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    Why The World Needs More Wonder Women

    By | June 27th, 2017
    Posted in Longform | 6 Comments

    Back when I used to be a regular contributor to the site, one of the things I liked to crusade about was that the world needed more Wonder Woman. Whether this was by making snide remarks about her not having her own secondary ongoing in-continuity solo title, insisting everyone read her existing comics or just advocating heavily for a film (an article that is wonderful to read in retrospect), what I’ve really wanted for years was to relish and share the history of and my enthusiasm for this brilliant character with a wider audience of like-minded and passionate individuals; to not feel like the only person in the rooms full of nerds I tend to sit in who actively cares about this character.

    That’s part of the joy of writing about comics, let alone the joy of comics in general. When you find something special to you, whether it feels like a niche portion of the culture or even just a known but underappreciated character, it catalyzes a lot of us nerds to write think pieces and reviews and whatnot in order to advocate for this thing that means so much to us.

    Why I advocate for Wonder Woman more consistently than other characters comes from a slightly different place, though, and ultimately is about achieving a different goal.

    Let me explain.

    Peeling back a few layers, my story starts in a place likely familiar to most comic fans: much like the stereotypical story of a young nerd growing up, I had a lapse in reading comic books. There was a time in my life where my comic book affiliations felt a little less cool than being accepted by my peers in the tumultuous years of junior high school. As a result, comics faded into the background, a familiar tale for many of us who hadn’t yet developed the confidence to own our hobbies. We’ve all been there, in one way or another.

    But something usually draws us back, whether it’s a favorite character, or a video game, or a movie, or something else — and when I came back to comics, something struck me as odd. The thing I noticed right off the bat was that, for the most part, it was easy for me to see what was going on with characters I hadn’t been actively following. “Infinite Crisis” and “Civil War” trades were and are everywhere, to the extent they’re near impossible to ignore. Interested in Green Lantern? There’s copious trades of Hal Jordan’s adventures post-“Rebirth”! And, hey, what’s been up with Captain America? You’re in luck; “Winter Soldier’ is never going out of print.

    Regardless of your allegiance to Marvel or DC, Image or Dark Horse, it was never really all that hard for a lapsed reader to go to a store and grab a trade for one of these top tier characters or popular storylines that everyone was buzzing about.

    That is… except for when it came to Wonder Woman.

    And that’s what drew me to Wonder Woman: simply because her comics, well, they were never there. When I read “Trinity” by Matt Wagner and wanted to see more of this character who had been billed as one of DC’s most important, or when I saw what a huge role she had in events like “Infinite Crisis”, I would find myself visiting comic stores that had multiple shelves dedicated to solo books with Superman and Batman — but barely a tiny nook for two or three Wonder Woman trades (all of which ended up being the same trades I’d already collected). The first four George Perez reprints, every now and then a slim edition of a John Byrne story, and her groovy 70’s as Diana Prince from Denny O’Neil always seemed to be there… but never in order, and before long even the most recent (at the time) Gail Simone storylines became hard to nail down.

    I could only really find books with Wonder Woman in them, but not with her name on the cover.

    Over time, this really began to bother me. I was (and am) annoyed on two fronts: that of a comic fan looking to get more into a character, and that of a continuity / company fan just curious why I can find the same 50 Batman storylines I’ll never read but struggle to find new Wonder Woman stories. And while not being able to find a new story with a character you like isn’t an ostensibly new or unique thing to Wonder Woman or comic collecting in general, it always felt egregious to me that, despite Wonder Woman being so important to the DC line (so they claimed), her stories were more difficult to find than 4 back issues of “Wild Dog.”

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    There’s a positive to this, though. The flip side to this endeavor is that the the discovery of a new Wonder Woman trade or story became that much more special. I quickly gravitated to the character because every time I’d find a new book I’d actually get to read something new: something exciting, something different! And as I started growing up and spending more and more of my time reading feminist literature, it was great to find Wonder Woman stories that echoed the themes and reflect the analysis I was engaging with in books by Margaret Atwood, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Malala Yousafzai, or even the Notorious RBG.

    Because of the rarity of her collections (thus increasing their value to me) and my burgeoning personal connection thematically with her stories based on my own pursuits in knowledge and understanding, Wonder Woman became (and still is) my favorite DC character. Her stories always stood out, and continue to do so for me: partially because of their scarcity, sure, but also because of their focus.

