So, DC Comics have declared this Wonder Woman Week. We’re getting an anniversary issue, a new creative team and a bold new direction for the character. In his comments about taking on Princess Diana’s legacy, incoming writer J. Michael Stracynski talks about wanting to modernize Wonder Woman. For a character created in the 1930s and with mythological roots, that’s gonna be tough. Part of the problem, I think, is that Wonder Woman hasn’t had a significant presence in media outside of comics for a long while now. Yes, there was that great direct-to-DVD movie last year but that alone wasn’t enough to make big pop culture ripples. And she won’t be in a movie anytime soon.
Over the last few years, there’s been a bit of talk about how tough it is to get movies with female leads greenlit in Hollywood, whether they’re action-oriented or not. A much-discussed Tomb Raider reboot has been rumored but nothing’s materialized. Catwoman? Let’s not talk about that. Angelina Jolie’s Salt looks promising, but it’s definitely the exception and not the rule.
But, for better or worse, video games have been one medium where female lead characters have an easier time coming to the fore. Lara Croft, Bloodrayne, Jade from Beyond Good & Evil, Bayonetta, Yuna from the Final Fantasy X games. These are just a few virtual women who’ve headlined major video games.
And Wonder Woman needs to join their ranks. Here’s a few compelling reasons why:
Everyone Knows Who She Is
Wonder Woman’s got the kind of recognition that few fictional characters can boast of. Her costume is, er, was as recognizable as Superman’s, Batman’s or Spider-Man’s. Whether it’s as an inspiration for little girls or as a feminist icon, people all over find it easy to assign meaning and a personal attachment to the Amazon princess. That’s a big plus it comes to creating a would-be video game, because one of the bigger hurdles with game heroes is convincing people they need to care in the first place.
You Can’t Tart Her Up
For a character who’s spent much of her time running around in a modified bathing suit, Diana has resisted any overly sexualized interpretations. People have tried but the results tend to be … embarrassing. She’s beautiful, yes, but regal too. This inherent classiness would eliminate the main criticism of female game characters, which is that they’re hyper-objectified fantasies made for overgrown adolescents. Wonder Woman’s better than that and has been for decades.
She Kicks Ass
Literally. Ass-kicking is part of who Wonder Woman is. Sure, she works to create peace, tolerance and understanding but if getting justice means breaking faces, Diana’s good with that, too. Not only good, but amongst the best. She’s about as strong as Superman (yeah, I said it) and has fought and beaten master-level martial artists like Batman. She comes from a martial culture that stretches back to ancient times and has been at the forefront of most battlefields since she came to “Man’s World” during World War II. Most importantly, She brings a warrior’s knowledge and an ambassador’s temperament. This core paradox could create some great gameplay mechanics and branching story paths which would respond to just how rough you treat the bad guys.
She Already Operates in an Epic Environment
Human conflict is one thing, but Wonder Woman regularly gets mythological in her adventures. She’s faced down Ares, Hades and other members of the Greco-Roman pantheon when they get out of hand and giant magical beasts ain’t nothing new to DC’s premier heroine. If you leave the mystical stuff alone, she still rolls with the Justice League and has had her share of repelling alien invasions, too. More and more, triple-A video games offer up a blown-up sense of scale and Wonder Woman’s mythos is a natural fit for that.
She’s Not Currently on A Screen
Oftimes, you’ll hear about how competing claims or visions for a character stifle anything from actually happening. There’s no movie or TV show to worry about contradicting. The field is wide-open for a video game to be the way that Wonder Woman bursts into people’s consciousness again.
All That Continuity
There’s no one storyline that everyone points to when they talk Wonder Woman. Yet, I feel that’s a good thing. Concerns about “getting it right” are lessened and you can cherry-pick elements from her long publishing history to make a great video game plot. I’d start with Gail Simone’s incredible “The Circle” storyline, which touches on her origin without being a straight-up retelling and fold in the New York City-based embassy of Greg Rucka’s run for some political intrigue. Rucka and various artists also had some great modern-day interpretations of the Greek gods in their stint; a slick, suit-wearing Ares would be a nice twist on the armor-and-helmet dude. You want villains? Start off with the Cheetah, Dr. Psycho and Giganta before throwing it out to Genocide, the newest, scariest member of WW’s rogues gallery. Batman:
Great Video Game Precedents Already Exist
I’ve had this Wonder Woman video game idea in my head for a while now. And every time I’d play games like Heavenly Sword, Batman: Arkham Asylum or any God of War game, I’d think “Well, damn, this stuff could be awesome in a Wonder Woman game.” The magic lasso and/or tiara would make a great ranged-attack weapon, deflecting bullets or attacks with her bracelets would also be awesome and she’s been known to suit up in armor and handle a sword when things call for it. Whether it’s an all-ages approach (that could use Ben Caldwell’s great strip from Wednesday Comics as a springboard) or something more mature, good templates already exist for a WW game.
There you have it, readers. Warner Brothers Interactive Entertainment has been noticeably increasing their profile as a developer and publisher the last few years, with the recent acquisition of Midway Games (makers of Mortal Kombat) and a big win in 2009 thanks to Batman: Arkham Asylum. With the establishment of DC Entertainment, the expectation is that WBIE will be mining the DC Comics library for characters to bring to consoles. And while Diana’s been part of an ensemble in a few Justice League games and in Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe, it’s high time she got her own starring title. A Wonder Woman game could remind everyone why she’s such a great character and of the “power she possesses*.”
*Quoted from the theme from the 1970s Wonder Woman TV series