Comic Books, Story

My Halting Transformation into a Wonder Woman Fan

From Academic to Fan

The current political climate makes reading classic (i.e. Marston-era) Wonder Woman feel more relevant. To be honest, reading Marston-era Wonder Woman is tough for me. The stories share a formulaic structure and repeat the same themes: Wonder Woman saves America from the Axis of Evil and along the way encounters Steve Trevor so he can remind us that Wonder Woman is beautiful and an object of desire. I feel a much more immediately attached to the Wonder Woman of Azzarello and Chiang’s work and the Wonder Woman of Finch and Finch. Modern Wonder Woman is slicker, more direct, and more complex. Marston-era Wonder Woman has secrets!

In many classic Wonder Woman tales the reader unwittingly stumbles on Wonder Woman’s skills and resources. In one issue we find that Wonder Woman has a psychic telephone she can use to reach any human including Etta Candy. These surprise moments don’t feel like interesting moments of revelation. Instead they feel trumped up. I love Wonder Woman. I love what she stands for and what it means to be an Amazon. Unfortunately, I don’t love every Wonder Woman moment. I feel like a traitor because I don’t fall in love with every Wonder Woman moment.

I made a commitment to reading all of the classic Wonder Woman I can access and that has proven to be daunting. I whipped through the Azzarello/Chian and Finch/Finch stories, but it’s taken me months to read a handful of classic stories. Why!? I puzzle about this more often than I read the stories because I’m not sure what it means. I’m not sure if it matters. I’m not sure how important it is, but it feels important. Must I find a way to love every Wonder Woman? Should I feel impending dread when I think about reading 1960s Mod Era Wonder Woman? If it’s work, is it love? This is what I want to know.

Help Me Understand

Does everyone love the early formation of his or her favorite character? Is the first appearance of a character as important as the more developed and later versions of the character? Is the first Superman important to fans born in the 1980s? It depends on the reader, I suppose, but I wonder how I can really know the character of Wonder Woman if I don’t read all of Wonder Woman.

That is the academic in me talking though. I don’t want to have this experience only as an academic. I also want to have the experience that fans have. Can one experience unabashed admiration for one era of a character if another era’s version of that character is bone dry and pedantic?

What do authentic comics fans do? Do they read every inch of a character’s mythology and love all of it? Do they debate parts of it? Deny parts of it?

There is only one way I can know! I need you to tell me. In the comments, tell me who is your favorite character and how much of his or her (or its) material have you read? How much of it do you love?

3 thoughts on “My Halting Transformation into a Wonder Woman Fan”

  1. I don’t know as if I have a favorite Wonder Woman iteration (although I definitely have *least* favorite ones); instead, I enjoy Wonder Woman for what she brought to her time in history. I myself don’t enjoy the early comics, either, but dang, I sure appreciate how marvelous they were for the time in which they ran, and feel a great pride in them, and in her. But they are not my time. I really enjoy the Wonder Woman of today (even though I’m really tired of DC squeezing the mythos with constant and uneven downright gratuitous – panderings – in the last few years as the character has gotten more [$$$] popular), and I loved the movie, but that’s because this is my time.

    I guess to answer your question, I don’t see a definitive answer. I learned all about Wonder Woman, went back and studied her and the times she witnessed, did research and read not only comics but studies of those comics. But I love Ben Percy’s Green Arrow, as well, and have no intention of going back and diving into that character’s history, nor hitting the guilty pleasure of the CW television show. I’m good with what Ben is putting out there.

    So for me, there’s no set way I enjoy my comics. I just do, in whatever the flow it goes. Not sure if that helps at all, but that’s what I got! /wink

  2. I don’t think you need to read or like every WW story. She’s had so many origin stories, it’s hard to say they’re all the same character. I think WW is more of “spirit” of a character rather than a fully-developed traditional character. My favorite WW story is the New 52. I’ve read all of the old Marston stories. They’re definitely cringe-worthy by modern standards, but I feel like they gave me a bit of history lesson on how the world was, and how comics were mostly used as war-time propaganda. I don’t “like” them as stories, but they’re still interesting to me.

  3. Does everyone love the early formation of his or her favorite character?

    Nope. I don’t like Batman’s older comics, they are too hokey and simple. Some people don’t like ‘dark brooding Batman’ but it gave him complexity and the ability to explore different themes and stories that actually progress with the reader. I can appreciate the nostalgia and the ‘gee wiz soda pop and candy’ nature of them like Captain America’s early years, but in no way are they my favorite.

    “Is the first appearance of a character as important as the more developed and later versions of the character?”

    To me this is like asking if Luke on Tattooine is as important as the Luke who saved his father from the Dark Side and his own internal hate… The origin/first appearance is only as important as the journey the character/hero takes.

    “What do authentic comics fans do? Do they read every inch of a character’s mythology and love all of it? Do they debate parts of it? Deny parts of it?”

    As much controversy as it causes I have a similar problem you do, only in reverse. I do not like seeing the comics I read and enjoyed re-worked for purposes purely in politics so now I am sort of forced to enjoy a lot of the ‘earlier’ (see also: past 20 years) as my own nostalgia of when the character wasn’t just a billboard for political beliefs. I don’t want to rant about that here but needless to say I feel like I am betraying my characters because when they reset the universe(s) and slapped a new coat of paint on them to tell me it was about representation, I am forced to wonder… Did Falcon teach me to be loyal and true to myself because he was black, or because he was a hero? Did Wonder Woman teach me to be tough but also use compassion and mercy when necessary because she was a woman, or because she was a hero? Did Cap teach me that liberty and personal choices define a person because he was a white male, or because he was a hero? Did Batman teach me that sometimes you need to channel your inner demons into something useful for you and others because he was a billionaire, or because he was a hero?

    In essence, to my opinion, like what you like and damn the people that disagree. Speak with your money and speak with your loyalty.

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