Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Has Anyone Seen my Invisible Plane?

I read recently online that Joe Straczynski, creator of Babylon 5 (one of the best sci-fi shows on TV ever) and a regular writer for TV, movies and comic books, has been tapped by DC comics to write the graphic novel(s) for Superman: Year One. This comic, to be released in 2010, is part of a series by DC that currently includes Batman but one can easily imagine it being expanded to other heroes of the DC universe. The concept is to re-tell the origin stories of these characters, evidently (if I’m reading correctly) on some alternate Earth where any changes made in the series wouldn’t affect existing titles or canon for those characters. Straczynski had mentioned more than ten years ago that he very much wanted to write Superman, so I’d imagine he’s very excited about this news. I’m certainly looking forward to reading it.

Personally, I’m not longing to write Supes. I mean, if DC called me up and said, “Mike, we desperately need you to write Superman for us” hell yeah I’d do it. But it’s not something I long for the way JMS did. I mean, he’s Superman. He’s frickin Superman. He’s so incredible that he has to put on a “Clark Kent” costume and turn himself into a loser because he’s just too marvelous to be himself all the time. What do you do with that? I’m sure JMS has plenty of good ideas, but it’s not a prospect that I get all tingly about.

In fact, when I started thinking about comics and comic book characters, nobody was more surprised than I was that I ended up at Wonder Woman. First, the disclaimer: I’m pretty sure I’ve never read a Wonder Woman comic in my entire 30+ year history of reading comic books. All of my knowledge of Wonder Woman comes from reading Justice League comics, as well as from TV shows such as the Linda Carter Wonder Woman from the 1970s, or the animated Justice League shows of the last ten years. I know nothing of how the comic has been written recently, and as such I’m not claiming I could do a better job than the writers have already done over the last fifty-plus years that the comic has been around. But I really think I’d like to write Wonder Woman.

Let’s first summarize this character, or at least what I know of her. She’s from a secret island of “Amazon” women – all super-powered and hidden from the eyes of the world by some sort of magic or technology. They have a reverence of some sort for the gods of ancient Greece and they have no males among them. Don’t ask where the little baby Amazons come from, or what they do with them if they’re boys. I don’t know, but I’m sure it’s awful.

Anyway, Amazon daughter Diana Prince leaves this island paradise to fight evil in the outside world. She takes with her a golden lasso that can force prisoners to tell the truth, a set of silver bracelets that can deflect bullets, and a golden tiara that if I remember right acts as a boomerang. Or maybe I’m thinking of something else. She also has super strength, super speed, and (depending on the version she’s appearing in) she can fly. Which is a little odd, because she also has an invisible jet. I suppose just because she can fly doesn’t mean she wants to fly everywhere, just like people who could walk still prefer to ride around in cars. Also, she probably loses that damn thing all the time. I mean, think about how hard it is to remember where you parked your VISIBLE car. Can you imagine finding an INvisible plane?

But none of this is what I think is especially cool about Wonder Woman. You see, Wonder Woman’s job, at least in some versions of the story, is as a secret agent. She’s a female James Bond for freak’s sake. AND she’s a super hero. That’s a two-fer, and I think it’s awesome. You can take your Superman with his whole reporter side-job, and you can take Batman with his whole “rich guy” thing, but Diana Prince’s day job is every bit as cool as being a super hero.

Ezra at Popehat yesterday railed against the weakness of the women of Twilight, whose very existence is purposeless except in the context of their men. Wonder Woman, on the other hand, is a tough chick from a whole island of tough chicks, and she’s a damn secret agent to boot! Woo! As a father of a daughter, I love the idea of this character – a super-powered, tough-minded, take-no-crap-from-nobody woman who holds down an important job in international intelligence and also occasionally saves the entire planet from destruction at the hands of various super-villains is the ultimate symbol of female empowerment. I believe DC Comics already uses her as a female role-model, so it isn’t as if my writing for her (which I don’t actually expect would happen anytime soon, mind you) would dramatically change that. It’s just that if I were going to write a new origin story for a classic DC character, I think Wonder Woman would be an awesome story to tell. Either way, I agree with Ezra that female role models need to be about empowerment, strength and self-assurance. And if Twilight's not providing that, then it's not doing today's young women any service.

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