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Grumpy Old Fan | Can ‘Superman/Wonder Woman’ justify its love?

A 20 percent gratuity will be added for parties over 16

A 20 percent gratuity will be added for parties over 16

This week sees the debut of Superman/Wonder Woman, the very existence of which brings into sharp relief a number of concerns about the treatment of both characters in the New 52. We’ll get into the specifics in a minute, but for now it may be enough to say that if the book had come out under a previous administration (say, the post-Infinite Crisis period, when the two leads were especially close friends), it might be enjoying a warmer overall reception. Superman/Wonder Woman #1 isn’t a bad comic book, but its premise — assuming the reader accepts it — does make for some awkward moments.

There’s been a lot going on with the Superman books lately: Piggybacking on Superman’s 75th anniversary and the Man of Steel movie, this year DC added three monthly Superman series, making SM/WW the fifth monthly title (this doesn’t count the sequel to the television series Smallville Season 11 or the anything-goes anthology Adventures of Superman). However, the suggestion that Jim Lee may draw just nine issues of Superman Unchained puts that title’s long-term fate up in the air; and both Batman/Superman and Superman/Wonder Woman seem somewhat disconnected from the regular goings-on in Superman and Action Comics.

That’s not a segue into proposing the Superman books be more interconnected. Rather, it’s more an observation that the series may not all speak with the same voice. This month, Scott Lobdell writes both Action Comics and Superman (because they’re crossing over as part of the “Psi War” storyline), while Greg Pak writes the conclusion of Batman/Superman’s inaugural “five years ago on Earth-2” arc and Scott Snyder’s Superman Unchained storyline chugs along on its own track. Next month Pak becomes Action’s regular writer (with another flashback story, this time set in the Snyder-written “Zero Year” of Batman), while Lobdell kicks off “Krypton Returns,” another crossover among Superman Superboy, and Supergirl.

Into this mix comes Superman/Wonder Woman’s creative team, writer Charles Soule and penciler Tony Daniel. (Daniel, you’ll remember, pitched in as Action’s scripter/penciler following writer Andy Diggle’s abrupt departure in March.) How they fit into the overall picture is, of course, tied to how Superman/Wonder Woman functions as both a Superman title and a Wonder Woman title. Put another way: How many Superman and/or Wonder Woman series does the world really need?

With Superman, the answer is apparently “at least two”: Action, which gave birth to the superhero genre, and Superman, because Action started out as an anthology and the publisher wanted a Superman-only title (which at first was published quarterly, as opposed to the monthly Action). Historical reasons aside, this is a reasonable arrangement. Superman is likely to be popular enough to warrant two series, and keeping Action Comics around allows DC to spotlight other characters occasionally, kind of like letting Batwoman headline Detective Comics. Back when DC was flush with anthologies, associated features like Superboy, Supergirl and the Legion of Super-Heroes were regular fixtures in Action, More Fun Comics and Adventure Comics, while longtime supporting characters spun off into Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen and Superman’s Girlfriend Lois Lane. In the early 1970s, the latter two combined into the Superman Family anthology, while Superboy, Supergirl and the Legion spun off into their own individual series. Although Superman wasn’t really the focus of these other features, World’s Finest Comics had featured regular Superman stories (and, eventually, regular team-ups with Batman) since its 1941 debut; and in 1978, DC Comics Presents was launched as a regular Superman team-up title. Again, for the most part each of these series was justified on some level, although there weren’t particular creative-team distinctions among the titles that featured Superman solo stories. Those came later, particularly after the sea changes of the 1986 revamp.

Wonder Woman also appeared regularly in two titles from the 1940s into the early ‘50s. She debuted in a story in All-Star Comics #8 (December 1941-January 1942) before moving into the new Sensation Comics as its headliner. Wonder Woman appeared in all but the last three of Sensation’s 109 issues (cover-dated from January 1942 to May/June 1952). Meanwhile, her own title kicked off in summer 1942, starting out quarterly but becoming monthly with Issue 16 (April-May 1946). Although she hasn’t had a second regular series since the Sensation days, she hasn’t been isolated. In the Golden Age she showed up in All-Star as a regular member of the Justice Society; starting in the Silver Age she appeared regularly in Justice League of America; and in the 1970s, when DC repackaged its anthologies as 80-page “Dollar Comics,” Wonder Woman had brief runs in World’s Finest and Adventure.

