Wednesday, April 22, 2015

WONDER WOMAN '77: All The World's Been Waiting For You!

Wonder Woman '77 illustration by Nicola Scott

Reading Wonder Woman '77 has brought me, along with many other self appointed geeks, back to a very fun era. In my particular instance, when I was a child, I had an incredibly elaborate process for watching Lynda Carter's Wonder Woman television show (yup...I just aged myself!). This involved becoming the character Diana, with whom I clearly identified and idolized. This transformative process was an obvious foreshadowing for my interest in an acting career. There were days of prep time involved that included: researching the character, finding & creating costumes, and processing or practicing the character's essence. By the time Wonder Woman would air each week, you could find an ecstatic child (me) who would mimic every single action she did. To give you an idea of the thought I had put into this and just how much I was dressed to the "T" in my character's garb, here's what I had utilized to make the entire uniform:

  • My mother's red boots, 
  • Blue underwear and a red t-shirt from my Underoos at the time. 
  • A golden belt made of yellow construction paper (or some other actual gold material), and yes, I had cut it into the shape of whatever belt style was appropriate for the season (NOTE: Season 1 belt was different than seasons 2 & 3). 
  • Rope which I had colored yellow and latched onto my belt (The rope style/draping also changed between seasons 1 and 2/3), 
  • A tiara made out of yellow construction paper with a red star drawn on it, 
  • A t-shirt on my head so that I had long hair like Wonder Woman, and...
  • Toilet paper rolls that I had cut, colored, and upon which I had drawn stars (the bracelet shape also changed between seasons). 

Phil Jimenez's creation Bobby Barnes who was also dubbed by Diana as Wonder Boy, 
gave all of us young men who 'spun' when the show came on hope. 

Yes, this was my Wonder Woman costume as a young child. However, it didn't end there. To properly get into the Diana Prince character, I would don my mother's reading glasses and bathrobe overtop of the costume I created. I would then put my 'hair' (aka t-shirt on my head) up into a bun. This way, when I would spin, my 'hair' came down, glasses came off, and robe was thrown away all simultaneously so that...BOOM! Within the flash of approximately three revolutions (that's how many it usually took for her to change), I was Wonder Woman!!!

This story is not one that many have heard in my professional life, but it is absolutely no secret. As a matter of fact, when I go back to family reunions, it is often the first thing out of peoples mouths when they see me. They'll say things like, "Remember how you used to run around with toilet paper rolls on your wrists?" or "Remember how you always had a rope and were jumping off of things?" Well, I'm happy to say that not much has changed. As an adult, I now: 1) have wristbands to match every outfit in honor of the theories and philosophies for which the character stands, 2) there is a golden lasso enshrined in my room (amongst other things), and 3) I am coming upon my 3rd dance/acrobat/stunt contract at San Francisco Opera in a few weeks, where I'll be jumping off of things. However, as this resurgence of interest into the character Wonder Woman has come about, I'm discovering I'm not alone with stories like mine. Because when DC Comics announced they were doing Wonder Woman '77, so many others came forward with their 'spin' stories and appreciation for the Lynda Carter television show. But recalling the memories of pajamas and spins for this pseudo-continuation of the 70s TV show isn't the digital comics' only appeal. There is much more that makes it a must read. Here are 5 reasons why I believe audiences can really get down and funky with Wonder Woman '77:

Drew Johnson depicts Lynda Carter's iconic 'spin'

One of the primary reasons why many comic book fans read comics has the do with the artwork. The ability to tell a story via sequential art is of the utmost importance in that industry. Drew Johnson and Jason Badower are nothing short of brilliant. Drew Johnson worked on a previous run of Wonder Woman where Greg Rucka was the writer, and it is also how I was introduced to his larger body of work. I was immediately drawn to his style, and had the honor to meet him at San Diego Comic Con a few years ago. He was nothing short of personable and down to earth. Already being super impressed with him on all levels, I was surprised to find that I have become even more impressed with his work on Wonder Woman '77. Drew has shown such amazing versatility as an artist on this book. It's remarkable how he has picked up so many details of the character/show, but has done it in such a way that you can almost hear the 'bow chick a wow' 70s music playing in the background. All this while giving his special 'D.J. flare' as I call it.

Let's not leave out Jason Badower. The latest issue (episode?) of the book completely floored me!When I opened up the pages and looked at his depiction of Lynda Carter, I was stopped in my tracks, because I really felt as if I were looking at her all those years ago. Definite show stopper. So, yeah, you can say that the art of this book is completely on point!

Jason Badower's jaw-dropping artistic capture of Lynda Carter

We all know that most if not all television shows and movies are written in the three act structure. American entertainment has inundated their audiences with it. So much to the point that you can pretty much predict what is going to happen, when it's going to happen, and when the commercials will air. Comics on the other hand, don't always follow a set structure and are often able to find their own flow and creative ways for storytelling. What has surprised me is that Wonder Woman '77 pays a very clear and definite homage to the television show's three act structure by telling the stories in almost the exact same format as the TV show, releasing each act as a separate comic book online. It's brilliant, and besides the gorgeous artwork, is yet another reason why so many of us are filled with 'spin' nostalgia. However, the ability to incorporate old characters into new and challenging situations all while paying homage to who these characters THAT'S genius! Thank you, Marc Andreyko!

