It’s week nine of our interview series leading up to the publication of Wonder Woman Unbound, where we talk to cool and interesting people about their favourite versions of Wonder Woman and how she relates to their particular fields and interests. This week we’ve got Chris Sims!
Chris is the world’s foremost Batmanologist, and he writes regularly for Comics Alliance. He writes comics as well, including Dracula the Unconquered, Subatomic Party Girls, and just out from Oni Press, Down, Set, Fight! with Chad Bowers and Scott Kowalchuk. Chris also co-hosts the podcasts War Rocket Ajax and Movie Fighters with past “Wonder Woman Wednesday” interviewee Matt D. Wilson.
Chris chatted with me about Wonder Woman, presumably from a Waffle House:
Tim Hanley: What was your very first encounter with Wonder Woman?
Chris Sims: I’m almost positive that the first time I saw Wonder Woman would’ve been on Super Friends (I remember already knowing who Batman and Superman were when I got my first comics, so it had to be that), but the first thing I really remember was a storybook that I had when I was a kid. It was about the Justice League satellite being attacked and infiltrated by a villain who turned their trophy room against them, I think? That sounds familiar. I can’t remember what it was, but I do remember just sort of assuming that Wonder Woman was romantically linked to Superman, probably because of the similar color scheme of their costumes. It’s a silly assumption to make, but, y’know, that didn’t stop DC comics 25 years later.
Oh hey, I asked on Twitter and someone found it:
TH: What is your favourite version of Wonder Woman?
CS: This is a tough one. I’m not exactly a Wonder Woman fan, when you get right down to it. I do like different versions a lot (particularly the Justice League Unlimited version), but my favorite is far and away the Wonder Woman of the comics, during the Greg Rucka/Dave Johnson run a few years back. She was tough, smart, didn’t have that stilted relic-from-the-past speech pattern (a recent invention that’s really annoying in a universe trying to make its characters seem young again), and got into some amazing fights.
TH: As the world’s foremost Batmanologist, what do you think is the best Batman and Wonder Woman team-up?
CS: Oh, far and away The Hiketeia, by Rucka and J.G. Jones. Such a great plot, so simple. Someone kills someone in Gotham, so Batman’s not going to rest until he brings her in, but she also performs an ancient ritual that compels Wonder Woman to protect her as though she were a guest in her home, so she can’t let Batman take her in. Just two people who are driven to beat the heck out of each other.
TH: Over the past 25 years, Wonder Woman’s been relaunched and rebooted far more often than the average superhero. Why do you think that is?
CS: Okay, this is a controversial opinion of mine, but I think the reason here is that Wonder Woman is more important than good. Wonder Woman has this position as the first great female superhero, she represents so much to so many people, but the actual stories are, well, very rarely any good. The Golden Age stuff is more weird than enjoyable, rooted in wartime imagery even more than Superman (the American Flag costume is one of my biggest problems with her), the Silver Age stuff is pretty hard to get through (in his run, Robert Kanigher tried to evoke the feeling of the Golden Age, which unfortunately included creating racist caricatures like Egg Fu), the Bronze Age had the misguided attempt to update it (the “loses her powers and wears a pantsuit” years that attempted to make her [ugh] a strong female character by taking away her powers), and in the Modern Age, nothing has really clicked.
Part of the problem, I think, is that Wonder Woman has never had that classic, timeless story that a lot of characters have had. You can point to stuff and say “this is what Superman is about,” or “This is what Batman is about,” whether it’s from the Silver Age or the Bronze Age or Year One or All-Star Superman, but with Wonder Woman, you can’t really point to one and go “this is it, this is why she rules.” There’s stuff that comes close — again, The Hiketeia is awesome — but there are so many competing ideas of what she should be that you get creators projecting conflicting ideas onto her more often than anyone else. And so often, they return to the imagery of the TV show, which a) is forty years old at this point, and b) was not actually very good.
I’d argue your point that she’s been rebooted more than others (Superman has that honor, I think, with four or five competing origins in the span of 20 years, and the Legion has certainly been overhauled more than Wonder Woman), but again, it think that’s part of the projection. So many people want to go in and explain all the quirks, whether it’s the American Flag suit (which Perez had to go out of his way to address in his run) or the bondage stuff from Marston (which was reportedly Morrison’s sticking point with the character that he couldn’t get around), and they all have different explanations. They get stuck on trying to piece it together rather than just moving on with a story, which I think is why you don’t get that “classic.” I was critical of Azzarello and Chiang’s run, which I like, because it was a weird introduction to the character, but say what you want, they just barreled right into telling an epic story about Wonder Woman battling the Gods, and while they worked some origin stuff in there (which itself was pretty controversial), the focus was on the NOW.
And it’s really tempting to want to fix stuff based on your own perception. Like I said, I’m not a Wonder Woman fan by any means, I have an idea of what I’d want to do with the title because I can see the potential there of having a character who’s SO RESONANT and SO CULTURALLY IMPORTANT. I look at these stories and, with very few exceptions, think “no no no, you’re doing it wrong,” and I think a lot of people approach the book like that. We have a consensus of what Superman and Batman and Spider-Man and the X-Men are about, and should be about, but I don’t think we have that with Wonder Woman. We just have a lot of individual ideas that are competing with each other, trying to distance each other from some and move closer to others. It’s complicated. So of course I think I could fix it, but so does everyone else, right?
TH: You’re also a 60s girl group enthusiast. If Wonder Woman were in a 60s girl group, which would it be? Are there any girl group singles that have a Wonder Woman vibe?
CS: Ha! You know, I don’t think Wonder Woman would like a lot of girl group songs, since most of the big ones tend to be about girls pining over boys who have broken their heart, and I’m pretty sure Diana would be telling them they need to get back out there because they don’t need someone else to validate their existence. There are, however, a couple that spring to mind. There’s one called “Looking For Boys” by a group called the Pin-Ups that’s all about how when summertime hits, the girls are just as into the boys as they are, and they are out there looking for love. It’s this crazy ode to embracing female sexuality in a genre that’s usually marked by dependence on men, so she’d probably be into that one.
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?
CS: Depressingly, I think she’d be surprised by how far we still have to go, just like she was back in the ’40s.
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The interview series concludes next week with a double interview spectacular! We’ll be talking to the amazing Colleen Coover and the fantastic Kate Leth! Look for the next Wonder Woman Unbound preview panel this Monday, and the book itself is available for pre-order now, online or at your local comic shop.