Wonder of Wonders

Wed, September 16th, 2009 at 3:25pm PDT | Updated: September 16th, 2009 at 3:51pm

Comic Books
Gail Simone, Guest Contributor
38

Never underestimate the power of an overly-enthusiastic manicurist.

It’s been happening with surprising regularity to me ever since I took over the writing chores of the monthly Wonder Woman book. I’ve been encountering extremely vocal and ardent WW fans of a particular type, that is to say specifically, a non-comics reading type.

I recently had to go to a different manicurist for arcane and unimportant reasons, and while making the usual chit-chat, she asked what I did for a living, and we eventually got to the inevitable end point of the conversation, that I wrote for a certain Princess Diana. Whereupon my (very good, by the way) manicurist looked like she was about to have a cardiac event. She literally squealed in the salon. She turned out to be a huge Wonder Woman fan. She told me at length of her collection of Wonder-accessories, and how much the character meant to her personally. She told me how Wonder Woman had helped her get through some dark times in her personal life. In short, she was a lot like the kind of Wonder fans I see at conventions all the time, with one big exception:

She hadn’t read a complete comic book in her entire life.

This is happening more and more lately, as the characters become more pervasive in the less niche-oriented media. There are millions of Iron Man fans who will never crack open one of his comics, no matter how wonderfully the book is written (and it is, go check it out, and anything else written by Matt Fraction). My son’s circle of friends are crazy for “The Dark Knight” film and can recite lines from memory, but their comic book literacy is virtually nil. On a recent hospital visit, I met two nurses who were also huge WW fans, who didn’t read comics. And one of the most surreal (and fun) experiences I’ve had recently was attending the Superman Celebration in Metropolis, Illinois, where the entire town is Superman crazy, and I’ll lay odds not one person in a hundred actually reads Superman’s comics.

It’s their loss, really. They’re missing some good stuff. But it’s interesting. Increasingly, conventions I attend often have a larger and larger contingent of attendees who are there because they love the characters, while vendors and creators and comics readers grumble about the good old days. I see people leaving with bags of toys and statues and shirts and not a single comic book in their bag.

But, I think these people are doing us, the comics readers, a service. I don’t believe what they do takes away from conventions, on the contrary, I think their presence and dollars continue to make conventions financially viable. Their love of the characters helps make merchandise featuring our favorite characters available at reasonable, not purely niche, prices. And their love for the characters is no less sincere or real than our own. I think we’re looking at a new kind of fandom, where the characters have truly outgrown their origins. It’s time to think of the stories and characters we love as part of the larger world. A fan of the Spider-man movies is still a Spider-man fan.

This seems to be particularly true of Wonder Woman, a character that has a tremendous fanbase which, for whatever reason, has not necessarily carried over into the comics. Wonder Woman merchandise sells, well, wonderfully, and to this day there are thousands of men who can’t even contemplate Lynda Carter in the Wonder suit without getting a wistful, happy glow. I hear stories of people who use WW as their avatar to fight cancer, to leave abusive relationships, and stand up for what they think is right.

Those people may not all read comics, but they are every bit as much a fan as we are. I think it’s time we all admit that the secret stuff that we loved, the stuff we thought only we knew about, has caught on with the outside world and will continue to do so. There’s got to be room for boisterous manicurists in fandom, and that means we might have to learn to share our toys a little. It’s all right. It’s going to be great.

The games, the movies, the novels, that’s all just the beginning. I think that’s pretty exciting.

Wonderful, really.

I bring this particular topic up for two reasons.

The first is, I had recently been thinking that it might be nice to have a Wonder Woman message board where all types of Wonder fans, including those who don’t read comics and wouldn’t know me from Huckleberry Finn, could go and express themselves. I thought, frankly, that it would be a quiet, but friendly, little board that might be a fun way to spend a little time each week, and of course, I chose Comicbookresources.com as the best place for it, based on my long relationship there.

Holy crap, we had no idea.

This board is apparently something people have been waiting for. Tons of new people registered, lots of respected pros have dropped by, and on our very first day open we received over a thousand new posts.

As has often happened in the last couple years, Wonder Woman again provides the inspiration. Our quiet little board has become something interesting even to non-Wonder fans, and downright essential to the true believers.

The idea was never to focus on me or the current run of the comic, but rather to embrace the entire idea of Wonder Woman, as I talked about at the beginning of this column. I wanted fans of the animated shows, the toys, the cosplaying, the novels, the television series and all the various runs of the comic itself, both beloved and not-so-beloved, to be welcome, and it seems to be working beautifully.

