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  1. #1
    Spectacular Member kjn's Avatar
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    Default Wonder Woman hard to write?

    Over in the Superman forum, a discussion got going about writing the Trinity that touched on Wonder Woman, and I thought I'd bring that part of it over here. (Lets see if the quoting works cross-forum…)

    Quote Originally Posted by The Dying Detective View Post
    Admittedly though I think the one out of all the Trinity that would be the hardest to write is actually Wonder Woman because there are so many things to her that make tricky. In Post-Crisis it was because she would kill when necessary for one thing. And according to my friend Nightdreamer she is still somewhat stuck in the Golden Age unlike Superman and Batman who have left it. And Grant Morrison even said unlike them she has no clear message.
    Quote Originally Posted by Ascended View Post
    I definitely agree that Diana is likely the hardest to write among the Trinity. She's such a wonderful character (no pun intended) with so many layers and nuance. I still struggle to really get the deepest parts of the character, and I've read more Wonder Woman than most titles.
    Quote Originally Posted by The Dying Detective View Post
    I don't think even female writers get Wonder Woman either. But it's probably those layers that make it hard to write her.
    My thoughts on this is that, yes, there is evidence that it's tricky to write Wonder Woman stories, but I'm not sure that's because Wonder Woman is tricky to write in and of herself.

    First factor here is that I believe you can't discuss Wonder Woman without touching on feminist theory and that the comic is made in a patriarchal world. Marston did put his own peculiar brand of gender theory into the character and the stories he wrote. But nearly every other writer afterwards has been male, and I think that hindered the development and examination of Marston's views of gender for a long time. For given her origin story, Wonder Woman is tailor-made to examine gender roles.

    Second is that Wonder Woman is working against patriarchal norms, and that's perhaps most shown in her love interest. Under those norms, a woman cannot be allowed to be stronger or more capable than her man. That blocked lots of avenues for exploring and establishing Steve Trevor as a love interest, and then Perez simply removed him from consideration (even as he set out to partially explore some other aspects of feminism with regards to Wonder Woman). These norms are arguably part of the cause for the frequent shipping with Superman. It is arguably only now, with the movie, that a workable model for Wonder Woman's love life has arrived.

    Third, I'd argue that Wonder Woman has a clear message: love in the meaning of compassion. (Here, I'd argue that she is the opposite of Batman, who ostensibly is about justice but to me really is more about authority; hence the Hiketeia where their ideas of justice come in direct opposition to each other. The Hiketeia also makes for a nice comparison piece with the Brubaker's Catwoman story Joy Ride, even if Batman is less uptight there.)

    Fourth, I believe one aspect why Wonder Woman has such a muddled history is that she brings too many toys to the writers. Dealing with her love life and her feminist themes probably went outside the comfort zone (and maybe competence) of a lot of her writers, and thus they moved on to other aspects of her, and there they could find a lot. All of Greek mythology. A hidden utopian society. But without a strong grasp of the center of her character, that could also make her a bystander in her own stories.

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by kjn View Post
    Third, I'd argue that Wonder Woman has a clear message: love in the meaning of compassion.
    I want to hone in on this as I think this is where some issues lie.

    Love as a motivation for Diana is a poor one. Typically because most writers don't know what love actually means.

    "Love of everyone" is not a thing that exists. It's something people tell themselves that they have because it gives them a hit of that sweet, sweet self-righteousness. "I'm a good person, because I love all mankind." But it's also vague and unspecific enough to be functionally useless.

    If you "love everyone", you're either inflating your own self-image or you don't know what love is.

    Empathy for people in need is a much more important defining factor for being a good person, and it has nothing to do with love. You don't need to love someone to think that torturing them is unacceptable behavior. You don't need to love a group of people to think that slavery is wrong. You just need respect for basic human dignity.

    In short, if a person thinks they need to love people to believe that they deserve to be treated like human beings, they're doing Good wrong. Likewise, it is not love the world needs. It is for people to respect each other as human beings.

    And that is why love is bad motivation for Diana and why Aphrodite sucks as a patron. Well that and Aphrodite more embodies lust than love.

  3. #3
    The Detective Man The Dying Detective's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Agent Z View Post
    I want to hone in on this as I think this is where some issues lie.

    Love as a motivation for Diana is a poor one. Typically because most writers don't know what love actually means.

