Saturday, February 19, 2011

This was actually a good love interest for the embodiment of truth.

So rather than do anything productive I've been picking through my pre-Crisis Wonder Woman reprints for Steve heavy stories, trying to pinpoint exactly what made Steve so unlikable to other fans. I mean, my first exposure to the character was reruns of the television show, where he was this smiling (everyone on that show smiled a lot), sweet, optimistic man without a shred of malice or deceit. Maybe that had tinted my view of the old comics.

Thing is, I have yet to come across a particularly assholish piece of behavior. (And yes, this includes the famous dream sequence in #127 where he thinks of all the downsides to marrying a career superhero.) There's a storyline where they have a fight in the 70s because he just came from the dead and thinks she's babying him too much, and some sprinklings of the sort of sexism you see from EVERY male character in the Silver Age but ultimately, I still like him a lot. This is another one of those characters that makes me smile every time he is onpanel.

I will give you, there is one very weird story where he's about to go on a dangerous mission and won't see Wonder Woman before he leaves... so he asks Diana Prince to pretend to be her so he can make believe he had a last day with his girlfriend. It is the sort of crazy that comes about solely because they need a secret identity story, with him not giving her a chance to slip out of his sight during the story. I also think it came about because he's just not as smart as Lois Lane, so they couldn't do a "I will PROVE that you are really Wonder Woman" story. So instead, they have him completely oblivious to the secret identity. And rather than be suspicious of Diana Prince, he likes her as a friend and wants her to share his love of Wonder Woman with her. So he talks to her about his girlfriend, and insists she come with him to see Wonder Woman in a parade, stay to meet her and other things until we get to this level of weirdness.

In general, I like Steve a lot more than the other male characters embroiled in Secret Identity soaps, probably because he's not the one playing the game. He doesn't have an inkling there's a game going on. So while we see Superman and Lois Lane caught in this web of mind games and paranoia and deceit, Wonder Woman is trying to handle a completely honest and enthusiastic person. Even when they take him over the edge to contrive some situation where she can't hide, they don't have it be suspicion or manipulation like with Lois. He is dragging his best friend along while he takes care of his problems. Poor Diana can't curb his pushiness without betraying her true self so she plays the part of his beleaguered army buddy that he's dragged to the park to see a show.

I think this is one thing that really worked, though. The story of the Amazons has Hercules deceiving them as their greatest shame. Ares, a deity not known in mythology for mind games, is often cast as a "Prince of Lies" style enemy who tricks men into warring against each other. She has villains in Dr. Psycho and the Duke of Deception. These things are still there post-Crisis, with the added pressure of Diana being a living lie-detector that wields the lasso of truth.

Deceit is a bad thing in this franchise, and an especially bad trait for a male character in this franchise. Diana's grown up being told that evil is spread through lies and that the greatest violence of men is preceded by lies. The ultimate expression of wickedness in men to her is lying. Any male love interest of Wonder Woman must be an honest man. Pre-Crisis, she had the most honest man in comics.

This level of openness added to his endearing naivete, which in turn added to his charm to a protector/nuturer like Diana.

Post-Crisis... well... Her most recent male love interest was Nemesis, the master of disguise. This was interesting, pairing the embodiment of truth up with a guy who's heroism is based on deception, and I enjoyed it but it didn't work for too long. I'm not sure why Simone broke the couple up, (ETA: Okay, now I know) but I do think the match would've been stronger if Nemesis were a more open and honest person. Also if he weren't so jaded about everything.

What worries me, though, is this is another thing they missed in the animated movie. Steve's mostly straightforward in that, but there's that fucking bar scene. He's your horrible stereotype of a deceitful man who only seeks sexual conquest in that scene, and that takes away what makes Steve a special enough man for Wonder Woman. All so that we can have her angry at him and saying her mother was right to warn her about men... and then have her turn around a couple scenes later and forget just how fucked up what he tried to do was.

God, I hate that bar scene.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Please do not make this character into Hal Jordan

And DC just found the surest way to get me interested in Flashpoint.

Yeah, if you didn't catch it DCW has it bolded.

I am aware that I may be the only genuine Steve Trevor fan on the Internet, but I'm going to go ahead and take this moment to do a little dance in my chair.

