For fans eagerly awaiting news on the story or production of Batman vs. Superman, the last few weeks (or months before that) have been a bit of a roller coaster. And no character has been the source of more discussion, speculation, rumor-mongering or debate than Wonder Woman. Especially not once the question was raised of whether writer David S. Goyer and director Zack Snyder would alter Wonder Woman’s origins, characterizing the heroine as a descendant of Krypton – just like Superman.
Changes to canon aside, we have to ask: could it be a wise move in the long run? The fan objections are easy to grasp, and completely justified – even if an infusion of Krypton into Wonder Woman’s history might help solve several troublesome issues that Snyder, or whomever accepts the task of helming a Wonder Woman solo film must face.
It’s also worth pointing out from the outset that the idea of a Kryptonian origin for Diana and the Amazons was never a reported rumor, simply speculation, and other ‘sources’ have since come forward to claim that they are FAR from accurate. Even so, neither Snyder nor Goyer has come forward to refute the claim (not that we’d even believe them), so the question remains valid.
At this point, it’s impossible to say exactly how the filmmakers may be changing Wonder Woman’s origins – or Batman’s, for that matter – but they proved with Man of Steel that they aren’t afraid of adding to or revising the mythology. The Amazonian princess is a harder sell for Snyder’s more grounded universe, so fans should expect changes regardless.
…After all, the way we see it, a Kryptonian twist may not be the worst possible version we could get.
The Current Origin
If there is one thing that the discussion surrounding Gal Gadot’s casting as Wonder Woman for Batman vs. Superman made clear, it’s that the world’s greatest superheroine’s origins are not nearly as well-known as those of either Superman or Batman. So first we’ll outline the basic points – those which die-hard fans are no doubt hoping to see preserved for Diana’s jump to the big screen.
The story begins with the Amazons: a fictional society consisting entirely of fierce, powerful warrior women with roots in classical mythology. In the DC Comics universe, those Amazons are much more than a simple myth, inhabiting a hidden island known as Themyscira (‘Paradise Island’) with a culture (and ancestry?) taken from the gods and goddesses of Greek mythology.
While every woman was versed in combat (and possessed varying levels of immortality and invincibility over the years), the one thing they did not know was motherhood. That is, not until their Queen Hippolyta begged the gods for a daughter, and along came Diana, the newly-dubbed Princess of the Amazons.
That basic premise is about as detached from reality as one can get, so in recent decades, the character’s history has been retconned and tweaked by numerous writers. With more modern questions came answers: the Amazons don’t simply live forever, but travel to shore to gain information and… offspring from men, keeping only the daughters for their society.
Similarly, Wonder Woman’s invisible jet was rendered useless when Diana was granted the ability to fly. But the Amazons’ relationship to various gods and goddesses has always been difficult to pin down – until recently.
With DC’s New 52 re-launch came a brand new fiction courtesy of writer Brian Azzarello who instead of shying away from the supernatural, embraced it; Diana was no longer a lump of clay made human, but the daughter of Hippolyta and Zeus, granting Diana her invincibility and superhuman strength. As a demigod, Diana was thrust into the drama of her extended family: Hades, Hera, Apollo, and the rest of the Olympian deities.
The result was a reasoned, fantastic take on the character that not only distinguished her from any other hero with whom she usually associates, but became one of the most critically-acclaimed entries in DC’s new lineup. And all things considered, a fresh and inspired enough fiction to justify a big screen adaptation.
But that was before Snyder’s plans, and those of the studio became clear.
The origins of the character – whether the initial version or modern – make the difficulties in adaptation fairly clear: trying to make a mystical society of warrior women tracing back to the Olympian gods seem realistic, grounded, or in any way plausible is a challenge – no matter how you cut it.
It’s true that many skeptics leveled that same charge against Superman, claiming that there was simply no way that Krypton’s last son could exist within Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight universe. Seriously, a flying alien with superhuman powers that could share the tone of the gritty, grounded Batman films? Inconceivable!
In the end, David S. Goyer and Zack Snyder managed to pull off the task better than many thought possible (read our review), with one of the most common criticisms being that Man of Steel ended up too much like Nolan’s film; not fantastic, optimistic, or lighthearted enough. So if the duo managed to ground a fantastic fiction once, wouldn’t it be just as easy to do the same for Wonder Woman and the Amazons?
