Five Questions with…
Q&A with comic greats regarding Wonder Woman

Ed & Red

Gail Simone: “In my travels to conventions and appearances as a comics writer, I’ve often had the chance to meet a lot of celebrities who are comics fans…it’s a pretty wide group, from STONE SOUP creator Jan Elliot to Samuel Jackson, from magician Penn Jillette from directors like Joss Whedon to novelists like Meljean Brook, to comedian geniuses like Brian Posehn and Patton Oswalt. It’s always a blast to find out how much they actually know about comics…it’s not just geek window dressing.

I figured it’d be fun to ask some of the people about their opinions about Wonder Woman for this board, and I’m starting with two staples of Canadian television that might not be familiar to American artists.

Ed the Sock and Red, otherwise known as Liana K, are heroes everywhere they go in Canada. Ed is a cigar-smoking, dirty-minded and foul-mouth sock, and Liana K is a gorgeous and brilliant redhead who matches Ed quip for quip. They have been the popular hosts of several different shows, most notably “Ed And Red’s Night Party,” a pretty naughty but usually hilarious late night talk show featuring strippers, interviews, and a hot tub. Since Ed predates the better-known (down here in the States, anyway) cigar-smoking puppet TRIUMPH, many people think Triumph stole Ed’s act and it IS hard not to see the resemblance.

They are both incredibly funny, smart, and dangerous…underestimate them at your peril. The NIGHT PARTY show ended last year, but new Ed and Red shows are in the works, and their website still has lots of clips and pictures: Edthesock.com

But that’s not all, these guys are both deeply involved in the comics scene. Both appear regularly at conventions all over North America. When I was a presenter, with Nicola Scott, at the Joe Shuster awards in Toronto, Ed and Red were the hosts, and Ed actually had a custom All-New Atom suit made for the event. Liana is an impossible-to-miss cosplayer at many cons, wearing astounding Hawkwoman, Black Canary, Power Girl, and Knockout outfits. She helped produce a fabulous photo book of female convention cosplayers. They have hosted events and interviewed comics creators for their various shows and are always spotlighting comics culture in a fun, smart way.

They have also produced their own comics, including an hilarious ED AND RED book, and Liana’s fascinating and cerebral retelling of myth, VESSEL.

I’m proud to be friends with Liana and the sock, and hearing them discuss comics is always so fascinating I thought I’d introduce them to you who haven’t yet met them. If you’re from Canada, odds are you already do!”

1) All right, let’s begin, and just so you know, I’m on to you both and we’ll have no shenanigans like you pulled on those nice boys from HANSON. Let’s start with a simple and sober question that you can’t possibly turn into a comment about penises. The reason I’m interviewing you is because I know you’re both serious comics nerds who promote the industry and art of comics constantly. And every time I get a chance to talk with you, you always have some insightful and fascinating commentary about comics. So just for general knowledge, how did you each get into comics and what are you reading currently? And penises?

ED: First comic I read? I think that’s lost to the mists of time. I think it was one where Lois Lane had put herself in some peril to prove Clark was Superman. Can anyone tell me what issue that might have happened in?

I don’t read penises. I prefer decompressed storytelling.

LIANA: Something has to be wrong with me that I read “penises” and wanted to work Plastic Man into this somehow. Yes. Something must be really wrong with me. Did I have to point that out? I doubt that.

I got into comics because I’m a natural redhead, and like any kid, I started looking for people like me in imaginary worlds. Those people were found in comics and fantasy books. I also couldn’t stand conventional princess stuff. Amazon warrior princesses were more my speed. I want to read big, heroic stories about big ideas, without choking on navel gazing. Comics does that. Now that I’ve gotten older… and apparently my boobs won’t stop growing… I keep reading because holy crap it gets me away from the bitchy waifs in TV and movies. If you want to make femininity a destructive force, at least make it a metaphor of some kind. I still contend that Watchmen isn’t Watchmen without New York getting consumed by a giant vagina monster.

