(Diana of Themyscira) (Gail Simone take) (part #2)
This article is actually the second part of a three-part series. Which makes considerably more sense when read in order.
The series goes :
The skinny just in case :
- The Amazon are women living on the hidden island of Themyscira, as a near-perfect society.
- They have close ties with, worship, and were given great strength and immortality by the Ancient Greek Gods.
- Their Queen, Hippolyta, had a daughter using complex magical means. The kid’s called Diana.
- Their isolation is eventually broken by the schemes of their enemy, Ares the god of war.
- A champion and ambassador is chosen among their ranks, to interact with the outside world. This is Diana.
- Soon called “Wonder Woman”, Diana joins the major super-heroes of the DC Universe. She has many, many adventures.
- During the big Infinite Crisis brouhaha in 2005, Wonder Woman is forced to kill evil telepath Maxwell Lord to save the world.
A sabbatical of sorts
After she had to kill Maxwell Lord, Wonder Woman suffered a considerable media backlash. This was organised by the artificial intelligence Brother Eye. This unfair criticism of her actions took a life of its own. It soon became widespread, even affecting the views held about her by some super-heroes.
Diana decided to go on a sabbatical. Her sister Donna Troy agreed to take on the Wonder Woman role during that time. However, having spent practically her whole adult life as Wonder Woman, Diana soon realised that she had no satisfying idea about what to do.
Batman and Superman came up with a suggestion. They could create a whole alternate identity for her as Diana Prince, with a full paper trail. “Diana Prince” would then be recruited by the Department of Metahuman Affairs. This would allow her to continue to work for the common good, but in a different capacity.
“Diana Prince” was a former Army Intelligence officer, with a degree in international relations from Hopkins and extensive experience as the head of security for Waynecorp. For a few years, she worked as a DMA agent. After the first year she had to resume being Wonder Woman and juggle her two identities.
To facilitate this, Wonder Woman and her allies also ensured that Diana’s old friend, Lt.-Col. Etta Candy, joined the DMA. That was a welcome help given Diana’s poor ability to deceive.
Lands of adventure
This era was marked by several epic adventures, and some more mundane things, which you can read about in the Gail Simone-penned Wonder Woman trade paperbacks .
Keeping this brief to avoid pointless spoilers :
- The Circle – Diana recruits the Gorilla Knights, clashes with Captain Nazi and his super-soldiers, and confronts rogue Amazons Alkyone and the Circle.
- Ends of the Earth – Diana wages war against the Khunds so she can save their planet, and a new Green Lantern is born. Wonder Woman then embarks on a mystical quest with great sword-and-sorcery heroes Stalker, Beowulf and Claw the Unconquered to fight the Devil. Then she survives a movie adaptation that is really a plot by the Queen of Fables.
- Rise of the Olympian – The villainous Society launches a major attack on WW. This involves Doctor Psycho covertly taking over the DMA, and a super-powerful zombie of a certain person, called Genocide. Meanwhile, the Ancient Greek gods return to recreate the exiled Amazons on Themyscira.
Zeus further creates an equivalent tribe of men from the Argonauts, led by Achilles and tasked with ending war.
- Warkiller – After clashes with Ares and Zeus, Wonder Woman leaves the ranks of the Amazons. With Black Canary, she rescues Sarge Steel of the DMA. Diana then deals with her obligations toward Pele the volcano goddess, and with her relationship with Nemesis (Thomas Tresser). She and Giganta then confront Achilles, but this doesn’t prevent a regime change on Themyscira.
- Contagion – From the afterlife, Ares send his spoor after Wonder Woman, but that fails. As the DMA works on rebuilding, Washington D.C. is invaded by the Silver Serpent alien collectives, whose leader comes as a surprise for Diana.
- The role-model of hundreds of millions.
- The embodiment of the best virtues of an advanced civilisation.
- A staggeringly powerful warrior.
- And a truly greater-than-life woman.
