Reflections in a Mirror:

Wonder Woman’s Multiverse

Wonder Woman was the first to travel in the Multiverse.

While The Flash is often credited with the first stories that not only gave birth to the Silver Age of comics, but opened up the concept of the Multiverse to comic book readers, Wonder Woman is in fact the first DC character to take a trip into a parallel world. In the 1953 story “Wonder Woman’s Invisible Twin” (Wonder Woman Vol. 1 #59), almost a decade before DC Comics opened up their storytelling to an infinite number of worlds, Wonder Woman found herself transported to a parallel planet where “Everyone on it is a double of everyone on Earth!”

In an otherwise ordinary Golden Age yarn, Wonder Woman’s crime-fighting abilities are being interfered with by an unseen force. Amidst the chagrin of honest citizens, and the delight of the criminal underworld, Wonder Woman goes out walking in a lightning storm. Her lasso, graciously returned to her by a scoffing mobster, is struck by lightning. Falling from a bridge, the scenery around Wonder Woman changes, and she is soon tumbling towards the water with an identical twin by her side.

Her exact double, right down to the costuming, explains that she is named Princess Tara Terruna, which conveniently translates to ‘Wonder Woman.’ Tara explains that she regularly battles the evil Duke Dazam, styled like an Egyptian Pharaoh, and was similarly thrown from a bridge during an ill-fated encounter. Our hero makes a particularly astute analysis of the situation:

Teaming up with Tara to defeat the villain. the duo is ultimately they victorious. A similar accident occurs and “once again Wonder Woman is hurled through the veil separating the two worlds.” Her abilities now fully restored, Wonder Woman concludes that “I’ve always been myself! It’s just that what happened to my double in our co-existing world – affected me! Something that can happen to anyone!”

Wonder Woman wasn’t wrong, even if she just gave every kid in the 1950s the excuse of “my doppelganger did it.” Wonder Woman worked out something that DC Comics would take another decade to establish. Modern readers will instantly recognise this as a part of DC’s intricate Multiverse, with Wonder Woman the first person to travel to what was retrospectively named Earth-59. However, in 1953 DC had barely established a shared universe of characters let alone multiple Earths.

Flash Facts: From Universe to Multiverse

In order to understand the Multiverse, we first have to come to grips with how DC Comics established a universe. As previously explored in We Are the Heroes of Earth Prime: The Role of the Reader in the Multiverse, this is something that comic book readers did unconsciously before DC made it official. In the early days of comics, heroes rarely shared stories, usually confined to their own backup features or eponymous books. That changed in 1952 when both Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent board a cruise ship separately, but a booking mishap causes them to share the same room in Superman Vol. 1 #76. That first team-up of Superman and Batman, after a staggering 13 years of shared publication histories, also represented the first evidence of a shared DC Universe, one where all the heroes that the company published could interact with each other.

Flash forward seven years to 1959, where Showcase Vol. 1 #4 introduced a new Flash named Barry Allen under editor Julius ‘Julie’ Schwartz. Not only did he have a new costume and a pseudo-sciency origin story, Barry Allen was a comics reader as well. In the same issue, he is shown to be reading a copy of Flash Comics, the home of Golden Age Flash Jay Garrick. A few years later, in Flash #123 (cover date September 1961), the hero travels to what we now know as Earth-2 and encounters Jay Garrick, the Golden Age Flash, who retired around the same time DC stopped publishing him. The revelation was massive, as it meant three key things: DC heroes occupied more than one Earth; the Golden Age still existed as long as we kept reading them; and we as readers were part of that Multiverse. This latter fact was confirmed in The Flash #179 (May 1968) when The Flash visited our world (“Earth Prime”), confronting his creators and acknowledging that our reading habits were literally life and death for our beloved heroes.

Wonder Woman’s exploits with Tara Terruna predated these revelations, but it fits in perfectly with Schwartz’s magnificently imaginative Multiverse.

Wonder Woman on Infinite Earths

For almost every part of the Multiverse, there is a Wonder Woman. Canonically, each represents a different splinter from the “keystone” Earth on which most of the stories are set. Of course, DC has changed the makeup of the Multiverse numerous times through Crisis on Infinite Earths, Flashpoint, Convergence, and Rebirth, making it hard to point to a single source of truth for the Multiverse. For that reason, let’s follow a thread of Mark Waid’s Hypertime and allow for every single version to be true. [Note that references to Earth-One typically refer to a pre-Crisis Multiverse, Earth-1 is indicative of the 52 Multiverse, while Earth 1 is the New 52 Multiverse. There are exceptions, so feel free to just go with it].