    "Love of everyone" is not a thing that exists. It's something people tell themselves that they have because it gives them a hit of that sweet, sweet self-righteousness. "I'm a good person, because I love all mankind." But it's also vague and unspecific enough to be functionally useless.

    If you "love everyone", you're either inflating your own self-image or you don't know what love is.

    Empathy for people in need is a much more important defining factor for being a good person, and it has nothing to do with love. You don't need to love someone to think that torturing them is unacceptable behavior. You don't need to love a group of people to think that slavery is wrong. You just need respect for basic human dignity.

    In short, if a person thinks they need to love people to believe that they deserve to be treated like human beings, they're doing Good wrong. Likewise, it is not love the world needs. It is for people to respect each other as human beings.

    And that is why love is bad motivation for Diana and why Aphrodite sucks as a patron. Well that and Aphrodite more embodies lust than love.
    Well what about the whole loving submission thing that was prevalent in the World War II era comics? But as far as I can tell it was an outlet for Marston's questionable interests and to possibly propagate the idea of submitting to female authority which technically has happened over the years especially when there are now very powerful women out there who stand on top of the ladder of society. Because to go back to that could be detrimental.
    "Excellent!" I cried. "Elementary," said he

  4. #4
    Spectacular Member kjn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Agent Z View Post
    Love as a motivation for Diana is a poor one. Typically because most writers don't know what love actually means.

    "Love of everyone" is not a thing that exists. It's something people tell themselves that they have because it gives them a hit of that sweet, sweet self-righteousness. "I'm a good person, because I love all mankind." But it's also vague and unspecific enough to be functionally useless.
    Just because most writers does not know a concept, does not make the concept a poor one for motivation.

    I would recommend that you read up on the concepts of agape and charity.

    Quote Originally Posted by The Dying Detective View Post
    Well what about the whole loving submission thing that was prevalent in the World War II era comics? But as far as I can tell it was an outlet for Marston's questionable interests and to possibly propagate the idea of submitting to female authority which technically has happened over the years especially when there are now very powerful women out there who stand on top of the ladder of society. Because to go back to that could be detrimental.
    I think the phrase used by Marsdon was "obedience to loving authority" (though there might be various takes on it), and to me it reads as a very patriarchal concept: he simply replaces the stern father who loves his family and knows their best interests with a mother.

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    The Detective Man The Dying Detective's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kjn View Post
    I think the phrase used by Marsdon was "obedience to loving authority" (though there might be various takes on it), and to me it reads as a very patriarchal concept: he simply replaces the stern father who loves his family and knows their best interests with a mother.
    Either way the Marston vision which involved a belief that women would one day rule the world was technically realised. As far as I am concerned tow rite love for Wonder Woman as a motive is actually a tricky one even J.K Rowling blundered a bit when she did it. The hard part of doing it might come from the fact superhero comics are generally action oriented. But even then i do not necessarily think compassion itself is impossible to execute. If it were possible maybe just replace it with peace and compassion and that should do it.
    "Excellent!" I cried. "Elementary," said he

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    Quote Originally Posted by kjn View Post
    Just because most writers does not know a concept, does not make the concept a poor one for motivation.

    I would recommend that you read up on the concepts of agape and charity.



    I think the phrase used by Marsdon was "obedience to loving authority" (though there might be various takes on it), and to me it reads as a very patriarchal concept: he simply replaces the stern father who loves his family and knows their best interests with a mother.
    I'm familiar with those concepts. But I don't believe they're necessary applicable which is why I suggested empathy as Diana's motivation which is different from love.

  7. #7
    Incredible Member Restingvoice's Avatar
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    I don't know if she's hard to write more than writers find it easier to write extreme personalities. Batman the broody and Superman the righteous are easier to pin down than Wonder Woman the balanced peacekeeper. She doesn't have a lot of inner conflict and her role as a peacekeeper means most conflict will not be about her, unlike Batman who has a lot of dark mirror villains with personal history with him, which makes their story his story as well.