- She fights cleanly.
- She always honours her promises.
- She always takes responsibility for her actions even in the face of truly dire consequences.
- She tries her best to always be there for her friends (though her schedule often makes that impossible).
- She doesn’t hesitate to sacrifice herself to protect her friends and random innocents.
- Engaging the public whenever possible. That means public speaking, TV and newspapers interviews, university lectures, setting up expositions of Amazon arts and crafts, organising shared cultural and scientific programs, participating in peace efforts and negotiations, writing a book about the Amazon way, etc..
- Generally making Amazon traditions and solutions a bigger part of the noosphere.
Diana expresses herself in practically every language with the grammar and diction of a highly-educated native. She retains a slight quasi-Greek accent in all of those, but it just makes her sound charming and exotic.
Wonder Woman is a vegetarian. Given the quality of the mystery meat at the DMA’s cafeteria, this is a good thing.
Diana’s jet-black hair is unusually smooth, thick and silky, giving her locks an almost liquid quality. Her low-key healing factor also keeps her skin smooth and perfect despite the considerable abuse from wounds, high-speed flight, the sun, burns, shearing, etc.
Personality – the virtues
Wonder Woman is practically a goddess. If she had a divine portfolio it would include spheres such as Truth, Courage, Compassion, Being Awesome, Empathy and Kicking Arse.
Upholding certain values is the core mission of Wonder Woman. She’s not here to fight crime or beat up a gallery of villains. She’s here to serve as a living example of the best of her culture — and to change, inspire and save lives.
Thus, knowing what her more important values are is the key to understanding Wonder Woman.
Truth, part 1
Wonder Woman might be the only person on the planet who is *exactly* who she seems to be. She never lies. She doesn’t equivocate, she doesn’t obscure, she doesn’t deceive, she doesn’t misdirect. She faces who she really is every second of her life, in part due to the Lasso of Truth brushing against her thigh.
The armour of small lies and self-deceptions that makes life tolerable doesn’t exist for her. This is the source of some of her strength. She knows exactly who she is with no room for the smallest bit of denial. And she never shirks problems and confrontations with a little white lie.
Thus, every single thing Wonder Woman does is genuine and sincere. Every word, every silence, every gesture, every pursuit is exactly who she is, laid bare. Nothing about her is fake or murky.
Wonder Woman once emerged from a magical fire that would carbonise anything touched by deception, a fire that would have destroyed any other being, with but minor burns.
Truth, part 2
Wonder Woman’s word is her bond. With her immense charisma and well-known policy of truth, it is obvious to all observers that when Wonder Woman swears something, she fully means it and would actually die before breaking her oath. Even space aliens and mythological demons realise that.
There are some minor exceptions to this policy of truth. One is ruses de guerre . That is, stratagems of war luring the enemy into an ambush, or lulling them into a false sense of complacency, having them fall prey to a diversion, etc.. While those involve deception, these are not considered lies in Amazon culture.
This distinction also applies to strategic decisions. For instance, those few circumstances where Diana adopted a secret identity or otherwise disguised her true nature. Those were part of her mission. She considered that she had to get a better understanding of conventional human societies and couldn’t achieve this as a quasi-godly outsider.
Wonder Woman can tell lies, but only under the most extraordinary circumstances and in order to save lives other than her own. That’s because truth is a choice on her part, not some sort of magical compulsion she has to follow. She will never deliberately lie in less momentous circumstances, and certainly not to spare herself.
Courage, part 1
Courage means perfect bravery on the battlefield, and being essentially impossible to intimidate. But it goes further than that, and extends to every aspect of her life. Wonder Woman is *committed*.
Once she decides to do something the amount of pain and discomfort, the risk of death and maiming, the quantity of work and drudgery, the shame and the sense of vulnerability mean nothing to her.
