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Real Name:  Diana, Princess of Themyscira

Voiced by Susan Eisenberg

When Hippolyta was murdered for the first time—in her initial life as a prehistoric cavewoman existing over 32,000 years ago—the killer responsible for that act claimed not one life that day, but two, as the future Queen of Themyscira was heavy with child.  As a result of her premature death, the child’s soul (along with that of her mother) was collected by Gaea, goddess of Earth, and placed in the Well of Souls, a fount that held the spirits of murdered women from throughout the ages.  It was there that the unborn spirit languished, even after the other souls were called forth and reborn as the Amazons by an assembly of goddesses from the Greek pantheon.

It wasn’t until millennia later, after the Amazons had settled the island of Themyscira, that the soul of Hippolyta’s unborn child would achieve its destiny.  Still saddened by the absence of the child she had been denied in her previous life, the Queen sought the guidance of the oracle Menalippe, who instructed her to fashion an infant out of clay.  Doing as she was instructed on the beaches of Themyscira, the clay was changed by her patron gods (Demeter, Aphrodite, Athena, Artemis, Hestia, and Hermes) into a human infant.  In addition, as the clay turned to flesh and took in its first breath, the gods blessed the child with an array of special abilities.  Overjoyed with the boon granted to her by her patrons, Hippolyta named the child Diana and raised her in the ways of the Amazons.

As she grew to adulthood, Diana was tutored the arts of rhetoric, combat, religion, philosophy, and in all other forms of knowledge that the Amazons held in high regard; eventually coming to master each field that she studied.  In addition, she was also trained by Phillipus, General of the Amazon guard and Hippolyta’s most trusted advisor, to both control and utilize her powers to their fullest potential.  Thanks to the efforts of the Themysciran population, who each played a part in the child’s upbringing, Diana grew to become the most powerful and resourceful warrior on all of Themyscira.

However, while her mother and fellow sisters were content to remain on Themyscira for the rest of their days, the young princess grew curious about Patriarch’s World—the Amazon’s name for the outside world; the world ruled by man.  However, simple curiosity turned to alarm as the world of man was attacked by the alien forces of the Imperium and she began to hear the distant telepathic call of J’onn J’onzz, a Martian freedom fighter who sought to organize a resistance against the invasion.  Unable to stand by as the innocent suffered, Diana stole a costume and weapons from the temple of Athena and left under cover of night to join the resistance, a team of heroes assembled by J’onzz who were powerful enough to be their own pantheon of gods.  After the incursion was thwarted and its armies defeated, Diana elected to remain in Patriarch’s World as the costumed hero that would eventually become known as Wonder Woman.

One of the most formidable members of the Justice League, Wonder Woman was blessed by the gods with the powers of flight, superior strength, and speed; while her Amazonian heritage provided her with an education in weaponry and a vast array of fighting disciplines.  In addition, she possesses her bracelets—enchanted gauntlets that symbolize a time when the Amazons were enslaved by men—which she can use to deflect bullets with her great speed, and an indestructible golden lasso, which was forged by Hephaestus from the golden Girdle of Gaea.  However, though well-versed in—and seemingly designed for—the art of warfare, Wonder Woman is, in truth, a pacifist who utilizes these gifts as a means to bring humanity a message of peace and hope.

Recently banished from Themyscira for the crime of bringing men onto the island (which was necessary, as her teammates aided in preventing the release of Hades from his underworld prison), Wonder Woman is now a permanent fixture in the world of men, acting as a sort of unofficial ambassador for her people.  Now surrounded by men, both on her team and as part of the general population, Diana often finds that her Amazonian prejudices are confirmed in the thoughts and actions of those she would protect.  However, she has also discovered that not all men act in the manner that her mentors have taught, as her adventures have brought her into contact with men who embody the virtues and nobility of her Amazon sisters.  In particular, Diana has developed a strong connection to Batman, as she identifies with his warrior spirit and deeply respects his fierce determination and battle prowess.

