Friday, June 9, 2017

My Take on Diana's Birth—Love and Wisdom


After a few millennia of guiding her people’s spiritual as well as societal growth in their new home, the idyllic paradise island of Themyscira, the queen made it a point to take time for her own needs: walking through the royal gardens, the forest of Dryope, or the Groves of Artemis, places sacred to her heart and spirit. This private communing helped unburden her, giving her well-needed time to replenish herself. During these times, she would lie beneath the verdant canopy and allow herself the luxury of restful slumber. With a retinue of guards always nearby in the palace, she never truly slept soundly. Even though no harm had ever befallen their home, Hippolyte had always remained vigilant, never knowing when darkness might find its way through the protective clouds that surrounded them, a feeling encouraged by the occasional portentous dream of being discovered by the world of Man.

​When she would give herself over to the sleep of the forest or the meadow, she would dream about other things, things less harbingers of doom and more signs of imminent beauty. After such experiences, she would seek out the one Amazon who guided their people in the ways of spirit, the oracle Menalippe. This particular sister had never lifted a sword in battle or had shed a drop of blood, as she had sworn an oath to the Titans Phoebe and Themis, guardians of the prophetic arts, to attend to her sisters’ otherworldly needs, and sometimes that included discussion of dreams. On one particular morning, Hippolyte had summoned Menalippe to the royal gardens.

​“Your Majesty, how may I serve you?” The oracle genuflected as she spoke.

​The queen walked the garden path, sniffing roses and jasmine, and Menalippe followed.

​“Sister, I have had a dream. One that I cannot reconcile.” She pulled a branch laden with lilac closer to her nose.

“Normally, I understand these gifts of Morpheos. But, this one… left me curious. I dreamt I was in a garden, much like this one, although unwalled, and I was seated on the ground, poking my finger into the earth, and depositing a seed into the hole. Then, I gently swept earth to fill it and patted it down. A line of sisters followed behind me, each adding a drop of water to the earth-ensconced seed. I continued this a few times, and when I looked back where I had just planted the seeds, the flowers had already grown to maturity and bloomed.”

Menalippe’s innocent face, illuminated by the gods’ gifts of vision, smiled. “Dearest Hippolyte, it is a dream of growth. You will bring something of beauty into the world, and our people will help nurture it. I sense its true purpose lies deep within you, but I will ponder this further. For now, dwell on the images you were shown.”

The queen raised an eyebrow. “That is all? In my heart, I can tell something else is there, but I have no words to describe it.”

“Ever since our arrival here,” Menalippe flourished her arms to show the expanse of the island, “we have pushed ourselves further to grow, adapt, and accept our path as the guardians of Doom’s Doorway. You have been unwavering in your leadership, and it seems the gods tell you of your next great venture, one of a different type of creation. Patience, Hippolyte. The meaning will come.”

In the weeks that followed, the queen spent more time outside the palace and in Gaea’s grace. She felt drawn there, as if by instinct, and her dreams altered slightly. Her next meeting with Menalippe was at the river’s edge, by a quiet grotto sacred to Artemis. Seated on the grass, the queen watched a duck and her brood waddle out of the water and to a shaded spot beneath a willow. The mother accounted for each of her ducklings, and when she was satisfied, she sat by them to keep watch. The oracle knelt on a blanket by her sovereign.

“My queen, this place is… breathtaking. How have I never seen it before?”

Hippolyte held up her hand as a butterfly fluttered past, letting it alight on her finger.

“This island is filled with mystery. I found this spot by accident while hunting once. I kept it to myself as a place of meditation.” She gently flicked her finger, releasing the butterfly, and turned toward her oracle. “It happened again, Menalippe.”

She spoke of another dream, one she’d had by the river a few days earlier, in which she sat on a stone, using a bristle-brush to paint on a piece of parchment.

“I held the paper in my hand while I dipped the brush into colors made of crushed stone and shells.”

“What did you paint?”

At first, the queen didn’t reply, as if she was trying to recall, but when Menalippe prompted her, she spoke with certainty.

“At the top, I painted with blue, of a rich, morning sky. Beneath that, I swirled pale yellows and richer gold. Under that, my hand moved back and forth, filling the bottom with crimson and carmine, penetrating colors reminiscent of blood. It reminded me of a sunrise.”

The oracle pondered the image for a few moments. “Was there anything else?”

Hippolyte nodded, her thoughts still on the dream. “Yes. I passed the painting to a sister, who passed it to another, and that continued until I woke up.”

“Another dream of creation. This one focusing more on one object rather than a succession, like the flowers. How did you feel when you awoke?”

“Enervated, as if I had given all of my energy into that one painting.”

“Did you feel this way after planting the flowers?”

“A little. This dream was stronger. But, not in a sinister way.”

The oracle took the queen’s hands. “You will soon find out why you dream in such a way. I sense whatever this will be will forever change you, our sisters, and this island.”

“Could it be a plot of Ares, though, somehow trying to take me off guard? He is a god of deception.”

Menalippe put her lips to the queen’s forehead and closed her eyes.

“No. I sense no malice. Strength and intention, but nothing bad.”

The Festival of Rhea would be upon them in a few months, and that meant preparations for one of the largest celebrations of the Amazon people. Rhea was the Titan queen and mother of the six Olympians, and while the Amazons recognized and respected Hades, Poseidon, and, of course, Zeus, their highest reverence went toward the three daughters of Rhea: Hestia, Hera, and Demeter. This festival would last an entire week, culminating with prayer, song, and each Amazon creating something to honor her sisters. Every woman had a role to play, and her contributions included rehearsing never-before-seen dances, composing new music, creating pottery, among other offerings. Hippolyte used this opportunity to distract herself from her recent reverie and aid her sisters in whatever way possible. It worked, too, for a week or so, and she hadn’t once dreamt of anything like her prior visions.

One morning, a month before the festival, Hippolyte, tears streaming, took her mare to one of the highest spots on the island where she stood at the edge of a high cliff overlooking the sea. She wrapped her own arms around herself tightly, staring out at the horizon. A short time passed, and Menalippe rode up to her.

“My queen! I saw you leave the palace in haste. What has happened?” She cupped Hippolyte’s cheek.

“It happened again!” The queen shook as she cried. “Menalippe, this time…”

“What, Hippolyte? What is it?”

The oracle led her sovereign to a marble bench beneath an old oak tree. She clasped her hands around the queen’s hands.

“I thought the dreams had stopped.” Hippolyte took a deep breath. “I was actually in my quarters, asleep…” She squeezed her eyes shut. “I can remember it all so clearly. In the dream, I was in Athena’s temple, tending the fire. I—I felt this desire, no… a powerful yearning to reach into the fire. Part of me knew this could burn me, but my hand moved of its own. I pulled forth one single flame and cupped it in my hands. It didn’t burn me. I closed my hands over it, feeling Athena’s presence with me, and when I opened my hands, I held an egg.” She took another deep breath. “I brought it closer to me, and I felt something within the egg moving. Then, the tiniest beak poked through the shell, and again, until the hatchling had its head out. Using my thumbs, I carefully pulled the shell away, and the bird… a dove chick… spread its tiny wings, looked at me, and cooed. My hands opened even more, and the delicate creature flew away, into the sky just as the sun rose.”

Menalippe embraced her queen, tears also streaming down her cheeks.

“I—I felt such release, like nothing I had ever felt,” Hippolyte continued. “And… and, when the bird flew away, my heart knew I was losing something precious to me. At the same time, I also knew that wherever that dove would go, it would bring peace and love.”

The two women cried together for a little while.

“Hippolyte, my dearest, I now know why you’re having these dreams. You know that all of us once walked upon Gaea prior to this life. We women were taken from this world before we could make a difference in it, and our souls were kept within Gaea. When the Great Sisterhood released our souls into that Grecian lake, we knew life once more. You, my queen, the eldest among us, were the only one who was with child when you were struck down by your mate.”

Hippolyte blanched. “Great Hera…”

“When the time is right, you will know what to do.”

