"Of all people, you know who I am… Who the world needs me to be. I’m Wonder Woman."
The Spirit of Truth. The Princess of the Amazons. The Heart
of The DCU
. The Female Superhero
The first prominent female superhero in the history of comic books, and generally considered the greatest of the superheroines, was created in the 1940s
. Wonder Woman
is distinguished by her indestructible bracelets, which deflect bullets, and her enchanted lasso, which compels men to tell the truth and puts animals to sleep.
She was created in 1941 by psychologist William Moulton Marston (then an educational consultant to DC Comics) along with his wife Elizabeth Holloway Marston, as a deliberate counterpoint to the all-male stable of "Übermenschen
" published by DC at the time. Marston was remarkably free of the era's usual prejudices about and disdain for women, and intentionally designed the character to embody his image of an idealized strong, unconventional and independent female. The character first appeared in All-Star Comics
#8 (December, 1941).
Marston was also vital in the development of the polygraph ("lie detector") — which may be why Wonder Woman's lasso forces criminals to speak the truth. Marston also had unconventional views on psychology and sexuality. He and his wife had a third partner, Olive Byrne — unconventional by today's standards, grounds for potential arrest in 1941. A central part of his (and Wonder Woman's) worldview was the idea "submission to loving authority
," which shares some elements with BDSM
and/or bondage, which many modern commentators have noticed - e.g., the "Suffering Sappho!"
section of Superdickery.com
. But while there was certainly a sexual element here, it's a gross oversimplification to reduce all this to one hand on the canvas, one hand elsewhere
. Mars Getsoian notes in this excellent overview of the role of "bondage" in Wonder Woman stories
"Marston wasn't writing a guide for your love life, he was writing a guide for your entire life."
He also had very unconventional views on how the world should be run for the time he lived in, believing a Matriarchy would be superior to the male-dominated world of the 1940s. This was the basis for Paradise Island.
Due to the deal Marston struck with DC, for a long time (at least through 1986), DC had to publish at least four issues of Wonder Woman
each year or lose the rights to the character. This may have been one of the reasons that she was one of the few superheroes
who continued publishing during The Interregnum
, along with Superman
and a handful of others. Her longevity is certainly one reason that contributed to her being one of DC's "Big Three" — as Frank Miller described it — Wonder Woman, Superman and Batman, are all the "gods" of the DC Universe, and the rest are all "just" heroes (something that is taken to its logical extreme in the Kurt Busiek
/Mark Bagley year-long series Trinity
). Also playing a big role: her 1970s TV series with Lynda Carter and her visibility in the Super Friends
cartoon, as noted below.
Originally, Wonder Woman's powers were relatively limited, compared to her contemporaries. She was strong, but not as strong as Superman. She was fast, but not as fast as The Flash
. She couldn't fly, but she could "glide on air currents
". Most of her powers were gadget-based; the bullet-deflecting bracelets, the Lasso of Truth, the invisible jet. The Silver Age
version of the character was stated as having the Strength of Hercules and the Speed of Hermes, deities who were shown to be a match for Superman and Flash, respectively, in other series. Wonder Woman herself battled Superman to a standstill in the tabloid-sized special comic "Superman versus Wonder Woman".
The bosomy note
, raven-haired Amazon heroine was never as well-known by the general public as the other "big heroes" until the 1970s, thanks to Shannon Farnon, her voice actress on Super Friends
, and Lynda Carter, who portrayed her in prime time. In addition, feminists loved her, as evidenced by her being on the cover of the premiere issue of the movement's flagship magazine, Ms.
At the same time, however, Wonder Woman was undergoing a Re Tool
; with the popularity of shows like The Avengers
, and its visions of strong Action Girls
, she lost her powers, took up martial arts under inscrutable old Oriental guy I Ching, and became Undercover Agent Diana Prince. Ironically, this period was mostly ended by the above feminists, such as Gloria Steinem, who protested the depowering of a strong female character (the aforementioned Ms.
cover was the vanguard of this). Plus, the stories themselves were generally considered below-par and no longer relevant with The Avengers
having ended. As a result, Diana was repowered and rejoined the Justice League, and the whole episode is considered a Dork Age
, though it is referenced from time to time.
Later, she was revamped for Crisis on Infinite Earths
by the comics legend George Perez. She was powered-up, giving her flight, and tying her much more to Greek mythology and a mission as a messenger of peace to "Patriarch's World". Furthermore, she considered a Secret Identity
obviously counterproductive in that role, so she stayed with her new friends, Julia Kapatelis, a classical Greek scholar, and her daughter Vanessa. Furthermore, Steve Trevor was revised to be old enough to be Diana's father, thus precluding the cliché romance; instead, he romanced Etta Candy. However, it turns out that he is indirectly linked to Diana's home since his mother, Diana Trevor, crash landed there and died helping the Amazons defeat a monster, making her a deeply honored hero to them.
