Wonder Woman Returns To Ms. Magazine While Controversy Swirls Around Her
By Alex Cranz
Gloria Steinem and Ms. Magazine are one of the main reasons you know about Wonder Woman. They grew up on her stories in the fifties and early sixties and with fond memories of a childhood heroine they put her on the cover and fashioned an icon.
Because in 1972 Wonder Woman was anything but. Her book sales were flagging and DC in a massively suspect move opted to reformat the character. Not a DCnU reformat where a few years were shaved off her life, she tweaked her outfit and her origins were jiggered with. Wonder Woman, Ms. Magazine’s feminist avatar, has been depowered. The woman who was iconic for being America’s first* superheroine was instead a sort of spy trained by a guy and out getting tied up and tortured on a regular basis.
Steinem and company realized they’d made a bit of a snafu declaring Wonder Woman their mascot when she wasn’t so wondrous. But instead of quietly avoiding the issue Steinem started calling editors at DC and pushing them to bring back Wonder Woman’s fantastic origins.
In a year Wonder Woman was back to being DC’s number one heroine and in two years she was being brought to television and giving me my favorite ring tone for a good five years.
It’s no surprise that for their fortieth anniversary Ms. would bring Wonder Woman back.
But it is a little worrisome. Right now at DC Comics Wonder Woman is at the center of a controversy regarding the company and its handling of female characters. She was recently selected to be a figurehead of DC but in the process her origin and character were changed to be more appealing to the male audience DC has repeatedly said they desire.
Her meteoric rise over the last year has come at the cost of other well-known DC women and it’s involved some changes that are more than a little problematic. So it feels, in some sense, a bit tone-deaf for Ms. to choose her for their cover.
And it’s frustrating too. Not Ms. Magazine’s decision to coopt Wonder Woman as a magazine mascot. We here at FemPop are incredibly fond of Etta Candy so we’d be real hypocrites (and assholes) to criticize them for that. No, it’s frustrating because forty years later Ms. Magazine is putting Wonder Woman on their cover and over at DC Comics she’s still being a focal point for discussions of misogyny in the comics industry.
This is indicative of the major problem we have with choosing privately owned characters as our heroes. Because DC has every right to tell what stories they want to with her and a lot of those stories are fantastic (I’m a sucker for Brian Azzarello’s very Xena-like current run) but a lot of them are less fantastic and as much as we’d like her to be an avatar of truth, justice and ra ra sisterhood she’s still a commodity founded in an industry that has significant issues with how it portrays women.
And Ms. Magazine seems content to ignore that while holding her up as a bastion of feminism.