“If no one else will defend the world, then I must.”Diana Prince, Wonder Woman (2017)
From her creation Diana Prince has shown the world what it is to be a hero, a symbol, and an icon. From 1941 Diana has empowered men, women, and children from all backgrounds and walks of life. Whether it’s Comics, Films, Television, or Activism Diana makes her mark. But what makes one of the founding members of the Justice League iconic, and what did it take to get there?
A Princess is Born
Let’s take a flash back to the tail end 1941 where the Amazonian Princess makes her first debut in All Star Comics #8. Created by William Moulton Martson in the image of powerful, and inspiring women in his life Diana was born. Diana came at a time when women were fighting for basic rights, and many challenges that Diana finds echo with culture throughout time. And in 1942 she got her own comic run, Sensation Comics #1. This ran from 1942 to 1986, 329 issues. Thus giving her the longest running female comic run, with the runner up also being Wonder Woman series 2 from 1987 to 2006 with 228 issues. Diana is shown in her comics as breaking chains that men bound her in. She tells women to break free of men’s greed, lust, and need for war, and that Women have value outside of motherhood and marriage.
“Let yourself be known as Diana, after your godmother, the goddess of the moon.”– Queen Hippolyta, All Star Comics #8
Debuting in 1975, Lynda Carter brings Diana to live action on TV. Wonder Woman the series shows one of the most notable portrayals of Diana. The series shows Diana launched into America during World War II after Steve Trevor crash lands on Paradise Island. Diana takes the job of getting Steve back to America. The audience hadn’t witnessed a show like this during this time. There had been a few other superhero shows before, but not quite like this. There were real stunts, and intense action sequences. It showed Diana punching, lasso-ing, and kicking butt without the campy factor. There were no “POWS!” or “KA-POWS!” on this television show. In addition, Lynda portrayed Wonder Woman and Diana equally, canonically during this time Diana was the alter-ego of Wonder Woman that was dumb and ditzy. Carter portrayed Diana and Wonder Woman the same; strong, feminist, and smart.
“In the comic books, she was intelligent and a feminist and strong, but they had this alter ego where she’s dumb, and I didn’t play that. You can’t have her as [that]..”-Lynda Carter, Huffpost 2018
Is She With You?
Flash forward to March 2016, Gal Gadot makes her first appearance as Diana Prince/Wonder Woman in Zack Snyder’s “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice”. With the aid of ancient amazonian weapons the Princess of Themyscira brings her powers in the fight against Doomsday. Diana was strong, confident, and powerful during this film. She outsmarts the World’s Greatest Detective, and never backs down against Doomsday. Diana enjoys the fight, even restrains Doomsday with her golden lasso. Gal, much like Lynda, showed that Diana is an intelligent, strong, and confident woman no matter if she is Diana Prince, or Wonder Woman. This was the first time the DC trinity was shown on screen in live action, it showed Diana front and center as a resilient warrior.
Stepping into 2017 Diana is brought back in Patty Jenkins “Wonder Woman” in 2017. Diana decides to leave her home of Themyscria and go into the World of Man. This wasn’t an easy decision, but learning about the horrors of war Diana wants to protect innocence. As soon as Diana is brought to London she is confused, and naive. Confused by clothing, and having her voice silenced due to her gender. Diana becomes frustrated, and decides to take action. A hero is born during “No Man’s Land” when Diana discovers women and children are being taken as slaves, being starved, and are having their home left in ruins. Steve Trevor tells Diana that there is no way to save everyone , and to push forward. Dually this showed that woman can be strong, and compassionate at the same time.
Outside of comics, television, and film Wonder Woman is a symbol for women’s empowerment. Feminist Activist Gloria Steinem used Wonder Woman on the first cover of “Ms.” Magazine, Steinem was a life long Wonder Woman fan. As a result, Diana donned the cover of “Ms.” Magazine 2 more times during the duration of the magazines history. Steinem used the imagery of Wonder Woman because of what Wonder Woman and her amazonian sisters represented. She explains that Wonder Woman and her sisters show women working together, and building each other up instead of tearing them down. She goes on to say that this is important to women readers. Often times women are depicted as jealous, and pitted against one another. It was a breath of fresh air for women to see this representation.
“Wonder Woman symbolizes many of the values of the women’s culture that feminists are now trying to introduce into the mainstream: strength and self-reliance for women; sisterhood and mutual support among women; peacefulness and esteem for human life; a diminishment both of “masculine” aggression and of the belief that violence is the only way of solving conflicts.”– Gloria Steinmen, “Ms.” Magazine (1972)
Symbolism & Sisterhood
Diana and her image are shown in social movements. This comes in the form of marches, rallies, and protests. Her image is used for numerous issues; gender equality, women’s health rights, equal pay, and other issues that face women today. Diana is representing that all women are Wonder Women; strong, heroic, and brave. There is a strong sense of sisterhood that Diana exudes, and by using her image during these rallies it brings us all together.
However, with all the success that Wonder Woman has seen in the recent years it’s easy to forget the road it took to get here. Along the way there have been a few failed, and abandoned projects. Before the CW adapted DC characters into their own shows Warner Bros. had plans for a Wonder Woman series on 2010-2011. NBC picked up Wonder Woman for a pilot, and it went downhill from there. Unfortunately the pilot did not go over well, and the show never took flight. Many complaints stemming from Diana’s choice of outfit, and the plot being a mess.
And not even a year after the first failed launch Diana was the subject of another possible television run, “Amazon” on the CW Network. But much like the first it was dead before it could flourish, DC and CW decided to fast track “The Flash”, starring Grant Gustin instead. Leaving Diana to be shelved again.
This trend of failed television series is not new, before Lynda Carter made her debut there was a project in 1967, “Who’s Afraid of Diana Prince”. The series revolved around a young Diana living with her mother, and was focused around being comedic. The show was not picked up after the inital filming.
Additionally in 1974 there was a made for television movie called “Wonder Woman”, starring Cathy Lee Crosby as a blonde haired Diana. The film was meant for ABC to pick up as a pilot. Yet ratings were low and the pilot not released when intended. In 2012 the film was released from the Warner Archives almost 40 years later.
Each generation throughout time has had their version of Wonder Woman, whether it be Lynda Carter in her invisible jet, Gal Gadot wielding ancient Amazonian weapons, or Diana from the comics.. there is no doubt that there is a Wonder Woman for everyone. What makes Diana Prince an icon? The fact that she continues to inspire generation, after generation. Young, old, man, woman, and everyone in between. The way she continues to make history in films, comics, and in activism. How she proves that women characters are complex. Wonder Woman has shown me that women characters can be strong without being cold, loving without being weak, and can be unapologetic when fighting for those who cannot fight for themselves.