Friday, February 25, 2011

The Not So Many Loves of Wonder Woman: Aquaman

I never really got into Wonder Woman until Morrison's JLA (fortunately, the old TV series was in reruns on the scifi channel so I didn't have to just settle for the Byrne issues at the time) so the first love interest I ever saw for her was...



Aquaman.


Honestly, I'm one of Those Fans who only found Aquaman stomachable during the 90s when he ran around barechested and bearded with a hook hand. I think part of it was his role on the JLA, though. He was this grumpy anti-social complainer surrounded by optimists. Even though he was completely out of his watery element in most stories, he seemed to fit, seemed to serve a purpose.

And I did enjoy the little ongoing plot with Wonder Woman, where the two seemed to be old friends but he was secretly attracted to her. It had a few things going for it. One, it gave Aquaman a reason to be cranky but still come along. Two, it was the only dynamic like that: Morrison didn't really develop sexual tension between Diana and Superman or Batman, and while he had Flash and Green Lantern discuss how attractive she was they never really fixated on it. Three, it was almost completely one-sided.

I liked it because it added a bit of character to Aquaman but had no chance of going anywhere. Diana didn't seem to think of him that way, and his own storyline wasn't open to pursue this. He spent time suppressing his attraction to her and she rolled her eyes at him and told him to stop being such a pompous all the time. It was a touch of melodrama in the background of an action-driven series.

Of course, Diana's had a lot of admirers like this, where she's the love interest for some curmudgeonly dude who won't get anywhere with her for various reasons. It was the first one I ever saw, though.

It was also the first time I ever saw a scene where I thought "That simply doesn't work." That was in the Mark Waid storyline with the Queen of Fables.



There's a scene where Diana is discovered to be asleep, Snow White-style, and Wally and Kyle are standing over her trying to figure out who should kiss her. Aquaman steps up, pushes them aside and tells them it's a job for a prince. Then, in a lovely splash page, he kisses Diana.

It's meant to be one of those great moments, those little bits that justify Aquaman being on the league and drive home his personality but... it seemed wrong.



And I don't mean wrong as in "I have consent issues with this fairy tale" wrong, I mean wrong as in "Hey. Wonder Woman should not be kissed awake by Aquaman" wrong.

Really, it's the exact same wrongness that makes the Queen of Fables a great villain for Wonder Woman. This villain thinks Diana is Snow White, and Diana is as far from Snow White as possible. Yes, black-haired white princess known for being the "Fairest in the land", but in a narrative role? Diana's not a princess who is tied to the kingdom and rescued. She isn't someone who is the daughter out on a specific quest to end a curse. Diana is the character who leaves home to seek fame and fortune. She's supposed to find love, her destiny, and make a name for herself before she returns home to take the throne.

Yes, Diana is a princess who's a superhero, I cannot emphasize this sort of girl appeal enough. But in a fairy tale character role? Diana's not the princess in this setup. Diana's role is that of the prince.

Wonder Woman doesn't get kissed by to life. Wonder Woman is the one who kisses the cursed character back to life.

And I enjoyed the storyline, and I like the villain who caused it, but that moment did change something for me. I didn't like Aquaman and Wonder Woman sexual tension anymore. His "stepping up to the plate" moment really suited his character but just jarred with Wonder Woman's natural place in the narrative. It broke the entire dynamic for me. It just seemed wrong.

I think, actually, it would have seemed less wrong with Wally or Kyle because neither had the same tension prior. Wally or Kyle would have just been "Oh man, I hope this works" with some teasing from Diana after. With Aquaman, it was this opportunity he'd wished for the entire series. The chance to swoop in and be Diana's Prince. It was basically his shot at being a man and winning her, and really Diana isn't a character you "Win" by being a traditional male hero who saves the girl. It would be disservice to her if that were to work. Fortunately, I think the editors and writers who thought this would be cool looked at that and went "Yeah... let's try Wonder Woman and Batman instead."

9 comments:

  1. With Kyle, you could have also factored in the fact that he'd previously been intimate with her "sister" Donna. Awkward!

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  2. Wally might be the better choice here...there IS that little problem with Kyle and his penchant for having eveyrone he likes DIE. Although if anyone could survive it, it would be Diana.

    The Queen of Fables was a pretty darned good villain however.

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  3. re: "And I don't mean wrong as in "I have consent issues with this fairy tale" wrong, I mean wrong as in "Hey. Wonder Woman should not be kissed awake by Aquaman" wrong."

    I'm sure you'd prefer it was Black Canary instead, slasher that you are. But remember, this is Wonder Woman, not Batwoman's sapphic adventures.

    re: "Yes, Diana is a princess who's a superhero, I cannot emphasize this sort of girl appeal enough. But in a fairy tale character role? Diana's not the princess in this setup. Diana's role is that of the prince."

    Wow, you're comments are going to be almost as fun to mock as the hypocritical hysterics over at dcwka. That is if I can get past your trademark attrocious sentence structure.