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    The Detective Man The Dying Detective's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Restingvoice View Post
    I don't know if she's hard to write more than writers find it easier to write extreme personalities. Batman the broody and Superman the righteous are easier to pin down than Wonder Woman the balanced peacekeeper. She doesn't have a lot of inner conflict and her role as a peacekeeper means most conflict will not be about her, unlike Batman who has a lot of dark mirror villains with personal history with him, which makes their story his story as well.
    Maybe that where the core essence of really testing Wonder Woman lies in with trying to see how well she can maintain being a balanced peacekeeper.
    "Excellent!" I cried. "Elementary," said he

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    Extraordinary Member JKtheMac's Avatar
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    Morrison has since confessed he didn't really understand WW and that his route into the character were the histories about William Moulton Marston, specifically The Secret History of Wonder Woman by Jill Lapore - Highly recommended for those interested in feminist history and its intersection with comics but expect more about family planning campaigning than lariots.

    Perhaps uniquely here, my only interest in Wonder Woman is the golden age character, and I would agree that such histories are essential to get a grasp of the early character. However Morrison's attempt to turn all of this into a new story (not originally an Earth One project BTW) was somewhat underwhelming to me, although no more underwhelming than any other modern interpretation of her. Perhaps this does suggest she is tricky to write nowadays. Certainly I was less impressed with the movie than most, so I may be in a minority, but I would prefer a modern Diana to be a lot more radical and less safe.

  10. #10
    Incredible Member Rise's Avatar
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    She isn't hard to write as character and a lot of writers do get her.

    The problem is that they struggle in doing something with her and using her mytho in interesting way.

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    Extraordinary Member JKtheMac's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rise View Post
    She isn't hard to write as character and a lot of writers do get her.

    The problem is that they struggle in doing something with her and using her mytho in interesting way.
    But to play devil's advocate, who's fault is it that they struggle? Either they don't quite 'get her' whatever that means, or editorial don't want to push her in the kind of controversial directions that would make her interesting? I don't actually know the answer to this as I don't read much modern DC stuff, but from my perspective, whenever the boundaries are tested fans push back hard. So are DC worried about fan reactions? Are writers just getting her wrong or not allowed to take her to interesting places?

    Maybe the best way the answer the OP is to define who Diana really is. I am willing to bet most want her to remain relatively safe, citing ideas of peace and justice and minimising her outsider perspective on patriarchal culture which was so stongly emphasised by Marston.

    What are her quintessential modern stories? What themes are most clearly expressed in her modern runs?
    Last edited by JKtheMac; 06-08-2018 at 04:17 AM.

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    Incredible Member Restingvoice's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JKtheMac View Post
    But to play devil's advocate, who's fault is it that they struggle? Either they don't quite 'get her' whatever that means, or editorial don't want to push her in the kind of controversial directions that would make her interesting? I don't actually know the answer to this as I don't read much modern DC stuff, but from my perspective, whenever the boundaries are tested fans push back hard. So are DC worried about fan reactions? Are writers just getting her wrong or not allowed to take her to interesting places?

    Maybe the best way the answer the OP is to define who Diana really is. I am willing to bet most want her to remain relatively safe, citing ideas of peace and justice and minimising her outsider perspective on patriarchal culture which was so stongly emphasised by Marston.

    What are her quintessential modern stories? What themes are most clearly expressed in her modern runs?
    They did use controversial directions. Killing Maxwell Lord and defining her as the Trinity who kills. Azzarello's man-killing Amazons. Zeus is her father. Donna was a villain. The twin brother Jason. Superman Wonder Woman romance. God of War. So they did try, and they didn't worry about fans reaction as all of those happened without warning and two of them are still going. Sales were not bad too, so it's not sales that cause them to cancel the other decisions.

  13. #13
    Incredible Member Rise's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JKtheMac View Post
    But to play devil's advocate, who's fault is it that they struggle? Either they don't quite 'get her' whatever that means, or editorial don't want to push her in the kind of controversial directions that would make her interesting? I don't actually know the answer to this as I don't read much modern DC stuff, but from my perspective, whenever the boundaries are tested fans push back hard. So are DC worried about fan reactions? Are writers just getting her wrong or not allowed to take her to interesting places?

    Maybe the best way the answer the OP is to define who Diana really is. I am willing to bet most want her to remain relatively safe, citing ideas of peace and justice and minimising her outsider perspective on patriarchal culture which was so stongly emphasised by Marston.

    What are her quintessential modern stories? What themes are most clearly expressed in her modern runs?
    By get her I mean that her characterization most of the time is on point. I haven't read a WW book where her characterization was bad which is why I don't agree that she is a hard character to write.

