Hippolyta’s Secret Models

WONDER WEDNESDAY

On Wednesdays I look at various chapters in Wonder Woman’s history. Click here for previous installments, including Greg Rucka’s run, the earliest 1940s comics, and the current “New 52” era.

What fresh heck is this?

Ame-Comi Girls featuring Wonder Woman #1, DC Comics, December 2012.

By Sam Hurwitt

I don’t know what the heck this is. I walked into my local comic shop on Wednesday and was greeted with this cover that I not only didn’t recognize but couldn’t even make sense of: “Ame-Comi Girls featuring Wonder Woman,” the cover reads. “The women of the DCU…reimagined!” Mind you, the entire DCU (that’s DC Universe) was reimagined a little over a year ago, so it seems a little soon to reimagine it yet again, but this is clearly some alternate new Wonder Woman running side-by-side with the main new Wonder Woman that we’re still getting to know.

But what the heck is Ame-Comi Girls? What could that name possibly mean? Is it some attempt to appeal to teenage girls, which would be a welcome thing because DC’s “New 52” relaunch of its entire line of comics left little room for anything that wasn’t grim and gritty. Even last month’s much-anticipated relaunch of Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld (written by the creator of Jem, no less) maintained that same tone and apparent target demographic of young males.

Well, I looked it up, and apparently Ame-Comi Girls is a weekly digital comic that’s been running since May, something I’d probably know if I ever read digital comics, which I don’t. The name, I’m guessing, might be short for American Comics. Maybe. But what is it? According to DC Comics’ website:

AME-COMI GIRLS, launching in May, is based on the best-selling product line from DC Collectibles that brings the distinct Japanese influence of anime and manga to DC Comics’ female heroines and their foes. In the new series, the heroines must unite to stop an invasion by the female Braniac, who is aided by a group of ‘bad girl’ super villains. Initially, there will be five individual character arcs with multiple chapters, leading up to united, Ame-Comi girl series. All stories are written by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray with Wonder Woman art by Amanda Conner and Tony Akins, Batgirl art by Sanford Greene, Duela Dent art by Ted Naifeh, Power Girl art by Mike Bowden and Supergirl art by Santi Casas.

Now, OK, it would be nice if the DC copywriters could spell “Brainiac” correctly, but let’s leave that aside. Well, um, girls like manga, right? Just to see what all this is about, I googled pictures of the Ame-Comi line of figurines.

From the side her back is as swayed as half a donut. And what on earth is she wearing?

OK, so it’s essentially cutesy stripper versions of DC heroes and villains, the toy equivalent of “Sexy Batgirl” Halloween costumes—and boy, have the cosplayers picked up on them. (You can look that one up for yourselves, pervs.) So maybe not so much for girls as for, um, aficionados.

Well, let’s see what they did with another powerful warrior demigoddess, Big Barda. Oh, good LORD!

But what does that translate to in comics form? It’s an ongoing series based entirely on the women of the DC Universe, plus female versions of certain male characters. (The above-mentioned Duela Dent, based on a relatively obscure character called “the Joker’s daughter,” is the Joker of this series.) So it’s got that going for it, which is nice.

The creative team for this first issue is a huge draw, too. Writing team Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray’s ongoing Jonah Hex stories are terrific, and they’ve done great work with female leads before in Daughters of the Dragon and Power Girl. Better still, the Wonder Woman installment is drawn by the always fantastic Amanda Conner, who’s married to Palmiotti and collaborated with the team on Power Girl and Terra. (I really wanted to like the trio’s current Phantom Lady and Doll Man miniseries and really, really don’t, but they can’t all be winners.)

The good news is that it’s a fun comic with an interesting alternate take on Wonder Woman. The figurine line presumably have no stories associated with them till now, which gives some freedom to reinvent without worrying too much about canon. And the story here is indeed different from the official variations on Wonder Woman’s origins seen so far.

First of all, this is a younger-acting Wonder Woman than we’re used to. Princess Diana is an arrogant teenager, or acts like one anyway, itching for combat and training for it whenever her mother’s back is turned.

How will all this sparring help you earn your MRS. degree, little missy?

