On Wonder Woman #7

Wonder Woman #7 CoverIt really is a slippery slope, men writing about Themyscira’s Amazons, a warrior race of all women who have little use for men.

Spoilers for Wonder Woman issue #7.

I was with Azzarello in his current Wonder Woman run.

I love the idea that the the Gods they worship are not, in general, good people. They are jealous beings who are used to having their way, no matter what, with little, if any regard for anybody else. There’s a very common thread in Greek myths: the gods are all dicks, with maybe one or two exception. It’s rare for them to be loving or forgiving, and that’s the world Azzarello’s Wonder Woman takes place in: A world of jealous, rage-filled, hedonistic gods.

The cool thing is we’re seeing all of this from Diana’s point of view. Diana, who is a good person, and who believes in what she fights for. The best parts of this Wonder Woman run are her reactions to all of the messed up things she finds out about.

The consensus on Zeus being Diana’s father, and Diana having a father to begin with, is split. What isn’t, is that her reaction to the news was very well done.

It’s very engaging to not only find out all of these gritty things about the Amazons and their gods, but to watch Diana find out and react.

But I’m having a hard time with the latest issue of Wonder Woman.

Issue #7 introduces a much darker side to the Amazons. Essentially, when they start running low on Themyscirian residents, they go and find a large, man-filled boat, throw themselves at said men, and then, once they’ve had their way, they kill them.

Nine months later, some of the Amazons give birth to girls, and that’s great, but if they wind up delivering boys, those babies are traded to Hephaestus for weapons. If Hephaestus didn’t take them, the Amazons would simply kill them.

From a storytelling standpoint, this is genius. Another shock to the system for our heroine who was always told that by divinity Amazons never gave birth to male children.

From the perspective of a woman? It’s just another thing that makes me slam my head against my desk.

Because, of course, women are the aggressors and men, men are the victims of our hateful power. Women with power (in body, in mind) hate men. Powerful women, women who do not need men, are scary, and, essentially evil and amoral. That’s the subtext in this, whether Mr. Azzarello meant it or not.

Truth be told, it’s the same old bullshit superhero comics have been pumping out for decades, and it is, as ever, insulting.

And sad! Because until this issue, I was so gung-ho about this comic book. As far as DC’s New 52 are concerned there were three books I was following with enthusiasm: Scott Snyder’s Batman, Geoff Johns’ Aquaman and Brian Azzarello’s Wonder Woman. Three unique and engaging romps.

But as a woman, I am yet again reminded by Wonder Woman #7 that these books are not written with my demographic in mind. That it doesn’t matter whether I read and enjoy these books or not because I am not in that coveted 18-34 year old male section of the readership. That even though I manage a comic book store, and many of my customers trust me enough to make recommendations on what’s good week to week, my opinion does not matter. That though I am part of the customer base, my money is not as valued; somehow not as green.

I am not wanted here.

When DC Comics held their summit with retailers about their New 52 and my bosses came back with the news that the DC reps had stated their aim of hooking 18-34 year old men, a demographic they already had in spades, I had a question: “With a growing female fanbase, why not market and aim toward them?”

It’s a question my employers were kind enough to send off to Mr. Bob Wayne, who is DC’s Vice President of Sales.

They sent it twice. That was last summer.

I’m still waiting for an answer.

I suspect that answer will never come.

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4 comments

  • My original intention was to take you to task for not recognizing that Azzarello’s amazons are behaving in a fashion consistent with the mythic amazons. In writing that post however I realized something that underlies an even deeper problem that underlies all of main stream super hero comicand that youare indeed correct to be upset.

    It seems that every super hero creator at some point or another references their particular embodiment of some ancient Greek hero/deity (usually Odysseus, Hercules, Apollo or Zeus depending on power level and personality). So every body who puts pen to paper is drawing on some level (perhaps unconsciously so) on one of the most mysogynistic cultures to ever inhabit the planet, a culture in which women were considered a species of livestock and rape was a heroic act. Remember that the Iliad begins with an argument over who gets to rape the girl; the idea that she shouldn’t be raped at all never enters the minds of the principals.

    Now it’s not fair to label every comic creator a closet mysoginist on the level of Dave Sim or John Norman and that’s not my intention to imply that. What I am saying is that the genre itself is deeply flawed and that any writer or artist whose not self consciously aware of this fact will only perpetuate the problem, especially when they are selective about which parts of the myths they draw on (so far as I now all of Azzarello’s amazns have both breasts intact and Marvel’s Hercules never raped Hypolitta). It’s probably impossible to escape our classical heritage. The stories are hard wired into our psyches. Super heroes can transcend their origin as male power fantasies and reach the broadest audience but only if the creatorsmake the conscious choice to confront their heritage. Don’t know if it will ever happen but it would be a hell of a book to read if it did.

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    • But the problem with this train of thought is that it’s ok to just retread what’s come before. How about something original? It’s possible to use what’s come before, but throw out the gender issues and misogyny. That’d be something fresh and exciting.

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    • So essentially what you’re telling me is that you have just realized that there is an intense amount of misogyny in superhero comics, and you think it is the most amazing, incredible revolutionary discovery since a neanderthal set something on fire for the first time.

      Well Thank you. Thank you so much for pointing it out, and letting me know in great detail what the problem is. Because in the 16 years I’ve been reading superhero comics I would never have guessed that this was happening, even though I wrote this article that is, essentially, about the inherent misogyny in the recent Wonder Woman issue, which is, in fact, a superhero comic.

      So again. I thank you. Thank you for not only pointing out something that I have known for quite some time, but also, really, thank you for giving me permission to feel upset by it. Because that, that is exactly what I needed. Permission from a stranger, who is presumably a man.

      And may I just say welcome! Welcome to the party of realizing that there are serious social problems in superhero comics. I’m glad you could join us.

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  • OK reading my post again I do I regret my choice of words. What I should have said is that “I realized that you’re right” because no one needs any ones permission to be upset about anything.

    My intention was to point out that the main defense against such criticisms “well I’m just trying to reflect mythology/history/continuity etc” are flawed and they only expose the underlying biases of the genre in question be it super heroes or the ”histories” of Mel Gibson. So thank you for writing a post that got me thinking along those lines.

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