Sep 2, 2015

Bullet Points: George Perez's Wonder Woman

Welcome back to the Comics Cube, and to Bullet Points, where I take a series and call out one thing per issue. Today's series is Wonder Woman by George Perez, who happens to be my favorite artist of all time. This series rebooted the Amazon princess from the ground up and gave her a fresh start in 1987.

So let's get started.

Issue 1: Three covers from this series stand out in my memory, and this is one of them.



This first issue is pretty damn cramped since Perez was working off of what was already being written at the time by the guy who was supposed to be writing this series, Greg Potter. Nevertheless, this sticks pretty close to Diana's mythical roots and we see a quick history of the Amazons, from their creation by the female goddesses and Hermes, to the mass rape at the hands of Heracles and his army, to the birth of Princess Diana, and finally to her trials to become Wonder Woman. Since it's jumping around several millennia, it's a given that certain details are skipped, so it's a bit surprising when her Amazon sister Philippus pulls out the weapon of the flashing thunder.



Issue 2:  Diana's magic lasso of truth is made by Hephaestus the blacksmith. That provides a nice mythical touch.



Issue 3: Diana heads to Boston to take Steve Trevor, who fell on Themyscira, home, and she meets Julia and Vanessa Kapatelis. This is her first time seeing women who are not of the same physical age as she is (even though she's chronologically the youngest Amazon), and presumably also the first time she experiences the insecurities girls feel. Nessie is visibly unnerved by the sight of a beautiful woman living with them.



Issue 4: Diana doesn't know English at the start of the series, but quickly learns. At one point, she says "If one listens, one learns." That's cool.


Issue 5: This is more gruesome than I'd have expected from an 80s comic, then I remembered the 80s were pretty gruesome and I'm remembering it with rose-tinted glasses. I wonder if gods' lives are just not seen in the same light as humans', in the sense that Diana is more eager to resort to the kill.


Issue 6: Though my favorite artist, Perez is not what I would call a great costume designer. Ares is an exception to this rule. Here he is getting tied up by Diana's lasso, which then unleashes its full power, showing him what war truly leads to and making him give up his quest. I remember thinking that's a really cool use of the lasso, but I don't think I've seen it used that way since.


Issue 7: Diana running a publicity campaign is great. And it's pretty funny that she's on the cover of Ms. Magazine. In the real world, she was the first cover girl for Ms. Magazine, so I wonder how that particular publication evolved in the DC Universe.


Issue 8: Here we have Diana praying nude. I'm a little too immersed into the hobby to see this as anything other than Perez just wanting Diana to be nude at some point.


Issue 9: This is the only issue where the Cheetah shows up in Perez's run, which is strange to me since I'd have thought she's right in Perez's wheelhouse for drawing. This issue also showed how formidable the Cheetah is, something I always wondered about since obviously Diana has so many more powers. But the Cheetah is quicker, faster, and more relentless.


Issue 10: On the left is DC's Zeus being a dick. On the right is Marvel's Zeus being a dick. And that's all I'm going to say.


Issue 11: I'm not usually a fan of overexplanations, and the 80s was especially full of such things, like John Byrne explaining that Superman can carry stuff while he's flying because he has a telekinetic field around him. I prefer some things to go unexplained unless the explanation adds to the magic. Perez's retcon that the gun from issue 1 came from the first time someone not from Themyscira landed on the island, and that person just happened to be Diana Trevor, Steve Trevor's mother, explained three different things in one go (why she's named Diana, the connection Steve and Diana feel, and why Diana wears the American flag) and is one of those overexplanations I enjoy. That Steve/Diana connection is particularly important to not leave unexplained, since in this continuity, Steve and Diana are not lovers.


Issue 12: Reading these in one go is fun, but even back then, the need to tie in to events, in this case Millennium, just left some things up to your imagination and derailed the focal story of the title. As much as I complain that Loki: Agent of Asgard continually got derailed by the events it was tying into, making for a jarring trade-paperback-reading experience, it was happening even thirty years ago. (Although I guess Perez never made these with the thought that it'd be collected.)


Issue 13: The idea that Hippolyta (it's spelled Hippolyte throughout this run, but she was Hippolyta when I was introduced to the character, so that's how it's going to stay) feels enough sympathy to save the man who raped her when he's clearly suffering is a good way to show the Amazon value of compassion.



Issue 14: However, the whole idea of Hippolyta eventually developing feelings for the man who raped her makes me really uneasy, even if he is a changed man.



