The DC Extended Universe’s latest effort, Wonder Woman, is hitting theaters on June 2, and its approach has us going back to catch up on the Amazon princess’ greatest adventures over the past 75 years of comics, TV (both live-action and animated), and the not-enough minutes of her appearance in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. But unfortunately for the Amazon princess, it hasn’t all been fun, adventures, and cutting Doomsday’s hand off. Some of it’s been pretty rough.
We’ve pored through the better part of the past century and found some of the most harrowing and awful events in Diana Prince’s life, and we’ve compiled them here. We doubt anything that happens to her in her solo film will approach the awfulness of most of these things, but we still have a couple weeks until we find out for sure. Meanwhile, she’s been through enough already.
Here are the 15 Worst Things That Ever Happened To Wonder Woman. And if we’ve forgotten any of your “favorites,” be sure to let us know in the comments.
15. Circe turned her into a pig
The Justice League: Unlimited animated series expands on the base offering to include more heroes, bigger stories, and more epic confrontations with some of the DC Universe’s most powerful villains. But one of our favorite episodes is a much more intimate affair.
“This Little Piggy” has Batman and Wonder Woman encountering mythical sorceress Circe one night, and while the villain spares the Dark Knight, she uses her magic to transform Diana into an adorable, porcine form. But she gets to keep her trademark bracelets so that we can still identify her easily.
It’s mostly a romp while Batman and Zatanna try to find magical means to break the spell. But Wonder Pig runs off and ends up in a slaughterhouse, literally hog-tied on a conveyer belt to the murder room. Circe agrees to break the spell just in time, however, provided Batman gives up something “very precious.”
So he sings mopey standard “Am I Blue?” in front of an audience, presumably to embarrass him so much that he won’t frighten anyone again. But he’s Batman, and Batman can do anything. His performance moves everyone to tears, and his reputation stays intact, we assume. It never comes up again.
14. Forced to kill Maxwell Lord
Sometimes, even the noblest of superheroes decide that a villain is too dangerous to leave alive, and it’s the hardest choice they have to make — unless we’re talking about the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Tony Stark or any film version of Batman; their qualms approach zero.
A 2005 storyline has supervillain and sometimes cyborg Maxwell Lord using his powers of persuasion to make Superman think that Wonder Woman is Doomsday. They fight, but that’s not the worst thing that happens.
Diana eventually ensnares Lord in her Lasso of Truth and asks how to stop the rampaging Man of Steel. Under supernatural oath, the bad guy says that Supes won’t stop, and the only way she can end it is to kill him. She immediately obliges, breaking his neck. Unfortunately, Lord was broadcasting these events worldwide.
As an Amazon warrior, Wonder Woman has historically had less of a problem with slaying her enemies than her superpals. Regardless, murdering a defenseless person in cold blood, even if he is incredibly evil, violates her code and compromises her teammates’ trust. She goes into exile for a year to escape that stigma — and the fact that everyone saw her Man of Steel a guy on TV.
13. Lost her title to Artemis
During a stop-off in another dimension, the Amazon queen (and Wonder Woman’s mother) Hippolyta began to have nightmares about her daughter’s death. Following in the tradition of several mythical Greeks before her, she set out to prevent the events from coming true. This is because in fiction, every dream is either significant or a prophecy, and we’re glad that isn’t true in our world, because otherwise, most students would miss the entire school year only to show up for the final on the last day completely unprepared and possibly naked.
Hippolyta believes that the only way to save her daughter’s life is to stop her from being Wonder Woman, so she orders a repeat of the contest that decided who would go to “Man’s World” and then rigs it in favor of another Amazon, Artemis of Bana-Mighdall (not the goddess). It’s still pretty close, but the bracelets ultimately change wrists.
Diana doesn’t need a star-spangled costume to fight crime, so she just puts on a weird, black leather outfit and proceeds as usual. And then Artemis dies in a fight with the White Magician and fulfills the prophecy, allowing the original to return.
12. Added to an art exhibit
Most of the peril Wonder Woman encounters over the three years of her TV series involves poison gas, which makes her faint a lot. But the third-season episode “The Fine Art of Crime” tries something a little different.
This episode’s villains, an artist and his patron, develop a way to turn normal people into mind-controlled “statues” so that they can sneak them into museums and rob the places. Wonder Woman has an issue with that whole mind-slavery thing, so she sets out to thwart their plans. Unfortunately, the bad guys kidnap and brainwash her friend, which compels her to let them turn her into their latest masterpiece.
The artist makes Wonder Woman put on a person-freezing device disguised as one of her bracelets, and the patron directs her in how to pose. It’s a really awkward scene, especially once he starts insisting that she smile.
Wonder Woman makes her art-show debut later, with both crooks in attendance. But it turns out that she’d switched out the freeze bracelet for one of her own and had just been waiting for the elusive patron to show up so that she could capture both of them at once.
11. Circe stole her powers
The five-issue arc “Who Is Wonder Woman?” is part of the One Year Later event, which picks up after the massive Infinite Crisis crossover. It has Diana Prince returning from her exile after killing Maxwell Lord to discover a new Wonder Woman has taken her place (Donna Troy).
