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Monday, August 11, 2014

What’s Wrong with Wonder Woman? Why Can't DC and Warner Brothers Get a Movie Made?

DC Comics says it’s so hard to adapt Wonder Woman. And many at DC ask What’s wrong with Wonder Woman? I think the question to ask is: What’s wrong at DC Comics and Warner Brothers?

Warner Brothers and DC Comics say a Wonder Woman movie can’t be done. But Marvel Studios just put Rocket Racoon, a Z-list character in a feature film adapting its revamped Guardians of the Galaxy concept. A Guardians of the Galaxy concept that’s barely nine years old.

But according to DC Comics and Warner Brothers, Wonder Woman a 75-year-old character who previously had a TV series is hard to adapt for the silver screen.

And to add insult to injury Marvel Studios is about to make its THIRD Thor movie. A character that’s supposedly one of the harder characters to adapt for the screen. A character who like Wonder Woman is rooted in complex ancient mythology.

 But here we are with the third Thor Movie in production in five years.

18 years ago, Xena: Warrior Princess was basically a cinematic blueprint for Wonder Woman movie. Xena was just Diana with a Chakram.

I find it funny how Sam Raimi and Rob Tapert can write Wonder Woman type adventures well in Xena: Warrior Princess but DC Comics and Warner Brothers can’t. What’s the problem? Why can’t DC and Warner Brothers make its first movie featuring its third most popular character? Why is it so hard to adapt a superheroine like Wonder Woman to the silver screen?

My theory is that DC Comics and Time Warner think too much about its properties. From the Drab Dark Knight Trilogy to the tarnished Man of Steel, Warner Brothers and DC Comics over think the execution of a concept. They try to make everything gritty and real. That may work for some characters, but it doesn’t work for others.

DC and Time Warner just don’t understand that Superman and Wonder Woman are bright, characters filled with hope. A fantasy world has to be built around them where their feats of flight and super strength can appear real. Where invisible jets are possible. And where they can show people why they are our friends.

But DC and Warner Brothers try to shoehorn all their characters fit into Batman’s real world. And Wonder Woman can’t fit into a real world. Diana comes from a world of gods, Greek mythology and magic. She lives on an island full of women. She requires a completely different story model than the one used for either Superman or Batman.

I believe a Wonder Woman movie can be made. But it takes someone with an understanding of how to engineer and design the fantasy world around real actors.

Yes, there are problems with Wonder Woman. Her origin story is going to have to be retooled and contemporized a bit the way Sam Raimi contemporized Spider-Man and Marvel Studios contemporized Iron Man and Captain America, the Incredible Hulk and Thor for modern audiences. But that’s par for the course.

In screenwriting, there’s adaptation. And change can be good if done well. Even Paul Dini, Bruce Timm and the late Dwayne McDuffie changed some things in their Wonder Woman Origin to make it work for the screen in the Justice League Pilot. But I believe a screenplay can be written that maintains the heart and spirit of Marston’s concept the way Timm, Dini and McDuffie did for Justice League and Justice League Unlimited.

And from my observations of Wonder Woman in comics, animation, and TV shows, the character may need a serious tweaking in the personality department to work on the silver screen. From the Wonder Woman comics I read and even Timm’s Justice League, Diana doesn’t have a true “voice” that speaks to people or stands out like Hawkgirl did. The way I see it Diana needs to show character traits that make her relatable to the audience the way Superman, Batman and Hawkgirl are.

Viewers need to know why Diana is a friend like Clark is. She needs to find that “Voice” Does it mean turning her into a barbarian like the wretched DC New 52 version? No. Does it mean finding ways to make her appear friendly, kind and Diplomatic? Yes. And I’d like to think there’d be a way to fit some humor in there too. 

And I’ll admit Diana doesn’t have much chemistry with her villains in the comics. That’s always been the big sticking point for me. It’s never been that personal between Diana and like it was between Batman and the Joker, or Superman and Lex Luthor. She’s never had that feud where we saw the ideologies she represents challenged and presented clearly to the audience. With the way some women can look at another woman and just hate them for no reason, I’d like to think Diana can dislike at least one of them as much as they dislike her.

