Entry for March 31, 2009: Wonder Woman!

On Saturday, 21 March 2009, Janice and I picked up my subscription at New England Comics in Norwood, Massachusetts. In addition, we watched the new direct-to-DVD release of Wonder Woman. As with the retro Justice League: New Frontier and anime-style Batman: Gotham Knight, Wonder Woman is intended for an older audience than recent television cartoons based on DC Comics, such as the charmingly campy Batman and the Brave and the Bold.

As one of the oldest and best-known costumed superheroes, Wonder Woman is considered one of the DC Universe‘s “big three,” along with Superman and Batman, but hasn’t been adapted into other media as often. I do remember her role in the Super Friends cartoon and the Lynda Carter television series back in the late 1970s, but even George Perez’s reboot after Crisis on Infinite Earths didn’t help Wonder Woman much in terms of popularity.

Fortunately, the recent Timm/Dini Justice League (now in reruns on Boomerang) helped revive interest in DC’s characters beyond print. While related big-budget movies have stalled — again, with the notable exceptions of Batman and Superman — at least the new video does justice to Princess Diana of Themyscira. On a side note, the actor who might have played Batman in George Miller’s Justice League had a cameo in this week’s episode of supernatural slacker comedy Reaper.

Wonder Woman retells the first superheroine’s mythic origin, from her creation from clay by Queen Hippolyta to her Amazon training to her departure for “man’s world” with U.S. pilot Steve Trevor. Her main opponents are petty Greek gods and the all-to-human vices of dishonesty, sexism, and war. The animation is solid, and the fight scenes earn the PG-13 rating for violence.

Wonder Woman!
Wonder Woman animated movie

The voice talent, picked by DC animation veteran Andrea Romano, is very good: Kerri Russell of Felicity and Waitress is the young princess, Virginia Madsen of Sideways is stern Hippolyta, and Firefly/Serenity and Castle‘s Nathan Fillion is a man in need of rescuing as Steve Trevor. Fans of Raiders of the Lost Ark and Spider-Man 2 will recognize Alfred Molina as the evil Ares, and Sin City‘s Rosario Dawson is the tough Artemis.

The writers, Michael Jelenic and Gail Simone, not only respect William Moulton Marston’s creation but also incorporate elements from more recent comic book storylines, having major battle scenes erupt in modern-day Washington D.C. I’d give Wonder Woman a 9 out of 10, or an A-.

The DVD’s extras include some insights into the production of the movie, episodes from Justice League Unlimited, documentaries about the history of Wonder Woman, and a preview of a promising direct-to-video Green Lantern. The documentaries were a bit repetitive, and I would have liked to see more about the television show’s effect on popular culture and comic book storylines since the Perez run. I do hope that the ambassador of Paradise Island will return to prominence in both print and live-action.

In other animation, I enjoyed the first season finale of Star Wars: the Clone Wars on the Cartoon Network. Speaking of DC heroines, Zatanna, the mistress of magic, made a guest appearance on Smallville last week. Janice and I also started watching our DVDs of the Kirk Alyn Superman serials from the late 1940s/early ’50s. This past weekend, we screened Monsters vs. Aliens, which I’ll review in my next blog post.