A rumor that recently hit the Internet suggested there might be a new back story for the Wonder Woman who’ll show up in the next Superman movie: that the Amazons she belongs to are descended from the Kryptonians–the ancient spacefarers who, according to Man of Steel, tried to set up outposts of their civilization on various worlds millennia ago.
Turns out this started with idle chat from someone unconnected to the movie, whose guesses are about as good as yours or mine. But after reading the goggle-eyed, hair-on-fire, head-exploding reactions that the original rumor ignited, I really have to ask:
Why shouldn’t Wonder Woman be a Kryptonian?
Among the many dreadful, stupid reboots and retcons that have shown up in superhero comics and in their film and television incarnations, this isn’t half bad. It’s certainly better than what I heard from a TV producer whose interest in Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld, boiled down to removing every aspect of the character that made her interesting and unique: no kid-to-adult transformation, no Gemworld to be seen, no demonstration of magic that couldn’t have been done with the special effects on Bewitched.
To react as if an alien background for Wonder Woman and the Amazons constitutes a travesty against a received, canonical version that never has been and never should be violated seems a bit of a reach. True, the story of the Amazons of Paradise Island has probably stayed more consistent than the history of Krypton and its culture…but I suspect that has mostly to do with Wonder Woman’s being an undeveloped backwater, an afterthought to many editors, writers and fans, not to mention Hollywood studios. But the changes she’s undergone over the years have still been substantial.
Paradise Island went from being a kind of year-round, single-sex summer camp to being Themiscyra, the home of an ancient warrior people. (I think I was the first writer to refer to the mythological name, during my run on Wonder Woman in the early eighties; I’d also say I placed the Amazons about midway between the frolicking peaceniks and the Klingon wannabes that mark the ends of the spectrum.) Such consistent themes as could be found involved an emphasis on finding the better angels of human nature, along with healing (the purple ray) and truth (the magic lasso, though let’s not go into the relationship between truth and bondage right now). But exactly what deeper values were being expressed was pretty subject to interpretation. Amazon ideas about the meaning of love, for instance, are hard to pin down. Steve Trevor has gone from dreamboat to dead to undesirable, and never enjoyed the iconic status of Lois Lane.
You also don’t hear a lot these days about Princess Diana’s having been fashioned out of clay by her mother. And I hope it’s no longer the case that she became the Amazon’s representative to the outside world by winning a competition that was far from fair, since the gods gave Diana special powers no other Amazon possessed on the day she was not quite born.
As for those powers, some commenters on the new origin rumor speculated that although of Kryptonian heritage, Wonder Woman wouldn’t be as powerful as Superman–owing to the Amazons’ acclimation to Earth over time–and were pretty cheesed by that diminishment. Say what you will, though, about whether Wonder Woman should be presented as Superman’s equal in strength, it’s a fairly recent notion that she even could be. Her gods-given gifts never approached the level that Superman’s powers have been set at since at least the 1950s. She had to fend off bullets with her bracelets, not with impenetrable skin; and back when I wrote the character, she could not fly, just glide on air currents, which is why the invisible robot plane came in handy. (Contriving to put her in a place where she could catch those air currents, by the way, was an all-around pain.)
I’ll save for another day a lengthy discussion of the major flaw I saw in Wonder Woman after three years of writing her adventures–that she was set up to preach a message more than she learned and lived it–or about the proposal I made to have her disappear in Crisis on Infinite Earths and be replaced by a flawed, mortal woman who would gain the powers and only slowly discover where they came from. But in some ways that would not have been a much greater change than the ones made in Superman around the same time, including the replacement of Krypton the lost and mourned world with Krypton the sterile and cerebral culture that, let’s be honest, deserved to die.
And now there’s the Krypton of Man of Steel, which I was kind of taken with, even though my heart belongs to the vanished paradise drawn by Wayne Boring and Curt Swan. That the Amazons could be an offshoot of that Krypton strikes me as pretty clever. It would forge additional connections among the characters of the DC Movie Universe (a tactic that’s worked well with the Marvel movies), and could lead to nice visual notes like having the Amazons’ technology mimic that of MoS’s Krypton.
And to those who say that a Kryptonian origin would mean chucking any connection with the Greek gods, I ask why so? If the Amazons have been here long enough, they would have had plenty of opportunities to tangle with those gods, and would have presented a more challenging obstacle to them than mere human beings did. If the Amazons then decided to stick with a look and culture influenced by their Achaean neighbors after settling down on whatever they call that island, who am I to argue with them?
Of course, it is always possible to bend a character so far she breaks apart from any recognizable version of herself. But that’s Amy (Amethyst) Winston as a 25-year-old office worker in L.A. who wiggles her nose to make things levitate, not Wonder Woman having a surprise connection to Superman in the far distant past.
Ultimately, what’s most important in these matters is finding a way to keep true to the core, the essence, the reason a character exists in the first place. And unfortunately, the second biggest obstacle to making a successful Wonder Woman movie (we all know what the biggest one is) is that so few people can articulate what Wonder Woman’s reason for being really is, and that among those who think they can, there’s a pretty wide range of opinions.
So give me the one-sentence description of Wonder Woman–heck, you can even have one short paragraph–that people can rally around, that shows why she’s unique, and that’s likely to stand the test of time, and that’s when I’ll say, “Stop right there and don’t change a thing.”