    Diving in a bit more, I’ll be honest: after a while, the most popular Batman and Superman stories all tend to blur together for me just due to the sheer amount of availability and commonality. I can remember story beats and I know generally what books are important, but I’m not really moved by something like “The Dark Knight Returns” as much anymore; when I see a book like that on 90% of recommendation lists for new readers I generally shrug rather than agree at this point, because in my mind and heart I feel we’ve moved on from those former landmark books.

    When I really stop to think about why, it’s because I don’t feel that most writers do anything interesting or creative with these characters. The stories are usually consistent, but a dull kind of consistency that results in a lot of repeat ideas; a function of the fact that every new writer working with these characters seems more interested in making “their mark” on the classics (even beyond the mandated “we need to re-do an origin story” trope most comic companies tend to lean into every five years or so) . And sure, there are still plenty of artists who really wow the reader with impressive visual undertakings (Greg Capullo’s recent run with Scott Snyder on “Batman” proves this), even the most beautiful art can’t save a subpar storyline.

    Wonder Woman has a different kind of consistency, however, and it’s with this that I connect and learn more from. Yes, a lot of the things I can hold against her counterparts appear in her (one, lone) series, especially when it comes to the re-telling of origins; I count at least 5 origin stories published within the last year or so between Earth One, The True Amazon, Year One, Legend of, and the recent Perez re-print. Where Wonder Woman tends to stand out is that the creative teams to take on her stories seem more driven by Wonder Woman’s character and the opportunities nascent in her virtues, as opposed to being driven by the author’s own ego. The consistency that appears in Wonder Woman is carried through the themes and traits that make up the underlying foundation of what’s important about Wonder Woman as an iconic figure in pop culture / fiction.

    In other words: what seems to fuel Wonder Woman writers is less about “how can we alter the story and the characters” but rather “how can we increase her impact…”

    Which brings us to 7:00 PM on June 1st, 2017 — the moment when Wonder Woman debuted for audiences here in the US, and all the (glorious) headlines announcing that WB/DC had finally made a film worth watching.

    I’ve had many conversations about the movie since it has come out, since I’m known both in groups of friends past and present as “that guy that really likes Wonder Woman.” And while I do have a lot of thoughts on the movie, both grandiose and nit-picky, to somewhat summarize: I think there’s more than enough that Wonder Woman gets right — and I think there’s a lot of incredibly powerful imagery in the film.

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    A young Diana on Paradise Island watching a bunch of badass warrior women practice and train to kick ass? That’s powerful, especially in the year 2017.

    An adult Diana stepping into her role as Wonder Woman and walking across No Man’s Land against a hail of bullets, inspiring those around her to take up arms and run into a town they’ll probably die trying to protect, full of people who are unlike themselves? That’s important, ESPECIALLY in the year 2017.

    Wonder Woman being placed to lead a team of men of varying cultural backgrounds, particularly in regards to conflicting historical truths and values (especially in a heartbreaking moment of Wonder Woman asking Chief “What happened to your people?” and Chief nodding to Steve Trevor and responding, “Ask him”), yet still finding the things that unite and bond them? That’s timelessly important, let alone in the year 2017.

    Diana, realizing her unfortunate birthright, and still standing strong in the face of absolute destruction, loss and evil — and declaring “I choose love”? That’s important, and I know you get why, dear reader.

    It’s both the big scenes like these and tiny moments like “Who will sing for us, Charlie?” that I’m ultimately happy with, because the overall significance of them is something that Superman and Batman (or any currently released headlining Marvel cinematic hero) do not match in their current films or books as much anymore, especially in regards to overall impact on their audience.

    So to summarize: that it is not only I who is excited about these things, but fans both new and old across the globe as well, is what tells me that Wonder Woman is truly successful.

    To illustrate the point: a few weeks ago the only people I could have long conversations about Wonder Woman with were the three people I always talk to about comics anyway, and in Wonder Woman-specific conversations I’m usually leading. Now I can talk to everyone about Wonder Woman, and everyone has something to say — from my peer(s) at work derailing meetings to talk about the movie for an hour (better than walking through spreadsheets!), to you and me in the comments section of this article, to the random woman at the bus stop who started talking to me about the movie because of my hat (for those that don’t know, I wear a hat with the Wonder Woman logo — surprise!).