The week-long Festival of Rhea arrived, bringing a fervor of love and spirituality to the Amazon nation. Each woman contributed something of her own creativity to the legacy of her sisters: they danced and sang, watched plays, performed ritual hunts and great contests of physical endurance, and read the proclamation of their independence to the entire sisterhood. It was the one time of year when they put aside the day-to-day routines and rejoiced in the power of birth. Rites of renewal celebrating Artemis, Athena, Hera, Demeter, Aphrodite, and Hestia began the week, followed by those for Rhea midweek, and concluding the festival with one for Gaea herself, the Mother of All.

On the final night, Hippolyte had chosen to walk the beach on the far side of the island, the strand beneath the cliff where she and Menalippe had spoken of her last dream. Staring at the full moon, gravid with purpose and power, she kept the dream of the night prior in her mind. It was the most powerful of them all, and it was one she needed no oracle to help decipher.

She knelt on the sand, her lavender shift undulating in the ocean breeze, and she gathered the clay of paradise to her. There would be a precise moment for what she would do, and despite her percussive heartbeat, she would be patient. Hippolyte placed her palms on the mound of clay and looked into the night sky. She closed her eyes. Soon, she felt the touch of other hands resting on hers, and a presence kneeling behind her.

“Daughter, know that I am with you,” a voice whispered. “Move your hands across the clay, and I will lend you my skill.”

Hippolyte smiled, her eyes still shut. “I know you are here, Athena. Guide my hands.”

With each finger that pressed into the malleable earth, each pinch and twist, the queen channeled the image in her mind’s eye through her heart and her hands. She smoothed and etched with the fluidity of the sea.

“What you create, comes from you alone, daughter. I simply steady your hands and give your vision direction.”

As the waves slipped from the sea and glided up the beach, they stopped just before that which Hippolyte’s love had given shape. The crest of the sun peeked above the horizon, beams of light stretching their golden hue across the boundary between sea and sky. The queen continued orchestral movements over the clay, and then she sensed Athena remove her hands. Now the sun was halfway risen, and sea took on a reddish tint, something between crimson and carmine. Another spiritual presence joined Hippolyte.

“Daughter, place your hands beneath that which you have formed.”

“Aphrodite, you are with me...” The queen smiled, opening her eyes and following the instructions.

“Of course. Be aware of the sun and the clay. When the golden wheel of Apollo’s chariot becomes free of the horizon, lift your creation from the earth.”

“But…”

“Have faith, Hippolyte. Be ready.”

As soon as the last sliver of the sun slipped free, the queen lifted her hands, taking care not move too swiftly.

“Bring her to the sea.”

The queen had seen this in her dream and knew what to do. With slow steps, she found the surf, never taking her eyes off the sculpted child. Once the waters were at her hips, she saw someone standing in front of her, arms outstretched. Aphrodite kissed the forehead of the small creation just as Hippolyte lowered it beneath the surface. A small light moved toward them, touching the child and disappearing. Lifting out the clay, she watched as pieces of it dropped away, showing new, pink skin. Clay covering the child’s face and head fell into the sea, revealing a tuft of black hair.

“Guided by Wisdom and Love, I bestow upon you the spirit of your unborn child. Washed in Thalassa’s waters, Hippolyte, I give you your daughter.” Aphrodite vanished into the morning light.

The child opened her eyes. Her tiny hand clasped Hippolyte’s finger, and then she let out her first cry.

“You, little one, are a child of wonder,” the queen uttered. “I name you Diana, after one of our most blessed guardians.”

And, so it was that Hippolyte, like her sisters, created something new for the end of the Festival of Rhea, and this child would forever change the Amazon nation by bringing hope, compassion, love, and wisdom to the world.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Diana, Zeus, and the Need for the Matriarchy

I have seen the Wonder Woman film five times, and that's in its first five days of being out, but I have one major bone of contention with the film—the patriarchy still has a hold over Diana in what I would consider a major way.

One of things that sets Wonder Woman apart from other superheroes is her origin story. She is not an orphan of a long-dead planet, raised on Earth from childhood. She is not a child tormented by the death of parents which fuels a desire to become someone else.

From the earliest stories about her, Diana's birth is something akin to Pygmalion and Galatea. But, I need to back up a little before I get into this.

The Amazons of the DC Comics continuity were both mistreated (and raped) by Hercules and his men. Ultimately, Hercules bests Hippolyte and takes her girdle, one of his Twelve Labors.

In the comics, Hippolyte prays to Aphrodite who gives them the strength to free themselves. The Amazons then go to a remote island, originally Paradise Island, but later called Themyscira (after the original Amazonian city on the Black Sea). It was on this island the Amazons reinvented themselves, embracing their sisterhood and growing into a society that eschews men entirely, living in peace for thousands of years. Through this, they build their skills as craftswomen, sculptors, artists, scholars, and, yes, warriors. They train constantly to maintain their physical skills and hone their talents, and they remain forever vigilant in the chance that the outside world should ever trespass on the island of immortal Amazons. They are cognizant that they exist on a planet with others, but they choose to remain in their solitude, and this brings them peace.

After a while, Hippolyte yearns for a child, so she sculpts a statue out of clay. It is important to remember, too, that clay comes from the earth—Mother Earth—so this statue is not just a piece of art, it is a piece of the world in which they live. So, this Amazon queen, living amidst the love of her sisters, fulfills a deep desire to love a child. To that end, Aphrodite, the goddess of Love, hears her pleas and brings the statue to life. The little child, who is named Diana, leaps from the pedestal on which she was sculpted and jumps into her mother's arms.

In another DC Comics origin by George Perez, the Amazons were reincarnated spirits of women who were struck down by men in a former life. Only Hippolyte's predecessor was pregnant at the time of her death. These souls went into the womb of Gaea where they remained until Artemis, Athena, Aphrodite, Hestia, and Demeter brought them forth from a lake bed in Greece to become Amazons. This time, Hippolyte feels the yearning of her former self, who was with child, and the goddesses instruct her to go to the beach, create the form of a child, and they imbue it with the last soul—the soul of the unborn child, and thus Diana is born.

The role of Hippolyte, Gaea, and Aphrodite in this (pro)creative process is undoubtedly unique because of the female symbolism.

What a stunning spectacle of feminine power! This child, Diana, grows up among the Amazons who love her like a daughter/sister, nourishing her, giving her love, sharing wisdom and compassion, encouraging strength of mind, body, and spirit. The first man Diana ever meets is Steve Trevor when he crashes on their island. This man, a positive example of what Man's World has to offer, becomes a guide for Diana in the outer world. He never seeks to control her or influence her to do his bidding.

THIS is why incorporating Zeus into Diana's origin is harmful. Diana never needed a male figure/father in her life. She has a mother as well as the entire Amazonian sisterhood to be her family. This was William Moulton Marston's intention, to create a female heroine surrounded entirely by creative feminine energy and ideals. With this foundation in place, Diana later supplements her understanding with experiences in Man's World alongside Steve Trevor. But, her beginning is undeniably from a female perspective.

People can certainly relate to a mother who has a daughter without a father present. Why some feel that a father in Diana's life makes her more "relatable" is a patriarchal failing that assumes a child must have a father AND mother. A child needs loving, caring parents. Diana has that in Hippolyte and the Amazons. Surely, many people have been raised by a single mother and turned out quite well.

The idea that perhaps Zeus as father gives Diana something to shun or denounce in order to empower herself is also misguided. Like with most of his offspring, Zeus is an "absentee father" who contributes reproductive material and then goes off to dally with the next woman he desires. Giving Diana this absent parent, but leaving behind his power, like lightning, means that Diana is not truly empowered by the Amazon training she experienced. Even when Perez imbued Diana with the strength of the Earth itself, it required knowledge of that power to use it. At least, in that case, the deity was a goddess, a primordial one, more powerful than any god. I can hear some people say that Diana was raised by her mother, so regardless of her father, she would still look to her mother as the guiding example in her life. So, if the father has no role, he shouldn't be there in the first place.