We’ve been able to show unseen art by artists like Stephane Roux and Aaron Lopresti and Amanda Gould. We’ve had a series of surprisingly candid and fascinating interviews with people like Mindy Newell, the real first ongoing credited female writer of Wonder Woman (an honor that is often credited, incorrectly, to me), Laeta Kalgrodis, the screenwriter for the aborted live-action Wonder film, Kurt Busiek, Dan Mishkin, J. Torres, Mark Waid, Trina Robbins, and lots more, with many, many more coming. In fact, today alone, three more exclusive mini-interviews will be going up, with Margie Cox, Wonder Woman cosplayer supreme (and the gorgeous lady gracing the top of this column today), Nicola Scott, and the great Phil Jimenez!

Even if you’re not a Wonder convert, the board is probably the only place on the net where you can ask questions and interact with Kurt Busiek, Marc Andreyko, Mark Waid, Dan Mishkin, J. Torres, Andy Mangels, Mindy Newell, Nicola Scott, Trina Robbins, horror novelist Meljean Brook, and many, many more all in the same place. Future interviews with George Perez, Carol Lay, Beau Smith, and lots lots more are on the way, sometimes illuminating bits of DC lore that have completely been hidden until now. You’re not going to want to miss hearing Beau talk about Xena Vs. Wonder Woman, and that’s just the start!

I’m quite proud of it. It really is a message board unlike any other comic-related board I’ve seen. I hope you’ll check it out.

To accompany this new collective, we’ve come up with something new and kind of cool, as well. A series of columns unlike anything ever done here at CBR. This column is the first, but it’s just an introduction, a hello, really.

This space, every five days or so, will be filled by one of three rotating columnists, all of them terrific writers, and all of them with something fascinating to say about Wonder Woman. It’s the first time, I believe that a column here has focused primarily on one character, and the first time a column here is shared by rotating writers. I chose the three writers carefully, not for any reason other than the fact that these three consistently wrote the best Wonder Woman commentary anywhere on the net. I think their stuff is going to be compelling and I can’t wait for you to see what they have planned.

The columns are:

WAR AND PEACE: By Robert Jones, Jr. Robert is one of the most thoughtful and intelligent comics commentators I’ve read anywhere. Reviews, commentary, and fascinating discussions of subtext and deeper meaning are his specialty. He’ll make you look at the comics you love in whole new ways.

STAR-SPANGLED PANTIES: By the irrepressible Carol A. Strickland, one of the funniest (and sometimes snarkiest) writers anywhere on the net. Carol has a sharp eye and an even sharper pen, and has a blast with the sometimes absurd things in Wonder Woman’s colorful history.

AMAZONS ATTACK: By “Mars.” This lady is well-known for her remarkable pieces of the Wonder Woman cast and history. Again, even if you don’t care for Wonder Woman, this stuff is always fascinating.

There will also be guest columns, reviews and interviews with some of the biggest names in comics.

I hope you’ll join us.

No, I insist you join us! Do not attempt to resist!

Seriously, we’re having a ball. Come check it out and see what it is about Wonder Woman that makes so many people love her and her world.

Finally, I want to wrap this up with a quick talk about a really amazing event that does a lot of good in the real world.

Wonder Woman Day.

This event has gone on for the last few years, created and spearheaded by comics writer and novelist Andy Mangels. Basically, it’s a celebration of Wonder Woman, that raises money for shelters for battered women and children. It’s a fantastic event, held on the same day in Portland, Oregon (at Excalibur Comics) and Flemington, New Jersey (at Comic Fusion).

It’s like a party. Comics guests are there for signings, artists will be doing sketches, and the centerpiece is a massive art auction featuring stunning work by nearly every artist you’ve ever heard of and dozens you haven’t. There are cosplayers and door prizes and well, really, it’s just huge fun AND a great cause.

Greg Rucka and Paul Gulacy are among the comics guests in Portland this year, with the legendary Joe Sinnott headlining in New Jersey with more guests to be announced soon.

Check out some of the amazing art samples and get more information here.

Artwork by Alex Ross

Here’s a piece donated by Alex Ross…pretty freaking sweet!

Andy is always in need of art donations for this worthy cause. This year, for some reason, the indy and European artists have really come through, but the mainstream North American artists are seriously under-represented. If you’re an artist, won’t you please contact Andy and donate a piece of Wonder art? You’ll be directly helping people most in need, and we’ll all love you for it. If you can help, contact Andy at webmaster@wonderwomanmuseum.com or contact me here at CBR and I’ll steer you in the right direction. As I said at the beginning, out secret love has spilled out into the larger world, and events like this are part of why it’s a good, good thing.

I’m going to try to make it myself this year if I possibly can. I’ve attended all three of these events and had a great time every time. I hope to see you in Portland!

And check us out next week for the first real WONDER of WONDERS!

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TAGS:  wonder woman, gail simone, wonder woman day

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