Prince joins the Department of Metahuman Affairs and investigates a series of crimes from some of her old enemies. Eventually, she returns to her superhero persona … just in time for Circe to show up and offer a fitting “punishment” for her double life: since she likes pretending to be human so much, the sorceress makes the illusion true and steals all of her powers.
As the new Wonder Woman, Circe immediately sets out to free women from forced labor and murder their captors. But Diana still has her invisible jet and Lasso of Truth, and she uses them to compel the villain to reverse the spell. They have a surprising moment of solidarity in which the hero confesses she feels alone as an Amazon among humans, so Circe secretly casts another spell to make Wonder Woman human when she’s in her Diana Prince disguise.
10. Dr. Psycho convinced her that the gods had forsaken her
An insane, misogynist shrink sounds like a pretty on-the-nose supervillain for a female hero that a psychologist created, but comics have never been incredibly subtle, and ones from the ‘40s were even less so. That’s how we got a character named “Dr. Psycho.” He debuted in the fifth issue of Wonder Woman, and he’s still knocking around today.
Psycho appears in a 2014 story in Sensation Comics featuring Wonder Woman and uses his powers of mental manipulation to convince her that the gods have rescinded their powers from her. This includes “the beauty of Aphrodite,” which leads to a couple weird scenes of Wonder Woman — who still looks like Wonder Woman to us — being really self-conscious because she’s so “ugly.”
It’s a little confusing, and we don’t really understand what’s going on until she confronts Psycho and reveals that she learned about the trick after a bird spoke to her. And maybe that’s even more confusing, but it is part of her skill set. Psycho (like most of us) was unaware that Wonder Woman can talk to animals, and he couldn’t mind-trick powers that he didn’t know about.
9. Lost her family when Paradise Island goes into another dimension
In Wonder Woman #179 back in 1968, Diana learns that the Amazons have to go to another dimension in order to recharge their magic because they’ve exhausted it all trying to “help mankind find maturity.” We’re honestly surprised that it took 10,000 years for them to run out of mojo, but we also don’t know how it works, and they don’t tell us.
Hippolyta asks Wonder Woman to come with them when they pull their Grey Havens routine, but she declines because Steve Trevor is on the run under suspicion of stealing documents from the military. She renounces her powers and then watches her home and family disappear. Even with the stilted, weird comic book dialogue, it’s a heartbreaking moment.
Diana returns to New York in her invisible jet, which also disappears, and then she realizes she has to worry about money, food, and having a place to live. And sure, we’ve all been there, but it’s a huge shock to her.
8. Ditched her costume and opened a mod shop
Losing her powers and costume set Wonder Woman’s adventures on an odd tangent. She rents space in New York, opened a mod clothing shop, and learns martial arts from a blind master named I Ching. She still fought crime and addressed issues like the gender wage gap, but she was more Diana Rigg than Diana Prince. And Diana Rigg is also pretty great, but you can’t just give a generation of young girls a power, inspiring superhero and then “neuter” her.
We’re used to fans taking issue anytime comic creators change anything about their favorite characters, but we doubt DC saw the fallout from Diana’s reboot coming. Writer and feminist icon Gloria Steinem, who had grown up reading, learning, and taking inspiration from Wonder Woman books, was especially outraged, and she decried the character’s new look and lack of magic.
Whether directly related to this reaction or not, DC ended up canceling an arc that would have Diana defending an abortion clinic. Wonder Woman returns to her original costume and powers in issue #204 after a sniper kills I Ching, and the Amazons restore her memory and abilities.
7. Circe turned her (back) into clay
Wonder Woman’s origins in the comics have varied depending on which run you’re reading. Sometimes, she’s the natural daughter of Hippolyta and Zeus. In other versions, she has no father at all; her mother sculpts her out of clay, and Aphrodite brings her to life. And it’s the latter version that’s in play during 1991’s War of the Gods.
That miniseries has the Greek, Roman, Norse, African, Babylonian, and Egyptian gods all show up and start punching each other. Even the deities of the planet Thanagar (birthplace of Hawkman and Hawkgirl) get into the mix. It’s about fifteen kinds of madhouse.
Circe leads Wonder Woman to a beach on their island home and casts a spell that returns her to the clay from which she came. We don’t know what clay is doing on a beach, but that’s like the third least sensical thing that happens in this scene.
6. Martian Manhunter tried to kill her
Several insane things happen in the Injustice storyline, which takes place in an alternate universe in which Superman tries to take over the world. It’s an arc full of bad days, and Wonder Woman has one of the worst.
During the first year of the conflict, Martian Manhunter tries to appeal to Superman’s better nature by telepathically showing him the oppressive conditions and feelings that drove him from his home planet. It almost works, but Wonder Woman — who is mostly crazy and awful in this arc — grabs the Manhunter to stop his plan from working. The shapeshifting alien, realizing that the heroine might be beyond saving, becomes green goo and gloops down into her lungs to smother her from the inside.
