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Wanda Mann

Wanda Mann is one of the characters in the A Game of You storyline in Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series, running from issues #32 to #37. Wanda and her best friend Barbie along with Thessaly and Hazel and Foxglove live in a non descript building in what feels like either the East Village or Lower East Side in New York. They’re all colorful in their own ways. Life is far better for Wanda in the city than it was living on a Kansas farm where she was born and raised and thankfully escaped. She prides herself on being a typical New Yorker now with a tough exterior while also having a happy go lucky attitude that is exemplified in the scene in which she insists Barbie goes shopping at Tiffany’s with her despite their both being broke. The friendship is so close that Wanda felt safe enough to confide with Barbie the fact that she’s a trans woman and shared her dead name. Her strong sense of devotion is displayed when Wanda keeps watch over Barbie who’s entered into a deep trance in order to enter the Dreaming world where she goes on a quest. This strength will give her the courage to deal with the ghoulish face of George, a villain disguised as a disgruntled neighbor dispatched to keep watch on Barbie in the waking world, which was deftly removed by Thessaly, who up to this point had kept secret the fact of her being a sorcerer. Remember that I said these characters were all colorful!

Gaiman gives the reader other clues about Wanda’s personality. When the weather turns incredibly terrible Wanda thinks: “This is the kind of night that needs a roaring log fire, a leopard skin rug, a bottle of fine brandy and … I dunno. Rutger Hauer, maybe. And the third Velvet Underground LP in the background.” Later we learn that she was very proud of her hair, she read Hyperman comics as a kid, and her very favorite shade of lipstick is what Barbie calls “tacky flamingo”. The first time Wanda and Barbie encounter an older, disheveled woman asking for spare change on the subway Wanda ignores her. Later during the storm just mentioned Wanda notices her on the street struggling against the elements and brings her into the relative “safety” of Barbie’s apartment. The woman, Maisie Hill, surprises Wanda with her acceptance and in telling the story of her grandson Billy because he “was a cute little thing. He’d sashay around sweet as anythin'”. However briefly, Gaiman addresses violence against trans people by revealing Maisie’s grief over Billy’s murder.

In having Wanda recount to Barbie her dream of making out with “Weirdzo Lila Lake” when she was twelve years old is a clue that Wanda is attracted to women though perhaps not exclusively. The “Weirdzos” is Gaiman’s allusion to the Bizarros and their everything is the opposite culture that was a recurring feature in various Superman comics starting with Superboy #68 (1958). Her reading Hyperman comics as a kid reinforces the allusion.

Gaiman’s decision to have the Lunar goddess, which is summoned by Thessaly, exclude Wanda from accompanying Thessaly, Hazel, and Foxglove into Barbie’s dreamscape to rescue her on the basis of Wanda’s genitalia has been criticized by trans and cis people over the years. The usage of Wanda’s dead name, albeit by her relatives to paint them in an even crueler and unsympathetic life, has also been viewed by some as problematic, as well as the choice of “Mann” as a family name rather than giving the character a new name without ties her family.

Earlier events of Wanda’s life are recounted in two stories—“Escape Artist” by Caitlin R. Kiernan and “An Extra Smidgen of Eternity” by Robert Rodi—in the prose anthology “The Sandman: Book of Dreams,” edited by Neil Gaiman and Ed Kramer.

Wanda first appears in Sandman #32. A Game of you runs in Sandman #32 – 37.

Created by Neil Gaiman and Shawn McManus. Art by Shawn McManus and Daniel Vozzo.

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