(Wo)man of Steel


The much anticipated Superman reboot has opened in cinemas (last week for those of you holidaying on Krypton) and yes, for the most part, it is pretty good and yes, it is all the Twitterverse can tweet about or so it has seemed since opening weekend. It is now time to move on and consider DC’s next move. Man of Steel’s success, hot on the heels of The Dark Knight, has meant talks of a Justice League of America movie, for those of you not in the know The JLA is to DC what The Avengers are to Marvel. It is only logical (and fair) that the third major player in the League, and indeed the DC Universe, gets their stand alone origin film. I am, of course referring to Wonder Woman.


Created in 1941 – following Superman in ’38 and Batman in ’39 – by William Moulton Marston, in part, for the following reason:

“Not even girls want to be girls so long as our feminine archetype lacks force, strength, and power […] they don’t want to be tender, submissive, peace-loving as good women are. Women’s strong qualities have become despised because of their weaknesses. The obvious remedy [was] to create a feminine character with the strength of Superman plus all the allure of a good and beautiful woman.” (WMM, 1943)

Erm, okay William…”tender, submissive, peace-loving [weak] as good women are…” . I will, however, on this occasion ignore the slight stench of misogyny and gross misrepresentation of women in this reasoning, on the basis that you created my favourite superhero (I idolise all the other guys too but there is a special place in my heart for WW) and I think the important sentence in this statement is “with the strength of Superman” because she is just as tough; the woman of steel.


We all know female superheroes are somewhat scarce, not necessarily on the comic-book page but certainly onscreen (and no, Jean Grey and a foul-mouthed eleven year old do not count, at least not for me), conceivably, a product of their time or maybe too many females transgressing the boundaries of the norm would encourage women wanting to be women – Gloria Steinem has written several essays on the Amazonian, attesting to the strength and influence of the feminine archetype. Perhaps, in spite of Joss Whedon’s utter condemnation of the notion that men aren’t interested in the exploits of female she-roes, there is actually some truth in it. Who wouldn’t want to see the strength and power of Gaea, the hunting skills of Artemis, the wisdom of Athena, the speed of Hermes and the beauty of Aphrodite personified in the intelligent, honest and disarming charm of Diana Prince?

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Dressed in the red, white and blue standard of freedom and democracy – Batman isn’t the only one with an arsenal of goodies – she wears a tiara which is razor-sharp and can be hurled like a boomerang, her bracelets worn at the wrist can deflect bullets and serve as a reminder of the shackles once worn when the Amazons were the prisoners of Ares. She carries Hestia’s golden Lasso of Truth; tiny chain-links with limitless length, indestructibility and of course, anybody bound in it are compelled to tell the truth. Wonder Woman does have the ability to fly (although not soar high), can spin at blurring speed, usually to shed her civvies, is able to communicate with most animals and beasts and has numerous vehicles at her disposal, all invisible. Like I said, she’s just as physically strong and special as Supes. Their similarities are actually hard to ignore: they are both on Earth, separated from their familial roots, both have an alias to protect and while they don’t fully comprehend the planet they inhabit they wish to shield and, wherever possible, save the humans living on it, and still she has not been immortalised on the big screen, yet Superman’s genesis gets regurgitated every decade or so.

There is the (now) kitsch and fabulously camp television series made in the 70s which ran for three seasons and saw former Miss USA, Lynda Carter don the girdle and fight for our rights in satin tights. She was wonderful in it; strong, fearless, savvy, intelligent and beautiful, a Goddess on Earth instilling hope and convincing the world of compassion, humility and generosity – all the while kicking ass. Carter is 61 now and will forever be a Wonder Woman but it’s time for a change, the character needs to be brought into the twenty-first century. David E. Kelley did attempt it in 2011 with Adrianne Palicki in the titular role, Elizabeth Hurley as the villain, along with a supporting cast that included Cary Elwes and Tracie Thoms. His pilot was never optioned probably down to the horrible SFX and the fact that he portrayed the beautiful peace-loving princess as a sexually frustrated spinster who curls up in front of The Notebook, or obsesses over a Facebook page when she’s not ripping out people’s throats – as soon as Diana pulls out the merchandise and dolls, it all gets a little too meta.

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Wonder Woman is, in the words of Lynda Carter, “the beautiful, unafraid, tenacious and powerful woman we know resides within us [even you boys], the antithesis of victim […] a symbol of extraordinary possibilities that inhabits us, hidden though they may be.” Last year, I saw a billionaire playboy take to the sky dressed as a giant bat, last week I witnessed a super alien male don a red cape and protect a city. I don’t see how watching an Amazonian Warrior wearing a tiara, star-spangled shorts and attempting to educate mankind is any different. It is time for the Wonder Woman to have a go at saving the world.

2 replies on “(Wo)man of Steel”

Interesting article – thanks. I wonder if some of the disjuncture is oddly exemplified by the images shown here. We have the supposedly strong but sweet and rosy-cheeked looking girl who wears the symbols of power but doesn’t look intent on using them versus the bottom picture of a square-jawed femme fatale who is a lot more obviously genre-market ‘sexy’ and scary as a result. Here’s hoping they get a suitable version back soon.

Thanks for taking the time to read it, Karen. Here’s hoping…

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