We first see her fighting off a trio of minotaurs that she’s enlisted to spar with her. Weirdly enough, one of them taunts her, “That sharp tongue will not land you a suitable husband!” which is bizarre on several levels. First of all, the whole “landing a husband” concept is so deeply rooted in a nantiquitated view of womanhood, that a woman’s greatest aspiration in life should be to convince a man to marry her and support her. Second, Amazons live a secluded existence on an island with no men for anyone to marry, ever.  I guess the minotaurs are male, but that’s about it. Until now, that is.

In most versions of Wonder Woman’s story, pilot Steve Trevor crash-lands off the island of Themyscira’s shores and the Amazons have to nurse him back to health and return him to “Man’s World.” Through a tournament a champion is chosen to act as the Amazons’ representative, and Diana wins despite her mother having forbidden her to compete. This time pretty much none of that happens.

In this version, Themyscira’s isolation is disturbed not by a stray pilot but by a full-scale invasion force from the nation of Kasnia. Steve Trevor’s safe at home, briefing the president on what they know about Themyscia, which is mostly legends because the island’s protected by magnetic fields and sea monsters—but also satellite images with heat signatures because it’s the freaking 21st century. You’d think they’d be able to get pretty clear photographs from satellites in this day and age as well, but we have to preserve a little mystery. The Americans know about the imminent attack too, but decide it’s none of their business.

I just love how this bit riffs on the style of ancient Greek pottery.

For Diana, it’s the moment she’s been waiting for. Her mother, Queen Hippolyta (who’s black-haired again, while the current New 52 version is a blonde), demands that the princess stay safe, far from the combat, but of course she leaps into battle at the earliest opportunity. The men are armed with guns and grenades while the native carry swords and spears, but they’re not legendary warriors for nothing.

Off with their heads!

And naturally there are beheadings and people exploding with blood as they’re split down the middle with an ax—and it’s Wonder Woman herself doing all that chopping-up of people—because you can’t have a mainstream DC Comic in the early 21st century without gratuitous gore, even in an ostensibly more lighthearted comic. It’s just not allowed. But yeah, again, not particularly targeted at girls.

On the plus side, it’s nice that she has a hobby.

The Amazons slaughter the crap out of the invaders, but Hippolyta knows there will be more. It’s no longer safe for Themyscira to remain isolated, she concludes. They must make alliances with the world of men. “We shall align with the strongest, most democratic nation,” she says, and she drafts Diana to act as their ambassador. Far from volunteering, Diana is appalled.

As one saving grace, when we first see Diana in the ridiculously skimpy bikini that her Ame-Comi version wears that she’s stuck with as a result, she’s yelling about what sexist bullshit it is that she has to parade around in it. Or, um, maybe. It seems like she might be simply objecting to its American iconography, but that wouldn’t make any sense because it has all the same symbols that she was already wearing in her Amazon battle gear at home, only with even less clothing to put it on. Anyway tough titty, her mom tells her—you’re wearing it.  (And she does mean titty.)

Diana is adorable, more despite what she’s wearing than because of it.

In man’s world, Diana quickly meets the president, showing up in her skimpy bikini on the white house lawn in the middle of the night, a Pegasus by her side. (And oh my god, I just noticed that her boots aren’t even boots anymore—they’re just cross-gartered leg straps, with red hose only on one leg. That’s hilarious.) She quickly gets to address the United Nations, asking—well, actually demanding—recognition as a new nation, with Steve acting as her charming handler. And what would a superhero address to the UN be without being interrupted by a supervillain attack?

“Sit down, you waste of skin” needs to be a T-shirt.

You couldn’t ask for a less threatening-looking villain, though. She’s some kind of buxom orange teenage catgirl in skimpy rags, throwing animal skulls and wearing giant furry paw gloves.

I still can’t get over Diana’s ridiculous one-stocking look.

Aside from her silly outfit, she actually looks surprisingly like Stealth from the L.E.G.I.O.N. comics of the 1990s.

I’m not wrong.

