Please note that Michael Fitzgerald Troy writes a weekly column for Fanboy Comics titled Wonder Woman Wednesday.
On the heels of the Friday, March 25th, premiere of the highly anticipated Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice film in which audiences could get their first glimpse of Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), moderator Jessica Tseang (Little Geek Girls/The Comic Book Girl) hosted the panel titled, “Wonder Woman: Will She Finally Be Done Right?” Tseang assembled an impressive group of panelists that spanned direct involved with the licensed property to experts on popular culture that could explore and analyze that question at the Saturday morning WonderCon panel. The panel included Steven L. Sears (executive producer, writer, Xena: Warrior Princess), Lisa Klink (Star Trek Voyager, Roswell), Barbra Dillon (Editor-in-Chief, Fanboy Comics), Michael Fitzgerald Troy (Going Gaga! Adele #1, Prism Comics), Eric Diaz (writer for Nerdist, Topless Robot), and Drew Johnson (DC Comics’ Wonder Woman).
Tseang started the hour by asking each panelist their impression of Diana Prince/Wonder Woman in the new film. Johnson stated that he appreciated that Diana’s history was included in the film and that the character’s presence was good. Diaz agreed with Johnson that the character was good, given that she appeared in basically an extended cameo. He and Klink felt that selecting a foreign actress – Gadot is from Israel – was a smart choice, rather than picking an American or English actress to play the iconic role. Both Dillon and Sears expressed concerns of the character’s handling within a male perspective since the film is directed by Zack Snyder (300, Man of Steel, Watchmen). Troy refrained from comment since he had not seen the film prior to the panel discussion.
Since Wonder Woman’s first appearance is in a Snyder film, the panelists were then asked what characteristics she should possess. Johnson argued that now is the time to establish her with courage and strength. While he was pleased that the film provided some inkling to her backstory, he would have liked to have seen more. Diaz added that in Synder’s film, she was warrior-focused, but he wants to see more complexity to her character in her own film. Troy stated he was not in love with her costume nor the fact that she was an antiquity dealer instead of an ambassador. Dillon explained that her lens of evaluating Wonder Woman is that while she does not identify or connect with her, Dillon does appreciate her. Tseang interjected that she has been reading the forums and the tone is positive and filled with excitement for Wonder Woman. Klink expressed she loved Lynda Carter’s portrayal of the Amazon princess; however, she did not think that Wonder Woman had a backstory that is nearly as developed as the major male superheroes out there. Klink would like to know her motivations, the why for her actions. Sears stated that Diana Prince needs to be a strong character, but portrayed as a reluctant protector with “a stranger in a strange land” perspective. He hopes she will be portrayed with a new female strength endowed with authority, is unapologetic (He clarified that Lynda Carter’s Wonder Woman would be apologetic and cutesy after showing strength.), and knows her sexuality. He added that he was optimistic and like others on the panel, he wanted to see more backstory.
Wonder Woman (2017, dir. Patty Jenkins who helmed the 2003 Monster starring Charlize Theron in her Academy Award winning performance), currently being filmed, will be out in 2017, according to IMDb.com. Tseang asked the panel what their hopes were for the upcoming film and if they could be “God,” what would they do with the film. Johnson said he hopes the film has a clear vision of her mission and that it will establish her backstory. He would provide her with the perspective that as a hero, she can show a better way of life. Diaz asked that the film convey her compassionate side rather than just as an action hero. He felt that her story is relatable or can be, if done right. Klink wants to see her motivating struggle or conflict. She thought that there doesn’t seem to be an iconic villain attached to Wonder Woman. She added that she would determine Wonder Woman’s core values and develop a villain that “hits her buttons.” Troy stated that Diana Prince is not all that complex; rather, that she has wanderlust. He wishes they set the film in the 1970s and clone Lynda Carter to play Wonder Woman. Dillon said to keep the “head over heels” type of romance (Chris Pine is cast to play Steve Trevor.) out. She would rather see a balance between dark/gritty and humor and to have the characters acknowledge the world around them. Klink said she thought that Agent Carter is probably the balance Dillon is seeking to see with Wonder Woman. Sears would want a Wonder Woman developed around the answers to two crucial questions: “What does Wonder Woman hate about herself?” and “What do we hate about her?” Sears is attracted to difficult female characters, so he would set the upcoming film in pre-World War II and a story that is multi-layered.
Over the 70-plus years since her comic book debut, Wonder Woman’s origin story has evolved with the various ages of comics denoted by Golden, Silver, and so on. Troy explained at a very high level that either Diana was shaped from the clay of Paradise Island endowed with gifted powers, or was the daughter of Zeus. Sears said he liked the gift story, but would be interested in adding aspects of the Zeus story in order to present a blended origin story. Johnson added that he hopes that Wonder Woman will draw on her heritage for her strength.
Wonder Woman’s sexuality was touched on, as well. The sexual expression of the 1970s versus the sexual energy of today was considered. Sears explained that she represents the contemporary conflicts of sexuality. Dillon stated that American society in general has a sexually negative point of view, so she hopes that shame will be taken out of the portrayal in order to be more sexually positive.
In the closing minutes of the panel, there was time for questions from the audience. Sears addressed a question about the forums’ concern that Wonder Woman’s outfit was a rip-off of Xena’s. He explained that while there were similarities, he actually sees it as a compliment. There was agreement that it would be great if Lynda Carter could be involved in the film project by having her in a role that is substantial, not just a cameo. Troy stated that the animated film Wonder Woman (2009, dir. Lauren Montgomery) provided a good portrayal of the superhero. Diaz concurred, adding that her kindness and compassion were showcased in that version.
Image credits: Panel photograph taken by Michele Brittany. Gal Gadot publicity photo from Google Images.