One could argue that 2016 is the biggest year for Wonder Woman in a very long time. This week marks the 75th anniversary of the character created by psychologist and writer William Moulton Marston, his wife and co-creator Elizabeth Holloway Marston, and artist H. G. Peter.
Since her origin, Wonder Woman has courted strong feelings and opinions. Superhero, sexualized pinup, feminist icon, pop-culture brand, role model; it’s hard to find any comic book hero – or any fictional character at all – in the past century who has meant so many different things to so many different people. It would take an airplane hangar to unpack what Wonder Woman means and what she has become. I am in no way qualified to do that, even as one of PCU’s biggest WW fans. But what I can say, is that for WW fans like me, there’s a lot from the past year to talk about, and some things to think about as we move toward celebrating a full century of Diana of Themyscira.
Here’s my big three.
1. The Ambassador. The decision to make Wonder Woman a new United Nations Honorary Ambassador for the Empowerment of Women and Girls was not without controversy – and rightfully so. While this type of appointment is reserved for fictional characters, the response from many, such as U.N. staffer Cass DuRant, was clear: “Real women deserve a real ambassador.” What the appointment does speak to, however is the global appeal of the character and the possibility to spotlight the best of what Wonder Woman can represent, as original TV Wonder Woman Lynda Carter said, “Women really know who they are. We believe in fair play and fair pay and playing by the rules.”
2. The Wonder Women. Speaking of Lynda Carter, the iconic actor has never been one in need of a comeback, but between the U.N. Honorary Ambassador event, a recent appearance on Supergirl (as, who else but the U.S. President), and her vocal election year activism and advocacy for women and women’s voices, it’s still nice to see her bring her personal brand of grace back to the limelight.
As for new live action WW torch bearer Gal Gadot, this year has provided a hint of what’s to come. And no matter how any of us feel about this year’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, most people seem to agree that the appearance of Wonder Woman was one of the highlights of the film, or to some “The only good part.” And now we get more of her soon -in her own damn movie! Not soon enough for some, including me! But it’s coming.
I will admit, it filled me with a little glee that whiny, body shaming, “not my Wonder Woman” complainers were shut down the second Gal Gadot showed up onscreen, shield, sword and lasso in hand to bail out the boys. And again regardless of how people feel about the darker tone of the DC movies, the Wonder Woman standalone movie is still our ray of hope as the “optimistic” DCU movie.
3. Prominence and progress. This year, as we mentioned, four separate origins have been published for the iconic character. Including the latest, Wonder Woman: The True Amazon, by Jill Thompson. In multiple titles, media and interpretations, she has arguably never been so visible. My personal choice is the Legend of Wonder Woman. Even with the loss of the underappreciated Sensation Comics last year, Wonder Woman has remained a character constantly evolving and the channel through which many great creative voices are being heard. This year’s recent announcement (or confirmation, rather) of the character’s bisexuality seems unsurprising to most, but that aspect of her becoming part of the canon of her narrative was still a milestone towards visibility of queer fictional characters.
For kids, DC’s Super Hero Girls, in addition to giving us a more action-practical WW costume, is a continuity that promotes cooperation and friendship among young women (all young people really) That’s a breath of fresh air. It gives me my own hope that the appeal of these characters will give them the legitimacy and prominence they richly deserve. As I’ve said before, for all the proud women who sport their geek fandom in the form of Batman, Superman and Flash apparel and accessories, I would love to see as many geek men sport a Wonder Woman, Black Canary or Supergirl tee.
Whatever future lies ahead for Wonder Woman, after 75 years, she shows no sign of stopping. Her relevance, her importance to new and old fans alike, and the fun of watching, reading and creating stories around her are still leaving their mark.