Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Author Samuel R. Delany on Wonder Woman and the Green Meanies from Mars

Yesterday's blockbuster news that entertainment juggernaut Disney is purchasing Marvel in a deal valued at $4 billion reminded me of a comical but insightful interview with science fiction author Samuel R. Delany that I stumbled across several months ago. Here’s an excerpt from a 1979 interview between Gary Groth and Delany that was conducted shortly after the latter's graphic novel Empire (1979) was published.
Gary Groth: I read that you had scripted Wonder Woman. I wasn’t aware of that. How did that come about?

Samuel R. Delany: 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 who did (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 [Dennis 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.

Gary Groth: This was while Denny was editing it?

Samuel R. Delany: 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 some social bite.

But there was this nostalgia surge to take her back to her fifties incarnation. D.C. used a chance comment Gloria Steinem dropped while being shown through the 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.
The interview was conducted in 1979 but published in a 1980 issue of The Comics Journal. It was reprinted in Delany’s Silent Interviews: On Language, Race, Sex, Science Fiction, and Some Comics: A Collection of Written Interviews (1994).

Pictured: Wonder Woman and the Green Meanies from Mars?

1 comment:

Mister Green said...

Wonder Woman #202
September-October 1972
"Fangs of Fire"

Wonder Woman #203
November-December 1972
"The Grandee Caper"

No martians in it, sorry ;(