So the word is out, and the word is “Wonder.”
Well that sentence didn’t help with anything. Off to a brilliant start here. I’ll elaborate. Warner Brothers has announced that yes, indeed, at long last, Diana of Themyscria, better known as Wonder Woman, First Lady of DC Comics, will be making her big-screen debut… as the second female lead in a movie about Superman and Batman.
I kid, Warner Brothers. I kid because until she has her own movie you’re not trying hard enough.
Furthermore, she’ll be played by Gal Gadot, an Israeli actress I know almost nothing about.
She’s mostly known for the Fast and the Furious franchise, but since I’ve only seen approximately 0.6 Fasts and Furiouses I can’t comment on her resume. Some people out there are already complaining based on her physicality. Some wonder if she’s tall enough. Apparently she’s 1.75 metres, or 5’9″ tall, which makes her three inches taller than this guy:
Some complain she’s too slender, that Wonder Woman should be more muscular. Well. There’s nothing to be done about that. It’s not like actors have ever had to bulk up for a role ever. It’s not like anyone who had just finished playing an emaciated stick figure immediately went on to play the goddamn Batman.
So no, I am not going to dump on Ms. Gadot. Frankly, I like the fact that she’s not American: Wonder Woman should seem a little foreign. Mediterranean would have been the preference, but Israeli is fine. I’m going to offer her the same courtesy I gave Ben Affleck and wait to actually see the movie before I judge.
Instead, let me explain why I care. Why I want to see a great Wonder Woman in the movies. Aside from the obvious answer suggested by the fact that I started this article while wearing my Green Lantern robe and watching the Flash make his debut on Arrow while statues of Wonder Woman and Zatanna gaze down from my nerd reliquary.
Wonder Woman is a warrior princess on a quest for peace. Her love for humanity is stronger than death itself, but she maintains a fierce opposition to the cruel and the merciless. She doesn’t start the fight, but always finishes it. And now, here’s some of my favourite stories about Wonder Woman.
The Greg Rucka years
Before Greg Rucka took over Wonder Woman, I hadn’t been reading her book for years. John Byrne had written and drawn it for a few years, and when he left, there was such a sudden drop in quality I had to leave. Then Greg Rucka took over, and it became a whole new thing.
Rucka brought a new spin to the idea of Diana being her people’s ambassador to Man’s World, by emphasizing the “ambassador” part. She got an embassy, and a staff. Rucka’s Wonder Woman spent as much time attending state dinners and promoting charities she believed in as she did battling villains: at one point her publicist, Mr. Garibaldi, explained to the new guy (and our POV character for life at the embassy) that “This charity is important to her. She’s not taking calls from the Justice League tonight, she’s certainly not taking calls from the media.”
In the collection Eyes of the Gorgon, Garibaldi’s children were turned to stone by Medusa. Diana took her on, blinding herself with snake venom to avoid Medusa’s gaze. She stayed blind for several issues, and showed why, in the right hands, her compassion is every bit as strong as her sword arm: granted a favour for winning a victory for Olympus, she rejects the offer to restore her vision and asks that the Garibaldi children be restored instead (Athena threw in the restored vision for free, she was cool like that).
He also gave Diana her own Lex Luthor in genius industrialist Veronica Cale, who explained herself with “I built myself up from nothing to corporate titan. If there is a Wonder Woman in the world, it’s ME.” Cale later went on to be the president of Oolong Island, a former Chinese facility turned independent nation populated exclusively with mad scientists.
Rucka courted controversy in the Infinite Crisis tie-in Sacrifice, which would take a whole second article to explain. He made it clear: Wonder Woman doesn’t want to kill anyone…
Doesn’t mean she won’t.
Lasting from issue 195-226 (of Vol. 2) it’s a sadly short run that I wish were easier to find in trade paperback.
Wonder Woman and Batman… good idea?
In Joe Kelley’s run on JLA, Wonder Woman and Batman ended up sharing an unexpected and passionate kiss right before launching a suicide mission (they died, but got better) that led to an awkward flirtation. After a few months of ducking around the cape-wearing elephant in the room, Wonder Woman uses a VR machine at their headquarters to try and figure out what might happen if she and Batman started a relationship. The machine provided many alternatives: in one possibility, Diana helped Bruce let go of his anger and broodishness, and together they made Gotham a utopia. In another, they dragged each other down the opposite path, and became thrill-killing vigilantes. And in one possible future, she arrived too late to save Batman from being horribly killed by the Joker. At which point this happened.
At the issue’s end, they decided they probably shouldn’t be together. Now, as to contemporary Batman’s thoughts on Wonder Woman and Superman being a couple…
Batman is scared of Wonder Woman
Batman was not happy to learn Superman and Wonder Woman had been getting romantic recently, but not out of jealousy (Bruce Wayne’s dance card has been as full as he can manage lately, thanks).
A recurring story point is the idea that Batman has built contingency plans to take down each member of the Justice League if they go bad. It was first introduced in the Tower of Babel arc, in which Ra’s al Ghul steals his plans, which was adapted into the animated DVD “Doom.”
New 52 Batman also has contingency plans for the Justice League, which came to light when his Kryptonite was stolen from the Batcave.
In explaining why he had Kryptonite in the first place, Batman shows Superman his collection of secret plans/weapons, including the contingency plan he developed to bring himself down if necessary. But the twist, and the reason why Batman was nervous about a Clark/Diana relationship? It’s in the box he made for Wonder Woman.
Batman always wins because Batman always has a plan. People just assume Batman can take Superman in a fight because Batman knows how to exploit every weakness Superman has. But Wonder Woman has no weakness. And thus even Batman’s a little afraid of her.
And now a word on recent Wonder Woman stories. The word is “great.”
Current writer Brian Azzarello has been focusing on Wonder Woman’s screwed up family, otherwise known as the Greek gods. When a pregnant woman named Zola turns to Diana for help, Diana learns that she’s being targeted by a jealous Hera, queen of the gods, for unbeknownst to Zola her baby’s father is Zeus. Zeus himself has gone missing, and a power struggle breaks out amongst the gods, but a prophecy states that a child of Zeus will kill the king and conquer Olympus, meaning that everyone out to steal the throne is also out to kill Zola’s baby, just in case.
This run has been filled with great visual reinterpretations of the gods, the kind of soap opera theatrics that the Greek myths basically invented, and a great view of the differing aspects that make Wonder Woman a great character. Azzarello shows her compassion, her love for all mankind, her dedication to protect the innocent, her disdain for war. But he also reminds us to never, ever mistake that compassion for weakness. Because if you make her, she will drop you like third period French.
And that’s what I hope to see in the movies. A woman of strength, both physically and strength of character; a woman of peace who is unafraid of combat. A champion of the powerless capable of inspiring awe in the powerful.
So don’t let me down, Zack Snyder.