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Posted at 9:01 AM ET, 07/ 1/2010

An Artist's View: The true power of Wonder Woman's new look

By Michael Cavna


It was a beautiful night. The liquor was flowing. And there was I, spinning innocently only to suddenly find myself stuck smack between Wonder Woman and the Iron Man.

And I, in that moment, was Shock and Awe Man.

The event was a formal Kennedy Center shindig a coupla years ago that I, against all odds and matter of social registry, was attending without the necessity of even a "Salahi ticket." And as I turned quickly, there I was, standing shoulder to broad shoulder with Lynda Carter, as radiant and regal as ever decades after she was Diana Prince (she turns 59 later this month), and Cal Ripken, the legendary Orioles shortstop and modern-day Lou Gehrig.

Had I died and gone to Mount Olympus?

I was awed because Carter and Ripken are impressive in person -- the tractor-beam power of their electric-blue eyes is enough to get your attention. But more so, I was shocked, the way we are startled when, say, as a kid we see our teacher outside in "the real world," existing outside the classroom. We just don't quite expect to see them out of their best-known element. Out of their famed backdrop. And mostly, really, out of uniform.

When we are dealing in superheroes, thus is the power of the costume. It is the attire that advertises superpowers like a four-story, saturated-color billboard. Be it Batman's dark cowl or a Supreme Court justice's dark robe, there is imbued power in the suit.

LYNDA CARTER, at a recent Kennedy Center Honors:

And that is why this week's announcement that Wonder Woman is getting a new get-up, courtesy of DC Comics' J. Michael Straczynski (writer) and Jim Lee (artist/honcho), is not entirely a minor development. The new costume signals a shift in tone, a change of origin story and, perhaps, an alteration in cinematic appeal.

Robin Givhan, my Style colleague and Pulitzer-winning fashion critic, deconstructs what the Amazon's new costume signifies in today's Post. She writes:

"In her more modern costume, Wonder Woman (a.k.a. Diana Prince, a.k.a. Lynda Carter) looks like a glamorous athlete instead of an unusually muscular Miss America who happens to fight crime. The sleek lines of the new wonder pants evoke sci-fi warrior agility, while the cropped jacket -- with its studded epaulettes -- adds rock star, Balmain flash."

Givhan goes on to put the aesthetic switcheroo in broader context, saying:

"Now that she's been given a pair of pants -- that Western symbol of formalized male authority -- it's tempting to declare this makeover an advance in gender equity. But not so fast. In superhero-land, where everything is exaggerated, the boys are sketched with a nod to extreme masculinity. Batman's suit, for example, gives the slender Bruce Wayne perfectly etched pecs. It was only fair that Wonder Woman's leg-revealing briefs gave mousy Miss Prince a goddess's sexy, lithe figure."

(To view Wonder Woman's changing looks since her World War II-era debut, you can check out this GALLERY that we've put together.)

Wonder Woman's new look has been much discussed the past couple of days. Comic Riffs, however, now pauses to assess it some from an artist's point of view.

The new costume -- dark, skintight pants that Apolo Ohno would envy, navy biker jacket and red top that no longer screams "bustier" -- represents an entirely fresh way to render Diana Prince. She is no longer Amazonia meets Americana -- we know she is shedding her full island backstory, and she also seems to be doffing her showoff-y patriotism.


That means the focus is no longer on primary-color power. And Wonder Woman had long been one of the fleshier superheroes (save her '60s "Emma Peel" look,) allowing artists to fully show off their powers of anatomic drawing. Now, Diana Prince below the waist is all sleek, long lines that sometime almost register as silhouette. In the age of Team Jacob, the new red top also allows artists to focus instead on drawing the tightest of abs. And the biker jacket now functions as drawing a demi-cape instead of the Amazon's traditionally bared-shoulder look (not that she won't shed that jacket on occasion).

But what this costume change also means is a move to current cinematic feel. Wonder Woman's moodily dark, urban-chic look instantly becomes more universal -- perhaps all the better to play to global audiences should Wonder Woman be soon in line for a new feature film. Why, if I didn't know better, I'd think this is all being done with an eye already toward a new franchise from the third superhero in DC's "holy trinity."

And whose look might this new fashion especially flatter? Who short of Lynda Carter (who could still fit the suit) might best rock the biker-n-boots look -- perhaps preferably an A-list, Oscar-winning actress who knows her way around a skintight suit or two?

Well, it is only offhandedly that we point out: The writer of Wonder Woman's new story is also the same scribe who wrote the film "Changeling." Welcome to the red carpet, Angelina Jolie.

By Michael Cavna  | July 1, 2010; 9:01 AM ET
Categories:  Superheroes  | Tags:  DC Comics, Jim Lee, Wonder Woman  
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Nope. Don't like it.
I mean, I like it, I just don't like changing WW. I want my Wonder Woman to look and BE just like Alex Ross made her.
THAT'S Wonder Woman as she was meant to be.
No one else has been able to do that (and he's the only one who's made Superman REAL!).

If they feel she needs pants, or tights, then make the star-spangled hot-pants tights.
Dark blue with a few stars coming down across the hips would have been enough (for me anyway). And those gauntlets-what???

Nice as the new look is, she looks like any 20-something starlet from the CW now.

Oooo...I'm scared...not.

