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Real Name:  Circe

Voiced by Rachel York

The gravest of dangers often come in the most innocent of forms, but only the Fates could have predicted that Circe, a nymph originally from the island of Aeaea, would one day become one of the most powerful and feared sorceresses on Earth.  The daughter of the sun god Helios and the Oceanid Perse, the immortal maiden hungered for power, and sought it by summoning forth Hecate, the goddess of witchcraft.  With the dark deity in her presence, Circe made a pact with the goddess and received vast magickal powers as a result of their deal.  Now possessing an array of abilities—such as the ability to transform humans into beasts—Circe used these powers for her own amusement, transforming visitors to her island into animals and making them her slaves.

This is not to say, however, that she was incapable of kindness, as shown by the frequently-recounted tale of her encounter with the Greek hero Odysseus.  When Odysseus, during his visit to Aeaea, learned that several of his men were transformed into swine by Circe, he personally traveled to her home to confront the witch.  Aided by a sprig of moly—a magick-negating herb provided by the god Hermes—Odysseus confronted Circe, who—upon discovering that her powers were useless against him—relented and freed his men.  Captivated by the noble and resourceful hero, Circe invited Odysseus and his men to stay as her guests; he agreed, and they stayed for over a year before once again setting sail for his kingdom of Ithaca.  Other incidents, however, showcased her more brutal leanings:  she changed the deity Picus into a woodpecker when he spurned her advances, and she also transformed the beautiful nymph Scylla into a horrible monster in order to spite her lover Glaucus.  In addition, Circe was also an enemy of the Amazons of Themyscira, which proved to be her undoing as Hippolyta, the Queen of the Amazons, pulled some strings and had her sent to Tartarus as punishment for her many misdeeds.

It was there, in the underworld, that Circe endured centuries of horrific punishments for her crimes until, finally, it was decided that she should be released…under the condition that she not seek retribution against Hippolyta.  Released into a world that had long before forsworn sorcery in favor of science, Circe discovered that, in her absence, Hippolyta had had a daughter.  Eager to get back at her hated enemy in any way possible, Circe confronted her daughter—better known to Patriarch’s World as Wonder Woman—and transformed her into a pig.  It was only through the sacrifice made by her friend and teammate Batman—whose spirit, it could be speculated, reminded Circe of the Ithacan king she knew so long ago—that she broke the spell, but she can return at any time to bedevil the Amazonian princess with her magicks.

 

Commentary

In the wild wood they found an open glade, / around a smooth stone house—the hall of [Circe]— / and wolves and mountain lions lay there, mild / in her soft spell, fed on her drug of evil. / None would attack—oh, it was strange, I tell you— / [...] In the entrance way they stayed / to listen there:  inside her quiet house / they heard the goddess [Circe]. / Low she sang in her beguiling voice, while on her loom / she wove ambrosial fabric sheer and bright, / by that craft known to the goddesses of heaven. / No one would speak, until Politês—most / faithful and likable of my officers, said: / ‘Dear friends, no need for stealth:  here’s a young weaver / singing a pretty song to set the air / a-tingle on these lawns and paven courts. / Goddess she is, or lady.  Shall we greet her?’

So reassured, they all cried out together, / and she came swiftly to the shining doors / to call them in.  All but Eurylokhos—who feared a snare—the innocents went after her. / On thrones she seated them, and lounging chairs, / while she prepared a meal of cheese and barley / and amber honey mixed with Pramnian wine, / adding her own vile pinch, to make them lose / desire or thought of our dear father land. / Scarce had they drunk when she flew after them / with her long stick and shut them in a pigsty— / bodies, voices, heads, and bristles, all / swinish now, though their minds were still unchanged. / So, squealing, in they went.  And [Circe] tossed them / acorns, mast, and cornel berries—fodder / for hogs who rut and slumber on the earth.

The Odyssey, Book X:  The Grace of the Witch, Lines 229-233, 240-268

"I promised to leave your mother alone, little princess, but nobody said anything about you."

