I’ve never seen people question why a comic book character exists or what right they have to be published. But in the last month on reddit, I’ve seen six posts of people asking questions like “Why does Wonder Woman deserve to be in DC’s Trinity over more important characters?” or “Who cares about Wonder Woman?” or “Who does Wonder Woman appeal to?” It’s frustrating, as a Wonder Woman fan. It’s especially frustrating because you never see people ask why Batman is so important.
In response to a question of this nature, I posted this:
Okay, I may not have been a fan of Wonder Woman since birth. But I discovered Wonder Woman at the ripe age of 3. My mother thought comics would be a great way to teach me how to read and further comprehension of what I was reading. She took me to a comic book store and told me I could pick out any comic I wanted. I was drawn to one particular book: Wonder Woman volume 2 #1. I don’t know what it was at the time, but I would not accept any other books or characters (not that my mom fought me on it; in fact, she was overjoyed that I wanted Wonder Woman). From that point on, I was given a Wonder Woman issue every month.
Part of my love of the character can be summed up pretty easily: I grew up with her. But where other characters have come into and gone from my life over the years, Wonder Woman has stayed with me. Why? Because she was intelligent. She was caring, almost to a fault. She understood the value and strength of truth, hope, and compassion. She showed me that it’s okay to be different and still be proud of who you are. She helped me understand that self-doubt doesn’t have to destroy you, and it doesn’t make you less of a person. She helped shape my view of the world, my view of women, and my view on the nature of good. While people around me, especially the other children I grew up with, were being told the difference between right or wrong by their parents, I was being shown what the difference between right and wrong, good and evil, truly looked like.
I have spent much of my teenage and adult life doing everything in my power to help the fight for women’s equality, equality for homosexuals, bisexuals, transgender, people of different races, et cetera. I grew up knowing that the simple fact that someone is different from me does not mean that they are less than me. And who taught me that more than anyone else? Wonder Woman. There were almost no other characters that showed this message to me in any other fictional medium. There were others that said they believed in equality, but Wonder Woman always practiced what she preached.
> could that be because the appeal isn’t as evident to other people as it is to you, an expert?
I always find this question a little ridiculous. What is the appeal of Superman? What is the appeal of Captain America? What is the appeal of Deadpool? What is the appeal of any character that doesn’t appeal to you? The fact that I don’t find a character appealing has never led me to question their validity as a character. If anyone likes the character, then clearly it has appeal.
> Which of those male characters were created to explicitly fill the void…
How about every character ever? Seriously. Every comic character was created to fill some sort of void. Superman was created to fill the void between pulp adventures and sci-fi adventures, but with a more human approach. Batman, also the void between pulp heroes and superheroes. Green Lantern, more sci-fi adventures. Then as the times changed, so changed the characters. The voids needing to be filled where broader, more diverse. Instead of just filling genre specific roles, they started filling the roles of race and gender, sexuality, gender identity. Wonder Woman was created to show both men and women that a woman’s role didn’t have to be simply in the kitchen. In that sense, I find her creation, and the void she filled, far more important than a very large amount of the characters that exist today.
> What differentiates Wonder Woman from Doctor Who, Firefly, Star Wars, Batman, Spider-Man, Spongebob Squarepants, etc?
This isn’t even a fair comparison, since these stories are all so vastly different. What sets her apart from Spongebob is that she’s a serious character with a message of hope, love, understanding, and compassion, set much closer to reality than a sponge who seems to forget he’s underwater. What sets her apart from Doctor Who is that she’s always featured strong, independent women, even in the 1940s. When Doctor Who started in the 60s, Barbara and Susan (and to a point Vicki) were merely there to need rescue from Ian and the Doctor; they were there to be the bumbling idiots who progressed the story. She’s different from Batman because, while he’s gotten darker and darker over the years, while he’s used fear and intimidation, Wonder Woman has always shown the opposite side of the emotional spectrum: love, hope, compassion. She’s shown us, from the beginning, that these do not equal weakness. She’s shown that a hero can work in the light. Without Wonder Woman and her impact on the perception of female characters and women in general, we may not have ended up with movies like Star Wars or shows like Firefly and Buffy, which feature strong, intelligent women in starring roles, not just sex kittens, vixens, or ornaments. While she was not the sole reason that women are much closer to equal than they had been before her debut, she was a major contributing factor.
What it comes down to is: If you don’t like Wonder Woman, that’s fine. You don’t have to. But I don’t go around asking why other people’s favorite characters exist, what right they have to be published, who they are targeted at, simply because I don’t see the appeal. As I said before, if anyone sees the appeal, and they support what they like enough that the company still finds them viable, then kudos. Wonder Woman hasn’t lasted 72 years simply because DC needed a female character. Over the years, they’ve come up with a ton of other female characters: Batgirl, Black Canary, Vixen, Power Girl, Zatanna, Catwoman, any number of Green Lanterns, Big Barda, any of the Legion girls, Huntress, Mera, and so on. If Wonder Woman weren’t an appealing character, she would have been replaced decades ago. DC has already proven that they will cancel books that don’t sell.