Nevertheless, the singular Wonder Woman title has identified the character more with certain creative teams. Starting with creator William Moulton Marston and artist H.G. Peter, these have included Bob Kanigher and Ross Andru in the Silver Age, Denny O’Neil and Mike Sekowsky in the “Diana Prince” period, Roy Thomas and Gene Colan in the early ‘80s; and modern professionals like writers/artists George Pérez, John Byrne and Phil Jiminez; writers William Messner-Loebs, Greg Rucka and Gail Simone; and the current team of Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang.

Thus, while Superman developed fairly quickly into a character who — and this is not meant to diminish anyone’s contribution, least of all Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster’s — could be developed productively by many hands, Wonder Woman has tended to stay somewhat insular (for lack of a better term). It’s in this context that Soule and Daniel are guiding Superman/Wonder Woman. Specifically, the new series must reflect Azzarello and Chiang’s take on the character, including her current supporting cast; even though that take has so far tended to be downplayed (the Batwoman team-up notwithstanding) outside of the Wonder Woman series itself. By contrast, Soule and Daniel have more flexibility with Superman, because so many others have worked on the New 52 version of the character.

It’s telling that on the foldout cover of Superman/Wonder Woman #1, Lois and Jimmy are featured prominently, but the rest of Superman’s “side” is mostly villains (plus Cat Grant, who’s in the issue itself); whereas Wonder Woman’s includes a mix of friends and foes. This sums up the differences in approach neatly: since the New-52 reboot, the Superman books have gone heavy on the action, with not as much effort put into Clark’s friends; while Wonder Woman has built a strong supporting cast into its reworking of Diana’s world.

Still, none of that gets to the underlying purpose of Superman/Wonder Woman. It appears to exist as the main representative of the developing Superman/Wonder Woman romance, which I thought was a bad idea last year and which has provoked other strong fan reactions. Among these is the notion that the Superman/Wonder Woman romance necessarily diminishes the character of Lois Lane, not just by denying Lois a specific narrative function, but by removing her further from the spotlight. If DC wants to show Superman in a relationship, it should be with Lois, who after all was part of the Superman feature from the very beginning.

Even if DC doesn’t want Superman and Lois to get (back) together, she risks being pushed into the background by the Man of Steel’s relationship with Wonder Woman. Indeed, the New 52’s Lois hasn’t been seen a whole lot outside of the Superman books, which runs counter to her treatment at DC generally over the past few decades. That said, Superman/Wonder Woman doesn’t need its headliners to be in lurve in order to work — it just needs to tell good stories.

In this respect the first issue isn’t terrible, as long as it focuses on action. Soule doesn’t quite replicate Azzarello’s treatment of Wonder Woman, he only does a little better with Superman, and the plot depends on a global mistrust of superheroes which I’m not sure has played out in other series. However, it’s very nice-looking (speaking as someone who hasn’t been the biggest Tony Daniel fan) and there are a couple of good scenes with Cat Grant.

SPOILERS FOLLOW for Superman/Wonder Woman #1

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Regardless, Superman/Wonder Woman #1 is built around the headliners’ romance, which is clearly a nonstarter for a vocal portion of DC’s readership. The main part of the issue deals with a maritime rescue gone wrong, but Soule uses flashbacks to show that Clark and Diana were on a date (following Clark’s meeting with Cat and a potential investor in their news website) when a Justice League alarm called them away. Therefore, among the scenes in the North Atlantic are character moments where Diana wonders why she and Clark have to keep their relationship secret, and Clark argues that it’s necessary. Granted, Superman’s secret identity is both well-established and well-justified, but beyond that he’s always been portrayed as fairly trusting, even to the point of being a little naive. (Plus there was that whole Lobdell-written outburst when Clark quit the Daily Planet that all but screamed “I AM GOING TO GO OFF AND BE SUPERMAN NOW.”) Therefore, this characterization may be a New 52 change I haven’t quite assimilated, but it still doesn’t ring especially true.

