"Really, from where I come from, and we've talked about this a lot, we want to make sure it's a book that treats her as a human being first and foremost, but is also respectful of the fact that she represents something more. We want her to be a strong -- I don't want to say feminist, but a strong character. Beautiful, but strong."
Of course, Meredith Finch substitutes the word icon for the word feminism in this interview. But DC doesn't want its readers to approach their heroes as icons at the moment. The higher-ups have mandated their characters must not enjoy extended moments of happiness; those in creative control have built the DC universe around an examination of how false and lonely the high perches occupied by Superman, Wonder Woman, and the rest of the Justice League are -- to say nothing of the heinous Future's End storyline that's currently turning everybody into soulless cyborgs with little connection to any form of human anatomy. DC's history was not built on gloom and doom, and positive or triumphant portrayals apparently read as cynical or easy to DC executives at the moment.
But take a moment and read up on Wonder Woman's creation. She was made to triumph on a political platform. William Moulton Marston's beliefs about gender dynamics are not about men and women being equal; they are about women being raised above men. His thoughts are radical. Problematic though they are, his thoughts still point towards hope for the future -- and if there is no hope in the current DC universe, there can be no growth. Thus, Wonder Woman cannot persist as the icon leaping off the cover of Ms. Magazine's first, and later the anniversary, issue. Without the lifting up of Wonder Woman, where will little girls look to for fictional heroes to inspire them? To STRONG FEMALE CHARACTERS in action movies? That's probably not a great idea. A better idea is to look to real-life history -- to awesome women like Harriet Tubman, Helen Keller, Yuri Kochiyama, Eleanor Roosevelt, and many, many others who fought for better lives for men and women. These women are iconic because of what they accomplished, and that is not something that needs to be shuffled away to the sidelines in embarrassment.
What is the danger in listing Wonder Woman as a feminist icon for DC? Is it because DC now only sells comics to forty year-old males? Is it because Wonder Woman is "too tricky" of a hero to develop as a stand-alone character, without aid from Superman's protection or Batman's smarts? Is it because some in the industry feel politics have no place in mainstream comics, as uber-conservative Chuck Dixon claims? Is it because the heralded current Wonder Woman run (heralded by some, not me) by Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang isn't selling as well as it initially was?
I don't know the answers to these questions. I wish I did. I do know this: Wonder Woman cannot help but be political -- because she has been adopted as an icon for feminism, and because she was created from an aspirational standpoint. There are ways to complicate and examine those origins, but focusing on broad bases instead of the weirder, truer nature of her origins isn't the way to do it. Being ashamed of history, instead of rediscovering and reinforcing it, does readers no favors, nor does it provide opportunities to change people's minds about the so-called "tricky" nature of Princess Diana and her mission. Sure, comics should be simple. They shouldn't be simplistic. But David Finch's statements prove every cynic right about the exclusionary, morally idle nature of the art form.
Wonder Woman Artist: Nicola Scott.