A Wondrous Book Launch

(10 comments)

The cover art is, as ever, by the fantastic
James Taylor, who talks about his process
over here
Last War in Albion will run on Saturday this week, in lieu of the usual waffling.

I am pleased to announce that A Golden Thread: An Unofficial Critical History of Wonder Woman is at long last available from Eruditorum Press. It's priced at $7.99 for the US ebook edition, with all other editions priced to give me the same royalty. You can buy it now at Amazon (Print, Kindle), Amazon UK (Print, Kindle), and Smashwords, which can provide you with ebook versions for any non-Kindle devices. It's available in most other Amazon stores, and will be on Nook, iBooks, and Sony stores in a few weeks.

The book is a critical history of Wonder Woman, focusing primarily but not exclusively on her comic book appearances. It starts in 1941, as William Moulton Marston, a pop psychologist, creates a female superhero to advance his idiosyncratic goals about the relationship between men and women, through the days when she was more feminist than Gloria Steinem, and all the way to the present day, where the character is stuck in DC's woeful New 52 relaunch, looking at every era of Wonder Woman in between.

It's written to be understandable and interesting to audiences who have never read a Wonder Woman comic before, but has enough detail that even the most die-hard fan will learn a few things. It doesn't just cover the canonical "major eras" like the Marston era and the Pérez era, but every era from 1941 on is there, in varying levels of detail.

Why, one might ask, a history of Wonder Woman? Because she's simultaneously one of the most recognized figures in popular culture and one of the least well-understood. She's a wildly popular character, and yet save for three seasons of television in the 1970s it's hard to point to her iconic or beloved version. There are not stories like The Dark Knight Returns or The Death of Gwen Stacy that everyone points to as the iconic Wonder Woman story. There's no movie version.

And yet she's fascinating. Not just because she was designed as propaganda for Marston's imagined female supremacist bondage utopia, but because she's spent over seventy years in continual publication by a company that has never seemed to understand the character. Where Batman and Superman feel easy to understand, Wonder Woman is strangely amorphous, resisting an easy definition. This has made her comics often frustrating, but rarely, if ever, boring. And because she is, by her nature, a symbol of feminism and of social justice, the highs and lows of her comics are often fascinating.

Inevitably, a book drifts over two years of being written and produced. When I envisioned the book, of course, it was called Paradise Dungeons, playing off of Wonder Woman's Paradise Island and the oft-remarked upon bondage components of Wonder Woman. But when I finished the book it wasn't quite that book.

Much of this is simply because Wonder Woman turned out to be a larger and twistier topic than I'd initially imagined. So much of her history consists of DC clearly trying to run and hide from the sheer radicalness of the character, such that the radical sexuality that defined William Moulton Marston's original conception of her wasn't even suppressed so much as denied entirely.

Instead I found that I'd written a book about the history of feminism and of what we mean when we talk about utopianism. It's a book about how both of these move forward not through anything that might be mistaken for a clear arc of progress, but in a weird and stuttering way. What we call progress is just screwing up in new and inventive ways.

And so the book became about the messiness of progress. It became about the ways in which people who tried to make Wonder Woman more feminist failed, and, equally important, about the ways in which people who tried to strip the social commentary out of Wonder Woman and make her into a generic superhero failed too. It's about the feminist victories of people for whom feminism was never a goal and about the at times profoundly anti-feminist effects of people who were deeply committed to feminism.

In the end, it's a book about how progress and feminism are weird. It's about how a character designed as bondage propaganda became a pop culture icon owned by a major multinational media conglomerate. And it's about how, when that happens, neither side wins as such, and instead the world grinds on in perpetually strange and unexpected ways. It's about what material social progress is, in all its glories and disappointments.

I'm very proud of it. It's my first book written as a book instead of as a collection of existing essays, and I think it's a really interesting story that hasn't been told enough. I really hope you'll buy a copy, and that you enjoy it.

If you have a site where you'd like to review it, shoot me an e-mail with a link and I'll get you hooked up with an ebook. If you have a good old-fashioned comic book store and would like to stock physical copies, let me know and we can figure something out. Either way, I'm snowspinner at gmail.

Finally, for those wondering, Flood is out on November 14th (I got my advance copy on Monday, and it looks lovely), and TARDIS Eruditorum Volume 4: Tom Baker Part One is set for the end of November/beginning of November.

Comments

prandeamus 3 years, 8 months ago

I went to research Marston on Wikipedia, and found out that his occupations are listed as "Psychologist, Writer, Venusian". And why not?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Moulton_Marston unless it's been corrected by the time you read this...

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Anton B 3 years, 8 months ago

Just read the preview pages on my Kindle. Marvelous stuff! You got me but I'm going to have to wait till after the season of expensive goodwill to actually buy a copy. Good luck with it and all your other projects Phil, I'm constantly amazed at where you find the time to maintain the quantity and quality of ypur writing.

