Wonder Woman, the DC Extended Universe’s latest offering, is out in theaters now. The positive reviews have been glowing and well-deserved, and it’s safe to say that fans have finally received a DCEU offering worthy of their time.
Diana Prince is one of the strongest and most skilled fighters in comics, but superheroes love their gear, and she’s no exception. She has wielded a variety of weapons and equipment in her 75-year history, including obvious choices like a sword and shield and her signature weapons like the Lasso of Truth, a tiara that she can throw like a boomerang, and the frankly baffling Invisible Jet, which is how she got around before creators just went ahead and gave her the ability to fly on her own.
But we’re especially big fans of her distinctive wrist armor, which is not only incredibly fashionable but also provides several practical uses for fighting villains. And it even has a deep, symbolic meaning that you might not have been aware of. They are awesome weapons, sure, but they also tell a story and reveal fascinating details about the history of the Amazon people and their values.
Here are 15 things you probably didn’t know about Wonder Woman’s Bracelets of Submission.
15. All Amazons wear them
We’re referring here to the standard-issue Bracelets of Submission that every Amazon wears and not the especially magical ones that Wonder Woman takes into battle. In addition to their defensive capabilities, the Bracelets of Submission carry vast cultural and symbolic meaning for the Amazons, so they all wear some form of the armor.
In most versions, Diana is the youngest of the immortal race (before Wonder Girl showed up) because her mother, Hippolyta, either made her out of clay or conceived her with Zeus, and she receives her “starter set” of the Bracelets when she turns 15. That was in the ‘40s, anyway; in the 2014 reboot run Sensation Comics, she gets one cuff when she’s young and the second once she proves herself in combat.
14. They were made of proprietary metals with silly names
We’ll have more to say on the particular composition of Wonder Woman’s special armor later, but the comics and the 1975 TV series offered some other takes on what they’re made of.
Originally, Paradise Island (the original name for Themyscira in the comics) crafted its armors out of a metal that only appeared locally. It was called, appropriately, Amazonium, and it was “the hardest metal known,” according to Wonder Woman #52. That story has the evil prime minister of Bellera Island tasking the hero with passing a “camelzeb” through the eye of a needle. She does this by rubbing the needle between her invincible bracelets until it becomes white-hot and then stretches the now-pliable metal into a hoop large enough for the hybrid animal to navigate.
On TV, the Amazons have a more on-the-nose name for their proprietary material: feminum. The two-part episode “The Feminum Mystique,” set during World War II, has the Nazis enslaving the Amazons to force them to mine the stuff in their bid to make unbreakable jets based on stolen Allied plans. It goes about as well as you’d think.
13. They have several names
While “Bracelets of Submission” is their proper, most meaningful title, Wonder Woman’s arm guards get different names depending on which era you’re reading. They also go by “Amazonian bracelets,” “Silver bracelets,” or simply “Magic bracelets” for those times when writers wanted to convey that the artifacts are special but don’t feel like being super specific.
The different titles come down to exactly which bracelets you’re talking about. While all Amazons wear these bands, in most versions, only Diana receives the most powerful ones. These are the particularly “magic” wrist guards that are part of the special costume that only the chosen Themiscyran champion wears in her role as Wonder Woman. Everyone else is stuck with the plain old non-mystical versions that are just as fetching, but don’t necessarily bestow amazing abilities.
12. They now have a more mythical backstory
While normal, everyday Themiscyran bracers might still be made of Amazonium (or silver, depending on who’s writing), decades of continuity shakeups and reimaginings have bestowed Diana’s special gear with a more legendary origin.
Wonder Woman’s Bracelets of Submission are made of the shattered remnants of Olympian god Zeus’ (or Athena’s) shield, which was mostly unbreakable until his father, Cronus, got through with it. They seemingly fell victim to the one vulnerability all “unbreakable” armaments that gods wield share: other gods. But we weren’t super confident in that shield’s integrity to begin with, since Zeus made it from Amalthea, the goat who served as his nurse when he was a child.
Hephaestus, the legendarily skilled and divine smith who also created the Lasso of Truth from the girdle of the Earth Goddess, Gaia, recycled the aegis into the unique bracelets in hopes that they would prove truly indestructible in a smaller form. We don’t want to think too hard about the steps between goat, shield, and bracelets, but the important thing is that it works.
