Comic Writers Speak: Bring Back The Bondage For Wonder Woman

If Warner Bros.’ new directive is that the studio’s adaptations of DC characters be even darker, where does that leave Wonder Woman? From the sound of things, the film’s producer isn’t too keen on playing up the powerful sexual metaphors that the superhero represents. But that’s exactly what the filmmakers should play up, argue comic book writers, if they want to make a Wonder Woman who’s not just darker, but also more true to the spirit of the original and yet the most modern version we’ve ever seen.

“Wasn’t the guy who created her a protofeminist?” asked former “Catwoman” writer Ed Brubaker. “He had multiple wives-slash-lovers, and was a crazy character for his time.”

William Moulton Marston actually based Wonder Woman on his wife Elizabeth, who he considered to be pretty liberated — after all, she and he shared a live-in female lover in a polyamarous arrangement. Back in the 1940s, this was radical, and the couple’s ideas about women, love, and sex seeped into his construction of Princess Diana. “There was an awful lot of bondage,” “Sandman” creator Neil Gaiman said. “She’s got a magic lasso that makes people do whatever she wants. You could certainly up that, and make something dark out of that — or at least dead kinky.”

Of course, the comic books and adaptations kept that aspect just bubbling underneath the surface.

“Wonder Woman is really complicated to do right,” said “Kingdom Come” writer Mark Waid. “The idea of sexuality being a force that permeates it — through the bondage, the surrender, the weird S&M scenes — has been disguised pretty nicely. Not everyone was hip to the subtext. The trick is to do it and not be overt in any way so that the people who do the marketing tie-ins — the family meals, the Underoos — don’t freak out. How do you find a way to fold that sense of sexuality into it and still make it wholesome for the whole family?”

Lynda Carter’s TV version is one way — but Waid isn’t sure that “pure and chaste and wholesome” take is the way to go. “Not that she needs to be an overtly sexual creature,” he said, “but you can’t help but look at the failed Wonder Womans, and wonder what’s the missing piece?”

Waid suggests that Wonder Woman’s mission become less American, more global. “Batman can’t wipe out all the crime in Gotham, but he’s trying to minimize the suffering,” he said. “Superman is trying to spread hope on a case-by-case basis. But if Wonder Woman wants to change the world — and good luck with that — call me from Iraq. Without violating the precepts of fantasy, where we don’t want to ask the hard questions, why not have her in the Third World, or a place where it’s not safe for women to be in, in the Middle East? That reboot would be really interesting if they had the guts to take an American icon and make her an international woman. Go wide with it.”

Or, as Joss Whedon was attempting to do , go wide, but also stay small — deal with the domestic drama that she’d be facing by trying to balance work (being a missionary) with home (cue empty-nest mom).

“I’ve love to read the Joss Whedon ’Wonder Woman’ script,” Gaiman said. “I’d be fascinated to see what he did with it. But if there’s one thing Alan Moore taught us 23 years ago, it’s that there aren’t any bad characters, only writers who don’t explore what makes a character interesting. What’s interesting about Wonder Woman? Whether it’s the idea that she is an Amazon who grew up for the first 20 years of her life without ever encountering male entities in a sort of mythological context, or whether it’s the idea as a woman as the second or third strongest being on the face of the planet, or whether you just love the idea of her jetting around in an invisible plane. Then you make that cool, and you make it powerful. For William Moulton Marston, it was a bit of all that…plus the bondage.”

How do you think Wonder Woman should be portrayed in the comics? Do you agree with what any of the above creators have to say about the character? Sound off in the comments.

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