Some quick thoughts on Wonder Woman: Earth One! Actual talented critics have examined the quality of this work elsewhere. What I want to do is talk about the greater impact this work will have in the marketplace.
I firmly believe releasing Grant Morrison’s and Yanick Paquette’s project as an Earth One book was a misstep on the part of DC Comics. Wonder Woman: Earth One reads like a finely crafted love letter to William Moulton Marston—honoring the writer’s fanciful views on women, matriarchies, and playful submission. But to use this project and this character to pen a love letter to a deceased man’s biased and simplistic (for our time) thoughts regarding women does a great disservice to actual women and girls for whom love letters to their empowerment and competence are few and far between. Works by men exploring and exalting their ideas regarding women are a weekly occurrence. At no point is a woman not presented with man’s thoughts on her body, her mind, and her performance. We are told via female characters written by men; we are told via critiques by men in articles and throughout social media.
In their efforts to create a work that honors William Moulton Marston, Morrison and Paquette have failed to create a work that honors women. And that? Is the last thing a project featuring Wonder Woman should do.
Were Wonder Woman: Earth One simply a one-off vanity project for Morrison and Paquette, a modern recreation of Marston’s work would be irksome but without negative consequence. However, what we currently have is a marketplace where the Wonder Woman brand has been diffused and misused—generally to please a direct market comprised of male readers. Batman can be distilled to one word. Justice. Superman to two. Truth. Mercy. Can the same be said for Wonder Woman? Who is she within the confines of the comics industry? A wide-eyed ingénue stumbling through man’s world? A hardened warrior with a distaste for men—often eliciting a sexual response in those for whom “strong female character” equates to dominatrix? Or is she a simple and pure power fantasy for women and girls?
I can tell you that the latter option is the most lucrative when seeking long-term gains given the rise in female readers. But the comics industry is not interested in the long term. Were that the case, DC Comics would have had a new continuity-free Earth One graphic novel featuring work that was written for and appealed to female audiences first and foremost. It would have also had an ongoing series featuring characterization that meshed neatly with depictions in other media such as film and television. It would have presented an aspirational Themyscira filled with Amazons who represent what women believe to be the best of women—not what men fantasize them to be.
“We updated that and made them all look like supermodels, because we thought that’s the kind of modern version of the Harry Peter glamor girl. They’re a lot more athletic looking. They’re very tall and slim, and because they’re much more powerful than humans, they don’t need to put on muscles to lift big weights, you know? Which is why Diana can lift up a tank without enormous muscles.
“We just decided to present them as this absolutely idealized body type, in the same way that Marston and Peter presented them.”Grant Morrison
Idealized to whom? To men. To our patriarchal society. The homogeneity found in Paquette’s depictions of the Amazons inadvertently tells women who do not fit that basic hourglass shape that they do not belong in a matriarchal utopia—that the power fantasy being presented is not for them. Instead of one idealized body deemed aesthetically appealing to heterosexual men, the work should have had a variety of female bodies honed to perfection by a multitude of activities. Long, lean swimmers. Stout wrestlers. Petite gymnasts. We live in a world where even Mattel has adjusted its product to appeal to a variety of body types. Surely the Amazons should be at least as malleable as Barbie—especially if DC wants its brand to remain as profitable as Mattel’s.
But Paquette’s renditions are not the only cracks in the utopia’s facade. I was amused by Hippolyta’s bitter and vindictive nature, bearing the mark of one who could not conceive of a formerly conquered people simply wanting to be left the hell alone. The queen does not want merely isolation, but revenge—what every individual bolstered by unearned privilege—e.g., man—irrationally fears. Diana’s language is also equally off-putting, though sparingly. She taunts the male soldiers, berating them by calling them…girls? What scion of a queen reigning over a land populated by women would use such an insult? Swapping girls for children and kiss for play would have made the line less dismissive to what should have been the work’s intended audience.
And how does DC woo said intended audience? With this work, I honestly am not sure. But the company can certainly improve upon the situation by hiring women to work on the sequel. Even if DC understandably wishes to rehire Morrison and Paquette to maintain narrative cohesion, replacing Eddie Berganza and Andrew Marino with female editors would allow for a feminine influence to shape the work. That influence is noticeably absent here.