    People often remark that Wonder Woman is a feminist icon, and she is, but the implication of the comment often seems to remark that her significance was isolated. Now we have this icon, her values and themes represented in pop culture for everyone and not just comic readers, and that makes me really happy. Wonder Woman is a symbol of hope, and the way she and this movie have already impacted our world — in small ways, in big ways, but all important ways — give me some slight sense of hope for tomorrow.

    And at the end of the day, that’s what I always loved about the character. I’m thrilled other people get to share in this too, together.

    Furthermore, Wonder Woman stands as a symbol of progress, of a brighter future paved not by violence and hatred but tolerance, understanding, and love. And if we think about what the future can look like, I think the most important thing to do now is not lose this momentum.

    Of course, trouble still comes when I want to recommend Wonder Woman’s books to others. I can tell you that “Wonder Woman” v2 #170 is the best issue of “Wonder Woman” of all time, but unless your shop has the only pressing of the “Paradise Lost” trade that DC put out or a good back issue library, you’re SOL in finding it. Luckily Comixology exists for those curious, and the advent of digital media has made her stories much more available — but it’s still an exercise in pulling teeth to recommend stories to friends who want a physical trade for themselves for their library, or as a gift for a friend or family member.

    My problem now is still the most frustrating one: I want to share with others more of this thing that I love, that I find insightful and inspirational and that that they’re beginning to love too, and I still have a hard time doing so in a way that actively accounts for different media consumption styles.

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    But! With the success of a comic book film we often see an uptick in older trades and reprints. The success of Guardians of the Galaxy led to Marvel reprinting books like “The Infinity Watch,” for example, and already WB/DC have released “Wonder Woman: Her Greatest Battles” as “the perfect companion to 2017’s highly anticipated film.” John Byrne’s work is finally being reprinted, Greg Rucka’s celebrated run is being recollected, there was that random Mike Deodato collection, and the rest of George Perez’s run is finally seeing some collections as well. Throw in the success of the new volume (including a new origin story), alongside “Wonder Woman Day” that saw DC giving out free Wonder Woman comics and the current success of the DC Super Hero Girls brand for younger audiences, and it’s clear we’re dipping our toes in the right waters.

    Not only that, but we often hear after a successful film endeavor about how other studios want to copy / steal that success (I am reminded at least, in part, of articles like this one) — and in this instance, I think the appropriate response is “Yes. More.”

    What we need now is more Wonder Woman. More available trades, more ongoing titles, more stories that we can share. I want every single person who asks me what Wonder Woman book to read to have a bevy of options, enough to start their own home library. There is risk of us moving in the same overcrowded direction that leads to my apathy towards Superman and Batman, that overproduction could lessen the importance that Wonder Woman currently has, but it’s a risk worth taking in my opinion; strike while the iron is hot, as they say, and aim for the best.

    And even beyond that, perhaps even more importantly, what we need is more Wonder Women.

    Now feels as good a time as any to make a ringing call to arms for this, so let me be as direct as possible: what we need, and what we have always needed, is more women in comics.

    Comics have been a Boys Club for a long time. There are those who think that this is a “boys medium,” and we’re still dominated largely by male creators in the mainstream; most of my favorite female creatives often get referred to as “indie darlings,” despite the acclaims and success their work and titles have (see: Faith Erin Hicks and Raina Telgemeier, mainstream successes by any sane definition). For us to no longer consider comics a Boys Club, then, is definitive proof that we’ve moved beyond this stigma. I want every woman and girl excited by the Wonder Woman film to see comics as a place of inclusivity not just for characters but for themselves; and not even just as fans, but as future creators, editors, retailers, cosplayers, and beyond.

    On the creative side, both DC and Marvel are doing better on this front than they were years ago. In June of this year, DC will publish 11 titles featuring headlining female superheroes (10 of which have women as the top-billed creators) and Marvel will publish 17 titles (although only 8 of which have women as the top-billed creators); compare this to Image for June, where women-led creative teams make up about 33% of their output, which doesn’t fully count for their overall publishing line due to inconsistent publishing schedules and the relatively new practice of “off-months.”

    (There’s also 27 other publishers I’m not doing the math on as well to consider.)

    This is assuredly better than when I wrote about the concept of a Wonder Woman film in 2013 — but we need more. Now’s as good a time as any to grab this momentum and grow.

