Wonder Woman, Wonderfully Reinvented | RA Crossroads

As Lewis Carroll’s Alice so aptly points out, “What is the use of a book…without pictures or conversations?” Welcome to Readers’ Advisory (RA) Crossroads, where books, movies, music, and other media converge, and whole-collection RA service goes where it may. In this column, Wonder Woman leads me down a winding path.

Begin:

Wonder Woman. color. 2+ hrs. Patty Jenkins, dist. by Warner Bros. In theaters Jun. 2017. Released on DVD/Blu-ray Oct. 2017. ADVENTURE
Already shaping up to be a cultural touchstone, the new  Wonder Woman film illustrates the deep draw of bravery and honor while exploring superhero action and the heroic journey of coming of age. The story begins on the island of Themyscira, where Diana Prince (Gal Gadot), Amazon princess, learns to fight and discovers some of her powers. When her island home is inadvertently invaded, bringing World War I to its shores, she leaves to defend humankind, traveling across Europe’s battlefields on a quest to kill Ares, the god of war, whom she believes is the force behind the evil ravaging the world. Quickly paced, this film breaks the mold of long-running fight scenes with moments of thoughtful reflection. Beautifully shot, funny at times, and uplifting entertainment.

Watch-Alikes:

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Complete Series. color. 108 hrs. Various directors, dist. by 20th Century Fox. 2010. DVD UPC 024543728832. $138.95. HORROR
Long before the current Wonder Woman began to inspire op-ed pieces about feminist films and a much-needed moment of vindication, Buffy offered a clever and addictive show doing the same thing in its own way. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the character Buffy Summers (Sarah Michelle Gellar), vampire slayer. As the iconic series developed over seven seasons, Buffy, like Diana, accepts her mystical calling and fulfills her role as an emboldened, evil-fighting figure. Taking place in high school and college rather than the battlefields of World War I, its mix of soap opera, horror, and coming-of-age parallels that of Wonder Woman, sharing with the film a similar sense of camaraderie and mythological framework, as various demons, goddesses, vampires, and other supernatural figures play a role.

Rogue One. color. 2+ hrs. Gareth Edwards, dist. by Walt Disney Studios. Apr. 2017. Blu-ray UPC 786936852318. $19.99. FANTASY/DRAMA
Another film that draws on a number of genres and also centers on a female character is this prequel to the original Star Wars movie. While not a superhero, Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) is every bit a heroine, as she leads a team of ragged Rebel fighters against the evil Empire. Presently, the Empire is perfecting the space station Death Star, with Jyn and her fellows plotting to steal the schematics for the world-ending weapon. As in Wonder Woman, it’s a mission against all odds, calling for self-sacrifice for the greater good. When Darth Vader sweeps onto a Rebel command ship, Jyn’s actions bear the fruit that powers the next three films in the series. Stirring and sweeping, this film echoes many of the themes of Wonder Woman, sharing its fast pace, energy, and valor.

Supergirl: Season 1. color. 14 hrs. Various directors, dist. by Warner Bros. 2016. Blu-ray UPC 883929524396. $18. ACTION/ADVENTURE
Featuring Superman’s cousin Kara Zor-El, otherwise known as Supergirl (Melissa Benoist), this TV series stars a figure, like Diana, who is driven by her family heritage and sense of mission. That duty powers her through adventure after adventure to rid the earth of a horde of intergalactic criminals. Both Kara and Diana struggle to define and learn how to use her powers, a definition that rests heavily on a commitment to legacy, which creates another tie between the two characters. The TV show, while offering a smaller production scale than Wonder Woman, also mixes action with camaraderie, providing viewers with a well-balanced mix of Kara’s personal life and her superhero duties.

Read-Alikes:

Bouchet, Amanda. A Promise of Fire. Sourcebooks Casablanca. 2016. 448p. ISBN 9781492626015. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9781492626022. SF/FANTASY
Readers who enjoyed the mythical background of Wonder Woman but wished to have the romance elements amped up by a large degree might enjoy this new series about a fierce female warrior protected by the gods. Cat, the next heir to a powerful kingdom, physically feels lies, can steal and store magic, and easily summons the aid of Poseidon. Her mother, a corrupt and violent despot, will seemingly stop at nothing to control and use her. To escape, Cat hides undercover in a circus until she runs into Griffin, a warrior determined to right the wrongs of the world. Intent on using her powers in aid of his cause, he abducts her. Gods and goddess send defenders and drop cryptic clues, while Cat and Griffin fight side by side to deliver justice. Similar to Diana, Cat is courageous and exhibits great skill. Like the film, this swift-moving series is heavy on action, with richly detailed worldbuilding.

