“Wonder Woman” the movie, is shattering box office records like, I dunno, glass ceilings. Which means a lot of new Wonderfans are going to be looking for some supplemental reading.
But where to start? Like the ancient myths of her Greco-Roman patrons, Wonder Woman’s oft-contradictory history is vast and contains multitudes. Here, then, are 10 suggestions to take to the bookstore:
10. "The Wonder Woman Chronicles Volume 1"
Wonder Woman’s creator, William Moulton Marston, wrote light-hearted stories of a fairy-tale princess from a magical, all-female island who tried to save “Man’s World” with love — or failing that, by beating it into submission. Famously, these stories feature a lot of bondage and domination/submission play — what Marston liked to call “submission to loving authority” — because he was into that.
The early anything-can-happen Princess Diana stories are important, because they establish the foundation of the character. But add the eccentric art of H.G. Peter — a cross between Art Nouveau and early 20th century advertising — and you have a very odd mix that isn’t for everyone.
“The Wonder Woman Chronicles Volume 1” contains all the solo Wonder Woman stories from her December 1941 launch through September 1942. If you find these stories fun — and audiences in the 1940s certainly did — there are two more “Chronicles” volumes, that continue chronologically until summer 1943. Or you could get either the “Wonder Woman Archives” Volumes 1-7 or “Wonder Woman: The Golden Age Omnibus” Volumes 1-2, both of which contain (mostly) complete runs through winter 1945.
9. "Wonder Woman: A Celebration of 75 Years"
I don’t always agree with the choices in “greatest hits” collections like this. Plus a Whitman’s sampler for a character like Wonder Woman — who has been revamped a remarkable number of times — can be confusing without context. But “Celebration,” or the similar “Wonder Woman: The Greatest Stories Ever Told,” does give the reader a taste of different eras and styles without asking for a commitment to any given one.
Also available: The “Wonder Woman 75th Anniversary Box Set,” which includes four trade paperbacks collecting four storylines from four different eras by four different (A-list) writers.
8. "Wonder Woman: Earth One Volume 1"
Writer Grant Morrison takes Marston’s “submission to loving authority” idea to its logical extreme in this Wonder Woman origin story from a parallel universe (Earth One). That results in this Earth’s version of Etta Candy blurting out, after she hears Diana’s story, “So let me get this straight: You’re from a paradise island of science fiction lesbians? With a side order of bondage?” Yes, and there’s the gorgeous art of Yanick Paquette, too.
7. "Wonder Woman: Blood"
When DC revamped its entire line in 2011, writer Brian Azzarello took the opportunity to change Diana’s origin. He came up with the idea (used in the movie) that Hippolyta had lied to Diana about her being a clay statue brought to life — that she was, instead, the daughter of Zeus, given a false origin to protect her from the wrath of Hera.
A number of long-time Wonder Woman fans prefer the clay-statue origin, but I think making Diana the scion of a sky god — equal in stature to Hercules and Thor, equal in power to Superman — is something the most famous heroine in the world deserves. Plus, this gave Azzarello the excuse to include the entire Greco-Roman pantheon as major friends and foes.
Another selling point: artist Cliff Chiang. Not only is his art clean-lined and solid, but his design sense has given us Wonder Woman’s best outfit to date (again, see the movie).
If you like “Blood,” the story continues in “Guts,” “Iron,” “War,” “Flesh” and “Bones.”
6. "Wonder Woman: The Circle"
Of the surprisingly few female writers ever assigned to write Wonder Woman, Gail Simone (“Batgirl,” “Secret Six”) is probably the biggest name. She dives deep in this storyline into Diana’s relationship with her mother and fellow Amazons — many of which, it turns out, think the only child on Paradise Island is an offense to their patron deities and want “the abomination” dead. Simone brings her trademark deft characterization, clever banter and inventive weirdness to the tale, which includes Wonder Woman allying with a tribe of intelligent white gorillas and the Amazons fending off an invasion of supervillains.
5. "Wonder Woman: Spirit of Truth"
This slim, oversized book is part of a series of introductory books to DC’s major heroes by Paul Dini (“Batman: The Animated Series”) and legendary painter Alex Ross. It’s a simple story, recounting a streamlined version of Diana’s origin, plus a few vignettes showing Wonder Woman’s relevance to the modern world, all rendered in luminous, painted art.
4. "JLA: A League of One"
A prophecy from the Oracle of Delphi predicts the death of the Justice League. Wonder Woman decides the only way to save them … is if she’s the only remaining member of the Justice League.
Written and painted by Christopher Moeller (“Interview with the Vampire,” “Sheva’s War”) this beautiful graphic novel pits Wonder Woman against the other members of the Justice League … and a dragon! It’s an emotional tale that gets to the heart of who and what Diana is, while demonstrating how Wonder Woman would defeat every one of her teammates.
3. "Wonder Woman: The Hyketeia"
Bound by an ancient Greek rite, Wonder Woman must protect a young woman from Gotham City — a criminal who is sought by The Batman. Dark Knight battles Amazing Amazon both physically and philosophically in this graphic novel by Greg Rucka and J.G. Jones.
Rucka has written a lot of excellent Wonder Woman stories, including the current series as it re-visits the Amazing Amazon’s origin once again. Rucka re-tells the story of Diana’s arrival in “Man’s World” with artist Nicola Scott in “Wonder Woman: Year One,” and continues untangling her origins in the modern day with artist Liam Sharp in “Wonder Woman: Lies.”
2. "Wonder Woman: The True Amazon"
Is Princess Diana just a little too perfect for you? Good news — here’s a tale showing how bratty and selfish the daughter of an Amazon Queen can be! Well, until she learns a few life lessons in this delightful graphic novel by writer/artist Jill Thompson (“Scary Godmother”).
1. "Wonder Woman: Gods and Mortals"
There are few revamps that have been as successful — or as necessary — as what writer/artist George Perez (abetted by writer Len Wein) achieved with Wonder Woman in 1987.
Perez jettisoned a lot of the awful baggage that had built up around the Amazing Amazon through decades of mediocre or just plain terrible stories, re-launching the character afresh as a young 20-something on her first journey to Man’s World. He emphasized the mythological aspects of the strip, returning the Amazons to their roots (and put them on “Themyscira” instead of “Paradise Island”), and setting up as their eternal foe the war god Ares (who had, until 1986, been referred to by his Roman name, Mars). That armor you saw in the “Wonder Woman” movie? That’s Perez’s handiwork, as he raided ancient Greco-Roman culture for every aspect of the new Wonder Woman, from clothes to architecture to armament to philosophies.
“Gods and Mortals” is continued in “Challenge of the Gods” and several more trade paperbacks. The same stories are also available in the “Wonder Woman by George Perez” series of TPBs, and the “Wonder Woman by George Perez Ominbus” series of hardbacks.
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