Dear Internet… Superheroes.
Today I’d like to discuss superheroes. Superheroes that suck. I have two in mind I’d like to discuss, both are DC characters (I’ve always been way more into DC than Marvel, though I’d be willing to discuss others if you wanna sound off with some comments), and both are considered “iconic.”
First up is the more iconic of the two: Wonder Woman.
Wonder Woman was created sometime in the 1940s by the same dude who made the lie detector (hence why she has a “Lasso of Truth”). Let’s just get this out of the way: DC has a legacy fixation which is possibly the only reason Wonder Woman has gained the status of being in DCs “trinity,” which consists of Superman (awesome), Batman (awesome), and Wonder Woman (aka Diana, which is what I’ll be calling her from now on by the way).
Here’s the character breakdown: thousands of years ago the Greco-Roman pantheon of gods (Zeus, Hades, Poseidon, etc.) decided to make a race of immortal warrior women who lived on Paradise Island. One day the queen of the Amazons, as they came to be known, decided she wanted a kid so she molded one out of clay and the female gods granted her life as well as their abilities (flight, strength, stamina, speed, communication with animals, wisdom, beauty, etc.) and the kid is named Diana. Years later, the Amazons decide to send a champion to “Man’s World” to promote peace. That champion? Diana. She’s equipped with her signature outfit, two bulletproof bracelets, and a lasso that compels those in its hold to tell nothing but the truth.
Now, overall, this sounds halfway decent. I mean, Thor is successful while blending the same ancient-god world with that of traditional superheroes. Yet, Wonder Woman happens to suck. DC struggles to keep the series on life support month after month purely because of the character’s long history. One would be tempted to say that Diana is in this position because she is a female character in a male-centric industry. However, I fail to see how this can be a viable issue anymore due to the larger influx of female readers as the years have progressed as well as the success of other female-centric comic series like Birds of Prey.
So, why is it that Wonder Woman sucks? She has the long history, the iconic status, a solid backstory, and she has long been a feminist figure in the DCU at large. In theory, she should have more than earned her place in the “trinity” the way the two other members have. Well, I figured it out. Here’s why she sucks:
1. The comic series’ featuring Diana have been notoriously poorly written from the beginning. And I do mean the “beginning” as her earliest adventures are nearly unreadable drivel focusing on inane ways to get Wonder Woman tied up by her male antagonists.
2. She is poorly marketed. In spite of her status in the trinity, she isn’t given nearly as much importance in the DCU as Superman or Batman (or Green Lantern, or The Flash…). I mean, really, can anyone tell me what city Wonder Woman protects? Batman’s got Gotham. Superman has Metropolis. What does she have? No freakin’ idea.
3. The character doesn’t make all that much sense. She’s supposedly nearly as powerful as Superman and yet she needs bulletproof bracelets. She can fly and yet has an invisible jet. She’s supposedly a big feminist symbol and yet her costume is impractical and ridiculous. On top of that, she’s supposed to be hot, yet she is a permanent virgin who has the personality of your mom.
4. Her villains suck. I’m not suggesting every comics character should have the rogues gallery of Batman (some are as iconic if not more so than The Dark Knight himself) but most people would have great difficulty even naming ONE Wonder Woman villain. That’s a problem.
So how do you fix Wonder Woman? First of all, take some writing risks. If DC has the character on life support all the time anyway, why not use the opportunity to actually experiment with story lines and characters? Secondly, give her a new costume. She needs one. Badly. Next up, give her a definitive origin story with set powers that you stick to. Then, we throw in the feminism. You know what’s a great example of feminism on TV that doesn’t suck? Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Those who have watched the show know that it was funny, exciting, engaging, and yet uncompromising in its feminist values. The female characters were strong, smart, and though they definitely didn’t “need” men by any stretch, they were never afraid to express their sexuality (it’s possible to be both beautiful and sexy without being a whore). Last, give her a quality villain who challenges her physically and intellectually.
