Defending the Finches & Wonder Woman #36

Right after Thanksgiving, Molly Jane Kremer reposted an article on TheMarySue (originally posted on DoomRocket) entitled “The New Creative Team on New 52 Wonder Woman Turns the Comic into an Utter (Sexist) Disappointment” (Thursday, November 27, 2014). Since I didn’t consider issue 36, “War Torn,” to be sexist, I thought the creative work deserved some defending and to call out some of Kremer’s finger wagging by applying my Voldemort Axioms.

Brian Azzarello writes a gripping story in The New 52! “Wonder Woman,” issues 1 to 35, which are beautifully drawn by Cliff Chiang (and other artists†). The new creative team includes a freshman writer Meredith Finch and her husband, David Finch, as the artist. The story didn’t peak my interest, but I do remember admiring David’s art work and the coloring by Sonia Oback. In Kremer’s article she points to comments made by the Finches as “ignorant,” Meredith’s “moody” story, and the “lechery” in David’s drawings among the book’s flagrant sexist sins. But Kremer’s critique makes me wonder if she’s just looking for someone to browbeat.

"Wonder Woman", The New 52!, Issue 36, "War-Torn"
“Wonder Woman”, The New 52!, Issue 36, “War-Torn”

 

Ignorant & Lecherous

Noting a couple of quotes from the CBR interview with the Finches, Kremer says things didn’t look good for this new team from the beginning. From David Finch she quotes,

“… I’m really very visually attracted to Wonder Woman. She just looks great on the page.”

Out of context, this might sound creepy, but David is an artist and that’s the context in which he’s speaking. As a creative person, I would think Kremer could identify with the language and perceptions of a creative mind. Creators love to have great subject material and Wonder Woman is that for David. It’s like if you were given the option to write a Wonder Woman story or a story about a dog named Spot.

Kremer links to the full interview but makes no further explanation as to why this quote is a gaffe on David’s part. She simply leads the audience to believe he is some sort of lech.

Throughout the CBR interview with the Finches, there is a pattern in the way they refer to Wonder Woman:

  • “a person”
  • “a human being”
  • “a quintessential superhero”
  • “integrity”
  • “has a lot of character”
  • “courage of her convictions”
  • “willing to take a flying leap”
  • “a female icon”
  • “a beautiful, strong character”

They admire and respect her. These are not the perspectives you’d hear from sexists. When people ask, “How do you write a female protagonist?” we answer, “like a human being.” The Finches goal is to do this and yet Kremer calls them sexist.

Shower Scene

"Wonder Woman", The New 52!, Issue 36, "War-Torn"
“Wonder Woman”, The New 52!, Issue 36, “War-Torn”

The first five pages of issue 36 are a transition from Azzarello and Chiang’s storyline (issues 1 to 35) to the Finches’. Kremer, a long time comic reader, doesn’t make the connection or appreciate the poetry, describing the shower scene as “inexplicable” and “lecherous.” Visually, there could not be a more tasteful shower scene that is obviously not about Wonder Woman being naked but being covered in blood from the literal blood bath of the god-level battles she lived through in Azzarello and Chiang’s series.

Petulant Teenager

To Kremer, David Finch draws Diana like a “petulant teenager.” That’s subjective and Kremer has a valid right to it but David doesn’t single Wonder Woman out. All the (unmasked) heroes are drawn the same. If you compare Wonder Woman to Superman and Aquaman they all have the same expression. The guys look like brooding, Calvin Klein teen models. This is called style, not sexism, and is consistent throughout the issue.

"Wonder Woman", The New 52!, Issue 36, "War-Torn"
“Wonder Woman”, The New 52!, Issue 36, “War-Torn”

 

Help from the Justice League

Kremer is correct that no one from the Justice League swoops in to assist Wonder Woman in the Azzarello and Chiang story line, but Wonder Woman rarely fights alone either. From the beginning of the A & C series, one or more Olympian gods fight beside Diana and even rescue her‡. It’s impossible to tell how involved the Justice League will be in the Finches’ series and it could be a valid issue but, Wonder Woman does seem to have her own set of convictions in the Meredith Finch plot.

"Wonder Woman", The New 52!, Issue 30, "Throne to the Wolves"
“Wonder Woman”, The New 52!, Issue 30, “Throne to the Wolves”

On the surface, Diana’s agency in the A & C series is to rescue an innocent child, Zeke, and come into her own as queen of the Amazons by allowing men (Zeke) on Paradise Island. These are all symbols of her convictions: justice, defense of the innocent, and equality (feminism). This theme is carried over by Meredith Finch and is represented by the teddy bear.