Holder, Nancy. Wonder Woman: The Official Movie Novelization. Titan. Jun. 2017. 320p. ISBN 9781785653780. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9781785653797. FANTASY
In her rendition of Wonder Woman, Holder ramps up the interior life of all of the characters, giving them a rich emotional range often missing from the screen version. She also pays attention to the film’s layered details, not just the visual cues but the soulful ones as well. While viewers are caught in the action of the final showdown, for example, Holder slows the frenzy, creating a scene in which U.S. pilot Steve Trevor leaves Diana in pursuit of his mission. Here, Diana feels that early loss, a moment easily missed on screen. While novelizations are often looked down upon and clearly designed to capture the profits when a film is hot, they present a great way for readers to stay in the story.

Wilson, G. Willow (text) & Adrian Alphona (illus.). Ms. Marvel. Vol. 1: No Normal. Marvel. 2014. 120p. ISBN 9780785190219. pap. $15.99. SUPERHEROES
In this new version of Ms. Marvel, credited similarly to Wonder Woman as a breakthrough work—it’s the first comic to feature a Muslim girl in the starring role—high schooler Kamala Khan desperately needs to fit in and find her way. When a strange mist brings her face-to-face with some of the Avengers, she gets her wish, turning into Ms. Marvel. At first, Kamala has trouble controlling her powers, but eventually she comes into her own. These comics are fun and bright and also speak loudly to the issues they address. Intricate, vibrant art, with rapidly changing panel layouts, keeps the visual interest high, offering another tie with the lavishly produced Wonder Woman film.

Read-Arounds:

Gosling, Sharon. Wonder Woman: The Art and Making of the Film. Titan. May 2017. 192p. illus. ISBN 9781785654626. $39.95. MOVIE TIE-IN
This insider account of the film’s art and design provides insight into the production’s visual details, from the island of Themyscira to the final battle at the airfield. Complete with drawings, photographs, and sketches, there is plenty to page through. The text that accompanies the images sheds light on director Patty Jenkins’s vision and how previous manifestations both constrained and inspired the choices of the current film. Readers will see the differences in the Amazon women’s armor, the design of the throne room, and the island’s interior locations. There are pages on the world of humankind, including notes on the costumes and elaborate sets, such as Dr. Maru’s laboratory.

Lepore, Jill. The Secret History of Wonder Woman. Vintage. 2015. 464p. photos. ISBN 9780804173407. pap. $16.95; ebk. ISBN 9780385354059. SOC SCI
Readers who are interested in Wonder Woman’s creation and abiding cachet can be handed this winning volume of cultural history mixed with historical biography. Wonder Woman’s true origin story—the tale of the creator who put pen to paper and first dreamed up the superhero—is complex and involving. It revolves around feminism and suffrage, reproductive politics, and atypical relationships. Lepore deftly leads readers through the lives of the key figures, namely American psychologist, inventor, and comics writer William Moulton Marston; his wife, Elizabeth; and his lovers. Lepore also illustrates Diana’s development with a trove of photos and comics excerpts. The complete package makes for an engrossing and engaging read.

Wonder Woman: A Celebration of 75 Years. DC. 2016. 300p. ISBN 9781401265120. $39.99. SUPERHERO
Comics masters such as George Pérez, Greg Rucka, and Phil Jimenez have each contributed to the layered history of the Amazon Princess, but to get a sense of how widely the creations can vary and how differently Wonder Woman has been portrayed over time, suggest this anthology. It provides readers with samples of writer William Moulton Marston and artist H.G. Peter’s founding work and then follows with selections from eras past through to her current manifestation. In addition to the work of those creators listed above, there are stories by Brian Azzarello/Cliff Chiang, Darwyn Cooke, Robert Kanigher, and Gail Simone.

Bonus:

For those who shed tears during the film or are seeing it more than once because it captures something they have been searching for a way to express, there are other books to suggest. While these have little to do with the actual Wonder Woman persona, they are also read-alikes in their own way. Try inspiring memoirs such as Malala Yousafzai and Christina Lamb’s I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban or go funny and righteous in Amy Poehler’s Yes, Please! and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s We Should All Be Feminists. Work by Rebecca Solnit, Lindy West, and Roxane Gay may also offer readers a deep sense of recognition and validation.

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Neal Wyatt About Neal Wyatt

Neal Wyatt compiles LJ's online feature Wyatt's World and is the author of The Readers' Advisory Guide to Nonfiction (ALA Editions, 2007). She is a collection development and readers' advisory librarian from Virginia. Those interested in contributing to The Reader's Shelf should contact her directly at Readers_Shelf@comcast.net

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