Woman or Wonder?
Artist Terry Dodson talks about Wonder Woman over at newsarama, and touches briefly on the challenge of making someone who is a god/ideal/icon, and rendering them in sympathetically human terms. I think he and (writer) Allan Heinberg are on the right track:
NRAMA: In tackling Wonder Woman artistically, given her history, the tenets behind her creation (that she was created as much as a message as a fictional character), and who has adopted her over the years (she has a special place with feminists, etc), you could easily argue that Wonder Woman is much more than “just” a character or even a corporate symbol as Superman and Batman have become. How does that affect your work and process? It seems that, with Wonder Woman, you don’t just have to do right by your editor; it’s as if there’s a much larger, collective audience watching - that you have to do right by fans and by everything Wonder Woman has come to stand for…
TD: Yeah – there is that pressure. There are clearly certain expectations of what the character should be and look like, but that’s all fine. I like that. Again, since I’m not competing against other people’s versions of her at the same time, that helps out. There aren’t other versions out there, really, so there’s not that pressure. It’s a matter of making it appealing to myself and to Allan, who has a definite vision of the character, and has been a fan of hers forever as well. He and I have really agreed on what we want to see in terms of who she is and how she looks, and if I can please myself and please him, and get our clear vision of the character on the page, I think that’s a good goal that we’re meeting.
NRAMA: So what is it that you and Allan want to see? What elements have to be in there, and conversely, what elements have no place in a portrayal of Wonder Woman as far as the two of you are concerned?TD: The things I really went for were strength and beauty. Attractive. Powerful. Noble. Godlike. Yet, we want to show her being human too, because you can come across kind of cold with those other aspects played up. Something we’re trying to avoid is making her overtly sexy. We wanted her attractive, but not overtly sexy.
Somehting that I’ve worked out costume-wise in that regard is making her briefs not as brief, taking them away from the high-rise bikini to more of a brief. I’ve also made the part of her upper costume, which covers her chest, larger, and I’ve made the symbol across her chest bigger to cover up more over hear cleavage. All of those I did because she’s a noble person, but she is walking around in a very small outfit, so it has to be balanced. It’s just minor things, but I’d like to think that there’s a little more sense of her nobility coming through because of them.
Also, something else I want to on occasion is to put a cape on her. I think that’s a really good look for her. It gets clumsy when she’s fighting, but for public appearances, I think it really gives her a regal look. That and giving her more hair, because when the cape isn’t there, her hair can act like a cape. It won’t be a ridiculous length, but as a design element, to make sure it has some of the same effect that a cape has. It also covers her up a little bit. Those little things, I think, will help make a difference.
NRAMA: Speaking of the minor changes you’re making, while Wonder Woman has nobility and a regal nature, she’s also wearing, effectively, a bathing suit everywhere, which seems to come across as a contradiction. However, she has to wear it, given her status as a licensable property and corporate symbol. Do the two sides of that coin ever strike you when you’re drawing her, that is, “make her noble, regal, powerful, and a role model for girls and women, but put her in a bathing suit”?
TD: You do what you can. Basically, as you said, Wonder Woman is a corporate entity, so you can only make so many changes, and there are certain things that you’re tied to. So you adapt and work with what you can. A lot of it too, can be dealt with by poses and angles. It’s the way you chose to portray the character – even if she’s not wearing a lot of stuff, you can at least portray her in ways that are much more appealing to people. As an artist, you may be stuck with the outfit, but that doesn’t mean good taste doesn’t enter into the equation. There are ways to do it, and portray it in a way that conveys the positive aspects of the character without giving in to the…dark side.
You just have to remember who you’re drawing and what she’s all about, and come into it with a healthy respect for the character. It’s so easy to go cheesecake and overtly sexy – but you can draw beautiful and powerful without being overtly sexual...