Here is how I might amend the movie:
  • Hippolyte tells her daughter that she sculpted her from clay and Aphrodite brought her to life. (even saying "the gods" implies that goddesses had a hand in it)
  • Diana could still learn about a sword that allegedly would stop Ares, and that the role of the Amazons is to protect the world from Ares' wrath.
  • Everything else could have played out (the beach scene, Antiope's death, etc.), and Diana could still have left with Steve (against her mother's wishes).
  • In the scene when the sword fails to work on Ares, Ares could claim it didn't because he's grown too powerful in Man's World due to their interest in warfare.
  • Diana then realizes she has the one tool she needs to subdue Ares—the lasso.
  • She ensnares him in it, telling him that she sees the good in Mankind and that they are capable of love and compassion, and that she believes love is a better way. She then compels him to see that the outcome of war would ultimately destroy the world, thus leaving him nothing to rule over (like the first arc of Perez's Wonder Woman).
  • Instead of killing him, (a) she takes him to Themyscira where he is imprisoned OR (b) his glimpse of how the world's end would leave him nothing makes him charge Diana to make the world better, or he will return (like Perez), thus giving him the chance to reappear in a sequel, or not.
I still love the Wonder Woman film for many reasons. No art is flawless, however. Diana fights against the control of patriarchal ideas, seeking equality, and she stands against those who would seek to dominate others. It is through her matriarchal, and empowering, lineage that Diana achieves this best.

I think an audience would certainly understand my "version" of the story just as well. To reiterate, I love the film. Go see it. Many times. Just understand—Diana is her mother's daughter and no one else's. :)

Saturday, June 3, 2017

My Wonder Woman Review (Spoilers)


At 8 years old, I learned about a superhero who ultimately would change my life—entirely. Anyone who knows me knows this to be true. Just how she and I became acquainted is for another post, but, suffice it to say, for the past 42 years, I have read Wonder Woman comics, seen her in animation (SuperFriends, Justice League/Unlimited, Justice League movies, Brady Bunch), and live action (Cathy Lee Crosby, Ellie Wood Walker, Lynda Carter, and now, Gal Gadot). I have even cosplayed as my own "Captain Wonder" character at conventions.

She obviously holds importance to me more than some humans do.

Friday, June 2, the first live action Wonder Woman movie debuted in the United States. This groundbreaking event in her 76 year history would forever change the Amazing Amazon's world in ways beyond imagining. But, before I talk about the movie (which I have now seen twice), I want to talk about someone I call...

MY DIANA


Every Wonder Woman fan has his or her own "Diana." She embodies certain elements that speak to the individual's sensibilities, preferences, personal "spin" (pardon the pun), and all around idea of just who she should be. My Diana is physically like George Perez's version from the 1986 reboot. I like her armor, her hair, her facial structure, etc. When I saw her jump from the pages of Wonder Woman #1 in 1986, I cried real tears of joy. How we got a #1 for Wonder Woman in 1986 when she made her original debut in 1941 is another story, but she was back, and in full George Perez-ian force. This Diana, as like her predecessor, was sculpted from clay by her mother, Queen Hippolyte of the Amazons, and she was given life by the goddesses (as well as Hermes) of Mount Olympus.

In addition to her physical skills, her other gifts were her capacity to love, her compassion, her wisdom, and her strength of spirit. Her loving heart, to me, was perhaps her greatest tool against war, hatred, and deception. This Diana rarely, if ever, used a bladed weapon, relying largely on her bracelets and lasso of Hestia. While skilled in a myriad of combat styles, she would rather open her hand to someone in peace before striking him or her in battle.

TODAY'S DIANA


When Batman v. Superman came out in 2016, the biggest anticipation was the appearance of Wonder Woman—her first on the big screen in 75 years. The Amazon princess did not disappoint. In fact, many claim (like me) that she was the best part of the movie.

This Wonder Woman wears Greek-inspired armor that has elements of her iconic costume, but she also wields a sword and shield. More on that later.

This brings me to the highly-anticipated solo Wonder Woman film. With the moment of its announcement, the anticipation ran in all directions, with some worried that Patty Jenkins couldn't succeed in bringing Diana to the big screen while others felt electric with the possibilities of seeing her in all her red, gold, and blue glory.

As information became available, the buzz about the upcoming film ranged from the gentle one of a beehive to the that of an angry hornet's nest.

Some questions that arose were:
  1. Would she be the daughter of Zeus, as she was in the New 52 DC Comics version of Wonder Woman. (Brian Azzarello had re-invented her to be the love-child of Hippolyta and Zeus, the king of the gods.)
  2. Would she fly or have the invisible jet?
  3. Would she be a violent, killing machine or a gentle ambassador?
  4. What time period would this be set in? World War II or the modern day?
  5. Would she use a sword and shield?
Many, many, MANY more questions sprouted up around this film. Speculation grew, and teaser images as well as trailers hinted at many possibilities, frustrating those who yearned for answers.

So, let's get right to it, shall we?

WOMAN WOMAN — THE FILM • 9 out of 10


There is much more I can and will say on this movie in another post, but I want to give you what you came here to read—my review.

