In the US Army, we make a big deal about standards. There is only one type of standard that we own, the type that you either meet or exceed or you face the consequences. Failing to meet the standard can lead to a failure where and when it counts, and that is unacceptable. In the civilian world though, there exists another type of standard. For this standard, you're not always expected to attain it. Indeed, it is expected that many will never make reach that level. There is no shame in falling short of this standard, only in the failing to attempt to try and meet it. Today’s topic exists as this type of standard. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the standard by which all other female superheroes are judged.
Her name is Diana of Themyscira, A.K.A Diana Prince the Wonder Woman. Created in late 1941 by psychologist William Moulton Marston, Wonder Woman is surprisingly to most not the first female superhero. That title actually goes to the far lesser known character known as Fantomah created in 1940. Without a doubt though, Wonder Woman is both the first widely known and well known female superhero in existence. It can be argued that there only three names in comics that are more easily recognizable; Superman, Batman, and Spiderman. She is also the longest running female superhero in the genre, with 1986 being the only year out of 72, working on 73 that she failed to appear in a comic book.
Throughout all those years Diana has been a lot of different things; a secretary, Air Force lieutenant, Army nurse, business owner, secret agent, a practitioner of kung-fu, ambassador, princess, warrior, demigod, and goddess. Two things she has never stopped being is heroic and a feminist icon. She’s an equal to Superman in practically all aspects, with an equal capability to feel love and compassion for everyone she meets. She was created by Marston to be and embody the best of us, to be the example for everyone but especially all women to live up to. 1940s vs the New 10s values dissonance along with liberal helpings of Marston’s views on BDSM notwithstanding, Diana has never wavered from that role.
Take for instance the issue of when she was depowered back in the 1968. For most superheroes, losing their powers is usually the result of burnout or overuse in a generically climatic and over-the-top battle with a supervillain. For Diana, it was something far quieter and far more powerful for it. Themyscira and the Amazons were going away, supposedly never to return and Diana was informed that if she chose to stay in Man’s World that not only would she likely never see her people again but also would lose the mantle of Wonder Woman. She chose to stay anyway, in order to help Steve Trevor clear his name after being wrongly convicted of murder.
To me, this one act is more impressive than every super powered attack given or taken in Wonder Woman’s entire history. I’m not sure if this is a quote or not, I remember hearing it before but I couldn’t find out where. Regardless if it’s a real quote or just one that I happened to cobble together from better speakers than I, it’s relevant nonetheless. “It’s easy to do the right thing when it doesn’t cost you anything.” As someone who has said goodbye to their loved ones a couple times in their life while knowing that it could very well be the last time I ever see them, I can certainly empathize with Diana’s position at that time. Making that choice to do the right thing was one of the hardest choices I’ve had to make, and for somebody who has been explicitly stated to love everyone it couldn’t have been any easier.
I know that this whole situation caused a lot of uproar from feminists back in the day; it was a very unpopular move to depower Wonder Woman. I think these days it wouldn’t cause quite as much controversy, or at least not for the same reasons. Superheroes get depowered on occasion, it goes through phases where sometimes they are more powerful and sometimes they are less but they always go back to their classic ability set at some point. But then again, I have the advantage of hindsight and can see clearly that cycle across many different heroes over the course of 70 years of comics’ history.
Feminist fans back in the ‘60s didn’t have that advantage. All they could see was one of their symbols being made lesser, during a time where they were already fighting tooth and nail to be heard and taken seriously. So they took that fight up as well, and a few years later in 1973 Diana was back in her classic costume and classic powerset. The fans had spoken, and while there have been occasions since then that someone other than Diana has held the title of Wonder Woman it has never lasted. Likewise, at least as far as my knowledge goes Diana has never been completely depowered since.
To finish us up, we go back into No Man’s Land for volume 3. I'm not quite sure what to think of this volume. The overall story of No Man's Land is still quite good obviously, but my primary target Cassandra Cain only appears in a few frames throughout the entire book. Add to that, all she does in those frames is stand there and look imposing. Also, I didn't bring this up previously but I thought it kind of odd that when we first saw Cassandra out of costume, she looked like well a kid. The moment that she put it on though, she suddenly went through a superheroic puberty and now has the same body type as The Huntress. Overall, I'm not impressed there. However, near the end of the volume I meet Stephanie Brown for the first time. Which is kinda confusing for me, as I was under the impression that Stephanie wasn't introduced until quite some time after Cassandra had been, but from what I read it appears that Stephanie had not only been introduced some time ago as Spoiler but also was already in a relationship with Tim Drake. Perhaps somebody could clear this up for me, how far back exactly do I have to go to get to the beginning
of her character?