How Many Wonder Women Are There?
Wonder Woman's Many Reboots and Revamps
Most people have heard about the comic book character Wonder Woman. But did you know there have actually been a dozen separate canonical versions of the character in comics since her first appearance in the 1940s? Unless you know a little bit about the character’s publication history and the occasional reboots of the DC Universe, it is easy to mistake one version of this star-spangled heroine for another. Luckily, this article will begin to describe the difference between the many different versions of everyone's favorite Amazon. Specifically, this first article will cover the several different versions of the character who were also known as Princess Diana. These began with the character’s original appearance in the 1940s, and continue until the publication reboot from 2011 (But that will be covered in the next article).
Wonder Woman I
The Sensational Golden Age Character
The first version of the Amazon Princess appeared in All-Star Comics issue no. 8 (December 1941-January 1942). Often referred to as the Golden Age version of the character, she was also known as Princess Diana, the champion of the Amazons of Paradise Island. She sacrificed her immortality so that she could bring the gifts of love and wisdom to Man’s World. She was a member of the World War II-era Justice Society of America, and was also the first iteration of the character to pilot an invisible plane.
Diana’s love interest was pilot Steve Trevor, who persistently proposed to Diana for more than two decades before they were eventually wed and had a daughter, Hippolyta, who later became the superheroine Fury. When the history of the universe was altered during the Crisis on Infinite Earths, this interpretation of the character had her entire history wiped from existence, with the in-continuity explanation that Steve and Diana were taken by Zeus to live on Mount Olympus in an afterlife outside of time.
Wonder Woman II
The Amazing Amazon Enters the Silver Age
The next version made her first appearance in Wonder Woman vol. 1 issue no. 98 (May 1958). This character is more commonly known as the silver-age Wonder Woman, and much of the mythos surrounding this version of Wonder Woman is what informs popular media iterations of the character, such as the TV show starring Lynda Carter. In the comics, as young princess Diana, this Wonder Woman entered a contest designed to find the worthiest Amazon, who would go forth into Man’s World and fight the forces of evil and destruction.
When she came to Man’s World, Princess Diana assumed the identity of Diana Prince, replacing a woman of the same name and appearance who voluntarily left to seek out her own fiance in South America. The princess kept up appearances in her secret identity, while also fighting alongside the Justice League of America as Wonder Woman, with the help of an indestructible magic lasso forged from the Girdle of Aphrodite. It was in this capacity as super-hero that Diana fought alongside other heroes against the villainous Anti-Monitor during the Crisis on Infinite Earths. Unfortunately, the Anti-Monitor blasted Wonder Woman with a wave of chronal energy that devolved her back to the primordial clay from which she was formed. This chronal reversal also reversed the history of the Amazons, replacing the Amazons of Paradise Island with the Amazons of Themyscira, and setting the stage for the origin of the third Wonder Woman.
Wonder Woman III
A Crisis Leads to New Life
First appearing in Wonder Woman vol. 2 issue no. 1 (February 1987), this version of our heroine is a revamp of the character in the wake of the Crisis on Infinite Earths storyline, a mid-1980s DC Comics event intended to reinvent and streamline DC characters and their mythos. While many aspects of this iteration are similar to the previous versions, much is also different.
In this continuity, Diana's story began with Queen Hippolyta of the Amazons longing for a child. Guided by the oracle Menalippe to the shore of Themyscira, Hippolyta sculpted a baby from the clay of the beach, which was given life with a spirit from the Well of Souls. This spirit was that of the unborn child of a Neanderthal woman viciously killed by her mate, and the spirit waited for thousands of years to be reborn until Hippolyta and the blessings of the Five Goddesses gave life to the young Princess Diana.
As a young woman, Diana entered a contest alongside other Amazons to determine the worthiest. Diana won and was tasked with venturing to Patriarch’s World to stop Ares, the God of War, from starting World War III. Diana did so, capturing the mad war god in her Lasso of Truth, which compelled Ares to see the folly of his heinous plan. Ares promised to never again interfere in the affairs of man, but also tasked Diana with teaching humans the difference between destruction and oblivion.
Diana continued her new life in Patriarch’s World, first in Boston and then in Gateway City, fighting numerous villains alongside the Justice League as a superheroine, until she was killed by the demon Neron. Fortunately, she was resurrected as the Olympian Goddess of Truth. For a time she was replaced in her capacity as Wonder Woman by her mother (Wonder Woman VIII), but eventually Diana re-assumed the role.
Eventually, during the events of the cataclysmic Infinite Crisis, Diana damaged her reputation as an agent of peace when her execution of the villain Maxwell Lord was nationally televised, and for a time she retired from her role as a superheroine. Under the identity of Diana Prince, she worked for a time as a secret agent for the Department of Meta-Human Affairs until once again taking on the mantle of Wonder Woman, hoping to bring peace and understanding to mankind.
Still More Wonder Women
Diana's Many Replacements
The previous three versions of the Amazing Amazon all share much in common, most particularly their original identities as Princess Diana, and are listed as distinct characters mostly through idiosyncrasies of publication history. The next several iterations of the character, however, are outright separate characters from Princess Diana, and as such have different motivations, costumes, and secret identities. Be sure to check out the next article in this series here.