As mentioned above, it seems to be of a piece with New 52 DC-Earth not really trusting its superhumans, which is something Geoff Johns has been using in Justice League but that hasn’t really insinuated itself into other titles. However, Wonder Woman reacts to it here (and in Justice League, if memory serves) rather violently, after a misunderstanding causes a Norwegian destroyer to fire on her. This short fuse seemed to me to be part of DC’s general characterization shorthand for Wonder Woman, and it isn’t something which shows up in Wonder Woman regardless of who’s writing. Put another way, it’s a little hard to reconcile “you’d like us if you knew more about us” with “I am attacking your ship because you thought you were trying to protect yourself from us.” Those aren’t exact quotes, but I submit that maybe Wonder Woman could have said “We were trying to help you” before she started ripping those big cannons out of the destroyer’s main deck.

Soule is a little better in the quieter moments when Diana confides in a fellow Amazon — who neither I nor DC Women Kicking Ass recognized — but that dialogue is also a bit heavy on the exposition, and Diana’s concerns about not aging don’t sound like Azzarello’s confident warrior. To be fair, the “quiet moments” the Superman romance seem to have forced on Wonder Woman generally don’t sound like something Azzarello would have done, so the dissonance is probably unavoidable. Surely DC wants this series to help spur interest in Wonder Woman, but the execution is awkward at best.

And make no mistake, this book is firmly in the Superman stable. Like most of the other Superman titles, including Batman/Superman, it falls under the editorship of Eddie Berganza, while Matt Idelson edits Wonder Woman (and Superman Unchained). Although Soule strives mightily to divide the story equally, Clark/Superman drives the action: He leaves the meeting with Cat for the date with Diana, and the League only calls Superman, so Wonder Woman tags along. Additionally, Cat has another scene by herself (serving a subplot about the exposure of Superman and Wonder Woman’s relationship), while Wonder Woman’s supporting cast is barely mentioned outside of exposition. Finally, although I expect more Olympian bad guys to appear in future issues, the villain here comes from Superman’s stable.

END SPOILERS

Again, though, it’s a nice-looking book. Much of this is due to colorist Tomeu Morey, who brings an almost-watercolor look to Daniel’s pencils and Matt “Batt” Banning’s inks. However, Daniel’s storytelling is also pretty good, with judicious use of double-page spreads, panels that don’t seem cramped or crowded, and a two-page sequence that juxtaposes Wonder Woman’s fight scene against inset silhouettes showing tender moments with Clark. Batt’s inks lighten Daniel’s pencils, giving everyone that familiar early-Image-meets-manga look, while keeping the focus on what each panel is trying to convey. I’ve had problems with Daniel’s Batman work, and his previous Action issues were sometimes hard to decipher, but this is very straightforward.

Nevertheless, it reads very much like Geoff Johns and Ivan Reis’ take on the romance in Justice League. Neither there nor here has a creative team been able to bridge the disconnect between what’s going on with The Romance and what Azzarello and Chiang are doing in the actual Wonder Woman series. Those who don’t care about the latter may well find Superman/Wonder Woman to be pleasant enough; they may see those who do care as pedants, wedded to irrelevant views of the characters. However, for better or worse, DC gave Azzarello and Chiang the freedom to recreate Wonder Woman from the ground up, and it should therefore respect what they have chosen not to do.

I said at the top that if Superman/Wonder Woman had come out under a previous administration (with regard either to editorial attitude or continuity structure), it might be getting a better reception. It would definitely have a better grounding in the Superman/Wonder Woman relationship which started with an awkward “date” in 1988’s Action Comics #600 and developed into a deep and abiding, almost familial, friendship. An echo of that also came out this week, as Smallville Season 11 #18 presented the penultimate chapter of its own Superman/Wonder Woman team-up. For many fans, the pre-New 52 relationship between these characters didn’t need changing, and Superman/Wonder Woman is the latest attempt to convince them otherwise.

Time will tell whether either The Romance or this series have staying power. Certainly this series can continue past any breakup, as long as the two remain friends (and they’d almost have to, given the practicalities of DC’s shared universe). Maybe it will improve Wonder Woman’s sales. Maybe it’s all part of DC/Time Warner’s strategy to raise the Amazing Amazon’s profile in advance of her potential movie career. For now, though, Superman/Wonder Woman feels like a decently executed curiosity, emblematic of a decision visited on these characters from on high, and not especially suited for the long haul.

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Comments

25 Comments

If you want Lois you will never like this. Fact is, it is 2013 and not everyone needs or has to like that pairing as seen by the fact it is getting great reviews. DC might have a hit on their hands.

