Tarzan, Wonder Woman: Meet the 21st century
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.
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.”