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Wonder Woman, a name as famous as Superman or Batman. It might be silly to point out, given that they are closely associated and have been for decades, but the heights that the latter two have reached still eclipse most other costumed comic characters. Yet, there too lies Wonder Woman. Princess Diana, sometimes Diana Prince (sometimes not), but the question that many cynics have is whether she belongs there in terms of prestige. Certainly, she has place there in terms of importance and longevity, but when classed alongside the writing of Superman and Batman, throughout the decades, how does she stack up?
I don’t think that I would so far off in saying that, if nothing else, the original run on Wonder Woman is by far the most inventive out of the initial stories of all three. William Moulton Marston had creativity to spare, so while Superman was taking on gangsters and Batman foiled scientists, Wonder Woman introduced a highly advanced mythological society of Amazon women. Not only were they long-lived and graced by Greek gods, but they had comic book technology and science, coupled with giant kangaroos who doubled as horses. It was an insane mixture of concepts and ideas that easily outclassed the inventiveness her compatriots would have had before the end of the Golden Age.
One of the main points that some make is that Wonder Woman has no definitive or hallmark story to claim as her own, despite the other two having a plethora of either. Most would point to George Perez’s run, however, and to an extent they would be well-justified in doing so. It stripped Wonder Woman down to the core essentials while downplaying the more ludicrous aspects that had popped up in the combined heft of Marston’s wild Golden Age crashing into the Silver Age. It made Wonder Woman as a character into something incredibly accessible and that made a world of difference, which is why it has stood the test of time. Yet, there’s still a caveat to all of that.
It’s an age-old curse surrounding Wonder Woman that has become something of an in-joke among fans – and that is how every single status quo that she gets is completely overwritten by the next writer. Not trivially, which is the case for most characters, but in a large, sweeping fashion. Notable instances would be the “New” Wonder Woman, the various deaths of Steve Trevor, Themyscira being destroyed, Themyscira being saved, Spy Wonder Woman, and Pirate Captain Wonder Woman. (Okay, the last was just an arc, but it was awesome and I wanted to mention it). Nothing ever sticks and only ever conforms to however long the writer has been on vs. the sensibilities of who comes on the scene next. It’s a case of trying to reinvent the wheel, whereas (most of the time) for her two colleagues the better analogy would be that they are constantly under writers who are trying to rebuild the wheel from blueprints.
Everyone has a different idea of what Wonder Woman should be as a concept, which is perfectly okay. People are supposed to see themselves in her, and everyone is different. Yet, it does leave her in an ambiguous state. Her last three runs have completely undone anything the preceding one has laid down, which is sad given that it’s her 75th anniversary. There are singular good stories though, like The Hiketia and League of One, but those aren’t about her or her mythos solely. Not in the same way that All-Star Superman or the “Bat-Epic” were for their respective heroes. Perhaps that will change though, with Greg Rucka on the main series and Jill Thompson having a new OGN out. Time will have to tell, because it is a strange occurrence and it’s about time to rectify it.