Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Counting Down

And thus, the Sword of Damocles has come that much closer to finally dropping.

Having threatened us with it since 2008, although no official release date has (yet) been made, Grant Morrison's Wonder Woman: Earth One—now titled, Wonder Woman: The Trial of Diana Prince—is going to be released this coming 2014.

And just writing that statement made my stomach churn. Not since Mortal Kombat 9 have I anticipated something involving a character/property I love with such cringing, soul-crushing, fatalistic dread.

This is going to suck.

Before I continue, I think it might be fair to warn prospective readers this particular blog post is going to consist mostly of me commiserating about this upcoming Trial of Diana Prince book, my deeply rooted dread regarding it, and other tangential thoughts. So the prevailing theme here is going to be straight up pessimism, bitterness, and contempt.
So if you're looking for happy thoughts or even a cautious optimism, I suggest you look elsewhere. What lies ahead is mostly what George Carlin might have referred to as, "free floating hostility."

Fair warning.

Now again, as said in previous posts, I prefer not to call out specific creators when I take issue with something. Maintaining some meager semblance of "professionalism" is one reason.

But the other and more important reason is sometimes blame can be misplaced. As just an example, although Brian Azzarello is the guy that retconned Zeus into Wonder Woman's father, it was apparently the editors and higher-ups at DC that insisted she have a father at all. And, allegedly, their idea for who the father should be was even dumber—so Azzarello made it Zeus because he felt, if Diana was going to get a father either way, that was the least offensive way to go.

Who's to say how much of that is accurate and, if so, was Azzarello's call really the better option? Having not been there, and not knowing the full story, I cannot say. Point is, I find it's best not to throw blame at anyone in particular since we can't say for certain who is really responsible and instead simply spit at the idea itself and its execution.

However, I might have to make another exception. Because The Trial of Diana Prince is apparently Grant Morrison's baby, much of my dread comes from words that have come from Grant Morrison's mouth, and since I'm going off on a specific work, it seems kinds of foolish to pretend we don't know who's going to be the guy responsible for it—for better or worse.

So with that all said, let's start with my opinion of Grant Morrison as a writer.

People like to say he's one of those creators that you either love or you hate, but in the grand scheme of things—barring his "contributions" to Wonder Woman—I can honestly say, I regard Grant Morrison's writing with....general indifference.

I liked Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth. I read some of his X-Men run and neither loved it nor hated it—but I also don't care about the X-Men, so I'm not really the guy to judge it. I've read some of his JLA run, and again, my response is a dull "meh."

That's something I want to address real quick, too. Whenever I tell people how much I'm dreading Morrison's upcoming Wonder Woman story, his defenders always say, "You should read his JLA run."
I have. Seriously, as a Wonder Woman fan, what the hell is supposed to sway me? What about that run is supposed to inspire confidence in Grant Morrison's ability to write Wonder Woman? He wrote her as a quota. Granted, that's hardly the worst thing he could do—and in fact, it's significantly better than most portrayals—but, seriously, it's not something to make me think, "Yeah, this guy got Wonder Woman! I'd love to see him write her full time!"

But I digress.

But if there's a Grant Morrison story that has inspired out-&-out HATE from me, it was Final Crisis. That was, easily, one of the most infuriating comics I've ever read. I finished that book wanting to punch things.

Final Crisis is one of those books that tends to severely divide fans. I've witnessed (and engaged in) interesting forum battles arguing about it.
One thing a lot of people who advocate it often like to say, "If you didn't like it, it must be because you didn't get it." Oh no, I got it. That was the problem. If I didn't get it, I would've simply wrote it off as a dull and confusing book and moved on with my life. Instead it was a boring book that wound up pissing me the fuck off.

Final Crisis, to me, was one of the most insulting, obnoxiously pretentious exercises in storytelling I've ever witnessed. "Insulting" is the key word. I finished it and felt as though Grant Morrison had slapped me in the face.

I suppose I could go into more detail beyond those admittedly broad and hyperbolic statements, but the truth is...I don't want to. I've also not read Final Crisis, nor engaged in discussion about it, in years, so my memory of it isn't as keen as I'd like it to be.

But, relevant to the topic at hand, one thing I do recall about Final Crisis—and happened to be one of the various things that infuriated me about it—was its rather shoddy (to put it mildly) treatment of Wonder Woman.

For those who've not read Final Crisis:
Evil god Darkseid finally manages to discover the Anti-Life Equation, destroy the New Gods, and conquer the Earth. Various heroes are all taken out of commission or outright enslaved.

One of whom is Wonder Woman. She is lured into a trap by a possessed Mary Marvel, becomes infected with a super-virus, enslaved by the evil gods, and is turned into the leader of Darkseid's Female Furies. Dubbed "The Plague Goddess," Diana hunts down heroes that have managed to elude capture and either subjugates them or eliminates them. It's also suggested she periodically returns to Darkseid's stronghold for torture and whippings.

