Grant Morrison goes too far again with his new take on WW
Comics superstar Grant Morrison (All-Star Superman, The Multiversity) knew going into his Wonder Woman origin story Wonder Woman: Earth One that he’d be making a few major tweaks to the Diana Prince narrative most people know best.This is no surprise he'd turn them more noticeably pacifist. And I guess it's no surprise the site would call him a "superstar" either when his books are far from selling in millions on the charts. They're also wrong about the technology development; in past decades, it was seen in some tales that the Amazons were developing their own technology, and didn't rely solely on sorcery. But genetic experimentation? That may be what's unusual here, and coming from a Morrison book, certainly doesn't sound appealing.
For one, in Morrison’s retelling, Diana’s home of Themyscira is not a warlike society of highly trained female soldiers the way the island is characterized in most depictions. Instead, the Amazons of Morrison’s Paradise Island (the original name given to Themyscira by Wonder Woman’s creator) are more like supermodel scientists who’ve developed fantastical technology and science fiction-like genetic experimentation techniques.
And Steve Trevor—the American soldier who, in traditional retellings, washes up on the sacred island’s shores, gets Diana Prince to fall in love with him, then returns with her to the modern world to fight and win World War II—is no longer a love interest at all. To Morrison’s rebellious teen Diana, he’s simply an opportunity: a way off the island she’s grown restless on and eager to leave behind.Honestly no shock DC's modern staff would allow Morrison to be so explicit in alluding to homosexuality here. But Steve Trevor stopped being an official love interest long ago, when George Perez rebooted WW post-Crisis, so it's apparent the interviewer is not well informed at all. (What's that about "gets" though? They make it sound like he was fully conscious on the Amazonian island, and chatted her into romance, rather than her falling in love with him more on her own terms.) What is different here is that this GN features a Trevor who's been retconned to black instead of white, and if he's not a love interest, the following panels, if you have a strong stomach, could explain why: it may not be displayed explicitly, but what's that, are they indicating that WW is grabbing Trevor by the crotch while asking if he's a man? (And he asks, "miss, can you remove your hand, please?") It makes no difference whether this was aimed at hardcore adult audiences, that's very disgusting, and it goes without saying that, at a time when there's moonbats trying to validate the notion that men can invade privacy in women's bathrooms, the timing couldn't be worse. It's the kind of story setup that makes women look worse, and here, the embarrassing effect is that it makes Diana look like a sexual offender. Some might even wonder if Morrison made this change to Trevor's race because he allegedly didn't want to subject the white Trevor to the insult seen here, or thought it would be easier this way.
Instead, Diana informs Trevor, making over 70 years of subtext explicit, she has another lover: a woman on the island named Mala.
All that aside, how odd they don't want to explore the potential of an interracial romance. Of course, if Morrison and Yanick Paquette are going to depict the proceedings so insultingly, it's no wonder the chances were botched.
And while Hippolyta, Diana’s mother, claims the Amazon princess was molded out of clay, then brought to life by divine gift (as most Wonder Woman origin stories do), Morrison’s Diana learns that her mother’s quaint tale is a lie. She does have a father: a monstrous, misogynistic demigod named Hercules, whom her mother strangled to death with the very chains he bound her with. This trauma, we learn, is what motivated Hippolyta to found Paradise Island.Wow, as if the Azzarello retcon wasn't lazy enough. Now, they have to make Hercules the father, and undoubtably via rape. Okay, what's annoying here is the dilution of fantasy element, resulting in Hippolyta becoming not only a rape victim as George Perez's redo established, but also impregnated by her antagonist. As if the sexual assault wasn't enough. All that does is water down the fantasy element while adding little beyond what's already known. Now, here's some of the interview itself:
How did you decide what to incorporate from Wonder Woman’s 70-year-plus history in this new retelling?Frankly, I don't think he went back much to the Golden Age material at all, if anti-war pacifism mentality is prevalent in this new GN's tale. Besides, even in the earlier material, it's not like she wasn't a warrior; she just wasn't usually portrayed using deadly force in all instances. Although if we're talking about most recent, it seems like she's drawn far more with swords than golden lasso, which just takes away imagination.