"Wonder Woman", The New 52!, Issue 36, "War-Torn"
“Wonder Woman”, The New 52!, Issue 36, “War-Torn”

 

The Teddy Bear Explanation

"Wonder Woman", The New 52!, Issue 36, "War-Torn"
“Wonder Woman”, The New 52!, Issue 36, “War-Torn”

On the plane with Aquaman, Diana is holding a teddy bear (issue 36, page 17), which Kremer calls the further “infantilization” of Wonder Woman and that there is no discernable explanation of where the teddy bear came from and why Diana has it.

The teddy bear appears on page two in the clutches of a child that’s about to drown and on page ten where Diana is viewing the aftermath of the flood. After Diana goes to Thailand to investigate the flood, the conclusion would be that she found the child’s teddy bear there.

The teddy bear is a symbol of Wonder Woman’s convictions. She fought petulant and demented gods in the A & C series to defend the innocent and for the rights of the disenfranchised. This is Diana’s human side and what makes her exceptional among the heroes; she sees the victims and is angry for them (issue 36, page 7). She is their champion.

Mean Girls

Yes, Meredith Finch is a new writer in the industry. And… she’s a woman! SUPPORT HER! Give her some constructive feedback. She’s made it into the industry and we need her there.

If you can’t tell, Kremer’s article really got under my skin. It was unjust and malicious and there’s no real basis for it. Each of her issues are so easily refutable you have to wonder if there is some other agenda involved. To stamp the Finches’ with a scarlet ‘S’ Kremer did a sloppy review where she was primed to be offended.

I’ll Give You A Topic

If Wonder Woman is drawn with large breasts, does that make the artist sexist? Only if the artist is a man? What if the man is a feminist?

Do large breasts appeal to the gay female gaze? Only if they’re drawn by a woman? What if the female artist is not a feminist? or gay


 

†Other artists include Tony Akins, Kano, Dan Green, Gordan Sudžuka, Amilcar Pinna, Jose Marzán, Jr., Matthew Wilson
‡Just to name a few issues, “Wonder Woman”, The New 52!:

#5, 6: In London, WW colludes with Hermes and Lennox to lock away Hera.
#8: WW needs Hermes to get her into the Underworld where he helps her defeat an army of undead souls.
#10: Strife rescues WW in the Underworld when Hades tries to consume her.
#11: The Scooby team is solidifying as Hermes, Lennox, and Zola join WW in their first encounter with Apollo and Artemis.
#12: The Scooby team fights again in Olympus where Hermes gives WW the ability to fly so she can save Zola.
#18: WW can’t match the speed of Hermes in battle. Orion swoops in and grabs WW out of Hermes’ clutches to escape.
#21: The Scooby gang now includes WW, Lennox, Hera, Zola, and Orion in their first encounter with The First Born and they all summarily get their butts kicked.
#23: War, with an army of soldiers-of-the-ages, joins WW to battle The First Born.
#26: In Chernobyl, WW, Hermes, Orion and Siracca fight Cassandra’s army where Siracca lands the final blow.
#28: Moon, Hermes, and WW face Cassandra’s army again.
#29: The First Born appears, subdues Hermes and Dio, and is on the verge of killing Moon and WW until Hera stops him.
The final battle spans the last 3 – 4 issues where everyone has a role to play.

Rhonda has a BS in Mathematics and Computer Science and is a self-taught graphic designer. She considers herself a geek*wildcard because she has a little bit of experience in everything.

7 Comments

  1. Wonderful article making excellent points. I read the original review and I was left thinking it the author actually read the comic being reviewed, This was a very well thought out rebuttal.
    Thanks.

  2. I agree with this completely! It may have not been the greatest issue ever, and it's hard to follow a team like Azzarello and Chiang, but it definitely doesn't deserve the unabashed hate that it has gotten. I also can't believe a long-time comics reader like the author of the original article would miss the poetry and symbolism of the very non-sensual shower scene. (Also are they forgetting that the very first time we see Diana in Azzarello's run is her sleeping in the nude?)

  3. Thanks for taking time to post a comment, Callie and Wonder Woman Fan.
    I saw the cover of the latest New 52 Wonder Woman issue this week and it was gorgeous. David went all out. It made me want to snatch it right up.

