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Two Steps Forward, One Step Back with Superheroines

Silly, idealistic me. Some part of me hoped with Wonder Woman‘s inarguable success that writing for our favorite lady superheroes would finally take a turn. This was coming off the news that DC Comics had also booked a woman to pick up Greg Rucka’s mantle on Wonder Woman Rebirth and on the heels of Jessica Cruz’s triumphant hero moments in Green Lanterns and Justice League.

I should have known better. Last week the news broke that Wonder Woman Rebirth would only feature Shea Fontana for a handful of issues before bringing on a new team, and written by James Robinson, that would spend several months on Diana’s conveniently long lost, superpowered twin brother. We followed that with Marvel rolling out their decidedly underwhelming announcement for their Rebirth rip-off Legacy launch. With the meh response at supposedly fancy covers Marvel thought would dazzle us came news that the old guard would be taking their “rightful” places again in the Marvel pantheon.

What does that mean? Well, it’s yet another relaunch of titles and another wave of expensive #1 issues. But it also means that Jennifer Walters, who had finally earned the right to have a Hulk solo issue is going to be punted back to She-Hulk. (PoC Amadeus Cho is being packed off to Planet Hulk.) It means that Sam Wilson, the current Captain America who isn’t a Nazi (it’s confusing, we know) is being relegated from Captain status back down to Falcon. And it means that Thor aka Jane Foster of which Marvel once proudly trotted out would be the first female Thor, is flat out DYING.

How did we fall so far?

At least on Marvel’s end we know already that they believe diversity just doesn’t sell. Furthermore, it’s not the first time Jane has been killed. And after many of their writers spent months deriding the DC Comics Rebirth initiative, Marvel seems to be trying their own hand with Legacy, while completely missing the point of Rebirth. Rebirth is about bringing back hope and wonder to DC heroes. It’s the same hope and wonder that made Wonder Woman stand out so starkly against her fellow DCEU installments and resonate so strongly with audiences.

Marvel is putting on a show of “back to basics”, but instead of taking chances with characters like Rebirth did, it’s rolling back the clock to largely default, white staples. Where DC Comics ended the nihilistic world of New52 and acknowledged what their readers were complaining about, Marvel has doubled down on Secret Empire and a traitorous Nazi of a world dictator named Steve Rogers, aka Captain HYDRA America.

But DC Comics, I finally trusted you again. I was a hardcore Marvel woman for years, and your Rebirth launch has made even Batman tolerable, if not enjoyable for me. So the news about Wonder Woman’s secret brother is… what?

I asked around to former colleagues and comic critics on what they thought of the news and storyline. One of my fellow critics, Adam Sorice managed to put into words what was sitting so uncomfortably for me.

“I do find it interesting/utterly dismaying that male comic book writers’ approach to Wonder Woman seems to be, ‘gee this character has a whole origin story with no men in it… let’s add some!’ It very much feels like a patriarchal panic to the radical feminism of Diana’s origins.”

And this is why I and others were left side-eyeing DC for this decision. First of all, there have been boys on Themiscyra before. Secondly, the timing is just not good. Yes, Geoff Johns introduced the idea of Jason some years ago. But it was never followed up on. So they decided now, of all times, to focus on Diana’s super secret twin brother right after the movie came out and drew in accolades across the globe for how empowering it was for women?

Look, tentpole heroes get “derivative” characters. The problem is that most of them are not given the focus and power and attention that their staple counterparts are. Supergirl was a punchline to Superman for years before she was killed and kept out of existence. A non-Kara Zor-El was brought in and was made a sexual plaything of Lex Luthor, before merging with a human and then being a punching bag for demons. Power Girl was brought in and given one of the most infamous sexualized costumes this side of Marvel’s Dagger that we were supposed to take seriously. And when Kara did finally make her return, she was written as an unreasonable and moodly little edgelord who was so angry she became a Red Lantern. This isn’t even counting the various time’s writers had Supergirl hooking up with Comet the Super-horse.

It wasn’t until Greg Berlanti and Ali Adler repackaged Supergirl for her eponymous television show that we were finally given a solid origin story and a hero we could show our friends and not have a mile long list of apologisms at the ready for.

Or take a look at Batman. Yes, we have Batgirl, Batwoman, Nightwing, and Batman Beyond now. But how many years did they languish in his looming shadow? Even now they still do (Kate has some exception to this).

Look at the Teen Titans and Titans. Rebirth was fantastic for these characters to finally get their moment in the sun after being spin-offs of their tentpole counterparts for so long. Except for Donna Troy. Donna, you deserve so much better.

But with Wonder Woman, we’re immediately being told or implied to that Jason is every bit the superpowered being Diana is, and he’s her long-lost twin brother to boot. This is just… not a good look under normal circumstances.

This isn’t even bringing in James Robinson’s checkered history as the writer for this character and arc. Some of you might remember the small kerfuffle back in 2015 with Robinson’s Image title, Airboy #2. Full disclosure, I used to run the site that broke the story. We were met by a backlash after calling for Image to pull the title (I assure you, the transmisogyny was THAT bad), and it was only when GLAAD got involved that Robinson issued an apology.

I am the last person to want to assume someone can’t be sincerely apologetic and learn from their mistakes and be better. But that doesn’t mean I have to forget, or not be anxious that this is the storyline he’s going to be spearheading, and about a queer woman to boot.

I had hope comics would get better for female fans. With the news that’s come out this late in June, that hope has severely dimmed.


Image courtesy of Warner Bros.

Kori
Written By

Kori is an entertainment writer and Managing Editor at the Fandomentals. In her spare time, she is a Buckaroo Banzai enthusiast, lover of Eurovision, and Yanni devotee.

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