I decided to go back to the original version of Wonder Woman written by her creator William Moulton Marston with art by H.G. Peter. I thought there was a lot of material there. In recent years, Wonder Woman’s been portrayed as a kind of warrior woman, but in Marston’s direction, she’s much more a diplomat and an ambassador. She uses weapons for peace, she uses the bracelets to deflect missiles and bullets, and she uses the lasso to capture people and, basically, make them obey her loving command. So I thought there’s a lot more interesting material there for a version of Wonder Woman that was a little bit different than the one you usually see. I was kind of trying to capture the original essence of this counterculture, feminist heroine and put it in a modern context.
The Amazons in the book are not at all warlike, the way they’re usually portrayed. They’re tall and have idealized body types and are super glamorous. What sort of statement did you and Yanick want to make with their appearance?Oh please. It's not like the rest of the Amazons didn't look hot in earlier stories from the Silver Age and the Perez era. Maybe not as gorgeous as WW's meant to look, but they were still drawn pretty attractive, and some were pretty tall too (In one of Perez's stories, Vanessa Kapatelis even comments about this). And WW pondered in one of Perez's first stories how Etta Candy wasn't in that great shape. This is hardly anything new. It sounds more like they're obscuring anything similar by earlier writers from the Silver/Bronze/Iron Ages, and making Morrison out to look like some kind of genius, which he's far from being.
Well, one of the things that Yanick and I noticed about the original material is that the Amazons were portrayed as very glamorous-looking. They looked like 1940s actresses. And so we kind of took that and talked about the idea of creating a sophisticated society of women...And instead of film stars, we made them look a little more like supermodels, taking that idea of “glamour girls of the ’40s are the supermodels of modern times” and turning the Amazons into that. So as you say, their culture is very body-conscious and we created this ridiculous, gazelle-like, athletic body type. Then when Diana meets the girls of the modern world, they’re all very different shapes and sizes and colors, and she starts to realize that there isn’t a standardized look in the world.
As far as the culture of the Amazons, you brought back a lot of the chain-and-collar bondage rituals from Marston’s old versions, and a lot of the cool, sci-fi technology like the purple healing ray—all of which lends itself to that great line from Beth Candy, Diana’s curvy new sidekick on Earth: “You’re from a Paradise Island of science-fiction lesbians? With a side of bondage? Honey, I’ll drink to that!”This is nothing new either. The earlier origins written by Marston and certainly Perez even showed the Amazons using firearms to test their speed of defense with magic bracelets. As for the Beth Candy they speak of, I assume it's a new take on Etta Candy, although several years ago, there may have been another rendition that made her look more attractive and not chubby like the Golden Age take on the co-star was.
(Laughs.) Yeah, a lot of recent portrayals of Amazons focused on the Greek culture aspect, with them trapped in a kind of pre-industrial world. But in Marston’s story—which, again, was my inspiration—the Amazons do have technology. So we just kind of made a point of that: of course these women who’ve been [on the island] for 3,000 years would develop and share ideas. And naturally, they’d have their own technology. And in some cases, their technology is way more advanced than ours.
You also give Diana a father in this version of her story, breaking with the traditional story of Hippolyta miraculously shaping her out of clay. There’s some recent precedent for Diana having a father: in Justice League Unlimited, it was Hades. And in The New 52, her father was Zeus himself. How did you decide on Hercules for this retelling, who’s this monstrous misogynist who degraded her mother Hippolyta and kept the Amazons enslaved?That still doesn't make depicting the Amazons as pacifistic any good. It only makes them look ignorant and uninterested in helping innocent women the world over.
I wanted Diana to have some kind of masculine element because I thought, well, most girls have a dad. (Laughs.) It is quite important. But this is my big tradeoff, because I love the idea that Hippolyta just created her out of nothing, that Diana is a solely female creation. But at the same time, I wanted a lot more tension and drama and a kind of struggle…Hippolyta is the true rebel of the story. She’s the one who fights back and overpowers and strangles Hercules at the start of the book. So really, she’s the one who gives Diana her fire. But she doesn’t want to admit this to Diana. In a kind of genetic experiment, Hippolyta is the one who’s taken Hercules and used his blood and genetic material as a weapon by creating a woman who will subjugate man’s world in the name of women. So [Diana’s creation] was an act by Hippolyta to get her ultimate revenge on Hercules.