WHAT I ADORED


  • Diana—Gal Gadot WAS Wonder Woman. I can't see how people think she is a "wooden" actress. She emoted very well in many situations, and I bought her Princess Diana/Wonder Woman. Her facial expressions were on point, and her physical acting (fighting, when she was not using a stunt double) looked great. If the tiara is indeed passed from Lynda Carter to Gal, then it was passed on to a worthy princess.
  • The Amazons—Their depiction on Themyscira was awe-inspiring and empowering. Their diversity made my heart happy because it made clear that Diana grew up with a group of women who reflect the world, not just one corner of it. Whether or not these women were all the original Amazons or whether some had been taken in along the way of their past journeys is never made clear, but nevertheless, the Amazons and their life on the idyllic island they call home emulated strength, regality, and individuality. The history of the Amazons as Hippolyta tells it was gorgeous, and the nod to Perez's water-rebirth was stunning.
  • Themyscira—Also known as Paradise Island. Itself, breathtaking, its waterfalls (and water imagery) and unique buildings, as well as the heart-stopping beach and crystalline waters made this island assuredly a paradise. A mystical barrier (as well as heavy mist and rocks) protected the island from outsiders.
  • Queen Hippolyta—Regal in all ways, strong, protective of her daughter, and one of the finest warriors of her people. Her dismount/spin off her horse was extraordinary and unlike anything I had ever seen.
  • General Antiope—She did indeed live up to her reputation of the finest warrior in all of Themyscira. I found her to be understanding yet firm when it came to training the young Diana.
  • Amazon Credo—"We are the bridge to a greater understanding" is how Diana expresses who the Amazons are to Steve Trevor. That is merely a piece of it, and they have the unique position of protecting humanity, something quite admirable.
  • Clay Origin of Diana—I will discuss this further later on, but that this aspect was even mentioned made me smile. It's an important part of her origin and needed to be part of the movie.
  • Selflessness—While always a part of Diana's canon, her willingness to dive in to save Steve, not knowing anything about who he was or where he came from, speaks to her desire to put another life first and echoes that mission of protecting humanity. 
  • The Lasso of Hestia—This "magic lasso" was used brilliantly (pun intended). Wrapped in its coils, one cannot lie. That Diana used this quite a bit in the movie had me in tears (the good kind). While normally sporting a loop at one end, the lasso still managed to move as if alive, following the manipulation of its mistress. Seeing it used on Trevor on Themyscira was one of the best parts of the movie.
  • Bracers—In most versions of the character, Diana wears metal bracelets (one version being silver ones formed from the shards of Zeus' shield, the aegis), but in this version, she wears bracers strapped around her wrists that give her the same ability to deflect a barrage of bullets with a flick of the wrist. This and the lasso made me love this character (as an 8-year-old).
  • Compassion/Goodness—Diana's desire to go into Man's World with Steve Trevor, her willingness to help women and children, injured soldiers, among others, gave me the feeling that she wanted to make things better without hesitation. Even during perhaps the most emotion-filled scene in the movie (when she rises from the bunker), her motivation is to save innocent lives. While she seeks Ares, god of war, to stop him, she never stops thinking about those who need her help.
  • Sense of honor and purpose—Diana leaves Themyscira to do what's right. Also, when Etta Candy takes hold of the sword, God-Killer, Diana immediately charges Steve Trevor's secretary to guard it with her life—from one woman to another, she expects respect and understanding of her mission. She also sees the honor in others, especially the crew that Trevor hires to help.
  • Diana's naiveté—Diana believes that if she kills Ares with the sword that men will fall from the war god's control and be righteous men again. This simplistic idea, perhaps given to her by her mother as a child's tale, gets tested throughout the film, and I liked seeing her become less and less naïve as the story progressed. 
  • Diana's intelligence—While she is new to Man's World, she has been educated on Themyscira. In fact, she knows of Clio's 12 Treatises on Body and Pleasure, telling Steve that, while men are good for reproduction, they lack the ability to give women pleasure. She also tells Steve, and demonstrates in a few places in the film, that she speaks many languages. I enjoyed seeing this aspect of Diana.
  • Martial prowess—While not fully realized in the Amazonian sparring early in the film, Diana truly earns Antiope's tiara with her abilities. In every scene where she engages human adversaries, she outthinks each opponent, never being captured or in any way compromised. No man needs to save her.
  • No Man's Land—That this part of the battle field is not only traversed by Diana, but completely owned by her in this epic scene speaks to her confidence and ability. It's true: no MAN can cross this desolate landscape. It takes a woman to do it.
  • Love conquers War—Part of the last scenes in the film, Diana realizes that it is love, specifically her love for Steve Trevor, that will defeat Ares, not a sword or lasso.
  • Chemistry/Humor—You truly saw Steve and Diana's relationship blossom over the course of the film. It was organic and plausible. The humor in the film was natural and actually endearing. It didn't seem forced or out of placed.
  • Costume design—Spectacular images and iconography. The Amazon armor was designed with layers and color, not just a simple, skimpy dress.
  • Message—Diana is a hero. She learns, grows, and understands what's important as time moves on. This is a character who comes to understand the nuances of Man's World.
  • Diana's armor—I know some people love the Lynda Carter "satin tights," but (and I am a HUGE Lynda Carter/Wonder Woman fan) don't think it would translate as well in the film. With some modifications, it might work in a sequel, perhaps, but the armor had the "W" with the eagle, the red bodice, gold belt (with "W" logo), and the blue skirt/pteryges (timely for a Greek-inspired society). Her boots had the red with a white stripe, as well as knee protectors, something more accurate to the culture she comes from. It's a design decision.
  • Villains—I think Dr. Maru aka Dr. Poison and Gen. Ludendorff were excellent choices. Maru is a Wonder Woman villain from her early days in comics, and she definitely added in the "creepiness" factor, and while Ludendorff is based on a real man of the same name, he was a great character in his own right (especially since he gave the impression he might be Ares). Ares as the first BIG baddie was fantastic. Since he comes right from her own cultural background, it made sense that he show up. He might show up again (movies do funny things with death), but this now opens up sequel(s) for other villains like Cheetah, Circe, Dr. Cyber, etc.

THINGS I WISH WERE DIFFERENT


  • Amazons should have been born of the goddesses with more of a matriarchal focus. No Zeus.
  • Ares as the adversary works, but Diana should have used the lasso on him to help him see the truth of a world with the war that he wants (like George Perez). Or, a prison on Themyscira. Something less violent.
  • Some CGI issues. More of a nitpick than a complaint.
  • Diana should have competed in a tournament (in disguise) to be able to take Steve back, as in the comics.
  • David Thewlis was okay as Sir Patrick, but I am not entirely sold on him as Ares in full form, but again... more of a nitpick.
  • While I understand the placement in World War I, Diana's origin takes place during World War II. It worked fine in the movie, but it wasn't canon. Ah, well. 
  • Even though Diana DOES use her lasso and bracers more, I just wish there hadn't been a sword. The shield seems redundant to her bracers, but that's just me.

THINGS I DIDN'T LIKE


  • Diana's origin should be entirely matriarchal. Hippolyta sculpts a clay statue and it's brought to life by Aphrodite. No father.
  • She is never addressed as 'Wonder Woman' at all. Not even in a newspaper headline or in the voice over by Diana at the end in the modern day. Diana could have said, "and the world now knows me as Wonder Woman." The modern elements of the film are POST-Batman v. Superman, so it's very possible that the press has dubbed her a name. 
  • Themyscira is found by the Germans pretty easily which then brought about the killing of Amazons. Not needed. I feel this was meant to ramp up the tension and "action" early in the film.
  • All the teasing in trailers as to whether Diana flies or not. She rises in the sky when fighting Ares, but that's not really flying. I'd like to think at the very end she does, but it's not clear.  
  • Wonder Woman is the God-Killer. She shouldn't be an instrument of destruction.

OVERALL... I'm happy. It gave me the essence of the character I love, even if it's not MY Diana (see above), so I have to live with the changes made. Perhaps the sequel will change some things. I understand why people might not enjoy this film. I do get it, and I will not try to persuade anyone to like it. This generation has its own Wonder Woman, and I will enjoy watching a new audience embrace a version of the character I fell in love with 42 years ago.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Thoughts on Wonder Woman Trailer #2

First, watch this:

Now, here's what I have to say about it. :)

We open to Diana approaching the Louvre in Paris, presumably as an antiquities dealer, and then the scene cuts to that black and white photograph of her, Steve Trevor, and her companions in World War I. The scene cuts to Themyscira (and how gorgeous is that ocean view!) where Diana sees Steve's plane crash into the water. She then dives in to save him. The voice over is:

"I used to want to save the world. This beautiful place. But, the closer you get, the more you see the great darkness within."

I loved hearing Diana narrate this part of the trailer, especially because it helps bring the focus to her mission and backstory a bit. Then, we witness more scenes of the attack on Themyscira by the Germans, including an extraordinary move by one of the Amazons who shoots an arrow into a cliff and swings out, bow drawn, to attack. Then, a German soldier fires a bullet that Diana and Steve watch pass them as it heads for the Amazon archer.

"I learned this the hard way, a long, long time ago."

Diana has no idea what bullets are, so she doesn't know what effect it will have on her sister. Her expression of both ignorance of the moment and curiosity comes through well. The next scene shows Steve and Diana on the ground having watched what we can only assume is the death of one of her sisters by bullet. Her lack of experience probably brings about a sense of guilt for not having acted to save her sister, a sense of powerlessness, if you will.

After the DC logo, we hear Hippolyta in front of an Amazon council ask Steve, "What is your mission?" to which he replies, "To stop the war." Diana then asks, "What war?" His reply: "The war to end all wars." (a line taken from H. G. Wells, later said by Woodrow Wilson). 

More scenes of Steve near the German Fokker planes, and then a view of a gas mask being destroyed by a type of mustard gas, presumably. He comments: "Weapons far deadlier than you can ever imagine." Here is where we see, for certain, one of the major antagonists of the movie: Doctor Poison.

In the Golden Age, this villain was the leader of a Nazi spy ring, but since the movie is set in World War I, her role and background has yet to be determined. 

This revelation confirms at least one of the antagonists in the movie. Using Doctor Poison means we get to see a side of the war that takes place off the battle field, harming more innocents than soldiers.

The next scene is Danny Huston saying, "The world can be ours." We don't know as of yet whether he will be someone otherworldly like Ares, god of war (which is certainly a possibility) or perhaps someone less known, like the Duke of Deception. It's quite possible that we haven't even seen the larger threat in the movie, something that the third trailer would reveal. Following this scene, Doctor Poison throws a what looks to be a Model 24 Stielhandgranate (stalk hand grenade) which may contain some of this gas that we see dissolving the gas mask earlier, or it could be something much more deadly.

The subsequent explosion we see may or may not have been caused by this device, but it looks to be quite devastating regardless.

