Tales from the Long Box # 3: Japer Revisits Wonder Woman #1

Every Friday, we’ll be bringing you reviews of meaningful comics found in the collections of our writers. “Long Box” refers to the lengthy, white cardboard boxes most comics find themselves stored within – bagged, alphabetized and numerically ordered.

These reviews, then, are the tales of those collections: illuminating characters, artists, writers – even eras – in addition to the personalities of the very owners of those fine collections.

Wonder Woman # 1
Writers: George Perez and Greg Potter
Artist: George Perez
DC Comics

There’s been much talk about Warner Brothers, the parent company of DC Comics, and their inability to mine their stable of comic characters over the past decade in order to bring those gold nuggets to the silver screen. It’s been widely reported that the company will undertake a new direction in their superhero-to-film process and it can be argued that the DC character most deserving of a film is Wonder Woman.

Created in 1941 by feminist psychologist William Moulton Marston, who, incidentally, also invented the lie detector, Wonder Woman was intended to be the female Superman. A role model for young girls, she would be powerful but still beautiful, able to triumph not with force but with love.

The character would last, in various incarnations, until the mid 1980’s, when DC killed her during the Crisis on Infinite Earths series in an effort to re-establish her origins and the continuity of their universe. DC turned to fan-favorite artist George Perez in 1987 to re-work the Wonder Woman franchise.

Fresh from award-winning stints on The New Teen Titans and Crisis, Perez, as writer and artist of the new series, sought the original classicism of the character, updating her for a new, more mature, audience. In his Wonder Woman, the pantheon and mythology of the Greek gods takes centre stage. Ares, the God of War, is the main antagonist here. He wants to wage battle on humankind in an effort to affect their worship of him. The female Gods oppose Ares and desire worship by humans through love. They secretly create the female Amazon race, bestowing upon them powers of virtue, wisdom and strength which are, interestingly, all elements that Marston wanted to elicit in women and all elements designed as being inherently American.

In an interesting critique of modern man, in the story, the Amazons succumb to the war-lord Heracles and are subsequently turned into slaves. Perez taps into Marston’s feminist philosophies again, and the Amazons rebel, leaving Greece in search of their own land – Paradise Island. It is here that their leader, Hippolyte, beseeches the Gods for a child and is granted Diana. Formed from clay, Diana, through various trials, becomes the eventual champion of the Amazons and earns the mantle of Wonder Woman.

If the script sounds dense for a thirty-two page comic, invoking the stories of Genesis, Homer’s Odyssey, as well as the pantheon of Greek mythology, it is. The exhaustive story is echoed in the meticulous drawings. No artist puts more detail in one frame than George Perez, which has only added to his notoriety. His beautiful work of clean, crisp lines can sometimes look too busy, however. Often, there is so much visual information in one panel that readers may not know what to take in or where to look! This can, on the other hand, provide surprises for the investigative, patient reader. Frequently, there is action drawn in a background that adds depth and resonance to the story.

Perez modernizes the narrative by injecting lengthy subplots that find themselves addressed in subsequent issues. He makes Wonder Woman an ambassador to man’s world and he investigates the use of the American flag motif in the costume as it relates to her Greek heritage. His use of a revolver, as a holy artifact within Amazonian culture, asks even more questions as does his allusion that the Amazon race are, essentially, lesbian in nature.

By employing a mythology already well established in human history, Perez succeeds in creating a viable and timeless origin for the character of Wonder Woman – something that hadn’t been accomplished before. He immediately surrounds the protagonist with an interesting ensemble cast, laying the groundwork for future stories of personal, philosophical and political nature establishes the character as one of the major heroes in the DC universe. His tenure on the series is, unarguably, the strongest run on the character to date.

Although the series was both a critical and commercial success, the character of Wonder Woman, firmly entrenched in the world’s comic book zeitgeist, has yet to see film. It would seem that no current or historical actress has been able to represent the required strength, beauty and grace of the character. Sandra Bullock was rumored in the early 90’s as was Lucy Lawless and Catherine Zeta Jones in the last few years. Producers now want to cast an unknown in the role. Scriptwriters, too, have had problems developing storylines with the absence of good, historical material from which to draw inspiration.

Warner has reinstated the push into big-budget film territory for the character, gauging an audience with the release of a cartoon-based Wonder Woman movie early next year, partly based on the early issues of the Perez run.

With the ideas of diplomacy, negotiation and war currently in the American mindset and Warner’s newly formed directive to stay true to a characters origin, it seems simply a mater of time – perhaps weeks – before word is given that a Wonder Woman film will be made.

It seems the time is finally right. Is it really any wonder?

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