Wonder Woman: Who Needs A Father Figure?

 

The week leading up to New York Comic Con is always full of tasty bits of comic book news, deployed to get fans excited for the main convention events. The Big Two — that is Marvel and DC — especially try to outdo one another with major bulletins and this year is no exception. Yet DC Comics decided to lead with a huge announcement about an origin adjustment to one of its three major headlining heroes. The big disclose out of the DC camp this week in the pre-con excitement, along with the announcement of Andy Kubert coming on as artist on Grant Morrison’s Action Comics, had to do with Brian Azzarello’s run of Wonder Woman. Specifically, DC has announced that as part of their New 52 relaunch and rewrite, Wonder Woman will soon be getting a certain figure in her life!

Now, in case you haven’t read the announcement or heard it on the grapevine, this is definitely a spoiler alert for anyone who wants to be surprised. Sally forth, then!

All Wonder Woman fans know the legend. Queen Hippolyta, queen of the Amazons, desired to have a child of her own and formed her infant daughter out of clay. The gods then breathed life into the child and she became the Amazon princess we all know and love. Yet during this origin rewrite, it seems that Wonder Woman will also have a father in the form of the philandering head of the gods, Zeus! This news was handed down to the New York Post in preparation for the convention and goes a long way to explain the appearance of Hera — signature in her peacock cloak — in the first issue of the comic released this month. From the teaser announcements about upcoming issue content, it looks like we can expect this storyline to start playing out soon, as Queen Hippolyta has some ‘secrets’ she’s been keeping from Diana that are hinted at for Wonder Woman #3. And while there have been questions in the past during the previous runs of Wonder Woman about whether or not Hades, former lover of Hippolyta, was Diana’s father, all the conjecture always came back to Diana being father-less.

So why the sudden change? And does it really matter? DC’s New 52 reboot has made a lot of changes possible. Superman, for example, is back in the ‘friend’ category with Lois Lane. Green Lantern is Sinestro, for goodness sake! Batgirl’s back on her feet as… well, Batgirl. So why, then, is this such a big deal?

The issue goes to the very heart of Wonder Woman’s character and the nature of her message. Diana has been presented as an Amazon, beholden to no man from birth and therefore unbound from the question of patriarchal control. Though she has often worked for (with?) the gods in the stories — even joined them temporarily as the goddess of truth — Wonder Woman is presented as a woman of her own identity independent of boyfriend, husband, or father figure. Despite years of the old ‘will she/won’t she’ with male characters like Steve Trevor, Superman, Nemesis and even Batman, Wonder Woman has remained a woman devoid of close male ties outside of friendship. She has provided readers with a portrayal of a woman outside of the boundaries of the patriarchy that she speaks out against. By including a male parent with as powerful a hand and presence as Zeus — not to mention with such a history of philandering — the story has shifted to add a new familial dynamic and a new, powerful patriarch to Diana’s life.

The story also continues a tried and true storyline of the Greek legends — namely that of Zeus and his rampant womanizing. Azzarello’s Wonder Woman seems to be focusing on that part of the mythos, so here’s for authenticity. Yet along with gaining her an enemy in the goddess Hera, who has never really been big on Zeus’s ‘unofficial’ children, this inclusion of the philandering Zeus as her father changes the tone of Diana’s story from a woman free of patriarchal influence to a woman dealing with a seriously womanizing father.

Another question to consider is whether the inclusion of Zeus as the father even makes sense. In the original history of the Amazons and Paradise Island, Queen Hippolyta was drugged and chained up by the rampaging Hercules, with some intimations going as far as implying rape at the demigods hands. When Hippolyta defeated Hercules and his men, the goddesses gave her Diana as a child without a father. If Zeus then is Diana’s new Dad, there would have to be some serious rewrites since he’s also the father of Hippolyta’s captor too!  That’s a weird dynamic I’m not sure I like.

The change does open the door to some positive possibilities. It solves the issue that has often been brought up about Diana’s origin being too unrelatable and ‘out there.’ Where people might have had trouble buying the whole ‘baby made of clay,’ Diana’s new daddy offers her more legitimacy in the hierarchy of the gods as a demigoddess much like Hercules. Yet is demigod more relatable than baby made of clay? Neither one makes Wonder Woman any more ‘regular’ to readers and adds instead a whole mess of possible father issues for the storyline to plunder. In the final analysis, my feelings echo those of Gail Simone, legendary female DC writer who formerly handled Wonder Woman: “I am loving Brian Azzarello’s Wonder Woman. Not sure about the Dad thing, but love the creative team lots.” Only time will tell if Diana’s rewired origin will add a fresh, positive element to the new Wonder Woman run or water down a unique creation. At first glance, this change seems more like an attempt to gain Wonder Woman some attention during the New 52 relaunch. Is it necessary? No, but it is provocative and that will get reader’s attention. Well, you have our attention DC — let’s see what you do with it.


Shoshana Kessock is a comics fan.

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