In this post I talked about Alan Moore’s proposal for Glory and compared it to the original Marston run. In particular I quibbled with Moore’s comment that the original WW was “coy but suggestive.”
A couple folks in comments argued that the original WW was in fact coy. Eric B. says
while they ARE certainly about bondage and the sexual thrill of S & M, they never explicitly give us that, but rather come up with a number of ways to show “sexual bondage” without actually showing them.
It’s hero-jeopardy in an action adventure. That’s coy compared to, “I want to tie you up, Wonder Woman, because it’s a hot, yummy turn-on for you, me and the old weirdo who writes us! Grrrrowl!”
Both of these comments miss the point, I think. The books are explicit. Marston is a bondage fetishist and he’s serving up bondage. If you asked Marston whether he would rather get off by looking at pictures of people who are naked and not tied up, or people who are clothed and tied up, I am quite quite sure he would tell you clothed and tied up, every time. If you asked Marsten whether he would rather show look at pictures of people clothed and tied up or pictures of people naked and having sex, I’m willing to bet he would say he would rather look at pictures of people who are clothed and tied up. If you asked him whether he would rather look at people who are naked and tied up or read an elaborate narrative about bondage and dominence which narratively requires the characters to be clothed — well, narrative fantasy is really, really important to masochists. I think WW is Marston’s erotic fantasy…not something like his erotic fantasy, not pointing to or suggesting an erotic fantasy, but his erotic fantasy, period. There’s no feeling of something held back in the WW comics; no sense that the real sensual pleasures are being deferred to heighten tension or for censorship reasons. The obsessive reiteration of a fetish isn’t coy or disingenuous. It’s a really different mindset to say with Moore, in the one case, “I’m going to cutely suggest situations which I find sexually stimulating, but hold something back” and, in the other, with Marston, to say, “I’m going to fill a book by obsessively repeating the situations– the very ones — that I find sexually stimulating.”
I think my commenters and Moore, are somewhat thrown off by the fact that they don’t share the fetish. As it happens, I don’t share the fetish either — but Marston is clear both in his other statements and in the book itself about what his intentions are.
I guess you could say, well, *Marston* may not be coy, but the reader will perceive it as coy or suggestive. I still don’t see it, though. “Coy” is about being in control — which is certainly an important aspect of Moore’s art. Obsession is about not being in control; about submitting. Marston’s WW feels obsessive in its repetition, its outlandishness, its monomania, and its philosophical integration, it doesn’t feel like he’s placing this stuff out there to tantalize *you*. It feels like he’s caught up in it; like he can’t stop and doesn’t want to. In the way he blatantly, obsessively puts his fetishes out there, he’s much more like R. Crumb than he is like Moore’s Cobweb.
Update: In other-people-who-disagree-with-me news, Bluefall has an impassioned post about the coolness of truth and how I denigrated same when I said that WW’s lasso of truth was better when it was a lasso of control. I guess in response I’d say there are truths and truths, and that the psychotherapeutic new-agey self-actualizing that seems to carry the day in WW mythos doesn’t, to my mind, have the kind of power that Bluefall claims for it.
Also — and this was my point in the original post to a great extent — it seems like any self-knowledge worth its salt would be a self-knowledge that would allow you to figure out that, “Hey, wait a minute, I’m wearing a swimsuit and bondage gear…maybe I should put some clothes on.”
Relatedly, Bluefall seems outraged that people think that WW is a ridiculous character; she sneers at those who say “”this character fails” or “she shouldn’t be popular” like that’s actually going to make her fail or stop being popular,”
But…she can be a failure aesthetically even if some people like her…I mean, some people like anything, even Tom Petty. And moreover, she’s not especially popular. Sure, there’s a small fanbase, but it’s not big even by the standards of comic-book super-heroes. She’s got nowhere near the pop-culture cachet of Superman or Batman or Spiderman or Hulk or even the Flash.
To the vast majority of people, WW isn’t even on the radar. If she is on the radar, she’s a joke. And those people are right. The character is preposterous — gloriously so, I would argue, but still. I guess that may be an uncomfortable truth to face for some…but embrace it! It will set you free, or tie you up, or something.