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Thursday, July 01, 2010 

JMS "grounds" Wonder Woman and Superman

J. Michael Stracynski continues to make me yawn - and sigh in sadness - at what he's now doing to some of DC's most famous protagonists. First, there's his idea of changing WW's costume to pants, and he says:
“She’s been locked into pretty much the exact same outfit since her debut in 1941. What woman only wears only one outfit for 60-plus years?..I wanted to toughen her up and give her a modern sensibility.”
Umm, JMS, Diana did change her costume design at least once before, when Denny O'Neil was writing the series in 1969-73. And what man wears pretty much the same outfit since his debut in 1938? Superman! The one time he really changed his costume was in 1997, and nobody cared for that either.
“It’s a look designed to be taken seriously as a warrior, in partial answer to the many female fans over the years who’ve asked, “how does she fight in that thing without all her parts falling out?”)
Well gee, that's the surrealism common in most science-fantasy comics of this sort, and hardly something anyone looking for escapism has ever worried about.
The bracelets are still there, but made more colorful, tied on the inside and over the hand, with a script W on each of them that form WW when she holds them side by side…and if you get hit by one of them, it leaves a W mark. This is a Wonder Woman who signs her work…letting her enemies know that she’s getting closer.
She certainly is getting closer - in gimmicks - to Lee Falk's Phantom, who had something like that in his skull rings too. What else is new?

But even more head-shaking is JMS's plan to imitate Geoff Johns's changes to the Flash - by not only destroying Themyscira, but also by changing Wonder Woman's history timeline:
Because of a change to the character's timeline, Wonder Woman now has a new origin, an altered history and a different supporting cast.

It all starts with an alteration to time, about 20 years ago, when someone destroyed Paradise Island. This new Wonder Woman was a baby then, and after her mother was killed, she was smuggled out of her homeland and raised by guardians in New York.
It sounds almost like Superman and Donna Troy's origin - in reverse! But far less appealing.
Wonder Woman readers pick up her story 20 years later, but it won't take long for this altered Wonder Woman to find out what happened to the timeline, making it her mission to correct it.

It's all part of Straczynski's attempt to give Wonder Woman a more realistic, grounded approach that contrasts with her still mythical background. He compares the effect to what Neil Gaiman did in Sandman. While this fresh, new Wonder Woman exists in a tough, urban world, she also interacts with a few surviving Amazons and their mythical world that still exists in the shadows.

These changes to Wonder Woman come on the heels of another big character change orchestrated by JMS. Just last Wednesday, DC announced the writer's "Grounded" storyline that takes Superman across America by foot.

And while the changes to Wonder Woman may seem a bit overwhelming to DC fans, Marvel fans will remember another recent iconic character change written by JMS. After all, Straczynski was the writer behind "One More Day," the story that saw Spider-Man's history altered to erase his marriage.

After that story was finished, Straczynski publicly decried Marvel's editorial changes to his Spider-Man story — particularly its effect on continuity. And soon after, he left Marvel to write exclusively for DC.
Where he's now turned to doing almost the exact same thing he concluded his work on Spider-Man with. And knowing JMS's track record, I don't expect this to go over well, even if it's only temporary. I do however expect this to mess up continuity in the DCU quite a bit. Speaking of which, if this is what they're going for, why don't they just cancel the Justice League altogether, instead of making it the dumping ground it's become for several years now?

JMS's take on WW's mythological backdrop and supporting cast is also very awkward:
Finally, there's the problem of her being overwhelmed by her mythology and her supporting characters. When writers don't know what to do with a character, they build up the supporting cast and universe to kind of hide that fact. After a while, you can no longer see the character for the underbrush. When that happens, you need to bring out the weed-whacker to clear some of that away so you can focus on the main character.
How laughable. If there wasn't a supporting cast, how would Spider-Man have worked as well as it did for many years, until people like him ruined everything with his work, which was tainted with overly liberal politics lurking around the corner? Indeed, as I recall, the supporting cast was almost entirely absent from Spidey during his run, save for Mary Jane and Aunt May. Regardless, the stories amounted to almost nothing but wobbly ideas like the Totem tale, which did not mesh well with established continuity, nor did they add much of anything to the franchise beyond what was already told.

And if that's how he was going to handle Spidey, we can't expect much difference here.

Nor can we expect much from his coming work on Superman, which sounds like it could be kinda slow:
Rather than traveling the galaxy defending the universe from dark forces, Superman may soon arrive in your hometown in a very pedestrian way.

As part of the Grounded story line that kicks off in July with issue No. 700 of DC Comics' Superman series, the Man of Steel will walk across the USA to reconnect with the everyday people he is committed to protecting.
The word pedestrian may be even more descriptive than it is of what's coming up. Especially if the Man of Steel just walks across the country, rather than fly. It could be even more underwhelming than it sounds.
"You have to remember that when Superman was initially created, his fights weren't against vast interstellar forces. They were against criminals preying on the average guy," Straczynski says. "Superman was created to be the ally of the average American, the guy who didn't have lots of money or friends in high places."

From poverty and drug-plagued neighborhoods to stories of hope and happiness, he will witness the best and the worst of everyday life.

"We will be asking hard questions, and Superman will learn the extent to which even he may not be able to change things," Straczynski says. "But at the same time, we will explore the language of hope and feature the stubborn noble strength of the average man and woman trying to survive in a difficult and changing world. We will see Superman through the country's eyes, and the country through Superman's eyes."
Yeah, I'll bet they will explore things, from a leftist POV, no less! And I suspect they'll be exploring change as well as hope, just like Obama is doing now, to very little positive effect! And I learned not to expect hard questions answered in JMS's work ever since one of his first stories in Spider-Man almost a decade ago, when he set up a story that might've been an allusion to the Columbine massacre, which made the student wielding an assault rifle into a kid picked upon who takes out his anger against almost the entire school. Yeah, that was asking hard questions alright. I hesitate to think what'll happen if he gets his hands on writing Captain Marvel.

Stracynski is just as full of hot air today as he was a decade ago when he became more active in comic books. He needs to stick with television writing and producing, and not waste his time - or ours - by foisting his increasingly leftist slant on the comics medium.

Update: Phyllis Chesler has brought up the subject of WW's costume change.

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Honestly, I like the WW revision. It does add some interest to a character no writer since Perez has known what to do with. Plus, unlike the death of the Spider-marriage, we all know it will eventually be undone. JMS can write decent stories at times. Maybe this will be one of those.

The Superman storyline, OTOH, looks like garbage.

Wonder Woman has become a bargain basement Buffy clone with a dash of every bad idea from the 90s thrown in. Just awful.

And the walking Superman crap is DEFINITELY agitprop to push the Barry Soetoro wheel barrow. Just in time for the November elections.


"Superman was created to be the ally of the average American, the guy who didn't have lots of money or friends in high places."

So does this make him the sworn enemy of JMS?

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