The David E. Kelley produced pilot for a new Wonder Woman TV show, which NBC ultimately passed on, was much-discussed by fans on the Internet, with the lion's share of that discussion revolving around the updated version of the Wonder Woman costume that star Adrianne Palicki would be wearing in the show (Of course, since the show wasn't released yet, and now never will be, the promotional image of Palicki in-costume was about all that fans and interested parties could discuss at that point).
And, or course, last week, DC announced their plans to revamp their entire line of superhero comics, which would include new costumes for all of the characters, designed by Lee. Wonder Woman would therefore get another new Lee-designed costume, which looks like it will hew closer to his costume design than the original Wonder Woman costume.
All three efforts at giving the Amazon princess new costumes were meant to depart dramatically from her traditional look, perhaps to gain attention, and most certainly to make her more palatable to new audience members. Both the JMS-plotted storyline and the upcoming line revamp are meant to modernize the character and attract new readers in greater numbers. As for the TV show, any TV show would have a much, much wider audience than any comic book.
But can you really sell Wonder Woman in a new wrapper? When does Wonder Woman stop being Wonder Woman? Is it, as far as the vast majority of people are concerned, as soon as she changes clothes? Like all superheroes, Wonder Woman is visually defined by her costume. Sure, you can tinker with it a bit here and there—all superhero costume are more or less fluid, if only with in a pretty well-established spectrum—but certain things are always going to be expected.
Wonder Woman has to look like the one in the 1970s TV show, like the one in Super Friends and in Justice League and Justice League Unlimited. She has to look like the lady from the seventy-some years worth of comic books. She has to have a red corset thing. She has to have blue, star-spangled shorts. She has to have bracelets, a lasso and tiara.
This is Wonder Woman.
Or, I suppose, this is Wonder Woman.
Those aren't Wonder Woman, and I have a hard time imagining DC's latest attempt to visually transform the character connecting with anyone who only knows the character from her various television incarnations, since the latest new Wonder Woman costume doesn't look anything like the Wonder Woman that exists in their imagination. Just as I imagine a Superman without a cape or S-shield or a Batman without a cape and pointy ears wouldn't interest anyone interested in a Superman or Batman experience.
2.) The most obvious trend among the three most modern Wonder Woman designs is the fact that rather than a star-spangled skirt or pair of shorts, she wears full pants, with Lee's first re-design adding a jacket as well, for the most modest Wonder Woman costume of them all (Phil Winslade's Victorian Wonder Woman from 1997's Amazonia was more scantily clad).
The impulse is understandable, if perhaps somewhat wrongheaded. If DC Comics (and those with an eye toward adapting DC's character into live action media) wants to make Wonder Woman a more realistic character, then the fact that she fights evil and crime while wearing a patriotic bathing suit and high-heeled boots seems like a good place to start tinkering.
Given the fantastical nature of the character, however, and the role that the figures of Greek mythology play in her story, I think she's a superhero character particularly ill-suited to more realistic takes (That is, what might work fine for Batman or Iron Man, Green Arrow or The Punisher doesn't work quite as well with the likes of the magical Amazon princess created by the Greek goddesses to teach the world to love by beating up and then befriending its bad guys).
Other than a reflexive concern about trying to make the character realistic at the expense of some of her charms, I never really considered her costuming as originally conceived as inherent to the character herself, until I read this quote from a very good book I plan to discuss at greater length in the near future.
Diana's fashion sense is symbolically linked to her politics. Her half-nakedness is part and parcel to her political agenda, so those who are uneasy about her clothesare often uneasy about her broader message of female empowerment. When Diana confronts the world with her exposed her flesh, she expects a well-adjusted reaction. The first time she encounters American clothing in All Star Comics #8, she is puzzled by how conservative the women's fashions are. "There's so much material in these dresses ... but they are cute!" she says, talking as if she had the sensibilities of Eve before the Fall. Leaving the store after choosing to stay dressed in her Wonder Woman costume, Diana encounters throngs of people on the streets who "are amazed to see the scantily clad girl walking around so unconcerned." When old women react with jealousy ("The hussy! She has no clothes on!" "The brazen thing!") and young men with lechery ("Ha! Sour grapes, sister! Don't you wish you looked like that!"), Diana is mildly put out that her body causes such a stir in either direction.
—Marc DiPaolo, War, Politics and Superheroes: Ethics and Propaganda in Comics and Film (McFarland & Company; 2011)
By making Wonder Woman wear pants, are they (and, by "they" I mean Jim Lee, DC Comics, David E. Kelley, Warner Brothers and/or whoever is advocating she cover up those bare legs) failing the enlightened view of the female body litmus test that Wonder Woman's costume functions as? Are they seeing the wrong things when they see Wonder Woman's flesh, thinking her a brazen, exhibitionist hussy and condemning her for it, or worrying that she will incite lust in others?
Almost 70 years after that story in All-Star Comics #8, are we still not at the point where we're okay with an Amazon princess strutting around with bare legs, shoulders and arms?