The Amazon Bubble

Prior relevant discussion: Bubble World Theory in Myth Building.

If superhero comics are rooted in myth, why can't Wonder Woman get ahead of the curve? Writers have tried many things in the past couple decades, but nothing's really worked to everyone's satisfaction, has it? Dynastic models (supporting casts) have been created and discarded. John Byrne tried to give her a contextualizing city. In perhaps the most successful run, George Perez bubbled her up in Greek Myth.

But here's the thing about Bubble Worlds: They're meant to broaden the number of stories you can tell, not limit them, and I think that's what ultimately happened. While a Bubble World theoretically means your hero's book could exist without the company's shared universe, you still don't want it to be alien to that universe. To use a previous example, making Green Lantern happen entirely in space, isolating it from other characters and DC Earth LESSENS its appeal, just as making Wonder Woman operate in updated Greek Myths, seemingly divorced from the rest of the DCU (no longer a member of the JLA, and using a worldview somewhat incompatible with a modern world) did the same thing. In the recent GL storyline, the addition of new Corps hasn't cut off the franchise from DC Earth or other titles. Indeed, it's drafted characters from other properties and has had an impact on the entire shared universe. Wonder Woman's "mythical run" didn't do that. It kept her apart.

Bubble Worlds exist in a larger universe. If they don't, they're just Worlds.

Things for Wonder Woman are looking up, however. After the last shift's wrong-headed direction (divorcing the character totally from her actual concept), she's building a Bubble World for Diana. Temporally, she's telling the story of Amazons through time and how Hippolyta even conceived of having a daughter. I'm actually interested in the queen's honor guard, so Simone is doing something right.
I would gladly read occasional issues starring interesting Amazons from Paradise Island's past. How they settled there. How their traditions started. The origins of Wonder Woman's artifacts. These can easily strengthen whatever narrative is occuring in the present.

Spatially, the idea of Greek Myth is back, but one of the things that isolated Wonder Woman's world in the 80s is that the DCU has shown us countless pantheons and religious worldviews come to life (and I'm not really talking about the disappointing War of the Gods, though it does get a passing mention in WW #15). The Greek worldview should be important, but Gail Simone gives us a Wonder Woman who exists in a polytheistic universe.
By putting various pantheons in Wonder Woman's "bubble", the character gets to parcel out that part of the DCU, just like GL has a monopoly on the space opera. She's tied to the mystical side of the DCU like no one else this side of Vertigo.

And yet, she's not outside the mainstream DCU. Just as Green Lantern gets to bring the fight to Earth, Diana fights Captain Nazi and hangs out with talking gorillas. Gail Simone is uniquely suited to keeping the Amazons in the real world because she's got her fingers in so many titles. Characters and events she's developped for Birds of Prey can swerve into Wonder Woman or the All-New Atom, etc.

Though it's going to take a few issues to shake off or reinvent the trappings of the last shift's creative choices, I think Wonder Woman has finally become a title I can get into.

9 comments:

The Mutt said...

When I was a kid, I didn't like the issues of Thor that took place in Asgard rather than on Earth in the Marvel Universe.

Looking back, they're my favorites.

Sea_of_Green said...

I've always liked Wonder Woman, but I've never really enjoyed reading about Wonder Woman. I accept and respect her as an icon and as a card-carrying member of the DCU, but I've never really been interested in reading about her. I have the same problem with Superman. I enjoy it when these characters show up in other titles, but their own titles just never held any appeal for me. I can't really explain it.

I do think that removing a contemporary character too much from the contemporary world is unappealing for most readers. Readers accept purely mythological figures, like the Greek gods, in their original mythological settings, but these figures are always ackward, at best, in contemporary settings. Likewise, Wonder Woman, despite her mythology-based background, functions best in a contemporary setting divorced from the mythological world, but becomes less interesting when submerged in a purely mythological setting.

At least, that's my take on the whole thing.

mwbworld said...

Agreed, color me cautiously optimistic.

I think Gail is going to come to a key turning point soon.

The first bar is when she makes us forget the horrific recent portrayals of WW.

The real tough goal is when we then see the comic WW is finally as cool as the JLU cartoon WW.

Not one of the best portrayals of WW, but frankly the whole Batman/WW relationship was a total stroke of genius in my view.

Siskoid said...

Mutt: I think part and parcel of Thor's success (we're talking the Walt Simonson stuff right?) is that 1) the Norse Gods have always played an important role in the Marvel U (mostly through Loki) so it doesn't divorce Thor from the MU to use them. Walt Simonson's run is a good example of Bubbling too, because not only did he expand on the Norse Myths (while not ignoring the contemporary world), but he added to it with SF tropes (an alien "Thor" in Beta Ray Bill, etc.).

Mwb: I love the animated Wonder Woman. A bit young and inexperienced (the Perez version), but put some years on her and you've got the perfect Diana. She always kicked the most ass on the show despite Superman floating right there. Lovely, graceful, a wise warrior, dignified and feminine.

chris w. said...

If you're like me and were thinking about picking up a stack of cheap WW comics from ebay, what era would you recommend? Late 80's Perez?

I have no idea, I am a WW noob, and have only sampled an issue or three over the last 20 years... halp?

SallyP said...

I think that Gail Simone has the best take on Diana since Greg Rucka's run. I am actually looking FORWARD to getting it every month, as opposed to being resigned, or actively cringing.

And I like your "Bubble" theory.

Siskoid said...

Thanks Sally.

As for picking up a run of Wonder Woman, I'm probably the wrong guy to ask (anyone? anyone?). I've never been able to generate much interest for the Amazon's title. And like Sea of Green, I've tried, I've really tried. She's just one of those characters no one gets a good handle on.

That said, the Perez run has great art, and would probably scan better today than it did originally (like Thor for The Mutt). I've heard a lot of good things about Rucka's run, though I was out of comics at the time so I haven't sampled any.

Certainly the current series running up to Simone is to be avoided.

Urthona said...

What could possibly be more mythic in contemporary society than secret agents working for a secret organization against a secret society of evil?

It's worked for X-Files, MIB, and... well, the Bush Administration.

I've often argued that Wonder Woman should be Hellboy with blinding fireworks and hard answers. She's the one-woman Authority with an army of fiction behind at her fingertips. I love where Gail's leading it, because it's starting to taste like exactly that.

Siskoid said...

One thing that's nice about Gail's run to date is that she hasn't magically done away with the secret agent stuff. In a way, it pays hommage to the "Mod WW" and her secret identity working for the military, all at once.

Comparing her to Hellboy is inspired.

 

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