A panoramic shot of Themyscira appears, with Steve telling Hippolyta, Diana, and the Amazons, "Things are more dangerous than you think." He doesn't know what the Amazons do or do not know, but he probably deduces that, since they haven't seen bullets, they won't know what other horrors exist in Man's World.

Themyscira
Diana then says one of the most defining lines: "I cannot stand by while innocent lives are lost." THIS is the Diana who wants to leave the comfort and protection of her mother, sisters, and island home to enter an unknown world to protect people she has never seen. That is a level of compassion and courage that will define her when she takes up the mantle of Wonder Woman.

We then see Diana collect her armor: her shield, sword, and finally, her costume. Hippolyta says what we heard her say in the first trailer, "Be careful, Diana." Queen of the Amazons she may be, but this doesn't sound like a royal edict or command—this is mother expressing genuine concern for her only daughter.

The scenes that follow made me the most giddy I have ever been between both trailers. Steve tells his peers that Diana is his secretary (ironically, this is the term Diana takes umbrage with in trailer #1 when Etta Candy tells her she is Steve Trevor's secretary, a term defined by what the Amazons would call slavery). What follows is a parallel scene from Superman I when Christopher Reeve, as Clark Kent, saves Lois from a bullet. Here, Diana saves Steve from a bullet by deflecting it, but the hot bullet lands in Steve's hand, creating a comedic moment.

Clark Kent saving Lois Lane in Superman The Movie (1978). Diana saves Steve Trevor in similar fashion.
You can see the moving versions of these pictures here.

Steve then comments, "She's a very good secretary." And the scene in the WHOLE trailer that made me grin like a goofy child was when Diana then performs her "bullets and bracelets" in fast fashion in the alley. That was the defining moment when I knew Gal Gadot could be Wonder Woman for me. I had tears in my eyes.

Diana's next line helps to affirm her place in the world of superheroes and compassionate people:
"It is our sacred duty to defend the world..."
She is then seen in her armor in the fox hole saying,
"And it's what I'm going to do."
A woman taking a stand for her own responsibility and power—THIS! As she climbs up into No Man's Land above the fox hole, Steve screams her name. This time, she walks across the landscape tall and confident. We now see another bullet heading straight for her, and when it's in front of her, she lifts her arm to deflect it with an expression of, "I know what to do," unlike when she saw her sister shot on Themyscira.


A montage of images, some from the original trailer (perhaps with a different view on some of them), follows. Diana at one point flips over a fence and literally hits the ground running—an action scene that puts me right back into a comic book. A quick flash at Dr. Poison, and then Diana is whipping someone around with her lasso (presumably Danny Huston? or Dr. Poison?), followed by a building exploding (not connected with the lasso whip).

Another amazing piece of choreography—and this movie already seems to have some tremendous, dance-like battle maneuvers—happens when Diana goes up against Danny Huston's character, and she breaks his sword on her bracer. You just have to see it. More quick scenes, some of different views from scenes in the Comic Con trailer, and then Diana leaps into the sky, crosses her wrists, and lightning strikes her bracelets. Was that Ares? Does she fly? Did she leap? Regardless, it gave me goosebumps.

After a flash of the Wonder Woman logo, we see a clip of Diana talking with Etta Candy, commenting on how can women fight in the layered clothing of early 20th century garb in London. Etta's reply is, "We use our principles. Although, I am not opposed to engaging in a bit of fisticuffs should the occasion arise." Clever and funny!


This trailer definitely gave me more to be hopeful about since I hadn't seen any bullets-and-bracelets action in the first trailer. Something I don't think we will see is the traditional tournament on Themyscira. Diana will decide to go back with Steve, and she'll probably do it defying her mother's wishes. I'm glad we finally have confirmation about Dr. Poison. My greatest hope is that the third trailer will show more of the bigger villain as well as more examples of Diana's compassion. We've seen her strength and skill, but Wonder Woman's love and compassion are as much a trademark of her character as the warrior aspects, perhaps even more.

After forty years of being a fan of the character, I am finally going to see my one, true icon on the big screen, and it makes me teary-eyed just to think about it. Diana will finally get her comeuppance.

And, it's going to be EPIC.



Saturday, October 22, 2016

No More Body Shaming Wonder Woman

October 21, 2016 is a milestone in women's history, as well as history overall, because Wonder Woman was named honorary Ambassador for the Empowerment of Women and Girls. At an event at the United Nations, Under-Secretary General for Communications and Information, Cristina Gallach, introduced three powerful women, and two of them have officially worn the garb of the Amazon princess. Diane Nelson, President of DC Entertainment and of Warner Bros. Consumer products introduced Lynda Carter, television's first Wonder Woman, to speak, followed by Gal Gadot, the latest woman to wear the Garb of Justice.

I'm not going to rehash the events of the day yesterday. My focus is on something altogether different—the body shaming of Wonder Woman. Some of the concerns or complaints about having Wonder Woman be this ambassador revolve around how revealing her costume is. A petition against this declaration stated:
Wonder Woman was created 75 years ago. Although the original creators may have intended Wonder Woman to represent a strong and independent “warrior” woman with a feminist message, the reality is that the character’s current iteration is that of a large breasted, white woman of impossible proportions, scantily clad in a shimmery, thigh-baring body suit with an American flag motif and knee high boots –the epitome of a “pin-up” girl. 
By the way, "Google" pin-up girl, and this is what you see:


How do those women look like the one above? Easy—they don't. Diana's not a pin-up girl.

Ever since her inception in 1941, Diana of Themyscira (or, Paradise Island), has been chastised by men and women alike for her costume/armor. Derided as a "star-spangled bating suit," Wonder Woman's garments have received more than their fare share of criticism. In additon, Wonder Woman herself, the pinnacle of Amazon training, has been shamed for her body.

Diana's costume began as a bustier/cuirass and a skirt back in 1941. Over the decades, the skirt became culottes, then shorts, and it even became a skimpy bikini-style bottom when Mike Deodato drew the character in the 1990s. No superhero costume seems to have received more criticism than this one. The question I am left with is why?

People who see Diana see her as a role model, a strong woman who can handle herself, and someone who guides people toward peace, understanding, and compassion. It seems to me that if someone has an issue with what she wears, the issue isn't about Wonder Woman: it's about the idea that a woman's appearance will diminish her power. Diana's costume started out as a representation of her connection to the American cause during World War II. Now, in the picture above by Nicola Scott, it's a stylized version of Greek armor with a cuirass or breastplate and a leather skirt that takes its inspiration from the pteruges of ancient Greece. Since when is showing thighs a bad thing? In fact, in the full image by Ms. Scott (see below), notice how much skin actually shows—very little. While it is true that other artists may raise the skirt a little in their own style or may show more arm or leg, nothing about the costume she wears is "skimpy" or "revealing." In fact, Superman wears a skin-tight costume that reveals every muscle or other "bulge" on his body. Yet, I rarely ever see any comments about his blue suit.

Why is a part of the human body a cause for shame or ridicule?

Wonder Woman has never used her bare arms, thighs, or exposed collar bone/cleavage to intentionally play on sexuality or seduction (which some might see as a poor role model for people). She has always been comfortable in her own skin, as it were. On Themyscira, women are free to do as they see fit with expression. Some have been shown to wear traditional robes or tunics, while others wear less clothing. I'd even imagine that, "off panel," many Amazons are naturists. Is there something so disdainful about a woman's body—or any body—that would encourage girls to act inappropriately? No, and to say so speaks of misogyny and a patriarchal view that women should be covered for modesty's sake.

Diana's message to the world is not "wear as little as you wish" or "let's show men our bodies." Her message is about equality of the sexes, empowerment, compassion, love, truth, and wisdom. In this most recent incarnation of her costume, the colors and pattern have less to do with the "American cause" and more to do with empowerment in general: they are bold colors—red, blue, gold.

Another thought I had was this.

Let's say the plus-size hero, Faith, had been a cultural icon for 75 years. Let's also assume that the United Nations wanted to make her the Ambassador for Empowerment of Women and Girls. Once that announcement would be made, you better believe people would cry out, "Wait, a fat girl is a role model? Wouldn't she show kids it's okay to be overweight?"