Now that I've done that I'm going to go ahead and worry, because things never really seem to work out the way I want them to. Off the top of my head they have passed on three good opportunities to restore Diana's love interest since the Perez reboot. Zero Hour just got us backstory of Hippolyta selling out the Amazons to Hercules. John Byrne's mucking around in the timestream got us Donna Troy as a magic mirror clone, Hippolyta as WWII Wonder Woman and six months of JLA compressed into 3 days. Infinite Crisis gave us Donna as an official baby sister, a secret identity and the little twirl effect. Three perfect opportunities to write Steve back in, three times they passed it by.

However, they are at least playing with the idea in their time-line miniseries, and this IS shaking up Diana. And Steve was still the love interest in the animated movie and the planned love interest for the TV series. He's the only male character that's been in the franchise since All-Star Comics #8. Eventually, they are putting him back in the love interest place and this is probably their best opportunity.

The other thing that worries me is how he'll be when he comes back. The Steve in the animated movie bugged me. He was too much like Hal Jordan. (Though honestly, if someone tried that bar scene with Hal I'd be screaming bloody murder about them portraying Green Lantern as a rapist. There are ways to make her disillusioned and angry at her boyfriend without muddying the consent waters further and perpetrating rape culture in a Wonder Woman movie by suggesting getting a woman drunk so that he can con her into bed is somehow not a villain-only behavior.) I think they just took the fighter pilot idea and built the personality based on the job, without realizing he only has that job as an excuse to get him to the island. That's why they can make him an intelligence officer or a secret agent or even a lawyer (but how the fuck a lawyer is getting washed up on Paradise Island is for David Kelley to explain) if they want. His career is a plot convenience, not part of his characterization like Hal being a pilot, Lois being a journalist or Kyle being an artist.

Beyond the idea he should be some sort of fighter jock, there's the idea that he should be some uber-macho traditionalist to properly match Wonder Woman. I've heard this from some writers and fans, and I really hope that's not what they pull either.

See, there's two things about portraying Steve Trevor, two items that make him the most viable male love interest for Wonder Woman and if you forget them you're going to screw him up:

1) He'll step in to save Wonder Woman if he can help her at any chance, but he's well aware she is super and he is not, and that does not make him feel like less of a man.

It is vitally, vitally important that Steve not be the slightest bit threatened by Wonder Woman being more powerful than him. As a concept he's attracted to the beautiful woman who regularly saves his ass when he's in over his head, and doesn't feel a need to prove that he can handle the situation without her. He thanks her for her help and tells her it's why he loves her. He's one of those chivalrous guys who thinks he should put himself in danger before he allows a woman to, but he's not even vaguely attracted to a woman he thinks needs his protection (this is why she could never get his eye as Diana Prince).

2) Wonder Woman is believably attracted to this guy.

Allow me to repeat that: Wonder Woman is believably attracted to this guy.

This is also really important, and I wasn't worried about it until the animated film. Steve Trevor was Hal Jordan in that film, and I couldn't for the life of me get why Diana liked him. (In the Carter TV show and pre-Crisis comics I get why she likes him, but in that movie I was mystified.) I know we have some stupid Silver Age panels floating about but I don't know how we get fratboy seeking sexual conquest from them.

Hitting on Wonder Woman constantly pre-Crisis wasn't the "You're gorgeous, we should hook up" sort of come on, but the "You and I should get married" sort of come on. Yes, this is born of pre-Crisis innocence when they couldn't say he wants to sleep with her, but it is still a completely different priority level from "I want to screw that hot chick" and you fundamentally change the character when you shift the focus from wanting a long-term relationship and family to wanting to sleep with Wonder Woman. Pre-Crisis his life's ambition was to marry and raise a family with a woman who could bench press an F-15. That does not properly translate to a fratboy attitude, no matter what point you want to make about people learning to respect women.

So why shouldn't they just change it? It's a new setting, right? A new era, all characters get updated... Well, again this is supporting Point 2. If he's not genuinely serious about her and he carries on like he's in High School and trying to get someone out to the van with him then he loses some of his appeal. And we all watch it and wonder why the fuck she's attracted to him.

In the pre-Crisis comics, we know why she likes him. He's selfless, brave as all hell, charitable, kind, and resilient. In his off-duty time he'll do volunteer work, like mentoring local children who can't afford summer camp. He'll offer to fight off sharks while he's injured. He'll dive into the ocean to follow when he sees her get pulled underwater by a merman. He'll get shot by spies while carrying important paperwork and manage to give her the briefcase before he loses consciousness. He'll be tied up and threatened with torture and still make smartass remarks. When she rescues him and asks if he's okay, he gets that sort of starry-eyed smile and says he's fine as long as she's around.

