You’re a wonder, Wonder Woman

“Like a crash of thunder from the sky comes the Wonder Woman …”—Sensation Comics #1
Having just read the TPB of DC’s post-reboot Wonder Woman, I thought I’d look back at her history. And why in this case, a reboot may not be a bad thing.
Wonder Woman debuted in the first issue of Sensation Comics, the creation of psychologist William Moulton Marston. Marston wanted to create a hero for girls the way Superman stood for boys; while the readership was mostly male, I’ve read some glowing tributes over the year from women who did grow up reading her.
The golden-age Wonder Woman was an odd mix: Oddly gnarled art by H.G. Peters, feminist themes, female-supremacist themes (women-ruled countries and worlds are always preferable to male rule), lots of bondage (apparently a personal interest of Marston) along with the super-heroics and mythology. Like Marston/Peters or not (I do) it’s certainly memorable.
After Robert Kanigher took over the book, it became less overtly feminist, though certainly any book with a formidable female lead (and one who consistently refuses to marry the male lead) has some of that. It was also insanely weird at times, giving us such memorable-but-not-in-a-good-way villains as Egg Fu, a giant, Chinese, super-genius egg with a stereotypical Asian dialogue.
That was the status quo until the late 1960s when DC shook things up by banishing the Amazons, stripping Diana of her powers and turning her into a fashion-boutique owner/martial artist under the tutelage of blind Chinese mystic I Ching (I review one TPB of that era here).
As I’ve noted before, Diana eventually regained her powers, then went on to be a translator, a UN crisis investigator and an astronaut (not to mention resetting to World War II to tie in with the 1970s WW TV series) before returning to her secret identity as Lt. Diana Prince. Then came DC’s 1980s reboot, which started Diana from scratch as an Amazon ambassador for peace and women’s rights. This stayed constant for years, with some odd and entertaining variations (Williams Messner-Loebs’ had her working at Taco Bell, and it was delightful).
Then came a reworking-but-not-reboot of the DC Universe in Infinite Crisis—and since then, Wonder Woman’s been in freefall. Various creators have tried her as a federal agent (Diana Prince again), introduced new boyfriends, dropped them, tried to work with the supporting cast or around the dreadful “Amazons Attack” crossover event (the evil Darkseid cons the Amazons into attacking the world). Even the talented Gail Simone couldn’t seem to do anything—the idea of Zeus creating “Manazons” to bring peace where Wonder Woman had failed just bit.

So the Brian Azzarello/Cliff Wu Chiang relaunch with Blood at least cleared out the deadwood. The premise is that the classic Wonder Woman origin—sculpted from clay by Hippolyta and animated by the Olympians—was to cover up the fact she’s a child of one of Zeus’s affairs and thereby a target for Hera’s revenge. Learning the truth, Diana finds herself embroiled in Olympian schemes and plots—and unfortunately, sees Hera wipe out Hippolyta and the Amazons (which makes the third or fourth time “The Amazons are gone” has been used to shake things up).
I have mixed feelings about the reboot. I don’t like dropping the classic origin, and by focusing on the gods, it seems oddly removed from human affairs (George Perez’ 1980s reboot and Greg Pak’s Incredible Herc at Marvel blended myth and super-hero better): It’s readable and interesting, but it’s not very involving without more ties to the human world.
On the other hand, it’s not like the pre-boot version was going anywhere good … At worst, we’re no worse off, but I’m not sure this is the reboot I’d have chosen.

8 Comments

Filed under Comics, Reading

8 responses to “You’re a wonder, Wonder Woman

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