There. You give me penis, I see you a vagina. Uh… don’t read too much into me cosplaying Knockout and Batwoman after that. This is going to sound like total butt kissing, but I’m all over Wonder Woman and Secret Six these days. The Batwoman books were SO worth the wait too. I’ve been following the Power Girl series too (duh I wonder why). That’s the stuff I read religiously. I’m behind on Blackest Night, because I had to get away from all the death in the DCU. That’s what I want to tackle next though. On the Marvel side, I love Hercules. There’s a lot more I’d like to read, but I’ve been having trouble keeping up lately!

Uh… keeping up… don’t go there, Gail! Geez, one question in, and it’s already Freudian.

ED: Hey, her answer was longer than mine. I thought we were going for ‘pithy.’

2) I think pith is overrated. And I have no idea about the Lois Lane thing, I’ll ask Mega-nerd Mark Waid, he’ll know for sure. Moving on to Wonder Woman specifically, were either of you long-term fans of the character, or very much NOT fans, or somewhere in between?

ED: Umm..the Lois-Lane-Needing-Rescue thing? I was being facetious. That was almost every Superman comic in the silver age. Sorry, I’ll try to be less subtle. Or you could just pay better attention. Either way.

I’ve always liked Wonder Woman…the concept anyway. And the bustiere. And shorts. Where else was a young lad going to discover the benefits of women tied up in “loving submission”? And Lynda Carter….

The concept of a female superhero who could hold her own with her male counterparts was an idea that was ahead of its time. And the beautiful Amazons made me realize that not every woman who lived with a woman had to look like the school’s girls field hockey coach.

The concept was great. As for the comics themselves…WW is the only hero I can think of whose golden age stories were more compelling than her silver age tales. “Charles Moulton” and Harry Peter (and if that’s not a name for a gay porn actor…) infused the early Wonder Woman stories with a unique style,look, and sense of fun and adventure. That era’s stories had a consistent and imaginative mythology. By the 60s and 70s, the stories were all over the place. No direction, no depth, and – surprisingly for a woman of Diana’s cleavage – very flat.

She went from her regular outfit to a white pantsuit then back to the star-spangled shorts. She had the least menacing villains in all of herodom. Dr. Cyber? The Duke of Deception? Angle Man (“oh no – he has a protractor!”)? Her leading man, Steve Trevor, was so dull that even killing him and bringing him back couldn’t make him interesting.

Then George Perez breathed new life into Hippolyta’s girl of clay. Perez made WW a character with personal dimensions that matched her
physical ones. He made Steve Trevor interesting, rescued Etta Candy from obesity, created a compelling supporting cast in the Kapatellis family and gave Diana enemies worthy of her stature.

And then…the comic went back to veering all over the place as new writers tried to get a grip on Diana and, for the most part, failed in epic fashion. Amazons Attack was the final nail in that coffin.

You’ve given Wonder Woman more individuality and personality than anyone who has ever written the comic. Granted, based on my assessment so far of previous efforts, that doesn’t seem to be saying a lot. So don’t let it go to your head.

LIANA: I was a fan of the character but not of the writing in general, if that makes any sense. She’s always been more Wonder and less Woman, and she hasn’t had much distinct character. When men write likable women, they write them thinking about their mother, their wife, their sister. They idealize them and that’s great, but it makes them difficult to be characters other women like, because they’re too damned perfect. Wonder Woman’s position as the Matriarch of the DCU hamstrung her character. I’ve always seen her (and Superman) as people living up to the iconic symbol they inhabit, not natural icons.

She’s a character who has been around a long time, and the world has changed around her. Her meaning, therefore, had to change too, and that took some time. She was a pre-feminist image that has been adopted by movements she was never intended to represent. Hell, she was intended to teach “loving submission”. Screw that! Feminism and femininity are so conflicted and multi-faceted now that there’s no longer a single list of character traits for a strong, dynamic woman. Because of that, Wonder Woman can finally be a character, instead of this embodiment of the perceived dreams of an oppressed sisterhood, written to be patriarchy-approved. That kind of socio-political pressure doesn’t make for good stories.