This is not solely about charging very large and scary monsters or fighting gods. Wonder Woman seldom hesitates, she doesn’t procrastinate, she doesn’t compromise, and she works extremely hard. If her commitment to her values means that she’s going to be very badly hurt, then she just pays the price without wavering.
Wonder Woman is one of the biggest badasses in the DC Universe. She’s the one who unhesitatingly burned off her own eyes with horrible demonic venom-acid so she could save lives.
Courage, part 2
Several times during this run, Wonder Woman unhesitatingly makes strategic decisions that are probably going to doom her. But these are needed to save lives and achieve critical objectives. She keeps surviving out of sheer toughness, power, and resolve, but that’s not her point.
She keeps making those near-suicidal decisions because they’re what is needed in her mission and Wonder Woman is a stone-cold hardarse.
Wonder Woman’s courage allows her to keep her spirits high, her behaviour positive and loving, and her mind open despite the innumerable horrors that have befallen her and her loved ones.
Through torture, carnage, mass destruction, betrayal, the loss of some of her youthful illusions, the death of innocents, misery, etc. — Wonder Woman invincible courage allows her to keep the faith, keep her head high, and still sincerely believe in peace.
Peace, part 1
Wonder Woman is not quite a pacifist. What she believes in is working hard and smart to prevent war and conflict that are not strictly necessary. What she believes in is developing the mutual understanding and respect that make conflicts less likely to begin with. This is what most efficiently spares lives.
Wonder Woman will always offer an open hand and an open mind to her opponents, for as long as is reasonable – and a bit beyond. She will always attempt to defuse and parlay, always offer honourable and respectful surrender (perhaps after a good round of fighting to make surrender possible without loss of face), and keeps talking with any opponent who can understand her.
She ends as many fights by talking than she does by punching. Even more importantly this strategy is often what allows her to win long-term. An opponent pounded into the ground will come back looking for revenge. An opponent who realised thanks to Wonder Woman that she is being misled by a cruel master is a far greater victory, and quite possibly a future ally.
For Wonder Woman, the perfect victory is one where she doesn’t hit anybody (or just a wee bit) and a former menace reforms.
During this run, this works for instance with T.O. Morrow. The criminal genius decides to help Wonder Woman against Genocide in large part because she alone among the Justice League was always kind to him and treated him like a person. Even in the wake of a hard-fought battle.
Part of Morrow’s decision was also prompted by the knowledge that Wonder Woman would not judge him and would empathise with his position.
Peace, part 2
As befits her ethos of greater-than-life courage, Wonder Woman will not flinch in her attempts at preventing war, no matter what the cost in personal pain and suffering.
For instance, during this era she faces a crazed Green Lantern. She quickly realises that a fight would be worse than useless. Therefore, Wonder Woman stands with her hand open offering peace and friendship.
Though she’s being battered bloody by one of the most powerful weapons of the universe, she stands unbowed and with her hand open. That lasts until her opponent sees the folly of his actions and is shamed into stopping his attacks and calming down.
When war does break out, a wholly different set of rules apply. But this only happens if there truly is no other choice. If the opposition is sapient , war will come after a formal and unambiguous declaration of war, even if it’s just between Wonder Woman and one other person.
Once this point has been reached, Wonder Woman fights to kill.
Love and compassion, part 1
The ideal Amazon — meaning Diana — is driven by love.
First and foremost comes love for her fellow Amazons. These are like sisters to her, and on some level they consider Diana as their daughter. Then comes love for her mother and her gods, as will be discussed later. Then comes love for life in general – a genuine appreciation of the wonders of nature, people, art and knowledge. As with everything Wonder Woman does, this love is sincere.
While she is highly intelligent, experienced and knowledgeable, she doesn’t have a cynical bone in her body. To her eyes, the world is beautiful despite its horrors, and all life is sacred. Even the worst psychopath is somebody’s child or parent. Even the despicable Captain Nazi was once an abused little boy.
Even in the case of the absolute undead monstrosity that is Genocide, Diana could not commit murder.
