Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Noah Berlatsky on Wonder Woman and loving the comic behind the icon

http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2015/01/wonder-woman-learning-to-love-the-comic-behind-the-icon/384160/

Berlatsky writes simply and persuasively about his affection for the early run of Wonder Woman comics by Marston and Peter.  Even as a lifelong Batman fan the earliest run of Wonder Woman comics holds up better than the earliest run on Batman.

But Berlatsky's advocacy in a way illustrates a point I've made elsewhere, that the challenge of Wonder Woman being an appealing character and particularly for the relevance of her earliest comics run to contemporary Americans lays in her having to mean too many things to too few people.  Wonder Woman and Superman were ideal superheroes for a Cold War era but the kind of casual confidence they reflect in the rightness of the American cause, American destiny and the use of American power (regardless of whether manifest by a superman or a wonder of a woman) could be construed as a vision of the world's most altruistic bully (per Steven Grant) or the most enlightened of all possible nanny states.

In a post-Cold War setting Batman may have more popular traction because his pop culture mythology assumes there's something rotten in the city of Gotham.  In an era in which people talk about the one percent a character like Batman can stick around and retain relevance because American pop mythology can posit that, well, if there's going to be a one percent anyway we'd like that one percent to be Batman rather than, say, Lex Luthor.

There's still some more writing about Wonder Woman to be done as things go.  Berlatsky's written a few pieces on the hero over the years and while he doesn't always seem sure whether he thinks there should be a Wonder Woman movie or if he'd watch it if one got made he's nearly always interesting to read when writing about her. 

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