Monday, January 29, 2007

Iconic Characters #2: Wonder Woman

The eldest daughter of Queen Hippolyta, the princess Diana was born to the Amazon race of warriors on the island Themyscira (an island created by the gods for the Amazons after their beautiful city of the same name was destroyed by the demi-god Heracles.) As all children of Themyscira Diana was given divine powers by the gods themselves and is the finest warrior ever born on the island. She is a master of armed and unarmed combat, proficient with nearly every weapon ever made, especially the bow and the javelin, and the exotic martial arts styles practiced by the Amazons.

In 1942 Diana met her first man Steve Trevor an intellegence officer with the US Army who had crashed his plane on Themysira also known as Paradise Island. Using a "Purple Ray," Princess Diana nursed him back to health, and there are reports the two fell in love.

This sudden exposure to the outside world caused the Goddess Aphrodite to declare it was time for an the greatest of the Amazon warriors to travel to "Man's World" and fight the evil of the Nazis. A tournament was held to pick a champion, and although forbidden to compete by her mother, Diana decided to participate in the compitition anyways, her identity hidden by a mask. It was only after winning the tournament that she revealed her true identity, Queen Hippolyta relented and allowed her daughter to go.

Before leaving Paradise Island Diana was given her signature weapons indestructible bracelets/gauntlets and the Lasso of Truth. The Gauntlets of Victory were formed from the remnants of Zeus's legendary Aegis shield, and were created for her by Hephaestus. Diana's superhuman reflexes and senses allow her to deflect projectiles and bullets, including automatic weapons fire, as well as energy blasts and lasers from beings such as Ares and Darkseid. She is fast enough to protect herself from multi-vector attacks. At close-range the indestructible gauntlets block blades, weaponry and punches. When crossed, the gauntlets generate a larger remnant of the Aegis itself, forming an impenetrable barrier which allows Diana to protect herself and those behind her from area attacks. Diana's golden tiara also doubles as a boomerang-type throwing weapon, as it is razor-edged and can cut through most substances before returning to her.

The Lasso of Truth, was forged from her aunt Antiope's Golden Girdle of Gaea, it is perhaps Diana's greatest and most versatile weapon. The divine Lasso is absolutely unbreakable and has restrained beings as powerful as Superman, Captain Marvel, and the gods Ares and Hades. The Lasso burns with a magical aura called the Fires of Hestia, forcing anyone within the Lasso's confines to speak the absolute truth. The Fires can restore lost memories, dispel illusions, renew the wielder's body, protect those encircled by it from magical attacks and even cure insanity. No one but Diana can wield the Lasso due to its divine nature.

Diana returned with Steve Trevor to the outside world, and soon adopted the identity of nurse Diana Prince by taking the place of her exact double by that name (how convenient). Diana assuming the name Wonder Woman would spend the next several years fighting the Nazis and based on her heroisms was asked to join the Justice Society of America. She accepted and became the first female superhero to join the organization that included the likes of Superman, Batman, Flash, Green Lantern and others.

The later Justice League of America

There has been lots of speculation over Diana’s sexuality over the years and on the surface it would appear as though she were devotedly in love with Steve but many of Wonder Woman’s biographers claim she preferred the company of women to that men. For instance shortly after arriving in our world she befriended a group of sorority sisters from a local college known as The Holliday Girls and was seen most often seen with the aptly named, sweets-addicted, Etta Candy. Etta stood out for several reasons: she had a distinctive figure, occupied a central role in many adventures, and had an endearing propensity for exclaiming "Woo-woo". Etta and Diana have remained nearly inseparable over the years.

Etta, Steve and Wonder Woman

After the war ended Diana decided to stay in the mortal world to learn more about American society and during this time her abilities expanded. Her earrings provided her the air she needed to breathe in outer space, and she piloted an invisible plane. Her tiara was an unbreakable boomerang, and a she had a two-way wrist radio installed in one of her bracelets, allowing her to communicate with Paradise Island.

At the end of the 1960’s the power of Paradise Island was fading and Diana’s fellow Amazons decided to travel to another dimension where they could restore their magic. Diana was faced with a choice to follow her fellow Amazons or surrender her powers to remain in man’s world. She chose to stay, retired from the JSA and opened a small boutique. It was also at this time that she acquired a Chinese mentor, I Ching. It was under I Ching’s guidance that Diana learned martial arts and got caught up in espionage adventures, one such adventure led to the death of Steve Trevor.

In 1973 on the advice of Gloria Steinem Diana sold off the boutique and attempted to re-gain admission in the Justice League of America (the successor to the Justice Society). To prove her worthiness she underwent 12 trials (analogous to the labors of Heracles), each of which was monitored in secret by a member of the JLA. Towards the end of her trials, Steve Trevor was resurrected by Aphrodite. He adopted the identity of Steve Howard, and worked alongside Diana Prince (now knowing her true identity) at the United Nations.

In the late 80’s Steve and Diana started falling apart as he joined the US Air Force and in the last twenty years Diana has become obsessed with destroying some of her greatest foes to date including; The Cheetah, Circe, The Silver Swan and Aries.


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