For a book without a release date yet, Grant Morrison and Yanick Paquette are certainly doing a lot of press lately for Wonder Woman: Earth One. Yesterday, the Los Angeles Times’ “Hero Complex” blog posted an interview with Morrison about the book that revealed some interesting tidbits. Obviously, any judgment will be withheld until the book is actually out and I’ve read it, but from what I’ve heard about the book so far, I’m not particularly enthused about it and there are a few comments from the interview that I thought were worth discussing.
When asked if Wonder Woman was a character he’d wanted to tackle, Morrison replied:
Kind of. I’d done it before in “Justice League,” but she’s always been a kind of presence. And there’s something about the character that really annoyed me, to be honest, because I couldn’t quite get a hook on her.
I’m never a big fan of having someone write a book about a character where the approach is “I don’t particularly like this character, but I’ll try to figure out a way to make it work.” This was the same sort of thing we heard from Brian Azzarello about Wonder Woman, and while his Wonder Woman has some good components, the weakest part of the book by far is his treatment of Wonder Woman herself. I find that when someone doesn’t have a good handle on a character to begin with, in trying to figure them out they often veer off into weird, new directions that don’t necessarily well reflect what the character has meant to readers for generations. I’m all for updating and innovation, but when you compare the way Morrison talks about Wonder Woman to, say, the way a writer like Greg Rucka or Gail Simone talks about her, you can see a huge difference.
This comes across for me strongly when Morrison discusses the Golden Age Wonder Woman and the work of William Moulton Marston. Sue at DC Women Kicking Ass has been doing regular posts about Wonder Woman: Earth One and how often Morrison goes on about sex in relation to the book, which is often, and this interview is another example of that. After mentioning Marston’s theory that men should submit to women, he says:
It’s about the sexes and how we feel about one another, and what a society of women cut off from the rest of the world for 3,000 years might look like, and what kind of sexuality, what kind of philosophy, what kind of science would that have developed, and how would that impact our world if it actually suddenly became apparent that these women existed. So for me, that was always the original Wonder Woman story, but when you hear it retold, there’s a lot of potential in there to talk about the way we live today and the way the sexes view one another, especially in an age when pornography has become so ubiquitous, to go back to this sort of strange eroticism that Martson had.
My issue with Morrison’s sex focus is that while yes, Marston had his kinks and early Wonder Woman comics had a sexual element, it was very much a below the surface, between the lines kind of thing. It also had a lot of layers; there was the bondage element, Marston’s justification of the bondage element as a critique of the harshness of patriarchal society, the degree to which this justification falls apart upon closer examination, and the way Marston’s other kinks and fixations seem to almost inadvertently slip into the book on a regular basis.
The “strange eroticism” of Marston was complicated and not particularly overt; the bondage imagery and lesbian subtext is there if you’re looking for it, but you have to look for it. Morrison, on the other hand, seems to be bringing it to the fore. Frankly, I think rather than tackle Marston’s approach to sexuality head on, a far more interesting tack for Morrison to take would be to do his own Wonder Woman and eschew any past influences and see if any of his own personal kinks and feelings about sexuality bleed into the book the way Marston’s did.
As much as I question Morrison’s entire approach to this book, I did appreciate what he had to say about female readers. When asked if he was hoping to attract a female audience, Morrison replied:
Absolutely. We’ll see what happens. It all depends, I guess. It has a lot to do with marketing and the kinds of interviews that we do. But yeah, I was speaking the other day, and I said, “This is a book for mothers and their daughters,” so hopefully that will stand.
It’s good to hear that he’s committed to reaching out to a female audience. As we all well know, this isn’t DC’s strong suit, but if Morrison is pushing for it than hopefully something will happen.
Morrison also talked a bit about Yanick Paquette’s art, which I’m sure will be gorgeous despite my qualms about the story itself. Describing Paquette’s art for the opening of the book, Morrison says:
The first 15 pages are basically a retelling of the Greek myth as filtered through the original Wonder Woman story, where Hercules has enslaved the Amazons, and Hippolyta’s in chains, and basically the Amazons escape and declare that they will establish a paradise island far from the gaze of men. So he’s sent in that entire sequence now, and it’s just this beautiful mural, and he’s done all this amazing decorative stuff with baubles and shattered shards of Greek pottery. And all the scenes are drawn in this flat, graphic style of Greek art, so it really is the most amazing thing.
This sounds super cool. Paquette’s an amazing artist, and from this description it seems that the art posted above, the only art from the book we have thus far, is part of this sequence. However, while that sounds lovely, Morrison then goes on to say that Paquette “captures those aspects of it, which I wanted it to have — the eroticism of Wonder Woman” and we’re back to talking about sex again.
Anyway, now we’re all caught up on the latest news about Wonder Woman: Earth One. It still doesn’t have a release date and, generally speaking, I’m very concerned about it, but I’m optimistic that it’ll be pretty at least.