The Honest-to-Goodness True Life Review of Wonder Woman: Earth One
Book: Wonder Woman: Earth One, by Grant Morrison and Yanick Paquette
Rating: 2/5 straw feminists
Recommended if you like: Giving cookies to male allies
Would instead recommend: Legend of Wonder Woman, by Renae De Liz
Published: 2016, DC Comics
First line: “Queen of the Amazons! Hahahaha! To heel, Bitch of Hercules!”
Grant Morrison, a bigwig “who’s who” of comics, wrote a highly anticipated Wonder Woman book. Morrison, who worked wonders with All Star Superman, is a creative force known to get to the heart of characters. So when he was finally able to adapt his Wonder Woman idea into DC’s new Earth One series, I was very excited. Here’s a writer who was going to embrace the purple ray, the kangas, the bondage, the feminism of the original Marston stories. Yet, he failed.
I acknowledge the Herculean task ahead of the guy: embracing Wondy’s weird is not easy. Here’s a character created to be (Suffragette/second wave) feminist propaganda to welcome in a new age of love and peace against war and domination. It’s not an easy mythos to update.
William Moulton Marston created Wonder Woman in the 1940s, but she isn’t emblematic of second wave feminism. Not really. Marston believed in a feminist philosophy that stated women were inherently peaceful and loving beings. Domination was inherently patriarchal, but submission demonstrated love to one another. Or something. Jill Lepore and her book The Secret History of Wonder Woman do a great job detailing the weirdness of Marston’s philosophy, linking it to one notable (and problematic) 1920 book titled Woman and the New Race by Margaret Sanger. Between the gender essentialist second wave feminist ideas of women as inherently loving and men as inherently destructive, and Marston’s own education in turn-of-the-century psychology around gender/sexual deviancy, and you get what Lepore calls “feminism as fetish.”
All of that is to point out how Wonder Woman has less than clear origins. It makes sense most writers, Morrison included, would double-down on the Greek mythology aspect of the Amazons. But Marston didn’t bring Greek mythology into Wonder Woman for the stories, but rather for the symbolism: Amazons and their island as a feminist paradise; Ares as War incarnate; Dr Psycho and Cheetah as personified anger and jealousy… all aspects that challenge Wonder Woman as love embodied.
But back to Morrison and Wonder Woman: Earth One. Morrison tried to update Wondy’s story complete with cell phones and a Black Steve Trevor. I’ve read worse versions of Wonder Woman (Amazons Attack! anyone?) but all of Morrison’s efforts to remind us of the real Wonder Woman were surface level gimmicks.
Wondy isn’t Wondy because of her invisible plane or the purple healing ray or the Greek mythos her stories so often rely upon; Wondy is Wondy because of feminist philosophy. She worked for her creator Marston because he was writing her as a mouthpiece for (Suffragette/second wave) feminism. So… Just do that, but with intersectional third wave feminism.
Don’t try to make Paradise Island seem like “it’s actually awful because dictatorship / tradition is bad / Greeks were awful;” Paradise Island should be a modern feminist’s paradise. You don’t need to make it a secretly awful place to motivate Wondy to leave (or worse, to “be gritty”).
Wondy leaves the Island to share that feminist paradise with Man’s World and be a mouthpiece for the up-to-date, boundary-pushing feminism of our time. For Marston, that was weird submissive-related second wave feminism. For today, that’s trans-inclusive intersectional, anti-racist and anti-ableist feminism.
How do I know Morrison doesn’t get this? Because the women of Paradise Island are second wave straw feminists; because Wonder Woman doesn’t have a personality to save her life; because the only two people of colour are Nubia and Steve Trevor. Nubia is there because she’s known as the One and Only Black Woman on Paradise Island. Steve Trevor is black to justify his lying to white superiors because, I kid you not, “Slavery was bad so I’m on your side.” You couldn’t find a better case of tokenism coupled with White Guilt and Not Getting It if you tried.
To be fair, Morrison at least got Etta Candy right (Woo woo!).
Candy is a beautiful, fat, bisexual white woman who laughs in the face of anyone (including the Amazons) mocking her weight.
So, there’s that. But Yanick Paquette’s drawings of everyone but Candy with the same body type and face, Amazons sexily posed in bondage, and boob-and-butt poses on every other page overshadow even this one crumb of Morrison’s success. You don’t prioritize the male gaze in what’s supposed to be a feminist book. This shouldn’t even need to be said.
Wonder Woman hasn’t had a proper story told about her for a while now. She’s had a good few runs (George Perez, Gail Simone, Greg Rucka, though these aren’t completely unproblematic either). But, how do we update Wonder Woman then, Sarah? I will tell you audience.
The key is having a creative team made of anyone but cisgender men and having an up-to-date feminist editor. Not Gloria Steinem, but someone who is representative of current boundary pushing intersectional feminism. Think Janet Mock, Jennifer Pozner, Roxane Gay. I’d even settle for Emma Watson as long as she broadened her mind outside of White Feminism. You only need to look over at Image Comics’ Bitch Planet’s Kelly Sue DeConnick to see how important it is to have a feminist perspective when your book is supposed to be feminist.
All in all, Morrison and Paquette’s Wonder Woman: Earth One was disappointing, to put things lightly. I’ll continue to recommend Legend of Wonder Woman as the best modern introduction to the character for new readers.
On the bright side, Greg Rucka is coming back for a new Wonder Woman run, and I’m very excited about that. Until then, tell me what you thought of Wonder Woman: Earth One, and what Wondy books you’d recommend instead.