Cartoon Network on Wonder Woman:  “Wonder Woman was born Diana, Princess of Themyscira.  The daughter of Hippolyta, Diana was blessed by the gods with amazing speed and strength.  She also possesses the power of flight, silver bracelets that can deflect bullets, and an indestructible golden lasso spun from the girdle of the Earth Goddess Gaea.

”Diana was raised among a fabled race of Amazons who trained her to be the ultimate Amazon warrior.  Now, for the first time, she has ventured out into Man’s World.  Her sheltered existence on Themyscira hardly prepared her for the greed, cruelty, and oppression that she finds among the human race.

”Accustomed to being treated like royalty, Wonder Woman has the aristocratic bearing of a goddess.  With her deep sense of honor, she is easily offended when she is not accorded the respect that she feels she deserves, and she does not suffer fools gladly.  Yet beneath this imposing exterior, she has a sly sense of humor.  She tends to view all men as inferior beings, with the notable exception of Superman (courtesy of Cartoon Network press materials).”

Greg Rucka on Wonder Woman (circa 2003):  “It’s hard to draw a bead on her; she doesn't define easily in one sentence.  Superman does, Batman does, Spider-Man does—those [are the] sort of iconic characters where, in the course of a half of a page, you can get them, explain what they're about; but Diana is far more complicated so that different writers focus on different aspects.  That doesn't mean any one writer is right or wrong—just that they gravitate to different things about her character.  Every writer looks for an 'in' with the character—some people have found the 'in' with this sort of naïve virgin, some have found it in the über-warrior, and some people have found this in the sex symbol.  Those didn't work for me, [but it] doesn't mean that those who came before are wrong—that was their take, this is mine.

“Diana's always been an amazing character to me, for so many reasons.  [For example], she is an exile from her own world in a way; she can't really go back to Themyscira and live there happily ever after.  She's the only Amazon to have left and have spent a substantial amount of time in the Patriarch's World.  The other element is that she's the only Amazon to have been born on Themyscira—Diana is the last soul the patron goddesses were harboring and Hippolyta said 'I want a child,' so Diana is absolutely unique.  The mandate is just—all these paradoxes in the character.  She's an Amazon.  Amazons are warriors, they're a martial culture.  They can promote belief in peace in part because they've been living in absolute seclusion and isolation for so long and also because if you mess with them, they'll kill you.  It's easy to dictate peace when you're the baddest [warriors] on the block.  Diana comes from this culture where she's bred for war, but is able to reap the rewards of 3,000 years of peace—the art, the science, the philosophy.  Add to that these divine elements—like the wisdom of Athena and so on—and you've got this person who has all these ingredients and they are, in many ways, pulling her in different directions, but she somehow manages to unify them all for a single direction.

“She's not going crazy, she's not neurotic—you look at every other superhero ever and they are all malfunctioning in some way.  In some way, they are internally malfunctioning—Diana really isn't, even with all the paradoxes and conflicts, she may be the most well-adjusted superhero out there.  At least when I look at her, that's what I see:  she's somebody who knows what she's about, has absolute conviction in what she believes, and is willing to fight for those things she believes, be it with words or swords (courtesy of Comic Book Resources).”

Grant Morrison on Wonder Woman (circa 1998):  “The world views Wonder Woman kind of like the way they see Superman, but slightly more suspiciously.  Superman’s an alien, but he’s almost like the American flag—he’s really integrated into the culture and the way we think about superheroes.  Wonder Woman’s not really an American.  She’s from Greece.  She’s made out of clay.  She’s not like us.  And even though all her efforts are directed towards bringing peace, she always ends up fighting more than anything else.  There’s a lot of weird contradictions with Wonder Woman.  People would look at her as this huge symbolic figure—the perfect woman, the ultimate woman—but there’s something about her that doesn’t seem quite communicated.  People would [] be a little wary of her (courtesy of Wizard Magazine).”

Paul Dini on Wonder Woman (circa 2000):  “There’s kind of a licensing problem:  if we wanted to do Wonder Woman as a series, we could do that, [but] if it was a guest-shot, it was a little more problematic.  I don’t really understand it—it just turned out to be easier all the way around [to use Big Barda in the Batman Beyond episode 'The Call'...] we love Wonder Woman—Bruce [Timm] did that great design of her, which is now a maquette at the Warner Bros. store.  At some point, we’ll do Wonder Woman…we just need to fight that battle when we get to it (courtesy of [website name removed]).”

