De­fy­ing the odds

Won­der Woman is a shin­ing bea­con for women in a genre dom­i­nated by male su­per­heroes.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Front Page - By KALEON RAHAN star2@thestar.com.my

AF­TER Elek­tra, Cat­woman and all those lack­lus­tre femme fa­tale-cen­tric comics-based movies, Won­der Woman fi­nally hits one home for su­per hero­ines. Not only does the Won­der Woman movie do jus­tice to the char­ac­ter, it also pro­vides a blue­print for fu­ture su­per­heroine movies.

Won­der Woman has been an al­most con­stant main­stay in the DC Comics uni­verse, and is con­sid­ered one of the pub­lisher’s three core “Trin­ity” char­ac­ters along with Bat­man and Su­per­man, so it is great to see her fi­nally get­ting her share of the lime­light.

If, like us, you still can’t get enough of Won­der Woman af­ter watch­ing the movie, fret not – there are still plenty of her comics out there for you to savour.

Here, we re­cap the ori­gins of Won­der Woman and what makes her, well, won­der­ful.

Rise of a princess

Born Diana, Princess of The­myscira, Daugh­ter of Hip­polyta, Won­der Woman was raised on the is­land of The­myscira (or Par­adise Is­land, as it was called when she made her de­but in

1941), home of the fe­male war­rior race known as the Ama­zons.

Won­der Woman’s orig­i­nal comics ori­gins had her be­ing sculpted from clay by her mother, Queen Hip­polyta, but this has evolved through­out her ex­is­tence.

When DC re­vamped its en­tire lineup with the New 52 ini­tia­tive in 2011, Brian Az­zarello and artist Cliff Chi­ang took the op­por­tu­nity to re­vamp the char­ac­ter’s his­tory, mak­ing her the nat­u­ral-born daugh­ter of Hip­polyta and Zeus, and even turn­ing her into the god of war!

Un­for­tu­nately, that his­tory was thrown out the win­dow with the cur­rent Re­birth re­vamp – the Year One story gives her yet another ori­gin story, with her re­ceiv­ing her pow­ers from the Olympian gods.

Lead­ing with love

Won­der Woman is the brain­child of Wil­liam Moul­ton Marston, who also hap­pens to be an Amer­i­can psy­chol­o­gist and the in­ven­tor of the poly­graph lie-de­tec­tor (which per­fectly ex­plains the Lasso of Truth!). Draw­ing from sev­eral sources of in­spi­ra­tion, in­clud­ing his wife El­iz­a­beth and co­hab­i­tant Olive Byrne, as well as birth con­trol pi­o­neer Mar­garet San­der, Marston came up with the idea of a su­per­hero who would fight not with fists or weapons, but with love. His wife was the one who sug­gested that the hero should be a woman, and to­gether with artist Harry G. Peter, Marston came up with Won­der Woman. Fun fact: she was al­most named “Suprema”, but ed­i­tor Shel­don Mayer con­vinced Marston to re­name her to Won­der Woman in­stead.

The Golden Age

Won­der Woman made her de­but in 1941’s All Star Comics #8, be­fore fi­nally mak­ing it on the cover of Sen­sa­tion Comics #1 in 1942. Her ini­tial ad­ven­tures see her leav­ing Par­adise Is­land for “Man’s World”, where she serves as an emis­sary of peace un­der the alias Diana Prince. Her jour­ney is not with­out hard­ship, as it is trig­gered by the un­ex­pected ar­rival of US in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cer Steve Trevor, whose plane crashes on Par­adise Is­land.

Had this been TV shows like Fan­tasy Is­land or Temp­ta­tion Is­land, the out­come for Trevor would have been very dif­fer­ent. How­ever, Par­adise Is­land is a No-Man zone and its res­i­dent Ama­zons thus have to select a cham­pion to es­cort him back. In Man’s World, Won­der Woman’s quest for good re­volves around bat­tling Nazi spies and crooked busi­ness own­ers, which was very much the cir­cle of in­jus­tice dur­ing those times.

What’s in a name?

Won­der Woman’s use of the name Diana Prince isn’t just a play on words – back in the Golden Age, the name Diana Prince ac­tu­ally be­longed to an army nurse whom Won­der Woman meets.

Co­in­ci­den­tally, the two are sim­i­lar in ap­pear­ance, and de­cide to switch iden­ti­ties for var­i­ous per­sonal rea­sons – Won­der Woman needs the iden­tity to mon­i­tor a hos­pi­talised Trevor, while the nurse needs some time-out to see her fi­ancé!

War­rior woman

In terms of pow­ers, Won­der Woman boasts su­per-strength and the abil­ity to fly; but what sets her apart from other hero­ines with sim­i­lar pow­ers (Su­per­girl, Power Girl, etc) is the way she uses her pow­ers in tan­dem with her Ama­zo­nian war­rior train­ing and her weapons.

Hav­ing been trained since birth in var­i­ous forms of armed and un­armed com­bat as well as mil­i­tary strat­egy, Diana is no stranger to the art of war. Heck, Az­zarello even made her the ac­tual god of war at the end of his run, tak­ing the place of Ares.

The war­rior side of Won­der Woman is also ap­par­ent in the Mark Waid/Alex Ross clas­sic graphic novel King­dom Come, in which Diana dons her war ar­mour and leads an army of su­per­heroes against the es­caped in­mates of a su­per­hu­man prison.

