X-Men Goes All-Female and I Examine My Feelings For Wonder Woman

I love Wonder Woman - she's powerful and awesome and accessorises nattily with indestructible bracelets, and was originally imagined as a feminist icon. But she didn't stay that way for long.
Publish date:
February 4, 2013
comics, x-men, graphic novels, Wonder Woman

A couple of weeks ago, it was announced that Marvel, purveyors of all the best superheroes and superhero-related shizzle, would be going all lady-shaped on us, bringing out a comic book starring only female X-Men. Can I get a “awwwwwh yeahhh” over here, please? Thanks.

Now, look, let me set out my stall: I am not a huge massive comic book knowledge-haver, and I’d never pretend to be, but there was a healthy stream of Marvel and DC comics flowing through my house as a kid and the X-Men cartoon was my Saturday morning gravy.

I don’t live and breathe comic books but I do have love for them and I hold a good few close to my heart.

My favourite superhero of all time is Rogue from the X-Men. Maybe it’s because her power presents one of the most conflicted narratives of all; she leeches the power and life force out of anyone who touches her, like a super-depressing King Midas.

Why do I love Rogue so much? Maybe because, in a world where men still think it’s totally OK to manhandle, grope and assault women on a daily basis, I sometimes wish we all had that power.

But hey, this is an upbeat piece, so let’s not get bogged down in how much I’d love to turn all street pervs into empty, dead husks. It would be awesome, though.

The teaser cover for the all-female X-Men book reveals that we can expect some serious ass-kickery from an all-woman, racially diverse cast of Rogue, Storm, Jean Grey, Psylocke, Jubilee and Kitty Pryde.

The writer in charge, Brian Wood, is pretty pumped about the whole thing: "I've always written female characters, going all the way back to my first book ever, and I'm known for it. But that aside, the X-Men are full of truly excellent female characters. I would say that on balance, the women rule the men in the x-world, hands down.”

I’m pumped, too, because I always felt like the female X-Men were the backbone of that particular mythology, and I feel like finally this is some recognition that they don’t always need Cyclops and his dumb-ass laser eyes (seriously though, he’s like a buff Piggy from Lord of the Flies, all like “my glasses! My glasses!” all the time) and Wolverine with his smelly cigars and metal skull and that hairy guy who's all like “I am so out of place and look like a Beanie Baby!”.

All this thinking about the kick-ass superness of Jubilee and Rogue and co. got me to thinking, Carrie B stylee, about the first character I always think of when anyone says “female superhero”: Wonder Woman.

My relationship with Wonder Woman is very complicated. I love her, because for god’s sake, her name is WONDER WOMAN. Woman, not girl. Considering she was written in the 1940s, I think we can all agree it wouldn’t be surprising if she’d been imagined as Agreeable Dame or Flighty Broad.

She’s a good superhero because she’s super powerful and awesome and accessorises nattily with indestructible bracelets that will fuck your shit up if you cross her.

Oh, and she’s based on the real-life women that lived with comic book writer William Marston in a liberated, empowered non-monog sitch. So, it’s totally cool to see Wonder Woman as a feminist icon because that’s how she was imagined.

The thing is, she didn’t stay that way, not for long. She has to save the world whilst dressed in a freaking bustier, while Superman does it in neck-to-toe rubber glove or whatever. She joined the Justice League (yay!) as the team secretary (wait, WHAT? Fucking what?).

She’s all powerful unless a man binds her bracelets together like handcuffs. Which just has to be the most insulting, and kind of massively upsetting, superhero weakness ever.

And let’s talk about those bracelets, huh? The only reason she wears them is to ensure that her full, terrifying, Amazonian power isn’t unleashed. Basically, those bracelets are preventing her from going all rage-bitch and destroying your beanbag chair because you didn’t do the dishes.

The idea of women’s emotions being a danger, a ‘hysteria’, that needed controlling, is pure Victorian bullshit. So, you see, my relationship with Wonder Woman is conflicted, I love her because she stands for something awesome, but I hate that DC have to add in all these caveats to make her palatable.

With a Wonder Woman TV series coming out at some unspecified point in the future, I really hope that they can look to Marvel for a lead on how to make a woman-centric product that still kicks ass.

Considering the new series squeezes Adrianne Palicki into Lynda Carter’s original, ogle-tastic, bustier from the 1970s series, I think it’s doubtful we’ll be seeing much of an about turn.

Oh, and while we’re on it, it might be nice to see a whole X-Men movie that centred around Rogue or Storm or Jubilee instead of Wolverine and his sometimes-a-cigar-really-is-code-for-my-pantsausage cigars. Just a thought, guys.