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Why The ‘New’ Wonder Woman Misses The Mark
Tom Cheredar   |  

When DC Comics announced Wonder Woman was getting re-imagined for the 21st century, I immediately went on the defensive. The character is an icon now in the same way that Superman is. Her costume, regardless of how unpractical it may be, is also iconic, which is something you don’t dare change no matter how badly it defies conventional design theory (just ask Google about their own logo). But the thing I felt like invoking the most was “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Despite the inevitable fan backlash, DC editorial is going forward with their plans to “update” Wonder Woman. They’ve hired the talented J. Michael Straczynski as regular scribe who’ll kick off the new storyline that gives our heroine a new origin due to the gods changing history. Diana has now grown up in a modern society and barely remembers the former life. She has all the same powers and abilities as well as a new “modernized” costume designed by co-publisher (not to mention legendary artist) Jim Lee.

While combining the talents of top industry creators for a revamp is usually a formula for success, the “new” Wonder Woman fails before I even gaze upon the first page.

Here’s why…

The Costume…

Jim Lee is the greatest artist in the known universe and I couldn’t be happier with his new role at DC Comics. That being said, his Wonder Woman costume redesign misses the mark. I can’t help but feel like replacing the star-spangled bloomers for tight fitting-pants was done with the intention that female heroes don’t all need to be scantily-clad and feature ample asses, skinny waists, and enhanced bust sizes. But the classic costume is iconic and as such, it’s characteristic of a strong, sexy female. By “modernizing” her look, it removes some of the empowering nature that comes with being Wonder Woman.

The majority of reactions from my female friends and acquaintances upon viewing the new costume were negative. A few agreed that dressing Wonder Woman up in a less revealing costume took away from why Wonder Woman has been the iconic female badass for several decades. Most of them commented on the bracelets looking “strange” and the jacket as being dated fashion.

And then it hit me.

Were any women involved in this redesign at all? It seems like they should be considering the subject matter of what the character is at the core (i.e., strong, independent female). I’m not saying it’s crucial, or that the gender matters, but it just seems logical to at least get feedback from women when redesigning DC’s main lady.

If It Ain’t Broke…

Wonder Woman is arguably the most recognizable female super-hero ever created within our society’s popular culture. There is no “male version” within the continuity of her tales (e.g., no “Wonder Man”). She is amazonian Princess Diana of Themyscira, a strong female personality on par with Superman and Batman. This is fitting considering the character’s original concept by creator William Moulton Marston, who was a psychologist and feminist theorist in addition to his comic book writing abilities.

Marston’s rationale for creating Wonder Woman is described beautifully in an interview published in the 1940’s [It’s lifted from Wikipedia, so take that for what it’s worth. It’s a good quote regardless]:

Not even girls want to be girls so long as our feminine archetype lacks force, strength, and power. Not wanting to be girls, they don’t want to be tender, submissive, peace-loving as good women are. Women’s strong qualities have become despised because of their weakness. The obvious remedy is to create a feminine character with all the strength of Superman plus all the allure of a good and beautiful woman.

I have no doubt that Straczynski will nail these traits in his version of Wonder Woman. However, the modernized portrayal of the character means losing much of her identity. In the classic portrayal, Diana is unique to our society because she was not a product of it. Her view of the world was done through the mirror of an Amazonian warrior princess in a society of only women. All of her relationships — friends, lovers, rivals — are derived from this world. She is as alien to the world as Clark Kent, an alien from another planet.

The backstories of both Superman and Wonder Woman contain elements that cause them to be outsiders from society. It adds depth and a richness to their personalities. When you remove those elements, you remove that depth.

Publicity “Stunt”…

I’d be more upset about the whole character misinterpretation if I thought it would have any real staying power. But the truth is, it’s far too gimmicky and marketed for me to believe this is sticking around longer than five years maximum (or until they do a major motion picture). Seriously though, they’re counting all the past issues of Wonder Woman to reach the milestone number of 600, which will become the new issue number going forward.

Plus, check out how many major media outlets covered the Wonder Woman costume change story based solely on it being “new.” DC has smart marketing people and they know how to drum up plenty of free attention for this new round of stories.

DC has done this before, complete with costume changes that were so drastic even the old school news organizations ran at least a small blurb. Remember Energy Superman? He wore an entirely blue costume and had… well, energy-based powers that he could turn off and on. A red “Energy Superman” showed up soon there after to prolong the story out for another few months. Everyone billed this as “The New Superman.” Oh and remember armored-up Azrael Batman in Batman issue #500? He was the new grittier Batman for a new generation. He even had his own “collectors edition” polybag.

The point being, no matter how good Straczynski’s run may be, classic Wonder Woman is coming back eventually.

Final Word:

Having laid out all the reasons for this faulty Wonder Woman revamp, I can now say with confidence that the Straczynski era of Wonder Woman stories will likely be very enjoyable [meaning yes, I’ll probably enjoy the hell out of them]. His arc will be radically different, yet still within the scope of Wonder Woman. But, it’ll never actually be Wonder Woman stories, no matter what kind of logic the editorial team sells the other comic book news publications.

And honestly, that’s OK. The beauty of Wonder Woman being an icon means her classic imagining isn’t going to disappear overnight.

[Main photo credit: Charlie Roode via Twitpic]


  1. In the afterward to 600, JMS talked about his plans for Wonder Woman, and why he’s doing what he’s doing. I got a strong sense from there that he’s never intended the more radical changes to be permanent (heck, within his opening story Diana has already learned that her history has been messed with); and I will not be surprised if a year or so from now, we see Wonder Woman sporting the “fixed” look that you portray above, or something close to it.