  4. Articles like this demonstrate how much TheMarySue [and other feminist hubs] could benefit from casting their net a little wider when it comes to discussing potential controversies. The internet media's whiplash-fast attention span when it comes to 'hot topics' leads to a dangerous temptation for critics to seek out and latch onto attention-grabbing points of interest. It saddens me that TheMarySue often feels so very insular in its attitude to fostering discussion.

    Molly gives the impression that, once she had formed her initial response, she read the comic to isolate inflammatory details and and snipped the Finchs' quotes to paint the two as unconsciously sexist. As you say, Rhonda, she overlooks the context of the shower scene lumping it in with meaningless, graphic scenes rather than distinguishing it the obvious symbolism of a 'fresh start' with a new kind of story [and creative team]. Her confusion about point of the "teddy bear" is more egregious as it is either demonstrates wilful pot-stirring or an unwillingness to examine and understand a work before critiquing it.

    In all honesty, I have mixed feelings about the Finch team. This is mostly because I thought the direction Azzarello took WW was so inspired, yet I also have a few issues with the writing that are more than just an inevitable disappointment. The teddy bear, though I understand it's purpose as a reminder to spur WW on to seek justice, simply didn't really work for me, feeling ham-fisted and lacking in a decent narrative payoff. Also, I kinda hoped the Finchs would more effectively tie the intriguing situation of Diana's rare status as a Demi-God in the role of one of the core Olympian Gods to how WW fulfills her place in the Justice League.

    Anyway, the issue here is that TheMarySue too often favours such critiques that highlight some apparent example of sexist attitudes or behaviour and then seem to deem the matter settled now that the "target" has been demonstrated to be 'anti-feminist' in some manner. This 'review' is the only one of Molly's many pieces of writing that TheMarySue has reposted and it's hardly a coincidence that it's the most damningly critical [of a creative team that TheMarySue had already 'flagged' as 'anti-feminist'].

    As important as it is for women to have a 'safe' place that is predominantly set up for them to discuss pop culture comfortably and without harassment, if such widely-recognised hubs continue to promote unbalanced and dismissive opinions – WW #36 got a mixed reception but Molly was by far its most extreme critic with her 1/10 – they risk encouraging the mistaken perception of feminists as controversy-seeking and criticism-dismissing.

    That said, the greatest indictment of TheMarySue was not that they posted such a piece but that the comments of the community below took it upon themselves to pile on to the whole "WW needs a teddy bear" thing, then largely ignored the one or two posts that sought to explain its context. While it's certainly not surprising that a comicbook discussion be heated, the absence of a reasonable, respectful exchange of opposing viewpoints is disconcerting.

    TLDR: My personal belief is that a "with us or against us" mentality that tempts aspiring female writers with a potentially simpler route to a readership through controversy is generally more damaging to the cause of feminism than opening the floodgates to "trolls" and "misogynists". Moreover, one has to be wary that certain communities don't start prescribing behaviour for women once they start making it inhospitable for any dissenting opinions.

  5. Adam: Sorry I haven’t responded to your comments. 2015 has been a bear so far.

    I haven’t continued with the Finch series. It didn’t interest me that much and I needed to cut back on some of my subscriptions anyway. I think the ‘ham-fist’ you mention is a sign of Meredith’s lack of experience.

    I agree that TheMarySue has a responsibility as journalists and feminists. I don’t think they can do a thing about what their readers say in the comments. I call out Kremer’s article because she was irresponsible and readers need to make better judgments regarding their daily content. In light of Kremer’s article, I find TheMarySue’s “About Us” laughable:

    We pride ourselves on being an inclusive community of people who not only love what they love but care about others who love it and have an intense passion for those who create it. Fan trends, social issues, geek fashion and art, innovative gadgets, and beyond: The Mary Sue is the heartbeat of geek culture.

  6. the art is terrible!!!!the story would be much better if it wasnt for the art.the fight with swamp thing comes out of nowhere and the dialogue is terrible.the colours are good but thats it.wonder woman is silent most of the issue and when she does talk she sounds stupid.the creative team could have thought of a better way of showing how the past has affected her yhan by having her wash off blood!stupid!whatever you call this article is just simple.they did not even show the justice league going to the place where she could have gotten the teddy bear.it just msgically shows up.

  7. I'm with skinny simpleton. The redesign is not as sexist as the original article claims but it did suck out loud. The new design makes her look too weak and too young. The teddy bear is super dumb, and Diana's dialogue is garbage. I also kept reading assuming this issue was a hiccup in a greater plot line to come. Nope. The next 10 issues were just as uninspired. 🙁

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