The biggest entertainment story in the world right now is the sharply divided reaction to Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, with devoted fans clashing with film critics (and other fans) over whether or not the high-grossing but poorly-reviewed superhero blockbuster raises the bar for the genre or hits a new low. But there’s at least one aspect of the film everyone seems to agree on: Wonder Woman rules. Gal Gadot’s brief turn as history’s premiere female superhero has garnered positive notices from even the film’s biggest detractors, and turned her in-production solo film into one of next year’s most anticipated features.
That reception will be music to DC Comics’ ears, as the publisher has planned a big year for the character, including the new Wonder Woman: Earth One series from Grant Morrison that gifts Diana with a newly-reimagined origin – and much more.
While fans (and even filmmakers) are often quick to point to industry skepticism about the viability of female superheroes for the reason why Wonder Woman has had to wait over 75 years to get her own proper movie, others have often pointed to the character’s singularly unusual backstory and mythos making her among the hardest DC heroes to properly adapt. As originally created in 1941, the original Wonder Woman was conceived as an avatar for then-radical, ahead-of-their-time views on feminism, gender roles and human sexuality espoused by her creator, psychologist William Moulton Marston, his wife and their partner Olive Byrne; but from the 1950s onward DC has tended to downplay those aspects in favor of a more traditional warrior-woman model. Now, in an interview with The Nerdist, Morrison reveals that he’s going back to that original conception for inspiration:
“I just felt that original version of Wonder Woman was really fertile soil again, to do a version of Wonder Woman that was maybe a little different, and might shed a different light on who Wonder Woman was, and what Wonder Woman represented. So we went back to the Marston stuff, and it’s just a delightful, mad, psychosexual wonderous series of comic books. And I felt that Wonder Woman could use a little of that atmosphere again, and certainly I love that outsider/alternative quality that Marston brought to the character initially.”
Marston, who also invented the polygraph lie-detector test, imbued his original Wonder Woman with a backstory that turned the Greek myth of Hercules conquering The Amazons on its head; positing the Amazons as having overthrown male enslavement and built a utopian all-female society of their own. As such, Wonder Woman’s classical origin depicted her as having been “born” from a clay statue of a baby sculpted by the Amazon queen and given life by the goddess Aphrodite. While Morrison’s take goes back to formula in most other respects, said origin is something he couldn’t resist tweaking, devising a new version where Amazonian technology replaces the gods and Diana has a father – just not in the traditional sense:
“I thought maybe [Diana’s mother] Queen Hippolyta has developed genetic technology, and I thought ‘maybe this will help me rationalize the clay origin in my head.’ At the same time, I wanted more tension and drama in the origin story, because there’s not a lot of tension and drama in the original; Diana just falls in love with Steve Trevor, Hippolyta gives her blessing to leave Paradise Island, and then Diana flies off. I wanted more tension, I wanted it to be reflective of actual human relationships, so that the people reading it will have something to relate to. So, the idea then was to do a technological version of the origin, but I love the idea that Diana now kind of has a father, and not only does she have a father, but it’s Hercules.”
But beyond that new twist, Morrison’s reimagined Wonder Woman also aims to make explicit aspects of the character that were previously relegated to the realm on insinuation and subtext. Marston’s original Wonder Woman stories were suffused with thinly-veiled (for the time) reference to his philosophical views on pansexuality, polyamory and S&M as components of enlightened modern relationships, which subsequent editors have elected to move focus away from. But notions of same-sex romance among DC’s Amazon’s have been a favorite topic to hint about among recent generations of Wonder Woman writers, and Morrison has elected to drop the pretense entirely: Earth One’s Diana is, for the first time, openly bisexual – and already has a female lover named Mala when Steve Trevor’s crash landing inadvertently makes him the first man to set foot on Themyscira in centuries:
“We live in a world where I think one in three young Americans identify as bisexual, and half of all young people in the U.K. identify as bisexual. I mean, this is hardly shocking in this day and age, I would hope that people really don’t make too much of it. Obviously, it was always implicit in the material, where you had a society of women that lived without men for 3,000 years, and I don’t think they gave up sex when they gave up men. [laughs] But it was always implicit in the material, we just shined a light on it, because I think we live in a world where these things are not considered quite as radical or as frightening as they once were. Hopefully.”
It should be noted that DC’s Earth One books are not meant to specifically supplant the continuity of mainstream titles, though whether that is still the case following the Rebirth event is unclear. Whether or not Morrison’s graphic novel will provoke controversy for the new film remains to be seen, but fans won’t have to wait long to find out: Wonder Woman: Earth One is scheduled for release on April 6, 2016.