Thursday, May 28, 2015

Defying Gravity

Hey, it's been a while since I've prattled on about Wonder Woman.

Looking back, for all I've written about her, one topic which tends to divide fans—and jackasses who don't know anything about Wonder Woman but seem to think they know how she "should" be portrayed—that I've kind of overlooked is her ability to fly.

There's just no end to controversial Wonder Woman topics, is there?

As most people know, when she was first created back in the 40's, Wonder Woman did not have the power to fly. Her primary means of getting around was her Invisible Jet, which served as an example of the Amazons' advanced technology.
The Jet is probably best remembered now due to its prominence in the Superfriends cartoon, where it—again—was Diana's primary means of getting around.

What fewer people (seem to) know is the Jet's usage in actual Wonder Woman comics steadily declined throughout the decades, becoming completely obsolete after the 1986 Crisis reboot where the ability to fly became among Diana's powers.
However, some writers have reintroduced the Invisible Jet and/or tried contriving reasons for her to need it on occasion—I'm guessing in the belief it should remain among her iconography.

Some (creators and fans) believe Wonder Woman's power of flight should be removed and the Invisible Jet should be returned as her only means of transportation. Others believe the Jet is an obsolete and embarrassing relic, best left in the past, and Diana's power to fly should remain as is.

Given the fact I've railed against Wonder Woman being depicted using a shield instead of her unbreakable bracelets or wielding a sword more than she uses her Lasso, I imagine some readers of this blog might think I'm among the people who favor the Invisible Jet over the power of flight.

After all, as I've explained in those topics—among others—the bracelets and Lasso are part of what make Wonder Woman iconic, unique, and stand out. Yes, "realistically," a sword and shield is more practical in combat than bracelets and a rope, but that's not the point.
"Realistically," it would probably be more practical for X-Men's Cyclops to use a laser-pistol instead of his optic beams—but that would invalidate the concept of Cyclops, wouldn't it?

It defeats of the idea of these being exceptional, super-beings with abilities and talents beyond normal people. Diana's ability to use unbreakable gauntlets on her wrists and a magic rope better than an ordinary shield and sword is what makes her super. It's her "thing." It's her gimmick.
It's what makes her Wonder Woman and not "generic warrior lady."

And there are some who believe this should extend to the Invisible Jet. That the power of flight is a rather typical ability that many other characters have, and that the Jet should be counted alongside the bracelets, Lasso, and tiara as among Diana's "things" that make her stand out.

But despite my feelings regarding bracelets vs. shield and Lasso vs. sword...I hate the Invisible Jet.
I'm in the camp that Wonder Woman should fly.

For one thing—and a lot of people don't seem to realize—she's been flying in some capacity a lot longer than she hasn't. A common misconception I've found is the assumption flight is something only recently added to Wonder Woman's character, and therefore, is disposable or simply doesn't belong.
First, I think it's worth noting Superman originally couldn't fly either. But more relevant, although she wasn't given the actual power of flight until the 80's, Diana's had the ability to "glide on air currents" since 1958.

So whether you want to call it gliding on air or outright flying, Wonder Woman has been defying gravity without the Jet for more than half of her 70+ year existence.

And I believe flight does suit her character.
For one thing, I'm of the belief Wonder Woman should be an upper-echelon superhero who routinely deals with world-threatening dangers. As such, I think she should be fully capable of getting around and anywhere she needs to, quickly.

Also, Wonder Woman is supposed to an empowering, wish-fulfillment character. Just seems to me flight goes along with that. And although there are plenty of valid reasons why she shouldn't fly on her own, the one I have absolutely no respect for is: "She shouldn't fly because Superman flies."
Piss on that noise.

Finally, I think her ability to fly offers a simple and elegant encapsulation of why Diana entered the Contest and became Wonder Woman in the first place. She's a woman who can fly—a gift given to her by the very gods; something many consider the ultimate freedom—and yet she's stuck on this relatively small, isolated island.

