Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Showcase Presents Wonder Woman

Here's how this works: I finish reading something, and I tell you about it, and I try not to bore you to death.

Months and months ago, the Hipster Daughter said that she wanted to read this. With a deep discount available, I confirmed that she really did want to read this and I wouldn't be tossing money away on something that would just sit there. She said absolutely and took it home with a big smile. She took it to school the next day and...

Well, she came home that night claiming she'd read the whole thing and was done with it. She doesn't lie very well yet, my daughter, and I hope she never learns. I asked her for some follow-up thoughts to share with y'all about this edition:

The Hipster Daughter: "The Wonder Woman Showcase was very horrible. If I were you and I wanted it, I'd say 'It is absolutely bad. Don't get it.' It's horrible because the comics and the pictures and she's not drawn right and it's just very horrible."

Me: "Was there anything in particular that struck you as horrible?"

THD: "Well, the one where there were three Wonder Womans."

Me: "I mean, in general, were there any storytelling tropes, or reliance on particular storytelling devices, which trigger your critical reaction to this set of stories?"

THD: "No."

Me: "What did you think of Wonder Woman's boyfriend, Steve Trevor?"

THD: "Booooo! I didn't like him!"

Me: "Any last thoughts?"

THD: "I think the illustrator is having trouble. I just don't like how she's drawn, she doesn't look like regular Wonder Woman."

Well, if you're not catching contemporary girls, will grown-up readers have any better luck?

Emphatically not. This has been the only Showcase I just do not want to read another word of. Well, I forced myself to finish The War That Time Forgot, another case of Robert Kanigher taking grandiose plots and making them dull and ordinary through repetition and a lack of internal storytelling logic. You will only have to read a few to start to see an incredibly common Kanigher trait - the stories almost always progress along a "three-beat" path: Wonder Woman tells Steve that she'll marry him if he can find him three times in a day, for example. But even when it isn't spelled out in a story's requirement, they almost always progress along the same predictable set of beats. Reading this after finishing The Haunted Tank and TWTTF, and now starting Sgt. Rock, is like masochism personified.

Speaking of which, the Steve-Wonder Woman marriage dynamic is nutty, and not in a good way. You know how in the classic Japanese turkey Prince of Space, the hero just keeps saying "I keep telling you, your weapons have no effect on me!" all through the film? Wonder Woman genuinely tells Steve "I've told you dozens of times that I'll only marry you when there's no more crime and injustice for me to fight!" in almost every issue. Trevor, you big fucking sap. TURN IN YOUR MAN CARD, SOLDIER.

Little girls who despaired that the Super Friends version of Wonder Woman had the powers of "Owns rope and airplane" might take some comfort in knowing that the Wonder Woman of these comics can do anything. She can breathe in outer space, she can flip islands above her head to get them out of the way of tidal waves, anything. So to challenge her, Kanigher makes her retarded. I gave up during a story when an evil scientist builds a robot Wonder Woman and convinces her that she's not needed anymore. But before she throws in the towel, she agrees to a challenge and will defeat the robot in any task. That task is: stay awake. The first one to fall asleep will leave for Paradise Island. While you get your brain around that gem, consider that the duel of not-sleeping plays out in front of a packed stadium, who've paid to watch Wonder Woman and a mannequin stare at each other. It's not a good kind of lighthearted goofy; it's played straight.

But I still had some sandwich to eat at lunch today and the restaurant TV was on Fox News, so I gave it one last try. The final story I read had Wonder Woman use her live TV special to reward Bonnie, a heroic teenage girl who saved two kids from drowning, her struggles captured by a photographer who thought he was shooting Marlon Perkins' Wild Kingdom or something and didn't try to save the kids herself. So Wonder Woman grants her three wishes. The third is - no shit - the third is, Bonnie wants to go back in time ten years and hang out on Paradise Island with Wonder Woman when she was a teenager. Who's expecting her on the other end of the time machine. Wonder Girl - that's who she was before Bob Haney got confused and thought she was WW's teen sidekick - and Bonnie hang with WG's love interest, a merboy named Mer-Boy, who can't get along with the mer-centaurs who also live in the waters off Paradise Island. And there's some sunken ship and a box which contains some robot grasshoppers which eat oxygen, and if Grant Morrison had written this or if Herbie the Fat Fury showed up, it'd be the best comic ever. But this is just lifeless hackwork from someone churning out as many pages a month as he could get 1959 DC to pay for.

And the Hipster Daughter's objection to the art? Holy anna, is she ever right. Ross Andru and Mike Esposito conspired to design the ugliest superheroine ever in these pages. There's no sense of anatomy or proportion or perspective in any of the pages. It's an ugly, ugly book full of unreadable stories.

And sure, I'm just some old grownup, but the way I see it, you put 500 pages of Wonder Woman in the hands of a nine year-old girl in the third grade and she gives up that quickly, you've got a book that has zero appeal whatsoever.

(Originally posted January 15, 2008 at hipsterdad's LJ.)

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