Wonder Woman has finally made it to the big screen.
The Amazon princess, who debuted in comic book form in 1941, makes her silver screen debut in “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice,” the estimated $250-million spectacle from director Zack Snyder with Henry Cavill reprising his role as Superman, Ben Affleck debuting as Batman and Gal Gadot (“The Fast and the Furious”) as Wonder Woman.
The movie, which opens March 25 on an estimated 30,000 screens in 61 markets around the globe, is part of the D.C. Extended Universe series that launched with “Man of Steel,” a 2013 Superman reboot. “Suicide Squad,” featuring the D.C. Comics anti-hero team, is slated for an August release. Wonder Woman will finally get her own film with an eponymous release slated for June 2017 in which Gadot will star.
For many Generation X gays, the 1975-1979 TV show “Wonder Woman” starring Lynda Carter, who has enjoyed decades of adoration because of the role, is beyond iconic. She performs her concert “Long-Legged Woman” at the Kennedy Center at 7 p.m. on April 2.
Carter does not have cameos in either “Dawn of Justice” or next year’s film and has focused on her singing in recent years. A resident of D.C. suburb Potomac, Md., she has appeared at LGBT events such as AIDS Walk Washington in 2010 and the Capital Pride parade in 2013, where she was grand marshal. She performs annually at the Kennedy Center and has earned acclaim for songs she recorded for the video game “Fallout 4.”
But for many, she’ll always be known as Wonder Woman. Her performance was so indelible that merchandise featuring her likeness continues to be churned out with items such as the “Wonder Woman ’77” comic series, a Hallmark ornament of her as the character and more.
She told superfan Mike Pingel, author of “The Q Guide to Wonder Woman” (2008) and “Channel Surfing: Wonder Woman” (2012), in a Frontiers interview published last week that she’s honored by the attention.
“It’s a thrill to have my Wonder Woman image resurrected after all these years,” she said. “In life, you carry around these memories. Then you meet people who share their memories and you end up experiencing it all over again through their eyes. It’s great to have a big resurgence of relevance, not just being in the past but something happening right now.”
So if the character is so perennially popular, why did it take so long to bring her to the silver screen when male superhero films have been made about even lesser-known characters like “Iron Man” (2008), “Jonah Hex” (2010), “Thor: the Dark World” (2013) and more? The Wonder Woman movie has languished in development limbo since the mid-‘90s. A 2011 pilot for a possible NBC series was not picked up. The CW abandoned another TV project in 2014.
“Honestly I think it could be that they just didn’t know what to do with her,” says Pingel, who’s gay and is now working on books about “The Bionic Woman” and “Buck Rogers in the 25th Century.”
“Hollywood is so male-dominated, sometimes I think men don’t know what to do with her. They have a woman director, though, now [Patty Jenkins] and hopefully she’ll be able to bring the heart and soul back to Wonder Woman that they had on the TV show. The show they tried in 2011 was just horrific. They didn’t understand the essence of who she was, her quality in helping the underdogs. … She was so mad and so angry and they couldn’t find the heart of the character. It wasn’t the actress’s fault. Even though she’s changed a lot in the comics, too, she’s always standing up for the rights of people who can’t do it for themselves. … That’s really the basis of why she does it — the heart, not the glory.”
Washington resident Walter Forbes says the ‘70s show and Carter are special to him because he watched the show growing up with his mother, who died of cancer in 1999. He first met Carter 10 years to the day after his mother died.
“I always saw her as kind of a mother, nurturing-type figure,” Forbes, 37, says of Carter. “When I met her, she was all that and more. Just like I’d hoped she would be.”
Forbes, who’s gay and says his boyfriend does not mind his Wonder Woman obsession, thinks finding the right level of toughness versus vulnerability was a lot of the delay.
“When people hear the word Amazon, most people think of Xena or almost like a Red Sonja-type of character. She’s a woman but they want her to be almost like a man. Lynda didn’t look like a man, she wasn’t built like a man, but at the same time she wasn’t too prissy or sexy or anything like that. I think a lot of the directors have wanted to take that role and turn her into something she wasn’t and they got hints from the fans that they weren’t going with that.”
He agrees with Pingel that the failed TV pilot was a good indication of how bad a bad Wonder Woman could be.
“It sucked,” he says. “They had her going around choking people, it was so violent, everybody knew her identity. I’m like, ‘OK, what is this show about? You’ve just stripped everything away.’ Even in the comic books, she was a loving person. She didn’t parade around like some barbarian. … That just wasn’t the essence of who Wonder Woman was.”
Carter said in a 2010 Blade interview that although she loved doing the role and has enjoyed the fans over the years, she’s moved on.
“I really love her and I really think she’s great and I particularly love the idea of her,” Carter said. “There’s so many things I like about it, but I’m busy living my life now, so I don’t think about it a lot. It’s a little like something really outstanding in your life that everybody talks about and that is wonderful and you loved doing it … but you’re busy doing other things so you really only think about it when somebody else brings it up.”
Despite fan speculation, Carter told Pingel a cameo didn’t happen because of scheduling conflicts.
“I had some nice conversations with Patty Jenkins, and we couldn’t get my schedule and their schedule to meet up. It didn’t work out, but I wish them well. Understandably they want a platform that is uniquely their own. I believe it’s an homage to the original in regards to the heart of the character. That is what matters.”
Forbes says it would have been an insult if Carter had been offered just a brief appearance.
“I don’t want to see her in just some walk-by role,” Forbes says. “Like Lynda Carter just happens to be in Starbucks or something. I think that’s kinda tacky. Like when Lou Ferrigno was in one of the Hulk movies and he was a security guard or something. I was like, ‘Are you serious? He brought this character to life and now he’s at the front desk?’ … If all they gave her was a walk-by role, it wouldn’t be worth her time. It would be an insult.”
Forbes says even if Wonder Woman only has a small role in “Dawn of Justice” — as of press time, the extent of her part is largely unknown — and her own film bombs, it will not diminish what Carter accomplished.
“I’ll definitely see it and support it and I’m open to giving Gal Gadot a chance to feel the role,” he says. “I’m just glad to see this character back. … The fans need to give it a chance, too. Already, online people are saying, ‘Oh, they changed the uniform, it’s too dark, it looks like Xena,’ and so on. I mean, come on, give it a chance. The uniform changed in the comic books, why wouldn’t they change it for the movie? … I’m excited about this new franchise.”