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Wednesday, November 17, 2010


A Girl Needs More Than Spangles
by Carol A. Strickland

As romance readers we all love strong heroines who find romance. Why is it, then, that the strongest of heroines can’t get any?

I’m talking Wonder Woman. She’s one of the mightiest heroes in her world, often credited in these PC times as being as powerful as Superman. The line that evokes her is “beautiful as Aphrodite, wise as Athena, stronger than Hercules, and swifter than Mercury.”

But for the past 25-ish years (she was rebooted in 1987), she’s been a virgin with nary a serious boyfriend in sight.

Back in 1941 when WW debuted, the very first page of her story introduced the dashing spy-catching flyboy, Capt. Steve Trevor, who washed up on the shores of mysterious Paradise Island. This spurred the Amazons who lived there to select a champion, Wonder Woman, to journey back with him to “Man’s World” in order to help defeat the Axis and spread the word of love being greater than war.

But it was comics, comics were mainly for boys, and any romance to be had was rather superficial (and frustrating for Steve). Looking back on those stories today, I get the feeling that Steve’s role as romantic hero was secondary to his role of being a bridge character who was at the top of the macho scale, and yet someone who idolized and respected Wonder Woman. If she was okay with him, it was okay for boys to buy the comic.

(Steve also served a role as “beard” to soften the lesbian overtones of the book.)

The creator of WW wrote her until his death. New creative staffs appeared. Steve became loud and obnoxious. Eventually an editor killed off Steve, saying that he was boring and he hated him. Oh, how I agreed!

This being comics, eventually Steve was brought back to life a few times (having died a few more times as well along the way) and started to live with Wonder Woman in her secret ID—a short period in which her fans assume they were having sex between panels—before he died again, was reborn, and eventually married her. They had one night of married bliss before WW was rebooted.

Cue 1987 and the all-new WW appears. She’s 18 and a stranger to men. Steve is again a member of her supporting cast, but now he’s a geezer—age 40 or so. Much too ancient (!) to have a romance with Wondie! Many readers (like me) supposed that this opened her horizons to exciting and surprising new romances. They were wrong.

The mindset of the boys’ club that is comics often involves the Madonna/whore image of women. For Wonder Woman to be an icon, a symbol of female perfection, she had to be planted firmly on a high pedestal and remain untouched and unapproachable except by worshippers.

It was fine if WW’s younger sister got married (twice, if you want to be technical), became a mother, divorced, and then monogamously slept with a couple boyfriends, but poor WW couldn’t do any of that.

Once Wondie was attracted to the avatar Rama, someone who was not only married but revered by millions of real-life, present-day Hindus. Bad idea, and it ended before either could truly commit their heart. Both the two other brief, virginal romances WW has had since 1987 involved one partner who had no respect for the other and was trying to manipulate them. (Yes, one time it was WW doing the manipulating in quite an uncharacteristic fashion.) Neither situation held any of the romantic touches, emotions, or back-and-forth exploration we expect in romance fiction.

Wonder Woman seems doomed never to find her happily ever after, or as near to it as a continuing series can have. All that power and no one with whom to share…

What do you think the answers to Wondie’s romantic problems are?

I tried tackling the question from a different angle. The hero in my book, Touch of Danger, is also the most powerful being on Earth, but he’d love to have a very physical romance. He’s dashing, charismatic… and too powerful to touch anyone intimately without tearing them to shreds by accident.

So he should be ecstatic when a new weapon leaves him powerless for a couple days, even if he is on the run from an army of mercenaries out to kill him. After all, he’s running alongside a gorgeous, intriguing girl.

But she has a crippling phobia to touch.

If he should get past that, if they should have sex, maybe even fall in love… What will they do when his powers come back?

Carol A. Strickland’s Touch of Danger is available from Cerridwen Press in both e- and print form. It is the first volume of a romantic series involving superheroes, angels, galactic empires, and the odd kitchen sink. The second installment, Star-Crossed, will be out soon. “Star-Spangled Panties” is Carol’s semi-monthly WW column for , and she also carries on an art business in her (cough) spare time after her 9-5 job. She’d be pleased if you investigated the many areas of her website at .


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EilisFlynn said...

Carol, you and I both know it comes down to this: Comics are a male-run and oriented medium, and they don't want cooties. *g* Seriously, every female comics fan, and the enlightened, non-cootie-fearing male comics fans, have been hoping for the Wondy she could be. It's gotta happen some time! You make good points. Meanwhile, the poor princess has lost yet another writer ... and DC has got to scramble AGAIN.

Sonja Foust said...

Poor Wonder Woman-- and I loved your tie-in with Touch of Danger!

Carol A. Strickland said...

I'm sneaky that way, Sonja. And Eilis, Phil Hester seems quite enthusiastic about his new mission to chronicle Wondie. (As all new writers do, right after they announce that they'll be the ones to "set things right" for her, which means changing her yet again.)

For NaNoWriMo I'm writing a WW novel that I'll be pushing for serious, non-fan publication. She's got a little romance going in it, plus a lot of Golden Age enthusiasm and a Big Bad whom I thought never should have been killed off. Well, you know how death is in comics. Even if you see the body...