Greg Rucka Says Wonder Woman Is Queer: Great! But Also Show It On The Page


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.

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8 Responses to “Greg Rucka Says Wonder Woman Is Queer: Great! But Also Show It On The Page”

  1. JanArrah Says:

    This is missing a whole lot of bad in this statement. Essentially Rucka has stated that Diana was a lesbian simply because she had no other options. And lesbians only exist because they have no man to want them.. then when a man (Steve Trevor) comes to the island, they must fight for the right to be with said man and escape the terribleness that is lesbianism. There are huge, huge issues with this interpretation. And we all know it can and obviously IS that direction.. Diana and Amazons are ONLY interested in women because.. it’s the only option.. when a better one comes along, she ditches the girls and goes for boys.. It’s just.. a horrible, horrible way to handle things.
    And while Diana being bisexual or pansexual is not an inherently bad thing, she is NOT the best character for queerness to be explored simply because.. as I’ve stated countless times.. there are numerous stereotypes and fantasies that get mixed up with lesbianism and all women that it just becomes a big fat Grant Morrison disaster.. It’s too easy for this all to become a really bad heterosexual fantasy and not a positive representation of homosexuality.

    • Anonymous Says:

      Reading your comment it almost seems like you are talking about the Golden age Wonder Woman comics and not the ones being published today. In those comics Diana did fall in love with Steve Trevor before he had even become conscious, the Amazons did engage in titillating bondage games, and there was (if I remember correctly) some magic law of Aphrodite on Paradise Island, that decreed that the Amazons would all fall in love with any man who sat foot on the island, which is partly why men were forbitten.

      I remember you making a similar point when the first issue of Year One came out, and I am sorry, but it really seems like you want there to be some rotten core of ignorant sexist anti-lesbianism somewhere in this book, regardless of whether there is actually any evidence to support such a reading or not. I mean Rucka basically said the opposite of what you just accused him of saying in the interview. His point was precisely that Diana needed to have previous sexual experience in order to diminish the sense that she basically falls in love with the first man she’s ever seen and leaves everyone she has ever known behind so she can go bone a dude. If you read interviews with Greg Rucka talking about Wonder Woman, it is very clear that to him Diana leaving Paradise Island is heroic self-sacrifice, and has nothing to do with her falling for Steve Trevor and only very little to do with wanting to see the outside world. She is sacrificing her home, her immortality and everyone she has ever known, so that non of her amazonian sisters will have to. That is were the pathos of the origin story comes from, as far as Greg Rucka is concerned.
      I am trying to be careful here because there are plenty of sexist jerks on the internet that will shout down any criticism they don’t like with “shut up, you are wrong!” But I just don’t see how anyone could seriously suggest that Greg Rucka would use his Wonder Woman run as a vehicle heterosexual fantasies about lesbians, based one the comics we gotten from him so far or the things he has said in interviews like the one discussed above. I appreciate your concern about how easily the Amazons sexuality could be turned into some pubescent sexual fantasy, and if it was Scott Lobdell currently writing Wonder Woman I would share your concern, but as it stands right now it just seems like you are prejudging and projecting your own DC paranoia onto the book.
      You are of course right that if DC establishes Diana and the Amazons as “lesbians” and then never gives Diana a female lover again, then it would seem, whether intentional or not, like she was only into women out of necessity and basically turn straight the moment she left Paradise Island. Which is why it is important that Greg Rucka and DC follow through on this and actually have her display bi-sexual interest in the future. But I personally trust Rucka on this. He is a smart guy, and I think he is totally aware of how as a writer you can easily end up saying something you didn’t intend if you are not carful.
      For me it basically comes down to this: The Amazons should be portrayed as fully formed three-dimensional characters (as much as possible within their generally limited panel time), and as such they should have a sexual element to them like most people have. Since there aren’t any men on Paradise Island they have to find their romantic and sexual fulfillment amongst one another, but I don’t think that inherently implies that female homosexuality only exist because of the absent of male interest. For such a reading to be true there would have to be other elements in the actual text to support it, otherwise it is just the reader bringing his/her own archaic notions on sexuality and reading it into the work. If not, then by the same logic you could also say that if the Amazons are never portrayed as sexual, then that perpetrates another ancient and harmful myth about female sexuality, namely that a women’s sexual driver is like a frozen tundra that will lie forever dormant if there is not a man around wake it.

      • Jan Arrah (@JanArrah) Says:

        I am not just talking about Golden Age Wonder Woman. Whether or not Diana is currently running off with Steve to fall in love with him, the imagery is that an island of women who only love other women suddenly switch and become bisexual because a man presents himself to them as the alternative. Whether that alternative is Steve Trevor or Clark Kent or Steve from American Dad doesn’t matter.. It’s the images of it.

