Recently over at Girls Gone Geek, Vanessa Gabriel shared her thoughts on Brian Azzarello’s take on Wonder Woman. I’m a fan of Wonder Woman, but not an avid enough comics reader to have gained the faith many express in Azzarello’s ability. In fact, as someone new to him as a storyteller, I have to say I’ve been rather unimpressed with his confidence in the character to stand beside the likes of Superman or Batman. I’ve also noticed that he’s not particularly good at explaining his storytelling decisions – at least as far as Wonder Woman is concerned – as highlighted by his lack of any real answers in his recent interview with Newsrama.
I’ll let Gabriel define her Wonder Woman fandom in her own words.
See, when I started buying comics, Wonder Woman was the first and only title on my pull list. I somehow fell into a group of friends who had collections of comics and trades to borrow for YEARS (I still haven’t read all of their libraries), but I wanted to support Wonder Woman. It helped that Gail Simone would be writing the character soon after, but I did it for Diana. Since then, many books have come and gone from my pull list. Wonder Woman is the only title that has been constant. For better or worse (JMS), I have been buying and reading Wonder Woman every month since I jumped down the comic book rabbit hole.
The character and qualities of Wonder Woman inspired me then and has come to mean something very special to me today.
I can definitely relate to that sentiment about my fandom passion for some of my favorite characters, too. Here’s the important part of Gabriel’s comments, though, and it reflects something I’ve struggled with as a fan of characters like Jaina Solo and Tahiri Veila, within the Fate of the Jedi series in particular.
In the last three issues of Azzarello’s Wonder Woman, I find myself less than inspired. What started off strong is now bringing diminished returns in the form of Diana’s intellect, or lack thereof. Diana is repeatedly being tricked or lied to in some monumental way, and she’s falling for it.
I encourage you to read Gabriel’s entire piece, where she lays out image after image of Diana being duped. I envy the ease with which she could visually highlight her point. You practically have to write a dissertation about character arcs to make the same point about victimization within a series of novels.
As a longtime fan, Gabriel is rightfully concerned about where Wonder Woman’s story is going to go. The Wonder Woman comics may be selling better in the short run, but there is a new problem she (and DC) is going to have to contend with. Part of Wonder Woman’s appeal was that she was a rarity in a legion of stories about male superheroes. What happens, though, when her backstory is rewritten in a way that doesn’t connect with female fans, and at the same time the cultural zeitgeist is churning wave after wave of heroines that women and girls do connect with? Where does that leave Wonder Woman in the future?
There’s another thing longtime fans of the Wonder Woman comics should ponder, too. Over the course of five years, I went along for the Star Wars Expanded Universe ride while my favorite female character was put through many story choices that were unflattering of her as a hero and unrelatable to me as a woman. I witnessed a large number of previously seemingly unwavering fans walk away. My fandom hasn’t wavered, but out of respect for what the character had been to me I made the decision to “speak” on her behalf with my wallet after years of talking yielded little or no change. In a series which ends with some of my deepest fangirl wishes – Jaina reaching the rank of Master and then her wedding to Jag – I did not purchase several of the books. On one hand, it’s heartbreaking; one the other hand, the last book of the series showed a marked improvement for the portrayal of the female characters. I bought that book with renewed enthusiasm, and a bit of optimism.
My point is this – as long as Wonder Woman fans are willing to hand over their money no matter what, DC has every incentive to stay the course, even if they’re damaging the character and their fandom in the process.