When I think about Wonder Woman, I don’t think of the Lynda Carter version or even that particular take on the costume. Carter kicked butt in the role to be sure, but it’s not the vision of the Amazon princess I see. I like the armored warrior… even if her thighs and most of her arms are still mysteriously uncovered and bare for anyone who wants to put a sword or bullet through them. It’s something. She’s a champion, a fighter, and I want to see her physical portrayal match her spirit and destiny.
George Pérez’s Wonder Woman may wear the traditional bathing suit style outfit, but his Diana has the character and heart it seems like she should possess in any incarnation. I say “seems” because while I’ve been exposed to Wonder Woman in a general sense and through some Silver Age Justice League comics, I haven’t read many stories specifically focusing on her.
It’s definitely one of those cases where it’s hard to know which book to pick up first. She’s been around for decades and just like every other character, her origin has been revamped and rebooted more than once. I turned to two expert friends for recommendations and they both suggested I start with George Pérez’s run.
Gods and Mortals grabbed me from the beginning with the story of a caveman killing his mate because she dared to show him compassion. Not what I was expecting. It transitions into a tale of Athena, Hestia, Demeter, Artemis, and Aphrodite breathing life into a civilization of Amazons. They are supposed to show humanity a brighter path and after a false start and many years, they get there. They bring Diana – Wonder Woman – to the world.
A few points in particular stand out to me about the book: the timeless origin, the way mythology is woven into the panels, and the fact that Diana doesn’t immediately emerge from Themyscira and fall in love and get hitched a la Disney princess style.
The backstory and origin of Wonder Woman is simply beautiful – in words and art. Hippolyta feels a sudden yearning for a child and per Artemis’ instructions she sculpts a baby from clay and it doesn’t seem weird. Right there – that’s an accomplishment.
Diana is blessed by the gods and given gifts such as wisdom and a loving heart, and she matures and grows into a capable young woman. So capable she defeats 200 of her sisters in games and wins the right to defend the world against the warmongering Ares. Yeah, she pretty much rocks.
Because no fixed time points or events are mentioned in the story, it has lasting power. When you know a story is set during World War II, as Wonder Woman started, you read it with a certain perspective. It may not be a conscious decision to use a different lens, but you do. When a story is left a little vague, you see it fresh. Later down the line the clothing styles in Boston tip you may towards a general time but the actual origin stays separate. And those fashions may come back in style.
That flows right into the way mythology is a natural part of Diana’s origin. It has to be there at least to get her story off the ground, but Pérez, Len Wein, Greg Potter, and Bruce Patterson push it into every corner in a seamless way. None of it feels forced or over the top, and the presence of gods and history make the story richer and adds to Diana’s overall character.
And the mythology is empowering. Souls of women who were wronged by men over the centuries saved for a specific purpose? Genius, freaking genius. And it could so have easily been a “hell hath no fury like a woman scorned” opportunity to turn them into a race of man-haters but no, Athena had a higher purpose for them. It was about the strength of the reborn women and absolutely nothing to do with the men who put them in that special cage. Having females do their own thing without it centering around males is not as common as it should be now let alone then. Just that part should be an example to creators of all mediums today.
Of course, the Amazons’ idyllic life doesn’t last. The Amazons eventually earn bracers as a reminder of the time they were held captive by men and then killed those men in a fit of vengeance.
It’s also nice that this story doesn’t feature Wonder Woman smitten with Steve Trevor as in other tellings. I have nothing against romance, but there’s a not small contingent of writers in all mediums who apparently believe a female character must have a love interest. Worse yet, some think women won’t be interested if there isn’t a relationship. It wasn’t true when Gods and Mortals was written in the late 80s, and it’s not true now. As much as I adore fairy tales, it slays me when the woman protagonist falls for the first guy she meets. It’s one reason I was so drawn to Brave. Merida essentially said, “No boy cooties for me, I have my own life and adventures that need adventuring.”
Now, could Diana wind up with this Steve Trevor? I don’t hate the idea. But the fact that this book changes the dynamic and keeps him firmly out of love interest territory makes me so happy. No distractions, no leaving Paradise Island for a dude, no rushed attachments. She focuses on finding her way in the strange new world and completing her first mission, which is a far more interesting starting point. Her first steps into the mortal world and into the role of a superhero are shaky at first, but her determination pushes her to the top. I adore that about her.
Love could come her way soon – I don’t know yet – but I’ll be happy if it doesn’t and I’m glad they didn’t inch towards that path from the starting gate.
As I paged through Gods and Mortals, one predominant thought ran through my head: this book is a Wonder Woman movie waiting to happen. We have an abundance of Batmans and Supermans on screen and for Hera’s sake, even Green Lantern got a movie. But no big screen Wonder Woman? It’s not too hard; that’s such a lazy excuse. The material for a movie script is yours for the taking: a story with an intriguing origin tale, meaning, heart, and action. Maybe it’s time for you to leave your island, Hollywood.