    The history change can’t stand; there are too many other DC characters who depend on her original backstory (such as Donna Troi and Wonder Girl) for this rewrite to be anything more than a temporary measure. Ultimately, the goal is to get people thinking outside the box in terms of what Wonder Woman can be; and I think in that regard JMS may well succeed. He may even leave some lasting changes to the character. But the new look and backstory will not be among them.

    Comment by dataweaver — July 7, 2010 @ 11:20 am

  2. Huh. I’m a woman, and I think the new costume is great – so do all of the other women I know! Your ample size perhaps ought to be expanded. :)

    This is a costume she could reasonably kick ass in. The old costume, while iconic, was completely impractical for fighting.

    Comment by Shira — July 7, 2010 @ 11:20 am

  3. Sample size, rather. :)

    Comment by Shira — July 7, 2010 @ 11:21 am

  4. […] did you hear?  Wonder Woman has a new costume, and a new backstory, and everything.  Folks have written some interesting things on the subject, I’m sure Holland will weigh in at some point.  The […]

    Pingback by Threat Quality Press — July 7, 2010 @ 11:45 am

  5. You know what? I just had a thought: late in 2009, DC revealed that they’d be starting up an “Earth One” ongoing project in 2010, with a couple of grphic novels: one dedicated to Superman’s origin story (written by JMS) and another dedicated to Batman’s (written by Geoff Johns). The concept was that it would be a world reflective of the twenty-first century. Stop me if this is sounding familiar…

    I wonder if JMS’s initial Wonder Woman run will be a prelude of sorts to this new Earth One continuity. Exactly how that works is one of those things that’s likely to cause headaches; but stranger things have happened in the comics.

    Comment by dataweaver — July 7, 2010 @ 1:01 pm

  6. I kept reading that Clare Kramer was being discussed for the role. I did a little research and confirmed it. I was told that they like her physique, she’s age perfect and the liked the way she looked with dark hair in Skulls. I like the idea!

    As for the costume, as long as the person wearing it looks sexy. However, I hate when they feel like thy have to change things like this. Like Tom says in the article, “If it ain’t broke…” Being creative isn’t always change, it’s figuring out how to make things work.

    Comment by Thomas — July 7, 2010 @ 1:03 pm

  7. I don’t like it and I am not sure why they are doing it.
    One thought does come to mind. There is no doubt a lot of talk about a Wonder Woman movie has and continues to be thrown around. Could it be something so simple as they have no desire to try and deal with the problems of the old costume versus this new pants suit?
    Think about it before you dismiss it.

    Comment by Brian — July 7, 2010 @ 1:15 pm

  8. @dataweaver – Yeah, JMS had a stellar run on Spider-Man where he shook the boat with that whole maroon and gold costume (which you probably already knew). I’m gonna like the stories because he’s good at telling them and I think you’re probably right about how he’ll unfold the first WW arc.

    Comment by Tom Cheredar — July 7, 2010 @ 1:16 pm

  9. @shira – The “Sample Size” of women in comics I described was the one that’s most stereotypically used (more-so in the 90s). I hate when artists exploit female characters like that because it usually takes away their depth and replaces it with body parts. Should have made that more clear, sorry.

    (Thanks for reading!)

    Comment by Tom Cheredar — July 7, 2010 @ 1:19 pm

  10. Her old costum was great for fighting, it allowed to freedom of movement. A jacket will limit that movement significantly so will leggings. I’m a retired special op’s and i can tell you that new suit would be combat effective, sexist as it is to say the old one would also be quite a distraction to most oppenents. A point that was made in an obscure video game punch drunk love a few years ago, a character(female) Had a line that said “Go ahead stare at them sweetie, it makes you easier to knock out!”. I’m not trying to be insulting, just looking at this tactically.

    Comment by korollocke — July 8, 2010 @ 9:44 am

  11. Wouldn’t be combat effective I meant to say, my typing stinks.

    Comment by korollocke — July 8, 2010 @ 9:45 am

  12. I suppose that we’ll just have to see. Heck, if Gail Simone didn’t do a redesign while she was writing the character, I don’t see why one is needed now. OK, JMS, wow me!

    Comment by Stu Shiffman — July 8, 2010 @ 12:28 pm

  13. I don’t mind the leggings, but the jacket is dated. So 80s!

    I don’t mind the bracelets – they look more like vambraces and look like they will do more to protect her.

    My feeling is that if they wanted to prep her for a movie transition by giving her a realistic costume, they would have given this outfit a lot of body armor, similar to the Donna Troy Wonder Woman costume.

    Comment by Anonne — July 14, 2010 @ 2:47 am

  14. Perhaps it doesn’t count, since CoIEs supposedly made the WW stories prior to it “never happen,” but there was a Captain Wonder. He’s on the cover of WW Vol1 #289 (March 1982), and also appears inside in issues 290 and 323. See

    Comment by Darci — July 15, 2010 @ 10:21 am


    Comment by naomi — July 15, 2010 @ 6:06 pm

  16. […] Why The ‘New’ Wonder Woman Misses The Mark ( […]

    Pingback by Writing is Cake — July 21, 2010 @ 11:25 pm

  17. it was mentioned that the old costume was not practcal. why is that a factor? if wonder woman is that strong nothing would impinge her so fighting in the iconic costume would be effortless. i’m sure that the iconic costume back when it all began was modern. now with the revamp it’s been taken aback.

    Comment by london — August 3, 2010 @ 2:41 am

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