Heroic Origins: Wonder Woman

Image credit DC Comics

Basic Bio

Name:Wonder Woman                             Alias: Diana Prince

Powers: Superhuman strength, Accelerated healing

Equipment: Sword and Shield, Lasso of Truth, Indestructible Bracelets

First Appearance: All Star Comics #8 (December 1941)

To begin the new sequence of posts, it has seemed better to begin from a Week 2 post as opposed to doing a third historical context post. To begin, I wanted to focus on DC franchises, and it seemed logical to begin with a discussion of a third of the DC Trinity as they are sometimes referred to. However, instead of beginning with the two, best known heroes from this grouping, I chose instead to focus on the often overlooked character of Wonder Woman.

Wonder Woman’s creation and origin story both came from the same person, a psychologist by the name of William Moulton Marston, who had also made a name for himself by inventing the polygraph test. Marston had the idea to create a hero who triumph not through fighting, but through compassion and love, and at the urging of his wife, Elizabeth, agreed to make her a woman. This was largely done as it was felt that girls did not want to grow up to fall into the traditional feminine archetypes of the period, and instead showcasing a character with ‘all the strength of Superman, plus all the allure of  a good and beautiful woman’ provided them with an alternate role model.

Wonder Woman's first cover appearance in 'Sensation Comics #1', image credit DC Comics
Wonder Woman’s first cover appearance in ‘Sensation Comics #1’ (January 1942), image credit DC Comics

Wonder Woman’s origin story was designed to show the power of women, as Wonder Woman was born to a tribe of Amazons on an island known as Paradise Island. In Greek myth, the Amazons were a strong, warrior-like race of women who lived in complete seclusion from men, immediately setting Wonder Woman apart from a male dominated culture. Amazons only came into contact with men in the form of passing sailors, whom they lured to their isle pure for the means of procreation. However, Wonder Woman was seen as different among this tribe, as she had been born to her mother, Queen Hippolyta, from a clay statue brought to life by the gods of Greek myth, as Hippolyta herself was barren. The fact that Wonder Woman was a woman who was born completely both completely separated, and without the need of a man, strongly portrayed her as a new form of role model for women.

However, despite Wonder Woman being hailed as a feminist icon, her initial adventures do not seem to remove her from ideas associated with femininity by a modern standard. Her initial adventure to the ‘Man’s world’, which was how the world outside of Paradise Island was referred to by the Amazons, was brought forward purely due to the crash of Captain Steve Trevor onto the island. While initially defied from entering the tournament held to decide who would take him back to America by her mother, she entered in disguise in order to win the right, as she had fallen in love with Steve. On reaching America, in order to have a cover identity she took the role of a nurse, Diana Prince. This alias was taken from a pre-existing nurse who wished to travel to South America to be with her fiancé. Similarly, despite being a founding member of the Justice Society of America, she initially held a position as the secretary of the team, hardly providing what would be considered a modern challenge to female stereotypes. However her fierce demeanour and capable abilities in combat meant that she was a hero that women could look up to, and a welcome change to the male dominated superhero genre.

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