Wonder Woman asks Superman to blast her with heat-vision because Manhunter is especially vulnerable to fire. And somehow, a full dose of eye-fire seems to affect her less than almost drowning on liquid alien.
5. Captain Atom blew her up
A couple issues later, Wonder Woman intervenes in a fight between Captain Atom — whom the U.S. government has ordered to stop Superman — and the Kryptonian. Her sword is strong/magical enough to cut his neck, which wouldn’t necessarily be catastrophic except for the part where she just poked a hole in a body that is containing the power of 10 nuclear bombs.
Atom decides to do the right thing and fly both Superman and himself into space so that the blast will only kill them, but Wonder Woman flies after them. She’s pretty close to Ground (Space?) Zero when Atom ignites into a seven-megaton blast. And that’s not huge by nuclear weapons standards, but it’s way more of a payload than you’re carrying around.
The explosion fails to kill Superman and Wonder Woman because they still had to appear in the tie-in games. But it hurts them a lot, and the Amazon falls all the way back down to Earth, and she doesn’t wake up for almost a year. Meanwhile, Superman is so upset — and the worst — that he goes and beats Green Arrow to death for pretty much no reason.
4. Died in a fight with Neron
The demon Neron has a long-standing feud with Etrigan, and in the 1997 Flash storyline “Hell to Pay,” he hatches a plan to defeat him that involves resurrecting most of the Scarlet Speedster’s dead enemies and sending them all to attack Keystone City. The ensuing battle moves to Hell, where Wonder Woman and her allies take over trying to take down Neron. Artemis wounds him, but he still has enough juice left to deal Diana a killing blow.
Wonder Woman suffers in a hospital while all of her friends — including the blue, electric Superman that was knocking around during that weird time — try repeatedly to cure her, but she eventually dies after a lot of false hope and several issues’ worth of attempts. Hippolyta takes up the mantle in her stead, and the gods reward Diana’s hard work by promoting her to Goddess of Truth status.
If you’re noticing by now that most of the bad things that happened to Wonder Woman either work themselves out almost immediately or actually make her stronger, we have too. She’s one of the most resilient (and lucky) superheroes in existence.
3. Spirit separated from her body
When Dr. Psycho debuted in the fifth issue of Wonder Woman 75 years ago, we learned his nefarious origins: he was a brilliant student at medical school whose weird, giant head and crazy eyes drew mockery from his colleagues. After his fiancée frames him for stealing some radium from his lab so that she can marry another, more handsome man, Psycho murders the guy, enslaves his former love, and begins occult experiments in his war on all women.
Ares, the god of war, enlists Psycho’s aid to destroy Wonder Woman so that he and his cohorts can stop women from getting too many ideas and achieving their “horrible independence.” And for the record, the mad doctor’s plan involves creating a ghost of George Washington, who warns society against letting women do things.
Once Wonder Woman finds him out, Psycho uses his apparatus to separate her spirit from her body. Luckily, Steve Trevor gets a signal out so that the Holliday Girls can show up and distract Psycho long enough to weaken the “spirit chains” restraining her soul. After she reunites with her body, Wonder Woman discovers that Psycho’s experiment made her immune to electric shocks, so that actually worked out pretty well.
2. Checked into an insane asylum
DC’s Rebirth event serves as yet another complete-universe do-over, following the New 52 relaunch just five years prior. And if you find all these reboots, re-imaginings, and new origins confusing, Wonder Woman is right there with you.
The current storyline has Wonder Woman suffering to sort out the truth because she has memories from both the previous cycle and her pre-Flashpoint origins. Themyscira is gone and nothing makes sense, so she checks herself into an asylum to recoup. While she’s in there, she has a vision of a snake coming out of her wrist, and then they drink tea. It’s just weird all around.
This line runs alongside her new, canonical origin story, and the two arcs alternate issues. And that’s good, because spending all of our time with Wonder Woman involves her sitting in a cell talking to an imaginary snake and not fighting supervillains does not make for the best fan experience.
1. Joined the Justice Society — as its secretary
This indignity is somehow even more of an indignity than becoming an adorably round pig because it subverts the entire point of Wonder Woman’s existence. Psychologist and writer William Moulton Marston, who invented the polygraph that would inspire his character’s Lasso of Truth, devised Wonder Woman to exemplify liberated, powerful women.
“Not even girls want to be girls so long as our feminine archetype lacks force, strength, and power,” Marston wrote in 1943. “Not wanting to be girls, they don’t want to be tender, submissive, peace-loving as good women are. Women’s strong qualities have become despised because of their weakness. The obvious remedy is to create a feminine character with all the strength of Superman plus all the allure of a good and beautiful woman.”
And having Wonder Woman serve as the Justice Society of America’s secretary while the men all go off to fight the Nazis is the exact opposite of what he wanted. But that’s exactly what happens immediately after she joins the group that would eventually evolve into the Justice League. Marston was, understandably, unhappy, and Wonder Woman fans would have to wait a little longer for her to get her own adventures.
What other terrible events have befallen Wonder Woman over the years? Let us know in the comments.
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