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Akshay Seth: Waiting for Wonder Woman

By Akshay Seth, Daily Film Columnist
Published December 11, 2013

I can’t remember the name of the first comic I ever read. It wasn’t even mine. All that comes to mind is a tattered, sad excuse for a paperback — peeling at the edges, the text frayed to the point of near-illegibility. It was beyond repair, barely held together by pieces of yellowing scotch tape inside the spine to keep the pages from drifting out.

When I climbed those three metallic stairs onto the unfamiliar yellow bus, terrified of those unfamiliar faces looking up, unblinking, from those unfamiliar leather seats, I didn’t know I’d be meeting a friend. When I sat down next to him, he just smiled his stupid smile. His hands were clenched around the ragged book, and when he offered it to me, I stared.

Comic books disarm with accessibility. The boxed panels pull us in with their overbearing displays of otherworldliness, but we keep coming back because there’s comfort in knowing someone as quiet and unassuming as a geeky high-school science nerd can so forcibly change the world. Like millions of others, I became connected with Peter Parker. No matter where I was in life, I could bank on Pete still being there, soldiering on behind those tried ideals of responsibility and strength.

But part of the beauty of this medium lies in its vastness — there’s a character for everyone, and even if the stories follow a similar framework, we tend to identify with the personalities we see traces of ourselves in. For that reason, female protagonists, already lacking in a heavily male-dominated superhero universe, need to be given equal footing.

Wonder Woman is a prime example. In her 72 years, she has become one of the most recognizable, iconic feminist symbols in pop culture. She has her own series of comic books. She has had her own popular TV show. She has her own themed plus-sized hoodies. So why shouldn’t she get her own damn movie?

Well, she will. Kind of. Make no mistake — Warner Bros.’ recent decision to include Wonder Woman in the upcoming “Superman vs. Batman” extravaganza has its positives. Including such a distinguishable female superhero is a sign that studio executives are finally willing to make moves in the right direction, but this recent announcement smacks of money-grubbing impatience.

Seeing as there’s speculation that the Flash may also make a flashing appearance, it’s safe to start calling this film a blown-out, unnecessary Justice League preview. Acknowledging that, it certainly makes sense why Warner Bros. would like to shoehorn as many characters as possible into this supposed “Man of Steel” sequel. The studio is too antsy to follow Marvel’s proven model of building up individual franchises before launching a large collaboration piece along the lines of “The Avengers.”

They’re already being pummeled in market share for similar comic book adaptations, so going for name-power alone to kickstart awareness becomes an underhanded move that more than undermines the individual characters Warner Brothers seems content to throw under the bus. Yet somehow, I doubt that either Batman or Superman will end up being marginalized, simply because they’re the only two heroes that really need to be driving the story while everyone else settles into their predetermined roles as props.

So is it sexist that Wonder Woman will likely be one of those props? A lot of people have been quick to point out how ultimately, this movie is good for our Amazonian goddess — relax, boo boo, Warner Bros. is simply testing the waters to make sure there’s enough relevant interest in the superhero before taking the leap and giving her a stand-alone franchise of her own.