When you look through the pre-Crisis stories you see him constantly bugging her for marriage and calling her an Angel and beautiful, that's the most known stuff. We also see he's pretty dense and sexist at times, as you see when he tells Diana and Etta that certain things are man's work. So I can kind of see how someone would update him by emphasizing rather than minimizing these particular flaws, but that just loses the sense of the relationship.

I know the temptation to make a point about Diana teaching a man to be a decent human being is very strong, but that's something you can do with the scores and scores of guys she doesn't give a shit about. Having her teach her main male love interest to be a decent human being is a terrible idea. The relationship can't just be about what he gets from her. She needs to get something out of this.

What worries me the most is that they'll return him, and miss one of these two things and they'll lose the appeal of this relationship. I'm worried they'll want to teach some sort of lesson about masculinity and respect using Steve as the learner, and they'll destroy what makes the character unique and attractive to Diana. Then we'll have a guy who is just there and everyone will wonder why.

Or worse, we'll have a guy who acts like an asshole just because the writers genuinely believe women are attracted to handsome assholes.

Perez managed to capture a good Steve Trevor personality, a gentle thoughtful man with a real respect for other people and a desire to do good. The only problem was that he made him a father figure and the love interest for the wrong character. I trust Hester to go ahead and write this guy younger if he gets to introduce him.

I'm worried, though, that we'll get a Steve out of Flashpoint or a later crossover, written by a writer who thinks he should be a fighter jock jackass like Hal Jordan. I enjoy a good Hal Jordan story, but there should be only one Hal Jordan and under no circumstances should Wonder Woman date him. Steve Trevor should probably be the anti-Hal. Maybe even a little inexperienced with women and dating, on account of being so picky.

I would even go so far as to make it so that Steve and Hal knew each other as pilots in the Air Force, and show them contrasting each other in flashbacks.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

We have a name and a face now!

They cast Wonder Woman.

Adrianne Palicki

I've never seen her in anything (I understand she was Kara in Smallville but I haven't watched that episode), but she is not on my list of nightmare casting choices so I am cautiously optimistic.

Even if they are making Steve a lawyer, and there's a guarantee of at least one depressed at night eating ice cream scene.

On the bright side, someone already tracked down Lynda Carter for an interview about it. She sounds quite optimistic.
What do you think of the casting?

"I think it is an amazing role to play. I know she is going to be really nervous about it, just because you would be. But I have a lot of confidence in [writer] David Kelley and what he's going to come up with. David Kelley's so talented, and that's really where it needs to be, is in the writing.

I spoke with David yesterday, and he's really really excited about it.

I think the story needs to be retold. It needs to have a fresh look at it. It affected a lot of people. I think it's time, I think it's important to have it out there again.

Is there any advice you'd offer her?

[Laughing] Gosh, I would never offer her any advice. Nor would she probably want any. If she wants to talk to me, that would be a whole different thing. But I would never offer, 'Now let me tell you how to do this.' She's an actress and she's a good actress and she's beautiful and I hope she kicks butt.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

What makes Wonder Woman Wonder Woman?

A lot of you don't seem to get why this Superman #708 sequence is such a stupid idea, so we're going to have to go over Wonder Woman again.

Pre-Crisis, Diana is the sole daughter of the Queen of the reclusive Amazons who shunned the world of men because they had been deceived by men (Golden Age) and wished to avoid violence and conflict (Silver Age). She's trained from birth in their ways and philosophy. When a man, the very first man she ever sees, is hurt on the island she finds herself attracted to him and wants to learn more about him. Her mother realizes she's fallen in love and is susceptible to the charms of men. She tells Diana how dangerous men are, forbids her from seeing him, and says he's going home. When a contest is held to determine who will escort the man back, Diana enters in disguise because her mother won't approve and wins. She goes to man's world and pursues a romantic relationship with this man while fighting crime and inspiring women to take control of their own lives.

Post-Crisis, Diana is the sole daughter of the Queen of the reclusive Amazons who shunned the world of men because they had suffered violence at male hands. She's trained from birth in their ways and philosophy, and is the only woman on the island never to have seen or been hurt by a man. When a man, the very first man she ever sees, is hurt on the island she finds an opportunity to leave the island and seek her fortune. Diana's mother forbids this, but the goddess Athena tells her that it's her destiny to go to man's world. The contest is held. Diana enters in disguise because her mother won't approve and wins. She goes to man's world, gets a couple crushes on other heroes while fighting crime and inspiring people to take control of their own lives.