Now I know what many of you might be thinking. It was the same thing most of the more optimistic fans were saying when this was all going down:
"Yeah, the heroes are being put through hell, but that's the point. Wonder Woman's been turned against her will into a mockery of everything she is, and it will all lead to the big triumphant moment when she breaks free and joins the fight against Darkseid. She'll do something really important that will be crucial to saving the world and it'll be awesome."

By issue six of the seven issue mini-series, Diana was still Darkseid's slave, and her only contribution to the big final battle was getting face-planted by Superman. 
The mood among Wonder Woman fans had shifted by then. And the general consensus became pretty much: "She better do something fucking amazing in this last issue."

Out comes Final Crisis #7.
Wonder Woman doesn't free herself from Darkseid's reign. She's rescued—off-panel—by Frankenstein....I think, it wasn't conveyed very clearly. She then goes on to bind Darkseid in her Lasso of Truth—Darkseid is mortally wounded and dying by this point, by the way—and frees the world from the Anti-Life Equation...even though the Ray had already discovered the Life Equation which negates Anti-Life.
She then spends the rest of the issue sitting around, babysitting.

Meanwhile, Superman saves all of reality and fiction, Green Lantern rallies the entire Lantern Corp. to slay Mandrakk, the Flash outruns death itself, and Batman frees himself from mental imprisonment through sheer will-power and mortally wounds Darkseid, sacrificing himself in the process.

Suffice to say, Wonder Woman fans felt a little shafted.
I saw people who don't even like Wonder Woman admitting she got screwed over.

This was not unnoticed by professional critics either. When Final Crisis wrapped up, the website Newsarama conducted an interview with Morrison and actually asked why Wonder Woman wasn't granted a comparable "big moment" like the other heroes.

Morrison's response..?

"...I must admit I’ve always sensed something slightly bogus and troubling at [Wonder Woman's] heart. When I dug into the roots of the character I found an uneasy melange of girl power, bondage and disturbed sexuality that has never been adequately dealt with or fully processed out to my mind. I’ve always felt there was something oddly artificial about Wonder Woman, something not like a woman at all."

Basically, he couldn't be arsed. So we have Final Crisis, this grand epic story of DC's greatest heroes fighting the biggest evil they've ever faced. A celebration of the magic and wonder of comic book superheroes and their mythos.......except for Wonder Woman. Fuck her.

I've always been amused that, for all Final Crisis's pretensions of sub-text and "depth," it basically boiled down to fanboyism. Superman and Batman save the day because they're the bestest heroes ever, but Wonder Woman doesn't do anything because she's lame.
You know they say modern comic books are really just professional fan fiction. And how right they are.

I will give credit, though, that he acknowledged he fucked Wonder Woman over. That's at least more honest than most creators who've shat on her.

But it doesn't end there. Mr. Morrison then goes on to say:
"Having said that, I became quite fascinated by these contradictions and problems and tried to resolve them for what turned into a different project entirely. Partly because I didn’t want to use any of that new material in Final Crisis, I relegated Wonder Woman to a role that best summed up my original negative feelings about the character. My apologies to her fans and I promise to be a little more constructive next time around."

And that my friends is the genesis of what has evidently become Wonder Woman: The Trial of Diana Prince.

You might recall in Stop "Fixing" Wonder Woman, I made mention how after reading interviews pertaining to this project, my immediate response was to start banging my head against the wall. This quote was the beginning of that reaction.

Of all the condescending, pompous........words fail me. Seriously, there are no words to describe the seething disgust this quote makes me feel. If at some point this blog should just degenerate into gibberish, it's probably because I can't think of anything, and I'm just despondently mashing my face into the keyboard.

I mean...okay. He doesn't care for Wonder Woman, didn't bother to give her a big part in his little story, that sucks, it's over, life goes on. But he becomes "fascinated" by Wonder Woman's "contradictions" and "problems" and takes it upon himself to "resolve" them? Are you fucking kidding me?!

Honestly, I cannot fathom how or why I, as a Wonder Woman fan, am supposed to greet this with anything other than outrage and contempt? That's what kills me. I can't tell you how many times I've seen people insist I should actually happy about what he said. 

The end result is this Trial of Diana Prince story, which is apparently about Wonder Woman being put on trial by the Amazons for "running away" from Themyscira with Steve Trevor...apparently there was no Contest now. But the crux of the story will be, according to Mr. Morrison himself:

"...Wonder Woman: The Trial of Diana Prince is kind of asking Wonder Woman to justify herself, which I feel has almost been what the character’s had to do for a long time."

Oh goody. Because that's exactly what Wonder Woman's needed.




And just what is the almighty Grant Morrison's solution to fixing Wonder Woman? What, according to him, is it that's gone wrong with her that needs to be corrected?

"When Marston stopped writing [Wonder Woman], it lost that libidinous energy that it had. You know, that attachment to his personal fetishes…"

Bondage. According to Grant Morrison, THAT is what's gone wrong with Wonder Woman. Not inconsistent characterization from creators and editors that don't know a goddamn thing about her. Not the disregard for her rogues gallery. Not persistent and misguided efforts to "fix" her by creators that, again, don't know a goddamn thing about her.

