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Samuel Delany & Wonder Woman

Just wanted to put up these quotes from Silent Interviews after a recent conversation. For those who don't know, Samuel Delany is a really good science fiction novelist; one of my favorites.

Gary Groth: I read that you had scripted Wonder Woman. I wasn't aware of that. How did that come about?

SRD: For two issues, I think. This was back when National was at the end of its "relevant" phase. They'd been trying to do the relevant bit with a number of standard titles: Green Lantern (with Green Arrow) was, of course, the great success. But now they were trying the same thing with Wonder Woman. Only it wasn't working. Mainly that was because the people they had writing it just didn't have much of a feel for the women's movement. Short of getting a woman writer for the series (Don't ask me why they didn't put some energy in that direction!), nobody could come up with anything. So at one point I said to Denny [O'Neil]: "I think I have more of a sense of this thing. Why don't you let me do a couple? So i did. A couple.

GG: This was while Denny was editing it?

SRD: Yes. From those two issues there was actually some very nice feedback. But then there was a big change. National decided to put Wonder Woman back into her American flag falsies and bring back the bullets and bracelets bit. For the previous ten years, basically she'd been wearing a gi and was a super karate expert. It was a lot more realistic and a lot more amenable to stories with social bite.

But there was this nostalgia surge to take her back to her fifties incarnation. DC used a chance comment Gloria Steinem dropped while being shown through National offices to throw out all of Wonder Woman's concerns for women's real, social problems. Instead of a believable woman, working with other women, fighting corrupt department store moguls and crusading for food cooperatives against supermarket monopolies - as she'd been doing in my scripts - she got back all her super powers... and went off to battle the Green Meanies from Mars who were Threatening the Earth's Very Survival...

I wasn't interested in that. So I pulled out.

Personally, i have no problem with Wonder Woman having super-powers and fighting aliens. I think a karate expert fighting a corrupt department store mogul could be good; i'm just not sure it's a Wonder Woman story.

Later, on a different topic.

You know, it's funny about overwriting in comics.

Any time I've done work in this medium, even back when I was with Denny, everyone would warn me: "Don't overwrite! Don't overwrite!" So I'd spend my time on the synopsis. And I was always very lucky with my artists: Dick Giordano, for example, back when we were doing Wonder Woman, with incredible clarity and economy, always gave me everything I wanted. And my synopses tended to be three times as long as anybody else's. That wasn't more action, either. It was a case of specifying more things panel by panel I wanted shown.

But as soon as I'd hand in my correspondingly thin script (because if it's all shown, you don't have to write it), Denny would say: "Where're the words?" and add two sentences here and three there. [Laughter.] The only thing any comics editor I've ever worked for has ever done to any of my texts, from Byron [Preiss, editor of the Delany/Chaykin graphic novel Empire] to Denny to Archie Goodwin, is add words to the text - and usually words that flat-out contradicted or obscured something perfectly clear from the pictures.

At first I thought it was just me, as a novice comic writer, who was getting this treatment. Then I saw it happening to other writers. There's this very ambivalent feeling in the field about which is privileged, the text or the pictures. Hitchcock at one point said he originally tried to conceive of every one of his films as a silent movie. Only after that did he add dialogue. Yet can you really imagine nine out of ten Hitchcock movies without their soundtrack?

They've apparently reprinted Wonder Woman's relevant period in trade form, so we may be taking a look at this stuff eventually.

By fnord12 | March 24, 2013, 2:14 PM | Boooooks & Comics | Comments (1)| Link

Don't call me, Ishmael. I'll call you.

So since i knew i didn't have enough comics for the flight home, i popped into the airport bookstore. And there it was. It was like fate.

In addition to a doorstop, it's a great way to let the rest of the band offstage for a drink.

So did i buy it? Nah. I didn't think my comic-addled, jet-lagged brain could handle starting a novel on a plane. Better stick with the Skymall catalog.

By fnord12 | March 8, 2013, 2:39 PM | Boooooks | Comments (0)| Link

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