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A Starter Kit On Wonder Woman: The First Lady of Comic Books

Before actress Gal Gadot’s film releases in June, we give you a quick primer on the Amazonian warrior who is an ambassador of peace and a goddess in a world of mortals

Aniruddho ChakrabortyAniruddho Chakraborty

April 18, 2017 | 11:04 AM

Wonder Woman, Gal Gadot, Comic Con, Batman vs Superman, DC, marvel Comics, Gal Gadot Womderwoman movie

If the prospect of living in a world where trying to respect basic rights of those around you and valuing each other simply because we exist are such daunting, impossible tasks, then what sort of world are we left with? And what sort of world do you want to live in?”

Wonder Woman, Wonder Woman #170

The above quote by Wonder Woman, one of the most recognized and iconic comic book characters of all time, is perhaps one of her most popular and most endearing and a personal favourite. I say ‘most iconic’ comic book character – and not just ‘iconic female’ character – because her appeal has always been beyond her gender.   

Wonder Woman’s character has always been one of contradictions and emotions. She is an Amazonian warrior who is as an ambassador of peace, a goddess in a world of mortals, an invincible woman in a man’s world and a retrofitted feminist ideal, created by a man.

As someone who occasionally dabbles in writing comic books, these contradictions are what make her character the most interesting to read and watch on screen. And yes, there’s a Wonder Woman movie coming in a week’s time – and I admit to being highly excited to see how it turns out. 

I’ll be honest, I hated Batman vs. Superman, it was a terribly misguided (and edited) movie. However, the highlight of that film was Gal Gadot’s powerful entry as Wonder Woman alongside Affleck’s Batman and Cavill’s Superman – uniting The DC Trinity on screen. It was a fun moment, one that deserved the hooting and clapping it got, in what was otherwise a dour exercise in filmmaking. 

This also means that Wonder Woman is something DC must get right – for the DC Extended Universe (DCEU) to survive Marvel’s juggernaut. I have faith in Gal Gadot’s interpretation; it is strong, powerful and has the right amount compassion reflected in it. So, before her theatrical release comes out – it is important to understand the history of Wonder Woman and what makes her click. 

 

A Brief History of Wonder Woman 

Much like Superman, Captain America and many other recognizable superheroes of lore – Wonder Woman was introduced in the Golden age of comic books – as the star spangled nurse Diana Prince – an Amazonian warrior goddess fighting alongside Steve Trevor and crew, in the war-torn world of Men.

Armed with a mythological origin, powered bracelets, invulnerability, a projectile tiara, and the Lasso of Truth – Princess Diana was to be that era’s symbol for the liberated, powerful woman. 

Now, to be honest, when you put that in context with the fact that she was created by William M. Marston, the creator of the polygraph, her costume, and the fact she was meant to be “a new kind of superhero, one who would triumph not with fists or firepower, but with love…” one can only hazard a guess as to what “liberal woman” identity the creators had in mind. 

You know; short skirts, Amazonian physique, ties up men with lassos and uses power bracelets – I’ll just leave it there. 

However, Princess Diana of Themyscira, did transcend all the follies of men from the start – compassionate and truthful, fierce when needed, and wise. She came to be the foil to all that was wrong with a man’s world.

Armed with a mythological origin, powered bracelets, invulnerability, a projectile tiara, and the Lasso of Truth – Princess Diana was to be that era’s symbol for the liberated, powerful woman 

The Alter Ego

Her alter ego of Diana Prince, has seen many iterations over time – from military advisor, to a leader, to a spy to a depowered detective/agent in the lines of Black Widow. Diana Prince has been a consistent symbol of all that a ‘woman can achieve’; standing toe-to-toe with men, in the times that her character had written. 

If nothing else, one thing that writers that have tackled her character through the ages have gotten right, is the fact that Diana with her fortitude, compassion and honesty is the best suited person to tackle any situation thrown her way – far better than her male counterparts in the Justice League.

 

Of Origins and Legends 

As far as origin stories for Diana Prince go, it’s difficult to pinpoint a definitive one – a case which is much easier in case of a Batman (dead parents) and Superman (dead planets + dead parents). In the earlier origin story, she was fashioned out of clay by Athena and Hippolyta and raised by Amazonians. 

In other retcons (a comic book term for rebooting a character and/or a universe) she has been a natural born child of Zeus and Hippolyta, a forgotten Amazonian in an alternate timeline and recently the Goddess of War.     

The character’s motivations and convictions, however, haven’t changed much over her long history – no matter how many male writers have written the character.  

Perhaps that is what makes her so endearing as well to millions of others. Through her various interpretations, in main comic-verse and alternate realities, Diana has always been portrayed a strong character – perhaps stronger than the comic book titans around her. She has always been a child of both worlds and a child of none; making her closest male parallel none other than her best friend – Superman.    

Personal Favourites 

It would be impossible for me list all her pivotal comic book moments down, but there are moments for her character, that have stood out for me over the years – some controversial, some not. My top three favourites story arcs that feature Wonder Woman are Kingdom Come by Mark Waid and Alex Ross, JLA: A League of One by Christopher Moeller and Wonder Woman: Spirit of Truth by Paul Dini and Alex Ross. 

Another stand-out moment, while it was a much derided one, was when she breaks Maxwell Lord’s neck, pre-Infinite Crisis. It was a moment that made her much more interesting and gripping to me. She knew someone had to make that choice, or her friends would die – and she knew she was the only one strong enough to be able to bear guilt of actions. In recent times, Greg Rucka, Gail Simone and J. Michael Straczynski’s runs on the characters have been generally entertaining as well. 

In Conclusion

Recently, the comic book genre has shifted towards becoming more representative and “female- oriented” (copyright Mr. Nihlani and CBFC). While characters like Alana from Saga (Image comics), Peggy Carter (Captain America), Ms Marvel (Kamala Khan version) are some of my personal favourities – Princess Diana from Themyscira will always be the one that broke the mold – with her ideals of strength, honesty and sense of equality and justice for all.

Wonder Woman, for the most part, been written with a sense of respect and reverence so far – an unparalleled feat if you look the times her character was born in, and the times she has lived through. She has been a mother, a lover, a fighter, a spy, a goddess, and a soldier.  Above all, she has always inspired those around her– be it the DC Trinity, Steve Trevor and the supporting characters thereof, The Justice League in the comics, or the readers who have followed her character over her rich history of 75 years. 

To conclude, here’s hoping that Wonder Woman is a movie that succeeds and stands tall, setting the stage for more successful female-centric comic book movies in the future.

Top 5 Reading List 

  1.  JLA: A League of One – by Christopher Moeller
  2. Wonder Woman: Spirit of Truth – by Paul Dini and Alex Ross
  3. Paradise Found – by Phil Jimenez
  4. Challenge of the Gods – by George Perez
  5. Chronicles – Collected Comics of Wonder Woman