Love and compassion, part 2
A part of this love is sharing everything with those around you. Themyscira prides itself on upholding some values traditionally associated with women in most cultures. If Wonder Woman feels happy or has something good (such as cake – cake is good), her first impulse is to share the goods with those around her.
When the mood is fine she can come across as Miss Chirpy Congeniality 2011 so she can share her high spirits and make others happy. If somebody looks sad, an Amazon’s reflex is to give them a big hug and console them so the blues goes away.
Wonder Woman has reluctantly accepted that most Earth societies frown on hugging and caring for people you barely know. She now only does it on purpose.
Still, she considers that such inhibitions are not healthy. Thus, Diana often touches or caresses people who are comfortable with it – in a sisterly, or perhaps motherly, fashion. While Wonder Woman never indulges in her emotions and has nerves of steel, she doesn’t see the point of hiding how she feels either.
One exception is weakness. Being royalty, she will never display any sign of vulnerability. She will freely let her tears run out of compassion for the death of an innocent, but not because of her own losses.
Love and compassion, part 3
One of the typical Wonder Woman scenes — comparable to Batman crouching on a rooftop gargoyle at night or to Superman flying fists first toward an emergency — is Diana offering kindness and advice to a troubled person. WW brings her warmth, friendship, humanity and wise, considerate words.
Whether it’s talking about the role of heroes with Stargirl, or comforting a perfect stranger who feels that she’s not in control of her life, Wonder Woman is there.
As an Amazon, Wonder Woman is empathic and genuinely. She sincerely cares about people around her even if she doesn’t know them from Hera . It doesn’t matter whether its an alien race facing extinction, a little girl who lost her pet, a teenager raised to be a monstrous killer beast, or a stressed-out Hollywood executive who feels she’s not spending enough time with her children.
Wonder Woman cares and will respectfully and tactfully offer to help. Or just help right away if she feels it will be better in the long run – and she’s almost never wrong.
Compassion and kindness are both key aspects of Wonder Woman’s behaviour, and the most commonly misunderstood ones. Her level of empathy and care is not something commonly encountered, or understood, by most. It may in fact be associated with weakness, stupidity and vulnerability in some cultures.
Being a near-avatar of truth, caring a lot, and being a divinely-designed champion means that Wonder Woman is also a paragon of honour.
As a champion of her culture, Wonder Woman is essentially a knight-errand. If directly petitioned to right a wrong, Wonder Woman will normally accept. Even a whole culture of horrible mass murderers such as the Khund is to be protected if they are massacred by a higher power that aims to make them extinct.
Diana’s core duty is to save innocent lives. This is also an essential value of her culture. No Amazon would recoil when faced with sacrifice, pain and death to save the lives of others. And Wonder Woman is the most relentless of them all. An Amazon’s duty to save lives is unconditional, and applies to anybody against whom they are not currently at war.
Wonder Woman also respects an ancient (and now obscure) body of tradition. She has a strong sense of noblesse oblige stemming from her innate nobility and enormous power. She fights because she was chosen to — created to — by the gods themselves, and she’s there to serve.
She’s not the important one. Those whom she represents and those for whom she fights are the important ones.
Hellenists (or just people who paid attention when reading the Illiad ) know traditional ways to supplicate her. This is the hiketeia , a social and religious institution that regularly features in Ancient Greek literature.
Though Wonder Woman doesn’t run into such scholars every week, she is strict about applying these rituals and traditions to the letter. As the fate of Dream at the hands of the Kindly Ones demonstrated, these nigh-forgotten rules exist beyond gods and even the Endless. They are extremely serious business.
Amazon culture emphasises the gods and life in society. It thus includes plenty of rituals, traditions, prayers, customs and the like to mark notable moments in a woman’s life. This ranges from prayers of battle to rituals marking mutual romantic commitment.
These rituals usually include various details such as specially-crafted symbolic items, reciting a few sentences of traditional poetry, etc.