Yes. And, so what? If people are happy being who they are, then who is anyone else to criticize?

I, of course, applaud that Faith exists in a world of men and women heroes whose bodies look like Greek sculptures. We need representation of ALL types in the world of superheroes. I think it's wonderful that children can look at Faith and see a woman who is making a difference, and that her size doesn't matter.

People will criticize because they think it's their right to be heard, ignoring all the good that Wonder Woman has done in her 75 years. 

Has Wonder Woman's costume gotten her attention? Hell, yes, it has. But, it's become an icon of the power of the individual. When women wear this costume as cosplayers, they walk prouder, stand taller, and look more confident. That's what the costume gives them.

People need to stop body shaming Wonder Woman for having an athletic, honed, Amazonian physique and wearing a costume that shows it. People also need to stop being afraid of what a body looks like and start thinking about what it can DO to change minds and change the world.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Sculpted by Hands of Clay—Diana's Legacy on Me

In the comics, Princess Diana of Themyscira—Paradise Island—was sculpted in clay by her mother, Queen Hippolyte, out of a yearning for a child to love. Her maternal hands moved the clay into a human form, shaping it with care, and the goddess Aphrodite breathed life into it. When that child—that Wonder child—grew into womanhood, she earned the mantle of Wonder Woman through training and tournament.

I was brought to life because of my mother and father. But I came to life when I found Diana. It was she who sculpted me through love, compassion, strength, and wisdom. By reading of her adventures, by following her journey, and by learning from her example, I have become my own man.

People don't understand how a fictional character can have such a profound effect on a human being, but aren't we all constructs in a world that existed before we did? Who is to say human, sentient beings are the only things that guide others down life's path? Since 1941, the character known as Wonder Woman has been a part of the world, challenging gender stereotypes and breaking down barriers. That's part of my path, too. As a gay man, I, too, don't conform to what some believe a man should do. But—I am a man as much as any other. And, like Diana, I had more than one mother.

I reached a crossroads in November 2015, when my partner and I split. I was disoriented, unsure of my path, and—like a newborn—needing guidance and direction. At that moment in time, Diana rescued me. I reflected on how she stands strong during adverse moments, how she plants her feet and endures, and how she understands and adapts. When I needed her the most, she was there for me.

Like her, I have endured a tournament of trials. I have walked the gauntlet where my ego and spirit were battered and assaulted by forces beyond my ability to stop them. I was put through my paces. Like Diana, I had to embrace Truth. I fought my inner demons with the grace and splendor of any Amazon warrior. My bruises and scars will forever remind me of my struggle and my victory over the darker moments.

I feel prepared, armed with my own Bracelets of Submission, to deflect the projectiles thrown at me through every day experience. I submit to myself, and my own acceptance of truths. I submit to the fact that I am not like other men (or women, for that matter). I submit to the ideals I have learned from both my birth mother and by sculpting mother. I lovingly submit to both of them.

One of Diana's foes is Ares, god of war. While I don't have a definitive "Ares" against whom I must battle, I do fight through my Doubts and my Inadequacies as if they were personifications of conflict. Those have become by adversaries. I am armed with Truth and shielded by my own virtual bracelets. I have embraced who I am, and I am happy with the man I have become. The path before me is one I walk with confidence and courage. I have no other choice but to do that.

I was born of a woman's womb, and I was sculpted by hands of clay.

I bring Diana's legacy with me every single day.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Rucka and Scott do it again in Wonder Woman #4!

Nicola Scott cover
SPOILERS—Just saying...

I'm just going to come out and say that Nicola Scott and Greg Rucka couldn't be better suited for Wonder Woman. I had been anticipating Wonder Woman Rebirth #4 ever since I finished #2, and this issue AGAIN brought the tears. I'm going to work through the book panel by panel, and page by page, because I see so much greatness in the Rucka/Scott paring. Here we go.

The first panel (with conversation from the Council of Themyscira text from Philippus overlaid on the images) shows the Amazons having shrouded the dead soldiers and other women taking parts of the plane from the sea. Next, we see an Amazon tending to Nick, Steve's friend, who died in the crash, and the woman is showing gentle compassion in preparing the body for the underworld. Even Nick's wedding ring sits on his chest, presumably to be wrapped with his body. For women who haven't seen men in many years, and considering the past the Amazons and men have shared, it would be difficult for some of them to deal with men again, even the deceased.

The third panel made me giggle with delight: the Purple Healing Ray is being used on Steve Trevor. Epione, the chief healer, tends to to his wounds using perhaps the best known piece of technomagic of the Amazons.

An interesting parallel in the last panel of the first page emerges when we see Amazon weapons against the wall, meticulously arranged, and Amazons are cataloguing the weapons and other belongings of the men—arranged in similar fashion, their faces showing curiosity. If these women harbor any resentment toward men, it's not apparent on this page. All I see is compassion and curiosity.

On this page, we also hear the Amazons refer to "Man's World" in a way that suggests they had never called it that before. Why would they have needed to, having been removed from it for so long? The term shows separation, not disdain. The voice also says that Steve Trevor should make a full recovery—these are not the New 52 Amazons who used men for breeding stock and killed them.
• • •
Frank Cho variant
The second page shows the aforementioned council (Catalia, Hippolyta, Philippus, an unnamed Amazon, and Areto, the Amazon who spoke to her sisters in #2 about the stars) trying to understand the men: they are warriors, armed with insignia. Areto demonstrates how a pistol works by shooting a vase. This is obviously weaponry they have never seen before. Again, their level of curiosity remains constant. They do not dismiss anything because it belongs to the men. Rather, they seek to learn and understand.

When Areto and Castalia discuss whether the men's intentions were malevolent or not, Hippolyta makes an interesting revelation: the eagle on the insignia has a bowed head, "the bearing of one who will meet battle does not seek it." This is a queen who pays attention to the finest of details. I love her.
• • •
The next page shows Diana seated in the window of a chamber watching the sleeping Steve recover. Her eyes show concern and inquiry. When Steve wakes up, she tries to soothe his mood and introduces herself, even though they don't speak the same language. Diana can tell from his words that he's concerned for his men, and the page ends with her consoling a crying soldier weeping for the loss of his men. One of the most touching scenes I've seen in comics, and a side of Steve I have never seen before: emotionally vulnerable. Well done, Greg.
• • •
In further discussion with the council, Castalia tries to convince the others that the gods have allowed this all to transpire, and that Diana's viper bite in issue #2 was "the gate," something we do not yet know. Again, curiosity dominates. No desire to cause Steve harm in any way has been mentioned.
• • •
Hippolyta then says that a contest must be held to determine an Amazon "armed with the perfect [lasso]" to bring Steve back to his world. She is sure that Steve is the key to whomever is the enemy of both Amazon and man. Areto comments that the Amazon who leaves would be "damn[ed]... to exile," she "can never return." Castalia finishes with "...the men of the world best beware, I should think" of an Amazon in a world of men. In other words, whoever goes, she would be one to be reckoned with. I loved this entire scene—calm, decisive, and strategic.
• • •
Atop the next page, we learn that the Amazons have the means to teach Steve's plane to return to its home. Whether that involves science or sorcery, we have yet to learn. At the bottom of the page, Philippus and Hippolyta stand forehead to forehead, and Philippus comments that "She may not win, Lyta." This certainly shows a level of love between the two that goes beyond sisters. especially calling the queen by a derivative of her name, a "pet name," as it were. So sweet.
• • •
Diana and Hippolyta speak, and Diana sees how Steve thought of his brothers (as she comes to learn the word) with great fondness, much like the Amazons think of one another as sisters. This parallel was made plain in #2, and I love seeing how Rucka makes Steve this soldier but also someone who cares deeply for those in his regiment. We haven't seen a Steve like this before. Also, the sweetness between mother and daughter is comforting, even though Hippolyta refers to Diana as "Princess" instead of daughter, and Diana uses "Queen" instead of mother. The formality of the situation makes sense here.
• • •
The following page changes how Diana's sojourn into the world of man happens. In most stories, Diana wants to participate in the tournament to select the champion, but Hippolyta vehemently refuses, saying she doesn't want to lose her daughter. This later prompts Diana to enter the contest disguised. Here, however, the queen says, "You are still recovering from your illness, Diana. No one would think less of you if you stood down." Hippolyta expected Diana to participate, and she held no apprehension toward it. WOW. This was usually a moment of great tension in the tale of Diana, but now, it shows Hippolyta has resolved that her daughter could participate.

