The Wheel and Axle

Make A Hawk A Dove

by on Oct.21, 2016, under Geeky, Society

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Today is Wonder Woman Day.

And it’s not just any Wonder Woman Day.

It’s a United Nations-declared Wonder Woman Day!

And it’s quite appropriate as well, given that a good part of her decades-long career has Wonder Woman working as an ambassador to the UN for her nation.

So what is it about this fictional character that has made a prestigious body like the United Nations declare a day in her honor?

2016 is the year the Amazing Amazon turns 75, having debuted in a backup story within All-Star Comics #8 in 1941 before fully launching her own lead title Sensation Comics the following month. Within less than a year, she was popular enough to headline two comic books with the launch of Wonder Woman (Volume 1) #1 – all while also appearing as a member of the Justice Society of America in All-Star Comics. This was definitely quite a feat for a female action character of the time, and even more amazingly, she was the only female amongst a handful few comic characters who survived in continuous publication as the Golden Age transitioned to the Silver Age (the others being Superman, Batman, and Aquaman).

Throughout over seven long decades of history, Wonder Woman a.k.a. Princess Diana of Themyscira a.k.a. Diana Prince has become a true cultural phenomenon, even if she’s had comic book runs that weren’t selling well. She is a character who has crossed over from geek fandom into the mainstream, one whose look is so iconic that she is instantly recognizable at a glance even if the details of her story are not known.

The gorgeous Lynda Carter – so perfectly chosen, so perfectly cast – also helped make Wonder Woman even more of a household name through the 70s TV show.

Now, the character will also finally be making the leap onto the big screen with her own long-overdue solo film in 2017 followed by her apperance in the first Justice League movie a few months afterwards. These, following a successful and much-praised debut in Batman v Superman just earlier this year.

And with an awesome modern film debut like this…

… Diana’s time in the spotlight will surely remain for quite a long time.

Ask anyone on the street around the world, even non-comic readers, to name just one male superhero, and the responses will likely vary from Superman to Batman to Spider-man. Ask them to name just one superheroine, and a vast majority will say Wonder Woman. Heck, even my 99-year old grandmother knows Wonder Woman.

Many comic companies have tried and failed to come up with a female superhero character just as iconic as Wonder Woman, and they have failed.

Marvel hit the jackpot with Spider-man to match the status of Superman and Batman, but they have never been able to come up with their own true “queen of Marvel.” They’ve gone through Sue Storm, Jean Grey, Storm, Carol Danvers, and more, but they still have not been able to truly make their own Wonder Woman. After 75 years of the Amazon being in the collective subconscious, it’s doubtful they will.

Not even DC could match their own first lady when they were able to come up with the twin male cultural powerhouses of Superman and Batman. Both Supergirl and Batgirl are just derivatives and extensions of their namesakes. The closest to being a leading unique and independent female DC character would be the one I consider DC’s “second lady,” Black Canary, and even she is nowhere near as iconic as the Princess from Paradise. Wonder Woman is truly the one and only leader amongst her peers within that universe and beyond.

Outside traditional comics, others have appeared and become pretty popular, and a number of are inspired by Wonder Woman, to boot. There’s Xena. There’s Buffy. There are numerous others. But none come close to Wonder Woman.

Wonder Woman’s longevity and cultural impact span a lot of things, primarily being a feminist icon. Her books (barring a period between the Golden and Silver Ages and the despicable New 52) contain complex themes, intriguing subtext, and socio-political commentaries addressing not just the place of women in society but also humanity in general.

Wonder Woman has a lot of fascinating contradictions – a warrior for peace, for one. She was created during World War II, a time when the world was suffering (well, more so than usual) and an inspiration to counter the violence was necessary for those left behind.

Despite being a powerful character, she was portrayed as a woman who only turns to violence as a last resort – opting to extend an olive branch first. Even her choice of weaponry are reflective of this. Discounting the recent trend of giving her a sword and big-ass shield (things she very rarely used in the past), her traditional items were less warlike: a lasso of truth to capture enemies as well as bracelets which she used to deflect bullets (one of the coolest concepts, ever). Her tiara also doubled as a boomerang of sorts to stop her foes (although yes, in later iterations it could decapitate a god). So, even with more recent developments in making the character more warrior-like to keep up with modern audiences, at the heart and core of the character is a woman who believes in resolving things peacefully first before opting for violence. And when it comes to the latter, she will kick your ass nonetheless.

Moreover, she believed in not simply defeating her evil but influencing them to change – make a hawk a dove, as her TV theme song proclaimed. One of the primary features of her comic books for the longest time was Reformation Island, where she brought her foes to teach and educate them. Even in latter years, she has been known as one who turned enemies into friends (Volume 2 of her book, for example).

A lot of comic book writers have shunned or evaded the character, openly declaring that they could not understand her and her many contradictions. I believe they just couldn’t wrap their minds around the idea of a character with, and I paraphrase her own creator, all the power of a Superman while having all the allure of a woman. They believe she is too much of a changing slate when in fact she represents a complexity of humanity that is more realistic than the simplistic delineations of many of her male counterparts.

Thank goodness there have been a lot of wonderful other writers through 75 years who saw through the complexities and understood the essence of the character. The character may have changed in various ways through the years, but their knowledge of her core enabled them to constantly and consistently depict her as what she always was meant to be: a wonderful role model for everyone, men and women alike, who did not simply exhibit power – she became a symbol of empowerment.

In the world we live in right now, more than ever, we need someone like Wonder Woman to remind us of the good in humanity and that we can make a difference.

And this is why the United Nations made a good call in honoring someone like her.

Happy anniversary, Princess, and happy Wonder Woman Day!

As Golden Age Etta Candy would say, “Woo-woo!”

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Since June 2016