It’s not impossible for men to write women well. Greg Rucka and Geoff Johns and our beloved Mega-nerd, as well as many others, show that it can be done and done amazingly. There’s just too much undiscovered country with Wonder Woman. There’s no archetype or profession to root her to by proxy. She’s also been raised in a male-free environment, and is learning about men as an adult. That’s something that’s extremely difficult to access unless you’re a woman.

Digging myself deeper, comics is never going to shake its “male power fantasy” stereotype unless a book called “Wonder Woman” is actually a woman’s story. It always upset me that, try as I might, I could never connect to the Amazon princess, because, damn it, I AM an Amazon princess! No, really, my name is a vine found in the Amazon rainforest. For real!

That was so not funny. I probably scared people. I now have the image in my head of the two Domo-kun chasing a kitten.

3) Okay, you both bring up interesting points, that I have preferred to think of as challenges. Ed, first, that was very erudite for a sock. And I agree about the Golden Age stuff being more inventive and charming than the Silver Age stuff, although I think the Diana Prince stuff COULD have been lovely, with a few adjustments. And Liana, I understand your point, I always find that when she is a messenger, it sucks, but when SHE is the message, through her actions, it’s a lot more interesting. So when has it been done right? Do you each have favorite Wonder Woman stories from the past?

ED: The first stories I remember were the humungous editions that reprinted the original Sensation Comics. Then there were the 100 page Giants, and I remember a story in one where WW was turned into wood. All kinds of inferences can be made there.

I remember this cover from a 70s story, where the Duke of Deception is this giant head and hand, and he is pushing Diana into a bowl of soup. All kinds of psycho-sexual messages there. Green Arrow co-starred.

I liked the last WW issue before the original Crisis, where Diana finally married Steve Trevor. It was a nice ending to that Silver Age version of the character. Then she goes off and gets killed. They didn’t even get a honeymoon. She died a virgin. Man, did Silver Age Steve Trevor ever get laid?

Perez’s run was all good, but the Mindi Mayer issue was a stand-out, introducing some of the real world into the DCU.

I really liked when John Byrne introduced Helena & Cassandra Sandsmark, who were NOTHING AT ALL exactly like Julia and Vanessa Kapatelis with the names changed. Nothing. At all. Completely fresh concepts. Awesome.

During the whole Death of Superman and KnightFall cycle with the other two points in the DC trinity, Diana got a funky new outfit with a jacket and started working at Taco Whiz so she could come to know the challenges humans face. Some criticized the concept of having an Amazonian princess working at a fast-food joint. So what? America has Indian neurosurgeons and Russian nuclear technicians driving taxis and working as parking lot attendants. I thought it was a sly bit of social commentary.

Okay, even I don’t believe that. But it was still cool having a superhero work a dead-end job. Never see Bruce Wayne working a drive-thru window!

And Artemis…there have been numerous ‘replacements’ for Diana as Wonder Woman over the years, most lasting one issue, but of them all the best was Artemis. She was a different take on an Amazon, more in keeping with the warrior nature of the legends. And she was a redhead…nothing hotter than a redhead, especially one that kicks ass. More Artemis please.

Loved Amazons Attack. In a ‘Bizarro loves’ way.

Then there came Gail, and all has been good since. Don’t leave the book, it will immediately start sucking. Don’t fight me on this, I read ‘The All-New Atom’ til the bitter end.