Bat­man may have his Bat-gad­gets and Su­per­man may have his pow­ers, but Won­der Woman is the one who is most com­fort­able us­ing ac­tual weapons reg­u­larly.

Her main weapons of choice in the comics are her Lasso of Truth (which com­pels any­one held by it to tell the truth), her metal bracelets (which can de­flect bul­lets), and her, er, tiara, which she can throw as a weapon.

She’s also pretty handy with other forms of weaponry, es­pe­cially a sword and shield combo, and she even has a pair of golden guns at one point dur­ing the New 52 run.

The less said about her in­vis­i­ble jet the bet­ter, though. We still have no idea how that works.

The Sil­ver Age

Af­ter Marston’s death in 1947, the hon­our of script­ing Won­der Woman went to Robert Kanigher, who took the op­por­tu­nity to re­vamp her roots by boost­ing it with Hel­lenic mytho­log­i­cal el­e­ments.

In­stead of just be­ing The­myscira’s nu­mero uno war­rior princess, Diana is di­vinely in­fused with the bless­ings of a few deities, in­clud­ing Aphrodite (who blesses her with beauty), Athena (wis­dom), Her­cules (strength), and Her­mes (speed).

While this di­vine com­bi­na­tion would have made a Shazam show­down a top-biller, artist/writer Mike Sekowsky had other ideas when he took over the title with writer Denny O’Neil in 1969. He strips Won­der Woman of her pow­ers af­ter she chooses to re­main in Man’s World over ac­com­pa­ny­ing her fel­low Ama­zons to another di­men­sion.

Ad­just­ing to her new “lim­i­ta­tions”, Diana un­der­goes a 180-de­gree trans­for­ma­tion – us­ing the alias Diana Prince, she learns mar­tial arts from a Chi­nese men­tor named I Ching and opens a mod bou­tique!

In­flu­enced heav­ily by Emma Peel of the Bri­tish spy thriller The Avengers, Won­der Woman’s ad­ven­tures in this pe­riod are a com­bi­na­tion of es­pi­onage and mythol­ogy.

The Perez treat­ment

Iron­i­cally, it takes Won­der Woman’s “death” in 1985’s Cri­sis On In­fi­nite Earths event to in­ject “life” into the char­ac­ter. De­spite hav­ing been around for four decades, there had been few clas­sic or mem­o­rable Won­der Woman sto­ries.

Then along came a cer­tain su­per­star comics cre­ator named Ge­orge Perez, who had pre­vi­ously turned the Teen Ti­tans into an award-win­ning su­per-team, and had just re­vamped the en­tire DC Uni­verse through Cri­sis On In­fi­nite Earths.

Al­though bet­ter known for his artis­tic abil­i­ties, Perez proved that he could also write, as his six-year run on the Won­der Woman title from 1987 to 1992 stands out as THE definitive se­ries for the char­ac­ter.

Tak­ing a cue from Greek mythol­ogy, Perez, along with Len Wein and Greg Pot­ter, ret­conned Diana into an emis­sary and am­bas­sador from The­myscira, ef­fec­tively set­ting the stan­dard for what Won­der Woman is to­day.

Live-ac­tion

The Gal Gadot-star­ring movie is not the first live-ac­tion ver­sion of Won­der Woman, of course. The most fa­mous ver­sion of the su­per­heroine is the one played by Lynda Carter in the Won­der Woman TV se­ries that ran from 1975 to 1979. Patty Jenk­ins’ cur­rent film, how­ever, is the char­ac­ter’s first live­ac­tion fea­ture film.

Silly sea­son

De­spite be­ing ar­guably THE great­est fe­male su­per­hero of all-time, Won­der Woman has had her fair share of silly, and some­times de­mean­ing, sto­ries.

In 1942, she was in­vited to join the Jus­tice So­ci­ety of Amer­ica by chair­man Hawk­man ... to be their sec­re­tary. Yeah, while the men went off to war, Won­der Woman was re­duced to tak­ing min­utes at meet­ings.

Thank­fully, she later be­came a found­ing mem­ber of the Jus­tice League and played a ma­jor role in al­most ev­ery sin­gle one of DC’s ma­jor events over the decades, with not a sin­gle type­writer to be seen.

Then, in the 1960s, there were sto­ries about Won­der Woman as a teenager that delved into her love life.

The only prob­lem was, there weren’t any hu­man boys around for her to date on Par­adise Is­land, so she had to set­tle for ... Ronno the Mer-Boy and Wingo the Bird-Boy (don’t ask).

And that’s not even men­tion­ing that whole “Won­der Woman opens a fash­ion bou­tique” thing.

Oh, speak­ing of jobs, there was the time in the 1990s when some­one in DC thought it would be a great idea to give its most pow­er­ful and iconic fe­male su­per­hero a job ... at a fast food joint called Taco Whiz. Gee whiz.

Art­work: DC Comics

Perez’s work on the char­ac­ter is con­sid­ered the most defin­ing Won­der Woman run ever. — Art­work: DC Comics

Won­der Woman has grown to be­come one of DC Comics’ pow­er­house su­per­heroes.

Won­der Woman was al­ready lift­ing tanks way be­fore Gadot ever did.

Won­der Woman is one of the few DC su­per­heroes who can go toe to toe with Su­per­man.

Won­der Woman’s bracelets can de­flect bul­lets. Did you re­ally think ar­rows would work bet­ter?

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