Just had a look at Beau Smith’s work for the Wonder Woman vs Xena cancelled book from a few years ago. (which is here)
Now, a few years ago I would have been pretty enthused about the idea of this book, though knowing company crossovers to be generally not the most fantastic work, and Dark Horse’s Xena not itself the best take either (what is it about the relationship between TV shows and their comic book franchises?), I would’ve had my reservations.
And, while I’m sure Smith had good intentions at heart, I’m pretty glad this version didn’t make it to the shelves.
Its not because it was going to be ‘be like one of the light hearted episodes of Xena that Sam Rami and the cast pulled off so very well’, as Smith intended. While I’d prefer a serious take myself, the light-hearted comedy routine would have been fun to read, and interesting given Diana’s character isn’t often written with humour in mind.
Its not even that the plot summary revolves around Ares wanting to watch a fight between Xena and Wonder Woman because he’s bored and ‘Wonder Woman ain’t bad to look at.’ Ares was always presented as something of a sleaze in that show, so I’d say its unfortunate, but vaguely in character.
And, my friends, its not even because the plot features a town called Testosterone lead by a male chauvinist pig called Bolos.
Its because, forgive me for assuming too much, I’m getting the impression that Ares and Bolos wouldn’t have been the only sleazes the gaze of this text seemed to be directed towards. I know I know, maybe I’m being too harsh, and after my rage at ‘War Games’ I am trying to write less angrily. But come on; ‘Warrior Princess-Wet Tunic-Mud Battle-To The Death-Pay-Per-View-Extravaganza’?!! I honestly can’t quite tell if this is supposed to be ironic or not. Either way, its rather telling that Smith’s plot summary makes no mention of the characterisation of Wonder Woman, Wonder Girl, Xena or Gabrielle, other than to point out that Ares views them similarly, and instead focuses on the chauvinism of the other characters in the storyline.
I guess what disappoints here is the fact that, were a writer to consider playing it seriously, there could be a lot to play with in this kind of crossover. The linkage between the Amazons from the Xenaverse and the Themysciran Amazons could have been interesting, as could the meeting of the two pantheons, let alone the interplay between characters like Xena and Diana, Gabrielle and Cassie, Artemis and Amarice, Circe with Callisto or Alti…We’ve also got two different interpretations of Hercules going on here, which may have been fun to generate conflict with. Then there are wider themes, such as the likeness between Diana and Gabrielle’s missions for peace, and how they reconcile the need for violence. Xena’s quest for redemption and dark past shed interesting light on the privilege Diana comes at her own mission from. Cassie’s relationship with Ares also provides a nice link between herself and Xena, and perhaps the appropriateness of the two protégé’s to their mentors could be something to knock around.
In any case, I can’t say I feel too inspired by Smith’s ‘story-that-could-have-been’. Swapping Diana and Xena’s costumes because its ‘too good not to happen’? Referring to the rampage of a warrior princess and her sidekick as a ‘bad time of the month to get in their way’? Methinks that chauvinist tone is just a little too convincing, and not nearly enough amusing.