Wonder Woman: The growing legacy of DC’s Amazon superhero
How DC made Wonder Woman a legacy hero
One of the superhero pillars of the DC Universe is Wonder Woman, the Amazon champion who spreads a message of love and peace from Paradise Island to the outside world but is ready to fight to defend her ideals at a moment’s notice. While Diana Prince is the character most widely associated with the mantle of Wonder Woman, a surprising number of characters have held the role across DCU history. This distinction of multiple Wonder Women active in the DCU has noticeably grown in recent years, with several iterations of the iconic Amazon simultaneously defending their own respective corner of the DCU in their own different way.
Here are the different characters who serve as Wonder Woman in main DCU continuity, whether this happens while Diana has been temporarily indisposed or if they take the superhero mantle in a significantly different direction. And with the superhero role boasting a history for over 80 years (since Wonder Woman's debut in 1941’s All Star Comics #8), each character reinvents what it means to Wonder Woman in her own distinctly valid way as a prominent member of the rapidly growing Wonder Woman family.
Created alongside the superhero mantle by William Moulton Marston and Harry G. Peter, Diana Prince originated in the role of Wonder Woman, with the character formally introduced on October 21, 1941. The daughter of Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons, Diana won a challenge among her fellow Amazons for the right to return pilot Steve Trevor to the outside world when he accidentally crashed on Paradise Island. Boasting superhuman strength, speed, and endurance, Diana defends to fight evil in all its forms, both alone and as a member of the Justice Society of America. In addition to her natural abilities, Wonder Woman is armed with the golden Lasso of Truth to bind her enemies and compel them to speak the truth, bracers that help her channel her powers, and mentally pilots an invisible jet plane.
Wonder Woman’s origin and place in the superhero community has changed over the years, with the character initially formed from clay shaped by Hippolyta and blessed into life by the Ancient Greek gods. With continuity rebooted by the New 52 publishing initiative in 2011, Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang revealed that Diana was the daughter of Hippolyta and Zeus, further tying her to the Greek pantheon and deepening her feud with Hera. With much of the classic DCU history restored during the 2016 publishing initiative DC Rebirth, Diana’s divine parentage was downplayed while she claimed her powers were a gift from the gods rather than due to her lineage.
Diana’s mother Hippolyta has been part of the Wonder Woman canon since the superhero’s 1941 debut, leading her fellow Amazons to Paradise Island after being tricked into losing the source of their divine power to Hercules. While Hippolyta took on a largely passive role in Wonder Woman’s adventures for decades, George Perez’s revamp of the Wonder Woman mythos in 1987 made the Queen of the Amazons a much more prominent character. Hippolyta extolled virtues of peace and love, even in the face of masculine adversity exhibited by Heracles and Ares, while moving to a more isolationist stance from the outside world.
Hippolyta has claimed the mantle of Wonder Woman twice to date in her comic book history, both times when her daughter was presumed dead. Following Diana’s death in the 1995 crossover event Underworld Unleashed, Hippolyta claimed the role of Wonder Woman to honor her daughter’s legacy. During her tenure as Wonder Woman, Hippolyta was sent back in time to World War II where she served alongside the Justice Society of America as a nod to their shared history, even going as far as to strike up a romance with teammate Wildcat. Hippolyta’s initial stint as Wonder Woman came to an abrupt end in the 2001 crossover event Our Worlds at War, dying to save the world from the extraterrestrial invaders the Imperiex.
The evil witch Circe resurrected Hippolyta to serve as her unwitting pawn in the 2007 crossover event Amazons Attack, and Hippolyta is eventually restored to her senses after Circe’s deception has been revealed. The 2020 crossover event Endless Winter established that Hippolyta took a medieval Wonder Woman-esque role defending the world from the twisted Frost King, growing close to Black Adam while they worked together. This presaged Hippolyta assuming the mantle of Wonder Woman once more in the aftermath of the 2020 crossover event Dark Nights: Death Metal, after Diana disappeared following the reboot of the DC Multiverse.
Diana got her own sidekick in 1965’s The Brave and the Bold #60 with Donna Troy, the first Wonder Girl. Created by Bob Haney and Bruno Premiani, Donna was originally a young orphan rescued by the Amazons and raised as Diana’s little sister and regarded by Hippolyta as one of her daughters and given powers by an Amazonian Purple Ray. This origin was altered after Crisis on Infinite Earths, with Donna created as a magical duplicate of Diana by the Amazon Magala to give the young Diana the perfect playmate when she grew up.
Donna took on the mantle of Wonder Woman following the 2005 crossover event Infinite Crisis while Diana went on a year-long quest for her own self-discovery in the wake of killing the villainous Maxwell Lord. During the DC Rebirth era, Donna was reestablished as her own superhero and as a mentor at Teen Titans Academy to the next generation of aspiring young heroes.
