Wonder Woman Is Obviously Queer, Deal With It

In in an interview with Comicosity yesterday, current Wonder Woman writer Greg Rucka confirmed that Wonder Woman is queer. It’s kind of a well, obviously in two ways but it’s still a big deal. For one thing, Greg Rucka’s thing at DC has been taking established badass women superheroes and making them gay. And for another thing, Wonder Woman has always been gay. In Tim Hanley’s brilliant book, Wonder Woman Unbound, he devotes serious time to talking about how Wonder Woman’s creator, William Moulton Marston, was all about the matriarchy and all about the sexual subtext; if women were wrestling and tying each other up on Paradise Island, it was for sport and also because they were totally doing it. And Martson’s successor, Robert Kanighe, straight up called the Amazons lesbians. (In a good way.)

The problem is that the Comics Code Authority, which regulated much of the comic book industry starting in 1954, strictly prohibited gay characters. They couldn’t be drawn or written about, and if gayness was even hinted at too strongly, the character had to be put to death. (It’s no surprise that the CCA informed so much of what also happened on TV in its early years; it is father of Bury Your Gays.) DC didn’t fully turn their backs on the CCA until the ’90s, right around the time the Moral Majority went in on Ellen DeGeneres, and so they decided to steer clear of the gay controversy by steering clear of gay characters.

So Wonder Woman has certainly engaged in very queer behavior over the years, and many writers and artists have walked right up to the line in talking about and depicting her queerness, but Greg Rucka is the first modern writer to spell it out so plainly. And his name means business; he’s responsible for Renee Montoya and Kate Kane’s lesbianism, after all.

In Rucka’s mind, Wonder Woman has always been queer: “You’re supposed to be able to live happily. You’re supposed to be able — in a context where one can live happily, and part of what an individual needs for that happiness is to have a partner — to have a fulfilling, romantic and sexual relationship. And the only options are women.” And he’s not interested in skirting around the question: “This is important to me, too. By our standards where I am standing of 2016, Themyscira is a queer culture. I’m not hedging that. And anyone who wants to prevaricate on that is being silly.”

The rub is that he’s not exactly sure how that’s going to translate to the page. He calls it “The Northstar Problem,” having a character just blurt out I’M GAY to signal to audiences that they are, in fact, GAY. Which, you know, yeah, it is lazy writing, but queer women especially have been so burnt by subtext in comics, TV, and movies that they’re just looking for something to hold onto (that hopefully won’t die in their arms). DC and Marvel have made big strides over the last few years as they’ve been forced to compete with award-winning big-sellers in the indie comics market, which has always been better at diversity, but they’ve still got a long way to go. Bombshells is awesome, but I’m still burnt up by how they squandered Batwoman’s solo title (a thing that started with — surprise! — Greg Rucka).

Rucka saying categorically that Wonder Woman is queer is a big deal, but will we see it on the page? Will we see it on TV and in film? Rucka addresses the worry at the end of his interview: “It doesn’t matter if I say, ‘Yes, she’s queer.’ Or ‘No, she’s not queer.’ It matters what you get out of the book. Can you find it? Is it there? Is it on the page in action or in deed?”

The answer, then, is to be determined.

Heather Hogan is an Autostraddle managing editor who lives in New York City with her partner, Stacy, and their cackle of rescued pets. She's a member of the Television Critics Association, the Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and a Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer critic. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Heather has written 840 articles for us.

19 Comments

  1. Fun fact: William Moulton Marston was poly! He was super secretive about it and most people say he had a mistress… but he fathered children by both his wife and mistress and they all lived together in secret as one big happy family, so I think we can assume had it been acceptable to come out as such back then, he probably would have 🙂
    I heard about it on Fresh Air a few years ago and it really connected the dots on why Wonder Woman is the best and baddest in town 😉
    http://www.npr.org/2014/10/27/359078315/the-man-behind-wonder-woman-was-inspired-by-both-suffragists-and-centerfolds

    • You get a great sense of the poly experience reading Jill Lepore’s book, but she leaves out one very important (I think) aspect of the relationship–and that’s what happened after Marston died at a relatively young age (early 50s if memory serves). And that is the fact that the two women, his wife and mistress Olive Byrne (niece of Margaret Sanger) lived together, sharing a bed, for the rest of their lives. A third woman who had never married, but lived on and off with Marsten et al, also sometimes lived with the two women in that 25 year period where no man was around. Lepore never once suggests that a romantic relationship continued between the two and/or three women. Great book with a gaping hole.

