Favorite Female Characters in Literature # 10: Wonder Woman

Favorite Female Characters in Literature # 10: Wonder Woman

Hey! We’ve made it to the top ten, and the tenth spot is taken up by one of the “Big Three” from DC Comics, the Amazon known as Wonder Woman. And… since there are going to be a lot of people going, “HOW can you put Wonder Woman all the way down at NUMBER TEN?!?!?!“… I’m going to start right out by telling you.

It’s her damn origin story.

Oh… it’s not the origin story itself. Her origin story is fine. Iconic. I love it. I loved it the first time I saw it. And the 2nd time. And the 3rd. Somewhat the fourth. Less the fifth. Not at all the sixth time. Writers for Wonder Woman WILL NOT LET GO OF HER ORIGIN STORY. At LEAST every other story is about her divine origins… with gods all around her, scheming schemes that she has to stop, interfering with her life, being a part of her life, and all that jazz. And it’s FLAT OUT BORING. Batman would not be the character he is if every story was about his origin story. It’s FINE that Batman’s driven by his origin story… that’s a part of his character. But if every Batman story had a cast consisting of nobody but the guy who shot his parents, and everyone who happened to be at the movies that night, if every story was about bats flying through windows, it would all get a little old. Wonder Woman is a creation of the gods. GOT IT. Move the hell on and tell me why SHE is an interesting character… not just some dame with an interesting origin.

It’s no different than how bored I get when a Superman story is about SOMEBODY ELSE who was saved when Krypton exploded. Jesus Christ… did ANYONE die when that place exploded?

Luckily, everyone was visiting their relatives on other planets, and there were no casualties, excepting only a sense of realism.

Another problem I have with the character is that too many writers (dudes, all) seem like they’re trying WAY TOO HARD to have Wonder Woman be an icon of femininity. If you want me to believe that Wonder Woman is a strong character who does strong things, I’m cool with that. That’s great! That’s what she IS! But, if you want me to believe that Wonder Woman is a strong character only because she’s doing all sorts of typically male things… even though she’s all woman!… then we have a serious problem. Lots of other female characters (Nancy Drew, Modesty Blaise, Catwoman, etc) just get to be strong characters, but because Wonder Woman had her years as a feminist icon, this is another aspect of her character that many writers simply won’t let go. Her feminism is too omnipresent… so omnipresent that the message is actually lessened. She effectively runs around screaming, “Accept me! I need validation!” rather than letting her character be silently strong in the way of Batman, or Superman, or Spider-Man. Writers… here’s a bit of a hint… if you have a character running around telling everyone “I don’t NEED your validation!”… it’s having the opposite effect of what she’s saying. Here… give it a try. Call up every one of your friends and say, “Just wanted you to know that everything is okay in my life.” I’m betting every last one of them will say, “Huh? What’s going on? What’s wrong?”

I guess what I’m saying is… let her be Wonder Woman. Let her be kind when she can, and menacing when she can’t, and let her be powerful either way. Let her be a person rather than a god, and let her have a life past the constant reflections of her origins. Let her be the damned icon she is. Let her be someone to aspire to, rather than just a combination of a few key talking points.

Anybody can aspire to the ideal of Wonder Woman. Anyone.

Art by Ming Doyle, showing that Wonder Woman can step away from the iconic costume and still be the icon.

Wonder Woman is an icon that bridges the ages. This girl and this woman both have their own versions of Wonder Woman in their heads, maybe riding unicorns and tossing tanks, kissing movie stars and eating pizza. I'd bet neither of them have intricate mental stories concerning devious gods that are using sex to strip Wonder Woman of her powers and ruin her life and destroy her friends in an elaborate revenge scheme.

I am Wonder Woman and I fight sharks. Because... FUCK YEAH!

Above photo by Elena Kalis

Love the Lucy Knisely art of "all women are Wonder Woman."

For the record, THIS is Wonder Woman to me. She's soft, she's sexy as hell, and when she needs to be, she's harder than all the nails that hold hell together, and... there's the door, spaceman.

Where it all began for Wonder Woman. Her first appearance, wherein the members of the Justice Society of America meet Wonder Woman, who has the speed, strength and abilities to best any or all of them in combat, and she is deemed worthy enough to... stay behind and be the JSA's official secretary. Baby steps, people. Baby steps.

It’s ALWAYS time for a Kate Beaton break.

Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman. No post on the Amazon princess is complete without a tribute to the woman who, to me, defined the softness, nobility, and overwhelming strength of the character. And, yes... a major crush of my youth.

Yep. Major crush.

Where it REALLY all began. The earliest known image of Wonder Woman, just in the design stages as H. G. Peter and Marston were developing the character.

DC's "Big Three"... maybe my all time favorite image of them. I think this quickly and nicely encapsulates their powers. We have Superman as the "boy scout," with powers to match his nobilty. Batman is turned away from the camera. And Wonder Woman is at the forefront; she has the quiet strength to match them both, but her quiet strength is NOT timid; she's a brash and wonderful woman who loves life and loves humanity, and laughing. She wasn't just raised to be a warrior, she was raised to believe that there are things worth fighting for.

The plane! The plane! (art by Dick Giordano)

The first issue of Sensation Comics, Wonder Woman's very own title. Once she was out of the gate, she was the star of Sensation Comics, and had her own title in Wonder Woman, and appearances in many other titles. She was easily the most popular female comics character in the golden age of comics.

