The New 52 has done some interesting remodeling in the DC Comics universe, and one of the places where the renovations have caused the most controversy is, predictably, Wonder Woman’s comic. While her series continues to be popular, a few interesting changes to her back story and some odd clarifications have upset some of her most ardent enthusiasts.
And now it appears that DC wants to add more fuel to that fire with the announcement that Superman and Wonder Woman are about to become an item in Justice League. Do we need this? Does it matter? Let’s take a look at why—or why not—this should be a big deal.
Let’s take a look at the reboot so far to see where we’re at:
The biggest offense has already been called out in the altering of Diana and the Amazon’s backstories. We were told that Wonder Woman was not a baby made of clay, but the product of an adulterous fling between Zeus (surprised, I know) and Queen Hippolyta. Diana is understandably taken aback when she finds out. Now one of the few female figures in fiction, who existed without the input of the patriarchy, was suddenly set up to have tremendous daddy issues.
Of course, that’s nothing compared to the reveal that Amazon women have sex with sailors, murder them when they’re done getting pregnant, and then proceed to sell their male children into slavery (to the god Hephaestus) in exchange for some sweet weaponry.
It’s hard to blame any fans for being upset over these alterations: while it might be an interesting angle in a purely practical sense, it has very clearly damaged the mythos of Wonder Woman, the heritage that made her the pillar of truth and love that the comics always extolled.
It’s also a complete backpedal when remembering the intentions of the man who created her, the late William Moulton Marston, who wrote Wonder Woman to posit the notion that women could use their inherent goodness to make men submit and bring about peace in the world. Obviously, Marston’s theories were anything but airtight, but that doesn’t change the fact that recreating Amazon society to include such violence and disregard for life is the exact opposite of what he had in mind.
Happily, the characterization of Wonder Woman since the New 52 relaunch is less of a sore spot for most fans. Diana’s background may have changed, but Wonder Woman herself remains: her heroism is evident, her abilities are not in question, and her visual depiction seems less objectifying than in comics past. Objectifying or no, it’s still worth noting that Diana’s attire looks fairly similar to Linda Carter’s getup from the 1970s television show, an interesting move after a rumored DC editorial edict that all their superhero ladies would wear pants.
Whether or not that mandate was a step in the right direction isn’t really what I’m getting at; it’s just pretty amusing that this was made an issue and then (very) quickly taken back. Pants are way too difficult to stick with, everyone. If I can’t feel air up to my bikini line, I start to get nervous, and so should Wonder Woman.
In regards to who Diana should be dating, there has always been a contingent of Wonder Woman fans who have wondered at the character’s sexuality in the first place. She has relationships with men in the comics, but there has consistently been speculation that perhaps she is bisexual (a fair cop if your entire society is female). The actual question was never addressed officially in canon… until recently. Wonder Woman was featured in a recent issue of Batwoman and she made a point of debunking certain myths about herself, one of them being that she is a “Sister of Sappho.” This being a poetic way of saying “lesbian,” it seems now that the DC Comics has chosen to put their foot down on yet another aspect of Wonder Woman, further containing the persona and pairing her down to a neat set of “what is” and “what isn’t.”
Did Wonder Woman so desperately need to be pinned down?
And what does that mean for her upcoming relationship with Superman? Well… it still really comes down to how it’s handled. On the one hand, it’s pretty aggravating that writers everywhere still feel the need to pair off their female characters with any and all eligible menfolk, unwilling to let them stay single the same way they would allow a male character. That in combination with everything else that has changed in the Wonder Woman canon might add up to one crazy irritant.
On the other hand, this move could be potentially interesting on a character level; let’s not forget that Superman is an alien and Wonder Woman comes from a culture that is practically alien to modern day earth. They’re both essentially ultimate outsiders, but they care deeply for humanity. They have more in common than is typically examined and their choice to date might be a great way of bringing that to light. In addition, if they can both manage their places on the Justice League team without a hint of inequality, that sends a very good message about the position of men and women in relationships—that both can maintain their own power and autonomy and still love each other and work together.
So should we be upset? The track record has been a little shaky for Wonder Woman’s New 52 run, but I like to live in hope. Perhaps this will expand the character to new areas that she has never explored before now. Perhaps she and Clark will form a beautiful team that we can all look up to.
Or this whole thing could go Twilight on us when Diana accidentally develops a crush on Bruce Wayne. You know. At least it would be hilarious.
Emily Asher-Perrin just hopes that they’re not planning some epic cat fight issue between Wonder Woman and Lois Lane. Seriously, Clark, what’s the deal here? You can bug her on Twitter and read more of her work here and elsewhere.