Steve Trevor is also African-American in this book and very much not a love interest for Diana, as he usually is in most iterations, including Patty Jenkins’ upcoming movie. I kind of liked that—it avoids the Little Mermaid trope of a princess falling in love with the first man she sees and upending her entire life for him.Why do I have the feeling these lies they speak of coming from Trevor lead to a really embarrassing story? One that's not very dynamic at all? That "matter-of-fact way" has already been spoken about above, and is still quite tasteless.
Yeah, I did that to add more dynamism and more tension. In the original Wonder Woman, she falls in love with Steve, who was fighting for America [in World War II]. And that’s cool, she was coming back to fight with him. But I felt there was a little bit more ambiguity to it. When she meets Steve, he’s the first man she’s seen. And a girl who was raised in the culture of the Amazons—she’s used to seeing certain types of bodies, certain types of dress—I don’t think she would necessarily find him attractive instantly.
So the first thing she does, as a scientist, as a doctor, as a healer, she checks him out in a very matter-of-fact way. I thought there was much more [room for] development in the relationship with Diana and Steve as friends. But there’s so much more there. You find out that Steve was lying to her [about his military mission], you don’t know how many people are lying to her, and the book’s about truth and lies. So I wanted to make the Steve and Diana relationship a lot more fraught and dynamic.
NY Vulture also interviewed Morrison, and they said at the start:
Thanks to the megahit Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Wonder Woman is on the minds of moviegoers around the world. But unlike her peers Batman and Superman, Wonder Woman's story isn't as well-known in the collective consciousness. Comics writer Grant Morrison is angling to change that. Over the course of his three-decade career, Morrison has shown that he knows how to take a classic superperson — Superman, Batman, and Wolverine being just a few notable examples — and identify precisely what makes their archetype compelling. [...]Sure he does. He's made far too many leftist allusions as it is. I wouldn't recommend anybody read his take on WW to know her story; the Marston/Perez material is far better.
Wonder Woman is depicted in your book as being queer and into bondage kink. Why was that important to include?Excuse me? Morrison's take is tame? I think that's disputable, given the nasty scene where WW's tending to Trevor.
Honestly, for me, it’s loyalty to the source material. Those early stories are very heavily bondage-oriented. Seen now, they’re quite startling in their imagery. They seem outrageous. Honestly, what we’ve done is tame, by comparison. We felt she needed to be written in that way. There’s a sense that you cannot say that a society of 3,000-year-old women gave up having sex because they fell out with men. That’s not necessarily something that needs to be dwelt on or brought to the obvious fore in the way Marston did, but I certainly think Wonder Woman does have to acknowledge that debt and kinda has to carry the standard for the alternative and the queer.
This is a story with strong feminist overtones, but you and the book’s other creators are men. Did that concern you?Have they? I'm not sure. There may have only been a handful who did, and those who have didn't remain for long. Those from more recent times didn't even have takes much better than what Morrison's offering, but then, this is an era where DiDio ruined all potential, even for lady writers no matter how sincere the assigned are or not.
Well, of course, until we thought, Well, it’s the same story when you look back at Marston and Harry Peter. Here was a tag-team of men writing about women. All you can do at that point is say, Well, yes, we did. We wrote a character. I wouldn’t like to say it represents all women. I tried to do my research to get at least a flavor of feminism in. I couldn’t necessarily say that what Marston was doing was utterly feminist. It had a very strange, different slant. We just wanted to be faithful, at least, to some of that stuff.
I think Wonder Woman became more associated with feminism in the ’70s, when Gloria Steinem used the character as a figurehead. But yeah, it’s always — you’re walking a tightrope. But lots of women have written Wonder Woman comics. It’s not like we’re the only people doing one. Or doing the definitive one. If people want to see a Wonder Woman comic done by women, there’s a lot of great ones out there.