Diana's response is priceless. "I would think less of me. I could not profoundly call myself your daughter if I did not try, Mother." We started the scene with a formal greeting, and now we have a more familial one. Diana's concern is not feeling worthy of being the daughter of Hippolyta if she didn't try. The queen responds, "You always make me proud, daughter." We start with a royal connection and end the scene with a softer, more heartfelt one. What a stunning transition.
• • •
The next page shows Amazons forging the armor that will be worn by their champion: the eagle/=w= breastplate, the insignia, the leather skirt, cuirass, and boots. Steve's plane is being fitted with what looks like fish scales. Hippolyta's voice over talks of encouraging her people to rise up and support this new venture, how this one woman will be their ambassador in Man's World and a "protector of all who dwell beyond [their] shores." Hippolyta knows that Diana will be the compassionate and strong Amazon who will defend others, even those she does not know. Castalia retrieves the lasso from the statue (as seen in issue #2), and Steve is summoned. The contest is about to begin.
• • •
The next two pages show Diana on horseback, using a bow, competing with ropes, and engaged in swordplay. It's worth noting that Nicola Scott shows a closeup of an Amazon whose headband looks exactly like one used in the Wonder Woman TV show during this same contest. Clever. Three Amazons remain (unlike two in prior versions), but three is an important number in Greek myth: the Fates, the Graces, and even the Triple Goddess of Persephone, Demeter, and Hecate. Here, we also have Hippolyta, Philippus, and Castalia. Sofia, Io, and Diana are all who remain viable from the combatants. Hippolyta uses the handgun from the earlier scene (similar to George Perez's use of Diana Trevor's handgun in the 1980s series) to shoot at each woman, telling Epione to stand ready in case of injury, but telling her Amazons to "parry my shot."

Steve thinks that Hippolyta is going to kill the women, again showing compassion to total strangers. Sofia gets shot with the first bullet, Io deflects one before getting hit with the second, and Diana stands—arms crossed—ready. Hippolyta's eyes seem to show a sense of duty to finish this part of the contest, but she also knows it could wound or kill her daughter. All we see is Diana, wrists crossed, eyebrows furrowed... ready.
• • •
An assembly of Amazons and Steve stands by what looks like Steve's plane made invisible. Diana emerges, garbed in her new armor, with Castalia behind her, holding the golden lasso. Diana receives the lasso from her mother, and she tells her mother, "I shall use it with wisdom and love." No better words needed to be said. And, in a scene reminiscent from issue #2, again Hippolyta and Diana refer to one another as "Queen," "Princess," "Mother," and "My daughter." They embrace, in tears, at the bottom of the page.
• • •
Diana tells her mother she will return, but Hippolyta believes she will not be able to do so. In her parting, she tells Hippolyta, "I love you, Mother. I will make us proud." Us. Mother and daughter. Amazons.

The Amazons watch Diana fly off in the new invisible jet, and Hippolyta, Philippus, Castalia, and Io look hopeful as their sister departs for Man's World.

RESULTING THOUGHTS:

Again, I finished a Wonder Woman book in tears. These Amazons are thoughtful, loving, nurturing, and compassionate, not only for their sisters and princess, but also for the outside world. They hold no fear or resentment for one of their own venturing forth, except that Diana will lose her immortality and ability to return home. But, they have obviously made peace with that. Nicola Scott's art invigorates the story that Rucka tells, one that feels epic, like that of a Homeric tale. Romulo Fajardo, Jr.'s colors bring an exuberance to Scott's pencils, like a co-mingling of two creators who were meant to be together. 

The intricacies of the storytelling and the art show myriad connections to many concepts and little nuggets that people familiar to the story will smile at when they see them, and new readers will simply be awash with joy at this part of the origin story.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Download: Getting dating off my mind so I can write!

Ever have a thought in your head that just lingers, so much so that it blocks other thoughts? Well, lately, I've wanted to get some substantive writing done before the school year begins again, and I have papers to grade, but something has been lingering... in my waking moments, in my dreams, and I feel that if I write it out, perhaps I can dislodge it from my mind for a while. So, here it is:

I can't stop thinking about wanting someone in my life in a semi-/romantic way. Not necessarily long term (although who knows?), but not for casual encounters, either.

I've been single since November 2015, and I've basically been through the mountain range of emotions, the kind of mountain range you need a sherpa to navigate. I am in a much better place now, and I'm good with being on my own. I just can't shake the thought of wanting someone special in my life. I'm talking more about the occasional coffee date or dinner and a movie. A walk through a park (when it's not hotter than Hades outside). A whimsical romp through an antiquing district. Just something that two people can do to enjoy one another's company. I'm not against romance or a relationship, but I'm not sure I'm 100% ready for something BIG just yet.

I've been in relationships (two, to be exact) for about 20 years. Being "me" for a while isn't a bad thing. In fact, it's been a very good thing. I can decorate my house how I like (in my Mid-Century Modern aesthetic that I love so much), and eat what I want (which usually revolves around Mediterranean-inspired cuisine or Sweet Tomatoes because who doesn't love a salad bar?), and do what I want (if I want to binge watch Star Trek: Voyager, I can!).

So, one might ask, "David, who do you envision to play the part of a companion?" If I were a casting director for a film, it'd be easier, but I am not. But, here's who I see:
  • He should be my age (49. No really, I am. The big 5-0 comes next year), give or take a few years, or younger.
  • He should have at least a college education if not more. I don't care if it's a B.A. in Waste Management or a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering, but I do want to be around someone who thirsts for knowledge. Being literate would be important, too. Knowing how to use there/their/they're would be a plus! OH! And he should like to read. What can I say... intelligence is sexy.
  • He should be employed. It'd be nice if he liked what he did, but he should certainly have a job. Ideally? He should make as much as I do or more. Hey, I'm being honest.
  • He should love culture: music, art, drama, literature... you name it. He doesn't have to have the novel One Hundred Years of Solitude memorized or know how to play the score to Sunday in the Park with George in its entirety, but he should have a diverse palate.
  • He should like to talk. It could be about inane subjects or philosophical ones. He can wax about the words now in the OED or he can opine about different kinds of wine. Did I mention that intelligence was sexy?
  • He must be fitness-oriented. I go to the gym and run, and I'd like to have the chance to share that with someone. We can even like different activities, as long as it involves movement. Who doesn't like to sit on the couch and watch a movie, but when it's time to get outside and MOVE, I want to know he's willing to join me.
  • He should appreciate my decision to keep kosher, although he doesn't have to. Should things progress into a longer arrangement, he'd have to be willing to be eat kosher foods or be vegetarian in the house. Outside, he can gnaw on baby back pork ribs if he's so inclined, as long as brushes first.
Now, religion wouldn't matter for this person who would take me to dinner or Starbucks or go running with me. More than that? Well, let's just say I'd prefer someone Jewish. Being observant and kosher, I couldn't have a crucifix or a cross in my home. But, this is for another blog entry.

Anywho... I know this sounds like an OKCupid profile (I no longer belong to dating sites for a multitude of reasons), and that wasn't really my intention. I just needed to get this out of my head. Now that I have downloaded all of this, maybe my brain can focus on things like writing The Archer's Paradox, The Quest of Wyndracer and Fyrehunter, or Of Mortal Bonds. 

I would love that.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Commentary on Wonder Woman Rebirth #2 (Spoilers)

Wonder Woman Rebirth #2
GREG RUCKA has restored my faith in comics. He writes the two storylines for the Wonder Woman Rebirth books: the current timeline (with art by Liam Sharp and colors by Laura Martin) and the Year One story (with Nicola Scott doing the art, and with Romulo Fajardo, Jr. doing the colors).

