Friday, April 15, 2011

Wonder Woman

Wonder Woman is returning to TV in a new series being filmed for NBC. Superheroes have had a mixed reception on TV. Clark Kent has had a long run in his "no tights, no flights" Smallville. Heroes lasted four seasons. On the other hand, The Cape and No Ordinary Family have seen declining ratings and neither is likely to be renewed. The Bionic Woman started strong but may have set a record for audience loss.

Wonder Woman has already had some controversy. When the character was unveiled, everyone hated her new costume. Instead of blue shorts spangled with white stars, she had long blue pants and matching boots. Some people thought that the network was trying to downplay the patriotic angle. Others simply hated the vinyl look. NBC seems to have listened. Pictures taken during shooting show that her pants are a different material with a row of yellow stars down the sides and red boots. They also changed the cut so the crotch is not so tight.

Wonder Woman is one of DC's big three characters - the only three to remain in continuous publication from the Golden Age to the Silver Age. That said, she is the least of them. By the 1960s Superman and Batman each appeared in multiple comics. Wonder Woman only had the one and it was struggling by the late 1960s.

For a time DC reworked the character completely. The Amazons left our dimension. Dianna Prince stayed behind, losing her powers. She bought a "mod" boutique ("mod" was slag for the youth-oriented fashions in the 60s) and took on a second job as an undercover agent under the tutelage of a character named I Ching. That phase didn't last very long. The Amazons returned and Wonder Woman regained her powers.

There was an attempt at updating Wonder Woman for TV in the mid-1970s. This version was blond and wore a different outfit. Her bracelets were full of gimmicks. She didn't seem to have any special powers. At one point the villain asked how she got there so fast. She replied, "I have an invisible airplane." That line was the main thing proving that the producers of the movie even knew who Wonder Woman was. The pilot was boring and the fans hated this version. It made the list of 100 dumbest events in television.

They tried again with the famous Linda Carter version. This one kept the Wonder Woman mythos intact. It was set during World War II. Parts of it bordered on camp, especially the pilot, but it was played straight and the characters' earnestness played well against the war. Ratings were fairly good but the expense of doing a costume show kept ABC from renewing it. CBS picked the show up and moved it into the present (1977) where it ran for two more years.

Wonder Woman also became a feminist icon during the 1970s. A collection of Golden Age stories was published with an introduction by feminist leader Gloria Steinem stressing Wonder Woman's independence from men. This aspect was also central to the comic when it was rebooted in the 1980s by George Perez.

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