Who is Wonder Woman?
WARNING: POTENTIAL SPOILERS
That, on its face, seems to be a silly question, doesn’t it? Everyone knows Wonder Woman – the tiara, the bracelets, the star-spangled costume. Along with Batman and Superman she is one of DC Comics’ most iconic characters.
But what do you know about her origin?
While Superman’s and Batman’s origins are widely known in pop culture thanks to multiple movies and television shows, Wonder Woman’s beginnings aren’t quite as clear cut and have undergone quite a few changes over the years…
Love vs. Brawn
Picture that it’s the year 1940. Half the world is fighting in a brutal World War, and though superhero comics are still a relatively new medium, they are quickly becoming the go-to escapism of choice for those who crave action and adventure-filled stories. And in this golden age of comics, Harvard educated psychologist, William Moulton Marston, saw a problem. He looked across the comics being published and saw title after title with hyper-masculine heroes on the cover. This gave him an idea for a new kind of hero.
As the legend goes, he wanted someone who fought with love rather than brawn, and it was his wife Elizabeth who had the idea to make this new hero a woman. He pitched the idea to the publisher of All-American Publications, and Wonder Woman made her debut in All-Star Comics #8 in late 1941, just before the United States joined World War II.
Fun Fact: William Moulton Marston was also the inventor of the systolic blood pressure test, which is an integral part in the modern day lie detector test.
The Princess of Paradise Island
All-Star Comics #8 and Wonder Woman’s next appearance in Sensation Comics #1 didn’t dive too deeply into Wonder Woman’s origins besides the very need to know basics: she is Diana, Princess of the Amazons and daughter to Queen Hippolyta. This ancient civilization of mythical, immortal women lived in peace on Paradise Island, completely hidden away from the modern world by the ancient Greek gods.
That is, until World War II, when an American pilot named Steve Trevor accidentally crashed landed on their shores while in pursuit of a German spy. It is decided that one of the Amazon warriors must accompany the pilot back to “Man’s World,” and a tournament is held to determine who it should be. Diana, in disguise after being forbidden to participate by her mother, wins the tournament and is bestowed the mantle of Wonder Woman.
Fun Fact: Did you know Wonder Woman was almost named Suprema? It was the editor of All-Star comics who changed it to Wonder Woman!
The Baby of Clay
Just six months after her debut in All-Star Comics, Wonder Woman was given her own stand alone title. For the inaugural issue, Marston wanted to expand a bit on Diana’s origin. He decided to do a modern take on the classic Pygmalion myth, with Wonder Woman as the story’s Galatea. In this new version, Hippolyta crafted a baby out of clay and prayed to the gods to give her a daughter. The gods granted Hippolyta’s wishes and imbued the clay statue with life! This is considered to be Wonder Woman’s most definitive origin by fans throughout her publication history.
Fun Fact: Wonder Woman’s origin has changed many times over the years. For example, during DC Comics’ New 52 storyline, it was revealed Wonder Woman was not made of clay, but was secretly the biological daughter of Zeus! (However, recent revelations show that this may have been an elaborate lie.)
Arguably, Wonder Woman is one of the most powerful heroes in the DC Universe. With powers granted to her by the Greek gods, Diana has incredible resilience to physical damage and pain, as well as the ability to heal much more quickly than a normal person or Amazon. She is capable of super speed and increased agility, allowing her to deflect bullets and projectiles with her magic bracelets.
Surprisingly, Wonder Woman was not able to fly when she was originally created, however this has since become one of her standard powers. She has also been gifted with exceptional wisdom, the ability to communicate with animals, strength that can rival Superman in hand to hand combat, and that’s not even half of what she can do!
Fun Fact: Wonder Woman is a vegetarian. Seriously, would want to eat animals if they could talk to you?
After all this, if you are still asking “Who is Wonder Woman?” the best summation was provided by comics writer Gail Simone who said:
“When you need to stop an asteroid, you get Superman. When you need to solve a mystery, you call Batman. But when you need to end a war, you get Wonder Woman.”
With the new film being released, Wonder Woman is quickly becoming more popular than ever, and it is fantastic that this awe-inspiring character with such a rich history is finally getting her due.