I’ve been thinking about Wonder Woman a lot lately.
This comes as a surprise to no one who knows me. I’ve been a huge fan of the amazing Amazon since I was may be seven years old, cutting out pictures of Lynda Carter and pasting them in scrapbooks. I bought the comic book every month, and when she was featured on the cover of other comic titles, I’d buy those too. (I lived for Justice League America storylines where she was front and center instead of (yawn) Batman or Superman.)
Every superhero has an origin story: where they came from, how they discovered their powers, what drives them. You probably know Batman’s (after his parents are killed, rich playboy Bruce Wayne grows up to become a vigilante, etc.), as well as Superman’s (his home planet Krypton dying, Kal-El’s parents send him to Earth as a baby, where our sun gives him amazing abilities).
Do you know Wonder Woman’s, though? You’d be forgiven if you’re left scratching your head. Not many people know it—her mother, the queen of the Amazons, longs for a child but can’t have one, and fashions a statue of a baby girl out of clay and prays to the gods for a daughter of her own, and the gods in their mercy breathe life into the statue, endowing her with the wisdom of Athena, the speed of Hermes, the strength of Ares, and the beauty of Aphrodite.
That’s if you don’t buy into the new origin story, which casts her as the secret love child between her mother, Hippolyta, and Zeus.
Her story keeps changing, really. I have a hard time keeping track with what changes.
Clark Kent is always a reporter for the Daily Planet, Bruce Wayne is always a millionaire businessman, but Diana is sometimes a Navy officer in World War II, secret government agent, operative for the Bureau of Metahuman Affairs, ambassador to man’s world, and on and on.
There’s a new movie coming out in 2017, and I wonder what she’s going to be this time. We already know that at least part of it’s set in World War I, not II, but who knows what else will have changed.
I’m really looking forward to the film, and I try not to be disappointed when her background changes (again), which seems to happen a lot in the DC Comics universe. (I would say “DC Comics multiverse,” but I don’t want to geek out quite that much. Yet.)
In an episode of Doctor Who back in the 1970s, someone asks the time-traveling Time Lord and his sidekick Romana where they’re from, and the Doctor, cagily, says sometimes the only way to figure out where you’re from is to figure out where you’re going and then work backwards. Of course, when the man asks where they’re going, the Doctor says, “I don’t know.”
Whenever I’m asked for a bio for a story submission (they often ask for one even before they’ve said whether they want to accept your story or not), I think of it as my origin story. And it’s changed a lot over the years. I mention different publications, different accomplishments as time passes and I have more successes (which will hopefully continue; I still think of myself as an emerging writer). Here’s the thing, though: The origin story might change, but my origin doesn’t. Like the Doctor, I may not know where I’m going, but unlike Wonder Woman, I know where I’m from. And I know where I want to go.
I think we need that sort of grounding, for ourselves as well as for the characters we write.
What’s your origin story? Has it changed?