With superhero movies, the first one can be a bit predictable for longtime fans due to how familiar the origins of most heroes are. Spider-Man gets radioactive spider powers and loses Uncle Ben. Batman watches his parents die and devotes his fortune to stopping crime.
Wonder Woman’s origin story is not quite as iconic. It was hard to say what her origin would be in the Wonder Woman movie because she has actually had quite a few beginnings. Then the movie even combined two of her origin stories so newcomers could have an even harder time keeping things straight.
The fact is that Wonder Woman doesn’t really have that iconic background that has withstood the test of time as strongly as other heroes. Ask people on the street how she got her start and a lot of people would likely struggle. That’s because her origins have been modified, and just plain retconned many times.
If you have trouble keeping up with it yourself, let us lend a hand, because we’re getting into the 15 Biggest Changes To Wonder Woman’s Origins.
15. MADE FROM CLAY
What else could we begin with but the classic? This has been the most enduring origin for Wonder Woman, but is also kind of weird to explain to people who are unfamiliar with where she came from. Diana is one of the most powerful and well-known characters out there, and she started out as a piece of clay like some bowl in a ceramics class?
It’s weird, but if you can accept all the intervention of the Greek gods then you’re already pretty heavily invested in putting up with the supernatural parts of Diana’s story.
Hippolyta made Diana because she wanted a daughter, but obviously with no men on Paradise Island that was a bit difficult to accomplish. The Queen of the Amazons turned to the gods to grant her wish. After Hippolyta fashioned the form of a girl from the clay, life was breathed into the sculpture, and it came alive as the person we would soon know as Wonder Woman.
14. BLESSED BY THE GODS
Today it’s pretty much treated as a given that Wonder Woman has some amount of help from the gods. Greek gods have been her parents, her grandparents, her siblings, and her mentors. But that was not always the case. While Wonder Woman being made from clay was her classic start, it wasn’t until years later that the whole deal with the gods helping her out began to seep in. This wasn’t a totally new origin, but a slight reimagining of what happened after she came alive from clay.
In this new origin, Diana received blessings from many of the gods, making her stand out from the other Amazons more than she already did. If you’ve ever heard Wonder Woman described as having the wisdom of Athena, the speed of Hermes, and the beauty of Aphrodite, this is where that comes from. But these weren’t exaggerations, like when you say someone is as strong as a horse. Wonder Woman actually receivied all of those abilities from the gods in preparation for the battles she would face.
13. MEETING AQUAMAN INSTEAD OF STEVE TREVOR
The storyline of “Wonder Woman and the Furies” gives us a scenario speculating on what could have happened if, rather than meeting Steve Trevor and entering the world of man, Diana had instead met Aquaman and gone to Atlantis.
It’s a pretty interesting idea, but it doesn’t work out anywhere near as well for the Amazons. It all starts when Arthur rescues Diana from a kraken and takes her to Atlantis to recover. While there, the two heroes decide to marry to create unity between their people.
Things quickly degenerate from there, though. Humans soon find both civilizations and arrive to report on their impending union, but not everyone is happy about this. When it’s time for the wedding, Hippolyta is struck from behind by a trident and killed. It turns out Artemis was the assassin dressed in the armor of Atlantis, ensuring that the Amazons and the Atlanteans would go to war.
12. ARTEMIS AS WONDER WOMAN
Since we’re talking about Wonder Woman’s origins rather than just Diana’s that means we can get into the other women who have taken up the heroic title. As another fierce Amazon, Artemis sounded like a good candidate to take up Diana’s legacy.
Artemis got her chance during the storyline of “The Contest”, when Hippolyta held a challenge to determine a new Wonder Woman. Artemis won the contest after Hippolyta deliberately sabotaged her daughter to ensure a new Wonder Woman.
Artemis gained the title, and even the star-spangled swimsuit, but she wasn’t a perfect replacement. Artemis was more brutal than her predecessor and was having the public turn against her. Right as Artemis was turning things around, the reason for Hippolyta’s intervention was revealed: the Queen of the Amazons had had a premonition that Wonder Woman would die. Hippolyta made Diana lose the title to spare her daughter that fate, but Artemis was not so lucky.
11. 1974 WONDER WOMAN MOVIE
This rather lackluster TV movie debut for Wonder Woman may have played a bit of a role in why it took so long to get a proper Wonder Woman movie. Cathy Lee Crosby’s version of the character bore no resemblance to the classic character. It wasn’t just the different costume, though, since fans have had plenty of opportunity to acclimate to Diana’s new looks over the years. What really dragged this TV pilot down was that it drew upon the comics at the time, which featured the rather unimpressive Mod Wonder Woman.
