I have a confession to make.
Before DC’s “Wonder Woman” movie, I wasn’t really a fan of the Amazon warrior princess.
As a kid, growing up in the ‘80s, I played with Wonder Woman action figures and was familiar with the campy, 1975 television series, starring Lynda Carter.
Mostly, though, the images I remember seeing of Wonder Woman at the time struck me as little more than pin-up girl clichés. So I just never got into her, or the comic books that told her story. Comics had always been problematic for me, anyway, because stories of strictly male heroes didn’t interest me much.
I was excited about the movie before its release, of course, but mainly because it was the possible culmination of a lifelong dream to see female superheroes finally placed upon the same cinematic pedestal as the male ones.
Of course, “Wonder Woman” was everything I hoped it would be and more, and I could finally understand why Diana Prince is such an iconic character. Almost immediately, I became curious to learn more about her comic book origins and read her stories for myself. (Yes, I’m that annoying fan, the late adopter.)
Knowing where to begin was a conundrum. After all, there are decades of Wonder Woman lore and dozens upon dozens of different runs to choose from. So I asked my friend Kristy, who has sung the praises of the daughter of Themyscira for years, to help me out.
Kristy helpfully suggested I start with The New 52 Wonder Woman books by Brian Azzarello and artist Cliff Chiang. It’s a six-volume series, starting with “Vol 1: Blood,” that is a complete story arc unto itself.
My friend also recommended “Wonder Woman: The Circle,” from 2008, penned by comic book goddess Gail Simone, who writes Diana with a playfulness and strength I adore. (The only downside is the book is retailing for anywhere from $40 to $70 at the moment. I borrowed it from Kristy.)
I’m in the midst of doing the extremely fun homework my personal Wonder Woman guru assigned me and I’m enjoying every minute of it.
I have a feeling some of you may be finding yourself in the same boat, wanting to immerse yourself in the Wonder Woman comic books, but not knowing where to begin.
So I contacted Roger May, owner of Horizon Comics in Lancaster, Calif., to get a professional opinion on the matter.
May was in agreement with Kristy when it comes to Azzarello’s New 52 run.
“It’s very different,” he said.
“It basically gives Wonder Woman a new origin story. It’s a play off of the clay storyline where Diana’s mom (Hippolyta) fashioned her from clay and the gods wept and brought Diana to life.
“In Azzarello’s story, it turns out that is a story that was fabricated to protect Diana and her mother because basically Zeus had an affair with Hippolyta and Hera is a very vengeful wife. As the story unfolds, this kind of comes to light, years later, after Diana is Wonder Woman. There’s kind of a power struggle for the kingdom of Olympus.”
May describes the six-book series as “fantastic.”
“It really kind of showcases Wonder Woman as an Amazon warrior. You do still have some elements of her diplomacy and heart and everything, but at her core she’s a warrior and that really comes through.”
May said the series would be ideal for someone who might be “interested in the Olympic gods aspect.”
“If somebody was a fan of the whole pantheon of gods that Wonder Woman is related to, that would definitely be the book. The artist, Cliff Chiang, came up with some really stunning interpretations of the different gods. Hades is like this little kid. He’s got a crown of candles and the wax is like dripping over his face … and it’s just really kind of creepy. Poseidon is this giant fish. Hermes is kind of a winged birdman. It’s a stunning book to look at.”
May also recommended another book with an entirely different tone: “Wonder Woman: The True Amazon” by Jill Thompson.
“The entire comic is painted,” he said. “It’s a beautiful book.”
“One of the interesting things about that story is it actually kind of follows Wonder Woman as a young girl on Themyscira. It’s a little different than the movie. (In the book) Diana started out as a spoiled, little brat because she got everything, everyone doted over her, (but) there was one girl who doesn’t cut her any slack.
“It’s basically a redemption story and it’s what drove her, being Diana, to strive to be a shining example for everybody else. It’s a really good story, self-contained, original, never in comics before.”
May said other possibilities for future Wonder Woman comic book fans include checking out runs from the ‘70s and ‘80s, as well as the current “DC Rebirth” series, which is about 30 issues in.
If you’re feeling weird about shamelessly jumping on the Wonder Woman bandwagon this late in the game, don’t worry about it. You’re not the only one. So don’t feel shy about making the leap and popping into your local comic book shop to ask for help.
According to May, “there’s definitely been a resurgence in Wonder Woman’s popularity” since the movie was released in June.
“I’ve always been a fan,” he said.
“For so long, DC media has been dominated by Superman and Batman and it was really nice (too see the movie) and now Wonder Woman is like (DC’s) best movie to date, so I think that had a lot to do with this renewed interest in her, and we’ve definitely seen an increase in traffic for the books and toys, novelties, action figures, everything.”