Piety, part 1
The ancient laws includes unconditional respect for filial piety. This is made manifest by the role of the aforementioned Furies. Though Hippolyte has had various episodes of manifest insanity, she’s Wonder Woman’s mother (not to mention her Queen). Plus, Diana truly loves her mum.
She would do anything to save her mother when needed, and will always be her dutiful daughter, no matter what happens. This filial piety extends to her sister Amazons and her patron god and goddesses (Athena, Aphrodite, Artemis, Demeter, Hermes, Hestia).
Other symbols of her faith and divine patronage are the Cassiopeia constellation (often called “the W” or “the Crown” due to its shape). It, along with a red moon (a “hunter’s moon”), the storm and the quasi-mythological golden eagle (actually an avatar of Athena), is associated with the night of Princess Diana’s birth.
This personal heraldry is what is displayed on her costume, some of her ceremonial clothing, her suits of armour, etc.
Piety, part 2
Diana is also traditionally a devout believer in the Ancient Greek gods.
Of course, her relationship with her gods leaves little place for doubt. They clearly created her, she’s their champion, she has encountered them on numerous occasions, she has punched some of them in the face real hard, and it’s not uncommon for the gods to answer Wonder Woman’s prayers with bona fide miracles.
However, this era marks a rupture between Wonder Woman and her gods. First she finds a way around Athena’s edicts to save Hippolyta. Then she violently refuses to do Zeus ’s bidding.
This is not hubris . Wonder Woman is incapable of hubris, given her profound knowledge of herself and her limits. This is a gradual realisation that being true to the values she embodies comes even before her duty to her very gods.
If there’s a conflict between serving the Olympians and helping the meek — or her sisters — then Wonder Woman’s duty is clear.
This was a very difficult ethical decision, though. To a Christian friend, Diana likened it to having the voice of God address you personally and clearly, and yet telling Him to take a hike.
This is also an important difference between Diana and her mother. Hippolyta has worshipped the gods for millennia and will obey their decrees unconditionally if only for one simple reason – they gave her her daughter.
Note that, even before rejecting Zeus, Diana has always been a wilful daughter. A firm order given by her mother has a 100% chance of being followed. But if Diana realises that the goal of her mother was once again to protect her and the reality is that she’s needed, the odds instantly drop to 0%.
What does Wonder Woman do ?
Though Wonder Woman is a textbook hero in the Ancient Greek sense, she is not a super-heroine in the conventional sense. This is part of what makes her difficult to write in comics, let alone play in a RPG context.
One possible approach is to keep in mind an enumeration of roles that takes place early in the Gail Simone run. Here’s a modified version :
The Diplomat, part 1
This role is less important during this era, since Diana stepped down from her official ambassadorial position to adopt a secret identity. Being wanted by the government for the killing of Max Lord also makes it difficult to formally speak on behalf of the Amazons. However, representing her people remains one of her key functions.
Previously, much of Wonder Woman’s time would be spent :
Extensive experience in diplomacy and outreach means that it is her standard modus operandi. She doesn’t approach things as a brawler, as an adventurer, as a thrill-seeker, as a businesswoman, as a vigilante, as a politician or any other common role for the influential and powerful. She thinks as a diplomat.
If an alien war party comes crashing in, Diana’s first reflex is not to open fire to beat back those damn bug-eyed scum. It is to defuse the situation and prevent an interplanetary incident. This might very well require slapping a few persons unconscious, but it’s not the crux of the matter. And it has to be done in a way that doesn’t worsen or escalate the situation.
Wonder Woman starts with the assumption that there must be an adult, reasonable way to talk this over and reach some sort of understanding. This is true no matter how strange and savage our hypothetical aliens may look. She’s a very responsible person.
The Diplomat, part 2
As an ambassador she usually talks in an articulate, measured, precise, somewhat formal manner. She represents an entire nation 24/7. Everything she says should be something that can appear on the front page the next day without creating shame or misunderstanding.