Excerpts from the Justice League Panel at the 2001 San Diego Comic Con:

Rich Fogel:  She’s a little bit younger and more innocent than we’ve seen her in the past.  She is literally the princess who’s fresh off the island—she’s never been off Themyscira before—and so she has a shock of culture coming out into Man’s World and her expectations of how people should behave towards her are different.  It makes her a lot of fun to deal with because she’s haughty, but she’s also innocent.  And, she also has issues with her mother.

Bruce Timm:  She was probably the most challenging character of all of them in this show.  Everyone else we kind of figured out who they were pretty easily, but we had a lot of discussions about Wonder Woman.  With Batman, you could easily say “Batman:  Year One, that’s the Batman we want to do," but with Wonder Woman we couldn’t really point to any previous version of Wonder Woman and say, “Well, yeah, that’s Wonder Woman.”  We had to say, “Well, is she Linda Carter?  Is she the George Pérez Wonder Woman?  Is she Xena?”  And none of those things worked exactly for what we wanted to do with the show.  So the personality as just described by Rich is kind of what we came up with.

[And], since we had Hawkgirl in the cast as well, we wanted to make sure that they weren’t just two peas in a pod.  We wanted to make sure that their personalities really contrasted with one another, so [that] they’re not just “the girls.”

Courtesy of Revolution Science Fiction and Comics2Film.

Bruce Timm on Wonder Woman #1:  “What we keyed in with Wonder Woman is that she’s a Princess and from a completely different culture.  In a weird way, she’s more of a fish out of water than the rest of the League.  In the first episode, we introduce her to Man’s World.  That really forms her whole personality and how she deals with this culture that’s radically different from the one in which she was raised...[Her voice] is not haughty or imperious, but she is a Princess and is used to being treated with a certain amount of deference.  She doesn’t quite get that from the League, so Wonder Woman is a little taken aback by that.  It makes for interesting conflicts (courtesy of Starlog Magazine).”

Shaun McLaughlin on Wonder Woman:  “She’s royalty.  She’s royalty from someplace who decided to make her way in this world.  By royalty, I don’t mean she’s untouchable or above everybody else (courtesy of [website name removed]).”

Bruce Timm on Wonder Woman’s design #1:  “There was no special trick to designing Wonder Woman.  Over the years, I’ve gotten pretty good at designing female characters.  She’s pretty straightforward.  There wasn’t any previous comics version that I used as a template, but I tried to simplify some of the details on her costume for animation purposes.  She’s your typical Bruce Timm gal, a little taller and broader in the shoulders, but what you would expect (courtesy of Starlog Magazine).”

Bruce Timm on Wonder Woman #2:  “Most of the female characters we’ve designed for the various animated shows have been very petite, but Wonder Woman is a very strong and powerful character, so we needed to kind of beef her up a little bit, but not go into that bodybuilder mode, which they sometimes do in the comics.  We tried to infuse her with a little bit more power just in the visual than some of the other characters.  She’s taller, she has longer legs, smaller head.  We tried to keep her feminine, but very, very strong (courtesy of Justice League:  Justice on Trial DVD).”

Bruce Timm on Themyscira (circa 2002):  “I don’t want to overuse that aspect of Wonder Woman; I want to explore different facets of Wonder Woman’s personality.  The two Wonder Woman story arcs we’ve done [in Season One] probably had too much to do with her Amazon past.  They’re both good stories, but we’ve put a moratorium on Hippolyta and the Amazons for the time being (courtesy of Starlog Magazine).”

Dwayne McDuffie on Wonder Woman’s detractors #1:  “First, Wonder Woman is more of a symbol than a character.  Even more so than Superman, if you give her the slightest bit of personality, you’ll grievously offend a significant portion of her fans.  More importantly, she’s female.  A large percentage of superhero fans just don’t like competent heroines.  There’s something about the genre that attracts those kinds of fans.  Think about all the people who ‘hate’ Hawkgirl, Wonder Woman, Vixen…even Supergirl.  How can anybody hate Supergirl?  The male characters, including the ones who aren’t very nice, don’t inspire the ire that even the most likable female characters do (courtesy of DwayneMcDuffie.com).”

Gail Simone on Wonder Woman’s detractors:  “It is also a sad fact that a significant number of big name writers don’t care about Diana at all, which baffles me.  Great gimmicks, great origin, great character…I don’t get it (courtesy of DwayneMcDuffie.com).”

Dwayne McDuffie on Wonder Woman’s detractors #2:  “A lot of that is the same reason, [Gail].  A fair number of guys who write this stuff are either disinterested in women with power, or actively opposed to it.  I think you’ve written something about that somewhere (courtesy of DwayneMcDuffie.com)?”

 

Images

Wonder Woman Model Design Sheet #1 | Wonder Woman Model Design Sheet #2 | Wonder Woman Model Design Sheet #3

Wonder Woman Image #1 (JL Design) | Wonder Woman Image #2 | Wonder Woman Image #3

Wonder Woman Image #4 | Wonder Woman Image #5 | Wonder Woman Image #6 | Wonder Woman Image #7

Wonder Woman Image #8 | Wonder Woman Image #9 | Wonder Woman Image #10

Wonder Woman Image #11

Wonder Woman Image #12 | Wonder Woman Image #13 | Wonder Woman Image #14

 

Commentary  

"We Amazons are warriors born.  Want to test me?"

Wonder Woman (to Green Lantern) in "Secret Origins"

As indicated by Bruce Timm during interviews and promotion for the series (some of which is reprinted above), Wonder Woman was probably the least-defined Justice League member, which is odd considering the rich, sixty-plus year history that the character possesses.  While an icon that is instantly recognizable—presumably coming in third behind Superman and Batman—the Amazing Amazon has undergone numerous changes of identity and persona, but none of them in particular stand out as a “definite” Wonder Woman in terms of the public imagination.  This could be due to the fact that, in a way, Wonder Woman is DC Comics’ equivalent of the Barbie doll; as Diana’s appearance, values, and adventures have changed according to the eras in which she was published.  Her persona constantly in a state of flux—from the submissive, lady-like heroine of the 1940s; to the feminist, “New Woman” character of the 1960s; to the aggressive, girl power champion of the 1990s; and to the politically-charged Ambassador and activist of today—Wonder Woman reflects the public’s attitudes towards women in society, feminism, and gender equality.  However, while that is all well and good from a sociological standpoint, that made the job of creating a definite Wonder Woman—one that transcends the previous versions and could be seen as an ultimate, iconic version—all the more difficult.

In designing Wonder Woman for Justice League, the creative team stuck mainly to the modern, Post-Crisis incarnation of the character—the one that first appeared in the relaunched Wonder Woman #1 that debuted in 1987.  Here, the world of Diana and the Amazons was written to be closer in tune with the original Greek and Roman myths while, at the same time, incorporating elements from the previous versions of the Wonder Woman mythos.  However, while this version of the character was used as a starting point, the similarities ended there, as her origin was adapted to fit into the premiere episode; meaning that elements such as the contest to decide which Amazon would become Wonder Woman and Diana’s sanctioned mission as Ambassador to Patriarch’s World were eliminated.  As of this writing, however, it is unknown exactly how close this version of the character follows this model, as the creative team has not yet revealed much regarding Diana’s origins (we can, however, assume that she was molded from clay as she was in the comics, thanks to a piece of throwaway dialogue from "Maid of Honor"—when Princess Audrey teased Diana for having “feet of clay,” Diana’s response was, “You have no idea”).

(As for the Wonder Woman costume itself, it was revealed in "Hawk and Dove" that it was designed and forged by Hephaestus for her mother Hippolyta to use, but it is uncertain if she used it herself before Diana stole it from the temple of Athena [see here].  As Wonder Woman was met as an unknown quantity by the others in "Secret Origins," it is safe to assume that there was no World War II-era Wonder Woman before her—save for herself in "The Savage Time," of course.  In fact, based on this knowledge, perhaps it was never intended for Hippolyta at all, as Diana's patrons could have been planning for Diana to assume the role of Wonder Woman, one way or another, from the very beginning.  This "will of the gods" theory has weight, considering that 1) it could not have been part of a competition to choose an Ambassador because the Amazons were content to let humanity be conquered, and 2) if it was truly stolen, Athena would have set upon Diana for its theft.)

In terms of Wonder Woman's personality, the creative team has decided not to limit her to any particular comics' version of the character, opting instead to simply write her character utilizing the “stranger-in-a-strange-land” formula.  As an Amazonian warrior developing her first impressions of the outside world—with their alien values, taboos, prejudices, double-standards, and contradictory attitudes—the audience gets to see her personality develop against this backdrop; whether it be sampling new cuisine ("Secret Origins"), formulating opinions on fashion ("Paradise Lost," "Fury"), or learning to tolerate fools, naysayers, and the lecherous ("The Enemy Below," "A Knight of Shadows," "Eclipsed").  In addition, her prejudice against men has evolved from a general contempt early on in the series into an appreciation of the virtues displayed on the behalf of some (the Diana from "Secret Origins" would have been more likely to toss Steven Trevor through a wall than let him kiss her).

It is worth noting, however, that her prejudices against men do not seem to count in terms of her relationship with Batman, as her dealings with him have, from the beginning, been based on what appears to be admiration and absolute trust.  This relationship has evolved as well, from an almost sense of awe when dealing with him (“Batman designed this ship; if its sensors say something is there […],” "The Brave and The Bold") to a mutual respect and what appears to be a complete understanding of his personality and motivations (“He doesn’t handle loss very well,” “Don’t let him fool you; your death hit him as hard as it did any of us,” "Hereafter").  In fact, this fascination with the Dark Knight led to her being the only member on the team to figure out his secret identity (save for Superman—who has known since the three-part "The World’s Finest"—but he cheated by using his X-ray vision) in "Maid of Honor."  It is possible that this admiration could stem from attraction, but it is equally possible that her respect for him comes from the fact that, even as a human lacking no special powers or abilities, he is able to stand on equal ground with the League's demigods using only his training, technology, and indomitable will.  From her perspective, she may see Batman as a modern-day Odysseus—the ancient Greek hero that, as told by Homer, was a selfless and noble man who performed many miraculous deeds using only his cunning and natural talents.

As a member of the Justice League, Wonder Woman provides additional muscle to the lineup; which is significant in this incarnation, as Superman is the only other original member that possesses significant physical strength (J’onn J’onzz’s has been downplayed in favor of his telepathic and shape-shifting abilities).  In addition, she is adept at providing cover for her allies, utilizing her “bullets and bracelets” routine (made famous by the 1970s live-action Wonder Woman series) to deflect artillery fire, lasers, and Green Lantern-style energy beams and constructs ("Injustice For All," "Secret Society").  Also of note is her golden lasso, which has proven useful in the of seizure weapons ("Injustice For All"), the restraining of opponents ("The Enemy Below," "The Savage Time"), and even the redirecting of missiles ("Maid of Honor").  Overall, her strong presence in the Justice League follows the lead set by her modern interpretation, which is a relief considering that older versions of the character were treated as little more than glorified secretaries that took the minutes of each meeting.

As the final DC Comics icon to be adapted for their animated universe, Bruce Timm and the creative team found themselves under a considerable amount of pressure to adapt Wonder Woman with the same respect and precision that they had previously done with Batman, Joker, Superman, and countless others.  And while difficult decisions were made regarding what to change and what to maintain, I can say with no doubt that their labors have wielded success, as they have created a Wonder Woman that has removed the chaff from her background but, at the same time, stayed true to her origins, her heritage, and her ideals.

 

Images courtesy of Warner Bros. Entertainment, The Bruce Timm Gallery, Cartoon NetworkDC Cartoon Archives, bat313, Warner Bros. Online UK, Toon Zone, Jay's Original Comic Art, Comic Art Fans, and The World's Finest.  Additional information courtesy of Wonder Woman and Wonder Woman:  The Ultimate Guide to the Amazon Princess.

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