Wednesday, August 11, 2010

You're a Wonder, Wonder Woman [Pt. 2]

[Ed. Note: I did some late edits - just trying to make this blog better for all.]

It’s been nearly a week since my last post, and I’ve been reading about Wonder Woman, her origin and her author, taking special note of WHY she was created in the first place – and frankly, remembering how funny and lively some of those old 1940’s adventures were. I was introduced to those early escapades of the amazing Amazon as reprints when DC Comics would do “100 Pages of Comics” back in the mid-70’s.

It was a more innocent time and a time when stories of gods were taken very lightly.

Now, in a post-Christian culture, we find darker stories of such ‘gods’ – and treating them lightly will not enhance any character connected to them. Funny thing is, Wonder Woman, with her mythic origin, belongs in the Vertigo realm of characters much more than the mainstream of DC Heroes.

Now I have seen her new costume and while it is not utterly awful, it is just not Wonder Woman [though it would be great for a Wonder Girl, IMO]. And I know J. Michael Straczynski is re-writing her origin even as we speak, trying to re-boot the character with issue 601 [see a fangirl's review below]

I have no idea where he is going, but maybe we will see the same problems and solve them the same way – maybe we will solve them differently.

Now here are some of the conundrums/problems in Wonder Woman’s origin and history; some of these have been addressed, I know, but they need a better solution or at least a more elegant reason that is either more human and accessible to young women or at least more believable.

1) She is made out of clay by mom and given life by a goddess. Even if, as a believer you have no problem with a ‘false’ or ‘minor’ deity making life out of non-life, you have to say “Why?” Mom hated sex but wanted a kid? We need another virgin birth?

2) Why does Paradise Island exist? Because there are no men to mess it up? Would an island full of men be 'Hell Island'? [I mean I think an island full of beautiful women could be paradise - but I'm starting to sound like a Muslim fanatic if I say it out loud...] Just questioning the etymology of the name, that's all...

3) How exactly did a bunch of women become immortals? [We are assuming they too were not made out of clay.] The more I think about this place, the more it sounds like that castle with the "Grail-shaped beacon" and sex-starved women in Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

Perhaps it should have been called "Fantasy Island!"

[Ed. Note: O.K. - a little risque' at the end, but I'm sure William Moulton Marston would have loved it. And if you don't understand that comment, you REALLY don't know his personal life, do you?]

4) How can you have a ‘robot plane’ AND a magic Lasso AND Mental Telepathy to command the plane? I mean, what machine shop on Paradise Island comes up with this stuff? And why does her mental telepathy only work for the plane?

5) Did Diana’s mom, the Queen of the Amazon, ever like men at ALL? Or maybe too much [supposedly she was seduced by Hercules originally]?

6) How do bullet-proof bracelets and unbreakable ropes work, exactly? "Magic" you say? I can accept that they are magical - but still why isn't Wonder Woman just plain ol' invulnerable? Can these devices of bondage have a better or deeper reason for existing?

I think these questions need to be handled wisely so Wonder Woman can become more relevant to the women of the 21st century. She needs to have more understandable issues to give her writers something extra to chew on.

To sum up, she needs more tragedy - realistic tragedy - to show off her heroism and her humanity.

BTW, Superman's origin has been re-done at least four times, Batman's about the same. The core elements remain intact but how they mix and mesh and become part of the milieu have changed. And to be honest Wonder Woman's origin has been changed about as many times as well but who's been paying attention? OK - there was the BIG one in the 80s by George Perez, but it just re-shuffled more than re-defined.

The essential difference is that Superman and Batman have experienced great tragedies and the loss of their homes/worlds; Diana has not. This may be in fact what JMS is trying to remedy.

O.K. I've delayed enough. Here's what I would do:

I would set the formation of Paradise Island by Queen Hippolyta firmly in a mock-historical framework, so we could keep all the good historical aspects, but shy away from the 'BANG! It just happened by MAAAAAGGGIICC!' scenario.

We want a supernatural story about humans who struggle and survive and live and love. Not a story about supernatural events that we have to accept "hook line and sinker." [Ironic that I, a pastor, am telling you this, eh? Trust me, the more you see the humanity of Christ and read between the lines in the Bible, the deeper your faith gets. It is a most "realistic" myth if you dare call it such.]


1) The recently-widowed Queen Hippolyta fell in love with Heracles, who seduced her [just like in the first origin] and then betrayed her to capture her lands. His soldiers killed all the men under her rule with the intent to enslave their women and use them for their sick pleasure.

2) Fooled by her own blind heart, Hippolyta witnesses the carnage wrought and swears revenge for her sisters. She prays to the gods for merely the strength to set her sisters free or die trying. "Strength equal to that of Heracles, for Nature has not given me the demi-god's strength, but I have a warrior's heart and much of his skill!" Nothing seems to happen.

3) The next day the ship they are on runs aground on an island that has never been seen before. This is Paradise Island, and the reason it is called such is that it is NOT bound by time, appearing on the seas only once a year. At the center is a huge silver meteorite, fallen from the heavens; it is an unknown metal, responsible for making this a 'land no longer bound by the waters of time.'

4) Hercules and his men begin to chip off bits of the metal, for it gleams like silver but seems as hard as iron. In an act of grandiose insensitivity, Heracles fashions a belt and bracelets from this metal "to adorn his new queen." Hippolyta plays the role demurely, signaling her distraught sisters to also play along. "We will get our revenge, sisters!" she hisses.

