As more details emerge about DC Comics’ renumbering this coming autumn, there has been a lot of discussion about what fans want to keep or change in that publisher’s continuity. So far, the costume redesigns and making the major characters younger don’t bother me much, even though I like how Batgirl, the Birds of Prey, Green Arrow, Nightwing, and Oracle have evolved to date. The proof will be in the writing and art.
Batman and Superman have been subject to numerous successful interpretations, Wonder Woman has lagged behind the other members of the “big three” in terms of popularity or steady depiction. Here’s how I’d approach DC’s iconic superheroine, in print comics, animation, or live-action television or movies:
Diana Prince, an athletic and poised woman in her early 20s, arrives in Washington, D.C., to study international relations (or history with a focus on ancient warfare, if that’s easier). She’s obviously of Mediterranean descent, but she’s estranged from her mother and looking for her father. This is similar to Smallville in showing a younger, somewhat less confident heroine unaware of her full origin and powers, but it doesn’t quite drag us back to a high school soap opera.
Her roommate is Etta Candy, an African-American blogger who helps her get an internship at the U.S. Department of Defense. There, Diana meets Air Force Col. Steve Trevor and Titus Martin, head of contractor Ares Industries (actually an avatar of Ares, god of war, himself). Could either of these men be her father? In general, the casting of supporting characters should be diverse and color-blind.
Another classmate of Diana’s is potential love interest Billy Barnes, who volunteers at a women’s shelter in a neighborhood beset by poverty and crime (where she can occasionally fight street-level villains). Diana’s professors include secretly fascist psychologist Edgar Cizko (Dr. Psycho), spymistress Anita Maru (Dr. Cyber/Poison), archaeologist Julia Kapatelis, and historian Helena Sandsmark.
At the Pentagon, martial arts classes, or Capitol Hill, Diana would also meet Tom Tresser, a con man turned secret agent and another potential romantic interest. Diana could eventually mention that she has a younger sister, Donna, for a later cameo or supporting role. Rival Artemis could be another classmate and rival whom Diana struggles to win over.
When she’s not spending time with her friends, studying, or fighting crime, Diana would get mysterious missives from Athens (Athena) through Hermes Delivery, but they’re not from her mother. They’d tip her off to bigger problems to fight, such as the abuse of women overseas, diplomatic attempts to avert wars (sometimes putting her at odds with Col. Trevor or Tom), and even mythical monsters and alien invasions — within the limitations of budgets and computer imagery, of course.
If possible, it would be great to get Lynda Carter as Diana’s mother Hippolyta, queen of Themyscira, which the producers of the failed NBC pilot had hoped to do. The historical Themiscyra was on the Black Sea in what’s now Turkey. I’d like to see a mix of regular thugs, villainous masterminds, and magical opponents for Wonder Woman to fight with her wits and fists. Cameos by other DC heroes and heroines could also eventually occur.
Diana should be a feminist and seek peace when possible, but she should also eventually be unafraid of sexuality or conflict. I don’t want Wonder Woman to fret over shoes, boys, or toy sponsorships, but she should have a sense of humor and be an optimist (brooding is for other characters such as Bruce Wayne). She should grapple with modern controversies, including religious fundamentalism of any kind, ethnic rivalries, sexism, abortion, and militarism.
As for props and costumes, I think that DC Comics and NBC have been headed in the right direction. Wonder Woman should have multiple outfits for different occasions. The classic shorts and bustier could be worn under her clothing or when going somewhere warm (like Washington in the summer).
In fact, Wonder Woman’s costume should reflect modern athletic wear rather than mid-20th century circus outfits. The tiara, bracers, and lasso are must-haves, while the stars, red-and-blue color scheme, and eagle can reflect her (and her mother’s) admiration for American ideals.
The longer pants and a top with shoulder straps would be more practical for regular crime fighting, and Greek-style armor would be appropriate for wading into high-powered battles. I’d also give her good fashion sense (without dwelling on it too much, see above) and casual and formal wear as needed. Creator William Moulton Marston‘s interest in polygamy, lie detection, and bondage could come up in villains’ plots rather than Diana’s outlook or costume.
While JMS and Jim Lee‘s recent reboot of Wonder Woman by stripping her of her memory and traditional costume was a better-than-average attempt, it’s not as good as George Perez’s in the mid-1980s. I think that Wonder Woman, who is still widely recognized and could be a role model for girls, deserves better. (DC, feel free to use my ideas!) What do you think?
3 thoughts on “How I would reboot Wonder Woman”
I’d watch your show! I think your ideas would work really well.
I’m curious – you mention that you’d have (or at least leave things open for) cameos by other DC heroes. But would the world in your version be generally aware of/used to other superheroes? And if so, would it be relatively recent, or would there have been supers since the 30’s or 40s?
Either way would have a big effect on the tone of the show, and on the kind of stories you’d end up telling about WW/Diana, especially with regard to how she got along with (or didn’t) the government.
Jim, I think it would make sense for costumed metahumans to not be commonly known as my Wonder Woman reboot begins, merely rumors in Metropolis and Gotham or faded wartime recollections. As in Smallville, a new generation of do-gooders is just arising. “Absolute Justice” was one of my favorite stories from that series, but older superheroes should be used sparingly.
That said, I think it would be fun if Hippolyta was the previous incarnation of Wonder Woman — that way, we could even use vintage photos of Lynda Carter alongside WWII sets! See also my suggestion that Col. Trevor might be Diana’s father (I’d avoid the whole “baby made from clay and gifted with life from the gods”).
Trevor could want to enlist the younger Wonder Woman once he learns about her, while Agent Tresser could eventually join the U.S. government’s attempts to learn about, harness, or regulate powered people, leading to more potential conflict with Diana. The previous boom of “mystery men and women” in the ~1940s is far enough from the 2010s that most people have forgotten about superheroes and their mixed relationships with the authorities.
Here’s another good discussion of Wonder Woman’s evolution and style.
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