I WONDER Who we’re Talking About This Time
There will come a day when I tire of taking the low hanging fruit on the pun tree, but my friends, THAT IS NOT THIS DAY
As suggested by u/cjcarlone on reddit, today we’re doing Wonder Woman! A character who, while already extremely well known, is now enjoying an even more prominent spot in the public eye thanks to being one of the few worthwhile parts of the cinematic landfill inferno that was Batman v. Superman. And just like any good landfill inferno, we’re all gonna want to sift through the ashes to scavenge for toasters, right? Like normal people. At a landfill inferno. Oh my god I’m so broke.
Anyways, Wonder Woman has always been a huge deal, comprising one third of the DC Trinity. Since around World War II, Diana has been one of the main faces of comics, a role model and inspiration for people everywhere. She’s one of the first successful female superheroes (which is kinda mind blowing that it happened that early), she’s been a part of the world’s very first superhero team (well… kind of), she’s a powerful and enduring feminist icon… Basically, she’s important.
But of course, like any superhero at the forefront of pop culture, most people know very little about WW beyond the fact that she’s the one female superhero who tends to show up on mediocre T-shirts at Target. Well, I guess her and Black Widow now, but you get the picture. So today, we’re gonna delve reeeeaaaall deep into her history, from her creation to her rise to feminist royalty, to the world’s seeming inability to put together a competent adaptation of her for a couple decades, to her future, and beyond.
Plus tons of shite jokes about old comic books. Let’s fake an education in comics.
I Wonder if the Amazons Get Good Shipping
I mean, probably not, since there’s no packages on Themyscira. Hey-ooooooo!
SCENARIO: So there’s a really fun trend of taking older comic panels completely out of context, for better or worse. I won’t lie, it’s usually pretty hilarious, especially in the case of Superdickery, but they always tend to ruin that character’s reputation, like Superdickery. The truth is, in the time that these stories came out, that sort of shit was the norm. Sure, Wonder Woman was absurdly racist back in WWII, but so were most other people in America at the time. That doesn’t excuse her slamming Japanese soldiers into beachheads while screaming about “Japs”, but hey, that was the political climate at the time. Even Superman, an immigrant created by immigrants, was telling people to “Slap a Jap”, which, while a horrible thing to say, is undeniably catchy. Captain America was a horrible racist for awhile, and that got so bad that it had to be retconned away by revealing that the racist Cap was a completely separate person. C’est la vie.
I guess the point I’m trying to make here is that a lot of people seem to get off on knocking Wonder Woman down a peg or two by pulling up all kinds of weird, mysoginistic stuff from her past, or stuff about her obese sidekick, and so on and so forth. What I’m going to be doing today, primarily, at least, is explaining how and why most of that stuff came to be, and together, we’ll uncover if it really is as bad as it looks when you remove it from all context in order to prove a point. Spoilers: eh, it kind of is. We weren’t perfect. We still aren’t, but at least WW isn’t leaving herself blindfolded on the off chance that removing the blindfold would fuck up her lashes. We’ve come a long way, but we’re about to start at the beginning. The VERY beginning.
Step One: I Can’t Believe I Already Used the Package Joke
Ok, so I know I just went on about using shit out of context, but I promise you that no possible explanation could improve that image. Just saying.
So, as I’m sure you know, Wonder Woman is old. Like, really fucking old. As in, predating almost every modern superhero old. Created all the way back in 1941, she’s been in print pretty much ever since then in one form or another, going though myriad reinventions and reboots, and creating a metric fuckload of stuff I had to dig through for research. Luckily, she’s a fun character to read about, probably mostly because I’m a sucker for Greek mythology. Setting aside her various origins, the details that have stuck are that Wonder Woman is an Amazonian princess, hailing from the Isle of Themyscira, a place populated exclusively by tall, gorgeous, magical female bodybuilders. Sometimes she’s a clay golem given life through the Gods, sometimes she’s a daughter of Zeus, sometimes she’s one of the last mortal children born to an immortal race, but she’s always the Amazonian princess. Well, except for that time she was a powerless spy for a while, but we’ve all had our low points.
Look, I get that sometimes you need to freshen up a character, but I don’t think just tossing everything iconic about the character out the window is the best way to go. If you want to cash in on the spy fad so badly, why not just make a new character? Also, I-Ching is like, 4 feet tall there, and I’m pretty sure he’s not that tiny.
Again, ignoring most of her changes over the years here and focusing on the specifics, she is sent out into the world of Man, sometimes as an ambassador, sometimes a warrior, etc. In her travels, she becomes one of our world’s greatest heroes, as well as a founding member of the Justice League. She dated Superman for a few years in current continuity, but that just felt kinda weird. Plus, that meant that we had to deal with Steve Trevor as his own character, which was pretty much just Rick Flag But Less Interesting. Oh, also that meant no Clark and Lois, so… yeah. Unpopular on several levels.
Interestingly, she was actually originally a founding member of the Justice Society of America, which is the first superhero team ever, so that’s awesome! What’s less awesome is that they made her their secretary. Because, you know, women are inferior, even if they have mystical powers and are effectively indestructible flying murder weapons. But no, it’s fine, you go on ahead, guy with wings, I’m sure you’ll be just dandy.