      And, yes, Wonder Woman has always been queer just as Rucka points out.

  2. I hadn’t realised Rucka was writing Wonder Woman – I might have to check it out! I’m worried about getting my hopes up too much, though, as I’m still annoyed about DC messing up Batwoman.

    • That’s totally fair, but if it helps, the Rebirth relaunch has done a lot to redeem DC for me–they’re really making an effort to do right by their female characters this time (and they’re doing a great job with Batwoman in Detective Comics!).

      But anyway, Rucka’s Wonder Woman has been really good so far. If you can find it in yourself to forgive DC, I’d encourage you to check it out.

    • Recaps might make that terrible show worth watching. Seriously such bad acting. I could only watch 2 episodes before I gave up. The characters don’t have dialog, they just monologue inspirationally at each other.

      • The first 3 or 4 episodes were tough for me, and I gave up watching for a while, but suddenly it got better when they stopped leaning so heavily on Superman and let Supergirl find her own voice. Even after having marathoned the rest of the season when I picked it back up, I’ve tried to go back and watch the first few episodes and it’s hard (overall; there are wonderful moments still).

  3. I appreciate the thoughtfulness of writing an obviously queer character while trying to avoid both lazy writing and subtext-so-sub-it’s-queerbaiting. This context, around the quote that you pulled, also:

    “This is inherently the problem with Diana: we’ve had a long history of people — for a variety of reasons, including sometimes pure titillation, which I think is the worst reason — say, “Ooo. Look. It’s the Amazons. They’re gay!”

    And when you start to think about giving the concept of Themyscira its due, the answer is, “How can they not all be in same sex relationships?” Right? It makes no logical sense otherwise. It’s supposed to be paradise…

    But an Amazon doesn’t look at another Amazon and say, “You’re gay.” They don’t. The concept doesn’t exist.

    Now, are we saying Diana has been in love and had relationships with other women? As Nicola and I approach it, the answer is obviously yes.”

  4. Gail Simone, who also used to write for Wonder Woman, has said the same thing over the years. If I remember correctly she has implied she tried to work it into the comics as best she could at the time but the reason Wonder Woman’s attraction to women is rarely acknowledged is because of DC’s machinations to prevent that from happening. It makes no logical sense that Wonder Woman or anyone else on that island would be exclusively attracted to men but that hasn’t stopped writers from portraying her that way in and outside of comics for decades. I expect the DC movie universe to fully ignore the elephant in the room.

    • Gail Simone tweeted about this just a couple of days ago!

      To which someone replied “Is she bi or pan? I could see Diana being so open & loving that gender is never an issue for her.” and she said that pansexual is more accurate, and I said Hey, bisexuals don’t have to be about that gender binary AND suggesting that sexuality has anything to do with how loving and open you are is not good, and Simone answered “Totally a fair point” (to the latter).

      Just to recap. XD

      (Several others pointed out the gender binary thing as well.)

  5. Well, it’s not like you have to have her blurt out that she’s gay like Northstar did. Just put her in a relationship with a woman or women.

    It’s nice that he feels this way, but I’m tired of subtextually queer Wonder Woman. I want the real deal. That being said, I know it’s not completely up to Rucka so I don’t blame him at all. I wish DC would just commit to doing what’s been obvious to everyone else for so long.

  6. Oh, and I’m a little bit confused by your paragraph about the Comics Code Authority. How did the CCA inform what happened on TV? There were lots of things that were shown in comics (especially the ones published by EC) that couldn’t have been shown on TV before the CCA was even created. So, wasn’t TV already more censored? If anything I would have thought it would be the other way around with TV and Hollywood’s own censorship informing the CCA.

    Also, DC didn’t actually completely abandon the code until 2011. But they did, along with Marvel, release comics for “mature readers” under separate lines like Vertigo and Epic without the code’s approval before that. And Marvel released a few Spider-Man issues without their approval as early as 1971.

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