Beyond the Sword and Shield:

What Wonder Woman Stands for and Why She Serves as a Good Example for the Power that Modern-Day People Possess

It’s not difficult for a comic book fan to understand the reasons why Wonder Woman is one of the greatest superheroes in the extensive gallery that is the DC Universe. It is also just as easy to see the differences in her costume, intellect, speech, and the fact that, no matter what threat the great Princess of Themyscira faces, she always manages to maintain her strength and stands tall and proud while never hesitating to make decisions that can lead to peace. Other heroes are dressed in tights, colorful costumes, capes, and covered in symbols that represent the origins or markings of a wider sect. Wonder Woman, however, is dressed in a corset, a starry battle skirt, has long, luscious black hair, and golden bracelets that shimmer and shine as if jewelry worn by the gods (which, of course, they are). Wonder Woman, as a hero, exists in a world surrounded and maintained mostly by men and yet, she is never out of place, out of her league, intimidated, and never requires an identifying mark that lets her cohorts know what it is that she stands for and why she stands for it. Wonder Woman is a living symbol, and it is her astute, independence, confidence, and relentless pursuit of equality that says more than her sword, shield, and lasso ever could.

Wonder Woman isn’t trying to be anything. Wonder Woman simply is.

Unlike other comic book aficionados, the era which I was brought up in, comic books were not a medium that was being marketed to children. In the late nineties, early two-thousands, superheroes were being offered across a wide variety of storytelling vessels, most of which were gaining notoriety and credibility in regards to their loyalty to the source material, the talented men and women who understood the characters and worked in other fields besides comic books, as well as the fact that film and television studios were producing quality products and reaching new audiences of different, mostly, older age groups. Therefore, my foray and familiarity with Wonder Woman did not begin until I was twelve, sadly. And yet, it was during these adolescent years that my brother and I would wake up early on Saturday mornings, retreat to our special cove in the basement of our house, and tune in to the fame Justice League cartoon which premiered at 11:30 each morning. Most of the series was filled with spectacle and action, but I will never forget the sheer level of substance found in the characters and how important it was for someone such as myself to see how sensitive the showrunners were to the superheroes, especially when it came to the portrayal and execution of Wonder Woman.

I found myself enthralled with so many aspects of her, both as a character and as a hero. The notable traits, however, were her powers of flight, her skills in hand-to-hand, and her collective calmness that was used whenever situations were on the verge of intense escalation or intense destruction. Her voice was soft and cool. She rarely shouted and while there were instances that demanded the use of force, Wonder Woman was careful and methodical to decide when such a time was necessary, and she didn’t care what challenges awaited her.

Wonder Woman was prepared to meet all of them, the same as her male cohorts.

I suppose you can say it was this part of her character that I found the most important. Growing up in the presence of strong-willed women, I admired the fact that it was Diana’s views of human life, politics, and decency that quickly made me a fan. It was also clear she didn’t see herself as sexualized, which was odd consider that her costume was slightly more clad than what was worn by other superheroes. But, it was the fact that her body was sometimes illustrated in a way that emphasized breast size, body type, buttocks, and other tools for arousal. It was more about the fact that Wonder Woman was a straight forward, uniquely designed individual who didn’t present with shame, but only with pride. She was proud to be a woman from a different culture and had a much different view on what made women extraordinary, and it was because she acquired this attitude, it became inappropriate to presume that this was her purpose in comics. She didn’t attract the same googly-eyed men because she was too busy punching such men in the face whenever they spoke to her with a lack of respect or decency.

Nevertheless, Wonder Woman never admitted to being revealing nor did she ever see herself as someone being exploited or used for overtly sexual purposes. The explanation as to why she never identified herself in such a way was not derived from a naïve self-image, but rather from a specific view of reality that is intricate to the character’s origins and purpose. Wonder Woman was not born in a world occupied by men and therefore, the perception of her image was eschewed because of this. In the world of the Amazons, sex was distant and not a factor in how women dressed or presented themselves. Their attire was part of their culture, a part of what held them, as a people, together.

An important and crucial interview that explains this, in my opinion, was given by Grant Morrison who, during his time writing Wonder Woman: Earth One, spoke about the character and what made her, in his eyes, such a prolific hero. “I don’t care for the sword and shield,” Morrison explained. “It’s about a lot more. [Wonder Woman] was a philosopher. She was the antidote for the blood-curdling images of masculinity” (Morrison 2015). Upon listening to this interview, it was clear, to me and to Mr. Morrison, that Diana’s power was larger than the widely accepted, spectacle-driven adventures that are common within the superhero genre. Like so many other counterparts, but not as many female heroes, the characteristics of everyone are grounded in something meaningful. Superman fights for hope, Batman for justice, the Flash for truth, Green Lantern for unity, and Wonder Woman for peace. And yet, in a world where peace is sometimes dictated by which side has the bigger bomb, Wonder Woman’s tactics, before attempting to resort to such means, are centered on the necessity of diplomacy, truth, and tolerance.

In the cartoon, as well as in the comic books, writers and artists have been careful to include this quality when furthering the adventures of the famed female heroine. It is evident that they see that Diana is not just a product of feminism, but an amalgamation of everything good that feminism can teach. Therefore, it is also imperative that, in today’s current landscape, the wonder found in Wonder Woman is based on the ideology that there are no gender lines when exploring superheroes, and if there is, there shouldn’t be. Wonder Woman doesn’t see a difference in her own gender and thus, lessens its meaning and focuses primarily on what an individual can offer regardless of one’s gender or outward appearance.

Greg Rucka, one of comics’ most important writers when exploring female superheroes, in most, if not all of his work, remains a powerful advocate for gender equality, truth, and the importance of being informed. It is noted and emphasized that the best-selling crime writer ensures that women acquire just as much respect, ability, and reach as men do, and, while there are innumerable superheroes with whom Mr. Rucka has indeed imbued with such a philosophy, Wonder Woman has become the flagship for representing the power women have, within and outside the superhero universe. Although one can identify Wonder Woman’s gender, the fact she is a woman, and still surrounded by men, what offers transcends whatever chains one might find holding her. The sword, the shield, all are secondary to the gift that Diana awards to her readers, and this is she is a person who both women and men should be striving to be: strong, proud, unapologetic, and completely aware of who they are, what they believe in, and who are ready to stand when so many were willing to stand down.

Work Cited

xXgeekpr0nXx. Grant Morrison on Wonder Woman: Earth One—SDCC 2015. Online Video Clip. Youtube. Youtube, Jul 11 2015. Web. May 6 2017.

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Jarrett Mazza is a writer and teacher living in Canada. He attended Wilfrid Laurier University and received an Honours Bachelor’s Degree in English and Contemporary Studies as well as a Bachelor of Education from the prestigious Schulich School of Education. He is now in the process of earning an MFA in Creative Writing from Goddard College in Vermont. He has been fascinated by superheroes and stories for as long as he can remember and studied comic book writing and sequential storytelling from industry professionals Ty Templeton and Andy Schmidt. When he is not self-publishing his own comic books, he is working on his thesis novel, submitting short stories to publishers, obsessing about geek fandom, and looking for new things to read and write.

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