    How bout, just so we don't offend anyone (by anyone I mean the microscopic percentage of jackasses that would find anything remotely problematic with this story)we use the term "person of royalty" instead of antiquated sexist labels like "Princess". That way you won't look like such an idiot when you make comments like "Diana should be a Prince".

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  4. Oh, Johnny... I invited you over in the hopes that you'd be enjoyable but instead you're just a bore. Calling me a slasher again? An idiot? I can just leave your comment up unanswered and anyone--not even just anyone sensible, anyone who can read--will side with me over you. Such a disappointment. Come back with some better material and we'll play, okay baby?

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  5. You have an ENTIRELY different read on this than I did. Of course Wonder Woman isn't Snow White. But the Queen of Fables is delusional and stupid powerful. She's shoehorned Diana into the role, into the story, and that means there's one way out: being kissed. The Wally/Kyle banter is hilarious. Every red-blooded male would LOVE to smooch Wonder Woman, but faced with the actual prospect of having to do so, they panic and keep shoving it at one another. It's great to fantasize, but to actually DO it? NO WAY! Fantastic.

    And then Aquaman walks up, the man pushes the boys aside (and actually says this is exactly what he's doing), and with all that confidence and chutzpah saves the dang day in a way that is perfectly framed and has that wonderful touch of "Obviously! Why didn't I think of that?!" And what a line. This is a culmination of the attraction subplot, but I never took it as Aquaman's golden opportunity to sweep Wonder Woman off her feet. I think you're reading more into it than is actually there.

    Gary

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  6. Gary -- Not really. See, like I said above, This Wrongness is why the Queen of Fables works as a villain. She's delusional and has a completely fucked up image of Diana.

    And I've not doubt what you described is EXACTLY what Waid intended, and yes I saw it.

    That doesn't change the fact that my reaction to seeing Aquaman waking Wonder Woman with a kiss is that it was part and parcel of the WRONGNESS of the Queen of Fables worldview, and why the couple ultimately can't work out for me.

    I'm the first to say it, sometimes I get a little more out of my comics than most readers. I like that, it's value for my dollar. That's not the same as reading too much into it, though.

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  7. I have no place accusing somebody of reading too much into something. I've discussed the caste system in Disney/Pixar's "Cars" with my wife. And Handy Manny's relationship with his tools. And I've spent hours on your site reading your thoughts on Quicksilver. Get a little more out of it, high five. I've gotten entertainment out of your getting more out of a bunch of stuff. I reworded that sentence from my original "you're reading too much into it," but you are correct that the intent was unchanged, only soft-pedaled (and, upon rereading, hardly even that). Mea culpa.

    I think we're at an impasse here, because you're taking what I read as an awesome escape/rescue from a deathtrap paired with a F*@% Yeah! (credit to Dave Campbell) character moment as an actual slight to Wonder Woman's character, or at least her character function. She's getting rescued by another Leaguer, and you're taking issue with that because of the nature of the trap. Take your sentence that "Wonder Woman doesn't get kissed by to life. Wonder Woman is the one who kisses the cursed character back to life." and substitute any other deathtrap in there. "Wonder Woman doesn't get snatched from the path of the oncoming Omega Inductor. Wonder Woman is the one who snatches the Omega Inductee back from the brink." I do see your fairy tale function points, but I'm reading a superhero team story with the clever twist that we know the answer to the trap ahead of time and get to watch HOW the writer handles the rescue. He handles it well, in my opinion.

    You also perceive the romantic tension between the two as one-sided, which I did not do then or now, so it's little wonder we have a disconnect. And as to if it dies here, it's worth noting that the next big storyline is the hero/secret identity split, and the only two JLAers who remain themselves are Aquaman and Wonder Woman. Still paired off, it would seem. The writer will change before the Batman romantic tension arrives.

    The Batman/Wonder Woman pairing is a post I hope you write, because the way the pair of them chicken out on the whole thing is just... sad, meaning pathetic. Take the chance for "Can I have just one more day?" "Every one I have." Man. Get married sometime, and that'll hit you like a brick. I get goosebumps just typing it, and these two bold, fearless heroes ran like scared kittens because something might go wrong.

    But I hope to read that post someday, so I'll shut up about it now lest you say enough of your piece in this comment section to feel you've addressed it.

    Gary

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  8. Honestly, I've always kind of thought that if a commenter types that much in response to someone else's blogpost only to say "I think we're at an impasse", it's a sign that said commenter needs his (or her) own blog.

    :-)

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  9. "Wonder Woman doesn't get kissed by to life. Wonder Woman is the one who kisses the cursed character back to life"

    LOL I haven't read the story but when you were going thru the description I had the same reaction. Uh... shouldn't WW be the one doing the rescuing and kissing... on the other hand, yeah I think Waid's idea was kind of cool too, every guy wishes he could have WW, but what if it really happend which guy would be man enough to man up, AQ of course :-)

    - Seafire

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