And yes... the first decade of Wonder Woman was RIFE with fetish material. Lots of spanking and bondage. I mean... LOTS of it.

The thing is, all that bondage and spanking doesn't bother me. It was all in good fun, and I HUGELY prefer that to most modern day comics where good-natured fun has been replaced with sleazy sniggering, and laughing bondage has been replaced with torture porn.

I'll take this over bloody ropes and scalpels to the eyes, please.

A cover with Wonder Woman lassoing / fighting Wonder Woman. Oh, golden age fan service, thank you so much!

Some of my favorite Sensation Comics covers. The middle one is the earliest Wonder Woman comic that I personally own.

I'm glad that Wonder Woman, in the midst of all her ass-kicking, still has time to rescue the occasional damsel in distress.

Wonder Woman can play you like a puppet, and she's fast enough and strong enough to grab your god-damned propeller. Surrender, NOW!Â

I've always rather liked the H.G. Peter Wonder Woman. She nicely rode that line between feminity and flat out muscles.Â

I am willing to dress in drag if I could hang out on Paradise Island. People... I AM WILLING TO SHAVE MY MUSTACHE!Â

Really like this Phil Noto illustration. Wonder Woman seems incredibly feminine and incredibly powerful, stuck on a razor edge between kindness and a menace that you Do Not Want To Test.Â

Falling in love. No escape from this fate. Completely satisfied with this.Â

Love how Darwyn Cooke can so quickly capture the grace and strength of her character.Â

The grand total of shit this woman can't handle clocks in at... ZERO.Â

Brian Bolland's Wonder Woman covers defined her look for a generation, and deservedly so.

I always think of two things when I see this cover. The first is that it quickly and wonderfully illustrates the character of Wonder Woman, because you CANNOT beat Batman without over-powering him, AND out-smarting him. You have to do both, and Wonder Woman did it. And the second thing I think about when I see this cover is that Batman seems to be thinking, "Hmmm, this hurts, but... I'm strangely okay with it."

Oh Great Hera... would you mind if I moved away from home and didn't ALWAYS have all my stupid divine relatives visiting me, creating overly complex storylines and deleting my sense of individuality and character development? Kay? Thanks!

IT’S GALLERY TIME!!!! People love drawing Wonder Woman SO MUCH that I found a wealth of really amazing images, and couldn’t resist dropping them in this post.

Art by Jerry Carr

Art by Rich Ellis

Art by Tom Fowler

Art by Cat Farris

A “Pam Grier” version of Wonder Woman, by Jonathan Case

Art by Colleen Coover

Art by Aaron McConnell

Art by Bruce Timm

Art by Jaime Hernandez

art by Rebel Penguin

Art by Chris Giarrusso

And... bringing it all to a close is a piece of art from my own Wonder Woman... Colleen Coover.


#25: Scarlet Witch

#24: Chance Falconer

#23: Vampirella

#22: Tigra

#21: Jean Grey

#20: Kitty Pryde

#19: Janet van Dyne

#18: Mary Jane Watson

#17: Hermione Granger

#16: Death

#15: Modesty Blaise

#14: Black Widow

#13: Sue Storm

#12: Fantomette

#11: Millie (the Model) Collins

#10a: Blonde Phantom

#10b: Betty & Veronica

#10c: Lois Lane

#10: Wonder Woman


I’ve been thinking about women, lately. Women characters in comics. Women creators in comics. Female characters in literature. And pretty girls riding around on bicycles or walking along the sidewalk, etc, etc. Because of this, I’ve decided to make An Entirely Useless List. Why is it entirely useless? Because it’s my top 25 female characters from comics and literature, and such lists change at whim and at a breakneck pace. It’s IMPOSSIBLE to quantify favorites… the term favorite is far too malleable. A list of my best friends from high school, for instance, would not include anyone with whom I’m currently in contact. Times change. Still… I’m making the list. Why? I suppose I just like thinking about women.


Filed under Uncategorized

4 Responses to Favorite Female Characters in Literature # 10: Wonder Woman

  1. David

    I think that one important aspect of Wonder Woman you have left out is the whole philosophical “message of peace/empowerment for everyone” as well as her culture. I don’t mean that she should do nothing but fight gods and such, but the idea that she comes from a living culture (unlike Krypton) and has something valuable to teach man’s/patriarch’s/the outside world is something I think very important for the character. The idea that she’s a source of inspiration for people is something I miss in the current approach. I loved Rucka’s treatment of her as an ambassador–and Jiminez’ treatment of Paradise Island as a place where people (not only women but men) can come and learn and share knowledge and wisdom with each other. (It goes without saying that I don’t like the current version of the Amazons or gods at all.) To me, that is part of what makes her distinctive from not only other female characters but other characters.

  2. Paul Tobin

    Agreed. The living culture aspect is very important. She very much does stand for something, and that’s important to her character. It separates her, also, from the run-of-the-mill “I’m fighting bad guys because I fight bad guys” type of heroes.

  3. Dean

    Darwyn Cooke has it right- Wonder Woman should always be taller than Superman.

  4. Paul Tobin

    I like that aspect of the drawing, too. The Phil Noto drawing stresses her height as well. There should be a sense of physical grandeur to her.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.