Yes, she’s had some good solid adversaries like Cheetah, Circe, Ares and Dr. Cyber but she’s never had that big defining feud with any of them like say Xena and Callisto. Mickie James and Trish Stratus.  Spider-Man and the Green Goblin. Captain America and the Red Skull, or Iron man and Obidiah Stane.

I can tell someone about Amazing Spider-man Vol.1 #120-121 Iron Man Vol.1# 200 and Captain AmericaVol.1# 295-300 and #332-350 and tell readers where a defining story is in their histories. I can even point to trade paperbacks and like Batman: Year One or Batman: The Killing Joke and Superman: For the Man Who Has Everything and What Happened to the Man of Tommorow? and tell them about a great Batman or Superman Story.

Heck, I can show readers Isis stories such as Isis, Isis: Amari’s Revenge, and Isis: The Beauty Myth, and Isis: Wrath of the Cybergoddess and show readers an Isis defining moment because her feuds got that personal with the members of her rogues gallery. I can even point to those same stories and show readers a story where Isis has the ideologies she represents challenged by her foes and how she fought to stand up to her enemies while standing for them.

The big challenge for a screenwriter with Wonder Woman as I see it is that they’re going to have to do some serious heavy lifting. If there ever is a Wonder Woman movie, a screenwriter is going to have to go off the comic page the way Paul Dini and Bruce Timm did with Mr. Freeze did in Heart of Ice and the way they did in creating Harley Quinn. Taking existing concepts and making them fresh again with storytelling that gives the audience a unique perspective on them.

I believe it’s possible to adapt Wonder Woman for the silver screen. But I know it’s going to mean some changes to the internal character. It’s going to mean some contemporization of the origin. And it’s going to require some coming out of the box. Unfortunately, DC Comics and Warner Brothers spends so much time focusing on costumes and making things “real” that they don’t focus on maintaining the heart and spirit of their characters.

 I think DC Comics and Warner Brothers fears coming out of the box may alienate Wonder Woman fans. But I believe if they stayed true to the spirit of the character and the original concepts it’s possible to adapt Wonder Woman in a way that’s fresh, creative and makes her accessible to a new generation of fans.

I’ve been writing female characters for over 20 years. And looking at Wonder Woman she’s a fairly easy character to adapt. She’s a fairly easy character to write for. From what I see, the elements for great stories are there and the supporting cast is there. All it takes is for someone at DC Comics and Time Warner to have the skill and creativity to execute those ideas.


  1. Maybe that is why in the comics even the writers themselves don't know what to do with her in terms of occupation and role. She's been an Amazon warrior, white clad martial artist, nurse, dominatrix like character and more recently the daughter of Zeus instead of being a clay statue brought to life.

  2. That's been the big problem Ad. Her identity is hard to define. And she's never had that strong "voice" that speaks to the reader.

    Wonder Woman was great in the early days of feminism as a symbol. But in a world filled with real life Wonder Women like Hilary Clinton, Madonna and Carly Fiorina, she really doesn't stand out. Yes, she's an icon but most people don't know WHY she's an icon. And DC hasn't made any efforts to show us what she stands for.

    In her origins she was a clay statue brought to life. I always thought that symbolized her humanity. Sadly, DC and Warner Brothers haven't done enough to humanize Diana in the last few years to make her relatable to the modern world.

  3. I may be doing a second blog about Wonder Woman this week. Just have to do some research.

  4. When Captain America and Thor came out I just shook my head, and wondered why DC didn't have a Wonder Woman movie out as counter programming. She is both a patriotic hero (like Cap) and a mythological based hero (like Thor). Not only that Wonder Woman is an immortal, so you could pretty much set the character in whatever time period you want. Damn shame.

  5. WW is an easy character to make a movie for, but Warner just overthinks things. Expecting Batman vSuperman to be a HOT MESS.