A small correction with regard Superman’s publishing history:

Superboy spun off into his own title in 1949, when Superboy #1 debuted. In the 1970s, he actually kind of lost his own title, when the Legion of Super-Heroes took over the comic with #197 (Sep 1973). Superboy remained a member, and his name remained in the title, until #259 (Jan 1980). After that, Superboy got his second series (New Adventures of Superboy) and the Legion continued “solo” in the series formerly known as Superboy.

I’m fine with this title working as a firewall to let Azzarello keep doing what he’s doing on the main WW without the dictates of gimmick-driven editorial direction distorting the book. That doesn’t mean I have to read it though.

Superman and Wonder Woman or Superman and Lois, it doesn’t matter.

The real problem comes from the people in charge of the DC Comics and the new 52.

I think that it isn’t going last because that Superman and Wonder Woman are not big sellers really anymore. Sure Superman unchained is selling well now but that I think is due to the artist and the writer. The Superman title isn’t not selling and neither is the WW title and that one gets good reviews.

I tried S/WW at the comic book store. It didn’t make it home. Diana was “teasing” when she sliced a sword in Clark’s direction, but it was a magic sword. That just made her seem really, really mean.

The Superman and Wonder Woman romance is the way to go for DC in the new 52 and the company knows this. Of course not all fans will be satisfied, that’s a given. Just like not all fans were during the Superman and Lois era. Sales are the indicator on whether or not the new status quo decision is a smart one and so far so good.

I don’t agree with this nor a blog that has been grinding an ax against DC since the reboot. Are you and them telling me I should buy multiple comics with the same story line? Isn’t Lois featuring prominently in other books? Was she ever more visible in Superman books back in the 80ties when they rebooted? I don’t think so. Lois is not the only Superman character and she does not need to be his love interest either to have a place in the mythos. The new 52 line of titles, digitally as well, has given us choice. Not everyone has to like the same thing. I certainly don’t appreciate anyone telling me how to spend my hard earned cash. When lois was with Superman is never interested me to buy. I did not grudge others buying. Now in one verse he is with Diana in one title…and the justification is fans like me who buy. Also fans like other open minded ones who are not bothered who Superman romances as long as story is good. And what a nitpicking review by that blog btw. There are other comic sites you might want to refer to than annoyed shippers.

I just don’t get why DC doesn’t make book about Superman, Batman, & Wonder Woman.

I know there are people that say, “well might as well call it the justice league,” but that just isn’t true they justice league is so much bigger than those three.

I think story wise seeing how Bats, Wondy, and Supes connect and bond would make for a longer lasting series as well as cement their link in the new 52. T

“the series may not all speak with the same voice.”

Well, duh. No offense, Tom, but this is the new 52, where continuity is a dirty word.

I wouldn’t mind one bit if the Superman titles dumped both Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen, and Superman moved on. I believe a real Superman would ask himself, do I really need these two humans who are always getting into trouble and needing rescue?

Wonder Woman does seem like a natural fit for Superman, but I don’t believe DC has the brains or cojones to make it work.

Frankly, I wish they’d have gone with “Superman’s Girlfriends Wonder Woman & Lois Lane.”

What I’m waiting for is when Superman and Wonder Woman’s son or daughter from the future shows up. Because that’s totally going to happen.

Dear SM/ WW naysayers,
Reality is that if Lois was such an asset for the Superman mytho, why isn’t she still in the mix as his love interest? Will someone please do a quick study of the Superman sales AFTER his marriage? A different Comic Fan Site fropm this one—am I allowed to mention the name?– stated that Superman and Action Comics took a multi-year dip in circulation.

Do you know what that means? It means that it doesn’t matter a mule’s sweat off of his you-know what that you think Superman should only be in a relationship with Lois. What matters is SALES. Evidently, there weren’t enough Lois-always supporter to keep the romance afloat.

Now whatever your motives may be (there are a lot of Batman-Wonder Woman shippers who are behind squeezing Lois in between Clark and Diana) this new couple is here to STAY unless sales dictate otherwise. Of, course some childishly claim that they can see the future and “Know” that the Ultimate Power Couple won’t last. They are the same people who said that every story involving an Amazon-Kryptonian love-a-thon would be boring. At least issue # 1 proves the naysayers wrong.

