Thursday, June 24, 2010

Wonder Woman #1 (February, 1987)

30,000 B.C.
The first woman(?) to be slain at the (remaining) hand of a (precursor to) man took her unborn child with her into the afterlife.

1,200 B.C.
In a hearing with Zeus, Artemis pleaded for blessing to create a new race of warrior women in order to lead mankind in devoted worship to the Greek Pantheon. Ares argued the ladies were "babbling fools," their plan "lunacy," and that he should instead be allowed to go down to Earth and force everyone into submission. "Force is all men understand! Force is all they worship! And I am force incarnate!" Only Apollo openly sided with the advocating goddesses. Zeus left the "trifling matter" to others and the meeting in a huff, while Hera washed her hands of it all to avoid raising her husband's ire.

With neither Zeus’ grace nor forbiddance, Artemis, Athena, Demeter, Hestia and Aphrodite pressed on. Hermes carried the goddesses to Hades, where they were ferried by Charon to the Cavern of Souls. "It is the womb of Gaea-- mother of us all!" The swirling tornado of lost spirits within were released to rain down on the earth… save for one with a special destiny to come. From out of water sprang a mass of nude females, fully grown as they walked upon the shore. These Amazons were given life with purpose, and they would be ruled by Hippolyte and her sister Antiope, each given a mystical Gaea’s Girdle. "You are a chosen race-- born to lead humanity in the ways of virtue-- the way of Gaea! Through you, all men shall know us better-- and worship us always!" Athena granted the Amazons wisdom, Artemis hunting skills, Demeter fruitful fields, Aphrodite love, and Hestia would build them a great city to call home.

At first, the poets sang of the compassion and justice to be found in Themyscira, until jealous kings threatened and bribed them to instead spread lies of murder, war, and theft. The Amazons became hated and feared outcasts of Greek society.

Ares plotted against the Amazons, taunting Heracles through a prostitute prior to his decreed labor to steal a girdle from Hippolyte. Previously maddened by Hera and indentured to the ruler Eurystheus, Heracles led an army in pursuit of this task. Flanked by Amazon archers hidden in a forest, Heracles was met by their queen, who asked the men to join them in peace and the betterment of mankind. "You expect men to follow women? Heracles is your better, harlot queen!" Heracles engaged Hippolyte, and though no man was stronger than he, the Amazon queen bested him in combat. "Men! Lay back! The Amazons are worthy allies indeed!"

The twin forces got along famously that night, until Heracles drugged and beat Hippolyte, signaling his men to duplicate the betrayal. The Amazons were raped and placed into bondage, while Heracles took Gaea's Girdle and continued on his way. Left nude and chained in a dungeon, Hippolyte was visited by Athena. "Once, the Amazons dreamed of leading makind! But you chose to withdraw from humanity-- to ignore the purpose for which you were created-- and you grew bitter and corrupt." Athena warned Hippolyte off of vengeance, and commanded she cleanse her soul and rededicate herself to Gaea if she wished to be free. Hippolyte lured her guard close with the promise of sex, then beat him and swiftly liberated her Anazons. However, the queen was horrified once she witnessed the bloodlust of her people, as they commenced with a blasphemous massacre. Antiope especially took pleasure in the killings, and following the battle, intended to pursue Heracles for slaughter.

Hippolyte declared, "No, Antiope. Never vengeance-- never again! Athena has spoken to me. She waits for us by the shores of the Aegean." Antiope renounced the goddess for allowing half her sisters to be slain and the Amazons to ever be defamed in the first place, and demanded the same from others. Menalippe argued that was the way of the dark god Ares, but Antiope had already embraced his path. "Ares is not our enemy! We need the god of war merely to survive!" Antiope gave Hippolyte her Girdle of Gaea, as "from this day forward, I take nothing from Olympus." With a kiss goodbye, Antiope and her followers divided the Amazons.

Having failed the goddesses, the Amazons' patrons punished them with a new responsibility. An island which acted as a prison for unspeakable evil would now serve as Themyscira, the Amazons granted immortality to save as eternal jailers. The Amazons would continue to wear the cuff of their bounds as bracelets, reminders to never err again. Poseidon parted the seas to allow the Amazons passage to walk three months to their island paradise, where they could construct their ideal society in isolation. The world without changed greatly over the centuries, and their gods' voices grew ever more distant, but their duty and insular progress continued unabated.