In addition, she was simultaneously made much more naïve and tougher. The naïveté is such that Wonder Woman could not conceive of a woman being an enemy, which made the time when the Cheetah tried to con her out of her lasso an extremely upsetting moment. The toughness comes from being a classically trained warrior who is ready to kill as necessary and with no regrets, such as when she decapitated the villainous god Deimos. At the same time, her supervillain enemies became much more credible threats as in how the Cheetah was changed from a normal woman in a silly cheetah suit to a villain who became a powerful and deadly were-cheetah who is a real challenge to Diana in battle.
A popular (and therefore cheapened) way to escalate the drama in Wonder Woman stories (or Crisis Crossovers
) recently has been to threaten Paradise Island... and then make good on the threat. The Amazons have been all-but-destroyed by Darkseid, themselves (in two civil wars), Imperiex, Hera, OMACs, Granny Goodness in the wake of Amazons Attack
, and in Alternate Universe
by the removal of the gods' protection.
In the mid-2000s run written by Greg Rucka
, she suffered from a negative reaction in-universe, between escalating her role as emissary, leading to accusations of forcing her beliefs on people, and snapping the neck of a villain who had telepathic control
because she felt it was the only way to stop him
. In the middle of all this, she fought shadowy corporate schemers, resurrected Gorgons, participated in the hostile takeover of Olympus by her patron, Pallas Athena, and faced the destruction of her home by OMACs (the whole OMAC's storyline, as well as much of the universe-changing crises that ultimately led to the "New 52" continuity reboot, can be seen as indirectly resulting from the killing).
After Rucka's run and the OMAC crossover event, Wonder Woman was again rebooted. This time, she reluctantly got involved in a war between the Amazons (along with her newly resurrected mother) and Patriarch's World. In the wake of all this, she regained (or rather gained for the first time in this continuity) her Diana Prince: Secret Agent identity in order to connect with people. Many fans were not pleased
, although others noted that it was very much a shout out to the Lynda Carter series which cast Diana as a spy. However, there was some delight at Wondy's appearance in Manhunter
, when she enlisted Kate Spencer's services as a lawyer during her trial for the killing which occurred during Rucka's run.
In the late 2000s, Wonder Woman's series was in the hands of Gail Simone
. Her supporting cast was revisited and she went up against a series of monsters including the ultrapowerful Genocide, her mother's former bodyguards, a grief-stricken Green Lantern
, her own pantheon, and some long-lost family members who were abducted by a vicious alien race. The tales were epic, twisty and generally well received. Gail is the first woman to have ever written Wonder Woman's comic for a long period of time and deeply loves the character. However, Gail was not the first woman to write the comic, as Jodi Picoult wrote it almost immediately before her (but was not received very well), and Mindy Newell wrote it in the 80s and 90s.
Sales on the book continued to drop, so when Wondy's 600th overall issue (and a renumbering of the current series to reflect that) came around, J. Michael Straczynski shook things up.
In his year-long storyline "The Odyssey" (completed by Phil Hester), the gods went back in time to remove their protection from the Amazons. As a result, Paradise Island fell when Diana was a little girl, and a handful of Amazons smuggled her out and raised her on the streets of Man's World. During the story, Diana struggles to regain her powers and understand why the world seems disastrously wrong around her.
After "The Odyssey" ended, Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang took over the title and relaunched as part of DC's New 52
reboot. Their run on the book shoots for a much darker and more horror-influenced tone than previous runs. Wonder Woman once again sports a new costume, though it is much closer to the original than the suit from the JMS run. Azzarello and Chiang's ongoing work has met with both critical acclaim and controversy for their handling of the mythical and gender themes of Wonder Woman's world. Like Greg Rucka
's run, Azzarello and Chiang approach Wonder Woman's world through the myths of the Greek gods, though the difference between the two approaches is quite clear. In the current continuity, Superman is dating Wonder Woman, who was involved with Steve Trevor in the past. Additionally, in 2014, she started headlining a relaunch of Sensation Comics,
meaning that, alongside Action Comics
and Detective Comics,
each member of DC's Trinity now has their own "X Comics" series running alongside their solo book.Grant Morrison
is writing a book centered around Wonder Woman set in the Earth One continuity, titled "The Trial of Diana Prince."
Needless to say, the cheesy 1973 grindhouse film Wonder Women
has nothing to do with the superheroine, but we wish it did.She has appeared in these other media:
- A four-and-a-half-minute pilot reel was produced by Greenway Productions in 1967 — planned as an ultra-campy Sitcom, with Wonder Woman (Ellie Wood Walker) as a delusional Hollywood Homely single girl who imagines herself a beautiful superhero. It was never aired, but can now be seen here.