Circe (to Wonder Woman) in "This Little Piggy"

A literary figure best known for her appearance in Homer's classical epic The Odyssey, it should come as no surprise that the witch would eventually be adapted as an opponent for Wonder Woman, as she herself owes her origins to Greek myth.  However, while presented in the Post-Crisis DC Universe as one of Wonder Woman’s greatest adversaries—second only to Ares—it should come as a surprise to some comics fans that she is, in fact, a latecomer to the Wonder Woman mythos, as her first appearance was as recent as Wonder Woman #305 (July 1983).  Debuting with an almost-unrecognizable physical appearance, the Pre-Crisis Circe vied with the Amazing Amazon when she discovered through prophecy that Wonder Woman was Fated to bring about her downfall; which she did as, during an encounter, she destroyed the herbs of immortality that Circe needed to produce her elixir vitae, the potion that provided her with immortality and eternal youth.  However, following the 1985 Crisis series, her character was redesigned into her more-familiar purple-haired, green-costumed incarnation, and she made her return in Wonder Woman #17 (Vol. 2, June 1988).  Redesigned to be a more formidable threat, Circe used her magicks and her “Bestiamorphs” (her name for her transformed monsters) to plague Wonder Woman, though her reasons for doing so were never made clear.  However, what she may have lacked in motivation she made up for in ambition, as she instigated the 1991 War of the Gods crossover event, where she attempted to destroy Gaia and Wonder Woman by forcing a confrontation between the pantheons of the world, with the winner receiving the honor of remaking the world according to their own myth of creation.  Other plots have found her sitting on Neron’s council in the 1995 Underworld Unleashed series, serving as a member of Lex Luthor’s Injustice Gang in JLA, and making herself an ongoing nuisance in the pages of Wonder Woman, thereby establishing herself as a major player in the DC Universe.

Considering her significance and her stature as one of Wonder Woman’s most powerful adversaries, it is no surprise that Circe (or Kirkê, as she is referred to in some translations of The Odyssey) would be adapted for Justice League Unlimited.  However, the creative team took some liberties with the character—making her more impish than her aggressive, violent counterpart, resulting in a Mr. Mxyzptlk-type villain who is more interested in having fun with Wonder Woman than in killing her outright.  In addition, her wardrobe was updated, as her Grecian robes and her generic, green supervillain jumpsuit were replaced with a retro minidress, combining Jack Kirby-style costume elements (thereby linking her to classic Marvel Comics villain the Enchantress, seen here) with what appears to be a costume worn by Jane Fonda in the 1968 film Barbarella (compare her costume to the one worn by Fonda here).  This, coupled with her classic cinema good-looks, gives her a playful, yet dangerous, demeanor that is unique to any incarnation of the character.

Another facet highlighted in “This Little Piggy” is the enchantress’ interest in singing; an aspect that, while new to her comic book incarnation, is well-founded aspect of the character’s mythical counterpart, as The Odyssey made reference to her enchanting voice (as shown in the above excerpt).  As for her connection to the Sirens, writer Paul Dini took a probable connection and took it to the next logical step, due to their mutual perchance for singing and their parentage by entities related to the water—Circe’s mother was a water nymph, or Oceanid; while the Sirens were sired either by Phorcys (a Greek sea god) or Achelous (a Greek god of the rivers), and their mother could have easily been another Oceanid, as Oceanus (a Greek water deity) and Tethys (his wife and sister) spawned over roughly 3,000 to 4,000 of them.  This information considered, it is more than likely that Circe and the Sirens are cousins, thus providing Circe with an interesting character trait and the Amphitheater on Mykonos with a show-stopping, once-in-a-lifetime musical event.

Finally, in regards to her “deal” with Batman, it is possible that she entertained his request because he reminded her of her former lover Odysseus.  In the original myths, Circe is almost always portrayed as vengeful and cruel, but she temporarily changed her ways in The Odyssey when she found herself confronted by the classical hero.  When she discovered that her powers had no effect on him (due to the sprig of moly he carried), she relented and, in the end, fell in love with Odysseus and bore him a son during his sojourn on her island (some myths state that she bore him three sons—Agrius, Latinus, and Telegonis—but in other myths she only had Telegonis; the latter is more likely, considering that Circe hosted Odysseus and his men on Aeaea for only a year).  It’s possible that Circe’s attraction to cunning, powerful men—men that are capable of being her equal, who can successfully outwit or spar with her—is a potential weakness for the character, and the Dark Knight’s resourcefulness unknowingly tapped into that vulnerability.

Possibly still on the loose at the end of “This Little Piggy,” Circe has the potential for making further appearance on Unlimited—as a magick-based character, she could be a threat to any number of League members and, as herself, she could provide further complications in the lives of both Batman and Wonder Woman.  With her time served and her enemy Hippolyta temporarily out of reach, there is no reason why this devilish diva couldn’t return to harass the Amazing Amazon in future installments.

 

Images courtesy of Toon Zone, The Marvel Infinity Index, Barbarella MCMLXVIII, and DC Comics.  Additional information courtesy of the Encyclopedia Mythica and to The City of Ladies.  Excerpts from The Odyssey courtesy of the Robert Fitzgerald translated edition.  The Enchantress courtesy of Marvel Comics.

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