An Artist's View: The true power of Wonder Woman's new look
WONDER WOMAN'S NEW LOOK; :
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.
WONDER WOMAN IN 2001:
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.
| July 1, 2010; 9:01 AM ET
Categories: Superheroes | Tags: DC Comics, Jim Lee, Wonder Woman
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