        And while you think Rucka is actually so anti-sexist lesbianism.. sorry, there is a lot of rather anti-lesbian and anti-bisexual context to what he says, whether or not he means them. His story implies that Diana learned girl on girl romance, she wasn’t born that way, she learned it because it was her only option. We know that’s not how lesbianism work. She then BECOMES bisexual when men (regardless of who that man is..) become an option to her.. which again, is not how bisexuality or sexuality works. Regardless if Diana falls for Steve immediately and leaves just for Steve, the contest is started because a MAN comes to Themyscira.. which leaves women who are lesbians fighting for the right to run off with a man.. and be with a man. which again, isn’t how lesbianism works or how it actually is. Whether or not that is exactly with Rucka says is happening isn’t important.. it’s the image of it that is.. and long after Rucka is gone, things will change.. the details don’t matter, it’s the bigger picture and the images and symbols being played with.. not the specifics because those can as you know change from one moment to the next.

        Rucka may be a “smart guy”, but this is not a smart move. The imagery of the story is bonkers wrong. Regardless of how you want to sell it. It is essentially a lesbian from an island of lesbians who are lesbians because.. men aren’t an option.. who runs off and transforms to become a bisexual woman once she discovers men are an option.. THAT IS FUCKED UP. PERIOD. Details may say “Well yeah that’s not exactly how it is.. ” but the details don’t matter it’s the imagery that’s being projected that matters. It’s the over all story that’s being told.

        So.. in your world, they HAVE to be lesbians.. which is a bunch of stereotypes and myths all on it’s own.. That women again default to female/female relationships until a man appears.. and it’s just a “to make do until I can find a man” idea.. not because they actually WANT to be with other women.. or.. they have no sex drive and that means.. they’re falling into a myth about women not being sexual? You do realize a woman can be sexual and have a healthy sex drive and not have a partner at all right? She doesn’t need to sleep with another person to pleasure herself.. the idea that she does is well.. yeah.

        And fyi, if Rucka were really a smart guy, he’d realize.. he’s not writing Wonder Woman forever.. and what he does now can easily been twisted by someone else later.. as we’ve seen countless times in Wonder Woman’s history.. even if he doesn’t mean it.

    • Jeppe Dittmer Says:

      I wrote that first response to your comment, I just wasn’t lock in that’s why it is listed as anonymous. Anyway.

      So let me start out by saying that I understand the problematic issue inherent in saying that the Amazons engage in same sex relationships because there are no other options available. The idea that heterosexuality is the natural norm and that homosexuals whether they be men or women are suffering from some form of delusion and should just stop being gay, or even worse needs to be cured from it, is obviously a regressive and harmful idea.
      However Greg Rucka never said that the Amazons are all heterosexual by birth and have become “converted” to homosexuality out of a lack of options. Nor did he say or imply that Diana was born gay and then became bi-sexual the moment she laid eyes on a man. If he had said any of those things, I would have agreed with your criticism, but he didn’t.

      Now reading this passage of the interview:
      “And when you start to think about giving the concept of Themyscira its due, the answer is, “How can they not all be in same sex relationships?” Right? It makes no logical sense otherwise.
      It’s supposed to be paradise. You’re supposed to be able to live happily. You’re supposed to be able — in a context where one can live happily, and part of what an individual needs for that happiness is to have a partner — to have a fulfilling, romantic and sexual relationship. And the only options are women.”
      I can certainly see how you could interpret that as Rucka implicitly saying that, a women needs to be in a (monogamous?) relationship in order to be happy, (regressive idea 1: women can only find true fulfillment in a relationship) and since there aren’t any men around on Themyscira (regressive idea 2: heterosexuality is the natural norm) then the Amazons must all be in same sex relationships right? (regressive idea 3: homosexuality is culturally meditated, as opposed to a naturally occurring phenomena).
      Again. I can see how one could interpret his words that way, but it would be just that, an interpretation.

      If your starting position is that Greg Rucka is a white heterosexual, phony liberal that doesn’t realize his worldview is unconsciously governed by regressive heteronormative ideas about men, women and sexual identity, then of course you are going to find all manner of gross regressive implications to his words. Not saying this is what you are doing, just pointing out that no one can speak for Greg Rucka, except Greg Rucka, and whenever you or I or anyone else starts interpreting his words, one should remember to consider ones own position as part of that interpretation.
      I can’t speak for Greg Rucka, but I doubt (and this is my starting position) that he subscribes to old macho ideas about lesbian women just needing to meet a REAL man to fuck them straight.

      It is worth remembering that Wonder Woman is a work for hire property. Greg Rucka doesn’t own the character, and as such it isn’t really up to him to decide if Diana and the Amazons are queer or not. He is simply saying that when he is writing the character he is doing so from the position the she is by our definitions what you would call queer or bi-sexual, even though Diana and the Amazons wouldn’t describe themselves as such since they don’t share our strict classifying definitions of sexuality. But even if Greg Ruca did own the character I agree with both you and Tim that authorial intent doesn’t really matter that much in the end. The finished work must be viewed and interpreted for what it is, and on its own.

