In an interview with Comicosity posted yesterday, current Wonder Woman writer Greg Rucka confirmed that Wonder Woman is queer. Not just some Amazons, not an alternate universe version of the character. The official comic book Wonder Woman, Diana herself, is canonically queer. It’s a significant moment. We’ve seen hints of this in the past, but for the writer of the comic to come out and say it specifically is a big deal, and an important step forward for representation in comics.
For Rucka, if Paradise Island is truly a paradise, the Amazons should be able to have “fulfilling romantic and sexual relationships,” and with an island full of women, clearly they are engaging in such relationships with each other. In terms of Wonder Woman herself, Rucka declared, “Now, are we saying Diana has been in love and had relationships with other women? As Nicola and I approach it, the answer is obviously yes.” Rucka points out that the Amazons wouldn’t call themselves lesbians or gay or bisexual; such relationships are just normal for them, and their society is not mired in the heteronormativity of the outside world so there’s no need to make that distinction. But, for all intents and purposes, Wonder Woman and the Amazons are queer.
Now, Wonder Woman’s been queer for 75 years, dating back to her very first appearance. Her creator, William Moulton Marston, imbued his comics with a sexual subtext. The chains and bondage games of his Amazons were a metaphor for loving submission to female rule, but there was a sexual component to that as well. For Marston, true submission and sexuality were intertwined, and the female superiority he espoused was rooted in the maternal and sexual power of women. So when the Amazons, including Wonder Woman, engaged in bondage games with each other, there was something else going on between the lines. It was the 1940s so Marston couldn’t be direct about it in any way, but his Wonder Woman was most definitely queer.
Various writers have imbued a certain degree of queerness in Wonder Woman and the Amazons ever since. Even Robert Kanigher, who wrote Wonder Woman for twenty years after Marston died, later stated that all of the Amazons were lesbians. But now, for the first time ever, the current writer of Wonder Woman has been able to confirm this queerness. It’s official, it’s out there, there are headlines everywhere talking about it today.
This is lovely, and I very much respect Rucka for making this a priority in his writing and publicly confirming that Wonder Woman is queer, but I think he should take it one step further. There are limits to authorial intent, and the glimpses of Diana’s relationships with other Amazons that we saw in Wonder Woman #2 were subtle hints at best. Saying that Wonder Woman is queer is great, but we need to see it clearly in the pages of her comic book.
Rucka does not seem to be in favour of such a blatant declaration, and he has reasonable cause for feeling this way. As he explains:
We’re talking about the “Northstar Problem.” The character has to stand up and say, “I’M GAY!” in all bold caps for it to be evident.
For my purposes, that’s bad writing. That’s a character stating something that’s not impacting the story. I get nothing for my narrative out of that in almost any case. When a character is being asked point blank, if it’s germane to the story, then you get the answer. But for me, and I think for Nicola as well, for any story we tell — be it Black Magick, be it Wonder Woman, be it a Batman story — we want to show you these characters and their lives, and what they are doing.
We want to show, not tell.
And I can understand that. But at the same time, all we’ve ever seen from Wonder Woman are straight relationships. Even now, with Rucka at the helm, Steve Trevor is again her primary romantic interest. To firmly establish that Wonder Woman is queer, we need to see it addressed specifically. They can even keep the Steve angle going while doing so. Bring in an ex-girlfriend and clearly state that she is an ex-girlfriend. Show Diana being attracted to a woman and be deliberate in doing so. Add another queer character to the book who can have a conversation with Diana and dig into the specifics of her sexual orientation. There’s lots of ways to do it. Also, you could just ditch Steve and give Wonder Woman a girlfriend; the dude’s had his shot, and I feel like Diana and Barbara Minerva might have some sparks between them.
The superhero genre is a conservative game. Change like this is hard, and the pushback is always enormous. Catwoman came out as bisexual a year or so ago, and then there was a creative change, her bisexuality wasn’t mentioned again, and she doesn’t have a book anymore. Or look at Harley Quinn; she’s currently engaged in a unique romantic relationship with Poison Ivy in the comics, but the Suicide Squad movie is now pushing her relationship with the Joker to the forefront of the public perception of the character. Making a character queer and keeping them that way is a difficult job, so the further it can be cemented in canon, the more sticking power it will have. Greg Rucka’s not going to be writing Wonder Woman forever, and it would be nice for whoever takes over to have a clear and specific example of Diana’s queerness that is official canon and woven into her story and history in a way that cannot be ignored.
Plus comics are so dang straight. There’s straight people everywhere, romancing it up. It’s assumed to be the norm, in comics and in society as a whole because ugh patriarchy and heteronormativity. To counter this dominance, and to show queer readers that they are represented in this comic book world, queerness needs to be unambiguous and unequivocal. When some gay or lesbian or bisexual teen picks up Wonder Woman, it would be nice for them not to have to read between the lines to find themselves reflected in her world. Make it clear, make it specific, and make it official. Saying she’s queer is a fantastic, groundbreaking first step. But the next step is just as important.