Kickpuncher’s Corner: Why I Shouldn’t Be Allowed To Write Wonder Woman
Don’t shoot me right away, but I get Brian Azzarello. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still glad I Byrne-stole 100 Bullets, but I get where he’s coming from. He wants Themyscira to be more dramatic. James Potter and Dumbledore work fine as Lawful Good, but having them be a reformed bully and a remorseful Nazi sympathizer gives Harry Potter more depth and intrigue. So what’s the difference between Krypton being turned into a sterile dystopia and the Amazons killing their rape-babies?
See, the thing about Diana is that people keep giving her angst (for lack of a better term) that’s wrong for her character. And she could use a little darkness. A lot of characters have benefited from it. Batman has Jason Todd, Superman has alienation, so on, so on. In moderation, angst is like a little salt in the soup. It keeps characters from seeming too perfect and gives them some woobie value. You can’t always be “inspired” or “in awe” of a hero—not over forty years. Sometimes you have to sympathize with them and hope things get better.
That’s hard for Diana to come by, since a lot of comic book writers are uncreative, so they just do for Diana what worked before, for other characters. All the Amazons die and Diana is the last of the Amazons! All the Amazons have amnesia and she’s the next-to-last of the Amazons! Then you have Geoff Johns’ idea of her being ‘a goddess, not a woman.’ That’s a swing and a miss at the same basic character flaw I’m going to be getting to, but in this form, it rings false. Diana is a human raised by humans, just in a different culture. She knows about this thing you humans call love.
But hey, let’s not bury Caesar just yet. As I said, I get it. Amazons being perfect feminist angels works from a thematic standpoint, but speaking from a dramatic point of view, if they’re going to be a continuing presence in Wondy’s life, they need to be more complex—i.e. flawed. Remember my Earth One review. Batman’s parents can be martyrs, they’re dead. Superman’s birth parents don’t matter, while the Kents can be idealized—they’re more recurring role than marquee names. In fact, you get problems when you make them main characters, like in Smallville, and give them dramatic flaws while keeping them thematically perfect.
Remember, it’s wrong to pre-judge Lex Luthor—but he’ll still turn out to be an asshole, so I guess pre-judging works, it’s just rude.
This was also an issue with Wonder Woman’s mother, with Hippolyta getting story arcs where she tried to murder innocent people because she was literally insanely overprotective of Diana. Budding writers, take note: when you’re trying to give a likable character flaws, stop before you get to homicide.
So, we want to make the Amazons more complex. The thing is, rape-babies don’t do that—it just makes them one-note evil instead of one-note good. Plus, you know, it’s inorganic to established canon, and unless you’re doing a piss-take on canon like Watchmen, you want to avoid that or why are you writing someone else’s characters to begin with? Write Brian Azzarello’s Rape-Babies and avoid another hilarious DC feminism blooper.
The thing is, there is a way to give Wonder Woman more dramatic complexity, using the Amazons’ thematic perfection. Think about it. Who is Diana Prince?
She’s the princess of a race of immortal Amazons. She’s the only baby ever born on Themyscira, so there’s no generation gap. The Purple Healing Ray keeps everyone in perfect health, so no healthcare debate. No men, so there’s no gender divide. And I don’t know much about Amazonian economics, but it seems like they’ve got a commune thing going, so no economic disparity, but it also doesn’t seem like it’s applicable to a modern country. I don’t know, just something I assume about a nation where blacksmithing is a career path.
There’s no religious intolerance, but that’s because everyone believes in the same thing. And while I’m sure no one’s marching around with an Athena Hates Fags sign, since there’s no contact with men, heterosexual Amazons are de facto celibate. Think Mitt Romney could get away with saying “I accept gay people so long as they never ever have sex”?
Zero population growth, so ipso facto on overpopulation or scarcity economics. Racial harmony, that’s good, but all the races were born into one big Mormon family. The only group they can really Other, men, aren’t allowed on the island. I know Romney couldn’t get away with “I’m fine with black people so long as I never have to interact with them.” I don’t know Queen Hippolyta’s immigration policy, but it seems restricted to people named Wonder Girl. No political conflict, since Polly is queen for life (as opposed to the notoriously unstable “Queen for a Day” system of government) and she’s immortal.
What I’m getting at is that whatever Diana’s preaching to “Man’s World,” if it has any basis in Amazonian society, then it’s either as workable as Captain Picard telling us all to just feed the poor with food from our replicator, or as simplistic as saying “Can’t we all just get along?” (Well, no.) Diana is basically a woman of unbelievable privilege, going to a third world country and ‘fixing things’ by making it more like her own, superior society. There are words for that. They don’t tend to be “incredibly brave and beneficial to everyone.”
And that’s a good thing. I know that sounds like I’m picking on Wondy, but there’ve been plenty of stories asking if Batman is causing Gotham’s crime to escalate, or if Superman is causing mankind to stagnate by doing too much for us. If Diana does need something in her character fixed, it’s that her mission of peace is boringly vague. She goes somewhere, talks about the Amazon Way, and that’s her solution for everything. And all we ever heard about the Amazon Way is left-of-center politics. Wouldn’t it be more interesting if she were sent to Man’s World to learn as well as teach? Think Star Trek. It’s at its best when the captain has to investigate a difficult situation, weigh hard choices, and come to a fair decision. That seems to me like a far better ‘fix’ for Diana than ever-more-over-the-top ‘badassery’.
Of course, I can understand preferring the ‘perfect’ Amazons and the thematic purity that goes with it. You can think any superhero to death, and I wouldn’t want to read about how Batman’s heroism screwed everything up instead of saving Gotham from an evil clown. I kinda hope this article will serve as a discussion point. Now on how to fix Wonder Woman, but on how to tell better stories with her.