Eventually, Hippolyte felt the "call of a great destiny," as Menalippe explained "Know that you-- and all the original Amazons-- are reincarnations! All of us knew life before the midwives plucked us from Gaea's womb. But only you, my queen, were pregnant at the time of your death! Now, you hear the call of your unborn child!" Hippolyte later kneaded the form of an infant while kneeling in the Clay of Paradise and prayed to her goddesses. Returned to the Cavern of Souls, her patrons blessed the last remaining spirit within. Demeter granted "power and strength-- like that of the earth itself," Aphrodite "great beauty, and a loving heart," Athena again offered wisdom, Artemis "the eye of the hunter and unity with the beasts," Hestia "sisterhood with the fire-- that it may open men's hearts to her," and Hermes was present to add "speed and the power of flight." Finally came "great Gaea's gift... LIFE!" The empowered spirit turned clay to flesh in a flash of light, and Hippolyte held up her newborn daughter. "Then shall Hippolyte honor her with the name of a great and holy warrior! She shall be... Diana!" The first Amazon child in 30 centuries, Diana knew a thousand mothers, and was taught by the most learned scholars.

Years later, Philippus and her guard answered a scream from the oracle Menalippe, who had a vision of an insane Ares having gained power enough to wipe out all the Earth. A champion had to be chosen from amongst the Amazons to face the threat, and the young woman Diana wished to be included in the selection. Hippolyte forbade it, though Diana yearned for a life of purpose beyond paradise. Athena herself confirmed to Diana that her time had come. Over 250 Amazons would gather to compete for the honor of service, each masked to insure everyone would confront their sisters anonymously and to their fullest ability. Secretly among them was Diana, who bested all her elders, then revealed her identity. Hippolyte still wished to deny Diana, but Menalippe explained "The Princess won her place rightfully. You cannot fight the will of the gods."

Diana was presented with new, silver bracelets to face her final test, the Flashing Thunder. Philippus drew an anachronistic .45 automatic handgun, and fired three rounds at Diana. Each was deflected by the princess' speed and gauntlets. The origins of the weapon were not to be revealed at this time, nor was the fate of Diana's namesake, whose red, white & blue standard would now be worn by the champion. Menalippe proclaimed, "Now is the plan of the goddesses clear, Diana! You were born into the world to be the most honored among all Amazons!" Today, Wonder Woman was born, to the cheers of a thousand Amazons. "Only Hippolyte smiles not-- for her thoughts are of Ares-- and of the words she spoke just days before... 'How can even the best of us succeed... where the gods dare not go?'"

"The Princess and the Power!" was scripted by Greg Potter, co-plotted and penciled by George Pérez, with inks by Bruce Patterson


Luke said...

Well that pretty much says it all, doesn't it?

If you want an origin for Wonder Woman which retains some of the classic stuff from the Golden Age (the contest, Paradise Island) and mixes it with Greco-Roman myth in order to give it gravitas, this is the way to do it.

The molding of clay strikes me as an important feminist note. In school I read a book entitled "He, She, and It," a feminist sci-fi novel dealing with cyborgs and how they were "not born of man," much like how Diana is here. I'm sure it was intentional but I never put two and two together until I read this post.

I have been getting my wife the latest run of Wonder Woman by Simone in trades, and she seems to enjoy them. So when I get caught up I'm considering going back to the Perez stuff. We'll see I guess. If nothing else I want to read this story.

Diabolu Frank said...

Yeah, I like the Potter/Perez origin alright. It's a bit more literal than I feel was necessary with regard to the "ravaging," though. That gives me Red Sonja/sexploitation/rape as motivation flashbacks, considering that all the Amazons were victims of male violence (most twice over) except the virginal Diana, their chosen one. Ugh.

Also, while I think it was important to leave Steve Trevor out this time, as punishment for his shenanigans under Kanigher, I do think he needs to be part of the lore. Ultimately, he's Lois Lane, and I think Wonder Woman has long needed a stable, loving relationship. There's been a void for years that no other love interest has been able to fill.

I do think the immaculate sculpting was keen, but it bugs me that so many creators use that as an excuse to treat Wonder Woman like a golem... or worse, Red Tornado.

The first couple or three Perez trades are pretty good. I'm not sure how they break up the run, but the material after the Ares Agenda through to the end of Challenge of the Gods is the sweet spot, in my opinion. I didn't warm to Circe until Messner-Loebs, and unfortunately, only his worst stuff (with Deodato) was ever collected.