5) That night, in Heracle's tent, Hippolyta strikes him, intent to kill him in his sleep. However, he is not caught off guard and smugly backhands her, "Witch! I knew you'd not go so easily! Do you take me for a fool, woman?" But something strange happens: she gets back up. She is still conscious - and that blow would have felled an ox! She surmises that somehow the girdle and bracelets have helped her. She hits him back - and he goes flying!

6) Hippolyta calls all her women to strike and strike hard! Some die, but many kill their captors. simply due to their fiercenss and Hippolyta's leadership. She faces off with Hearacles in front of his men. He swings and she blocks clumsily with her bracelets - but they stop his blow! She also sees she can dish it out - her fists move like streaks of lightning, while all his moves look like they are in slow motion.

7) In minutes Heracles is humiliated - and Hippolyta has tied him up with the very chains he had used. She holds a knife at his throat and says "Swear to me that you will leave and never return - neither you nor your men - or I will kill you here and now." Heracles swears perfunctorily. She smacks him so hard he goes ten feet backwards. His eyes bug out. He is stunned by her new might. "If you ever return, I will remove your manhood and have dogs eat it while you watch!" This time he swears more frankly. His men also nod humbly. "Get. Off. My. Island." she commands.

8) The men leave and the surviving women begin to build and develop this jewel of an island. They discover that by staying near the center of it, time is slowed greatly ["Look my queen, at the sands in the hourglass!"] but at the shoreline it flows normally. Thus they can develop inventions for years at the heart of Paradise Island and then bring them out to the 'normal areas'  - allowing them to build cities and machines in mere days.

9) Thus WW's Invisible Plane is more of a 'plane out of phase' since its skin is an alloy of this time-altering metal. Her bracelets are also of this metal. Anything that comes in contact is slowed by a factor of 10x to 100x - so bullets, etc. touching these bracelets are basically stopped in time! Her lasso is threaded with this material so it is unbreakable as well. [Ed. Note: so the question is, why is neither Wonder Woman nor the Amazons slowed by this time-altering metal when THEY touch it? Simple - it is mentally controlled; it obeys the mind! And the women were indeed doing all the thinking...]

10) Now this does NOT mean that the previous origins were wrong - but they were stories handed down over the centuries and this element was interpreted as interpreted as magic, etc. The Greek gods are simply other dimensional Greeks of ages past who have this amazing metaphysical command and knowledge.

11) Finally, the big shocker: Because Hippolyta was wearing this girdle and jewelry when Heracles used her, it held what he did to her in abeyance inside her body. Do you understand what I am saying?

12) One day after their great victory, Hippolyta went to the seashore by herself to bathe. She laughed and said to her amazons it would seem like mere seconds before she'd be back They smiled and said, 'That is the only amount of time we can live without you, our queen!'

She took off the jewelery and swam in the ocean she loved so much. But the seed of a demi-god was inside her and she immediately became pregnant as time flowed again. It took years before she was aware of it. She had no desire to remain pregnant for a thousand years, and she would not kill her offspring, no matter how ill-conceived - so she stayed exiled from her amazons in real time for nine months, giving birth all alone. She returned to the center of the island, where minutes had passed, and told her sisters how 'the gods had granted her prayers and given her a daughter from a lifeless piece of clay!' [That was her idea of referring to Heracles. Her joke, if you will.]

13) THIS IS THE DARK SECRET: DIANA WAS BORN OF HERACLES AND HIPPOLYTA. No one has ever 'heard' differently and no one WANTS to know differently. Diana is therefore supernaturally strong and fast. Everything else is equipment and skills. In some origins her bracelets actually KEEP her from going beserk and using her strength in an uncontrolled manner. THIS REBOOT WOULD EXPLAIN THAT. You ever note how many writers can't get her characterization right? THIS IS WHY - she has two polar personalities at war in her! Peace and pleasant life vs. passion and a warrior's fury!

14) Steve's plane crashing on Paradise Island gave the Amazonian scientists a model to build after - and his colors became her costume. ["What are they DOING?! They stripped my plane!!" "Do not be afraid pilot - our engineers are merely copying each piece. It will be re-assembled properly..."] But the reason she is the emissary to the 'world of men' is threefold:

a) Hippolyta knows she cannot stay on the island. She must experience war and overcome it - just as her Amazonian sisters have.

b) She can inform them and forewarn them of any threat to Paradise Island as well as be an ambassador.

c) She is the offspring of their hated enemy; he WOULD have the right to come to the island if he knew this, as her FATHER. To avoid this, she must not live there.

d) If she cannot best the Heraclean nature inside of her, she will become a threat to Paradise Island. Sadly, she would have to be permanently exiled. And as long as Diana craves battle- and she does in her deepest heart - she is a stranger to her sisters. Far better for her to enter the world than have the world enter Paradise Island.

15) Oh - last thought - Diana could have helped the World War 2 Steve Trevor, gone home for a month or two, come back and found thirty to sixty years had passed. I think that's what Bruce Timm and Duanne McDuffie were showing in the DCU Animated Series. [advance to 8:50 or so]

Well, that's all for now.

Hope you've liked this re-imagining of her origin!


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