She’s gone on to be both a conventional superhero and a badass mythical warrior, walking between both worlds at all times. Alongside Superman and Batman, she is one of the only characters to have been in continuous publication since DC’s inception, and rightfully so.
But she wasn’t always a champion of women. Not necessarily, at least.
Step Two: The Safe Word is “Cheetah”
See? Even I fall into the no context trap sometimes. Actually, all of the time. I’m kind of a massive hypocrite.
So the Golden Age of comics was a radically different time for everyone, but in Wonder Woman’s case, she was barely even recognizable. The Amazons rode giant Kangaroos that could leap into space, she had a morbidly obese sidekick named Etta Candy, and all of her powers and weaknesses essentially came from bondage. Let me explain that last part a little bit for you.
See, William Moulton Marston, WW’s creator, was of the firm and unshakable belief that bondage was the key to a happy and successful marriage life. And while I’m not one hundred percent in disagreement with him (look, we’ve all got our weird shit, ok?), he seemed to be of the opinion that it should carry over out of the bedroom and into other aspects of the relationship. Basically, William wanted subservience from the wife at all times, which seems a bit redundant to be asking for back in the 40s, but hey, what do I know. This led to things like Wonder Woman’s primary weapon being a lasso which compelled you to tell the truth (not subservient on the female’s part in this case, but pretty much the only thing that isn’t), her original weakness of losing her powers when her hands were tied by a man, her flying into a beserker rage when her bracelets were removed… the list goes on. Oh, and shit like this:
There’s at least one situation where Diana gets bound up in like, every issue. And not just “Oh no, the villain caught me!” tied up, where the hero is normally restrained. I mean “Oh no, the villain isn’t using the proper knots to hold me!” tied up.
To be fair, she did plenty of the binding herself, which is definitely more indicative of a healthy relationship. Always be willing to switch partners, folks. Weird, kinky sex is a two way street. Also, I’d just like to say that I appreciate how swole WW’s arms are up there. It always really bugs me when people don’t give her muscle.
Anyways, pretty much any weird, bizarre sexist situation in Wonder Woman history has been a direct result of that. Although without it, Grant Morrison’s Wonder Woman: Earth One would probably be way less entertaining.
Also, frankly, it probably would have been less arousing.
Step Three: To Err is Human, to Look Good in a Tiara is Divine
So here’s where we’re gonna establish why WW deserves her place in the Trinity, but first: is anyone else terrified by the Flash up there? Jesus, that looks like something out of the Walking Dead.
Of course, Diana eventually grew into the
So Wonder Woman is basically just a slightly less omnipotent Greek goddess in terms of power. She’s incredibly fast and strong on her own, and she’s wearing an outfit comprised almost entirely of magical items. She’s strong, durable, quick, she can fly, she has a magic lie detector/noose, she can deflect bullets, and she has a sampling of the powers of all the Greek Pantheon, depending on the continuity. She can beat the crap out of Superman without even really breaking a sweat, but she’s also one of the kindest, most compassionate heroes of the DCU. Shit, she’ll beat up Batman without breaking a sweat, and that’s way more impressive in some ways. In short, she is the balance of the Trinity, the meeting in the middle between Superman’s idealism and Batman’s ruthlessness. She’ll straight up murder a bad guy, but only if it’s the last resort.
Plus, not only does she keep the friendship going, but she’s also pretty much one of the primary failsafes in case either one of them goes bad. So on top of having some of the best stories in comics, as well as an incredible power set and an awesome mythology, she’s also essentially the glue that holds the League together, which is absurdly important. Basically, you should be way more excited about her movie, is what I’m saying.
Step Four: But How Dumb is the Invisible Jet Really?
Yeah, I don’t have a lot of fondness for the jet. It just feels redundant and unnecessary. It was a cheaper and more distinctive way to show her flying and getting around though, so Super Friends and Linda Carter got to use it, and then it was just sort of everywhere. Sure, it’s probably relaxing for her, and faster than her own flight, and actually stealthy (contrary to popular belief, you actually can’t see her from the outside, that’s just a tool for the viewer’s benefit), as opposed to a shiny woman flying around. I’m not denying its usefulness. I just think that as a concept, it feels completely unnecessary and, dare I say, lame. And I’ve gone on record saying that I like Superpro, so you know something’s lame if I say it is. Not as dumb as the kangaroos though. Those are eeeeeeven dumber.
Hopefully that gives you a better understanding of everyone’s favorite statuesque Greek beauty. If it didn’t I’d suggest you read the Azarello and Rucka runs of Wonder Woman, which are hands down some of the best modern interpretations of the character in a while. Wonder Woman Earth One is shaping up to be a fun throwback blended with some new elements, and is also being made by Grant Morrison, who I will foist upon all of you until the day I die. So you should probably read that one too, is what I’m saying. She’s always great in Justice League, both the comics and the show. Beyond that, I can’t recommend too many specifics, but I can tell you to stay away from the Finch run. Unless you hate both yourself and the art of literature as a whole, in which case sure, go ahead. As always, feel free to leave any suggestions you have wherever you find this article, and I’ll see you all next week!