Thursday, June 22, 2017

Frothing Rant: Wonder Woman in the early '70's

Maybe I am an old grognard in comics, too.

Maybe I devoted too much of my life to reading comics and learning about them.


But I just read this passage on a blog in an entry about Wonder Woman,
[I am not sending traffic his way for a number of reasons]
"It reminds me of 1973, when DC returned Wonder Woman to her Amazon roots after she appeared on the first cover of Ms. Magazine and became a mascot of the women’s lib movement. Just like today, Wonder Woman was hugely famous outside of the comics, but DC handed the book to Robert Kanigher, an old white guy who ignored her new status and wrote a bunch of lazy, subpar issues that failed to capitalize on her popularity. Four decades later, DC is making the same mistakes."
Wha?
I had to read this 3 times to make sure I wasn't missing a critical sentence or two.
Nope - the author meant that.

Here is what REALLY freakin' happened:
1968 - DC comics strips WW of all of her super powers and shuffles the Amazons off to another dimension. Diana Prince becomes a pant-suit wearing super-spy that uses kung-fu and is a total rip-off of Emma Peel from the Avengers.

Yes, that is what Wonder Woman was like in 1971

Fans hated it. From the obvious ('that isn't Wonder Woman') to why she did it ('she gave up her powers to stay with Steve Trevor') to the painfully terrible writing (full of 'you dig?',  'jive turkey', etc.).  Sales tanked. Letters were written. Then?
Gloria Steinem put the traditional Wonder Woman on the cover of Ms. Magazine because Gloria was so pissed off at the changes DC had made to Wonder Woman. Gloria personally petitioned to DC to "fix" Wonder Woman.
So they gave WW back to Kanigher, the guy that led the entire superhero comic book revival by inventing Barry freakin' Allen and who had helmed WW during her rebirth and climb back up to being an icon BEFORE the 'pantsuit times'. Kanigher recycled a few old stories (since he was last-minute replacing issues with no prep) and then launched the epic story arc Wonder Woman's Twelve Labors, giving us BACK the Wonder Woman you see in the movie.

This is what that "old White guy" did

So, let's recap: pre-Ms cover = Diana Prince is a normal woman with no lasso, no bracelets, no invisible jet, no Amazons, no island home, no Steve Trevor, no membership in the Justice League, and she worked for and answered to a man (I Ching, her kung fu mentor).
Post Kanigher coming back = she has her lasso, jet, strength, speed, Amazons, etc., etc., etc.

Feminists were famously happy to have the traditional Wonder Woman back which is what the cover of Ms. Magazine was for. Kanigher, one of the most successful comic book creators in history, saved WW from declining sales and a ticked-off fanbase and got WW back on track.

Since the history of Kung Fu Diana, Gloria Steinem putting the traditional WW on the cover of MS, and the happiness of feminists with the return of Kanigher is so well-known that even Cracked has talked about it, I figured the blogger must be one of those 'I saw the movie, ergo I am a WW expert' types.
Nope.
This guy has written books about this history of comics. According to his 'I love me' wall his master's thesis was on the history of Wonder Woman and Feminism.
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"Briefly stated, the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect works as follows. You open the newspaper to an article on some subject you know well. In Murray’s case, physics. In mine, show business. You read the article and see the journalist has absolutely no understanding of either the facts or the issues. Often, the article is so wrong it actually presents the story backward––reversing cause and effect. I call these the “wet streets cause rain” stories. Paper’s full of them.
 In any case, you read with exasperation or amusement the multiple errors in a story-and then turn the page to national or international affairs, and read with renewed interest as if the rest of the newspaper was somehow more accurate about far-off Palestine than it was about the story you just read. You turn the page, and forget what you know.
 That is the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect.
I’d point out it does not operate in other arenas of life. In ordinary life, if somebody consistently exaggerates or lies to you, you soon discount everything they say. In court, there is the legal doctrine of falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus, which means untruthful in one part, untruthful in all. But when it comes to the media, we believe against evidence that it is probably worth our time to read other parts of the paper. When, in fact, it almost certainly isn’t. The only possible explanation for our behavior is amnesia."
  -Michael Crichton
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