Entering the 21st century, Wonder Woman continued to add to her legacy as a pop culture icon beginning with her appearances in the famed Justice League cartoon along with comics by Greg Rucka and Gail Simone, and finally her own solo film in 2017.
5. Wonder Woman is a Pillar of the DC Animated Universe. (2001-2006)
My first exposure to the character of Wonder Woman was in Bruce Timm, Paul Dini, and Alan Burnett’s excellent Justice League and Justice League Unlimited animated shows. Wonder Woman was voiced by Susan Eisenberg, who brought empathy, regality, and at times, a fierceness to Wonder Woman. She has a real rebellious yet heroic streak in Justice League‘s pilot “Secret Origins,” and steals her costume from the Temple of Athena so that she can help the nascent Justice League fight off the White Martians. Despite her abilities like flight, super strength, and blocking bullets with jewelry, the Justice League is initially wary of her joining the team, and snarky marine-turned-Green Lantern Corps member John Stewart refers to her as the “rookie in the tiara” in an early episode.
Because she previously didn’t have her own cartoon, like Batman and Superman, Justice League spends a lot of time building Wonder Woman’s character and backstory. In “Paradise Lost,” she returns to Themiscyra to find that all the Amazons have been turned to stone by the sorcerer, Felix Faust. What follows is an episode that would make Ray Harryhausen smile, as the Justice League and Wonder Woman battle Hades and his zombie skeleton minion things while raising literal hell. “Paradise Lost” is a defining moment in Wonder Woman’s series-long arc, as her mother, Queen Hippolyta, banishes her permanently because she brought the male members of the Justice League to Themiscyra. Her time as a superhero and in “Man’s world” has taught her the importance of flexibility and grey areas, even while still holding strong to her ideals of peace and love. She also gets turned into a little kid, a pig, and rocks a pair of cowboy boots in the time travel episode “The Once and Future Thing,” because Justice League is a damn fun show.
If you don’t have time to binge 91 episodes of what is probably the best superhero show ever made, the episode “Hawk and Dove” in the first season of Justice League Unlimited is a wonderful introduction to Wonder Woman’s moral compass. In that episode Wonder Woman, along with the brother superheroes Hawk and Dove, goes to the country of Kaznia to end their ongoing civil war. The war has been exacerbated by Ares and the Annihilator, a battle suit built by the Greek god of fire and metallurgy, Hephaestus. The suit is fueled by literal aggression, so it gets quite the power boost from the civil war, but is shut down when confronted by Dove, a pacifist. This leads to Wonder Woman remarking, “Sometimes it takes more strength not to fight.”
Wonder Woman is a trained warrior, but she always goes for the peaceful, diplomatic situation first, unlike Ares, who is fueled by humanity’s hate and thirst for violence. When she does raise her sword or fists, it’s for the cause of love.
4. Wonder Woman Becomes a Killer. (2005)
Like her fellow Trinity members, Batman and Superman, Wonder Woman has traditionally had a strict no-kill policy. This all changed in 2005’s “Sacrifice” crossover, which took place in several Superman and Wonder Comics, and led to Infinite Crisis, another reboot. The premise of “Sacrifice” is fairly simple and maybe a bit cliched: someone is messing with Superman’s mind and causing him to see his greatest foes attacking his loved ones. In reality, however, he isn’t punching Doomsday or Darkseid, but almost killing Batman and the other members of the Justice League.
Wonder Woman begins to play a prominent role in “Sacrifice” over its final two chapters, written by Greg Rucka, who penned the famous 2002 graphic novel Wonder Woman: Hiketeia, and is the current writer on her series. She and the Martian Manhunter use his telepathic abilities and her Lasso of Truth to find out that Maxwell Lord (a villain in the Supergirl TV show) has control of Superman’s mind, and is using his violence towards his fellow heroes to show the world that superpowered beings aren’t to be trusted. Wonder Woman and Superman fight in a literal bone-shattering battle in Wonder Woman #219, where he doesn’t hold back and almost throws her into the sun.
Diana keeps trying to reach out to her friend, but eventually has to resort to the Lasso. She finds out that the only way that Lord will stop controlling Superman is if she kills him. In a fairly understated series of panels, Wonder Woman snaps his neck, which destroys her relationship with both Superman and Batman and basically breaks up the Justice League. It’s very much a low point for her as a character, and extremely controversial at the time.
Greg Rucka shows a more pragmatic side of Diana in this story, and shows that she is still a warrior even though her day job in the comics was the ambassador from Themiscyra to the United Nations. An out-of-control Superman could have apocalyptic consequences, and when forced with the choice to kill her friend or a manipulative villain, she chose Maxwell Lord over the Man of Steel.
3. Gail Simone Puts Her Mark on Wonder Woman in “The Circle” Storyline (2008)
Many women have written Wonder Woman comics, from Dorothy Woolfolk (who also invented kryptonite) in the 1940s to modern writers like Renae De Liz in Legend of Wonder Woman, and even best-selling novelist Jodi Picoult. The female writer that had the longest tenure on Wonder Woman was Gail Simone, who has written a wide variety of comics, from Batgirl and Deadpool to Red Sonja and the indie horror comic Clean Room. Her first story arc was “The Circle” in Wonder Woman #14-17, with artists Terry Dodson, Rachel Dodson, and Ron Randall. It’s one part spy thriller, another part Silver Age superhero romp, with a villain named Captain Nazi and some talking apes.
