- Associated Press - Friday, July 2, 2010

NEW YORK (AP) — She’s been ruined! Covered up! De-patriotized! You call that chic?

And that’s only what they’re saying down here on Earth.

Heaven knows what the gods are saying about Wonder Woman’s new wardrobe change — goodbye, star-spangled hot pants! — a generational twist that has comic fans searching for meaning, and DC Comics searching for higher sales.

The change came this week, when the publisher put out its 600th issue in the 69-year-old Wonder Woman saga. It not only updates the look of this beautiful Amazon with the superhuman strength, the indestructible bracelets and the magic lasso — it changes her backstory, too.

More on that later, though. Because what’s really gotten some purists going is the costume. Gone are the ample red bustier, star-flecked hot pants (or are they panties?) and red knee-high boots, a 1940s-pinup look that Lynda Carter brought to life in the 1970s TV series.

Now, Wonder Woman, aka Diana Prince, wears black leggings or tights. She sports a motorcycle jacket and little bootie-like shoes. Her tiara is there, but mostly covered by her flowing hair. She looks less like Wonder Woman and more like a modern-day urban hipster with perhaps a costume on under her clothes.

Which is pretty much the point, says DC Comics co-publisher Dan DiDio.

Because in the updated story, penned by new “Wonder Woman” writer J. Michael Straczynski, our heroine wakes up confused and uncertain of her identity, haunted by enemies unknown, DiDio explained in an interview.

And so, as she goes about figuring out who exactly she is, she needs to blend in with modern society. It’s pretty hard to avoid attention on the street in her original getup — “Especially when you’re a 6-foot-6 Amazon!” DiDio quipped.

But he wants fans to know that Wonder Woman still has all her iconic tools.

“She still has the tiara, the chest plate, the belt, the magic lasso — the bracelets too, though we’ve molded them a bit,” DiDio said. Her new getup is simply more functional.

Whatever the reasoning, complaints have been coming fast and furious.

“She’s gone from Paris to Poughkeepsie,” noted fashion publicist and MTV reality show habitue Kelly Cutrone. “She’s a superhero! This is NOT a good fashion look.” For one thing, she noted in a video commentary, “There are too many accessories competing here.”

Not all fashion followers were dismayed with the new look, created by DC Comics co-publisher Jim Lee.

“I’m actually not a comic fan, but I have to say the new outfit is pretty fabulous,” said Jimmy Contreras, a boutique owner in Philadelphia. “From a fashion and practical standpoint it works. The leggings, bustier top and fitted jacket really give Wonder Woman a chic, modern, yet sophisticated look. And the accessories are just enough to keep her feminine, but strong.”

Analysis abounded. One going theory: The new Wonder Woman is intended to be less American, and thus more global.

“She no longer looks as though she’s wearing a flag,” wrote Pulitzer Prize-winning fashion critic Robin Givhan of The Washington Post. “She has shrugged off parochialism to become an international sophisticate.”

Others praised the decision to cover up Wonder Woman’s legs as a step forward in gender equality.

“It’s about time,” wrote Alex DiBranco on the Change.org Web site. “She … looks a lot more like the kind of superhero who demands respect and can kick butt in the name of justice, rather than somebody who belongs in the Miss America swimsuit lineup.”

Feminist author and icon Gloria Steinem wasn’t so sure.

It was Steinem who embraced Wonder Woman as a role model for girls and put her, in 1972, on the cover of her Ms. magazine with the caption: “Wonder Woman for President.”

Adding pants, Steinem said in an e-mail message, “gives us the idea that only pants can be powerful — tell that to Greek warriors and Sumo wrestlers.” Besides, she added, “in fact, they’re so tight that they’ve just painted her legs blue; hardly a cover-up.”

But Steinem isn’t too upset with the clothes. It’s the story change she really dislikes. Before, Wonder Woman had been raised on an island by her Amazon mother and sisters. Now, that island was destroyed when she was a baby, and she was shepherded off, to be raised elsewhere.

“It’s an exact copy of Superman who came as a baby from the exploding planet Krypton,” Steinem noted. “This destroys her home, her Amazon mother and sisters, and gives her no place to go to gain strength and create an inspiring storyline.”

The whole thing, she added, is based on “what seems to be the brainstorming of a very limited group of brains.”

Why the story change at all? DC Comics is clearly hoping the new Wonder Woman will bring in a whole new audience. The company won’t give out sales figures, but DiDio acknowledged that Wonder Woman, despite her place in the “triumvirate” of most important comic superheros along with Superman and Batman, sells less than those two.

“We’re really hoping to grow our fan base, and really re-establish her as one of the premier superheroes in comics,” he said.

So for the company, all the talk can only be good. In fact, DiDio says, with the current issue, sales have almost doubled — and the second printing will now proudly show the new Wonder Woman, no longer a secret, on the cover.

“We’re really glad people have spoken out,” he said.

One fan of the new look: Carter, who will always be associated with the original costume.

“I think it’s going to be very sexy and it’s new and I love the cap sleeve,” she was quoted as telling ABC News. “She’s a hip girl.”

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