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Saturday, July 16, 2016 

An old interview from 2014 about Wonder Woman featuring a plus and minus

When I'd last spoken about a topic involving the historian Tim Hanley, it was one where he was the interviewee. Now, here's an old entry from his site where he's the interviewer, and former DC editor Janelle Asselin the interviewee. On the plus side, she recognized what was wrong with the disgraced artist Justiniano:
TH: While you worked mainly on the Bat-books at DC, did you ever get to edit an issue with Wonder Woman in it?

JA: Actually, I worked on an entire graphic novel about Wonder Woman that will never come out! It was written by a couple of talented fantasy writers and focused a lot on the mythology of Wonder Woman. It was a really special project and a great experience (it was the only true graphic novel I worked on at DC as everything else was published in single issues before being collected) but there were some truly bizarre circumstances that led to the project being killed. It was because one of the creators, the artist Justiniano, was accused and then convicted of possessing child pornography. Internally the decision was made to halt all production on the book and cancel our publication plans immediately, which hit right as we were on the verge of finishing work on it. Justiniano was actually finished with his pencils completely, which made it insanely expensive at that point to have it redrawn. It’s sad because it was a gorgeous looking book, but I completely agree with the decision that was made because I cannot separate the creator and how they live their life from their work. While there were a lot of other lovely people working on the project who would’ve liked to see it published, I don’t think anyone ultimately disagreed that it should be shelved given the situation.
Certainly it should've been cancelled, though not simply because of inability to separate between art and artist: it's because, if publication would entitle Justiniano to a cut of any profits made on any sales, then ultimately it shouldn't go to press (and most people would hopefully be reluctant to buy a book illustrated by such a pervert. I vaguely remember owning a paperback years ago containing a Beast Boy miniseries Justiniano drew, written by the awful Geoff Johns and Ben Raab. I later sold it off at a used book store, at least 2 years before Justiniano's felony made headlines. My decision to part ways with it at the time was because it was a very mediocre book; maybe not as revolting as some of Johns' later work on the Flash, but still pretty tedious, and featuring elements that would pose a problem in his work later on, like pointless nostalgia, and even introducing an otherwise unexplained daughter for Madame Rouge. I thought it was also a waste of Flamebird, who, in the end, seemed to be in the book just so they could introduce a new costume that was less appealing than the one George Perez designed when he redeveloped Bette Kane in the late 80s.

On which note, from what I know about Justiniano's career, there isn't much memorable about his work, and he decidedly pales next to other artists more talented than him. Under Perez, Flamebird's costume (seen at the side) is colorful and spectacular. But as drawn by Justiniano, even the old design actually comes off pretty uninspired in the 1998 miniseries. Which never got the character the recognition they supposedly wanted to give her.

And back to Justiniano's felony now: they may have made a wise choice to cancel the project after he was arrested and convicted, but suppose this were a case where he'd accidentally sent that memory plug to one of his editors? It wouldn't be shocking if they'd let him off with a little more than a slap on the wrist, sent it back and asked him to give them the correct files instead, and swept the whole case under the rug, because profiteering at all costs is more important to them than morale, and we've seen how they handled the whole Eddie Berganza affair already. The only reason DC and other such companies distanced themselves from Justiniano is because he got caught...by outside sources in an unrelated situation. Who knows, even Asselin might not have balked at continuing work with him. I'm not sure if Justiniano's still in jail, but his career's been destroyed, and deservedly so. A lot of the books he worked on in the past will now either cease being reprinted for a while, or never be, since on the surface, they wouldn't want anybody to think they're giving him a share of the profits they might make. Not that most of his books were worth the trees wasted to publish them though, recalling the revolting setup used in Day of Vengeance.

And whatever the script quality of the shelved WW project might be, isn't it bizarre that a product written by a woman who might be more decent than some of their contributors of recent wound up saddled with a artist whose persona is grimy, while most other writers got artists far more rational working alongside them?

Now, here's the minus side of the interview:
TH: If you were to edit a Wonder Woman story, what would you be looking for in terms of the writer’s characterization of her and the artist’s interpretation of Wonder Woman?

JA: I think the difficult thing with Wonder Woman is that she’s come to be a symbol for so many that a lot of people don’t know how to make her a relatable character. She’s like Superman in that she’s so strong and symbolic that it can be difficult for writers and artists to accept that she can also have a personality. So I think I’d look for a writer to make her both the strong, symbolic character AND the realistic, relatable person she is capable of being. Other writers have done it. It can be done.

As far as art goes, I think she should be drawn as muscular and a warrior. None of this T&A bullshit. I like the costume being kept close to her original costume (it’s just too iconic to really change and have it stick at this point) but I love the idea of it being more like armor. That just makes more sense, right? I love the way Cliff Chiang draws her, too, even if it’s not perfectly my ideal. He’s just such a skilled artist that I’d be happy to see him draw that book forever.
Oh for heaven's sake! No, this is definitely not something I can get behind. We're dealing with a world involving plenty of surrealism, and she thought armor was such a big deal? WW was depicted in combat for many decades without donning armored outfits in every instance, and realistically speaking, it's actually difficult to fight while wearing the kind of armored plates the old Knights of the Round Table wore on the battlefield. I don't know if that's why the Celts of Britain lost to the Normans in remote times, but the armored suits common at the time were anything but helpful in battle. At best, they made it hard to move smoothly.

And that part about "T&A BS" is just her SJW side coming to the fore. It's not wrong for a guy to admire the female form any more than for a gal to admire the male form, and was more or less one of the ideas William Marston had in mind when he set out to develop WW in the Golden Age, so I don't see what all the fuss is about, nor do I see why somebody would want to be a fan of something that wasn't exactly what they envisioned when it was originally created.

What Asselin's implying is that it's wrong for today's artists and writers to conceive foxy costumes if they wish for a heroine. But all she's doing is insulting many decent scribes of yesteryear, since, if they were alive and active today, then the same argument would've applied to them as well. And if I wanted to develop a hot costume design for a heroine today - even a book owned by a private creator - I guess what she's saying means that I'd be wrong and a scumbag for daring to come up with one too, huh? As a guy proud of his masculinity, I feel very put off. I hope she's not trying to link one matter to the other, because there's plenty of decent dudes out there who know how to develop T&A with good taste, and read it the same way too. Not every artist/fan out there is a one-dimensional pervert like Justiniano turned out to be.

So that's a subject primarily about WW that's got an upside and a downside. If only we could hear from experts who aren't SJW types on these topics too.

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  • From Jerusalem, Israel
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