As for the Jet itself, I find its existence just too out of place.
I appreciate the idiosyncrasies and/or weirdness of Wonder Woman as much as the next guy. I'm all about she and the Amazons being a subversion of the old myths. The bracelets and Lasso and whatnot have magical/mythical explanations behind them, I'm behind that. Hell, I can even buy the costume. But the Jet...just doesn't work for me.

Even if you go along with William Martson's original vision of the Amazons as being technologically advanced...why an Invisible Jet? They live in isolation on a small island. Where the hell are they going, and why do they have to be invisible to get there?
I've seen creators and fans try to conjure up explanations and reasons why Wonder Woman has access to an invisible airplane, but I think the whole thing is too cumbersome to be worth it.

And that, honestly, is the real issue with the Jet for me. It's an inconvenient way of having Diana fly without actually having the ability to fly.
And if that's what some want—able to fly, but not actually having the power to—I can understand that. I could even be open to that. But the Invisible Jet is not the way to go.

Compare to Marvel's Thor.
Thor doesn't fly on his own. He needs Mjolnir in order to fly/get around. That works. The hammer is Thor's "thing." It's his gimmick. It's also convenient because he always has it around, and even if he doesn't, he needs only hold out his hand and Mjolnir flies to him.

Wonder Woman's Invisible Jet on the other hand...doesn't work. As said, it's inconvenient. It's cumbersome. 

If she doesn't fly, I still think Diana should able to zip around the world quickly and at any given moment. Therefore, if she's going to need something to make her fly without actually having that power—like Thor with his hammer—she needs something better than the Invisible Jet.
As said, personally, I'm of the school of thought she should just be able to fly on her own.

At any rate, the debate remains ongoing, and we often see it played out whenever Wonder Woman is adapted elsewhere.
The Justice League animated series embraced her ability to fly. When Joss Whedon was attached to making the movie, he was of the belief Diana shouldn't fly—because, according to him, Superman flies. The 2009 animated Wonder Woman movie toyed with the debate—never depicting her flying, yet never outright saying she couldn't. David E. Kelly's failed pilot apparently went the "no flying" route.

It'll be interesting to see what direction they go when Wonder Woman does  finally makes it to the big screen.
Then again, we might already have an answer. A few months ago, Gal Gadot—who will be playing Wonder Woman in (ridiculously titled) Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice and future Justice League/Wonder Woman films (assuming they get made)—had this to say when describing Diana's powers:

"She has unbelievable endurance. She is exceptionally strong. She can jump really high and practically fly. She know tons of martial arts styles. She is a strong and serious woman."

If the actress playing the character seems to be under the belief Wonder Woman can "practically" fly and not actually fly...I guess there'll be no defying gravity for Diana in the movies.


1 comment:

  1. I like the invisible jet, but not only because of the iconic idea from the old comics. I like the idea of making flying "special". Yeah, jumping very high is cool and close to flying. Still, having to *use something* to fly makes it special.

    In other comics, such as Dragon Ball. Goku couldn't fly in the original comics. He used a magic cloud that only those with pure hearth may use. It still remains in few episodes of the new series, but ever since he learned the ability to fly remained useless. Still, the magic to _depend_ from the magic cloud in order to fly, gave him a interesting plot for every situation.

    If I could make a somehow middle point in this idea of flying versus jet. I would say, let Diana fly *BUT* only by using some special amulet or armor. I may say, something like Hermes' boots. They already have wings, allow super speed, and it is present in Greek Mythology. I wouldn't be hard to introduce these boots in the lore of Wonder Woman, simply by saying it was a lost relic that the Amazons had access to it.

    These boots may not only grant Diana the ability the fly, but also access the ability of super speed. Maybe not at the same level as Flash, but probably fast enough to burst the sound barrier. These boots, may be limited as well. For instance, she may need to wear them. If the boots are harmed or burned, she loses her powers. It may be possible to repair them, they may even repair themselves, but may take time. It may also be hard to control, moving so fast is something Diana is not used to. She may only use it to run at long distances in straight lines, not like Flash that explore mazes in seconds. With such limitations, the boots would still remain as a pseudo method of transportation (like the jet), but giving her enough freedom to fight or use other powers on the go.