The Many Origins of Wonder Woman
Eric S Brown
When Wonder Woman made her debut in October of 1941, her origin story was the one that most comic fans still likely remember when they think about her beginnings. Diana was a warrior princess, born and raised on Paradise Island, who had never seen a man before. An American plane, piloted by Captain Steve Trevor, crashes upon the island, bringing the Amazons into contact with the outside world again. Trevor survives the crash and Diana watches over him as he heals from his wounds. He tells her and the other Amazons of the war that is raging in the outside world and his desire to rejoin it as quickly as possible. Diana’s mother, Queen Hippolyta, decides to hold a contest in order to see which of her warriors is most fit to take Trevor home but Diana secretly enters and wins, receiving the iconic uniform she still wears as Wonder Woman today. It is important to note that in this original origin, Wonder Woman was not born of man but rather sculpted from clay and given life by the Greek gods.
The first noteable reboot of her origin occurred slowy over time rather than as a singular event as Wonder Woman comics continued to be published and her mythos grew. As things changed Diana transformed into someone that was the best warrior of the island before Trevor’s plane arrives, and was already wearing her iconic uniform, instead of earning it in a competition. In the revised origin males are not allowed to set foot on Paradise Island because if that happens, the Amazons would lose their poewrs and become mortal. So she flies out to meet the heavily damaged plane – not only to save Trevor’s life but also to protect her people.
In the next update, Paradise Island was banished to another dimension with Diana deciding to stay behind on Earth because of her love for Steve, but doing so cost Diana her super powers. She was still a hero, though no longer officially Wonder Woman, who fought her battles with martial arts learned from a man named I Ching. Interestingly, I Ching was blind just like Daredevil and his later–to–be–estabilshed mentor, Stick. Diana took on an Emma Peel type style, wearing all sorts of Mod fashion instead of a custome, and attempted to show the world that women didn’t need superpowers to accomplish great things. Even so, readers missed the real Wonder Woman and in 1973, she returned to her previous origin story, shortly thereafter leaping out of the pages of comics onto the TV screen. Her TV origin was almost indentical to that of her original one.
It would be nearly a decade before her origin was changed once more in the wake of DC’s epic Crisis on Infinite Earths event. In this origin by George Perez, the souls of women who had died before their time were reborn in Gaea’s womb to become the Amazons themselves. But one special soul was left behind and of course it was Diana. In this version, it isn’t Steve Trevor that launches the Amazons into sending Diana into the world of man but the Greek gods themselves, sending her out as their champion. Paradise Island was also renamed Themyscira. Perez’s heavy Greek Mythos take on Wonder Woman was a massive hit, ensuring that it became one of DC’s best selling titles again. There were still more changes to come however.
In 2011, with DC’s New 52 event, the nature of Diana’s birth changed. No longer was she a piece of clay that had been given life. Instead, she became the offspring of Zeus, king of the gods, and as thus, a demigod herself. Though still growing up on Themyscira, it was Ares, a villian but also the god of war, who trained her to become a warrior and was her mentor. Upon his death, Wonder Woman became the goddess of war and gained entirely new powers such as the ability to command soldiers and men of war, bending their will to her own with but a thought.
With DC’s Rebirth event in 2016, the history of the Amazons was rewritten yet again, and this time they were specifically created to watch over Ares and keep him imprisoned. The Rebirth origin blends the better aspects of Wonder Woman’s various origins together. Her ties to Ares remain strong but in addition she was also given a brother named Jason.
As with most characters who have been around as long as she has, Wonder Woman’s origin has changed many times, and in many ways, and no doubt will be updated again in the years to come.