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Fri, July 2nd, 2010 at 12:58pm PDT

Comic Books
Augie De Blieck Jr., Columnist

STREET TOUGH AND READY TO FIGHT

The Wonder Woman kerfuffle this week is another classic blow-up over something that's not that big a deal. But, then, DC placed the story well, getting ink at the New York Times and airtime on ABC World News Tonight. From a marketing perspective, it's an act of pure genius, and congratulations to them for getting all this attention.

Meanwhile, back in our little world of comic books, there's a lively amount of knees jerking at the news of a new costume and the storyline that's inspiring it. Basically, it's an alternate universe Wonder Woman, and so she gets an alternate universe costume. (Did Trek fans get outraged when Spock had facial hair in "Mirror, Mirror?" Is that the nerdiest sentence I've written all year?) We'll all take bets that some elements will return back to this universe with her at the end of the storyline, but it's not like this change is completely out of the blue. It's all for a reason.

In any case, in the interests of being the Grumpy Old Troll, let's look at some of the flailing feet at the ends of those jerked knees and attempt to kick them back down.

JMS is evil.

That seems to be internet Conventional Wisdom these days, but it's something I don't subscribe to. He has his good days, he has his bad days. But "Babylon 5" will always buy him a chance with me. (I loved "Midnight Nation," for example, enjoyed much of "Amazing Spider-Man," but never took to "Rising Stars.") There is some negative reaction to the costume and to the storyline strictly because it's JMS writing it, so people are expecting all their previous over-reactions to apply here. You can see it in how quickly they graft previous JMS "miscues" onto Wonder Woman. Admittedly, the basis of this storyline does sound very similar to the end of his "Amazing Spider-Man" run, but remember also that he left that project midway through over creative differences. If you want to read tea leaves, let's see how the ending to this Wonder Woman story might tell us how he wanted to end "Amazing Spider-Man."

JMS has a storytelling style that isn't always the widescreen action-packed free-for-all that many people want from their comics. It's more deliberate. It's more internal. It's more mental. It's punctuated with moments of explosive fury, but it's a style all his own. It's why I don't casually dismiss his upcoming Superman storyline, either. It seems to be right in his wheelhouse. He's written characters on walkabout before, so I have an open mind on this one.

Wonder Woman's jacket is evil/silly/wrong.

Yes, even I made a crack about it being trendy for twenty years ago when it was first announced. But I'm dumbfounded by the people who are complaining that it looks like it shrunk in the drier. Have they never seen a woman wearing such a cropped jacket? They're not that rare a sight. Jim Lee didn't pull this one out of thin air. From a purely practical standpoint, it helps to keep the arms warm when wearing something sleeveless, while being easily removed in a warmer environment. And, yeah, to some it's a fashion thing. If I watched more "What Not To Wear," I might know it has something to do with body shapes or exposing the hips or accentuating a figure or something.

Here, you can go buy a denim one for $30 right now, if you'd like.

Black in the costume is evil.

Look at every sports team in the last twenty years. They've all added black to their team colors. It sells better. It's popular. And plenty of heroes and heroines have worn black, too. Remember Spider-Man? Batman? The entire X-Men team during Grant Morrison's tenure?

JMS was wrong about this being a new costume.

No, actually, he's exactly right if you read his quote in the New York Times:

What we also haven't seen before is her new look, the first significant change in her appearance since the character debuted in 1941 (not counting the mod look used briefly in the sixties, about which the less said the better).

Emphasis Mine.

Aside from the mod 60s costume (OK, and the bike shorts era of the mid-90s that was truly heinous), the rest of the costume designs she's worn have been fairly similar. It's been a reshuffling of the same elements over and over again, mostly to reflect the fashions of the time, as hem lines go up and down. (Blue starred shorts, red and gold bustier, red boots with white piping, etc.) But it's always been the same idea. I think this costume is clearly a "significant change." If you don't think it is, why are you complaining that it's not really Wonder Woman anymore?

What's with the shoes?

Yeah, that I can't explain. It's one of those things, like Havoc's old costume, that looks cool but makes no sense the more you think about it.

You can't make everyone happy.

Is there a costume design people could possibly agree on anymore? There are different camps of fandom in this regard. Some see superheroes as a product of a glorious bygone era, whose costumes should reflect that fantasy. Others demand more reality. Reed Richards' unstable molecules aren't good enough for them. They need to know how the costume works. How can the character go to the bathroom easily in a unitard without zippers? Where are the seams? Are all male superheroes castrated at birth? Are all superheroines nursing a baby between panels?

That spurs on the first camp to complain about too many characters with costumes made up of a t-shirt and leggings -- if you can buy your costume at Target, where's the imagination? They accept that Spider-Man can re-sew a rip in his spandex costume without thinking twice about it. It's part of the fantasy.

I'll tell you this: This new Wonder Woman costume is going to be very popular in San Diego at the end of the month. It should be easy (and fairly cheap) for cosplayers to put together.

Also, expect lots of comic book panels in the months ahead with Wonder Woman leaning over (jacket splayed open, looking straight down her chest), or Wonder Woman seen from behind. You'll still get your WW titillation. Don't worry about the pants.

If anything, I think the real weakness of the costume is in the strappy top. I'd think something sleeveless but not strappy would offer extra support and take the character further away from her bathing suited past.

Someday, when "Wonder Woman" #600 is available on the DC digital comics app, I look forward to reading the issue. DC released two previous "Wonder Woman" #1 issues this week in their Comixology-based app, but #600 is still only in preview form.

I'll be back on Tuesday with more on the costume, and the way this "controversy" makes me think of the phases of fandom. I think this tempest in a teacup says a lot about us, actually.

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TAGS:  pipeline, dc comics, wonder woman, j michael straczynski, jim lee

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