    I’m borrowing this from a remark I saw scrolling through the Wonder Woman feed on tumblr, but I think it summarizes everything quite nicely:

    Orange is the New Black is the most successful show in Netflix’s history and The Handmaid’s Tale is the most successful in Hulu’s. And now Wonder Woman is being hailed as the movie that has “saved” the DC franchise. It’s almost like people are actually interested in seeing more of women’s stories on screen instead of the same tired shows centered around flawed male heroes that the mainstream machine has churned out a million times before.

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    Yes. It is.

    It’s easy to see that the role women have played in our stories, let alone greater society, has been marginalized for a long time. You don’t have to be a feminist to see this either; simply looking at story tropes as they relate to gender reveals a strange imbalance on what people use as stereotypical crutches for female characters. This has always been confusing to me in nerd culture, having grown up with characters like Ellen Ripley and Sarah Conner to be inspired by and aspire to, but you can see patterns and trends in how women are treated, both fictional and non-fictional, in ways that feel beyond outdated in this day and age of enlightened or progressive society.

    Even in 2017, there are some great changes still to make.

    Thankfully, Wonder Woman is here to help.

    With more films on the way starring women in roles typically assumed to be male-only spaces (such as Marvel’s first foray into a women-led film with Captain Marvel, the upcoming Atomic Blonde or films like Lucy and the Hunger Games), I have hope for a brighter future. It took 75 years, but I’m hoping the success of Wonder Woman is just that; the first step in a future that’s actually worth being a part of, where we can all spend a lot less time reading and writing articles about how we need more powerful women who challenge us to be better, because there’s no question of where they are: front and center, leading the way.

    This article is dedicated to the memory of my grandmother Lidya, who passed away last week, and my grandmother Anna, who passed away last year, two wonderful women who helped raised me, and both of whom stood up to the terror ravaging their world during World War II. Not only did they survive, but they always fought to make this world better for me and everyone that touched their lives.

    Additional thanks to some of the wonder women in my life: Alexis Perry for talking about Wonder Woman with me endlessly, Amanda Iglesias for derailing aforementioned meetings and sending me the best feminist articles, and Jessica Graham for her help in me getting my shit together — both in this article, and in life.


    Matthew Meylikhov

    Once upon a time, Matthew Meylikhov became the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Multiversity Comics, where he was known for his beard and fondness for cats. Then he became only one of those things. Now, if you listen really carefully at night, you may still hear from whispers on the wind a faint voice saying, "X-Men Origins: Wolverine is not as bad as everyone says it issss."

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    • Migeulito

      “watching a bunch of badass warrior women practice and train to kick ass? That’s powerful, especially in the year 2017” –

      So did everyone just sleep through the 90’s or something? We had a shit ton of women warriors to look up to. Buffy, Xena, Sarah Conner to name a few. A woman warrior is hardly a novelty in 2017. It’s AWESOME this movie is doing so well but I have reservations in thinking it has anything to do with Wonder Woman being a woman and more to do with a well written script, amazing acting (who didn’t fall in love with Gal after seeing this?), and flawless directing. It’s a movie worth seeing and audiences respond more to quality film making than they do social issues I would wager.

      • Matthew Meylikhov

        I mention Conner in the article, and Ellen Ripley. There are always have been amazing female characters to exist in the mainstream. But we need more, and we benefit from powerful icons like Wonder Woman (who predates those we’ve mentioned) becoming more regular presences within the mainstream. A well written script, great acting and directing are all great ways to start the conversation that run in tandem with the character herself being an important icon historically and thematically; that this helps us discuss and learn and grow as it pertains to social issues is a benefit gained from the quality of those things.

        (I also don’t remember a sequence in Xena where she watches and is inspired by other women training, but I am happy to be wrong — it has been literally years since I’ve watched that show.)

    • Paul Lai

      I loved this piece, Matt. Thanks for it! So many sentiments that I share as well. Condolences for your grandmothers’ loss, too. The world indeed has many wonder women and they aren’t hard to find, but the annals and collections need to corrected to make their stories accessible and celebrated, for ourselves and our kids. (By the way, the world also always needs more Matt Meylikhov. Cheers!)

      • Matthew

        Thank you, Paul, I’m glad you enjoyed it!

    • Patrick Baird

      A quick PSA: Wonder Woman Vol. 2 170 “A Day in the Life” is also collected in Lois Lane: A Celebration of 75 Years.

      • Matthew

        I did not know that, Patrick! Thank you for the comment — and that makes total sense as to why that issue would be included there. I love that.