The 12 Triumphs of Wonder Woman Day
By Andy Mangels
Mythology is full of trials for the heroes, often involving quests and monsters, lions and many-headed hydras, and occasionally, the cleaning of very stinky stables. Readers may recall the latter as one of Hercules' (or Heracles', if you like) vaunted 12 Labors. But in the end, the hero, quite naturally, triumphs.
Wonder Woman went through her own 12 Trials (self-imposed) when she wanted to rejoin the Justice League after regaining her powers and costume. Those stories ran in Wonder Woman volume 1 #212 (June-July 1974) to #222 (Feb-March 1976), and were famous for their guest-star covers and cool premises. And in the end, Wonder Woman rejoined her colleagues in triumph.
With Wonder Woman Day IV this Sunday, October 25, in Portland and New Jersey, I thought I'd share with you 12 of the Triumphs of the event over the last few years. In the process, you'll hopefully find out more details about this cool event!
12 - The Birth of An IdeaNever having given birth to a baby, nor even sculpted one out of clay and asked the gods to breathe life into it, I can't know the pains involved in that process. But Wonder Woman Day was created in 2006 as a way to incorporate three parts of my life into one fun event. I've raised thousands of dollars for charity over the years with various events and campaigns, including $7,000 for CBLDF with my book, The George Perez Archives. But that was the only element of my charity work that directly touched on comics (excepting work with the non-profit PRISM Comics). And although George nicely drew me on the cover to that book with my head touching Wonder Woman, I hadn't incorporated my love for the character, or my immense collection, into charity work either.
When a Canadian TV series called FANatical contacted me to do a show about my collection, and me, they asked if I had involved Wonder Woman in my charity work. This spurred me to gel all of the elements together and create the first Wonder Woman Day. Hundreds of hours of work later, and thanks to the donated work of over a hundred comic artists, $15,405.33 was raised for two Portland, Oregon, Domestic Violence shelters at the debut event.
11 - A Battle Is JoinedWhile preparing for the second year of Wonder Woman Day, I was approached by Stacy Korn, co-owner of Comic Fusion in Flemington, New Jersey. Stacy wanted to do a "sister" Wonder Woman Day event at her store. She had already approached artists about getting artwork and started planning. I went over the guidelines I wanted to maintain: 100% of the money raised had to go to charity; the charity had to be Domestic Violence-related; the character had to be treated with respect; it had to be family-friendly; and she had to solicit contributions on her own, not just rely on contributions I was getting (though I would, and do, share).
Stacy was more than up for the challenge, and did a great job meeting all the obligations and then some. She's actually built a larger event around it, called "Super-Hero Weekend," and has hosted multiple creators in her store and gotten some big names to contribute who won't even respond to my emails. Stacy and her staff are true Wonder Friends!
By the way, volunteers in three other cities have tried to organize similar events, but have run into problems. In two cases, the comic book stores wanted a cut of the money, and in the third, the charity didn't want to be associated with Wonder Woman because she was "violent." It's my hope there will be other Wonder Woman Day events in other cities in the future, but for now, Portland and New Jersey are it.
10 - A Summit Is Reached
October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. You may not have known that. A previous President never acknowledged that. But Google the phrase now, and many of the links are connected to Wonder Woman Day! The Domestic Violence charities involved--shelters Raphael House and Bradley-Angle in Portland, the Portland Women's Crisis Line, and the shelter Safe in Hunterdon in New Jersey--originally didn't quite know what to expect with Wonder Woman Day, and to say they've been pleased would be an understatement. To date, over $69,000 has been raised by the events for these charities!
Each year in Portland, a Domestic Violence Summit is held in Pioneer Courthouse Square, an amphitheater beloved by all, smack in the middle of downtown. I remember the first year handing out fliers for the event, and even the other Domestic Violence shelters looked at me warily. In year three, we had a Wonder Woman arrive in a gorgeous costume, with blue cape billowing in the breeze and tiara and bracelets flashing. I recall one of the local female sheriffs who was set to speak was giddy to take a picture with her (she later attended WWD3 and bought some art for her office!). This year at the Domestic Violence Summit, another Wonder Woman was there with a table advertising the event. People took lots of pictures, and one grade school field trip was astonished to meet a real super-hero in downtown Portland!
9 - Of Mannequins and ModelsIf you go to www.WonderWomanMuseum and click on The Mannequin Project, you'll see something my costumer partner and I began several years back. Using a pattern from one of Lynda Carter's original costumes, we created an exact replica of the costume and had a custom-built mannequin that looked like Lynda created. The mannequin was a popular item to pose for pictures with at the first two Wonder Woman Days, but was difficult to transport. So, she remains at home, watching over me in my office as I write.
In year three, famous local radio DJ Daria appeared as Wonder Woman with her husband, hockey star Dallas, as Batman. Additionally, famed cosplayer Valerie Perez also flew in for the event. Having two beautiful Wonder Women there was astounding. Some of the young girls who attended in their own costumes couldn't believe they were meeting their idol. The adults appreciated the super-heroines as well, and some arrived at the event in their own costumes.