In the comics, Diana had given up her powers and her costume to take on crime in a more down-to-Earth approach. It was an interesting diversion, but didn’t exactly scream “superhero” either. The Cathy Lee Crosby film took this period and turned it into an origin story, so viewers were introduced to a Diana who simply never had any powers. Instead she worked alongside Steve Trevor to take down spies. Still, plenty of heroes had rough starts on TV, so we won’t hold this one against Wonder Woman.
10. DAUGHTER OF ZEUS
This is one of Wonder Woman’s more recent major overhauls, and it was met with some conflicting views from fans. Purists were a bit miffed that Diana’s classic origin, which she had off and on for the majority of her existence, was now being pushed from the canon in such a huge way. Then there were people who sided with Brian Azzarello, the New 52 Wonder Woman’s writer, in feeling Diana was due for a simpler background.
No more clay for this version of Wonder Woman. In the New 52, Diana was an official demi-god. She couldn’t have asked for a better god to be her parent either, since her dad was now Zeus. It wasn’t like Hippolyta was now gone from Diana’s life, though, since the Queen of the Amazons was still Wonder Woman’s mom. It’s definitely easier to explain to people than the clay thing, so there’s that.
9. QUEEN HIPPOLYTA AS WONDER WOMAN
Yes, even Diana’s mom knows what it is like to take up the mantle of Wonder Woman. Hippolyta first gained the role as punishment for her part in setting up Artemis to die. Hippolyta’s efforts to save Diana were in vain because the latter still wound up being killed, leaving a vacancy for Wonder Woman. The gods declared Hippolyta should fill the spot to make amends for her actions, but then Hippolyta actually started enjoying it.
Once Diana was returned to life, Hyppolyta liked being Wonder Woman so much that the queen refused to give up the role. Diana and Hippolyta both used the Wonder Woman name for a time and fought their own battles, but whether you would view it as bravery or an instance of what goes around comes around, Hippolyta was also killed as Wonder Woman when she gave up her life in a fight against Imperiex.
To commemorate the milestone of Wonder Woman # 600, a reboot was teased for the series. We began getting stories featuring an amnesiac Diana in a world with a new history. Though Diana got flashes of her old life, she was now a mostly depowered hero living in New York. She even got a totally new costume for the occasion, ditching the classic American flag one-piece for a more modern outfit with pants and a jacket.
As Diana began earning her powers back and working her way back to being a hero, she also had to contend with new villains. Her primary antagonists were a trio of death goddesses collectively known as the Morrigan, and they were looking to make Diana their missing third member. Diana had to face down the Morrigan to seek out her past, and in the end she had to face down her classic self to learn the truth.
7. CASSANDRA SANDSMARK
It’s a pretty normal thing for superhero mantles to pass among family members, as evidenced by our earlier mention of Hippolyta as Wonder Woman. You don’t really hear much about alternate versions of Wonder Woman, so a lot of people might not be aware that Diana’s half-sister Cassandra Sandsmark has also been Wonder Woman. Typically Cassandra has been in the sidekick role as Wonder Girl, but in the story of “Titans of Tomorrow…Today!” Cassandra finally got her shot at the starring role.
The Teen Titans were always being groomed for something bigger, and in this storyline they finally got their shot. All the usual Justice League members had now been replaced by the former Teen Titans, such as Tim Drake becoming Batman, and Cassandra being the new Wonder Woman. It could have been interesting to see how the successors handled their roles in their everyday lives as heroes, but time travel and clones wound up making this plot anything but typical.
6. FRANK MILLER MISANDRIST WONDER WOMAN
Frank Miller has definitely done some great things for the comic book industry, but his career really took a weird turn eventually. For a guy who contributed such influential stories with Batman: Year One, and The Dark Knight Returns, it was almost like he didn’t know the character at all when he did All-Star Batman and Robin. You’re probably already aware of how awful this is, but for the uninitiated, some of the highlights are: Batman calling Robin “retarded“, making Robin eat rats, having sex with Black Canary within eyesight of people who are being burned alive, and repeatedly telling people he is “the Goddamn Batman.”