In the end, prejudices and wishful thinking do not directly influence change without (let’s hear it one more time… ) SALES results. Let’s see if the SMALLVILLE series outsells this one in 6 or seven months.

I say let’s go forward. Lois and Supes was then. Wondy and Supes is NOW. And by the way, the car (or the horse-less carriage), the airplane, television are all successful products that were met with always met with resistance. What you hate today may prove to be taken as an everyday acceptance

Sorry about that second-to-last sentence. Writing while at work has its disadvantages

I really will never understand this selfish mindset of some fandom. They trying to push a dynamic between Batman and Wonder Woman because it suits them to keep Diana and Clark apart in fiction. Wow. And the Batman.Wonder Woman romance was the worse example of romance and if you are a feminist you would recognize it. WW crushing on a man who, couldn’t date her because he is dark and moody and knocked her back left right and center making her look a joke. How much more dysfunctional that that can you get? They claim they love WW. They love their own idea of WW and they have been encouraging people to not buy WW and now SM/WW.

And these self entitled clique of bloggers have been trying to throw Charles Soule and Tony Daniel’s under the bus since the announcement. For months they have been on a crusade. We expect them to love it now? If one does not like something , don’t buy it. But don’t call decent gentlemen sexist and no friend to women. Smallville has only been selling well digitally. Not hard copy. It is not far from cancellation numbers. But I don’t go around telling people don’t buy it.

Why do DC fans fetishize these romances while Marvel fans are whiling to let there characters explore and grow.

Pepper and Tony haven’t been romantically linked in over a decade sales goes for Thor and Jane.

And the just killed Sharon Carter.

Here we go again. Seriously? Fans who are against this romance because they’re so attached to the previous one have Smallville as well as tons of comics before new 52 featuring the old status quo. But apparently that’s not enough. Instead, let’s accuse DC and artists of being mysoginists and use everything they say during an interview as an excuse to bash them. You gotta be kidding me!!!

Maybe DC ought to add a Lois Lane comics to the mix to appease those fans.

Loves never ever has to justify itself. As for Lois Lane being pushed into the background. last I checked she as a supporting character the background is where she belongs.

>>If DC wants to show Superman in a relationship, it should be with Lois, who after all was part of the Superman feature from the very beginning.<<

This is the New 52. DC gets to decide how and what it wants to put out for public consumption. There is absolutely no law written or unwritten that say who Superman can and can't fall in love with. Period.

To: js, Robert M., Heather & SuperMe.

A thousand thanks for expressing your individual succinct, mature and thoughtful contrary views. The world would be a lot better place if those who expressed their opposing points were as civil.

This reboot is possibly one of the best ideas DC had. Before this, it was difficult for anyone new to really get a foot in without doing some extensive research. I am also liking the Superman Wonder Woman pairing. It was one of my motivating factors to go find a comic shop and start buying comics.

This new series is amazing and I’m along for the ride.

It’s really tiresome to see how people embrace double standards. For instance: you MUST see a contradiction in criticising any changes in Superman’s love life clinching to 74 years of tradition and applauding the changes made in Wonder Woman’s…well, everything, as in WW’s tradition doesn’t exist or matter.
Seeing one as outrageous an the other as genius is a clear sign of bias and animosity against something specific, in this case the SM/WW romance.

I support this new book 100% and hope it lasts for as long as good stories are delivered.

“emblematic of a decision visited on these characters from on high”

The New 52, ladies and gentlenerds.

Guys, guys! Here’s a ridiculous thing I’ve just heard: It seems comic characters aren’t really alive!
They don’t do things on their own will, but there’s always somebody writing for them what to do! Further more, there’s somebody higher in the food chain who tells the writer what to write about!
In-cre-di-ble!
Next you’re gonna tell me that the “Crisis” weren’t spontaneous real events, that Superman didn’t fought Doomsday to the death and Batman doesn’t beat every living being in the cosmos.
Yeah, right!

I am against this new comic from the very beginning.Superman’s commitment to Lois was true and I really loved their romance. I have developed immense hatred for WW only for this series.

@Nilanjana…I am against this new comic from the very beginning.Superman’s commitment to Lois was true and I really loved their romance. I have developed immense hatred for WW only for this series.

Posts like your is why they SHOULD have SM and WW. How utterly idiotic you sound.

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