8 - Children Are Our Future
From her earliest adventures, Wonder Woman was both a mother figure and an older sister figure for youngsters. She often both protected them and tried to teach them the way to live their lives better and stronger, instilling pride and confidence and compassion as she did so.
Wonder Woman Day has always been kid-friendly, and many parents bring their young ones in costume. We have prizes to give out, they can pose with heroes and heroines, and they hopefully get some good messages. Not only do they come out of the comic store at the end of the day excited by the four-color world they've visited, but they also understand that adults can join together for charitable causes and have a fun time doing so.
7 - A Message From The PastWonder Woman was created by William Moulton Marston, and if you're reading this, you probably know lots of interesting things about him. Psychologist, writer, inventor of one form of the lie detector, and father. One of the cool elements about producing Wonder Woman Day has been getting to know one of his sons by phone and email. Pete Marston has his own Wonder Woman museum in his home, which he eventually plans to share with fans. He's also the oldest living contributor to the mythos, having plotted several early Wonder Woman stories for his father!
Pete has been a supporter of Wonder Woman Day, lending us quotes and his thoughts. One statement he gave: "As the oldest son of William M. Marston, the originator of Wonder Woman, I would like to thank all of the people involved in this great effort for their belief in the spirit of Wonder Woman. She represents the blending of strength, honesty, compassion, caring and love, and this event is built on those values. " Last year, he showed up unannounced at the New Jersey event, where he posed for pictures with Spider-Man, Robin, Hush, and the heroine his father had created. Wish I could have been there, but maybe he'll be out to Portland one day in the future...
6 - Royal DecreeIt's rare for comic books to get respect from the world "out there," and even rarer for the governmental bodies to pay them anything but disdain. With the exception of a few Superman, Batman, and Spider-Man proclamations (and the town-wide Metropolis, Illinois, celebrations), super-heroes haven't gotten much due.
But in 2007, Portland Mayor Tom Potter proclaimed Wonder Woman Day in Portland Oregon. He did so again in 2008. And new mayor Sam Adams did so again this year. Three years in a row, one of America's larger cities has welcomed a star-spangled heroine as an important symbol!
5 - On DisplayEach year after Wonder Woman Day, I hold a debriefing with the charities and volunteers to discuss how to make the next year better or more diverse. For two of the three years, framing master Jason Jones, himself a comic fan and a tattooed "walking comic art gallery," had donated work matting and framing art for the auction. Last year he worked with Lara Sydney Framing Gallery, and we had gotten great vibes from its owner, Lara, and her mother, Cynthia.
This year, we asked them to do a month-long art gallery show of a selection of pieces from the art auction. Jason framed them all, and we had 36 pieces displayed. Portland does an event called "First Thursday," in which every gallery in town puts out their new shows, and patrons wander the streets to see as many galleries as possible. October 1st, we had the "Amazing Amazon" Gallery event, attended by 15 of the artists whose works were on display. In addition, Wonder Woman showed up. To say the opening was a smash was putting it mildly, as over 300 people flocked to the show! Throughout the month, Lara Sydney has welcomed many more fans in to see their favorite heroine enshrined in a real, prestigious gallery.
4 - Drawing Courage
Speaking of artists, to date, there have been over 300 artists contribute to Wonder Woman Day's art auctions. They range from comic artists to fine artists to animation artists to designers. They've sent work from all over the U.S., Canada, South America, Europe, and Australia. Over 600 pieces of artwork created for the event have been auctioned off, and images have ranged from sultry to cute, from dangerous to cuddly. Creators have showcased Wonder Woman as a protector, a warrior, a poet, a goddess, a sex symbol, and a daughter. She's saved kittens and children, blown her hair dry, made political statements to the right and left, licked stamps, deflected bullets, and faced zombies, space apes, sharks, Nazis, and bad hair days. She's been etched in chrome and on wine bottles, painted on wood and plastic, drawn with pencil and ink and crayons, finished with magnets and 24K gold, and more!
Every artist who has contributed has done so for free, using his or her time and talent (and absorbing shipping costs) to contribute. And more than a few of them have expressed not just their support for the event, but their first-hand knowledge of the good it does. Several repeat contributors have shared with me the fact that they grew up partially in Domestic Violence shelters, and with the help of Domestic Violence organizations, their families pulled through.
3 - Be Our GuestEach year we've featured an array of guests to sign and sketch for the attendees. Terry Dodson, Matthew Clark, Anne Timmons, Phil Jimenez, Gail Simone, Adam Hughes, Allison Sohn, Aaron Lopresti, Steve Dorris have all spent time in Portland at the tables, while in New Jersey, Neil Vokes, James Fiorentino, Rob Kramer, Chris Muller, and others have entertained the crowds.
And not only have they touched the attendees with their support, but according to most of them, they've been uplifted by the spirit of the event as well.
2 - The AmazonsEach year's Wonder Woman Day does not happen from the work of solely Stacy Korn and myself. The charities work very closely with us, manning the auction tables and running raffle prizes, arranging PR and helping make decisions. A Portland shout-out goes to Jessica and Lisa and Megan and Amy from Raphael House, Ron and Karen and Kristan from Bradley Angle, Linda from Portland Women's Crisis Line, and others whose names I may not recall.