You reimagined Wonder Woman’s sidekick from the early Marston and Peter stories, the curvy and audacious Etta Candy, although you rename her Beth Candy. How do you approach such a goofy and slightly offensive character in 2016?It sounds like the interviewer got confused about the Golden Age Etta, who was chubby and shorter than WW. And I don't think her portrayal as a comedy relief co-star was particularly offensive at all. She certainly wasn't a sidekick in the same sense as Robin or Supergirl. Sure, she and other girls at the academy where WW resided as Diana Prince would be seen coming to hers and Trevor's aid often, but she was still not a sidekick by any stretch. I can't be sure, but I assume "Etta" derives from the Italian/Spanish pronunciations of names like Margaret.
I think she’s only such a relic in the sense that her name was that. [Laughs.] That’s the one thing that we changed. “Etta Candy” just doesn’t fly in the modern world. It goes back to a time in comics when you had characters named “Ivana Millionaire” and stuff like that. So it is slightly ridiculous and we changed that. But as a character, I felt she was a really important character in the first place. The idea of a very fierce and rambunctious young college girl who didn’t really care what weight she was because she seemed to be able to do anything. She could fight any battle. She could turn up anywhere. She had Wonder Woman’s back. She’s the voice of reason, Etta Candy. And let’s call her Beth Candy, because I can’t call her Etta Candy anymore! [Laughs.] Our version was based on Rebel Wilson, who would be great as Beth Candy. And we were kinda thinking of Beth Ditto from the band Gossip, as well.
Speaking of supporting characters: You made Wonder Woman’s usual love interest, Steve Trevor, a black man. Why do that?Well gee, in that case, why not introduce a brand new character? Unshockingly, he stumbles into the cliched insult to a fictional character, and doesn't blame Marston or anybody else for making Steve a "milksop". Absolutely stupid, as is his assertion that whites are "unacceptable".
Partly because, honestly, quite simply and aesthetically, original Steve Trevor seemed such a milksop kind of character. Another blond, blue-eyed man at this point just seemed unacceptable in this age of diversity and representation.
It’s so weird that there are no canonically definitive Wonder Woman stories in the way that The Dark Knight Returns is for Batman or your All-Star Superman is for Superman.Not funny. It's clear at this point they're obscuring Perez's work, which was well regarded in 1987, and whatever faults it has, was done far better than the post-2000 output. Come to think of it, why must there be a WW book that's an answer to Frank Miller's Dark Knight? Morrison himself even once hinted he's got a negative opinion on Miller after he wanted to write a Batman book where he takes on al Qaeda, which later got made into a separate book, Holy Terror. A really good book does not have to be one that's rooted so heavily in darkness.
I guess it depends on who you are. Everyone’s got their favorites, but there isn’t a Dark Knight kind of book for Wonder Woman. I’m not trying to position what we’ve done as anything like it. I think it goes back to that no one’s really addressed the origins of the character and the really strange feelings that drove that character.
Throughout the time of representations of Wonder Woman have been quite strange. In the ’50s, she was actually just chasing Steve Trevor and constantly mooning over the fact that he wouldn’t marry her. Then in the ’60s, she was kinda lost and wearing a white jumpsuit and trying to find herself again in the counterculture. In the ’70s, she was trying to get re-admitted to the Justice League of America and be a superhero again. So there’s always been this strange progression of it and you have to join in and become a little part of that chain. The chain, of course, is the ideal metaphor here. [Laughs.]
Any closing thoughts on Wonder Woman and the project?Unfortunately, the elements he's put in are already quite distracting, and are quite controversial, including how the US army is portrayed here. But if anything's weird, it's how Morrison, of all people, gets to use certain ideas that may have been eschewed by various other modern writers because they're supposedly outdated, including depicting the Amazons as babes. The favoratism he enjoys from the Big Two's staffs is stupefying.
Hopefully, people like it! [Laughs.] I’d hate for people to be distracted by elements that could seem to be controversial. We’ve tried telling a decent story with all the weird twists and turns that activates the dynamic of Wonder Woman again and makes her a warrior for peace. My dad raised me a pacifist, so if I can make Wonder Woman a warrior for peace again, I’ll be quite happy.