Drew Johnson masterfully captures the 70s vibe

THE 70s:
Who doesn't love anything that is 70s themed? Not many, because it was a time which represented breaking free. Breaking free from war, breaking free from racism, sexual freedom, women's liberation, religious freedom, and breaking free from many kinds of oppression. This spirit of freedom was displayed in the fashion, style, and also the music of the era. 70's music often encapsulates the decade with it's upbeat tracks filled with funkadelic soul, which make you bop your head, start smiling, and just want to get up and cut a rug (even if you shouldn't.). Wonder Woman '77 with it's colors, tones, and style has opened up a time capsule to the 70s which has made many people smile very much the way they do when a 70s beat kicks in.

Jason Badower's depiction of Lynda Carter's performance in Wonder Woman '77 Issue #4

One of the things that has stuck with many people, and why it has been so difficult for many to see anyone else as Wonder Woman other than Lynda Carter, was how well she captured the character's essence. There have been many who have attempted to portray the Amazing Amazon, but have missed the mark by going too far in one direction or the other. Few have been able to capture the essence of this stranger in a strange land who was wide eyed and excited to teach the world about peace...but just happened to be able to lift a building. Lynda captured that remarkably and always seemed to have an underlying ease and sense of 'I got this' in her portrayal. Because lets face it, if you're an immortal Amazon and are super powerful with the wisdom of Athena, what exactly do you have to prove, to be angry, aggressive, or insecure about? Especially if you were raised on an island called paradise.

Two scenes/quotes from the Lynda Carter/Wonder Woman television show immediately come to mind to exemplify this. The first is from the second season when Steve Trevor (II) is saved by Wonder Woman and she decides to chill with him in the grass to make sure he's okay (as any person who was completely at ease with themselves would do). Steve asks her exactly how old she is. She answers with a smile and slight giggle and says, "I will be two thousand five hundred and twenty seven years old...on my next birthday!"By which they are both entertained. THe second quote comes from an episode where she is speaking to a villain named Mariposa. After he banters on for some bit, she finally says to him, "I'm beginning to loose my temper with you Mister Mariposa, and that's something I haven't done in five or six hundred years." This is the confidence, ease, and oneness with identity that Lynda Carter's version of Wonder Woman did with inexplicable grace. It's also something that few (none, in my opinion) have been able to replicate. Wonder Woman '77 has brought back this spot on nailing of the character's essence, exemplifying once again how it should be done!

Lynda Carter from the Second & Third Season of Wonder Woman

Lynda Carter on set of the first season of Wonder Woman

For so many of us there will only ever be one true Wonder Woman and that is Lynda Carter. Wonder Woman '77 has reincarnated the Lynda that we all knew and love. In addition, it has immortalized her once again. Only this time in comic book form. This reanimation has given us all the opportunity to share with other generations exactly why she is still the champion, and why she made all of us want to 'spin.' Thank you, Lynda.

Wonder Woman '77 fan art depicting Lynda Carter 
from the site DeviantArt & created by Hamletroman

As you can see, Wonder Woman '77 has great artwork, rad stories, harkens back to a fun and important time in history, exemplifies the character's essence, and immortalizes Lynda Carter who many have dubbed the one true Wonder Woman. The comic has received rave reviews from fans including myself. And although this is a very long review, I still haven't broken the tip of the iceberg because there is just so much to praise about the book. However, I'm going to put my foot in my mouth here and say this...I think there is one key component that comic book fans have been missing from the current Wonder Woman monthly comic book character. It's that thing that Wonder Woman '77 has reintroduced to fans, and that is JOY. Wonder Woman has always been about a character who was a stranger in a strange land. A woman who had all the power to topple kingdoms and move mountains, but wanted nothing more than to make people smile and bring about peace. There was an immense joy in the character and an almost lightness. That joy had been replaced with what seems to be called a more 'realistic' take by the New 52, and Wonder Woman '77 has brought it back. It's nothing short of a breath of fresh air, and I truly believe that this comic book, coupled with Sensation Comics Starring Wonder Woman, is the continuation of a Wonder Woman revolution that DC will be unable to ignore, and I'm looking forward to seeing the voices of these beautiful works of art reverberate through the comic book community with images and messages of a more joyful Wonder Woman as she was intended to be. All the world has truly been waiting for you!

You can purchase the latest issue on iTunes. Happy reading, everyone!

Wonder Woman '77 SPECIAL #1 cover by Phil Jimenez

Brian J. Patterson is an actor, writer and producer who splits his time between the Bay Area and Los Angeles.

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