In honor of Wonder Woman’s solo film debut this weekend, DC has proclaimed Saturday, June 3rd Wonder Woman Day. Created 76 years ago by William Moulton Marston and Harry G. Peter as both a superheroine and symbol for women’s equality, Diana has had an eventful history. Her legacy is a rich one, which the staff of Nothing But Comics have often revisited. So, for those wishing to delve deeper into Wonder Woman and what she represents, here is a selection of writings from Nothing But Comics on the adventures of the Princess of Themyscira.
On Friday, Woman Woman’s first solo live action film will premiere in US theaters. Fittingly her primary antagonist will be Ares, a character possessing a long, storied history with the Amazonian princess. He is the Joker or Lex Luthor of Diana’s Rogue’s Gallery, the mirror image which defines who she is. Played by the talented British actor David Thewlis, there are high hopes for Ares to be a commanding presence on screen. In addition, Warner Brothers has confirmed what many fans have long suspected: Diana will face off against a second adversary, namely Doctor Poison. While Doctor Poison debuted several months prior to Ares, the character has never had the prominence of the God of War. Still Doctor Poison’s roots are tied to the earliest of Wonder Woman’s exploits.
On October 21st, the United Nations named Wonder Woman their honorary ambassador for the empowerment of women and girls. Diana was cited for her decades long commitment to “justice, peace and equality,” all virtues which have defined the character since her 1941 debut. DC and their parent company Warner Brothers proudly celebrated the UN’s distinction, rolling the ceremony at the United Nations headquarters into another segment of their ongoing commemoration of Diana’s 75th Anniversary this year and promotion for her first solo film in 2017. Wonder Women past and present, Lynda Carter and Gal Gadot, were prominently featured at the festivities. Wonder Woman director Patty Jenkins attended, as did DC artist/executive Jim Lee. Noticeably absent though were any decedents of Wonder Woman creators William Moulton Marston and Harry G. Peter. The lack of acknowledgement for their pioneering work should not come as surprise given DC’s decidedly mixed track record honoring their legacy.
However, there were more controversies roiling the halls than The Big Two’s continued stumbles with acknowledging creators and their families. Many criticized the organization’s choice of a fictional character to represent gender equality. Such a choice is not without precedent, as in the past Winnie the Pooh was chosen as ambassador of friendship, Red from Angry Birds ambassador of happiness and, in something that sounds like a rejected Grant Morrison Animal Man pitch, Tinker Bell ambassador of “green.” The more substantive compliant was leveled at Wonder Woman herself and whether her idealized figure was counterproductive in bolstering female self-esteem. Body image issues have long been a problem for the comics industry; anyone reading comics in the 90s could easily see how little effort it took to leap over the line dividing empowerment from objectification. In recent years, publishers have become more attentive to such concerns, as the voices of female fans and creators have grown stronger. Yet, the question remains: in a cultural moment marred by virulent sexism and rising teenage girl suicide rates, is a super-powered, sometimes demigod, heroine with a supermodel-like figure really the best role model? Does her appearance undercut those values she strives so hard to achieve? As is often the case with Wonder Woman, the best answer is found within the work of her creators.
Previously I discussed the short-lived, though fascinating career of the pre-Crisis on Infinite Earths Ragman. For several years after Crisis reshaped the DC Universe, Ragman was absent from comic book pages. Given his failure to ever gain much traction with fans, this was hardly surprising. However, in 1991 DC decided the time was right to revisit Rory Regan, handing the assignment to a pair of established writers: Keith Giffen and Robert Loren Fleming. Together they would radically rework aspects of co-creators Robert Kanigher and Joe Kubert’s original concept, broadening the scope of who Ragman is without losing Ragman’s essence as the avenger of the least fortunate.
Last year as part of Nothing But Comics’ celebration of 75 years of scarlet speedsters, I turned the spotlight on Jay Garrick and Barry Allen. However, time ran out before I was able to tackle the third person to hold the title of The Fastest Man Alive: Wally West. Long a fixture of Barry Allen’s life, Wally’s promotion from kid sidekick to adult legacy hero represented a bold choice on DC’s part. Barry Allen’s debut in 1954 had given new life to the superhero genre, ushering in The Silver Age of comics. Thirty-two years later, his death played a pivotal role in the events of Crisis on Infinite Earths, the DC mega event which is one of the markers cited for the ending of the industry’s Bronze Age. When the smoke cleared Wally West was poised to help lead into DC into a new era.