Despite the fact that she’s murdered people, illegally sent people to prison, black mailed people, run a covert government organization that resulted in people being killed, I have great love for Amanda Waller. Amanda was different than other female characters. She had power. She never played by the rules. She had her own agenda and did not suffer fools gladly. And she is a patriot who loves her country. But it’s a tough love. The kind of love, perhaps, one learns after having as tough a life as Amanda Waller. How many other characters in comics are widows who move out the Cabrini-Green projects and end up working for the president of the United States?
But the main thing that was great about Amanda was that she looked like no else in comics. Women of color are rare enough. Women leading teams are rare enough. But a black woman in power old enough to have grown children and who was not thin like a supermodel ? That was groundbreaking.
That’s why I, like many other people, was taken aback to see the Amanda Waller in the new 52 yesterday. Here she is again in case you didn’t read this:
Below are some thoughts on “the Wall.”
When she made her debut in John Ostrander’s Legends back in 1986, there were barely any people of color in DC Comics let along a woman of color and of size who barked out orders with little or any fear. There was no question that Waller was in charge. And that’s why her size made sense; it gave her a presence and made it clear she was, indeed, no lightweight.
Ostrander would make Waller part of his classic Suicide Squad run where Amanda met up with Oracle. Here’s their first interaction:
Amanda Waller did not go to charm school. Or, if she did, she does not choose to exercise that skill often.
Ostrander kept giving Waller more and more badassery during run. She took on Batman:
She also had a show down with Granny Goodness, one of the most memorable moments for a DC Women, the series I ran last year.
Later Waller would slim down a bit for the Checkmate run by Greg Rucka but she was still recognizable and Wallerific:
She was back up to her original girth, when she was last seen, to my knowledge, in Gail Simone’s Secret Six.
Amanda Waller also showed up in the DCAU, where she was voiced by C.C.H Pounder (the perfect voice IMO).
But the next time she was seen out of comics she was portrayed slimmer than in the comics by Pam Grier. Later Angela Bassett would be cast as Waller in the Green Lantern movie.
Both are great actresses and while they had the attitude there was something lacking. Let me give you a great example of what I mean.
One of my favorite appearances by Amanda Waller came on the cover of Justice League International. Parodying the poster for the movie The Exorcist, the cover captures perfectly the essence of Amanda Waller and showcases just how important her appearance was to the character.
No offense to Angela Bassett or Pam Grier but their silhouettes would be recognized like the one above. And neither can that character calling herself Amanda Waller in yesterday’s Suicide Squad.
I think it’s also worth noting Amanda Waller is much more well known from her appearances on JLU and Batman Beyond than her appearances in Smallville and Green Lantern so trying to use the “iconic version” line just doesn’t fly. Hell, Waller even got an action figure.
I’ll also note there was no Green Lantern Amanda Waller figure.
It was great to see so many people angered by this last night. I was amused by a few people telling me her old weight didn’t make her a “good role model”. My answer to them was that her willingness to kill people, break the law and generally go Dick Cheney on covert ops should be a bigger concern about her position as a “role model” than her weight. Just when did being plus sized become a bigger issue than a willingness to kill people?
The writer Adam Glass on Bleeding Cool today said this is a younger Amanda Waller at the start of her career. “Amanda Waller is not defined by her size but by her attitude and she still has plenty of that.”
And that makes no sense at all. What does being younger, at the start of her career or attitude have to do with whether she is thin or heavy? If she isn’t defined by her size than why did you change it?
I’m actually surprised that DC would do this after the outrage about their decision to move Barbara Gordon out of her wheelchair. As I said yesterday, not everyone in the world looks the same. Can’t comics reflect that? What is wrong with having different size women in comics? Do they really think they need to pander to these new readers by adhering to a “no fat chicks” approach? One step forward, two steps back on that female thing guys.
Amanda Waller would not be amused.