DC Comics icon Wonder Woman has a brand-new look, and it is quite a radical change. Designed by DC co-publisher Jim Lee, the new uniform debuted in Wonder Woman #600, released on June 30. Jammed with stories and pin-ups, the anniversary issue saw the beginning of a new storyline by new regular writer J. Michael Straczynski (of TV’s BABYLON 5 fame) and artist Don Kramer. The story itself is not without controversy, as Straczynski reworks Wondy’s origin so that she was spirited off Themyscira as a child and raised in Man’s World. So all the traditional aspects of her story – such as being the champion of Paradise Island and encountering pilot Steve Trevor after he crashes on the isolated island – are gone, replaced by…well, we will have to see what replaces all that. (Changing origin stories is sort of JMS’ signature move. He reworked Spider-Man’s origin a few years back, when he took over that Marvel title. And who knows what JMS has planned for his other new regular series, Superman?)
Still, no one can deny that the extreme makeover is already a
fanboy disaster unmitigated success. That’s because, love it or hate it, the new duds have people talking about Wonder Woman — and when was the last time that happened? The-powers-that-be at DC are saying all the right things about reinventing and reinvigorating a reliable old familiar character, and helping solidify her role as one of the so-called Trinity of top heroes, alongside Superman and Batman. And this more modest costume is far more likely to work on the silver screen in that movie project that is continually rumored. Certainly, as a corporate entity, DC cannot be averse to freshening an aging property that most people hardly ever think about anymore. But I think the truth of the matter is, DC just wants people talking because, as the saying goes, there’s no such thing as bad publicity.
But maybe there is such a thing as not-great publicity? The “Wonder Woman” that most people think of (when they think of her at all) is the one in the star-spangled panties with the bustier and tiara and bracelets. Y’know, the Lynda Carter version from TV. That’s what regular folks associate with the character – and those elements are pretty much what DC changed. Now, WW wears black (or at least dark) leggings with nary a star to be seen. And I suppose the top can still be considered a bustier, but it’s no longer gilded like something out of a Victoria’s Secret fever dream. A tinier tiara lurks under her hair, and the bracelets have been reconfigured into some kind of wristbands that cover her hands. The whole thing is topped off by a leather jacket stolen from the early 1990s.
My initial reaction to the uniform was, basically, “What the hell is she wearing?” But gradually it has started to grow on me – excerpt for the jacket. There is just no way to put a positive spin that little leather jacket. It instantly draws the eye, and not in a good way. The jacket is as dated as putting her in a poodle skirt. I was left asking myself, “Why would they do that?” (Although perhaps that is its own answer: Maybe a bad guy will be so distracted by her Members Only togs that she can get the drop on him!) I have seen applause in some circles for the new look helping to de-objectify women in general and Wondy in particular, but I don’t think I buy it. All superheroes, female and male, are highly idealized physical specimens, and it’s not like WW has suddenly taken on the physical proportions of the average bloated American. Just glance at the splash panel in the costume’s introductory story: Wonder Woman’s tights are molded to her butt like a second skin. So the objectification (if that’s what you want to call it) will be switching from the “T” to the “A” of T&A. As for criticisms that the new uniform covers up the most famous legs in comics, well, you can probably count on those leggings getting torn up in battle, exposing plenty of leg and thereby providing its own special sort of prurient interest.
The key thing to remember here is that this sort of thing has happened before, and it will doubtless happen again. There is no way this change will be permanent. Mark my words: She will back in her classic outfit within two years. So all you fanboys foaming at the mouth over this sacrilege can relax. Back in the 1960s, Wonder Woman renounced her powers and took to wearing a white miniskirt and practicing martial arts. There was also a garish purple miniskirt at one point. Even the leather jacket has been tried before. (It reeked then, and it reeks now.) DC has too much invested in decades of good will and marketing to give up the traditional, star-spangled look for too long, so it just ain’t gonna happen.
Now, I hear people shouting, “What about Robin? He had bare legs and DC covered him up and the change looks permanent.” I would agree there. But I also would suggest that Robin’s costume has come under criticism since at least the 1950s; it was never a very popular look. And that’s why his bare legs are different from Wondy’s gams. Besides, look at our culture: For better or worse, women tend to wear skirts and show off their legs infinitely more than men, so it’s a cultural norm. (You may have your own opinions about that, but wrap anyone in the golden lasso they will tell you it’s the truth.)
And it is also true that when it comes to Wonder Woman, it’s a woman’s prerogative to change her mind. The same applies to comic-book companies. This, too, shall pass…