Posted by: InkSlingerz | July 1, 2010 9:38 AM | Report abuse

I don't think Wonder Woman as a character has sold very well in recent decades and a costume change was in order. This one reminds me a bit of a punked-up Black Canary, but it'll do for a start. I do miss the stars that she had on the shorts of the traditional costume though, and hope someday they'll work them back in somehow. Heck, I might even go out and pick up an issue to see if her personality has changed along with the duds...

Posted by: tobeimean | July 1, 2010 10:05 AM | Report abuse

Ok, I signed up just to say I HATE IT!

Has Wonder Woman been hanging out with Paris Hilton? What the hell?
And since when does she not sport the stars? It's like they want to take out anything that may hint to American pride. I am so tired of this new anti-America America.
And pants? Pants? Really?
What always made WW so bad ass? The fact that she was supper sexy and could beat the snot out of you at the same time. WW is not WW without the long sexy legs.
And lose the 80's jacket. WW should have the bare shoulders as she always has. You are hiding her broad strong shoulders.

So congratulations, you have managed to make WW look like a pathetic teen age girl with poor wardrobe taste on her way to a Tiffany concert at the mall.
Proud of yourself?

Posted by: mcboogerballs | July 1, 2010 10:17 AM | Report abuse

It's too much like a generic magic-meets-modern magic-user. Artwork straight out of Magic-the-Gathering, D&D 3.5, or ShadowRun.

Go ahead and put Wonder Woman in pants. Go ahead and convert her bracelets to bracers -- but don't ditch the stars&stripes! How hard would it have been to put stars on that blue jacket, or C'mon, how hard would it have been to put stars on that blue jacket or white pinstripes on the red shirt? Or since I can tell they like the gold-on-black emphasis, then give her redwhite&blue boots at least!

If I were still a trim-n-fit college kid, I'd happily wear this outfit... and that means it's wrong wrong wrong for a superhero. Superheroes should stand out even on the streets of LA, NYC or London.

Posted by: MaryHS | July 1, 2010 11:09 AM | Report abuse

As a child growing up watching Wonder Woman reruns, I knew that "girls could do anything and were stronger than boys." In other words, it was anything but sexist. Wonder Woman is empowering. I fail to see how the new look is less sexist. Notice the impossibly long legs and tiny waist supporting the disproportionately enormous breasts. Compare the new look with the original look. If anything, the new look is the most sexist yet. As for the move away from the blatantly American costume, I hate to say I agree with anyone whose username is "mcboogerballs," (earlier comment) but he has a good point about the recent trend to shun anything American. As a kid, I also loved GI Joe. However, after I heard what they did with the new GI Joe movie, I, along with my husband, did not go see it, and will not watch it on DVD or Netflix, either. My husband collected GI Joes as a kid, and I would play GI Joe in the woods with my brother and his friends, so we were huge fans. As the child of immigrants, I can say with conviction that America is a country to be proud of, not ashamed of. Sometimes our leaders make bad decisions, but this is still the greatest country in the world, and there is a reason millions of people try to come here every year.

This Wonder Woman (the story and costume) is such a departure from the original, that it is not Wonder Woman. It is a new character riding on the coattails of Wonder Woman franchise. Oh well. The last time I bought a Wonder Woman comic book was when I was 9 years old, anyway. If the new movie follows this change, I also will refrain from seeing that, too--and I was a Wonder Woman freak as a kid. I would sit on the edge of the roof of my house and jump, pretending to be Wonder Woman (sometimes wearing my Wonder Woman underwear). Of course, my parents never knew.

Posted by: avon96734 | July 1, 2010 11:15 AM | Report abuse

With anything, change takes some “getting used to”…

My take is that the “American Flag” look was very key to her character and the loss of the patriotic look saddens me. Diana embraced her new homeland and proudly carried the red white and blue in her costume as she paid homage to her adopted homeland. It spoke loudly for who the amazon was deep in her heart. The new look just says, hey I’m hot and cool all at the same time… which isn’t bad but just does not sell me on the fact that this character is the true Wonder Women from tales of old.

Just my opinion!

Posted by: FugCheese | July 1, 2010 3:02 PM | Report abuse

First off, Lynda Carter is STILL freaking gorgeous!! As for the new costume, I HATE IT! Why is it women in their sixties always start wearing sweat suits? LOL.

They only change they should have made to her costume is to make it a thong in back. Here is a MUCH better -- and more patriotic -- new costume:

Posted by: jk90us | July 1, 2010 11:11 PM | Report abuse

So the new back story is that now Diana Prince was not in fact raised by Amazons on Paradise Island? Was she at least created out of clay there, or has that too been cast aside? Are there no Amazons left there?

Why was this re-boot deemed desirable? What's next, will we be told that Clark Kent was actually born in Kansas, not on Krypton, and that Bruce Wayne's parents survived their shooting in the alleyway? Great Hera, what a load of nonsense!

Posted by: seismic-2 | July 2, 2010 2:22 AM | Report abuse

Me again--(again!!)

I've met Linda Carter. In person she is one of the most attractive women I've ever seen, both physically and personality-wise.
She is stunningly nice (and she doesn't need a new costume that looks like something from the TJMaxx remainder rack to get attention).

DC has disappointed me, again.

Take a way the myth and you take away the legend. Take away the legend, and you have nothing.

Posted by: InkSlingerz | July 2, 2010 10:45 PM | Report abuse

One more thing-

That doesn't look like Angelina Jolie.
It looks exactly like some fanboys idea of Megan Fox as WW.

Why are all of the new female characters being drawn today look like Megan Fox?

Posted by: InkSlingerz | July 6, 2010 5:06 PM | Report abuse

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