Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Dear DC, Please Publish More Wonder Woman Comics Like This One

So the other day I was going through the July DC Comics solicitations for work, when I noticed that they're publishing an honest to goodness Wonder Woman comic for little girls that month: DC Comics Presents: Wonder Woman Adventures #1.

I couldn't help but comment on how this is pretty great...But it's also kind of strange.

This is a reprint containing four issues of the late '90s series Adventures in the DC Universe, which was an oddball little series. It launched in 1997 shortly after "Superman: The Animated Series" and its comic tie-in started expanding Bruce Timm's "Batman: The Animated Series" setup onscreen and off. But with no TV precedent set for a lot of the DC heroes, Adventures in the DC Universe ended up being a weird DCAU/DCU mash-up. When someone from the Batman or Superman shows appeared up in the series, they'd be consistent with their onscreen appearances. When anyone else showed up, they'd be consistent with whatever was going on in the DC Comics of the day.

This made for a few head-scratcher stories, such as issue #16 (which I have in my apartment somewhere) where Green Lantern Kyle Rayner and Green Arrow Connor Hawke starred in a kid-friendly spiritual sequel to Denny O'Neil and Neal Adams' iconic "Speedy Does Heroin" story.

Luckily, Wonder Woman wasn't in one of her leather jacket phases then. So the comics being reprinted in July star pretty much the classic Wonder Woman – the character that also appears on any number of t-shirts, coffee mugs and Halloween costumes sold by Warner Bros. Consumer Products every year.

Now, when I first saw this book I had to put on my Graeme McMillan speculation hat and wonder exactly who greenlit this series and whether or not DC sees it as a way to test the waters on more WW material for girls. I really doubt that, because you figure they would have promoted this SOMEWHERE if its sales performance would at all impact future publishing launches. But wishful thinking has me hoping someone at DC is talking about doing this...because it would be SO radical if they actually did.

Pound for pound, "A Wonder Woman comic you can give to a little girl" is the #1 thing I hear from retailers/parents/comic readers-in-general when discussing obvious comic projects they'd like see. It is just such a basic "They should be doing this" observation. And I'm not one of those people who likes to go around the internet looking at daydream pitches for comics starring teen reporter Lois Lane or manga-esque Wonder Woman saying, "I'd buy that and it would do really well." Because I'm not sure I would, and I AM sure that those comics wouldn't sell huge numbers at launch. But you've got to think SOMEONE would buy a kid-friendly Wonder Woman comic at some point along the distribution/platform chain.

I mean, okay, posting the above picture of a totally adorable little girl in a Wonder Woman costume standing in front of a totally gross picture of Catwoman on all fours licking up milk is a cheap tug to the heartstrings on this issue. I know it is. And I don't want to make this a blog post decrying things like the New 52 Wonder Woman series or DC's Wonder Woman output in general. I've only read a few issues of the latest book, and I think that taking the gore of Greek myth and twisting it into the WW mythos with an eye towards horror is a perfectly valid direction for the character. It might be fun, I don't know!

But for real, that photo illustrates a valid point at the same time. Wonder Woman is used to sell products to little girls – often via their moms and grandmas who grew up on a kid-friendlier set of comic books and the TV show. And the comics that get put out are never consistent with that image. I don't make an absolute or moral judgement on that. I think there can be room for all sorts of Wonder Woman comics, and I'm happy to have DC continue to make them for fans of the "serious" superhero universe that comprises its main line. I just don't think that kind of product and a kids product are mutually exclusive concepts.

Speaking from personal experience, I know that my sister-in-law has literally dozens of Wonder Woman products around the house for herself and some for my niece LuLu as well. But not one of those products is a comic book. And LuLu LOVES comics! She goes to bed every night reading my brother's old Garfield collections, she devours Archie Digests, and this weekend she flipped when I brought here a stack of FCBD books including Peanuts, Tinkerbell, Yo Gabba Gabba! and The Simpsons. But until July comes, I'll have no Wonder Woman comics to give her, no matter how happy that would make her and her mom. The reason is simply because there's been almost no basic kid-friendly WW material created since the early 1980s.