Once Schwartz’s vision of the Multiverse was established, the Justice League had an annual crossover with Earth-2, now fully established as the home of the Golden Age heroes. In the early days of the Multiverse, Wonder Woman rarely travelled outside of Earth-One/Earth-Two dichotomy. The biggest exception came with the introduction of Earth-Three’s Super-Woman, introduced in 1964 as a member of the Crime Syndicate of America. A rebel Amazon who left the island of her own accord, and like the other Earth-Three characters she is effectively the “evil” version of Wonder Woman. There weren’t any new Earths introduced for almost another decade, parallel dimensions and ephemeral timelines notwithstanding, until a 1973 crossover that took the JLA and JSA to Earth-X, where the Nazis had been able to sustain the Second World War until 1968 and achieve victory. While that Earth’s Freedom Fighters had no Wonder Woman equivalent, the post-Crisis Earth-10 and The Multiversity’s Earth 10 are based on ‘Kal-L’ landing in Nazi occupied Czechoslovakia. The Nazis used the technology to win the war, and Hitler raised the Kryptonian infant as Overman. Here Wonder Woman is known as Brünhilde.

A handful of the many Wonder Women to grace comics over the last 75 years

Brünhilde is an especially interesting iteration, not least of which because that world acknowledges a fictional American comic called ‘Superman.’ Brünhilde is a member of Die Gerechitigkeitsliga (or the New Reichsmen, depending on what Multiverse you’re in), trading in Greek myths for the Valkyries of Norse mythology. In a strange meta way, it’s a literal version of history being written by the victors, as well as a coy throwback to the propaganda pieces that peppered comics during their Golden Age. Her Nazi affiliations make her more of a parallel to the evil Super-Woman, and a reminder that simple moral notions of ‘good’ and ‘evil’ are defined by their otherness.

In fact, it’s curious to observe how many Wonder Woman’s doppelgängers are defined by their opposition to other heroes. In Superman: Red Son, where Superman landed in the Soviet Union instead of Kansas, Earth-30’s Wonder Woman becomes disillusioned with her (unreciprocated) love when that Earth’s Superman becomes a dictator. A similar scenario ultimately plays out in the Injustice: Gods Among Us universe. In the alternative timeline that Flashpoint created, Wonder Woman leads the Amazon’s in a war against Aquaman and the Atlanteans. Even Earth-11’s gender-flipped Dane of Elysium (aka Wonder Man), who killed his Earth’s Maxine Lord in a parallel to events in the main continuity, fought the Justice League and the rest of Earth’s heroes in reaction to his banishment.

The truest forms of Wonder Woman still stick to basic tenants of the character, no matter what form their appearance takes. Tangent Comics’ Wanda is an alien from a planet besieged by gender wars, whose telekinesis and powers of empathy are undone by deep philosophical thought. Earth 23’s Nubia, from a world where many of the heroes are African-American, remains a guardian of justice. On Earth-34, Diana Trevor is raised on the streets of London and forcibly married to Captain Stephen Trevor. However, she still leads the resistance against the King of England, a man who has quashed women’s rights. It’s almost fair to say that in examples like these, Wonder Woman’s possibilities as a feminist icon become even more prominent.

The live-action Multiverse, from Ellie Wood Walker to Gal Gadot

Wonder Woman Infinity

As Wonder Woman makes her cinematic debut after three-quarters of a century, a staggering thought given how many Superman and Batman films there have been, she joins a different part of the multiverse and a legacy of live action heroes. Prior to Lynda Carter’s turn as a character-defining television hero for several years, the 1960s Batman producer Bill Dozier commissioned a pilot script for Who’s Afraid of Diane Prince? in 1967. Played for comedy, the awkward and “plain” Diana lives with her mother, fantasizing about seeing a sexy Wonder Woman figure in the mirror (Linda Harrison). The bizarre pilot was abandoned, so we may never know how far they pushed the illusion.

The Diane Prince inspired 1974 pilot, starring Cathy Lee Crosby, was meant to cast her as an Emma Peel (The Avengers) style spy, but Warner and ABC later went with the Lynda Carter series instead. Likewise, David E. Kelley’s pilot for a 2011 television series never saw the light of day, but thanks to the Internet, Adrianne Palicki as Wonder Woman is just as legitimate a version as any other. Which is true of all Wonder Women, whether they are animated, filmed, or drawn. The very fact that they are read or watched by anyone is enough to bring them into existence. Like Wonder Woman herself, each reflects what the audience brings to the character.

At the time of writing, Patty Jenkins’ DC Extended Universe Wonder Woman film has not had the advantage of being tested through time. Yet from the moment she stepped on screen in Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, she became part of an infinite legacy. Sitting alongside Earth-C-Minus’ Wonder Wabbit, Earth-18’s Wild West marshal, or the endless 1950s of Earth-21’s DC: The New Frontier, Gadot’s Wonder Woman represents another link in the infinite Multiverse that Wonder Woman pioneered.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Richard Gray is a writer and podcaster. As the host of and editor of Behind The Panels, he has been talking (at length) about comics for years, whether you wanted him to or not. Since 2013, he has been a regular columnist at Newsarama Best Shots. Richard also writes about film and television on The Reel Bits, and appears semi-regularly on the radio on ABC Overnights. He is currently writing his first book for Sequart on the history and evolution of Green Arrow, due out in 2016. He is Australian, and is in your future.

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