11. Amazons lose strength if a man chains them together
This is more of a classic trope that has fallen aside through the decades, but originally, Wonder Woman would lose all of her Amazon strength if a man bound her wrists together. This doesn’t follow from the “noble bondage” theme, since it’s not particularly willful on Wonder Woman’s part. It’s more of a creepy rape metaphor, really.
Early on, crooks used the bracelets themselves in their efforts to restrain Diana by welding chains to them. We appreciate their thoroughness and how long that must take, since you can’t really trust a rope sometimes. But it happens multiple times, and we wonder if people just had welding equipment laying around all willy-nilly back in the ‘40s.
Interestingly, regardless of who gives the order, the actual worker has to be a man in order for it to work. In the 10th issue of Sensation Comics, the welding doesn’t take because the person holding the torch turns out to have been a woman. This reveal takes a while to happen. Meanwhile, Wonder Woman just goes along with some electric torture for no reason.
10. They can deflect almost anything
We’re used to seeing Wonder Woman use the Bracelets of Submission to ping away bullets, but they’re handy against a number of other attacks. She can also block swords, obviously, although that seems a bit riskier. But the armor is strong enough to withstand a number of attacks that would kill just about anyone else.
In Batman v Superman, she uses them to block a blast of heat vision from Doomsday, and she’s also done that in the comics. Even more impressively, she once used them to deflect a shot from Darkseid’s Omega Beams when the supervillain tries to kill Superman. These are the Lord of Apokalips’ version of heat vision, with the difference being that his blasts can track and follow moving targets and pass through almost anything.
9. They generate a force field
The in-universe explanation of how the Bracelets of Submission can stand up to so much damage comes from their origin. They’re made of the shattered pieces of Zeus’ shield, so when Wonder Woman crosses them in front of her, they create an energy-based re-creation of the aegis.
That protective bubble doesn’t just protect Diana from projectiles and punches. She can also use it to break falls and impacts from large objects. So good luck trying to run her over with a bus. She’s largely invincible even without her weapons, anyway, so that plan would be doomed from the start.
All of this begs the question: If Wonder Woman is so powerful and can create an unbreakable barrier at will, why does she still typically fight with a physical shield? We assume that this gives her the flexibility to attack and defend simultaneously, since as far as we know, she can’t cut through things with her bare hands. Yet. Plus, it looks cool.
8. They were based on William Moulton Marston’s girlfriend’s bracelets
Wonder Woman’s creator, William Moulton Marston, was a renowned psychologist and helped invent the lie detector. He also lived in a polyamorous relationship with his wife Elizabeth and his former student Olivia Byrne. Marston decided that he wanted to create a superhero that prevailed over evil not by punching it really hard, but with love. And Wonder Woman does her share of punching things really hard, but we think the message has more or less held up.
Elizabeth’s contribution was, “Fine. But make her a woman.”
And while she put the “woman” in “Wonder Woman,” Byrne provided the visual inspiration, particularly fashionwise. She often wore wide bracelets (circled above), and Wonder Woman ended up with her own matching set. And that simple cosmetic decision has proven to be crucial to both Diana and the entire Amazon culture.
7. They represent Amazon enslavement
The original comics had the ancient world split into two factions. It had warlike men, whom Ares led and represented, and love-driven women under Aphrodite. That’s a pretty loaded dichotomy, but the main thing is that Ares’ people enslaved and mistreated women through demigod Heracles — or Hercules, after Rome’s own reboot of Greek mythology — until Aphrodite (and, sometimes, all of the female gods) created the Amazons as a force for good.
Hercules captured the Amazons after stealing Hippolyta’s girdle, and the women suffered until the goddesses gave her an opportunity to reclaim it. With divine power behind them, the Amazons reclaimed their freedom and set up their isolated home on Paradise Island, far from Man’s World, because who could blame them?
6. They symbolize balance and humility
The name of the Bracelets of Submission refers not to the Amazons using them to make their enemies give up; that wouldn’t make any sense, since they’re mostly defensive weapons. Instead, they’re a reminder of where they came from, what they must work to protect, and what they have to lose if they fail.
It’s an interesting idea. They’re the strongest women who ever lived, and they proudly wear what are, essentially, representations of shackles. This comes partly from Marston’s belief in the “noble practice” of bondage as a way to promote world peace. No, really.
“The only hope for peace is to teach people who are full of pep and unbound force to enjoy being bound,” Marston said. “Only when the control of self by others is more pleasant than the unbound assertion of self in human relationships can we hope for a stable, peaceful human society.”
