J. Michael Straczynski on Wonder Woman’s new costume
“We have to remember here that when Wonder Woman was introduced in 1941, nearly 70 years ago, her outfit was designed with a 1940s sensibility. Though the skirt and heels have come and gone, it’s almost identical to what we have today. While other characters, from Batman to Superman and others throughout the DC Universe, have undergone substantial changes over the years, Wonder Woman has remained pretty much the same in appearance. (With the exception of a mod look used briefly in the 1960s…about which the less said, the better.) What woman only wears one outfit for 70 years? What woman doesn’t accessorize? And more to the point, as many women have lamented over the years…how does she fight in that thing?
“So my mission statement going into Wonder Woman was real simple: If we were to design her today, without any prior history…what would she look like?
“This is a character that is interesting enough and compelling enough to merit being in the top twenty books at minimum…so why was she languishing? The reason, I felt, was that she’d concretized over the years, had turned into this really cool Porsche that people kept in the garage because they were afraid of denting it rather than going flat-out on the open road. She had become, for lack of a better word, stuffy. She became the mom of the girl next door you wanted to date.
“This was really underscored to me when I used Wonder Woman in Brave and the Bold #33, and many were appalled that Wonder Woman told a joke…that she flirted…that she was relaxed and having fun. One podcaster said that Wonder Woman had become like his grandmother, and he didn’t like to see his grandmother being flirty.
“It seemed to me that the only way to address the situation and turn the character around was to go in prepared to make massive changes in how we think about Wonder Woman. It wasn’t going to work with half-measures. We had to be willing to go the extra mile. We had to be bold.
“So we came at this from a 21st century perspective. Visually, I wanted her to look strong and tough but still quite beautiful. Let’s give her clothes that she can fight in, that add to her presence and her strength and her power. It took a while for us to get there, precisely because we’ve all become so locked-in to how we see her character, but in time we came to a final design.
“Rather than have the W symbol all over the place on her wardrobe, I wanted to highlight it in one area and make that our statement, letting everything else feel more youthful and street-wise. The exception would be the bracelets, which would be solid on the outer side, with a stylized, almost handwritten W symbol there so that when she crosses her arms you get the full effect. And if she hits you with it, it leaves a W mark. She signs her work.
“None of this would work, however, without a strong character behind it. I wanted to free her up from the weight of a lot of her supporting universe so that we could see who she was. Guys tend to see women in terms of what role they play—mother, girlfriend, wife—instead of who they are on their own terms. But I didn’t simply want to eradicate all of it and destroy the work of those who came before me.
“So the solution was to tweak time: at some point about 20 years ago or so, the time stream was changed. Paradise Island was destroyed, and Diana as an infant was smuggled out before her mother was killed along with most of the others. She was raised by guardians sent with her, and some surviving Amazons, so she has a foot in two worlds, the urban world and the world of her people, which still exists in the shadows, underground. So we keep what makes her an Amazon but mix it up with a more modern perspective.
“Those who can see those two worlds know that something has changed, and they try to get Diana to see that, but she only knows what she’s seen and experienced.
“To solve the problem before them she must a) find out who attacked Paradise Island and why, b) stop those who are trying to kill the remaining Amazons now, c) rescue any more surviving Amazons, and d) find some way to straighten out the timeline and reconcile what was to what is. So we continue to get glimpses of Wonder Woman as she was juxtaposed against Diana as she is.
“The result—storywise and visually—is a character who is fiery, dynamic, a bit more vulnerable (she’s still working her way up to her full set of powers), tough, determined and smart and, due to her background, tragic. She keeps her roots in the Amazonian universe while growing up in a more modern setting. The result will, we hope, be a redesign that is as current with the zeitgeist of the 21st century as the original was with 1941.”