Most importantly, Simone, the Dodsons, and Randall explore the relationship between Wonder Woman and her mother Hippolyta, as well as some of the Amazons’ negative reaction to her birth. Each issue begins with a flashback featuring Hippolyta’s bodyguards, The Circle, who are jealous that she made a child for herself out of clay when the rest of the Amazons aren’t allowed to have children. They seek to keep the Amazons pure by killing Diana, who they call the Dragon. In the present day, The Circle helps Captain Nazi and his superpowered skinhead army occupy the mostly-abandoned Themiscyra out of sheer revenge and a similar authoritarian bent.
Throughout the story, Gail Simone contrasts Wonder Woman with The Circle. Hippolyta’s former bodyguards are motivated by revenge, which is why they’re compromising their so-called morals to team up with Nazis, while Diana is motivated by peace and understanding. In the first issue, she fights some of villain Gorilla Grodd’s minions, and instead of punching them back to Gorilla City, Wonder Woman empathizes with them and realizes they are being swayed by a charismatic, evil figure. She ends up giving them a place to stay in her apartment, and they help her fight against the Circle and Captain Nazi.
Gail Simone knows how Wonder Woman ticks and infuses her stories with humor (Diana’s reaction to getting a birthday cake from her spy buddies and the Justice League is priceless) and heart, and she even successfully introduces elements from when the hero was the de-powered agent, Diana Prince. She nails Diana’s essence in this quote, which has been circulating throughout the Internet: “If you need to stop an asteroid, you call Superman. If you need to solve a mystery, you call Batman. But if you need to end a war, you call Wonder Woman.”
2. Wonder Woman Makes Her Live Action Film Debut (2016)
After 75 years and one cameo in The Lego Movie (2014), Wonder Woman, played by Israeli actress Gal Gadot, made her big screen debut in Batman v Superman. She appeared in the film for maybe fifteen minutes, but was easily the highlight of the rushed, grimdark mess of a superhero blockbuster. Even before she put on the tiara and bracelets, Gadot’s Diana had searing chemistry with Ben Affleck’s Bruce Wayne, even though her role in the plot was to set up Justice League via even more cameos from security cameras. This seemed like a call-out to Justice League Unlimited, where Bruce told Diana that he had feelings for her (in the famous “The Little Piggy” episode where he sings rockabilly standard “Am I Blue” so that Circe would her transform her back from a pig human), and their romantic tension was one of the big relationships developed in the series.
Where Gadot really shines is in the big action sequence after Batman and Superman get their shit together through the power of a name that has become an overused meme to fight the oversized cave troll that was supposedly Doomsday. A single guitar screams in Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL’s score as she leaps into action and saves “the World’s Finest” spandex-clad asses. It’s in this moment that Zack Snyder reminds filmgoers that he’s a decent action director, and makes his trademark slow-mo feel fresh again with a close-up of Diana choking out Doomsday. She doesn’t get much dialogue, but Diana’s smile in the heat of battle shows her warrior spirit and love for battle. Unencumbered by broody man pain, she is free to kick ass.
Even though many fans and critics were disappointed by Batman v Superman, Gal Gadot’s scene-stealing turn as Diana Prince/Wonder Woman provided some sword swinging and shield bashing hope for the DC Extended Universe, with her getting her own film and having a hopefully a larger role in Snyder and Joss Whedon’s Justice League. Who else is going to throw side eye at Batfleck’s dad jokes?
1. Wonder Woman Comes Out As Bisexual (2016)
As part of their Rebirth initiative, Greg Rucka returned to DC Comics after a six-year absence to tell an epic, interweaving, and time-spanning story with artists Liam Sharp, Nicola Scott, Bilquis Evely, Renato Guedes, and Mirka Andolfo about Wonder Woman’s search for and return to Themiscyra, which has disappeared from this plane of reality. However, the most newsworthy element of Rucka’s new run on Wonder Woman was his revelation of Diana’s queerness in an interview with Matt Santori of comic book website, which was picked up by mainstream news outlets like Entertainment Weekly and Time.
In his retelling of Wonder Woman’s origin in “Wonder Woman: Year One” storyline, Rucka and artist Nicola Scott clearly show Diana having romantic relationships with women, especially in Wonder Woman #2, which juxtaposes her and Steve Trevor’s lives before he crashed on Themiscyra. He explicitly stated in the interview that “Themiscyra is a queer culture,” which makes sense for a utopian society of women. It goes back to her creation by William Moulton Marston, who was part of a polyamorous relationship tat included his wife Elizabeth Marston and their lovers Olivia Byrne and Marjorie W. Huntley, and gave her the catchphrase “Suffering Sappho.”
Over the past few years, DC Comics has stated in interviews and showed on the comics page that several of their most iconic female characters, namely Catwoman, Harley Quinn, and Wonder Woman, are bisexual or pansexual women. Wonder Woman even appeared on the cover of the New York Times bestselling graphic novel Love is Love, which was created in response to the 2016 Pulse night club shooting, with all the proceeds going to the victims, survivors, and their families of this tragic event.
Wonder Woman is a truly a hero to women and queer people everywhere.