4th Stage of Development Hades: Limbo- The history of Wonder Woman (not being) featured in the media
Shortly after the end of the Wonder Woman TV series, there was finally a talk for a Superman: a feature length color movie! The second ever to feature one of its main characters. We now think it takes forever for anyone to deliver a new DC movie, but the truth is its has always been that way.
While Batman had a theatrical movie during its Bat-mania craze, it was close to 12 years till Superman premiered in 1978 that DC heroes finally became a movie franchise. This Superman movie was clearly more inspired in the classic 1950’s Superman of the comics era, while in turn the 1950’s TV series in turn was more oriented to the 1940’s Superman. It did not portray the Superman of its own day. By the 70’s Clark had quit the planet and was by then a TV news anchorman for example. The movie was followed by 3 sequels and a supergirl spin-off during the next 7 years with the final one being released in 1986.
3 years later they took a crack at a Batman movie (1989), here Tim Burton made dark re interpretation of the original Batman 60’s series. The movie was a success and 3 sequels followed during the next 8 years with the Last one being Batman & Robin (1997). The movies increased the tone of the Batman 60’s camp in each sequel but adhered more of the comics lore of characters than the superman movies ever did, even borrowing characters from the contemporary Batman animated series.
Logic would dictate that by 1999 they would have had a crack at a Wonder Woman Movie. But no.
If Superman had 80’s, Batman the 90’s… Wonder Woman would not have the 00’s, why? I think we have to go back:
In 1986 the Super Friends ended, the longest running show to feature any DC superhero, and right after it did (in 1988), Superman turned 50 years old. To celebrate and since the Superman movies series had ended a couple of years before, warner needed new stuff to capitalize on, so it commissioned, a Ruby Spears animated mini series and new Superboy live action TV series premiered, it lasted 4 seasons (1988-1992).
When Batman turned 50 the next year (1989) and the Burton movie premiered that same year, only 3 years after Super Friends ended. it was accompanied by a semi tie-in Animated series by Bruce Timm.. you know, the one that was super successful.
But by the time Wonder Woman turned 50 in 1991 and there was nothing. And there should have been:
Its not that they did not think of anything. In 1990-92 Mattel noticed how well Filmation’s She-ra and Sailor Moon were doing and noticed that had been 17 years since her last solo appearance in any media (3 years since her actual last appearance on TV in the Superman 50year animated series). So they contacted Warner Animation and DC and prepared a new Wonder Woman! They hired the artist whose art had adorned the successful Superpowers line and had him design the characters. The started animation, which apparently got as far as some story boards and then… They pulled the plug.
Unfortunately, the whole thing collapsed not long afterwards — I can’t trace the actual fatal blow, but my guess would be that they couldn’t find any takers for their proposed cartoon (animated shows geared towards girls are virtually unsellable — even today I know of cartoons being shopped around that no-one will produce because “conventional wisdom” dictates that shows geared towards girls will fail).
A pilot was made. It included some test animation, character designs and even some live action segments, which was actually showed at a comic convetions/toyfairs in 1993.
It’s also possible that orders were so low on the toy line Mattel decided to pull the plug […] In fact, a Feb 93 article in the Wall Street Journal calls the line “an unusual venture” because of Mattel’s attempt to do a female action line, which at that point hadn’t been seen for several years. To help clarify things for those who might have been made nervous (and to think Xena would appear just a few years later!), a spokeswoman for Mattel stressed that the line would be nonviolent and that Wonder Woman would have “lots of hair to comb.” But lots of hair couldn’t save this Wonder Woman. – Sarah Dyer. “Action Girl”
As Wonder Woman and the Star Riders collapsed, Batman began getting movies every 3 years. After Superboy ended in ‘92, Superman got yet another live action series with Lois & Clark. This time a sort of drama series that focused in the relationship of Clark Kent and Lois Lane rather than in the super heroic exploits of Superman. Sort of a superman soap opera, and while the man of steel was not enjoying the multimillion success of Batman in the movies and had its own difficulties getting a new movie, the series lasted 3 seasons (1993-1997) and it managed to influence warner animation to create a new animated series (again at the hands of Bruce Timm) a series that went on for another 3 seasons (1996-2000).
By 1997 after Lois and Clark finished its run, series creator creator Debra Joy LeVine pitched a Wonder Woman show in the same vein. And it made perfect sense, females in leads where everywhere in the 90’s. There was Buffy the Vampire Slayer, AllyMcbeal, Star Trek: Voyager, Sheena the Jungle girl, not to mention Xena! There was crave for this strong female leads and it was the right place for Wonder Woman.
“[In the new series] she was a Greek history professor, a young and very bright woman having a hard time juggling her personal life with her work. In this case, of course, her real work is being an Amazon warrior. It’s, like, “I’ll save the world, come home, pop a Lean Cuisine in the oven and watch the soap I taped this afternoon.” In many ways, she’s like a real woman, a real person. There’s a lot less holier than thou, out to fight for truth and justice, and more or less the fact that she’s here, she did come from Paradise Island, she was sent by her mother who the gods spoke to and said you have to send an emissary. So she came here and that’s sort of what she’s supposed to do as Wonder Woman, but she’s trying to live a normal life as Diana Prince, Greek history professor, as well. […] is not a show that’s totally about her fighting the bad guys, and certainly not, as it was in the comic books, where she has to fight monsters. No monsters here. I think what worked on Lois & Clark is that it was really 50/50 or 60/40 relationship and stuff going on between them versus the bad guys they had to deal with. I guess if you were to compare this to something, it would have to be Ally McBeal meets Xena. She can be like Xena and beat a group of people if she has to, but the drama of her life as a single woman living in Los Angeles is probably the priority here.” – Debora Joy LeVine (via voices of Krypton)
Eventually a script was written and casting began… and then it was canceled. The official reason was given that the producers couldn’t find an actress as good as Lynda Carter.
By 1997 however a Justice league TV Series pilot was filmed, Interestingly There was a Pilot for a Justice league series developed.Yet this version of the justice league did not feature any of the trinity members. Probably due Superman film being developed by Tim Burrton, Batman V with George Clooney also in pre production and the Debra Joy LeVine Wonder Woman series being in development.
Now its hard to argue that Wonder Woman should have been part of that. But hell, flash got TWO 90’s TV incarnations, Martian Manhunter, Ice, Green Lantern, The atom, and Fire got at least one. Plus its just a matter of time before this one gets a Warner Archive DVD release… and those are fun. It would literally be 12 years off the air in any form until Bruce Timm started developing a Justice League animated series which include Wonder Woman in its roster (The show went from 2001 to 2006). That’s over a decade of the character not being anywhere in any media.