In fact, the whole DC Comics Presents format was created to collect material that isn't substantial enough by volume to justify a full trade. And what that means is that DC doesn't actually have enough Wonder Woman material suitable for little girls that they can put out a trade collection. Actually, even the four issues in the upcoming reprint aren't ALL Wonder Woman stories. One is the series debut, which focused on the whole Justice League, and amongst the stories reprinted is a short Batman Vs. Poison Ivy piece. That makes for less than three single comic books starring Wonder Woman. Compare that to the fact that since DC started doing kid-friendly superhero books in the early '90s, they've published hundreds of Batman comics, hundreds of Teen Titans comics, over 100 Superman comics and over 100 Justice League comics.

While that's a little depressing in its own right, it also makes it harder for DC to place Wonder Woman as a character in the kid-friendly initiatives they've already got going. For example, recently the kids book publisher Capstone Press, whose Stone Arch imprint did a fine job teaming with Art Baltazar on a series of DC Pets chapter books, signed a deal to release library bound collections of DC kids comics for educational and mass market distribution. And as you can see from that link, all the 100+ issue franchises I mentioned above have entries in Capstone's launch scheme. Wonder Woman doesn't.

But all hope is not lost!! Like I said, I think DC publishing even this one mini collection is a very positive step and something we should give them a collective internet high five for. And even though there are scarcely any more Wonder Woman comics from recent years to represent (ignoring the question of new books for little girls), I think there are just enough issues around for them to do another collection like the one shipping in July. If you take the comics from the Justice League Unlimited series (which I remember Adam Beechen doing a fine job on back in the day) that focus on Wonder Woman in total, you'd have the promising-looking issue above as well as this one with Deadman, this one with the Royal Flush Gang and this one with DC's Western heroes. That's not quite as strong a start as Wonder Woman meeting Catwoman or Supergirl, but I think it's enough to make for a DC Comics Presents: Wonder Woman Adventures #2.

And hey, two issues of DC Comics Presents: Wonder Woman Adventures is practically the same thing as two Capstone Wonder Woman library collections. See what I just did there? Sure, it wouldn't mean that hundreds of thousands of little girls would suddenly know the joy of having their own awesome superhero comics to go with their Halloween costume, but it would at least ensure the character had the same chance of finding some readers in a market where the big boys of the DCU already have a head start.

After that, who knows? I know that the DC kids comics are at least 80% based on current animated series, so asking for an ongoing Wonder Woman comic out of the blue is a stretch. But if the publisher wants a shot at reaching the same little girls whose nerdy parents make them clothes out of this kind of fabric, they've got to have more material suitable for that age group to play with. It has to start somewhere. Maybe it'll start in July.


Paul D. Storrie said...

Got me all excited with the cover of JLU #20, which I wrote. Before reading the article, I thought it might be included. Ah, well.

It's not really a Wonder Woman focused issue (though she does appear extensively). It's more centered on Supergirl & Mary Marvel. Still, I like to think it's a good read for younger girls.


KP said...

No yeah, with such a dearth of Wonder Woman kids comics, I think that'd be a great fit in a second collection. With any hope, DC will commit to this kind of material even in the smallest way. Thanks for stopping by, Paul!

Joe Staton said...

When manga was so hot, and especially appealed to girls, I suggested DC might do something with the young-teen version of Green Lantern Arisia that I had done with Mike Barr. I still think this could be a perfect entrypoint book.

KP said...

Wow. That would've been AMAZING, Joe! As a kid, I had a trading card with one of your covers from the Corps era on it, and Arisia just popped out as a design. I can't imagine more little girls wouldn't want to know more about her given the chance.

Faruk Palash said...

This is very cool.I like it very much.
Spiritual Comics