Wonder Woman and her Greek heritage.
Whether religious or not, there is something about the Gods from Greek mythology that stay in our minds and their tales are still enjoyed by many around the world. From the opera, ‘Orpheus in the Underworld’ to the Disney animated film of ‘Hercules’ to ‘Clash of the Titans’ and the adventures of Percy Jackson, there is something magical and entrancing about the Greek Gods governed by Lord Zeus as they all live atop Mount Olympus. This is the reason why Perez’s vision of his Wonder Woman is perceived as her greatest incarnation. It is wonderful that the first twenty-four issues plus the first annual are now released in this sumptuous volume. Not only does it celebrate Wonder Woman, but also her Greek origins, the Gods and the Amazons. It is a truly amazing and epic piece of work. Before I say any more about Perez’s 1987 vision of Wonder Woman, let’s look over her history.
Out of the DC Trinity, Wonder Woman is the one who has gone through the most transitions since her creation in 1941 by William Moulton Marston, a man who believed the world would be a better place if ruled by women. Moulton Marston was fascinated with the suffragette, Emmaline Pankhurst and used Wonder Woman to show there was more to women than good looks. They too could be strong, could be warriors and that they had a significant role to play in the current crisis that gripped the world.
In the forties, Diana, Princess of the Amazons pitted her wits against the Nazi’s and other foreign enemies who were currently threatening the world. What they also did was to highlight the huge role of women who had stepped up to the plate during WWII with all the men fighting on foreign soil.
Another milestone came at the latter part of the 60’s when Diana forsook her Amazonian powers and went out in to Man’s world as a mortal. Under the guidance of I Ching, Diana, (looking remarkably like Diana Rigg’s character Mrs. Emma Peel from the 1960’s TV classic, ‘The Avengers’), set out to bring justice to the little people of that time, notably women.
During her time as a mortal, between the late sixties, early seventies, Diana dealt with different feminist issues, notably one where she dealt with a rogue department store manager who underpaid his female workers. This led an image of Wonder Woman being used on the front cover of ‘Ms’ magazine in 1972. The shout line claimed ‘Wonder Woman for President’!
Wonder Woman seemed to coast for most of the 70s/80s and if you read any of these comics, you would be allowed the mistake of thinking Wonder Woman as an American, which she is in fact, not! The Amazons made a few appearances, but the ethos of her origins, her entire Greek ancestry had been lost as the DC of the time required one issue length stories that had no room for expansion or indeed a supporting cast involving either Amazons or Greek Gods.
Enter, Mr. George Perez. I have waxed lyrical about this man and make no apologies for doing so again now. During the ‘Crisis on Infinite Earths’ saga, the Wonder Woman of Earth One was sent back in time, back to the point where she had not existed. Without a Wonder Woman, a new hero could be created out of the ashes of the one who had, in Perez’s words, ‘been effectively cancelled out’. New paths and directions beckoned. Perez had his own ideas as to what he wanted from this title.
Having been inspired through a Teen Titans story written by Marv Wolfman, Perez was able to draw his version of Paradise Island, later to become better known as Themyscira. Perez was better known as an artist than a writer, and so started the series under the guidance of Greg Potter who also believed that Diana needed to be grounded back in her roots amongst the Greek Gods, her homeland and with her Amazonian sisters. It is this translation which brought a huge new audience to this re-launch and is why it is considered such a classic despite only being originally released in 1987.
Under the helm of Perez and Potter (with the inestimable Len Wein helping out), Wonder Woman went back to her roots. Here were all the Gods in their Immortal glory, bickering amongst themselves and playing with the human race as though they were Chess pieces, easily manipulated for the Gods’ own pleasure. Diana was once more the Greek Amazonian princess Moulton Marston had imagined her to be. Perez even reminded readers that Greek was the princess' native language!
Her adversaries surfaced from the depths of Greek mythology. Wonder Woman’s first adversary in this new series was Ares, God of War who despised the Amazons that had been created by Artemis and Athena. She battled Ares’ sons, Deimos and Phobos as well as Circe and monsters entrenched in Greek myth: Echidna, the Chimera and the Minotaur. Here was Diana, Princess of the Amazon’s embedded in her roots - and it was breath-taking. With Perez’s powerful and evocative artwork, the details of Olympus and Themyscira leapt off the page, making Wonder Woman much more than a hero who fought the bad guys. She was Greek, an Amazon princess, a warrior and as she discovered Man’s world, an innocent abroad. Reclaiming her ancestry was a brilliant move and hailed a new milestone for Wonder Woman.
Wonder Woman Omnibus by George Perez is on sale now. All Wonder Woman covers shown here are by George Perez and are included in the omnibus.
Click on the link to read my Wonder Woman Omnibus Review.