Wonder Woman has been around for almost 75 years, and yet there has only been one live action tv show in all of that time. Compare that to the multiple film and television adaptations for her two best known team mates – Superman and Batman, and it makes you really “wonder” if there is inherently something about this character that makes it hard to translate to any sized screen.
So first, let’s break down her plot elements
- Super Powers (strength, speed, etc.)
- Greek mythology background (amazon princess)
- Adapting to man’s world (no dudes on her island)
- Spiffy boyfriends (Steve Trevor or Superman)
- Cool Gadgets (magic lasso, bullet proof bracelets, invisible aircraft)
- Demanding mom (Her mother is Queen of the amazons)
- Military double identity (Don’t ask, Don’t tell that you are a super hero)
Sounds like a lot of material to work with, and that is just what they did when they made the mostly successful Wonder Woman TV series in the 1970’s, and causing a relatively unknown actress named Lynda Carter to be forever linked to the character. But that series ended almost forty years ago, and film or television projects since then have had a hard time getting off the ground. There must be some good reasons for this, so let’s look back further at this surprisingly complicated heroine.
First introduced in the December issue of All Star Comics in 1941, Princess Diana from Paradise Island quickly became a comic mainstay -and her solo comic has been continuously published since; except for a brief period during the early 80’s. But after the early 1940’s, Wonder Woman comics have rarely had stellar sales. She is much more valuable to DC comics for merchandising reasons than for comic book sales.
But does poor comic sales translate to poor tv ratings or movie ticket sales? Probably not. Guardians of the Galaxy was a moderate to poor seller as a comic book in the early 2000’s, and virtually unknown to anyone who doesn’t regularly visit a comic book shop. Yet the movie made buckets of money for Marvel Comics anyway.
Some people would say that it is impossible to define a core Wonder Woman personality. Is she a bad-ass amazon warrior? Is she an ambassador of peace? Her comic book portrayals have often been contradictory, and 74 years with different writers is a lot to pour through.
But the personality argument just doesn’t pan out. Batman’s campy show from the 1960’s is completely different in tone from the more modern takes in both the Tim Burton films and the Christopher Nolan trilogy – yet it was incredibly successful for its time. It isn’t a matter of sifting through conflicting character elements – it is just a matter of picking something and going with it.
Another argument might be that there just aren’t any good Wonder Woman stories, so how can you adapt anything?
Batman has “the Dark Knight Returns” and “The Killing Joke”.
Superman has “Death of Superman” and “Whatever happened to the Man of Tomorrow.”
These are classic story lines that made the news, as in real national newspapers.
Many detractors would say that Wonder Woman doesn’t have the same rich story material.
This argument is obviously ridiculous, 74 years are a lot of stories, with a lot of story to choose from.
So let’s get to the iconic WW stories. Wonder Woman has, umm… let’s see, she was de-powered once in the 1960’s and taught kung fu by a blind sensei.
I guess that counts? Probably not, so this is will have to go down as a valid reason.
And the last argument i will mention, which is often stated, is that a hero is only as good as his villains. Batman has the Joker, Catwoman, The Penguin, The Riddler. Everyone has heard of them! Superman has Lex Luthor, Bizarro, Braniac – also well known.
So what amazing villains make up WW’s rogue gallery?
Well, get ready to be dazzled! Wonder Woman has The Cheetah! And that is kind of it. There is someone called Angle Man, who has rulers or something, and a few gods that don’t like her, but otherwise no villains that have really caught on. So that is another valid one, i am afraid.
So here is the verdict: Wonder Woman is hard to adapt because she lacks good storylines, and she has lame villains. So that is my comic book question and answer of the week! Stay tuned for future ramblings.