Does this seem hard to do? Hell yeah. But would it be worthwhile? Definitely. A comic company whose “main” female character is less interesting than other heroes’ supporting characters (Lois Lane, Poison Ivy, Harley Quinn, Batgirl, and the list goes on and on) is not a good thing. Fix that shit, DC.
Now, onto number two: Aquaman.
Back in the day, Aquaman was actually fairly popular. Then the 70’s happened and we got that Super Friends cartoon which made Aquaman seem like some retarded dude whose only ability was talking to fish. And so, Aquaman began, and continues, to suck.
Quick character break down: Aquaman’s origins are actually pretty tough to nail down conclusively which is part of the reason the character has suffered so much in the past few… decades. Basically, Atlantis is a real place under the ocean. It is a realm of both science and magic. A long ass time ago, there was this freakish monster dude with blonde hair who terrorized the undersea kingdom. He was defeated or something, but a long time after that, the queen of Atlantis gave birth to a kid who had blonde hair. The king decided the kid was an evil omen and so the baby was placed on a shallow reef and would likely die as soon as the tide went out and he was exposed to air (which he theoretically shouldn’t be able to breathe as all the denizens of Atlantis have gills). Well, apparently the kid was half-human (I’m unclear on how this happened, but I assume the queen did the nasty with some dude Little Mermaid style back in her drunken party years). So he survived and was raised by dolphins (yeah, I know). He grew up, having the ability to communicate with all marine life (possibly because of his mixed heritage), and eventually realized he wasn’t a fish. So he went on land to meet some people and ended up hanging out with this lighthouse keeper, who he eventually came to view as a father. So he grows up, travels around the world (feeling like an outcast everywhere), and eventually returns to the sea. In the years since he left, Atlantis became a police state and he is imprisoned on sight. In prison, he learns the truth about who he is, and ends up breaking out of prison. This inspires the rest of the prisoners to do the same and they take back their once great kingdom. Arthur goes around the ocean protecting it from various dangers and eventually runs into some superheroes who give him the name Aquaman. After a while, the Atlanteans figure out he’s the long lost prince and he becomes the king.
Okay… so… yeah… Why does Aquaman suck?
1. No one understands his powers. Yes, he can communicate telepathically with marine life. But, he also has tremendous strength, speed, and durability from living thousands of feet under the ocean. So imagine Captain America, only he rules the ocean. And the needing to be in water thing? Sure it limits him if you call 70% of the planet a limited scope. Not to mention the fact that he only needs to return to the water once every 24 hours.
2. The writing is usually bad. Now, in this case, the writers do tend to take risks. However, their risks have tended to make the character’s world convoluted and kind of retarded (raised. by. dolphins.). Also, no one seems quite settled on his personality. He often comes across as a self-important dick. Oh, I’m sorry: sea-dick.
3. His costume is kind of weird looking. I mean, really, who thought the peas and carrots look was a good idea?
So, Aquaman sucking tends to come from the fact that most people don’t actually get the character at all. He’s horribly mishandled when he could easily be one of the coolest characters of all freakin’ time. Don’t believe me? Try this on for size: his world is Pirates of the Caribbean meets King Arthur meets Superman all under water (giving the opportunity for limitless creative decisions), his costume is actually a prison uniform (oh shit, Aquaman, a king, just got a shit ton more poetic didn’t he?), his powers are actually kind of cool, and he actually has a couple of cool villains.
So how could DC make him better? Revamp the origin a bit (take out the dolphins while promoting the idea that he is a man caught between two worlds who is imprisoned, then breaks out Brave Heart style before deciding to become a superhero just for kicks and then being crowned king while still wearing the prison uniform to remind himself that he will always be an outsider but he protects 70% of the world anyway), alter the costume slightly, set him up with a likable personality (and stick to it), and show off his rogues gallery a bit (his two main villains are his half-brother who repeatedly challenges him for the throne, and a crazy black guy in a high tech diving suit who wants the ocean for a variety of reasons, some convoluted, some cool).
So there you have it, Internet. Two characters who could be cool, and deserve the chance to be given that coolness. Thus, I am forced to ask…
Why the fuck hasn’t DC realized the potential of two of its flagship characters after decades of storytelling opportunities?