One of the biggest revelations to the Wonder Woman mythos was the discovery that the pre-Crisis on Infinite Earths Diana was the fraternal twin to another Amazon daughter of Hippolyta named Nubia. Created by Robert Kanigher and Don Heck in 1973’s Wonder Woman #204, Nubia was revealed to have been kidnapped by Ares while she and Diana were still infants, raised by the God of War to become the ultimate weapon of vengeance against the Amazons. Wonder Woman purges Nubia of Ares’ influence, leaving her to lead her own faction of warriors in peace and befriending her twin sister in the process.
Nubia was reimagined 20 years later as Nu’Bia in 1999’s Wonder Woman Annual #8 (vol. 2) by Doselle Young, Brian Denham, Jon Sibal, introduced as an Amazonian champion who predated Diana earning the role. Nu’Bia guarded the passage between Tartarus and Themyscira, before the character was reintroduced after Death Metal. In the possible glimpse of the DCU during the two-month event Future State, Nubia was revealed to become the Queen of Themyscira in this alternate timeline.
This prediction would come true, with Hippolyta willingly abdicating the throne to Nubia while she served as Wonder Woman in the wake of Diana’s sudden absence. When Diana returns to the DCU in 2021’s Wonder Woman #780 by Becky Cloonan, Michael W. Conrad, Travis Moore, and Steve Pugh, she formally recognizes Nubia as the new Queen of the Amazons and is happy to share the mantle of Wonder Woman with her.
As a new young superhero team formed with the advent of Young Justice, this ensemble gained their own version of Wonder Girl with Cassandra Sandsmark. Created by John Byrne in 1996’s Wonder Woman #105 (vol. 2), Cassie was introduced as a supporting character for Diana before she learned that she was Zeus’ daughter. Initially using Atlas’ gauntlets to gain super-strength and Hermes’ boots to gain super-speed and the ability to fly, Cassie was granted naturally occurring superpowers by her father once her true parentage became known. Cassie’s uncle Ares gave her own magical lasso though, unlike the Lasso of Truth, Cassie’s lasso channels Zeus’ deadly electricity.
In the 2005 Teen Titans storyline 'Titans Tomorrow' by Geoff Johns and Mike McKone, the Titans traveled to an alternate future for the DCU and were shocked to discover their older counterparts ruled the Earth. This timeline’s version of Cassie succeeded Diana as the world’s Wonder Woman after Diana was killed during Infinite Crisis and vowed to further Ares’ legacy. Upon returning to her own timeline, Cassie was determined to not become like her twisted counterpart, and she has been a prominent member of the Titans and Young Justice.
During Perez’s revamp of Wonder Woman, there was a schism between the Amazons in response to how they should react to grave injustices inflicted by Heracles. Extolling the virtues of peace, Hippolyta withdrew her loyalists to the island of Themyscira while those preferring lethal vengeance followed Hippolyta’s sister Antiope to form a splinter faction of Amazons known as the Bana-Mighdall that resided within the Egyptian desert. And just as Wonder Woman became Themyscira’s champion, Artemis would become the champion for the Bana-Mighdall.
Created by William Messner-Loebs and Mike Deodato in 1994’s Wonder Woman #90 (vol. 2), Artemis was raised to be more violently proactive than the Themysciran Amazons while maintaining her own code of honor. After receiving a vision of her daughter’s death, Hippolyta orchestrated Artemis into replacing Diana as Wonder Woman by fixing a contest between the two champions. While serving as Wonder Woman, Artemis died in battle against the villainous White Magician but would eventually be resurrected. Leaving the Wonder Woman mantle behind, Artemis joined Red Hood on the Outlaws and formed a romantic relationship with him, continuing to defend the DCU in her own hard-edged way.
In 2020’s Wonder Woman Annual #4 (vol. 5) by Steve Orlando and Jack Herbert, the Amazons were shocked to learn there was a third faction of Amazons, hidden away deep in the South American rainforest for millennia. The champion of this group of Amazons is Yara Flor, created by Joëlle Jones, a young woman who was targeted by Ares after losing her mother at an early age to the rampaging deity. Just as the Themysciran Amazons draw influence from the Greco-Roman pantheon and the Bana-Mighdall from Egyptian mythology, Yara and her Brazilian Amazons feature Brazilian folklore, including their own set of demigods.
Yara is armed with her own Lasso of Truth and rides a winged horse as she works with the other Amazons to defend the DCU. Future State revealed that Yara would become Wonder Woman in an alternate timeline, joining the next generation of heroes of the Justice League to defend the DCU. Since this glimpse of the possible future, Yara has become the DCU’s latest Wonder Girl, working alongside Queen Nubia for the betterment of the world and advancement of Amazonian ideals.
Diana & Me: a personal essay by Wonder Woman voice actor Susan Eisenberg