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Tarzan, Wonder Woman: Meet the 21st century

June 30, 2010

The new Wonder Woman

Taking a break from our usual high-minded survey of lit’rachure news, here’s something for everyone’s inner 12-year-old inner boy: After wearing the same outfit for 69 years, Wonder Woman finally gets a make-over, while Tarzan is repurposed for readers in the digital age.

I confess I can’t find much on the Interweb that interests me regarding serious literature today. Lessee: Christopher Hitchens cancels his book tour?

Actors Barbara “I Dream of Jeannie” Eden, Rob “Brat Pack” Lowe and Punkie Brewster announce memoirs? Stephenie Meyers sells 1 million copies of Bree Tanner in less than a month?

Jeff Bezos slags the iPad, but says nothing about why Amazon crashed for three hours yesterday?

Hokay: So comic books and boy’s adventure it is, then. Ladies first: Did you know that Wonder Woman stands alongside Superman and Batman at the top of the D.C. universe? Me, neither. Clearly, she got her promotion through affirmative action.

The old Wonder Woman, as embodied by Lynda Carter.

I mean, Wonder Woman, the Amazon princess with the golden lariat, the see-through airplane and the star-spangled bathing suit costume? Equal in iconic mojo to the Man of Steel and the Dark Knight? Puhleeze.

Well, now D.C. has updated the character with a new, less revealing outfit, and a new origin story, according to The New York Times. The new costume is slightly less ridiculous, though Wonder Woman still has the figure of a particularly athletic porn star.

It’s the work of artist Jim Lee, freshly minted D.C. co-publisher, and writer J. Michael Straczynski, best known as creator of the ’90s sci-fi TV show “Babylon Five.”

Instead of growing up on Paradise Island with the other Amazons under the care of Queen Hyppolyta, Wonder Woman “is smuggled out as a baby when unknown forces destroy her home and slaughter its inhabitants.”

All of which, I assume, is intended to make the character less corny, more ironic and alienated, and thus more like every other superhero at the dawn of the second decade of the third millennium.

Not surprisingly, the geekosphere  is rife with grumbling –isn’t it interesting how comics and sci-fi fans are the most resistant to change? For a sample of the objections, visit the “Geek to Me” blog at Chicago Now.

Meanwhile, Tarzan of the Apes is getting an update, too, in a new series aimed at 9 to 11 year olds, according to the Guardian. Part of a series that’s already produced novels featuring the childhood adventures of Sherlock Holmes and James Bond, the new novels will focus on Tarzan’s teenage years.

Jane will have an iPod, while Tarzan will be positioned as an “Eco Warrior for the Playstation generation.” Am I the only one who sees that construction as a contradiction in terms? Nevermind.

Tarzan was first introduced in 1912 in the extraordinary novel Tarzan of the Apes, by hack writer Edgar Rice Burroughs, as a sort of pulp rehash of Kipling’s Jungle Book. That’s  by the far the best of the 24 Tarzan novels Burroughs churned out. Even as a boy, I lost interest after the third or fourth one (apparently so did Burroughs).

Burroughs, it’s interesting to note, also wrote stories about his hero’s teen years in Jungle Tales of Tarzan, one of the better books in the series, as I recall from my wasted youth. But Andy Briggs, author of the Hero.com and Villain.net books, makes no mention of it in enthusiastic comments about how he plans to “reboot” the character for the modern YA reader.

“I think now more than ever Tarzan is a relevant character,” Briggs says. “He was the first eco-warrior, and I wanted to hold on to that.”

7 Comments leave one →
  1. Candice Simmons permalink
    June 30, 2010 4:00 pm

    Sometimes, no news is good news.

    I like the new Wonder Woman get-up.

    Now, can you please tell me why you think your youth was wasted?

    • Chauncey Mabe permalink*
      June 30, 2010 5:08 pm

      I read a lot of Edgar Rice Burroughs and such like. Instead of, you know, Dostoevsky.

  2. Candice Simmons permalink
    July 1, 2010 8:27 am

    Nothing wrong with that.

    I ask again, where is everybody?

  3. noturbizness permalink
    July 7, 2010 7:34 am

    Googling for Lynda Carter’s pics?

  4. January 5, 2011 2:31 pm

    Just saw this and it bummed me, maybe just from nostalgia. I really liked Wonder Woman as a 9-year-old. Not only for running around in a swimsuit in public — titillating idea in the 1950s — but for her smart mind and skilled, bullet-repelling bracelets.

    I also remember an exhibit on comic book heroes at the Jewish Museum of Florida, of all places. It said that William Moulton Marston was a psychologist who created Wonder Woman as a positive role model. He found that women at work were more honest, precise and reliable than men.

  5. Kiambu permalink
    January 17, 2012 11:04 pm

    Tarzan of the Apes is the first eco-warrior but he livesin a world today where the forests and eco systems of the world are eroding. He is now about 124 years of age but looks as if he’s in his 30’s. His youth is prolonged and slowed down,he is not aging as the rest of us are. This is largely because before his birth,his Father John Clayton ll and his pregnant wife lady Alice Rutherford-Clayton were strolong the Greystoke grounds one night,undoubtably talking about the adventure in Gabon,West Africa that lied ahead. A comet passed over head with intense brilliancy and radiated BOTH of them.particulary Lady Alice who was pregnant with John Clayton lll [TARZAN] this radiation effected his aging process slowing it to a crawl. Another noticeable side effext upon Tarzan was that this radiation from the comet effected his biology,while in his early 20s he had no facial hair. Jane’s prolong youth took another path that takes place in BOOK 19: TARZANs QUEST,here Tarzan encountered a tribe of half naked White Men who didnt age and lived without women {obviously homosexuals even though Burroughs doesnt use the word] Their prolonged youth was based upon the slaughtered blood of women. Jane’s extended youth stems from this story.

  6. Kiambu permalink
    January 17, 2012 11:20 pm

    But a Tarzan and Wonder Woman encounter? Intrsting. Perhaps jane Porter-Clayon shold be central in this story. Jane was taught bushcraft skills by her legendary Husband SHE KNEW how to survive in the wilds,shoot a gun,bow and arrows and had a reasonable knowledge of hand-to-hand combat. The Amazons would be indeed intrested in this White Jungle female warrior. She would probably be hailed as an honoured geust in Themyscara [Island of the Amazons] especially being the Wife of the Great Tarzan of the Apes. What could they learn from her? What would she learn from them? Im mindul of the Kaji warrior women in the novel TARZAN THE MAGNIFICENT [Not to be confused with the same title of the film that starred Gordon Scott as Tarzan] I believe the Kaji were located in Ethiopia [a Black Tribe of Women Warriors].it is possible they had a clash with the Amazons in anciet times. The Women of Themiescara where largely of women from both sides of the Meditterainian sea,a combination of Greek, Italian,Indegenous Black Libyans,Egyptian,Nubian,Spainish, Moroccans,Turkish and Arabic. They werent ALL White as misinformed history led us to believe. All Empires are composed of various races and nations of people. The Brittish Empire didnt have just Britons but other races they conqured. The Roman Empire didnt have just Italians but people of other raes and nations they conqured. The Mongol Empire was the same. So the same is true for Themescara. Princess Diana [aka Wonder Woman] wouldve surely had jane Porter as her honoured guest.

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