Friday, September 12, 2008

Justice League 1.8: Paradise Lost, Part 1 (1/21/02)

Disclaimer: Knowing full well there is a wealth of resources available to fans of the "Justice League" animated series, I have no intention of doing a bunch of dry story synopsis with the occasional new screen grab. I will chronicle, within reason, J'Onn J'Onzz's specific journey over the course of the series, but chiefly I will be reviewing the episodes through my own jaundiced perceptions.

The warlock Felix Faust inserted himself onto Themyscira, turning all the Amazons to stone, and using their dilemma to extort Herculian labors from Wonder Woman. The Amazing Amazon tries to appease Faust, but is wary of his predictable treachery, and is convinced to accept the aid of Superman, Flash, and J’Onn J’Onzz. As Flash openly articulates his fantasies about Paradise Island, Manhunter observes: “I fail to see the attraction,” to which Flash retorts, “Man, you really are from Mars.” The pair are attacked by a giant, fire-breathing serpent, which initially humbles Manhunter. The Martian regroups, and puts the reptile down with one blow. Meanwhile, chicanery forced the duo of Superman and Wonder Woman to trade their own blows...

If I had to single out one character most slighted by the first year of Justice League Animated, I would not hesitate to say Wonder Woman. What else is new? If any icon has ever proven more elusive within comic book circles, it would have to be the Amazon Princess. Her origins are decidedly inorganic: editorial decided they ought to have a female Superman, didn’t trust their in-house talent, so they hired out to Dr. Phil. That is, if Dr. Phil were a polymonogamous devotee of femdom, and I’m not assuming he isn’t.

Now, Wonder Woman is sold to the public as the girl-friendly super-hero, but I think we can all admit now her largest audience could be found not on the playground, but in the barracks after lights out. All super-hero comics took a hit after the War ended, but Wonder Woman has never, for any significant period of time, returned to best-selling status. Again, in all honesty, her audience had turned to racier fare, leaving her a middling pseudo-romance title with middling sales for the next twenty years. She saw a spike when she traded in her increasingly skimpy outfit to impersonate Emma Peel, and a popular tv show never hurts. Since the 70’s though, her sales have been dictated pretty near solely by the draw of talents assigned to her.

Boys never liked her. Girls only like the idea of her, and only some, as she’s typically seen as a threat more than a role model. Where boys can look at Superman and be swept up in male aggressive power fantasy, girls look to Wonder Woman and—what? Are diminished by her perfect proportions? Are turned off by her series of deeply unhealthy relationships, when she’s not entirely frigid? Horrified by the outfit, the bondage imagery, the relative lack of quality in that aforementioned TV show, her obvious but supposedly entitled tokenism, or her tendency to be a ball-busting bore? Wonder Woman’s core audience is gay men and the few who managed, with great effort, to find redemption in the character.

So which version of Wonder Woman did we see in the animated show? Pretty near the worst. She’s got a lot of the naivete of the early Post-Crisis version, unfortunately coupled with an arrogance and austerity that is fairly off-putting. Her powers are considerably less spectacular than pretty much anyone else’s. Her fighting form is played up, but not nearly to the extent of Hawkgirl’s, against whom her charisma falls to negative numbers. Unlike Hawkgirl, Wonder Woman’s role in the overall series is negligible, and she is allowed no hint of sexuality. She’s an obligatory cypher, when not out-and-out irritating, and her voice actress, Susan Eisenberg, stinks. I dread her appearance in any given episode.


Unknown said...

Hey, I'm a big Manhunter fan. I'm really upset about DC killing him off. What do you think the odds are of him coming back and how do I make my opinion known to the guys in charge?

Diabolu Frank said...

Appearing in a Justice League movie couldn't hurt, and a revival is inevitable. My feeling is that with Barry Allen resurrected, Martian Manhunter will remain the dearly departed super-heroic martyr of the DCU for some years to come. He'll return, but in coming years, if not decades.

DC Comics seems to aggressively avoid contact from their buying public these days. Comment made through the DC Comics Message Board would likely be ineffective. I've always heard physical mail is more impactful, but DC no longer lists direct mail contact information. A shot in the dark:

Eddie Berganza
c/o DC Comics Inc.
1700 Broadway, 7th Fl.
New York, NY 10019-5905

That's the editor of the last Manhunter-related comics, as well as the Justice League of America series.