This is the week my book, Wonder Woman: Bondage and Feminism is released upon a waiting and/or unsuspecting world. I’ve got a number of posts to celebrate, all of which will be posted under the “Bound to Be Released” tag.
This is the first; an interview about Marston, Peter, gender, and feminism with Carla Speed McNeil, creator of Finder.
Noah: Are you a Wonder Woman fan of longstanding? What did (or didn’t) attract you to the character?
Carla: I’m not. I’ve only recently become attracted to super-heroes, I never really understood them as a reader. I thought they were science fiction, and since science fiction progresses from unfolding concepts (at least, the kind I enjoy does), they didn’t seem to be very GOOD science fiction. I’m getting a better grasp on them now, and I find I like the ones that have a blasting-powder mix of realism and fantasy to them, that are weird and dreamlike in ways. The closer a look I take at Wonder Woman, the more she surprises me. She turns up everywhere. I never knew until this past summer that my older sister is a huge WW fan. She’s got the look, too, maybe I’ll use her as a model if I ever draw her.
I know you’re said you’re a fan of the Marston/Peter comics. What do you like about them? Do you have a favorite Wonder Woman comic from their run, or a favorite aspect of those comics?
I like their sheer absurdity. I like their playfulness. I like the fact that Diana is superlative in many ways but is also very, very human. She may be some breed of demigoddess, but she’s also full of passions and humor. The fact that the first thing I saw her do with her lasso was to compel a dignified older Amazon to stand on her head just delights me.
She’s not above-it-all. It’s hard to write White Knights, because our definition of what constitutes a Galahad is so narrow. They’re not allowed to just do stupid things. Labeling nearly all human characteristics “flaws” and shaving them off of your paragons is like trying to make a cake having removed every ingredient.
Also, I am fond of hidden agendas. Not pamphleteering, but deeply-held beliefs and a desire to cast them into fiction. Dickens and Poe would never have written a line without them. Spider-man wouldn’t have been what he was, then or now, without Ditko, and Wonder Woman wouldn’t have existed without Marston’s agenda. He wasn’t unlike the Futurists.
There have, of course, been many other interpretations of Wonder Woman over her years. I plan on digging into them as well. But it’s wonderful to me that she has this time-of-legends quality to her early existence.
Your comic, Finder, plays with gender and drag in ways that are at least somewhat similar to what Marston and Peter are doing. How is your work similar to or different from theirs?
Wonder Woman is a “female man,” a woman from a world of women, living in “man’s world” where she exists as a cultural ambassador as well as an active, energetic person who doesn’t just stand on a box proselytizing. Although the campus evangelists would be pretty damned entertaining with her in the mix. It’s exactly the kind of thing I like to play with. I didn’t realize, when I designed Jaeger, my usual main character, how pretty I’d made him. Not until I realized that I can’t stand using any more than the least suggestion of modeling around his bottom lip, anyway– I step on my colorist all the time. “Don’t give him LIPS! I can’t take him seriously if he’s pouty!” Similarly, I created a “world of women” in the form of an extended family, a “clan,” in which all the members look vaguely like Marlene Dietrich. There are males in this family, but they all look like women too. There is a “world-of-men” clan in which there is a fairly strict division of labor; men are soldiers and cops, women are doctors and nurses. There is still another clan in which all members are attracted to their same sex, and are accustomed to marry only in same-sex pairs, making contractual arrangements for the conception, custody, and raising of children. The permutations are endless.
from Carla Speed McNeil Finder: Voice
Marston’s idealized Themyscira was populated only by women. Given how much fun she has in man’s world, I can’t think that he thought separatism was the answer. I don’t know if other Amazons left the island to do the same, and if so, how many. I definitely need to get caught up.