The Amazon Princess of Themyscera
About seventy-five years ago, a character was created that would change the comics book world forever. At the time, superheroes were just beginning to dominate the comics book scene. Spurred by the success of figures like Superman and Batman, the fledgling company the would eventually be known as DC Comics published All-Star Comics #8. This issue featured the first female superhero. Today, she is probably the most recognizable and the most iconic of all the costumed characters ever published. Her name even inspires greatness and inspiration.
It is Wonder Woman!
Created by William Moulton Marston, she was the counter-weight on the scales of DC Comics. Mr. Marston wanted to bring a feminine shape to the pages of comics. Inspired by his wife and caught up in the feminist movement of World War II that was beginning to catch on, he wanted to design a character that could kick butt and be supremely feminine at the same time. He wanted to make an icon to inspire girls to dream big. To show them they can be anything they wanted to be. The limitations of society can be broken.
Taking inspiration from the Greek Mythology and a few others, Mister Marston made her an Amazon warrior. In the comics, she was fashioned from clay by her mother, Hippolyte. She was brought to life by the will of Aphrodite. Then, several gods each blessed her with a special gift.
The gift of beauty was from Aphrodite, wisdom from Athena, strength from Hercules, and speed from Hermes. During The silver age more of the Greek gods contributed to her development and gave her more specific gifts.
Though they lived a peaceful existence, all Amazons were trained in combat. It was their way of life and Diana excelled in this. She is experienced with many ancient weapons including, swords, shields, spears, and axes. Though she is experienced with these weapons, Wonder Woman never regularly carried these until the modern age, when a sword was added to her costume.
The Amazons lived an idyllic life on the island of Themyscera originally known as Paradise Island. This changed, however, when a combat pilot, Steve Trevor, crashed on the island. Being a male and a foreigner, he could not stay on the island. A contest was held in which Diana emerged the victor. She escorted Steve to the United States where she learned of the outside world and eventually became the superhero known as Wonder Woman.
Diana does not possess an extensive or unique rogues gallery like Batman. Her adversaries range from, Ares, Cheetah, Baroness, Giganta, and to a lesser extent the other villains from the DC universe.
Her origin story has changed over the years, but for the greater part of her existence, it has remained similar to the above synopsis. Only in the last twenty years have there been any big changes.
A major change that during the New 52 era was the Amazons of Themyscera were eradicated and Diana is now the daughter of Ares.
Wonder Woman’s outfit has changed and evolved over the years, perhaps more than any other character in comics. Two of the major reasons for these changes, the artists’ preference, and the introduction of the comics code in the 1950’s. During her initial run, the outfit was pretty racy. Wonder Woman’s back down to her waist was fully exposed and the breastplate revealed a fair amount of cleavage. With the introduction of the Comics Code, her back had to be covered. One of the more radical design changes was a black biker outfit due to the fact she lost her powers and the storyline dictated she needed to appear tough and capable. In a more recent era, she appeared in full-length pants.
It’s a wonder that outfit was not instituted in the 1950’s with all the restrictions the code inflicted. Even with every design change some things still remained the same, such as the bracelets, a tiara, and the lasso of truth. These items, along with her powers are the tools she uses in the fight against injustice. In some stories, she also has a belt which increases her strength. All of these tools were forged by the gods of Olympus, even the Geek-style short sword and round shield she carries in the modern times.
In the live-action movie starring Gal Gadot as the eponymous hero, she will be styled after the modern image from the comics carrying sword and shield.
Tasked by the gods, Wonder Woman’s mission is to right the wrongs of man and secure peace putting her squarely between Superman and Batman. She is similar to Superman in that she operates on a global theater, bringing hope to the hopeless. Batman operates mainly within his own city of Gotham fighting to stop current crimes and prevent future ones from happening. He is being driven by the injustice that happened to him many years ago.
Like the Dark Knight on his endless crusade, Diana (Gal Gadot) will pursue her target relentlessly, and like an ancient fury, punishing the perpetrator when caught. The Dark Knight, who purposely resembles a demon, at least to the criminal mind, stops just short of killing for fear of falling to “their” level. Unlike Batman, Diana has no compunction about killing, when necessary. Though she and Superman are two of the most powerful superheroes in the DC Universe, she has no reservations about reigning in her powers unlike the Man of Steel. Superman was raised to hide his strength and find a peaceful solution to arguments. Diana was trained from birth to be a warrior even though she lived in a peaceful society.
At one point, Diana dated the Dark Knight. She and Bruce Wayne were the movie star couple of the DC universe for that short time. The Wayne family has been like royalty in Gotham with the power and influence. Now Diana and Clark Kent are the new power couple, both figuratively and literally. Though they seem to be taking their relationship slowly, one can see a fire building from the sparks generated. It just needs a bit more kindling to really set the passion ablaze. Hopefully, it will continue to grow. It will be interesting to see how high the flames fly and how much heat is produced.
One can see this budding relationship in the new animated movies. Specifically in Justice League: Throne of Atlantis, and Justice League versus Teen Titans. These movies, including the rest of the animated films released over the last decade, are excellent. They are recommended not just for relationship progression, which is part of character development. They are great because they display the potential of the DC Comics universe as one giant canvas. These are the equivalent of what Marvel has done with their live-action movies. One of the standouts of this collection is the amazon princess’ solo adventure entitled Wonder Woman. It is her origin story and details her life on the island and when she ventures off the island into the world at large. Made in 2009, although short, running about 74 minutes, it was well done. The pacing is even keeping one’s attention on the characters and story. It is a fine entry to the animated collection of movies.
If one is interested, there are other movies and series with the amazon princess, where the character is handled well. The Justice League and Justice League Unlimited series from the 90’s, are two shows where Wonder Woman is usually front and center. The current Justice League animated movies, if one is curious, displays Diana as she is currently depicted in the comics. She is sort of like Conan: always ready for a fight. Lastly, dare it to be mentioned, the 1977 television series starring Linda Carter. While the stories were a bit cheesy, Linda Carter displayed the strength and beauty that was the core of the character.
With the world at war and the depression taking hold of the country, it is amazing to think that a man had the wherewithal to create a complex character like Wonder Woman. During the time, only male characters were being created. Female characters were usually powerless, frail, and usually placed in a supporting role. By basing Diana on his wife and giving her a background firmly set in Greek mythology, William Marston created a legend and blazed a trail for other heroes, like Batgirl, Black Widow, and even Lara Croft.
Here is a woman, who for the time was independent, strong and intelligent. She is not afraid to fight the good fight. She is truly a unique character for the ages. It is again fitting that Warner Brothers and DC Comics Films will release the live-action version of Wonder Woman. This being the first time a female superhero will lead a movie, ahead of Marvel’s planned Captain Marvel film. Captain Marvel is Marvel’s attempt at producing a movie centered around a female superhero. Though, in the end, it shouldn’t matter to the avid comic book/ superhero fan. These movies should be enjoyed for what they offer: entertainment and a chance to escape reality for a brief time. Let’s celebrate the Amazon Princess’ 75 plus years of existence and her iconic status as one of the few most recognized superheroes around the world. In looking forward to Justice League parts 1 & 2, let us give thanks that more of her adventures will be seen in the future on the silver screen. And no matter what happens as far as the movies, or television shows, she will continue to be a staple in the pages of DC Comics. She is part of what fans refer to as “the trinity,” consisting of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman.