Comics

Wonder Woman: Zola and Hera

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Wonder Woman - Hera

In my last post I touched a little bit on the problems I have with Hera and briefly mentioned Zola. For the most part I genuinely really, really, like Zola. Zola is a pretty great character, all things considered, other than a few flaws. Hera I’m not too keen on, but that’s not necessarily her fault, it’s the writing, and the assumption that Hera is just the worst.

zola for president

The two characters work in opposing ways and form the main point of conflict for the series, therefore it’s appropriate to talk about them together. The fact that Diana doesn’t really seem to be the main character in her own series is something I’ll touch on later.

Zola is our main protagonist/everyman for the first arc of the series – she guides us through the weird, awesome world of modern Greek mythology. In addition to this, she is the main source of conflict, that is, the fact that she is pregnant. Kelly covered this in her X-Men review pretty well, so I won’t go on about it, but again BABIES remains the only plotline a woman can have. That’s a big thing I have a problem with, mainly because well, really?

Sadly, this series makes me react like that quite a bit, just disbelievingly going “really?”

Despite this beyond cliche plotline, I love Zola as I said. She’s consistently written as being fun, practical and while she enjoys sex she’s not all that sexualized. Hell, we meet her while she’s in her underwear but it’s not to titillate. In context, she has just woken up to a weird dude crashing in her house, and she’s more than willing to shoot him with a shotgun. So while she does spend a disproportionate amount of time in her underwear it never feels like a creepy escher girls moment or them trying to get away with anything.

Zola doesn't have time for the slut-shaming birdman

When Hermes tries to get all preachy with her, she shoots back with “I like sex dude, back off.” Zola is gleefully written as someone who likes to have sex, and it isn’t a big deal. I like that a lot, and it’s rare to see it in comic books. Whenever a woman is seen as being sexually active she’s condemned for it. This isn’t to say that this doesn’t happen to an extent in the series – it does quite a bit. But the fact that she’s generally not sexualized despite wearing cutoffs is so depressingly refreshing to me.

Zola’s main plotline and what brings her into the story is the fact that she has gotten impregnated by Zeus and is now carrying his child. This proves to be a big problem for the higher ups, as no one has seen Zeus in quite a while. The comic opens up with Apollo using some random poor party girls as oracles, setting them on fire in the process. So, not only is the problem that there’s a new demigod, but that it’s part of a Prophecy.

Anyone who’s read anything about mythology, Greek or otherwise knows how this will go. There’s going to be a lot of interference – mortal and divine, a lot of hubris, and a whooole bunch of tragedy. The arc works through that pretty succinctly but in a way that still feels pretty fresh. However, I can’t help but feel sort of miffed over how Zola is treated.

The three parts are there, the hubris, intervention, and tragedy. There’s also a lot of Hermes being a slippery jerk, which is also a common theme. To talk about intervention, we need to talk about the main interloper, Hera.

Hera, who, like in the myths is constantly being screwed over by Zeus (literally). Hera is petty, spoiled, angry, she is rude, and homicidal, but not without her good traits. In particular she seems truly sorry about what she does to Hippolyta. She and her daughter, Discord (who reminds me of a Sandman character in a good way), have a fun relationship. Later on, she even becomes comic relief. But the main problem I have with it is that it makes Hera out to be a villain, yet again, and punishes women for having sex.

As I said in my intro post, I know mythology. I know that Hera is an awful person, and as I’m writing this I’m taking a class on the Illiad which means a lot of awesome “UGH SHE’S SUCH A BITCH” comments. Which, I’m not all the cool with – I’m not saying that Hera is the paragon of greatness or that she isn’t written as petty. I’m saying that she’s not written off as being any more petty or terrible than the other gods. I have a problem with the main arc because in not so many words it’s essentially shoving home the point that women are all petty and irrational and their main concern at any point in time consists of “BABIES!!”.

Hera doesn’t even have her own plotline; it’s all about Zeus and we’re viewing her through the lens of her relation to Zeus. Now, this does get better, I will agree. But the starting point for the character and the main arc is “oh that crazy Hera! Killing children again!” Without spoiling massive things it’s not even her plotline, it’s all some part of someone else’s schemes. Which plays into even more distressing tropes.

I realize this comes off as very contradictory – I want more female villains, but I don’t want Hera to be one. The thing is, I would love if she were the “real” villain but she’s relegated to being a second string mini-boss in the bigger picture. She’s also shown as being much pettier and just “crazy” compared to Hermes, Apollo, and Poseidon. She’s not written as being flawed or interesting, it’s just the same “UGH WHAT A GIANT BITCH! SHE’S THROWING A TANTRUM AGAIN!” message, ad naseum.

The same goes for Zola, the minute she has the baby, she’s done, no real character arc, no real closure just. Have Baby. Get Baby Stolen. I like Zola, but I feel like it’s more due to my own biases than her being written with very much dimension. And that’s ultimately the problem here – I’ve been dawdling on this, due to other conflicts, school starting, etc. But the biggest thing is that after I’ve reread all the articles, they just seem sort of blank. I’m struggling to come up with things to say about most of the main characters, Diana in particular. I know she…fights…monsters? And now her origin is different. I can basically describe most of  them in caveman lingo. While this isn’t strictly a problem with the female characters (I couldn’t tell you much about Apollo other than my knowledge of mythology and “Wow what a dick”), it is a problem that again, it’s a female led series that revolves, again, around pregnancy and the angry shrew wife archetypes.

Elyese has an unwieldy love of video games, books, comics, and movies. By daylight she is a sleepy art major; by moonlight she is a Hulk-like figure who critiques these things to tatters.

1 Comment

  1. Kelly

    September 30, 2013 at 2:06 PM

    “I can basically describe most of them in caveman lingo.”

    Really love how you brought this up. I knew I had a problem with the series, but couldn’t quite pinpoint it until I read your piece. Though I’ve only read the first two arcs, I was astounded at how shallow the female characters seem. Okay, so it’s hard to get a lot of characterization accomplished in two arcs…but surely you can do better than falling back on “baby,” “jealous wife,” and “good at punching monsters.”

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