie model. It’s not a surprise when talking about the visuals in the interview that Finch focuses largely on her beauty. He refers to her as some form of beautiful (and being attracted to her, though again, this is likely just a poor word choice) several times, certainly more times than he refers to her as being strong, powerful, or heroic.
As for Meredith Finch’s one co-writing credit that I can find (Zenescope’s Tales of Oz #2), I read it, and it’s not good. It’s cliché, predictable, stiff, repetitive, confusing, uninspired, and completely lacking in any depth or nuance. Certainly not the kind of story that gets the attention of DC Comics Editors as a possible successor to a critically acclaimed Wonder Woman run. And listen, any writer can write (and publish) a bad story, it happens to the best of writers and it shouldn’t preclude a writer from writing other comics or getting other gigs, especially if they’re a young/new writer who will likely learn a lot as they become more experienced. What it SHOULD preclude a writer from doing is getting to write WONDER WOMAN, which is an extremely high profile gig…like the Porche of comics writing.
And when you hire someone with this little experience you naturally invite questions about their qualifications. The idea that the sole credit on her resume to get her the gig is simply being a woman is uncomfortable for everyone. To be honest, I don’t even want to get into the thorny issue of Meredith Finch getting the job in part because she’s a woman and/or because she’s Finch’s wife – I don’t know that anybody wins in that conversation, but because Finch has so few credits to her name, it begins to feel like DC sees her very “femaleness” as the most important credit on her resume and that is just wrong on every level. I’m obviously an advocate for more women working in comics and normally a woman on a high profile title like Wonder Woman and at a high profile company would be cause for celebration, but I’ve never been one to argue for a woman being hired BECAUSE she’s a woman. That way lies madness for us all. Yes, it IS possible that it’s as simple as Meredith Finch being connected and turning in one hell of a pitch, but to be honest, even in that fantasy scenario, she still doesn’t deserve a solo writing gig on Wonder Woman. Maybe that would warrant a co-writing gig? Maybe???
Part of the problem for me here is that I’m always an advocate for female comic book characters that headline their own books and that need good sales to continue existing as vibrant properties getting appropriate A-list creators. A-list creators ensure a certain level of sales and interest right off the bat, two things demanded for books to stay on shelves in this comics climate. Wonder Woman is an A-list property that deserves A-list creators. It’s why, despite my issues with some of the content and story choices of Azzarello and Chiang’s run I could still appreciate that Wonder Woman had an A-list team that brought her one of her most celebrated runs. It wasn’t for me, but not everything can be, I could at least – even if from a distance – respect the quality level – and thanks to Cliff Chiang’s stunning work it was the best Diana had ever looked.
Now, you could make a solid argument (one I would maybe buy?) for a newer writer with a fresh take, a “think outside the box” kind of writer, if you put A-list (and appropriate) talent on the art side, and that “think outside the box” writer was still someone with solid indie credits, some critical acclaim, and real vision (for example, exactly what DC has done with Becky Cloonan, Brenden Fletcher, and Karl Kerschl on the new Gotham Academy). But that answer is still not Meredith Finch with her three credits at most and from Zenescope no less, a publisher unlikely to win much critical acclaim or quality awards anytime soon. Unfortunately for Meredith Finch, who may be pretty innocent in all of this (I mean, someone tells you they want you to write Wonder Woman, that’s pretty hard to say no to, even if you know you don’t have the credentials), DC continues to be the equivalent of in a dark room looking for a black cat which isn’t there.
For those that want to decry the idea of discussing/deriding/generally bitching about stories that have not even been published yet, we’re not talking about what Finch & Finch
have created might create, we’re talking about their on record incredibly wrong-headed approach to the character and how alarming it is, and most importantly we’re talking about WHY DC MAKES THESE DECISIONS. I’m not being critical of the content Finch & Finch have created might create for Wonder Woman, I’m being critical of why DC makes these kind of choices, why editorial seems bound and determined to run off their fans, why they are afraid of feminism, and of Wonder Woman as a character. I’m critical of how this decision tree works…I’d like a publisher of DC’s size and complexity to show even the slightest understanding that they know what they’re doing rather than the aforementioned dark room and black cat that doesn’t even exist situation.
So why does any of this matter any way? Why does one creative team on one comic book matter so much? Simply, it matters because it’s Wonder Woman. I wrote the following in 2010 and it’s remains WHY Wonder Woman simply matters more than any other female comics character:
“Wonder Woman (both the character and the book) keep getting saddled with this heavy burden of being all women all the time, and of embodying perfection. But because there are seemingly infinite marquee male leads in comics – Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, Flash, Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Wolverine, – you can take your pick, and they can all signify different takes on heroes in comics. But when you boil it down there is only one long running marquee heroine in comics – Wonder Woman. So she has to cover ALL the bases – and it’s just too much load for any one character (or book) to bear, and she’s constantly buckling under it.”
That’s why it’s so important that Wonder Woman’s creative team be well-considered. It’s why she matters in some ways more than any other single title on shelves.
So, why is an artist known for sexualized female characters who doesn’t know that Wonder Woman is a feminist and a writer with almost zero experience writing, let alone writing comics, the right team for the most important woman in comics?
Someone please explain it to me. Preferably Diane Nelson, because I really would like to know who the hell is running the ship and why they’re steering it straight for icebergs.
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