Every day is Wonder Woman day here at Straitened Circumstances, but for the next ten weeks leading up the publication of Wonder Woman Unbound we’re going to have a Wonder Woman Wednesday interview series. I’ll talk to cool and interesting people about their favourite versions of Wonder Woman and how she relates to their particular fields and interests. I’ve got a great group lined up, and leading off the series is Anne Elizabeth Moore!
Anne is a writer and cultural critic involved in a wide and fascinating array of projects. She’s the founder of The Ladydrawers comics collective, a group of female, male, and non-binary artists, students, pros, and volunteers who research and publish comics about gender and labor. Anne’s pet project is writing the “Ladydrawers” strip at Truthout, which is currently in the midst of “Our Fashion Year,” a yearlong look at international gender and labor issues. She’s written two award winning books about Cambodia, Cambodian Grrrrl: Self-Publishing in Phnom Penh and New Girl Law: Drafting a Future for Cambodia, as well as an excellent and informative article about the recent garment worker demonstrations and deaths in Cambodia. Plus, she’s the founding editor of the Best American Comics series. In short, she’s pretty awesome.
Recently returned from Cambodia, Anne was kind enough to share some thoughts about Wonder Woman:
Tim Hanley: What was your very first encounter with Wonder Woman?
Anne Elizabeth Moore: I was a voracious reader of Superman comics when I was growing up in the 1970s. My dad must have collected old reprints for whatever reason—he was a doctor, and probably considered my interests in reading and drawing kind of a waste. So for whatever reason, I ended up with an old Superman reprint book collection that I read, over and over—the first half at least, because by the time Supergirl was introduced I was completely bored. I’d identified with Superman, you see, and for a character to all of the sudden be on offer that was both less than Superman and also supposedly aimed at me was insulting.
But my parents maybe thought I was already too much of a tomboy, or straight-up too masculine, or whatever, and I think they—or maybe some other relative—tried to get me into Wonder Woman comics. But it was already the same thing. It was so obvious: oh, a superhero that is sort of less than, for girls. Eff you. But somehow the TV show made the character more appealing. Maybe the way those early strips were drawn didn’t hit me right, or something, but the live-action Lynda Carter TV show was somehow less offensive. I know my friends watched it, and a girl in my neighborhood used to make me play Wonder Woman with her. She always wanted to be the young, cute sidekick, Wonder Girl, or Wonder Woman Lite, or Wonder hottie, or whatever her dumb name was. I was like, Cool. You wanna be the cute one? I will totally be the ass-kicker. Have fun with that. She works in the pharmaceutical industry. I travel the world working with and writing about young women on media and democracy issues. Although I think she makes a ton of money so it probably works out for everyone in the end.
TH: What is your favourite version of Wonder Woman?
AEM: It’s funny because probably after the Wonder Woman game started, and stuff with my family got really crazy, I developed this invisible friend of Wonder Woman. I think it’s important to note that I was like a separate person from her, so this was no stand-in for me or anything—I was always for sure going to be the one who did things first, which media tends to cast as a masculine trait. But Wonder Woman was the person that I could be like, “Oh this was really hard for me today,” and she could be like, “Oh yeah, I get it because once I defeated an army of zombies on an island with a made-up name,” and I could go, “yeah, you’re right, dealing with my brother is kind of like that,” or whatever.
Plus, I figured, she could be my invisible friend and it was totally legitimate because of the jet, not like some of these other, less legitimate invisible friends running around, which were clearly just a sign of insanity among my peers. So there’s this way that, although I’m really not so interested Wonder Woman as a feminist role model—she would have to have been created by, produced by, and published by active women for her to be any sort of real role model for me—I do feel like I have this personal relationship with her. So my favorite version of Wonder Woman is the one I made up in my head, for sure.
TH: Wonder Woman was a mascot for Ms. magazine and its brand of feminism in the early 1970s. Is Wonder Woman a mascot for the Ladydrawers comics collective, four decades later?
AEM: Oh, we don’t need images of superheroes to aspire to—we have each other.
TH: You do a lot of work in Cambodia. Is Wonder Woman known/popular there, and if so how is she viewed?
AEM: No. Batman’s the only US superhero that’s really made it across that pond, and it’s only because of the movies. Wonder Woman would never fly there anyway: she dresses immodestly, she’s too aggressive. The image of a strong woman there is more subtle, although she definitely uses her mind far more than any physical prowess to get ahead. If Wonder Woman got some pants and a decent short-sleeved blouse and maybe traded in the jet for an invisible motorcycle, she might do OK, but she’d have to learn to speak very respectfully while she was rounding up baddies, and also have a husband and kids that were totally satisfied with her day job of saving the world.
TH: Finally, if Wonder Woman were to leave Paradise Island and come to our world for the first time today, what do you think she’d find most surprising about it?
AEM: Well, I’m going to go with what my favorite Wonder Woman version would do here—the one I made up myself. I think she’d be really flummoxed that so much of the stuff that goes on these days that is evil or committing injustice is actually committed by folks with no clue how evil their actions are. People that are just so not understanding the real way the world goes down that they justify doing horrible things, and they’re generally done out in the open, and lots of people buy in, equally “innocent.”
Take Goldman Sachs for example. I don’t just mean corporations, either, but the entire way that stuff happens under globalization. Neoliberalism in general. In comics, on TV, you need the hero to be evil. To be committing evil acts because they despise people, and that makes it all very easy to capture them and send them off to jail or punish them until they see people are wonderful and duly reform. I was just in Cambodia where the democratically elected government had five people killed largely because they were seen as a threat to continued economic prosperity after generations of national poverty. And the opposing political party sort of pushed it. Where’s the black and white there? Who are you gonna lasso for a confession? Everyone wants to survive, and thrive, and everyone wants power. Superheroes generally operate under the presumption that there is a difference between good and evil, but the world’s actually much more complicated than that now.
* * * * *
Big thanks to Anne Elizabeth Moore! Anne is @superanne on Twitter, and you can learn more about her many fascinating projects at her website.
The Wonder Woman Wednesday interview series will continue next week, and be sure to look for the next Wonder Woman Unbound preview panel this Monday.