Nope. Losing the bondage thing. That's what she's been missing.


Okay, let's be honest. The bondage thing is kind of an issue with Wonder Woman. Her creator had bit of a fetish for bondage and submission, and said fetish tied into his personal views of female empowerment. For the record, it is more complex—and actually more interesting—than most would immediately think.
But for a lot of people, it's either an embarrassing skeleton in the closet to be ignored, or an elephant in the room that must be addressed.

And it is worth discussing that Wonder Woman, especially in recent years, has become rather...sexless. After Crisis on Infinite Earths, Steve Trevor was pretty much removed as Diana's default love interest and since then, she's become this Madonna figure with no real or genuine love life. You may recall I mentioned in Sinking Ships she's become like this virginal prize for the coolest Justice League member to bang first.

It is an issue. One that, I'll grant, should be addressed and explored. But to declare that is the key ingredient that Wonder Woman's been missing all these years? To suggest this is what's been keeping her from being relevant and popular?
Again, not bad and inconsistent writing from writers that neither know, nor give a shit about the character? And, of all people, this guy is going to be the one who resolves it?


I know what some people are thinking. He admitted he did wrong by the character and her fans and is looking to "make up" for it with this story. I know some might be thinking I'm predisposed to disliking this book because I don't like Grant Morrison. I think a more accurate assessment would be: it's not that I don't like him, I don't trust him.

I don't believe for one single goddamn second this man has any respect for Wonder Woman or her fans. Nothing he's said has indicated to me he genuinely believes in the value of her as a character and truly wants to craft a worthy story for her that celebrates what she is. This is going to be him contorting the character to fit a mold he decided she should be.

Maybe Wonder Woman, on some level, does need to "justify" herself as a character, icon, and whatnot. Maybe she is due for a story that truly etches how and why she is still relevant, even today.
But I'd feel a hell of a lot better about such a story if it wasn't being written by some guy who, until he took a steaming piss on the character, suddenly became drawn to her "problems" as he perceived them.

I'm sorry, but it's extremely difficult for me NOT to interpret this whole thing as:
So after shitting on the character in Final Crisis, Grant Morrison decides to devote an entire graphic novel to proving why Wonder Woman is an inferior character that can only be "justified" via his pretentious twaddle. And we lowly Wonder Woman fans should be grateful the almighty Grant Morrison has deigned to "fix" our crap character with his profound insights.

Thanks, Grant.
Personally, I would've preferred you just came to my front door and pissed on my foot. That would be more honest and at least wash off.

But is that so wrong, though? Would that be such a terrible thing?
I mean, this would hardly be the the first time a creator has tackled a character without giving two shits about him/her. Much less, the first time a creator working on Wonder Woman has been full of shit. As said, I've heard the same lip-service time and again from dozens of writers. Good writers, too.

I've seen writers say there's nothing wrong with Wonder Woman, and nothing needs to be changed about her...then proceed to retcon the ever-loving shit out of everything about her.
I've seen guys acknowledge and go on about how Wonder Woman is supposed to be this uplifting figure of peace and tolerance...then characterize her as an irrational, violent brute that responds to every problem by hacking it with a sword.
I've seen guys pontificate about how she's this great icon and powerful character...then go one to prove everything they know about her begins and ends with looking at a picture of Lynda Carter.

But suppose Grant Morrison is the exception. Even is everything he says about Wonder Woman is bullshit and he doesn't give a single flying fuck about her...what if he's the guy that still gets her right, in spite of that? How should I, and other fans, respond to that?


The real depressing part of all this is there really is no winning. Say this book is a success—although "success" seems a rather dubious term; the Nu52 Wonder Woman is considered a "success"—will this be proof that she is a great character, worthy of her iconic status?
Nope. All they'll talk about is how Grant Morrison is a such a great writer because he can make even a lowly character like Wonder Woman work.

If it fails, will it be because Morrsion's approach to the character was wrong-headed and misguided?
Nope. It'll just be further proof of what a damaged and fundamentally flawed character Wonder Woman is, because not even the great Grant Morrison could make her work.

Cynical..? Pessimistic..? Bitter..?
Sure...but only because DC has taught me, time and again, exactly what to expect from them.

Thus, as Wonder Woman: The Trial of Diana Prince approaches, allow me to offer the most rational solution I can muster:

And so, it seems 2014 for Wonder Woman fans will continue on as the past three years (at least) have: an ongoing, soul-crushing endurance test.

I guess there's not much else to say...except...

1 comment:

  1. I've had an idea or two in my head about a Flash animation dedicated to her. Paradise Island would be technologically more advanced than the rest of the world in some fields. The story would follow Wonder Woman in her efforts to stop Zeus and Poseidon's war for control from tearing the world apart.

    Oh, and it would also be a crossover with Marvel.