Throughout her history and her reboots, no matter what the motivation UNTIL NOW, there has been one common theme. Disobeying her mother and entering that contest incognito. Pre-Crisis, she did it because she was in love, post-crisis she did it because she wanted to explore the world. But nearly every version of her origin, there is the authority figure (her mother), the desire to leave (awakened by the injured man), and the means to do so (the contest). The important thing is her disobedience. She CHOOSES her own way in the world.

This is what makes the Greek Myth background so effective. Diana is a hero against the inevitability of ancient Greek tragedy. She is surrounded by the Gods and Fates, holding tight to her autonomy while adrift in a sea of predestination.

People might bash the pre-crisis story as a man inspiring her and say Superman #708 isn't as bad, but they're wrong. The injured man, Steve Trevor, doesn't awaken her sense of adventure, or her desire to heal and compassion for others (she feels compassion for him but this is not a new reaction to an injured person for her), or her courage. He doesn't set an example for her to follow. He doesn't SHOW her the way. He awakens her curiosity. He is what she desires, whether that be sexual desire or just an unknown person symbolizing an unknown world and a greater destiny.

The most consistent and important part of Diana's origin story is THAT CHOICE. It is SELF-DETERMINATION. She could stay on Paradise Island/Themiscyra and be a great hero in the Royal Guard there, saving her sisters from the animals and monsters known to populate the island. She doesn't need to leave to help people. Don't get me wrong, being the first woman in three thousand years to leave IS a heroic feat, but it is not the sort of heroism Superman represents. Diana as a teenager was the sort of hero Superman was.

What makes Wonder Woman special, and it is VERY specific to women who are raised to be sweet princesses who stay in the tower and make a good kingdom, is that she takes the road less traveled by her culture and by women in society. She steps out into the world and plays the part of the Prince/Knight Errant. She seeks love, honor, and glory far from home, and betters the lives of everyone she meets as she does so.

Honestly, this is what was missing from the JMS-scripted issues that Phil Hester has managed to capture. JMS had her like a leaf tossed by the wind. She made one real decision, to see the Oracle. After that she was guided from point to point by other characters, She wasn't moving herself. Once Hester took over, he did flashbacks to her self-determination in her childhood and showed her trying to balance her personal concerns (that family she was caring for) with her duty as a princess and the whims of fate. Without changing the plot, he fixed the character because he brought back the most important character trait, her self-determination.

That Superman #708 was set up as a story point by JMS just proves that he doesn't get Wonder Woman. Looking to Superman for hope and help is one thing, something everyone does in the DCU at some point. Looking to Superman to show her the way, to be the person who tells her how to be a hero? That strips Diana of her most important characteristic, which is that she is solid in her self-image and chooses her own destiny based on what she feels is best for her. She MAKES her path, she doesn't follow Superman's.

And I don't think I can put into words how important making your own path is for a woman. If you don't understand, and you don't see this as integral to Wonder Woman, I don't have the communication skill to help you understand why I do and why this decision undermines her.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Really only one book catches my eye.

DC Solicits are up for May.

I'm underwhelmed. The Flashpoint crossover starts and while I do like the whole "Alternate Timeline that is just wrong" concept, I am not particularly interestest in it. In the meantime, we draw closer to the War of the Green Lanterns which I am also not particularly interested in. I might sit out both sets of books.

And can anyone guess the quickest way to get me to drop a book? If your answer is "Put Judd Winick on it", give yourself a treat. You know why I'm dropping Batman and Robin this spring.

I'll believe Batwoman #2 is out when I see it.

And this brings me to Wonder Woman #611, which has unexpectedly become the book from DC I'm now most looking forward to. I read 605-606 this week. (I will be ignoring Superman #708, and I advise you do the same.) Hester has Diana acting like Diana. She's fighting to save people all her life, and not just her Amazon sisters. Hester's fight sequences are engaging. Hester's characters seem like people making decision, not just items that are moved from one place to another in order to set up a plot. Even knowing this timeline is temporary, I am actually worried that one of these characters will die next issue. His scripting actually got me to give a shit about some of them.

Yes, we still have JMS plot. Yes, we still have that stupid costume. Yes, I fucking hate what they are doing to the Morrigan but I think Phil Hester has achieved his goal. Wonder Woman is readable and enjoyable again. I recognize Diana again. I want to see what happens to her. I'm looking forward the May issue, because I now WANT to see the big reveal, and the big villain, and the whole point of crossing Simonson's plot with "Age of Apocalypse."

