Having been knocked off my feet by the movie, I’m kicking off my quest for more Wonder Woman with Sensation Comics featuring Wonder Woman: a 2014-2015 run of continuity-free short stories by a variety of writer/artist teams. The idea was to get a general idea of things without dropping me in the middle of an ongoing arc. All credit to the film: Diana is everything I thought she’d be and more.
One of the things that put me off comics in the past was the way women are depicted in graphic art – like that infamous Spiderman cover where porno-Barbie Mary Jane is striking a pose no woman has ever struck when nobody was looking. This is where I urge other newbies to do what I did and start off with a collection featuring a variety of artists. It showed me that comics can do better! I really got into some of the artists, like Cat Staggs’ photographic, distressed style. In the end, it was tiny details like facial expressions that were the most important in whether I was drawn into the action or suddenly taken out of it. That, and whether they put Wonder Woman in heels (STOP IT).
Overall it didn’t make much a difference whether I knew the creators involved or not – I devoured all of it. But I recognised a couple of names, and they delivered.
Noelle Stevenson (art) and James Tynion IV (writing) did a cute little story that has stuck in my head ever since. Teenaged Diana makes an unauthorised trip to Man’s World, befriends a gaggle of girls and discovers ice-cream and Dance Dance Revolution. Like everything Stevenson does, it is precious and pure and good.
YES THIS EXACTLY.
I also had fun with “Gothamazon”, Gail Simone’s contribution (art Ethan van Sciver). My husband is a huge Simone fan and while I’d seen her infamous Twitter feed and even met her at a con, I’d never actually read her work. (I am now, obviously, kicking myself.) This Wonder Woman is a seasoned campaigner and her strength is palpable – she’s cool, capable and compassionate. Also…she’s funny? Honestly, at first, it shocked me – like, is she allowed to crack one-liners?
This collection turned out to be a useful primer to a few other characters too. Cheetah shows up a few times, but “Our Little Dance” (writer Adam Beechen) and “Island of Lost Souls” (writer Trina Robbins, art Chris Gugliottia) were heaviest on her origin and motivations. She’s…not the strongest villain ever? I mean, she’s fine, but for one of the main rogues of a major character she’s sort of one-note.
One villain who did grab me was Harley Quinn, who appears in “Gothamazon” as well as in “Echidna” (writer Caitlin Kittredge, art Scott Hampton – incidentally I thought his rough-around-the-edges style worked really well for Echidna). I can’t resist a character with a sense of humour who just enjoys doing what they do.
“Echidna” also included this excellent panel:
Plus, Batgirl, who I’ve been curious about. I’m kind of worried now about Joss Whedon handling her movie, I mean, we all saw that script draft, right? She and Wonder Woman are very territorial in this, which struck me as odd – is there some history there I’m missing?
“A Day In Our Lives” (art and writing Jason Badower) stood out for its art style, which I didn’t love for close-ups but works great for epic pages like this:
I’m ready to fight those thousand dudes all over again, let’s GO.
The lesbian wedding in this story made it into June’s National Geographic for an article about diversity in comics! I was hella excited to discover it here by accident.
The other thing I LOVED about this was Diana and Superman just hanging out and blowing off steam. Like, there’s the occasional action panel like the one above that brings the shock and awe, but I’m noticing that I’m really here for the character moments. On that note, I quite liked Superman, who’s never piqued my interest before!
I’m starting to honestly love Wonder Woman for the same reasons I loved her onscreen: her empathy, her hopefulness, her integrity and the way she just…is herself. She never wonders if she’s good enough: she knows the right thing to do, and she just does it. Instead of angst, there is Wonder Woman kicking Nazis in the face and revelling in ice-cream and forgiving everyone because she’s strong enough to do it. She gets her enemies on her side by sheer force of personality, and she gets me cheering for her the same way. I didn’t know how much I needed this. There will always be a place for stories about overcoming self-doubt, but what is grabbing me here is the idea of never doubting yourself in the first place. You can just…be free of it. What a concept.
At the same time, I’m finding that all the excuses I had for never getting into comics have vanished. I love sinking my teeth into a good doorstopper of a novel, so I thought I’d fly through comics too fast to get much enjoyment out of them. To my fellow bookworms: don’t let this stop you. There’s enough going on in the artwork and the subtleties of the writing to keep me plenty busy. The silliness and occasional melodrama don’t get in the way, either. Ultimately, I found myself embracing them; they became part of the experience, there to be enjoyed.
Next up: Gail Simone’s 2008 Wonder Woman run!