Thursday, March 18, 2010

JMS & Wonder Woman

One of the most relevant announcements this past month was the news that Gail Simone would be leaving the Wonder Woman title, and in her stead J. Michael Straczynski would take over. Initial reaction seems to be largely cautious positivity, mixed with frustration from fans of Simone, along with snark steaming from JMS' reputation from his other conflicted runs. I wanted to take a look at some of the elements of this relay in creative teams for the Wonder Woman title. Hit the jump for more.

Girl, Interrupted

Ever since Wonder Woman's relaunch in 2006, the title has gone through different authors, and it wasn't until Gail Simone took over in issue #14 that there was a single unified vision to drive Wonder Woman. Gail Simone is easily the highest profile female creator in comics these days, and having her take over the title was a no brainer decision. Unfortunately, this did not translate into big sales, around 50k units when Simone took over the title and around 25k these days. Just for comparison, the Blackest Night: Wonder Woman miniseries sold more than twice the current numbers of the ongoing series.

It also was received with mixed reviews (our own Eric disliked the Rise of the Olympian story vehemently) and the reception has been lukewarm at best when compared to Secret Six, the other title that Simone currently writes and is regularly praised by reviewers.

Great Expectations

Now the most obvious reason for DC to assign JMS to the Wonder Woman title is to turn this trend around, and there's precedent for it. When JMS was still at Marvel, he was in charge of relaunching the Thor title and he turned the Thunder God into a runaway sales hit, it was normally among the top ten in the sales chart. The title was also considered a critical darling, at least until the end (but we'll get to that in a second), and a run that reinvigorated the character for many readers. JMS is the kind of writer that can sell a title with his name alone, and just by looking at internet reaction (hardly a scientific measurement, I know), I have seen lots of "This will get me to buy Wonder Woman for the first time" type of comments. Hell, I have never been particularly interested in the character, and I am considering picking up the title based on how much I have enjoyed JMS' past works.

It is worth noting that ever since his switch from Marvel to DC, JMS has been working on two relatively low-key titles: Brave and the Bold and the relaunch of the Red Circle books (the original mini series, not the ongoing titles). Neither one of them received a large boost in sales nor critical acclaim on his name alone, so it is hard to gauge just how many new readers he is going to bring to the Wonder Woman title.

Gentleman Extraordinaire

The flip side of me enjoying JMS's past works is that JMS can be seen as either a visionary or a prima donna. He has a tendency to not finish his work all the way through, such as with Squadron Supreme and The Twelve, or for the endings to be somewhat unsatisfactory (to put it mildly) such as with his Amazing Spider-Man and Thor runs. One way or the other, we know he is an individualist creator (and I don't mean that as an insult) who works best when he has creative freedom to craft long form tales free from heavy editorial involvement. Will he be given that same kind of liberty, or will he have to adhere and play along to what is going on in the rest of the DC universe? That kind of decision will make or break a run.


Like I said above, Wonder Woman is a character close to many readers' hearts, so the response regarding this change has been as varied as it has been passionate. One point of view that I found particularly interesting was from Cheryl Lynn of Digital Femme who pointed out that JMS may be coming in to the job with the wrong outlook to begin with. What do you readers think about the change? Are you looking forward to it or dreading it? Let us know in the comment section.

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brandon said...

Nice post.

How much of the sales boost of Thor was aided by Marvel resting the Thor property for years? If he had, say, relaunched Iron Man (again) would it have taken a similar sales track?

Sadly, Wonder Woman is a character that I have zero interest in and no matter how great the reviews are for the JMS run I just won't read it.

Phillyradiogeek said...

I've only read his Spider-Man work up to the Mr. Parker Goes to Washington arc, and found it to be solid, if not mind-blowing. I'll certainly be giving his Wonder Woman a try.

TheGoose said...

I'm excited to see what JMS does to Superman and Wonder Woman. I'm reading his Thor run and am enjoying it. Hopefully, his run on two of DC's big books will be good.

I do agree with him that Wonder Woman is a character that's been drowned in her own mythos and that she needs to be her own person.

Matt Ampersand said...

@Brandon: Good point about Marvel giving Thor a rest before relaunching it.

@Phillyradiogeek: I would say that you jumped before things got really ugly, even if you had to sit through Sins Past.

Klep said...

After reading JMS' Thor, I'm eager to see how he handles the Greek mythology behind Wonder Woman. Hopefully DC will be wise enough to stay out of his way and let him tell the story he wants to.

btownlegend said...

This is not an easy job. Wonder Woman is a tough gauge. Even if his story kills it, I can't imagine sales picking up.

Bert said...

I disagree. Rucka's run on WW had a much more unified and better vision than Simones, but opinions opinions.

TwirlingKanga said...

As a life-long WW fan who dropped the book during Simones run(shortly after ROTO concluded)I'm very excited to see what JMS has planned.

Boston said...

JMS's THOR was great and he's largely responsible for SHE-RA, and I believe he'll do solid work on Wonder Woman. I'd love to see his take on Diana, but this is not good timing.

I think this change is unnecessary and premature. Gail's run is just hitting its stride, and she has a lot of seeds planted that will never see the light of day.

