Wonder Woman Day:
From Charity Fundraiser to Commercialized Profit
AMBER LOVE 21-OCT-2020 FLEMINGTON, NJ – I guess it would surprise people that I’m coming down hard on Warner Bros./DC’s #DayofWonder in celebration of Wonder Woman since I spent so many years cosplaying around New Jersey, New York, and Maryland as the iconic character. There are a couple reasons for this bittersweet recognition of Diana of Themyscira, the Princess of Amazons created by William Moulton Marston.
The first is that Andy Mangels, comic historian, started “Wonder Woman Day” in 2006. When I heard about this small fundraiser being held in the Pacific Northwest of the US, I immediately told my comic shop owner, Stacy Korn that this was an event we should do. Stacy made it happen. She reached out to Andy and together we worked towards a joint event each year until Stacy died. Back at its origins, the date was chosen to be close to when All-Star #8 came out, the first appearance of Wonder Woman.
October is also Domestic Violence Awareness Month so we held big events at our respective comic shops and online to raise money for various domestic abuse charities like shelters and helplines. For Stacy and I being on the east coast, that October event became progressively harder to pull off. As cons got bigger like New York Comic Con from simply “busy” to “sardine-packed nightmare fuel,” and being right after the same kind of growing event at Baltimore Comic Con, Stacy and I were beat. She would recruit helpers from Comic Fusion or her geek circle whenever possible even if that meant her friend Jen offering up her couch as a place to crash for four days.
I’ve done NYCC as an exhausted commuter wearing go-go boots and as an exhausted hotel patron not used to how much freaking walking is done just get two blocks. My legs and ass looked great back then. I digress. Eventually NYCC took the weekend we had historically chosen as our two-day event, Wonder Woman Day and Superhero Weekend at Comic Fusion (the west coast event was one day). I was also usually broke because all my hours working at the comic shop weren’t paid in cash; it was all a barter/store credit situation.
I was also newly blogging writing comic reviews and recording them on YouTube for the same kind arrangement. I could not find any business in comics willing to pay me for my efforts. Broke, in a major city, and usually in a costume that didn’t allow for a lot of movement. Eventually herniated discs made me want to ditch those go-go boots and any high heel that goes along with cosplay. But if I didn’t cosplay at a con, there was almost nothing to keep me from cosplaying as New Jersey’s Wonder Woman each year until things changed some more.
For years, the funds collected by Comic Fusion went to SAFE in Hunterdon. After several years, Stacy ended up meeting and building a a strong friendship with Tracey Heisler who runs the CASA program for three counties (SHaW = Somerset, Hunterdon, and Warren). We decided that since Hunterdon had the lowest rate of domestic violence, we would break off from the joint charity fundraiser so that we could use our WWD/SHW to raise money for this special, little known organization that provides court appointed advocates for children/teens in the foster care system. From 2007 – 2014, Comic Fusion’s events had raised over $50,000 for SAFE in Hunterdon.
That first year was so hard for us to get original artwork donated by artists. Going from booth to booth through cons and knowing that artists need to make back their table money (if they weren’t guests) was a lot for us to ask. Ninety-nine percent of the time, we received polite responses of: “Can I get back to you and mail something in later?” knowing that they would not mail us anything.
It was Jim Lee who was tipsy in a bar in Baltimore who flat out asked me, “How many sketches to you have?” I started to explain that I picked up a lot of business cards from people to follow up with… and he interrupted, “No, no, how many do you have right now for your auction?” “None,” I said.
At that moment, Jim started looking around for anything to draw on. He literally would have used a bar napkin if that’s all we had, but me being ever the dork had bags and boards in my backpack. I asked if that would do. So drunk Jim Lee sketched a Batman and Wonder Woman on backing boards as our first official pieces to be auctioned off for Comic Fusion’s 2007 event. It was also not long after I had had surgery and wasn’t drinking, so when Jim Lee bought me a beer, I pretended to drink it because I was already on sweet, heavenly vicodin.
That first year, Stacy and Comic Fusion raised around $3000 for charity. Our biggest year was 2010 when we raised $16,100 because we had received Adam Hughes art donated by Riki “Riddle” LeCotey. Those pieces had bidding wars in our old shop on Main Street. It was magnificent! We were brought to tears.
When we moved shops to Turntable Junction and then switched charities, it was also time to change the date of the event. Baltimore was busy as hell by 2011. NYCC stole our October weekend. We tried being later in October and had ice storms so no one except the volunteers showed up. Stacy moved our date to the summer which meant smaller turn out and less original art, but a more management two-day event. Things had changed a lot. Though the original art was still the highlight, we also had a lot of writers and artists who wanted to give things that were different. We had books, jewelry, and toys and local businesses gave gift certificates too. We would make up prize baskets and have those sold as raffle items.
In the final few years as Comic Fusion raised money for CASA-SHaW, we probably pulled in around $15,000. I don’t have an estimate for 2018. Those years were the ones that ended up hitting us in the gut and the heart. Stacy was diagnosed with ALS and it moved fast. While all of us in the volunteer group watched our favorite children at the shop get bigger and bigger, we were watching Stacy get smaller and smaller as the disease took over her body. Without Bill’s constant fortitude and caring or Tracey and Jesse’s organizational skills, I don’t know what would have happened. I was usually doing something like scrubbing the bathroom and cleaning every surface I could reach.
Though it took far too many years, eventually DC Comics and Warner Brothers created their official Wonder Woman Day, called Day of Wonder. But it’s nothing like what Andy, Stacy, Bill, Jesse, and I had done. It features exciting new merchandise include YA books and jewelry, but otherwise, it’s the kind of merch that only someone in Beverly Hills would buy like the purse for your teacup dog that costs $2100. That’s not a typo. The decimal is in the correct place.
There wasn’t even a proper press release about this year’s Day of Wonder. It was an email newsletter with big images and “shop now” links. Not even a blurb about why people should be celebrating this date at all. When I got the email, I took my time with it. I clicked the links to see what the products were and their prices. Then I lost it. I went on a Twitter rant about the ridiculous prices and how there is no mention of any proceeds going towards a charity. In this, the Year of Quarantine, when most people are out of work and kids have to wear masks to school, WB/DC couldn’t even fathom the notion that putting some of this income to good use would be a smart idea.
I’m profoundly disappointed.
October 21st is now the Day of Wonder for commercialization and profit. It’s four days after what would be Stacy’s birthday.