Did I read Wonder Woman because I knew the Fourth of July was coming up and it would be fitting to publish a post about a lady that wants to spread democracy and save America from all the bad guys on the Fourth of July? I wish I was the type of person that planned my blog posts, but I did just buy a wonder woman swimsuit and felt obligated to know a bit about the lady I was emulating. I’ve said before that I find the comic book world a little bit daunting and tracking down which Wonder Woman to read was no different. I decided to go with the very first ones published in 1942 and look forward to hearing recommendations about where to look next.
The fact that this was published in 1942 makes it awesome and, somehow at the same time, not so awesome. This is a superhero with superhero strength and brains in a, as the book likes to remind us often, “man’s world”. Wonder Woman, Diana, is actually pretty awesome. She is the ideal. She fights for good and against evil, she’s humble, strong, kind, forgiving, crazy smart, and empathetic. The world she’s living in is closer to the truth of things than I’d like to admit. In her disguise she often has to remind herself to dumb it down a bit, act like a girl that faints and doesn’t understand. This drove me crazy. It drives me crazy in real life too. I understand why it may have been necessary for the story and it certainly moves the plot along, but I really can’t stand any situation fictional or in real life in which someone acts dumb to appear more “normal”. It’s so disingenuous. It’s something you kind of expect from superhero stories because they’re often trying to go incognito but this felt like because she was a lady she had to go above and beyond. For instance I don’t know anyone that’s ever passed out from fear, yet Diana had to pretend to so that the men would believe she was a “normal” woman. I’m torn between thinking that it’s great that this existed for little girls and boys to see that woman could be a superhero or thinking it’s bad because it makes it seem that the only acceptable way for a woman to be “normal” is how Diana acted when she was pretending to be normal.
There is one scene that stood out to me in which Diana has a conversation with Etta Candy (who, in a shocking turn of events, likes candy. The names are fairly telling of the characters in this volume). Etta’s main shtick is that she eats a lot of candy and is fat. I think she is supposed to be the comedy of the scene when she’s around but enough years have gone by and societal changes have happened that I found myself cringing when she was around. If she weren’t meant to be the joke she was actually pretty empowering to woman of all sizes, particularly in the conversation with Diana. They are traveling together and Diana mentions that Etta would have better luck with men if she ate less candy and asked her if she “wants to be admired.” Etta says, “Sure men always say I’m beautiful-If they didn’t I’d knock ’em for a loop!” Hell yes Etta. Hell. Yes. It was interesting to read these types of things knowing that the societal context has changed so significantly.
There were enough cringey moments in this Volume that I would hesitate to recommend it to someone, but it was an interesting read. I’ve never read a comic book that was published so long ago and it was an enlightening experience. I’m very interested to see what DC Comics does with Wonder Woman in more recently published volumes. As superheroes go she’s a badass, it’d just be nice if the universe she’s a part of would stop being so hung up on this particular genius badass being a woman.