I don’t know what the heck she’s supposed to be—a new Cheetah? I guess so, because that’s what Wondy calls her at the end of their fight, and when we cut to a cabal of female supervillains, that what they call her too. You could say that Diana somehow intuited that that was her name, but a simpler explanation is that Palmiotti and Gray just forgot to have Cheetah introduce herself. The midfight banter is pretty rudimentary—the sort of thing you might find in the Spidey Super Stories kids’ comics of the 1970s. (That’s not necessarily a criticism. I loved those things.) My favorite is “Does your ignornance hold no bounds?” Um, I wouldn’t throw stones if you call it “ignornance,” Diana. Here we also learn that she still has her unbreakable Lasso of Truth, but we saw other lassos back home that looked exactly like it, so I’m not sure whether it’s still unique in this version or standard-issue.

At the end there’s a bit with the Bat-villains, just to tie it in with the next installment in Ame-Comi Batgirl #1, with the same writing team but different artists. This first issue is certainly strong enough for me to pick up a second but I’m not sure that my curiosity is piqued enough to check out the whole line, particularly with such dubious source material, but I am a big Batgirl fan, so I’ll at least flip through the next one.

I don’t know the other artists well enough to say anything about them one way or another, but it’s a pity that Conner is only doing the Wonder Woman one, because her art is delightful throughout. Her slightly cartoony style keeps the mood much lighter than the same text would be with a grittier artist. There’s no discernible manga influence aside from, inevitably, some of the character designs, particularly the new Cheetah. Certainly there’s some cheesecake—there can’t help but be with the designs this comic is based on—but Conner is awfully good at making women look sexy and powerful and human at the same time. No ridiculous back-breaking poses here; these are women of action, and packed with personality and emotion. Really, Amanda Conner on Wonder Woman—even a stripperized Wonder Woman—is sufficient reason to follow this particular series. That the tone of Gray and Palmiotti’s dialogue works so well with it is icing on the cake. Sweet, sweet icing.

 

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Comments
  1. Travis Pelkie

    10 / 22 / 2012 2:19 am

    Nice write up. I dug this issue as well (as I said on the Burgas WIB where I clicked here from), as it’s fun AND cheesecake-y. And bloody, that’s fun too :)

    Ame-Comi — I’m not sure exactly what it means, but I think it’s one of those Japanese terms that sorta-kinda comes from American pronunciation of words — you’re probably right that it’s the Japanese way of indicating “American Comics”.

    Maybe the “won’t land you a husband” bit is because the Minotaurs are a patriarchal society, and that’s how they think. They are men, though, and they’re on the island, so how do dat work?

    That outfit is a riot, though. “You’re horribly spoiled and arrogant, so wear LESS clothing than what you wear now so no one pays attention to what you’re saying.” Really, this Diana is NOT a good ambassador type.

    Y’know, I don’t think Conner actually drew the one-stocking bit ever. Maybe that’s where she drew the line, dammit!

    And one other thing: Don’t blame Conner for that Phantom Lady $#!t. She only drew the cover of the first issue, which has been the best thing about that horrible, horrible comic. I believe the artist is Cat Staggs, who does an ok job, but oh god, what a terrible comic! And I bought #2 even though #1 sucked ass!!! It’s amazing how bad it is, given how good Palmiotti and Gray are on almost everything else. I think they’re saving it all for Creator Owned Heroes (#5 of that features a Conner interview as well, and it’s a good book to boot).

    Ok, enough out of me.

    Reply

    • Sam Hurwitt

      10 / 22 / 2012 8:09 am

      Ah, but is the name a Japanese thing, or is it an American marketing department’s idea of what Japanese English sounds like? Maybe I’m way too cynical, but I’m just seeing the DC licensing department saying, “Hey, let’s call it Ame-Comi Girls! That sounds kinda Japanesey!”

      Conner did draw the one-stocking thing once on the White House lawn, I think, but man, I forgot to even mention that Tony Akins took over for the last third of the book. Bad blogger! Bad!

      And I am sooo not blaming Conner for Phantom Lady, unless it’s for enticing me to look at it in the first place. All I’m saying is that even she couldn’t class up that joint.

      I’ll have to check out Creator Owned Heroes one of these days. That title really gets right to the point!

      Reply

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