Most of these tools are fairly easy to understand. For example, Batman’s Batmobile is a pretty slick car that can do all sorts of neat things. The technology, while somewhat far-fetched by today’s standards, is at least believable. Robin, while a gender- and orientation-challenged young man, is also fairly easy to relate to given the technology of the day.
Wonder Woman, however, has always made me, well, wonder.
First off, that bracelet stuff she wears is, on the surface, seemingly simple: it’s bulletproof. But what isn’t explained is her superfast reaction time that allows her to place her wrists right in the path of the bullet. This is an implied skill, and has never really been fully explored as part of her character development arc.
[Hey, I used the phrase “character development arc” in a post about superheroes. Fascinating!]
The fact that she wears it only on her wrists and doesn’t wear it in a more convenient place – like, say, all over – suggests a somewhat misguided approach to wardrobe development. Either this was an early version of a wardrobe malfunction, or her creators determined the safety benefits of covering her up with a futuristic Kevlar-like body suit were outweighed by the potential loss of babe-a-liciousness thanks to her minimalist and patriotic costume. This is a classic application of the ages-old struggle between form and function.
This also forces the blanket assumption that all bad guys will be shooting at her from the front. In her oft-repeating two-dimensional world, the evil criminal masterminds are too stupid to loop around the back and fire at her in such a way that she will not see the bullets coming fast enough to calculate the trajectory and position herself accordingly.
But the ultimate dopeheaded move involves her airplane. I know you’ve never seen it; that’s because it’s invisible. Well, not really invisible, because when she flies it, us proletarian viewers sort of see the outline. But that’s a story for another day. This piece of cartoon-aviation history begs a whole litany of questions:
- Finding it: When she decides to go flying, how does she find her aircraft? Does she wander all over the tarmac until she simply bumps into it? If she stubs her Wonder Toe, does that preclude her from flying that day?
- Getting it off the ground: Once she finds the plane, does her pre-flight and lights it up, how does she work with Air Traffic Control to obtain clearance for takeoff? As far as they’re concerned, she isn’t flying a plane. She’s just an oddly-dressed woman sitting all by herself in the middle of a huge expanse of concrete. If I were staffing a radar console, I’d send the padded wagon people to fetch her.
- Pattern management: Assuming she manages to convince ATC that she’s for real, how, then, are other aircraft on the ground and in the air to be made aware of her presence? Does her plane carry some sort of transponder? Will other pilots laugh when they see a recumbent flag-wearer hurtling through the sky at near-mach speeds?
- Stealthiness: Her plane may be optically invisible, but does it show up on radar? Based on my admittedly cursory analysis of the basic shape of the airframe, I’d have to say it is not remotely close to being a stealthy design. Its origins – I believe in the 1960s – pre-date the development of radar-absorbing-and-reflecting shapes and materials. If this assumption is true, then Wonder Woman is increasingly vulnerable in today’s higher-threat environments.
- Lights on or off: Also, how do Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) rules apply to nighttime flight of this class of aircraft? Does she need to have lights on? She’s walking a fine line between flight safety and superhero derring-do, in my opinion. (And I haven't even raised the question of whether or not a government body like the FAA has jurisdiction over a superhero or her aircraft. That, too, is an issue for another day.)
- Optical illusions: How is it that we can see Wonder Woman through the skin of the plane? If that’s the case, then she really isn’t invisible at all, is she? Similarly, where’s the fuel? Does the plane make that invisible, too? Come to think of it, I’ve never actually seen her arrange to refuel her aircraft. Perhaps the Superfriends already set her up with a lifetime supply of JP4. Or, horrors, the plane is nuclear-powered and we all live under the threat of an airborne nuclear power plant crashing into the corn fields just outside town.
- You can't take it with you: And what about her luggage? Who jets halfway around the world to save humankind without taking so much as a good book or a healthy snack?
- IFR or VFR: Are her instruments visible as well? Granted, the view is always side-on, so the viewer at home can’t really see the instrument panel. But on the assumption that we can escape from our two-dimensional televised jail just long enough to peer over WW’s shoulder, what would we see if we looked forward? Would it just be empty space (likely, given the fact that everything on the plane is invisible) or would we see dials and stuff? And if she’s looking at a blank panel, how can she fly by Instrument Flight Rules at the extreme heights and speeds that she routinely travels? Don’t tell me her eyesight is so good that all of this is moot. When the ceiling closes in and you’re battling thunderheads and wind shear, not even the Six Million Dollar Man’s bionic eye will save you. Optics can only carry you so far when you’re up in the sky. I honestly don’t think she ever achieved her instrument rating.
Icould probably muse about this for the next few hours, but I think I’ve made my point abundantly clear. Are you aware of any other superhero – or even basic cartoon – inconsistencies that have vexed you for the better part of a generation? For example, what of the Flintstones series characters’ tendency to run past the same walls and furniture while being chased by a giant dinosaur. Their houses didn’t look that big from the outside, yet they seem endless during these chase scenes. What gives?
As I've said too often in my blogging past, discuss...