I’ve been a huge Wonder Woman fan for almost my entire life, since back in the days of Super Friends on Saturday mornings and Lynda Carter spinning around in a giant flash of light. When DC rebooted the character the first time with artist George Perez back in 1986, I bough that very first issue and have bought every issue since then. That particular run on the book solidified her as my all time favorite super hero. Some runs after that were great, some really sucked, but I always kept on buying, due to my intense love of the character and what she represents. But due to what transpired in this week’s issue of Wonder Woman (Volume 4, issue #7) I’m doing what I once thought unthinkable to me. I’m dropping my monthly buying of Wonder Woman all together. Issue #7 was the last straw…I quit.
I’ll admit, this has been coming. The revelation late last year that Wonder Woman was not the product of a mystical asexual birth but was in fact the daughter of Zeus really irked me, as I felt the subtext of that went against original Wonder Woman creator William Marston’s intent for Diana to have a purely female based power source. Whether or not the notion of giving Wonder Woman a father in the traditional sense is being non feminist or not could legitimately be debated, and although it is not a character change I could agree on, I could see the point some fans would have that this revelation didn’t fundamentally change her character. But I don’t see how anyone can see what was revealed in the latest issue of Wonder Woman as anything but blatantly misogynist. This isn’t just ugly subtext anymore, this is just ugly text, period.
So SPOILERS for the last issue of Wonder Woman, for those sensitive to such things.
In Wonder Woman issue 7, it was revealed by the god Hephaestus that the Amazons replenish their race by leaving their isolated home of Paradise Island three times a century, appearing on ships at sea as sirens in the night, and have a night of carnal fun with the men on board…after which they brutally murder said men. Then, returning home to Paradise Island, those Amazons who got pregnant keep their female children to raise as Amazons, and deliver their unwanted male children to the God Hephasteus to serve as his slaves in exchange for weapons.
In short, the Amazon race, as depicted in DC Comics for more than seventy years, meant by creator Willam Marston to represent the best of what humanity can achieve, are now a race of murderers and child slave traders. They’re monsters, plain and simple. This is akin to DC coming out now and saying that Thomas and Martha Wayne were secretly drug dealers, and their deaths were a retaliation hit, or that Pa Kent molested young Clark. Of course, DC would never dare do something like this to their two biggest cultural icons. No, only their cultural icon that happens to be a woman can have her entire heritage pissed on all over like this. Writer Brian Azzarello has stated since the begining of his run that his take on Wonder Woman is a “horror book” and not a super hero book. Judging from this latest reveal, it is only a horror book for actual fans of the character.
Of course, some fanboys have already risen to this loathsome development’s defense online. “Isn’t this keeping in line with the Amazons of ancient Greek mythology?” That’s one I response I keep reading. Well yes, it is. In actual Greek myths, the Amazons mated with men once a year, kept the female children and raised them as Amazons, while the male children were outright killed at birth or left exposed in the wild to die. They also cut off one breast, as to make archery easier. So yes, that is the actual myth the ancient Greeks had about the Amazons.
But what Wonder Woman’s creator William Marston did when he created his Amazons in 1941 was to turn that whole mythology on its head. You see, while the Ancient Greeks had a lot of virtues (they gave us democracy, the Olympics, and were pretty cool with homosexuality long before any other cultures were) they were deeply misogynist. One could interpret their myths of what the Amazons were as based in the fear that a Greek male dominated society would have had of strong women. In fact, that’s the angle Dr. Marston took when he created his Amazons in the early 40’s; what he did was take that old myth and show it as false. His Amazons were actually an advanced and peaceable people, and the old myth perpetuated by the ancient Greeks was nothing more than woman hating slander. And clearly, they kept both breasts. If the whole “one breast” thing was a lie, what else was could be a lie?
And it has been that version of the Amazons that has been part of the DC Universe for all these decades. Oh, the face of it might change. Sometimes DC’s Amazons have had advanced technology; in other iterations their technology never progressed beyond the Bronze Age. Sometimes Wonder Woman’s mother Queen Hippolyta is a blonde, other times she’s a brunette. Sometimes the Amazons have been represented as being more fearful of mankind, and sometimes they’ve been shown to be more open. But they were always depicted as noble warriors, who believed in peace above all else. These are the ideals that they instilled in a young Diana, who set forth on to our world as Wonder Woman to spread those ideals to the rest of the world. And those ideals mean nothing if they come from who a race who believes in the cold blooded murder of innocents and child slavery.
In a very sad way though, what DC has done with their most recent revelations is eerily fitting for the times we live in. The timing for this reveal by DC couldn’t be more shitty, or more timely, depending on how one looks at it. Women’s rights in this country have never been more under attack then they are now, at least during my lifetime. A woman advocating reproductive rights is called a “slut” and a “prostitute” in the media, and in Arizona a bill was passed that says a doctor can’t be sued for keeping crucial information about a woman’s pregnancy from that woman if he fears she might be a candidate to get an abortion. (so much for that whole Hippocratic Oath business) Anti-woman views are creeping back into our culture at an alarmingly rapid rate, so Azzarello’s Wonder Woman might just be the accurate Wonder Woman for our times after all, although in a truly horrible way.
I actually don’t really blame current Wonder Woman writer Brian Azzarello in this instance. Simply speaking, he’s not really a Wonder Woman fan at all. He has said as much during interviews. He’s an excellent writer and storyteller, and he certainly knows his Greek mythology. In fact, his spin on Greek myths has been one of the more fun aspects of his run on Wonder Woman so far. I gave the first issue of his Wonder Woman run a pretty glowing review here on this site in fact. But it is pretty clear since that first issue that he doesn’t care for the actual character of Wonder Woman very much, to the point where in order for him to write her, he has had to change her entire world from top to bottom. While the whole “New 52” reboot has resulted in more or less just cosmetic changes for DC’s main icons, it is pretty clear now that everything about Wonder Woman is fundamentally different. The Wonder Woman I have known and loved my whole life effectively doesn’t exist at DC Comics anymore…it just took this particular issue to hammer the point home for me.
No, I don’t blame Azzarello. He might have had the idea, but his bosses had to approve it. No, I blame DC Comics. More to the point, I blame Dan Didio, Geoff Johns and Jim Lee, or whoever it was that gave the OK for this decision. They clearly have no respect for the character, or her position as a cultural icon. Wonder Woman has, since day one, been a representation in our popular culture for ideals of peace, fairness and equality. But now we know that that her heritage is tainted, because it represents not equality for women, but an all out hatred of men. Because, isn’t that what strong women really all feel? Hatred of men? Because that’s what this is telling me: The empowerment of women MUST equal the disempowerment of men. Wonder Woman now represents a culture that is Rush Limbaugh’s idea of what feminism is. Whoever it was at DC that gave their stamp of approval to this should be ashamed of themselves. I really don’t mean that lightly. DC SHOULD BE DEEPLY ASHAMED OF THEMSELVES.
It is hard for me to be angry about this anymore. No, I’m just bummed. Bummed that the only version of the Amazons for any new reader to read about (especially any new female reader) right now are these. This being comics of course, I realize that all hope is not lost forever. After all, in 1968 DC gave us the “All New Wonder Woman,” where they got rid of her powers, her ties to Paradise Island, her costume, and gave her a male mentor figure. Oh, and a new job, not working for the military, but owning a boutique of all things. Even the writer who came up with this idea, Denny O’Neil, realizes now what a horrible idea that was and how far back it set the character. Four years later, the real Wonder Woman returned, so maybe one day I’ll get my Wonder Woman back. But I’m not holding my breath. Until then, I have my back issues and my memories, and that’ll have to be good enough.