LIANA: I actually liked it when she snapped Max Lord’s neck. The reasons would be an essay in itself. I didn’t like what came out of that moment, because I thought it brought up some really interesting questions about the nature of justice, and what “right” is when you’ve got that kind of power… and those issues were only flirted with, not really handled. I thought that moment finally distanced her from being the girl superman and gave her a fundamental character point that she’s willing to do something consequential and dirty that the boys won’t. I related so much in that moment, and the way everyone jumped on her afterward. It was a nice examination of the weird morality of superheroes: it’s somehow okay to let Joker keep busting out of Arkham and killing innocents – then there’s the whole OMAC thing. I mean, Wonder Woman took more crap in some ways for the Max Lord situation than Batman did for Brother Eye. In my experience, when there’s a powerful woman involved in a boys club, that happens far too often. The adrenaline junkie set does have some nasty thoughts lurking in the depths of their minds. Ma Kent is still the ideal, unblemished woman in those circles, followed closely by Alfred Pennyworth.

… Oh come on that’s funny.

I did like George Perez run in the 80s, and I saw a lot of echoes of it in the Justice League Animated Series. Diana’s a relative innocent in those though, and that doesn’t evolve her in any way.

I agree that the Diana Prince thing had potential. It’s that piece in her life that speaks to glamorous women not always being glamorous. Sometimes we want to wear sweats and no makeup and eat pizza. Mmmmmm pizza.

4) I think the obvious question to ask at this point is, how would Wonder Woman react if she were to appear on Ed And Red’s Night Party? Would she have to do the hot tub?

I think that thing must’ve been a hotbed of disease.

ED: How is this an ‘obvious’ question? It may be obvious to your mind, but your mind is the one that hatches Rag Doll’s dialogue. Remember Young Frankenstein? Abby Normal.

I can’t imagine what circumstances would have brought Wonder Woman to our studio. Cheetah working as one of our go-go dancers? Dr. Psycho in the hot tub? Using her magic lasso to make our idiot DJ tell the truth about the size of his manhood?

In short, I can’t imagine any circumstance, unless she and Black Canary went undercover again as our hot tub girls, but what would they be investigating? Besides, after 18 seasons we finished that show and are moving on to new ones.

So maybe a TV show where she and Liana were buddy partners in a detective agency, like that Lynda Carter/Loni Anderson classic “Partners in Crime”. I could be the crusty police chief who always tells them to stop meddling in police business, like Lt. Chapman on the Rockford Files. Or we could all do a cooking show featuring Amazonian recipes on how to cook mythical beasts.

And for the record, our hot tub was not a “hotbed of disease”. Anyone in the tub with a disease had it before they entered, and we used enough chlorine to kill any germ known to man. The HAZMAT suits that were used when we got rid of the tub were strictly a precaution.

LIANA: I can confirm that I survived the hot tub with only a minor rash, but no, Wonder Woman would not have to go in the hot tub. Based on the caliber of publicists shes’ had over the years, there would be a snowball’s chance in hell of them actually saying “yes” to her appearing on the show, but if she did, it would be one of those “celebrities in their natural habitat” segments. Since Wonder Woman doesn’t shop or go to the gym, and she doesn’t have a pet, it would be a very different kind of segment! Maybe Ed would cook with her! We’ve already done the archery thing with the guy who played Green Arrow on Smallville.

I would, however, push for bald Amazons in the tub that show. Alkyone would wreck soooo much stuff.

Geez, Ed, play along. It’s a thought exercise.

ED: No.

5) Could both of you describe what would be Ed’s perfect date with Wonder Woman?

LIANA: Would that work? Ed looks a lot like Genocide. Screw that, I want a hypothetical date with Wonder Woman! Wait, Scandal will get mad. Um, never mind…………………………um…………Ok ay I’m trying here, but the concept of Wonder Woman being forced to go on a date with Ed is tragic and horrible. Although she’d probably end up beating him up, which he would like.

ED: I can’t describe it, but I could provide diagrams.

Thanks, guys. It was…not normal, but still great to hear from you! Everyone go enter “Ed the Sock” or “Ed and Red” over at Youtube.com for some hilarious clips of their shows and interviews!

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