This, by the way, is the second of the three covers from this series that stick out in my mind. I love happy Diana.


Issue 15: This is the first issue of Wonder Woman I ever read, the first time I ever saw George Perez, and the first time I saw a George Perez Superman. I fell down a DC Comics rabbit hole that has been close to impossible to get out of.


Issue 16: Diana and Clark setting up a date is adorable.


Action Comics 600: The Wonder Woman/Superman romance storyline went to Action Comics #600, penciled by Byrne and inked by Perez, and it was pretty much the perfect mix, since Superman looked like Byrne's and Wonder Woman looked like Perez's. Their romance storyline also ended with this issue, with Superman deciding he was too small-town for Diana. I actually think this storyline could have gone on slightly longer. Close to thirty years later, the New 52 Superman and Wonder Woman would get into a romance, and post-Crisis fans would go berzerk over its existence, which is like post-Crisis fans getting mad at the New 52 for simply existing as a reboot.

And yes, I think Superman had that kind of dream. The 80s were weird, man.


Issue 17: Apparently being nude while doing stuff and wearing their slave bracelets is just an Amazon thing. Or, a Perez thing. Whatever.


Issue 18: "Our faiths share common themes: peace, love, understanding. With such similarities, can't we, for now, overlook the differences?" You tell 'em, Diana.


Issue 19: I never really understood the need to put Circe in battle armor or fighting costumes as future creators would do, since she doesn't really do any hand to hand combat. This particular costume, if it can even be called that, shows Circe as a beautiful young woman who revels in showing her body, which highlights the contrast to her old, ugly soul.

This is not the third cover that sticks out to me, by the way; it's just the best picture of Circe from the issue.


Issue 20: "Who Killed Myndi Mayer?" is one of the two comics written by Perez that deals with suicide, and the other one, not drawn by Perez, entitled "Chalk Drawings," is better for my money. Where "Chalk Drawings" deals with the vortex created by suicide, this one deals with the mystery of how Myndi died. It's narrated by Inspector Eddie Indelicato, who likes to pretend he's a writer, and the utter weight of the story is completely undermined by this panel. Look, I get it, Wonder Woman's hot. But there's a way to do this kind of description. When the series started, Perez wasn't comfortable actually putting words together and had Len Wein script. At this point, Perez was writing 100%.



Issue 21: This kicks off a subplot involving the gods leaving the Amazons, and Hermes isn't happy with it. Because we need a subplot about Hermes.



Issue 22: This issue is about the Amazons allowing outsiders onto Themyscira, and has the third and last of the covers that stick out to me.



Annual: This annual was a jam piece with different Amazons telling different stories. And one of the stories is drawn by Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez. The Garcia-Lopez/Perez comparison is one of my go-to comparisons to show that you can like one thing more than something you think is better. I think Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez is a better artist and storyteller than George Perez, marginally.. I like George Perez better. Also marginally.



The second story in the annual is Myndi Mayer's video will, which shows a much softer side of the publicity shark than we saw when she was alive. This last tribute to Diana is nicely written.




Issue 23: Here's Hermes coming to Earth deciding that he wants to be a worshipped god again, because Hermes is a great character and we clearly need more of him like we need more LeBron James championships. Anyway, a nice touch of all this is that Diana finds it really hard to say no to one of her gods.



Issue 24: And in this last Perez-drawn issue, we see hints that Hermes is falling in love with Diana, because, yes, we need that. This was a good time to stop.



George Perez kept writing Wonder Woman for a while after this, but aside from issue #46, "Chalk Drawings," which I only really got a copy of because it was in one of those three-comic bundles from back in the day, I didn't read any of those issues. The next time I saw Diana again was in Grant Morrison's JLA, which stated that she had moved to Gateway City and the supporting cast was almost completely new. Perez came back to draw the first story in the anniversary issue #600.

Issue 600: This starts off with the kind of art people buy a Perez book for, a good old-fashioned crowd shot.


And ends with tender moments, in this case, Vanessa's graduation.




A nice capper to Perez's contributions to the character.

2 comments:

Lee Winters said...

Perez work was acclaimed , but some of the themes he put in the book caused diana to eventually become quite unlikeable. The rape, the anti male behaviour, the gay themes. Not to mention, these gods are mass murderers.

Duy Tano said...

How does the rape make Diana unlikable? When did Diana exhibit anti-male behavior? And how would gay themes make Diana unlikable?

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