Monday, February 14, 2011

An Amazon Princess Kneels Before No Man

Okay, Steve... I know this is distracting...

Steve? Steve? Over here. Now that she's pulled away, I'm going to need to listen very carefully to what she says...

Steve, you really don't want to miss this one.

Don't miss it.... Don't miss it...

You missed it. Good god, man. You've been asking HER that question for forty years at this point! How could you miss it?!

Fortunately, Diana knows him well enough that one epic (and I mean that in the traditional Greek sense) battle later she brought up the subject again. She had greater success this time.

--Wonder Woman #329 by Gerry Conway and Don Heck.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

I'm really looking forward to Avengers Academy 9

They've put out a preview for this one, so I'm optimistic it will ship on time. It's the book this week I'm looking forward to the most, because it continues my favorite Avengers Academy subplot, Quicksilver and Finesse.

Finesse really is my favorite new female character. You know that Data stereotype, with the robot who wants to have feelings and understand humans? How super-played it is? Well, Finesse is the opposite of it, being a human being who can't seem to understand feelings. She can't even get her own behavior at times. It's really interesting to watch.

In addition to that, she is pretty much perfect at everything else and so tends to be a bit overconfident. I love that we have this hypercompetent woman who is a failure at the stereotypically feminine area of intuition and empathy. It makes her very unusual.

Her entire motivation is she wants to learn new things. At every turning point, Finesse's thought is "Can I learn something from this person? Can I learn something from this action?" If she can't better herself from the action or interaction, she doesn't see the point of it. She is not altruistic or sympathetic towards anyone, but she's also not vindictive or actively malicious.

She has a fixation on Magneto that will probably bite her in the ass later on.

Plus she may be a villain's kid (and this issue is what promises to confirm or kill that possibility), and they have her tangled up with my favorite teacher on the team. Hell, this has actually redeemed the horrible Lie storyline for with the blackmail angle. Finesse, not understanding or empathizing with anyone, is constantly trying to test things so she can manipulate others into behaving the way she wants. (So far there's no indication this is for control, but because everyone else can do it and she can get people to teach her new things) She tries a little schoolgirl gushing on Hank, for example, and is disappointed it doesn't work. So for Quicksilver, once she figures out he lied about being a Skrull she decides she's going to blackmail him into teaching her everything Magneto taught him.

This is insanely amusing to me for two big reasons:

1) In the last Finesse issue, #2, she observes an argument between Pietro and Hank over appropriate training methods. Hank doesn't feel it's right to use the methods Magneto used, even watered down and with the safety on. Hank wins, but Finesse wants to learn the Magneto lessons. So... she is blackmailing him to teach her things that he already wanted to teach her.

2) She is an amateur at manipulation, and really doesn't understand how to do it. Contrast that with Magneto, who has practiced manipulation as the leader of a terrorist cult, the leader of his own country, convincing one of his sworn enemies to become romantically involved with him, and in a multi-decade struggle against a TELEPATH for the most powerful followers in the mutant community. Magneto is a master at social relations. Since he was a teenager, Quicksilver has found himself playing delicate manipulation games with Magneto where they do things like try to convince each other they are on the same side and see who double-crosses the other first. And judging by how pissed off Magneto was over the last game, documented in House of M... Quicksilver won. (And yes, I am prepared to argue over this one.)

Even discounting that last one, the fact that Pietro can play at all on Magneto's field means Finesse is in for one hell of a lesson here.

Gage has said that one of the kids will definitely go bad, and maybe others. I hope Finesse stays good because she's a real departure from the typical hero. I guess a lot depends on what happens in this issue, how the Taskmaster reacts to her and how she reacts to him. Maybe it'll open her emotions. Maybe it won't, but she sees a logical reason to follow one path or another.

The setup here is she only has Quicksilver for framing, but that might be the best chance she has. Hank, Tigra, and Justice have been mentoring the other kids and they are very touchy-feely teachers. Finesse just can't comprehend that, she needs a much colder and harsher perspective. Quicksilver is one of the most emotional members of the team, but he protects his heart well. We know he's capable of a lot of caring and kindness if she does have an emotional awakening here and needs sympathy. And if she doesn't, Quicksilver can strip away any appeal to pure heroism and present a brutal picture of reality. He can take it down to her odds of survival and success on either side of the moral divide. Every other teacher will come down to "This is the RIGHT way to act," but Pietro's much more cynical. He's bickered over right and wrong with his father, he knows that villains think they're in the right usually. He can make a good case for "this is the best way to act" and not tie it to mushy goodness.