Monday, November 19, 2012

Some justice for Wonder Woman?

Over at Unleash the Fanboy, I wrote a review of a book about the Wonder Woman TV show, called Surfing Channels: Wonder Woman. Here is a brief sample:

Somewhere, on some other of the Infinite Earths, the pilot script was re-tooled, and "Wonder Woman" became a smash hit, propelling the character to pop culture superstardom. She surpassed even the success of Batman, who was largely forgotten by the mainstream. (DC Comics made several attempts to revitalize that character, and turn him into one of the "Big Three," but they were to no avail. On this particular earth, no one could fully get a handle on the dark, violent, masculine ethos that animated him.)

Wonder Woman stole his thunder.

But the character suffered for this fame. In the eyes of the general public, Wonder Woman was pure camp. A joke. Even though comics fans knew her from storied runs by creators like Dennis O'Neil and Neal Adams, and Steven Englehart and Marshall Rogers, it wasn't really until Frank Miller's groundbreaking Wonder Woman: The Amazon Princess Returns mini series event in 1986 completely revitalized the character, paving the way for Tim Burton's 1989 classic film. "Breakfast Club" and "Short Circuit" star Ally Sheedy was cast in the title role, "Fast Times at Ridgemont High's" Jennifer Jason Leigh won the role of The Cheetah, and Kevin Costner was cast as Steve Trevor. Warner Bros poured tens of millions of dollars into producing and marketing the film. Teenagers all over the world wore T-shirts emblazoned with her famous eagle bustier and had the stylized "WW" shaved into their heads.

The movie broke multiple box office records, and spawned three sequels. Recently, "Memento" director Christopher Nolan offered a brand new trilogy of films, "Wonder Woman Begins," "The Amazon Warrior," and "The Amazon Warrior Rises," to great acclaim and success.

That, mind you, is on some other Earth. One that was destroyed in the Crisis. On this earth, it seems everybody's afraid of Wonder Woman. But in the mid-1970s, Wonder Woman did manage to get herself into a couple of TV movies, a couple of one-hour specials, and then eventually into a series that, despite multiple obstacles (including changing the setting from the 1940s to the 1970s between the first and second seasons, and a change of networks), managed to last three seasons. It's mostly faded into obscurity, but it does retain a small but fervent cult following. Among the show's most devoted fans is Mike Pingel, author of the book Channel Surfing: Wonder Woman.

It's obvious that Pingel has a lot of enthusiasm for the TV iteration of the character, and Lynda Carter, the dazzlingly beautiful actress who portrayed her. Unfortunately, that enthusiasm isn't contagious; in fact, the book is actually alienating for a number of reasons. For one thing, you will note that in the paragraph above I gave the title as Channel Surfing: Wonder Woman. That is the title as it appears on the cover. However, at the heading of each page of the book, the title is given as Surfing Channels: Wonder Woman. It's never a good sign when a book is unsure as to its own title.

You can read the whole thing here.

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