- The Brady Kids (1972): The character's first appearance in animation. The Brady kids meet Wonder Woman and together they are accidentally transported back to the time of the ancient Olympic Games. The kids plan to compete in the marathon and beat the Greek athletes to qualify for the race. Wonder Woman persuades the kids to disqualify themselves, explaining that if they win the race they will change the course of history. It's all kind of surreal.
- Wonder Woman (1974): The TV movie pilot starring Cathy Lee Crosby as a (mostly) non-powered Wonder Woman who earned the nickname "Blonder Woman". The film was based upon a period in the comics when Diana had given up her superpowers and instead worked as an Emma Peel-esque crimefighter, though by the time it aired Wonder Woman had become a superhero again in the comics. Failed to sell as a Modesty Blaise-style TV series, so a do-over was ordered resulting in...
- Wonder Woman: A 1975-79 show starring Lynda Carter. A more faithful adaptation of the comics, it is dated, particularly its early episodes set in World War II, but fondly remembered.
- And Lynda Carter managed an eerie resemblance to the original character as drawn by Gibson Girl artist Harry G. Peter.
- Super Friends: Alongside the male heroes of DC Comics.
- A Poorly Disguised Pilot in Ruby-Spears Superman, titled Superman and Wonder Woman vs. the Sorceress of Time.
- Promotional materials for a show (and accompanying toy line) titled Wonder Woman and the Star Riders, aimed at young girls, which never came to be.
- Justice League: Voiced by Susan Eisenberg as a princess fresh from Paradise Island, and a little bit naive. She had a budding relationship with Batman. Her origin story was retooled to fit with the series narrative, which left out much of the comic origin, though it was revisited in later episodes.
- Justice League: The New Frontier: An animated Direct-to-Video based on the acclaimed comic series by Darwyn Cooke. This Wonder Woman was closely tied with her classic origin but examined the change from the Golden Age to the Silver Age. She was voiced by Lucy Lawless of Xena: Warrior Princess fame — and her personality was a little Xena-ish too.
- Wonder Woman: A newer DTV produced by Bruce Timm but set in its own continuity and focusing exclusively on her, intending to embrace the classic origin in full. She is voiced by Keri Russell.
- Wonder Woman: An attempted pilot for NBC's 2011 season by David E. Kelley, focusing on Wonder Woman fairly established in Man's World and running the Themyscira Corporation to get her word out in between fighting crime, starring Adrienne Paliecki as Diana. It wasn't picked up, and fans weren't happy with what word leaked out - partially because Diana seemed to be a Dark Age hero set loose in a Silver Age world, complained about the size of her breasts, and straight up murdered security guards.
- Batman: The Brave and the Bold: She appears in the Cold Opening of an episode and in the main story of another. Her design is an homage to the Golden Age and has a lot of canon references to the TV series - including the theme music.
- Young Justice: She appears in bit parts in several episodes as a member of the Justice League. Due to rights issues that were not cleared up until after the show had already begun production, her sidekick Wonder Girl was excluded from the show's roster of teen superheroes during the first season. Wonder Girl (Cassandra Sandsmark) becomes a recurring character in Season 2, with Diana getting an explanded role. She is voiced by Maggie Q of Nikita fame.
- Super Best Friends Forever: The series of animated shorts by Lauren Faust which feature the first animated appearance of Wonder Girl (Donna Troy) in several decades.
- A series of DC Nation shorts that take a James Bond-esque, California beach girl approach to the character.
- Amazon: in light of the success of the CW's Arrow, the network looked at developing possible Smallville-like approach to Wonder Woman, focusing on her teenage years and her emergence into the world outside Themyscira. In mid-2013 it was announced that the project had been cancelled and The CW instead commissioned Gotham, which took Amazon's prequel concept and gave it to Batman.
- Wonder Women! The Untold Story of American Superheroines: A 2012 documentary on the history of Wonder Woman and other superheroine and Action Girl characters, from a feminist perspective.
- The LEGO Movie: Minifigures of at least five DC heroes played roles of varying prominence in this 2014 Lego-inspired film, including Wonder Woman. She only had two or three lines (recorded by Cobie Smulders), but this still marked the first time she appeared in a theatrical movie.
- Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice: Wonder Woman will finally make her live-action film debut in the 2016 sequel to Man of Steel, played by Gal Gadot of The Fast and the Furious fame.
- Wonder Woman: A live action theatrical film has been "almost about to be made" for about one and a half eternities. Thankfully, she's finally going to get a movie as part of the DC Cinematic Universe which will come out before the Justice League movie, in June 2017 after Batman v. Superman and the Suicide Squad movies. It will be directed by Breaking Bad director, Michelle MacLaren.
Tropes associated with Wonder Woman include: