Weekly Wonder Woman: The Legend of Wonder Woman #1

Set pic from Wonder Woman

Star chairs on Wonder Woman

The talk of the Wonder Woman πόλη this week was, of course, the pics provided by French actor Saïd Taghmaoui from behind the scenes of the Wonder Woman movie, currently filming in this ‘ere town of London. Taghmaoui, who claims to be playing a superhero/good guy in the movie (delete according to preferred translation), was pictured in period costume with that Chris Pine, who plays Steve Trevor in the film. Confirmation, in case we needed it, that the movie will be at least partly set in at least one earlier time period, some rumours suggesting there may be as many as three time periods featuring the immortal, ageless Wondy in the movie.

Things were a little quieter in the world of comics, however, with our Diana largely absent from the DC Universe(s), even in those comics also set during the Second World War (DC Bombshells). 

However, slightly earlier than expected, probably due to DC’s habit of releasing new comics digitally some months in advance of their collected print publication, we have The Legend of Wonder Woman. Originally scheduled for January, it was originally assumed to be a prequel to either the nu52 or the forthcoming Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, in which our Amazon queen gets to make her movie debut. However, given that

  1. In the movie and the nu52, she’s the daughter of Zeus 
  2. In The Legend of Wonder Woman, she’s made from clay, as per Volumes 1-3

That seems unlikely, but not impossible. All the same, we’ll have a look at it after the jump. We’ll also look at some very important advice to the Amazons from Zeus. Very important. So important, he said it in Greek. Can you guess what it might be?

The Legend of Wonder Woman #1

The Legend of Wonder Woman
Plot
Heroes creator Tim Kring was prone to grumble that the only interesting thing about superheroes is their origin stories. While that would explain why seasons 2-4 of Heroes weren’t that good, it’s not an entirely unique opinion, judging by how many times Spider-Man, Batman, Superman, The Fantastic Four et al have had their origin stories told and retold.

Normally, the aim with these retellings is to do something different each time, so that the authors can put their stamp on the origin and tell new stories. While Batman tends always to have to see his parents murdered in front of him as a small boy, Tim Burton made the Joker the murderer of Bruce Wayne’s parents in his very Gothic version, while David Goyer and Christopher Nolan decided to go gritty and super-realistic for their version. The tone of that movie crept over into Man of Steel, which gave us a Thomas Kent sacrificing himself in a tornado to preserve Clark’s secret, whereas a few decades earlier he’d either died of a heart attack in Superman or was alive and well in Lois and Clark

Wonder Woman’s origins have changed considerably over the years. While she’s always been an Amazon princess, the daughter of Hippolyta, exactly how she came into being and where her powers came from has varied. In William Marston’s original story, the Amazons lived without men so having babies was a bit tricky. So Hippolyta crafted a baby from clay and prayed to the goddess Aphrodite. Aphrodite was benevolent and imbued the clay with life, just as she had given all the clay Amazons life. And although many Amazons marvelled at how strong and fast the young Wondy was (“She’s swifter than Mercury!”), the general implication was that she got her powers through being an Amazon, who were similarly strong and powerful.

Wonder Woman is born in Wonder Woman #1

However, this all smacked of being a bit unChristian and lacking in men. So by the time issue #105 rolled round, editor Robert Kanigher decided to reveal the ‘secret origin’ of Wonder Woman, in which it was revealed:

  1. All the Amazons had husbands, who’d been killed in wars
  2. Wonder Woman had a daddy
  3. She was given her powers as blessings at her birth by various gods and goddesses

Wonder girl is giving her gifts

More gifts. Plus daddy's dead

Big changes obviously. Ones that pretty much everyone ignored for the rest of Volume 1 after Kanigher left, even if no one ever bothered to retell Wonder Woman’s origin story to reveal the true secret origin (ie the first one), meaning that it was effectively Wonder Woman’s canonical origin from 1958 to 1987.

In 87, George Perez amalgamated the previous origins into one and added on all kinds of extra layers. Now Wonder Woman was made from clay by Hippolyta, but received life and blessings from various goddesses (and one god). 

George Perez's origin

That was pretty much the de facto origin for Diana pre-nu52, bar the occasional embellishment, including Gail Simone’s addition of a ‘father’ of sorts. 

Wonder Woman's clay dad

Meet Wonder Woman's clay father

However, the nu52 made the biggest change to Wonder Woman’s origin, with Brian Azzarello introducing the fact that this Diana is the flesh and blood daughter of Hippolyta and Zeus and definitely not made of clay.

Hippolyta and Zeus

Ever since then, a lot of old school fans have been in a form of shock almost approaching PTSD, with arguments ranging from “this is epic misogyny” and “this is not the real Wonder Woman” through to “this was almost unique in that it was a narrative driven by a mother but now it’s driven by a father” through “that was Wonder Girl’s origin” through to “this change is completely unprecedented” to “no man should be involved in the creation of Wonder Woman”. Never mind that Wonder Woman had had two previous fathers and spent nearly 40 years allegedly not made from clay – this was wrong and the Worst Thing DC Had Ever Done. Apart from having her date Superman. That was worse.

As a result, we’ve had numerous retellings of Wonder Woman’s origins in Sensation Comicsthe authors invariably trying to blank out the Azzarello/Kaniger origins and revert to the Perez origin. And The Legend of Wonder Woman is once again that comfort food that old school Wondy fans have been longing to chow down on yet again. More or less.

In The Legend of Wonder Woman, writer Renae De Liz actually plucks from all over the place to give us a sort of ‘greatest hits’ origin story that’s a prequel to approximately nothing. Fundamentally, it’s the clay baby story told again:

Hippolyta wants a baby

A baby is born

However, the observant will note that no gods or goddesses were involved, just Paradise Island and Hippolyta.

But assembled on that backbone, we have threads picked from all over the place. We have references to both Hesiod’s Theogyny and the Homeric Epic Cycle.

Hesiod's Theogyny

The death of Hippolyta's sister

We have peaceful Amazons with their own gods-given island, Marston-style. Like Perez, we have the benevolent gods providing souls, this time for new Amazon daughters – per Azzarello, the Amazons aren’t immortal but need a regular population top-up. But uniquely we get a benevolent Zeus, rather than Aphrodite, granting immortality to select Amazons. 

Peaceful Amazons

Zeus bestows immortality

The gods make Paradise Island

Souls for daughters

The gods leave the world to protect it from themselves, leaving behind the Amazons on Paradise Island to guard the bad things beneath it. There they all grow up in harmony. One big happy family.

One big, happy Amazon family

It’s basically intended to be the most inspiring but also least extraordinary Wonder Woman origin story ever. Tonally, it feels like the sort of comic you’d pass to your daughter so that she can have positive role models and learn about female co-operation. There are pagan gods, but they don’t create life or give Wonder Woman her powers – something else does that, something more ‘natural’, possibly even love itself (notably here not called Eros – aka erotic love – but just love). There’s no nasty Amazon man-raping and murdering, no sons being sent into slavery in Hephaestus’ forge. Only Diana is created from clay, once again in response to a mother’s love. Wondy even wears her Volume 2 uniform on the front cover.

It’s basically intended to make a whole bunch of fans sigh in relief and comfort, so they can imagine all the nasty stuff never actually happened. 

And that’s fine. It’s lovely, but it adds almost nothing, subtracts rather a lot, in an effort to offend no one and inspire everyone. It also stands alone from all other continuities, so has no impact on the movie, the nu52, the DCYou or anything else. 

So if all you want to do is read the equivalent of a nice warm mug of Ovaltine, The Legend of Wonder Woman is the comic for you.

I did promise to reveal Zeus’s important words of advice to the Amazons. Here you go.

Zeus' words of advice

As you can see, it’s supposedly all been translated from the Ancient Greek into English. Basically, stay in your city, don’t explore the island, because bad things are out there. Guess what young Diana’s going to be doing later in the story:

Diana senses something is wrong

Something is dark at the heart of the island

Diana must visit her mum

But I do think we need to re-examine those initial words of Zeus’ wisdom a little closer. For starters, φροντίστε να πίνετε οβάλ έφηβος σας πρόσταξ… is fairly obviously modern Greek, not Ancient Greek, since it lacks the older diacritics and breathing marks.

So let’s enter my world and do what I do every weekend – translate some modern Greek into English. What a fun life I have.

Now, φροντίστε is the second-person plural/formal simple imperative form of φροντίζω, which means ‘to tend’, ‘to care’ or ‘make sure’. So something like ‘make sure (all of you lot)’. ‘να πίνετε’ is the second-person plural/formal present subjunctive form of ‘πίνω’, which means ‘to drink’, so this is a piece of general, but firm advice about behaviour, rather than about a one-off act, and it’s addressed to all the Amazons.

Zeus wants the Amazons to take care to drink… something. But what, children? What?

Well, οβάλ just means oval, so it’s something oval. But what? ‘έφηβος σας’, that’s what. Σας in the postposition usually is a possesive ‘your’, so we’ve got ‘make sure you drink your oval…’. It now all hinges on ‘έφηβος’. Which means… teenager.

Hmm. Maybe they just misheard him?

Ah! Of course! Teenager can be abbreviated to teen. And as the final, partially-erased word is likely to be ‘πρόσταξα’ or the first-person simple past form of ‘προστάζω’ – so ‘I commanded’ – I think Zeus’s words are now clear:

‘Make sure you drink your ovaltine,’ I commanded.

Words of wisdom indeed, children. Heed His bidding.

Rating: 5/7 (artwork: 6/7)