      For the sake of discussion, lets assume that the Amazons can be grouped into the same broad classifications of sexual identity that we know from our world, hetero, homo, bi and I suppose asexual. And that these sexual orientations are all naturally occurring genetically determined parts of ones psyche that have always existed and would be true regardless of time and place and the culture one was raised in. (For the sake of simplicity I have chosen to ignore the possibility of transsexual Amazons, who might feel like men born into women’s bodies.) If this is our starting position then, it stands to reason that if Diana grew up feeling sexual attraction towards other women, and then discovered she was also attracted to men, when she left Paradise Island, then she was probably bi-sexual the whole time and just didn’t realize it because the option was not available.
      This is were those details, that you don’t think are important, become very important. Because if there was something in the origin of DC’s Amazons that suggested that they were all lesbians, like if the goddesses that created them had made it so, then your criticism would be 100% on point. But since there isn’t it seem like you have just decided that the Amazons must all be lesbians simply because they are all in same sex relationships. Even though there is nothing else in the text to support such an interpretation. The possibility that some of them might be bi-sexual or that maybe even straight women might engage in same sex relationships if there was literally not any other options, is apparently not even a possibility to you. But not only that, the very idea that women that engage in same sex relationships could be anything other than lesbians is apparently the same as suggesting that female homosexuality is only culturally meditated and not something that occurs naturally. It is sort of ironic that this is the worldview you accused me of having since my point was precisely the opposite, but hey, miscommunication happens.

      You say it is about the overall picture and not the details. Fair enough. So if the overall picture is this:
      Diana lives on an island of all women, have implied sexual and romantic relationship with some of these women. Then one day a man shows up, and her mother decides that one of the Amazons must escort this man back to his own world, and then stay there (because once you leave the island you can never return). It is decided that a competition will be used to decide who gets the job. Diana and several other Amazons volunteers to enter this competition. We are never told what Diana or any of the other Amazons motivation is for doing so is, except that Diana says to her mother that she would think less of herself if she decided not to compete. Diana wins the competition, leaves with the man (this is were the year one story ark we have gotten so far ends), becomes a superhero in the outside world, has a relationship with the man and then later with Superman (urgh!) as well as many other adventures.

      Now if this is the big picture, and there is literally nothing else that could clue us into Diana’s sexual orientation prior to the man’s arrival, then doesn’t my interpretation that Diana was bi-sexual the whole time and just didn’t realize it seem just as reasonable as your interpretation, that she was a lesbian that became straight the moment she meet a man? And if both interpretations seems equally valid? (although I don’t think they are) Then doesn’t it then seems fair, at this point to look at what the authorial intent was?

      Anyway I rest my case here. Comments are starting to get ridiculously long🙂
      Thanks for the discussion. It is always nice when you can have that rare discussion with someone on the Internet that doesn’t devolve into name-calling and wild accusations.

  2. Darci Says:

    Well, now you’ve got me thinking about what Grant Morrison was going to write in Wonder Woman Earth One…

  3. Lvenger Says:

    Yeah apologies but I’d rather Rucka just stuck to confirming Wonder Woman’s sexual preferences on Twitter rather than making her into an overt queer hero like Wiccan, Midnighter or Batwoman. Wonder Woman being straight or queer hasn’t been a major part of the character’s identity. It’s only been recently examined in the last few years, specifically in Wonder Woman Earth One and Rucka’s Rebirth Wonder Woman run. And brought about by the annoying wave of forced diversity and political correctness.

    I’m aware you’ll probably pull the argument from authority card on me and cite your years of research, reading and the book you’ve written on her. Which is OK but doesn’t really change the lack of confirmation about Wonder Woman’s sexuality for years outside the Marston years. Wonder Woman is not defined by her sexuality in the way those other characters are. There’s no problem with her being queer but that’s never been the focus in modern Wonder Woman comics.

  4. Matches Malone Says:

    Okay, the L in LGBTQ stands for lesbian, and the B is bisexual, right? Why the Q? What’s the difference? I don’t get the need for the 3 different labels for the same character, and if any of what the commenters above comes about storywise, I’m sure we’ll be the last ones to know.

    I too believe in show don’t tell, and I also believe that telling a story for story’s sake is bad writing as well. I trust Greg Rucka to write WW the way he sees the character, AND I also believe that two characters having an issue long conversation about any or all of the above topics is bad writing too.

    Vote with either your wallet, or commentary on the DC site itself. Or, both. Stay sane my friends.

  5. Andrea Says:

    I’d always assumed Diana to be pansexual or something to that effect – as a figure of love and tolerance to all, I feel she would look to love first rather than someone’s gender.

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