To be blunt: we don’t think so. As difficult as it might seem to make Superman and his powers plausible in our own world, Snyder and Goyer had to first ask audiences to accept one fact in order to suspend disbelief: that human beings are not alone in the universe. Since much of the scientific community would agree with that assertion, and modern science fiction takes that as a given, the filmmakers had a great deal of wiggle room (even if the resulting action stretched plausibility).
In the case of Wonder Woman, that initial hurdle isn’t so easy to clear. In order for audiences to buy into Diana’s powers and upbringing, they don’t need to accept the existence of extraterrestrial life, but that the gods and goddesses of Olympus were – and are – similarly plausible. Azzarello’s recent reboot has proven that pill may be worth swallowing, but if Wonder Woman is going to be placed squarely into the Batman vs. Superman universe, armor and all (as seems to be the case), the implications of those origins are too massive to ignore.
It may have been risky to introduce General Zod and the rest of Krypton’s survivors, but the closing moments of Man of Steel removed most, if not all, of the ensuing complications; Kal-El is the only being with his powers, as his home planet and its inhabitants are long gone, freeing him to become the hero he chooses to be. But bring in Themyscira and the Amazons, and things aren’t so neat and tidy.
Unlike Man of Steel, the core premise of Wonder Woman’s fiction is based on a myth that a modern audiences recognizes as dated. Yet once that myth – a mysterious island of warrior women related to mythical deities – is introduced, it is irrevocably part of the world that Henry Cavill’s Superman and Ben Affleck’s Batman inhabit.
Given just how nit-picky the comic book movie crowd has proven to be, they’ve got a variety of nagging questions to choose from: how can an island be completely hidden given modern technology? How can a society consisting only of women possibly endure? How can a movie universe modeled after our own include Zeus and Hades strolling down Main Street? There are answers of course, but each one stretches believability even farther.
Fans could point to the existence of Thor and Asgard in Marvel’s cinematic universe as evidence that human and supernatural heroes can coexist onscreen, but it’s not as if Themyscira exists in some far-off realm, able to be ignored entirely if the plot requires it. And, as we’ve said before, Marvel isn’t aiming for the level of realism DC and Warner Bros. are after.
The only certainty, then, is that Goyer and Snyder will have to twist Wonder Woman’s story somehow if they hope to make it work in their budding universe, otherwise they risk sacrificing the believability and tone they have established to date.
With that in mind, we can’t help but think a Kryptonian heritage may solve most problems.
The Krypton Solution
At present, the smart money is on Goyer and Snyder side-stepping as much Amazonian backstory as possible, at least for the time being. Even comic writers have brushed Wonder Woman’s mythological ancestry to the background in “Justice League” stories since mentioning Zeus or Athena in a tale featuring Green Lantern, The Flash or Batman can get messy. Again, the top priority is to keep readers from asking too many questions that there aren’t particularly clear-cut answers to.
Not that this is necessarily a bad thing; the uproar surrounding Gal Gadot’s physical size, ethnic background and age – not to mention the backlash against the Kryptonian rumor – showed that people tend to vehemently defend elements of the character that writers and authors have experimented with on a consistent basis. But the story elements which remain constant – Wonder Woman’s potency in combat, the bond with her mother, her sisters, and her overall mission – are what define the character in her best arcs.
If a decision to cast Diana and the Amazons as Kryptonian in origin doesn’t affect those central themes or traits, then it should be worth exploring for at least a moment, at least to weigh it against the alternative.
In the Man of Steel universe (one audiences have already been introduced to) Krypton was established as a space-faring society, having traveled to thousands of worlds in search of resources, life, and knowledge. And the oft-sourced Man of Steel prequel comic proved that in that same fiction, Kryptonian scouts landed on Earth (albeit unintentionally) roughly 10,000 years ago.
Many theorists have pointed to that comic’s confirmation of Kara Zor-El’s existence (also known as Supergirl) as a sign of things to come, but while her crashed Scout ship seen in the film may have included an open stasis pod, the ship’s state, location, seemingly intact Genesis chamber, and age seem to rule out any appearance in the future.
But as the comic also confirmed, Earth was known to Krypton long before Kara was marooned upon it. The obvious question, then, is if Kryptonians had arrived on Earth in mankind’s ancient history, did they stay? If they did, is it also possible that they weren’t lost on the planet, but sought it out in favor of Krypton?
For those hung up on the idea of changing Wonder Woman’s origins, or that of the Amazons in any way, let’s look at the facts: according to DC Comics, the Amazons are a militaristic, isolated culture with strong (but unclear) ties to Greek gods and goddesses. Those gods and goddesses, in turn, can be described as a group of ancient, supernatural beings who resided above the mortal world, occasionally blessing human beings with gifts, knowledge, or assistance, and were worshiped for their superhuman strength, wisdom, and vitality.