    I also don't know who is to blame for the writers struggle in doing something interesting with her. It could be the writers, editor, fans or her mytho is simply hard to use in engaging ways.

  14. #14
    Spectacular Member kjn's Avatar
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    [ Agape and charity ]
    Quote Originally Posted by Agent Z View Post
    I'm familiar with those concepts. But I don't believe they're necessary applicable which is why I suggested empathy as Diana's motivation which is different from love.
    I was choosing my words poorly earlier, it's not so much motivation as what the character represents. An in Batman represents justice (as coming from authority), Superman represents hope, and Wonder Woman represents compassion. Now, empathy is the most likely driver in Wonder Woman's compassion, I'll grant you that.

    Quote Originally Posted by Restingvoice View Post
    I don't know if she's hard to write more than writers find it easier to write extreme personalities. Batman the broody and Superman the righteous are easier to pin down than Wonder Woman the balanced peacekeeper. She doesn't have a lot of inner conflict and her role as a peacekeeper means most conflict will not be about her, unlike Batman who has a lot of dark mirror villains with personal history with him, which makes their story his story as well.
    Thing is, conflicts can be of different types. There are arguably rather few superhero comics that revolve around inner conflicts. Batman mostly reacts to his villains, who are criminals. Superman classically averts disasters.

    But to me, Wonder Woman should stand in opposition to structural oppression. If we got back to Hiketeia, the conflict she has with Batman is partly because she has a fundamentally different view of justice than Batman has (even though the story could have explored that a lot further). Batman's justice is the justice of the rich man; Wonder Woman's justice is justice for the oppressed and poor.

    Quote Originally Posted by JKtheMac View Post
    Perhaps uniquely here, my only interest in Wonder Woman is the golden age character, and I would agree that such histories are essential to get a grasp of the early character. However Morrison's attempt to turn all of this into a new story (not originally an Earth One project BTW) was somewhat underwhelming to me, although no more underwhelming than any other modern interpretation of her. Perhaps this does suggest she is tricky to write nowadays. Certainly I was less impressed with the movie than most, so I may be in a minority, but I would prefer a modern Diana to be a lot more radical and less safe.
    In a way, I found the movie Diana to be radical, but not in an overt way, and I can understand not having her acting very radical given that it is a coming of age story. But I'd argue that her listening to the Chief's and Sameer's stories and taking them seriously are radical acts, and so likewise when she said to Charlie that she sees his worth even when he can't shoot and admits that he has no courage left.

    We will see how Patty Jenkins chooses to explore Diana's character and relation to man's world in the next movie. Like with Black Panther, she has a multitude of directions and issues to grapple with: engagement contra isolationism contra intervention; patriarchy; queer issues; racism; monarchy contra democracy. I hope that Jenkins picks one area and chooses to engage strongly with it, perhaps simply acknowledging the rest, unlike Black Panther which to me didn't manage to choose a single overarching theme, but instead muddled between all of them.

    Quote Originally Posted by Restingvoice View Post
    They did use controversial directions. Killing Maxwell Lord and defining her as the Trinity who kills. Azzarello's man-killing Amazons. Zeus is her father. Donna was a villain. The twin brother Jason. Superman Wonder Woman romance. God of War. So they did try, and they didn't worry about fans reaction as all of those happened without warning and two of them are still going. Sales were not bad too, so it's not sales that cause them to cancel the other decisions.
    Looking at that list, I see something missing. That is Diana herself. All of them (except possibly the first) does not really touch Diana as a person or character—they relate more to the people and the world around her.

    I mentioned earlier that Diana had a tendency to become a bystander in her own stories, because of the way that too many gods have a tendency to become involved. But the same theme still holds here: the attempts to modernise (or change) Diana do not touch her as a character, and thus fundamentally fail in what they are trying to do.

    Great discussion, everyone!

  15. #15
    non-super & non-hero jump's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JKtheMac View Post
    However Morrison's attempt to turn all of this into a new story (not originally an Earth One project BTW) was somewhat underwhelming to me,
    I felt the same way. I remember Morrison talking on a podcast before it was released about how the idea is it's a trial which is gonna be used for meta writing about how she's the face of feminism/women as well as her character overall, which is what the trial is really about but I don't think they did enough with stuff.

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