I thoroughly enjoyed the Wonder Woman Rebirth #1 issue, with its look at a transitioning Diana reconciling the differences in her own mind about who she is. But, I wanted to spend a moment to talk about the second issue in this series, one that evoked a strong emotional response from me today.

The book opens with the words:
"Tell the truth, Steve..."
These words connect back to the first issue, where Diana is in search of the truth of who she is. She senses that lies have been told, and she yearns to find the answers. The idea of truth and lies connects well into Diana's story because, as the bearer of the golden lasso, she has the power to bring truth into the light. That Steve (Trevor) is connected to truth on this first page links the two characters together.

The follow up words, from Trevor's friend, Nick,
"...We're lost."
also tie into the larger story, as the idea of Diana's place in this "rebirth" is unclear, and she is lost as well. By the bottom of the first page, Steve has told his friend that he knows which way to go because of the stars, something that connects to the second page when we see Diana sitting with her sisters and Areto, an Amazon astronomer, who seeks to teach them.

Wonder Woman Rebirth #2 Variant
Diana looks out at the horizon, rather than the stars, and this bothers Areto, but this begins the foundation for Diana's sojourn into Man's World which we will undoubtedly see in upcoming issues. For me, this ties into George Perez's first issue of Wonder Woman (post-Crisis on Infinite Earths), when a young Diana sits beneath Athena's statue, yearning for purpose. She wants more from Paradise, and indeed, this Diana in Rucka's tale does as well. The horizon holds possibilities while the sky holds both stability and also unreachable ideas.

I must add here, before I go on, that when I first read Wonder Woman #1 in 1987, I literally cried tears of joy. After having seen Wonder Woman devolved by the Anti-Monitor, and not knowing her fate, I was devastated as Wonder Woman has meant much to me growing up. Her new beginning then helped me dig deeper into my own writing. Rucka's story now evoked tears as well. It wasn't just that my eyes welled—I cried joyful tears. I felt like waiting for MY Diana to return ended with something I could never have dreamed for, but one that I will cherish.

Rucka brings up the idea that the Amazons are, as Perez said, reincarnations of women whose lives had been struck down by men. This past for Kasia, Diana's friend, demonstrates that the past, while important, does not define who someone is. I believe Diana's past will do the same thing: provide her with support, but not define the scope of who she is. Her actions will do that. This is not a new tale of an Amazon looking for more beyond her own island home, but Rucka brings it new life.

Diana returns to the palace and engages in an intriguing conversation with her mother. The queen addresses her as, "Princess." Diana replies, "Queen." Hippolyta says, "Daughter." And, Diana comes back with, "Mother." In these four words, Rucka has established a two-fold relationship between these two women, one that will undeniably resonate throughout this story. This page, as the ones before it, shows Nicola Scott at some of her finest work. This mother/daughter moment radiates warmth and love.

The fact that Hippolyta wants Diana to engage with her and Phillipus in shooting arrows speaks to the hunting aspect of their culture, rather than through swordplay, a more warlike endeavor. That detail alone makes me think that Rucka doesn't want to focus solely on the idea of the Amazons as warriors. The next page brings yet another parallel to Steve's story as he is on a firing range with Nick. Finding a target seems to be a common element, one that will bring these two characters closer.

The scene returns to Diana, Phillipus, and Hippolyta on the archery range, and Diana misses her target. When Diana offers her mother the opportunity to shoot, Hippolyta replies that she's happy to have Phillipus criticize someone else's archery skills for a change. At that, Diana shoots two arrows simultaneously into two separate hoop targets. Clearly, this Amazon princess should not be underestimated. At the slightest hint of a challenge, she rises to it, and surpasses it.

The next two pages show alternating panels of Diana's life with Steve's, and Rucka establishes Nick as a brother to Steve while he shows Diana with her sisters. It seems clear, too, that time passes differently on Themyscira than in the mortal world, as we see Nick meet a woman and then marry her all within a few panels. Diana's life, by contrast, seems to be one of sisterhood, prayer, and even a discussion as to Diana's possible romantic relationships among the Amazons. Time is less of an obvious factor, which reinforces their immortality.

The last panel shows Diana staring off at night while her sisters socialize. Truly, this one Amazon has her eyes on a different target.

Next, we see Diana riding Kachi, her horse. I would certainly love to see her ride a kanga, but perhaps the menagerie of animals will show up later. Diana sees a gnarled tree that she doesn't recognize (a symbol of life perverted? a portal in the trunk to some other place?), and when she reaches toward it, a snake strikes her wrist. It's worth noting that Diana is not wearing any bracelets, and has not been, so she has no protection from what this snake's possible venom might be. I am not clear as to why Diana's wrists are bare; even in Perez's version, the Amazons wore bracelets as a reminder of their imprisonment by men. But, time will tell. This page is particularly striking because, other than Diana, it lacks the vibrance of the life of Themyscira—certainly, a deliberate (and successful) artistic choice. Diana is found by her sisters, notably Io.

The following page shows Nick and his wife, who has just given birth, and Steve enters. His kinship with Nick is broadened by being named Nick's child's godfather. Steve's brotherhood with Nick becomes augmented by this.

Diana prays to the healing gods—Asclepius, Aceso, and Panacea—and Castalia, an Amazonian healer, talks with Diana of her experience with the snake. Castalia shows Diana a statue of a warrior in a closet or niche, and at its waist hangs the golden lasso. Castalia tells the princess,
"...This reaffirms my faith. The gift of the patrons to us, we daughters of Harmonia and Ares. Their promise to the Amazons."
It would seem the promise of truth. Castalia tells Diana that when the gods give, the Amazons must be willing to give of themselves as well, and that time is coming. Truth and lies are interwoven between the two storylines (modern day and Year One), which makes sense since the layers of truth or deception build over time, sometimes becoming harder and harder to discern from one another.

Next, we see Steve and Nick board a plane with others, presumably bound for somewhere where they will crash (as would be the case for Steve). Diana has her eyes to the sky with Areto and her sisters once more, and they see the wrecked plane descend from the sky (with no idea of how it was destroyed). Areto's three words carry much weight, especially for an Amazon who has seen her share of conflict one can imagine:
"We are discovered."
That is an interesting word to use. Discovery will be yet another motif of this story, for all involved, and while Areto's words are dipped in concern, discovery can bring about truth. The Amazons discover many dead among the wreckage, but then Steve's bloodied hand reaches out to Diana's foot, and his last words to her are, "Please help us."

What I found intriguing is that, despite his life-threatening situation, he asks the Amazons to help "us" not "me." That tells me much about Steve: he cares about his fellow soldiers more than he simply cares about himself.

I must take this time to speak of the art. Nicola Scott's renderings of emotion throughout this book are extraordinary. A range of feelings comes through on every page, and the younger princess goes through her share. Romulo Fajardo, Jr. complements Nicola's pencils with precision and highlights each nuanced feeling with much detail. Tone, color, and shadow create the beginning of an epic tale, one that I cannot wait to see unfold. All of the characters have life and, if you listen carefully, you can hear their hearts beating.

As of yet, we have not learned about Diana's origin, so whether or not the Nu52 story of Zeus being her father is still relevant is unknown. But, this beginning of the classic tale breathes a different kind of breath into Diana's story, one of hope, compassion, love, strength, and wisdom.

It bears mentioning, too, that Hippolyta is dark-haired in Year One, so the blonde Hippolyta we see in the Nu52 must be a twisting of the truth, perhaps a part of Dr. Manhattan's machinations we learn about in the Rebirth #1. While the fair-haired Amazon queen was a lovely nod to the Silver Age of Wonder Woman's history, Hippolyta has had darker hair since the 80s (and even earlier), and it is that image which most fans would recognize.

I, for one, cannot wait for the truth to rise to the surface so we can see just who our Amazon princess is. With Rucka at the helm, I have no doubt we will be in for a glorious ride.
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