Why Wonder Woman is finally the Strongest Superhero (too)
So starting this week Wonder Woman is the ultimate superhero. We should have seen it coming.
Not just the movie’s pedigree; was it really a surprise that an Oscar-winning director like Patty Jenkins could deliver where the flashy but erratic Zack Snyder had misfired? Not only that there’s a big-screen superhero who looks like that “other” half of the potential audience.
I’ve got an observation of my own.
Diana’s always had a rough time in the comics. More than one fan calls her the top-flight hero we never really knew.
Yes, everyone’s heard of her, but for what? DC Comics likes to point out that she’s the only female superhero to be in continuous publication since the 40s… when a lasso of truth would bring out how William Marston’s contract for creating her said that he’d regain the rights if she went out of print. They definitely don’t mention some of the sad, silly eras Diana has had to go through, like giving up her powers until Gloria Steinem rescued her.
Or how in the last ten years alone, both Joss Whedon (Buffy and The Avengers) and David E. Kelly tried and failed to keep Wonder Woman projects alive.
Even as a proper superhero, who’s her arch-enemy—the Cheetah, just a woman who jumps around swinging claws? Dr. Psycho (the name about sums that one up)? Out of seventy-six years (less the last week), point to a really lasting Wonder Woman story arc, her Dark Phoenix or Long Halloween.
And Steve Trevor. Just… why?
She’s a magnificent character. She’s had some great moments over the years. (Say, telling Batman “No, I said I cannot allow it.” Or how George Perez had her lasso defeat Ares by showing him he didn’t dare trigger a Final War.) But as an A-lister, Wonder Woman was always better known for just being there as The Super Hero-Ine among the boys and for what that meant she could do, more than for she has done.
What bothers me most is the most primal thing about a superhero, at least for one of the early DCs that claim to have staked out their place first. That is, what are her powers… with the emphasis on just hers?
It matters, because that core Justice League around her have some of the best abilities ever imagined, taken up to a level no other story even tries to match. The Flash is the Fastest Man Alive. Batman is the ultimate trickster. Green Lantern has the greatest ranged weapon, or the best “power” superpower, of all. And Superman is the incarnation of raw strength. Just try to picture a gathering of great heroes without those four assets at the top of the list.
And Wonder Woman is strong, like Superman. She deflects bullets, like Superman—but with her bracelets, right? She flies, like… there have been days I’ve wished they’d say Supergirl had crashed on Paradise Island and get it over with.
(Her outfit doesn’t help either. Where the others have a distinct solid red or being named for green or say “does it come in black,” she’s got Supes’s colors too, but mixed up with an American flag. And of course there’s never been as much of it as the boys had on.)
I don’t mean to tear the character down. The problem is that over the years she’s never been built up, the way the more accepted heroes have.
Superheroes rarely start out with a high-quality story; to earn respect they need years of good adventures (okay, mixed in with some awful ones that we get selective about). Even their powers tend to evolve over that time, until they pretend they were always to well positioned. Spiderman didn’t start out with spider-sense or even his signature agility; Stan Lee just drifted into that is his strongest power because it was the most suspenseful way for Spidey to fight. Superman didn’t fly, once.
But over the years, nobody’s ever thought Wonder Woman needed a niche of powers that were hers; as long as they could point to that lasso as one bit of variety, they were free to let her copy more and more of Superman. (Her costume too; Flash and Lantern had theirs redesigned a few times to reach the current perfection, but Wonder Woman doesn’t need to look unique, right?)
But now that she’s got a new spotlight, let’s take a second look at where she stands.
A Place in the Pantheon
If Superman is the biggest, the strongest, of the Justice League (which of course outpower any other superhero anywhere), he’s also considered a bit slow, awkward. Sure he’s got his own super-speed, but he’s still got a lack of aggression and training. He’s the tank or the battleship, the clumsy knight in full armor, the bulky battleaxe.
Of course Batman is the trickster, but he’s also got the least actual power. (At least, if he weren’t amped up by more favorite stories and fan love than the rest of the League together to demand he get the best moments.) He’s the recon plane, the spy you forget you sent out until he shows up in your tent with the enemy plans, the dagger.
The Flash? All speed and only so much else, like a fighter plane or light horseman, the rapier.
Green Lantern? Artillery, the bow. (Too bad Green Arrow’s a separate character; a cosmic bow would have been so much cooler than a glowing ring.)
And there’s no specialty left for Wonder Woman.
Because she’s got them all.
Maybe not as sneaky as Batman, but she’s a true strategist and trained warrior. Fast, and with her own weapons too. And strong… DC wasted a whole movie seeing if Batman could beat Superman, but with her skills and near-equal strength Wonder Woman should take the blue boy apart.
(And that’s without the lasso that brings up his vulnerability to magic!)
Wonder Woman might be the perfect balance, the center and the leader of the whole Justice League. The sword (she likes swords), of the true hero.
It’s just a thought, from looking at the iconology.
That and, right now she deserves to lead.