May 18, 2010

Great Back Issues: Wonder Woman #46

Most people think of George Perez only as a (rather excellent) artist, but one of the milestones of his career was relaunching Wonder Woman in 1987, updating her for a modern audience. It was also a milestone for the character, as the two years Perez spent as a writer/artist and three more years as just the book's writer are generally agreed upon as one of the best, if not the best, runs in Wonder Woman's and comics' history.

Wonder Woman #46, by Perez, Mindy Newell, Jill Thompson, and Romeo Tanghal, has never, to the best of my recollection, been reprinted. The comic is not a particular collector's item either, but it is one of Perez's favorite issues in his run. He's even said a couple of times that he wished he drew it himself, so that's how special it is.




Wonder Woman #46 dealt with teenage suicide, and I must admit, when I first read it back in, I think, 1994, I didn't really get it. This was a superhero comic -- where was the action? Where was Wonder Woman? She was barely there. But reading it now touched me on a number of levels. I never even read the issues of Wonder Woman leading up to this, and yet it was still able to affect me significantly. (Oh, for the days of self-contained comics...)

This isn't the first issue of Perez's Wonder Woman that dealt with suicide; that would be issue #20, "Who Killed Myndi Mayer?", which is a more famous tale. However, while that story is more of a well-done whodunit with a twist ending, this one deals with the vortex of the suicide - of the people and environment surrounding teenage Lucy Spears.

Lucy Spears is the popular girl in school, though she sometimes hangs out with Vanessa Kapatelis, the daughter of Julia Kapatelis and Wonder Woman's housemate at the time. Like the typical "popular girl," she appears disdainful of those around her, and treats Vanessa shabbily in front of the other popular girls. As far as anyone can see, she's got the perfect life.

And then one day, she just kills herself. And the entirety of the book alternates between flashbacks and scenes of the characters trying to make sense of why someone so young would kill herself.

Sometimes, there is no sense to be made of it, as Queen Hippolyta tells he daughter Diana:


I must confess to having a personal stake in this theme, especially with the recent hijinks involving mental illness during our recent election period. The truth is, mental illness and depression aren't jokes, and sometimes they fly in the face of all reason, which is something that people need to be made aware of -- we can have "special" episodes on TV about HIV and whatnot, but the issue of depression is still very much neglected. As a result, people are unaware of its effects or its symptoms. I say kudos to George Perez for bringing it out in the open.

One scene that really got me is when Wonder Woman decides to talk to Mr. and Mrs. Spears after they yell at Vanessa and tell her that she was responsible for Lucy's death. To someone who's never encountered the Spears family before, it may just seem like they were the stereotypical parents who didn't shower their baby with enough love and weren't willing to accept the responsibility for what happened. And yet, when Diana shows up, Mrs. Spears breaks down and tells her that they always treated Lucy well. The following panel, in particular, broke my heart.




Jill Thompson's art here is solidly inked by the one and only Romeo Tanghal, and provides thicker lines than those that the people whose only exposure to her work is Sandman: Brief Lives are used to. I think they captured the motion perfectly, and the solid lines ground it in a very real setting.


"You think we spoiled her. That we gave our kid everything but love. Well, we gave Lucy everything and love," says Mrs. Spears. A truly touching, revealing line - one that shows us that the workings of the human brain are always complex, always unpredictable, and no matter how much power someone has - even a superhero - that no one can have all the answers.

But we can all try.

Wonder Woman #46 is available on eBay for as low as $2.00 plus shipping. As for me, I picked it up off a quarter bin several years ago. It's not worth much, but it's quality storytelling in a self-contained issue. And comics need more of that.

1 comment:

Daisy said...

Nice one. I'm going to have to keep an eye out for it.

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