Is it so outlandish to think that ancient Greeks may have stood in awe not of supernatural deities, but far more advanced people from a society which outdated theirs by millenia? This kind of talk unavoidably strays into the ‘ancient alien theory’ territory, so if people want to call this potential twist on Greek mythology – that ancient gods may have actually been alien visitors – they’ve got more than DC Comics brass to rail against.
Yet if the same lens is applied to the notion of stranded Kryptonians as it was to every other aspect of Nolan and Snyder’s approach – that logic and believability provides the backbone of fantasy – then many, if not all the pieces fall into place.
Simply introduce a Themsycira vaguely reminiscent of Krypton’s architecture and the questions are explained away logically, not more and more ludicrously; the Kryptonian refugees found an isolated home, and their connections to Greek mythology and superhuman powers make perfect sense.
Why would they live apart from humanity? They aren’t human. Why has the island never been found? Kryptonian technology. Where does their militaristic society originate? Man of Steel provided all the evidence needed. How can there be only female Amazons, and why? Kryptonians have shown mastery over the reproductive process, not to mention the tendency to hold grudges (in this case, presumably against an entire sex).
With this new origin, Wonder Woman may possess similar powers to Superman (which contrary to many theorists would not disappear over time, since that’s not how evolution works – especially not when birth is engineered) but would not be a relative of Kal-El’s. And with 10,000 years separating her society from his, the idea of either finding solidarity in a culture they were both a product of, but torn apart from, seems unlikely.
From a dramatic standpoint, the relationships between the ‘Big Three’ of DC’s cinematic heroes also becomes enriched; with a similar heritage, Wonder Woman embodies the crisis of identity and Earthly purpose that Kal-El endures as a super-powered counterpart, while Batman does the same for his human side.
If Superman is the anchor of DC’s movie universe (something we’d be happy to see), positioning his colleagues as facets of himself wouldn’t be unwise (think upon the same dynamic used to great effect with Star Trek‘s Kirk, Spock and McCoy).
In other words, a ‘Kryptonian’ Wonder Woman is still a stranger to the human world, and Superman is more a part of it than her own. Snyder and Goyer’s Amazons may be Kryptonian in their blood, but they are something else entirely when the time comes to spill it.
Obviously, any move to change Wonder Woman’s origins will bring massive scrutiny and skepticism. Even if our case for why a massive twist wouldn’t necessarily change all that much is convincing, a Kryptonian Wonder Woman rules out the mythical monsters and supernatural drama that Diana has encountered throughout her career.
Both Thor and Thor: The Dark World proved that comic book movie audiences enjoy a little magic, mysticism and mythology with their capes and cowls, and out of DC’s most well-known heroes, Wonder Woman is the best fit for that genre of adventure. Even if a demystified Diana can create stronger character bonds with her human and Kryptonian colleagues, missing out on the fantastic fiction that so far has only been hinted at is a true sacrifice.
Fans can debate whether that brand of action or drama was ever on the table for Warner Bros., since it would stand solidly apart from their most successful projects. But if DC and Warner Bros. were sacrificing Wonder Woman‘s surreal storylines for the sake of cohesive tone in a Justice League universe, they may be able to look elsewhere for fantasy.
Lest we forget, DC and Warner Bros. are planning on putting out plenty more movies than just those following Justice League members, and if they need to feed the hunger for fantasy or mythology outside of Wonder Woman, they’ve got options. And according to reports, David S. Goyer is the one driving the bus.
At present, a Sandman film (about as surreal as a comic can possibly get) is moving forward with Joseph Gordon-Levitt attached, and the momentum behind a Fables film and Guillermo Del Toro’s long-awaited Justice League Dark project seems to simply be waiting for the right stage of WB’s plan.
That variety is no substitute for seeing Wonder Woman go toe-to-toe with the monsters and giants of Greek mythology, but it may not rule out a less grounded side to the DC movie universe.
Our case for why a Kryptonian Wonder Woman may not be the worst idea for Snyder and Goyer – and may fall in line with their usual style – is just that – a case. As always, how well fans respond will come down to how the task of introducing one of the most notoriously difficult-to-adapt superheroes is pulled off.
We invite all of you to share your own thoughts, concerns, and reactions in the comments.
Batman vs. Supermanwill be in theaters on July 17, 2015.
Follow Andrew on Twitter @andrew_dyce.