Monday, June 17, 2013

Why Wonder Woman is a Mess, and Why You Most Likely Have No Room to Bitch...

When you work in two comic book stores for a living, you get asked some questions that can be pretty hard to answer. Being a bit of a (read "bit of a" as "giant fucking") comic nerd all my life, I've plumbed the depths of my knowledge base to come up with answers to those tough questions. One of the ones that I get asked on the regular is, "What the hell is the deal with Wonder Woman?"

On it's face, this seems like it should be pretty easy, right? I mean, WW is one of the three pillars upon which the DCU stands on, is she not? Superman is pretty damn straightforward. Truth, justice, the American Way, got it. Everyone knows Batman. Dark Knight Detective, murdered parents, avenger of the night, got it. What's so different about Wonder Woman?

In a nutshell - she doesn't HAVE a core origin or motivation. Nobody knows what the hell she's about. She's been rebooted and retconned with the frequency that most of us change socks. If you ask 10 different comic fans what the deal with WW is, you will get 9 different answers, entirely depending which run the person was a fan of.

Diana does not react well to constant reboots.

Are you into Marston's original bondage girl Amazon princess who was also the secretary of the JSA and worked as an Army nurse? Does your WW go completely powerless when she's bound by her own lasso? How about Kanigher's inclusion of the Gods? Or perhaps the Mod spy stories of the late 60's or 70's is your vibe with Diana all dressed up in white and running a "hip" boutique while dishing out street justice
 entirely powerless? Was she the one made of clay or was she born mortal? Maybe you got into WW post-Crisis, so the Perez run is your template, where they introduced Themyscira, and all the craziness involving Ares and the Greek Pantheon, where Diana was essentially a female Superman in terms of powers. Before that, she relied on her artifacts and sweet, sweet invisible jet. Maybe you preferred Artemis as WW instead of Diana. Some people actually liked the Straczynski temporary revamp starting in WW 600. Maybe you jumped onto WW at the New 52, because you were too damned confused with her dozen other origins, and wanted a fresh start.

Now if you can sort a core origin out of that mess, you're better than I, and I do this for a living.
Perhaps a better question to ask in light of all this is, "Why is Wonder Woman such a mess?"

Now the answer to THAT question, my friends, is simple. The answer is SALES. Wonder Woman has never been a hot bestseller for DC, regardless of the character's longevity. 
Right now she sells less than 40,000 copies a month, and that's NOT good. Sadly, the sales figures for her standalone title going back nearly 20 years show typical sales being between 25,000 & 50,000 copies a month. Ten years prior, less than 20k. In the 60's, she sold worse than Challengers of the Unknown.

In contrast, Batman typically sells about 150k per month right now, for JUST the core "Batman" title, not including Detective, Legends of the Dark Knight, etc, etc. What it really comes down to for the reason that WW is SO incredibly mercurial, is that creative teams have been desperately trying to throw shit at the wall for decades, over and over, in the hope that the new incarnation will stick. For the most part, none really have, although the Perez version is basically the baseline for what we think of her these days.

So tell me, which Wonder Woman is yours, that you will defend with your rancor and rage? Regardless of the answer, I will simply reply, "Well, you should have bought more copies when that version was in the comics then."