The Amazons, despite being strong enough to beat up Superman in a one-on-one fight, use the Bracelets to acknowledge their limits and remain humble. They also tie each other up a lot, which is a bit on the nose.
5. If removed or broken, the wearer goes insane
Back in the Golden Age, when Marston was writing all of the stories, he threw in a bunch of psychological metaphors about Wonder Woman and her equipment. And we don’t just mean that bondage stuff.
In Sensation Comics 19, a villain named Mavis uses an acid-filled knife to cut the princess’ bracelets off in an attempt to remove her powers. This is the only option available to her, since this is apparently the one time in a Wonder Woman book that no welding equipment is available, and it wouldn’t have worked, anyway.
Unfortunately, we learn that an Amazon without her Bracelets of Submission goes immediately insane, and Wonder Woman immediately starts kicking everyone she sees and swatting buildings into dust with girders. This is probably Marston saying something about the unbridled id, but we’re not psychologists.
4. They summon Zeus’ lightning if struck together
Wonder Woman’s special bracelets have lots and lots of powers, but comic book creators are still finding new things for them to do. In the 2010 storyline “Warkiller,” she discovers a power that they’d been hiding for over 60 years.
The rogue Amazon, Akyone, steals the guards as part of her plan to kill Diana — whom she refers to as “The Dragon” — and return Themyscira to what she considers its original, natural state, free from the princess’ unnatural presence. She’s super prejudiced against clay people, apparently.
Ultimately, Diana gets her bracelets back during a fight with Themyscira’s “dark heart,” the island’s evil essence from whose clay she was born. She clangs them together, which summons down Zeus’ lightning, destroying the monster. The king of the gods explains that he’d “unlocked the code” that released that particular power, saying that they contained it because they were made from his shield. So we guess the Bracelets of Submission are computers, too.
3. They are almost indestructible
Given their divine pedigree, it should come as little surprise that Wonder Woman’s Bracelets of Submission are tough. They can stand up to just about everything, but Princess Diana most commonly uses them to deflect bullets.
They’re so good at that, in fact, that the final round in the contest that originally decided who would represent Paradise Island in Man’s World was a game called “Bracelets and Bullets.” It consists of the two competitors taking turns firing at each other with pistols, and the first one to get shot lost. Amazons are hardcore.
But despite their status as super-powerful, magical items, the Bracelets aren’t totally unbreakable; you just have to have the right tools. They’re vulnerable against similarly enchanted divine weapons like the swords of the gods and Cronus’ sickle, which is so strong that it broke Zeus’ original shield and can slay a god.
2. They can mess Superman up
Outside of the standard issues of morality and costume style, we assume one question takes up a permanent residence in the mind of every hero in the DC universe: what happens if I have to fight Superman? The Man of Steel is mostly good, but he has vulnerabilities, and it’s good to have plans. Batman has contingencies to take out every member of the Justice League if they go rogue, but he’s kind of crazy sometimes (and right more often than not).
Wonder Woman has to take on Kal-El when Maxwell Lord uses his mind-control abilities to trick the Kryptonian into mistaking Diana for his nemesis Doomsday. She doesn’t want to hurt her friend and teammate, but if Superman wants to kill you, you need to protect yourself.
She comes upon a novel solution, sneaking up on him when he’s using his super hearing and slamming the Bracelets of Submission against the side of his head. The impact doesn’t risk much in the way of permanent damage, but the vibrations of the metal against his invincible skull are powerful enough to make his ears bleed. That stuns him long enough for her to get back and kill Maxwell Lord, breaking the spell.
1. They limit Amazons’ powers
The berserker rage that afflicts Amazons who remove or destroy their bracelets isn’t all bad news; it also increases their already considerable strength by a factor of 10. And that would be a pretty cool trick if it didn’t also make the sufferer want to murder everything.
Interestingly, this shows that the Bracelets of Submission aren’t just symbolic for Amazons. They also stop them from getting too powerful. The relationship between their power and the bracelets is called the “Law of Aphrodite.” It’s the same thing that says that they will lose their powers completely if someone binds or welds their wrists together. Every superhero needs weaknesses, after all, and Wonder Woman’s, apparently, are rules.
The Amazons’ deal with Aphrodite says that they value love and justice over even their own strength. The Bracelets of Submission are simultaneously powerful artifacts for good and the mechanisms through which Themyscirans hold up their part of the bargain.
What else should Wonder Woman fans know about the Bracelets of Submission? Let us know in the comments.