I don't see a major boost in sales beyond JMS's first few issues. The die-hard Wondie fans like me will stay. The Gail-specific fans will go, and the JMS fans will come on board. If history is any guide, sales will rise, then sag. DC management will panic and interfere with JMS, and he'll leave in the middle.

It's not like we're going from some hack to a mega-star. Simone to Straczynski is a lateral move, not a vertical one.

Clint said...

Very much looking forward to JMS. It's time for some new blood on the title.

Anonymous said...

I'm looking forward to JMS coming on board. It's time for some new blood.

TheGoose said...

@Boston - What about the Gail-specific fan who also happen to JMS fans? And the fans who have never read anything by JMS? Or the Wonder Woman fans who dropped off when Simone came, and now will see if JMS is any good?

Superman and Wonder Woman fan said...

He'll do a stupendous job with the Wonder Woman and Superman books. Simone's run on Wonder Woman was terribly disjointed and rather poorly written. I glad he's taking over.

Anonymous said...

This is a great relief for most of us Wonder Woman fans (the ones who dropped the book because of Simone's terrible take on the character). Very happy about this!

Anonymous said...

"Single unified vision?" Simone's take on Wonder Woman was haphazzard at best. I am looking forward to new hands to take the Amazing Amazons to new heights. The profile alone of JMS is greater than Simone's. More causal reader will join the Wonder Fandom.

Daringd said...

I'll be picking up Wonder Woman for the first time in 3 years. Can't wait

Daryll B. said...

I wonder how many of the Simone Run haters would be hating if not for the ill timed Amazon Attacks story leaving a bad taste in everyone's mouth?

I liked both Rucka's and Simone's runs and looked at them as different but believable takes on the character.

But I must also say the Blackest Night stuff left a bad taste in my mouth because of one BIG reason... the Batman thing... How everyone signed off on THAT being the reason she could overcome the Black Ring over her fellow sisters and the Earth was complete bunk!

All this being said, I am eager to see JMS' plan....and equally scared given his history with big comic projects....

Anonymous said...

JM Eyechart is a sublime writer with impeccable pacing, sharp dialogue and entertaining plots. He’s also a guy with some offbeat if not wacky ideas. JMS is, at the very least, able to write layered and consistent characterizations and his storytelling is never boring.

His bonehead brainstorms on Spidey were the result of editorial fiat, ie Joey Q’s chronic ADD about what to do with Marvel’s flagship character. I’m convinced JMS was so nauseous about having to tie Spidey into the horrible HoM event that he made Parker’s mutant superhero also a world-famous wrestler (!), skinhead, actor, coward and Gwen-smooching Green Goblin as a parody of Joey’s serial killing of the regular Spidey arcs.

JMS’ Thor was vastly superior to Grant “Don’t Call Me Jim” Morrison’s All-Star Supermotocross, which jumped its first shark with issue #4 and bottomed out with his madman’s take on Kandorans and his obsession with making the Bizarros give the reader a headache.

I always sample a new team on WW—Lynda Carter helped mold my young libido—and thought Simone would hit it out of the park. The stunning lack of originality—apes and Nazis? Only Kazar should have the former and Cap the latter. And then WW’s latest secret ID is as some Agent 13-type SHIELD agent who works for a Nick Fury clone, Sarge Steele? C’mon. Why not Rock Rage? Tug Tungsten? Ian Ore? Hey—wait for it--Rip Ares?

Speaking of dead Greek gods, Marvel’s Hercules’ arcs about Amazons and the Greek Pantheon were actually far superior Wonder Woman stories (barely concealed by Pak/Van Lente to be just that). Simone’s whole run seemed to be grasping, desperate….she must have inherited Loeb’s office when DC sent him undercover to ruin Marvel.

Let JMS create a new world, give her a bi-babe love life that ranges from that Red Tornado Robot Guy to an uninhibited romp with Power Girl. Get artist and amateur gynecologist Ed Benes to draw it and ride those star-spangled briefs high up and deep in and WW will sell more copies than the mega-thingy Heroic Brightness.



Anonymous said...

No, please. Give Superman's a BI life if you want, but keeps Wonder Woman straight as she usually has been. WW needs his own romantic interest, not a B character like Nemesis or any JLA male member.

scottyquick said...

My goodness, Anonymous comes up with terrible ideas.

Get Ed Benes to draw Wonder Woman?
Wonder Woman has usually been straight?
Have Power Girl as a love interest?

Also, lawl, anonymous, you don't have to make three comments, one right after the other, informing us how terrible Gail Simone's run was.

I think removing Gail is an absolutely terrible idea. Wonder Woman needs some unity in her stories, something Gail Simone has been giving and has never happened before.

TheGoose said...

It's not like JMS won't give WW unity.

Anonymous said...

Beam yourself up, scotty. The current iteration of WW is selling horribly. Look at the history of the current Supergirl volume. When she was a destructive little sex kitten, the book was in the top 20. Now that she's been sanitized...ehhh.

Give Wonderbra the morals of an alley cat and an outfit to match, and the book will thrive.

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