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Chris 3 years, 8 months ago

Not directly on topic, but Zazzle has 31% off today until 6pm Pacific. So for anyone who hasn't yet picked up a very wonderful Eruditorum volume 2 shirt or mug, today can be the day. Use code: HALLOWEENDAY

http://www.zazzle.com/gifts?ch=eruditorumpress

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jane 3 years, 8 months ago

It's a marvelous work, thorough and accessible and enlightening! I can't recommend it enough.

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Eric Gimlin 3 years, 8 months ago

I enjoyed the book immensely; once I was able to figure out where it was hidden on Amazon yesterday. (Now, of course, you have the direct link up.)

Will try and re-read it and get some more detailed thoughts and comments later. I will mention that I was pleased to see Christopher Priest (the comic writer, not the novelist) mentioned, but surprised that you didn't mention he was the go-to fill-in writer on WW for a while. Also, he's been dragged out of his comic book retirement:

http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=article&id=48361

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encyclops 3 years, 8 months ago

I'm very much looking forward to reading this. I'll most likely talk about it on encyclops.com when I'm done, but since (a) I have so many books in flight (including some of yours) that I don't know yet when I'll get a chance to read it, and (b) I like paying for work I want to support, no need to hook me up. :) I've been a Wonder Woman fan since I was old enough to watch TV beyond Sesame Street, and have always had trouble coming to grips with her long history in comics.

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timber-munki 3 years, 8 months ago

Will be purchasing, must admit that I'd no history with Wonder Woman (apart from watching the Lynda Carter show as a kid) untill the montoning/streamlining-for-multi-media-platforms that was the New 52 relaunch and currently it is the only DC book I'm still buying. The contrarian in me admires Azarello's willful ignoring of pretty much everything else that's happening in the DCU, as well as Chiang, Akin etc. art is just beautiful. Will be good to get some history on the character.

The

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gatchamandave 3 years, 6 months ago

Read it, loved it.

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gatchamandave 3 years, 6 months ago

That was a bit of a test, actually. May I add a couple of comments ?

My era of Wonder Woman is the Perez era. But from the start an aspect of that era troubled me, an aspect as aesthetically important as writer style or pencilled fashion, but one that rarely attracts attention -paper stock.

At this time in its history DC uses four types of paper stock

1 - standard. The usual newsstand standard comic book paper, high pulp content, poor colour grading, often so thin that pages bleed from front to back page, and at times damn near transparent

2 - Quality. Used for higher end titles like New Teen Titans, The Outsiders and reprint series like The Saga of Ra's ally Ghul and Roots of the Swamp Thing. Heavy paper, good colour separation, no bleeding. Pricey. Sells for double the Mainstream standard issues.

3 Prestige. Square bound graphic novels like The Dark Knight Returns and The Longview Hunters. Only for high concept projects, initially. Of course, eventually they use it for crap like Whom Gods Destroy ( Wonder Woman and Superman are married in an alternate world run by Nazis. Scripted by Chris Claremont. At his most verbose aka pompous )

4 New Format. Now, this is midway between Quality and Mainstream and in the 90s becomes the standard format for DC comics ( eg Preacher ). Notably, this is the format that Vertigo titles like Swamp Thing and John Constantine are published in. Y'know, all those titles Karen Berger edits.

Now, if you have George Perez art on your high concept mainstream identifiable characters - what format would you put it in ? Quality ? Maybe..but that's costly. Why not New Format ? Decent colours, defined art, no bleeding. They did, after all, put Roy and Dann Thomas's Young All Stars in that format and that's based on new spin offs of now defunct Golden Age heroes, and if that's not niche marketing, what is ?

What you don't do is put it into the cheapest, nastiest, poorly printed paper you can.

Unless you're DC - in which case, that's exactly what you do. Thus whilst Who Killed Mindy Meyer is a superb story, in its original format it's damn near unreadable.

As for War of the Gods - obviously intended for Prestige Format, stuck out in , yup, standard mainstream that by 1991 is practically rotting in your hands. No one published in this format by then. ' cept for stoopid ol' DC when it comes to a project supposed to celebrate 50 years of one of its hottest properties.

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Emi 3 years, 6 months ago

Just at the second chapter. WW reader since childhood, avid book reader. The pompous style and the cliché it expose make me drop it. And i started again telling myself it was à bad attitude to buy something and let it aside. But i will finish it with à nasty taste that it will put false ideas about wW not even finished the second chapter and i read a paragraph which is totally false. It says that Etta candy isn't humiliated or look down upon. So what is it then when ww tell her on a train to her home that she should not eat so much and won't get à man cause man doesn't like women like that? And that her behaviour and weight are not patriotic? Lol sure thats helping her getting on a diet mister...as i see you saw il that way on the next paragraph page 18. Seriously.
anyway reading that I'm afraid the rest is as controversed as this part to stay polite.
I must say great marketing job i fall for it. Have à nice day I'm pleased to see people getting interested in her and sad they get wrong ideas after all...

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