If you enjoy All-Star Batman and Robin for a laugh at how bizarre it is, that’s understandable, but otherwise the comic is as close to objectively bad as you can get. And Wonder Woman was not spared either. You know how Diana is supposed to be all about love and how she has compassion for the world of man? Well, Frank Miller decided since she comes from an all-female society, Diana would naturally view men as inferior. Apparently in this world, Amazons are an MRA’s nightmare come to life, with the epitome being Diana infamously calling one man a “sperm bank.”
5. DONNA TROY
Donna Troy has had a pretty weird history, but since she has a connection with a woman made of clay, perhaps that just goes with the territory. Initially Wonder Girl was just a younger version of Wonder Woman who went on adventures with her older self in what-if storylines. Eventually she got her own unique identity as Wonder Woman’s younger sister Donna Troy.
So basically her origin is that she was Diana and Wonder Woman, then she was just related to Diana. Making things even weirder is that she later became Wonder Woman again, but this time it was as Donna Troy. Sounds confusing, doesn’t it?
As has been the case with the other Amazons who tried to take up the mantle of Wonder Woman, Donna’s time as the hero didn’t last that long and didn’t go too well for her either. Donna gained the role during the events of “One Year Later” which transpired after Infinite Crisis. Donna tried to stop villains the same way her sister did, but wound up getting captured and Diana had to set out on a rescue mission for the new Wonder Woman.
4. VICTORIAN ERA WONDER WOMAN
If you watched Wonder Woman and pondered how well that plot would have worked in an era other than World War I, Amazonia might be a story you’d want to check out. Here, Wonder Woman is introduced to the world of man in the Victorian era in the early 1900s. It’s not merely the same plot except for some older clothes and less technology. For starters, here Steve Trevor is a cruel man who coerces Wonder Woman into marrying him.
In this timeline, Jack the Ripper has also become a king, and is using his power to do away with women’s rights. This is nothing like the world Diana grew up in, so she eventually decides to right these wrongs by leading a resistance against Jack. It might take her on a bit of a different path, but it looks like Diana would wind up a hero in any time period.
3. CRIME SYNDICATE OF AMERICA SUPERWOMAN
In true superhero fashion, Diana eventually got an evil counterpart of herself. You would think Superwoman would have been the evil analogue of Superman, but instead she was an alternate universe version of Wonder Woman. This gave us a glimpse of what Wonder Woman would be like if, instead of devoting her life to spreading love and peace, Diana had decided to use her powers for personal gain.
Superwoman is part of the Crime Syndicate of America, which was basically the alternate universe version of the Justice League. They became enemies of the Justice League after the Crime Syndicate felt bored with how easily they had conquered their own universe, so they went looking for a challenge.
Yet even with the Crime Syndicate possessing some unique abilities (such as Superwoman’s golden lasso that was capable of shapeshifting), they have more often than not come away from those battles worse for the wear.
Years before Artemis even showed up in the Wonder Woman comics, another Amazon followed a very similar trajectory to Artemis’ time as Wonder Woman. Diana is called back to Paradise Island and is challenged for her right to call herself Wonder Woman by a red-headed Amazon named Orana. So a contest is held between all the Amazons to see who is worthy and Diana loses, this time through no foul play whatsoever. Orana claims the title fair and square, and leaves the island to prove herself.
It turns out Orana is also very arrogant, though. She believes she will be a better Wonder Woman than Diana ever was, and even scoffs at Diana’s offers to help. On Orana’s very first encounter with a villain, a terrorist named Warhead, she becomes overwhelmed when a bomb is dropped over the city.
Diana catches the bomb before it explodes and tries to help Orana again, but she just becomes indignant at the offer and is so distracted that she is shot and killed by Warhead. The story is a good lesson that Diana is more than just her powers, and her compassion for others is also key to her success.
1. THE NEW 52 WAS AN ILLUSION
The newest version of Wonder Woman from DC’s Rebirth came with yet another revelation to her origin story: everything we thought we knew about her from the New 52 was just a lie. In particular this meant that Brian Azzarello’s big contribution to her origin – being the daughter of Zeus – was now negated. Wonder Woman had used the Lasso of Truth on herself to force herself to speak without being clouded by lies or illusions, and what she learned shattered her world.
The scene was in part an effort to explain exactly why there have been all these different variations on Wonder Woman’s origin. It was a return to Diana’s classic history, but done in a totally new way. It’s something a lot of fans were pleased with because it brought Diana back to a story where she was empowered by women rather than relying on men like Zeus to become a female icon.
So which version of Wonder Woman’s beginnings do you enjoy the most? Tell us your favorite and why in the comments!
Wonder Woman is in theaters now, and Justice League will be released on November 17, 2017.