Furthermore, her words usually have an elegant and poetic cast to them – refer to our quotes selection. Proper Wonder Woman dialogue is hard to ad lib, which is a problem in a RPG. Keeping her appearances brief and with key lines prepared beforehand might be the best approach.
As a diplomat, she has highly developed people skills. Diana is proficient with a bewildering range of cultural contexts – from Kinshasa to Spokane, from Montréal to Kundia, from the battlefield to the boardroom, from the girl next door to super-gorilla commandos.
Wonder Woman usually knows what makes people tick, how to behave and what to expect. She uses this knowledge to make the most out of her charisma, without being underhanded. She practically always knows what to say and how to say it.
Wonder Woman is a super-activist and global star working tirelessly for a better world. She strives to persuasively expose people to the best Amazon values – peace, respect, empathy, diversity and tolerance, equality, altruism, honour, truth in all things, a love for knowledge, reaching out to the oppressed and disenfranchised, sharing, kindness and the like.
Creating peace and understanding is important long-term work, but alleviating suffering is the short-term priority.
Much of Wonder Woman’s time is spent on rescue and relief efforts. These are either large scale (such as employing her enormous strength and speed to help with disaster relief, flying in supplies to impoverished areas, and the like) or small scale (such as helping random strangers work through personal issues, or getting cats out of trees).
During this era there’s a Wonder Woman-themed global network of shelters for abused women that springs up. But Diana herself has no involvement with it.
The importance of relieving suffering gives Wonder woman a sense of urgency. Combined with her other roles, this results in an enormous workload. Wonder Woman is deeply committed, and can thus come across as a workaholic, always feeling that she should help yet another person or provide relief in yet another disaster.
In trying to get her to relax, her friend Black Canary compared her work ethics to that of certain older Japanese sararimen (they were in Tōkyō at that point).
While Diana does manage to relax and have private moments, spend some tranquil time with her friends and the like, these occasions are few and far between.
It’s not uncommon for her to lose sight of dear friends whom she loves for several years at a time. It simply wasn’t realistic for her to make enough room in her schedule or there was some sort of emergency and catastrophe where her help was needed. Five times in a row. Over six years.
She often feels guilty about this. Such moments of guilt are when it’s her friends’s turn to cheer her up and inspire her.
The previous occupations leave Wonder Woman little time for writing and publishing. However as an Amazon she greatly values knowledge and academic pursuits. Diana spends considerable time studying and keeping her skills up to date – even though she processes information at a superhuman rate.
In this respect she’s not unlike Batman. This comparison becomes even truer in her role as a DMA agent.
Wonder Woman has the equivalent of a long list of PhDs, a huge skills and knowledge base, speaks dozens if not hundreds of languages fluently and is very well-read. Though her adventures more often draw upon her might and her people skills, events would take very different paths if Wonder Woman did not know a lot of useful facts about the things and people she encounters.
She makes it look easy and unimportant. But if she did not master such arcane matters as the ethical code of the Green Lanterns, the behaviour of giant sea monsters in the wild, how nuclear charges are built in Soviet ICBMs, Khund warrior traditions, the mythologies and pantheons through the ages, or the use of political marriages in the history of ancient Earth cultures, things would have turned out very differently.
Wonder Woman can be a seat-of-her-star-studded-panties adventurer when improvisation is needed. But most of the time she’s a studious researcher who likes having lots of accurate information on her hands to make decisions.
Yes, Wonder Woman does hit monsters and villains in the face very hard. But that’s not her main goal or role. Unlike many super-heroes who react to threats and villains, Wonder Woman is working 24/7 to make the world a better place. The fighting is a secondary aspect.
However, Diana wholly agrees that it’s the most exciting bit. Part of her complexity is that while she sincerely struggles to prevent violence and is horrified by the consequences of war and fighting, she *likes* to fight.
It stirs her blood, it’s thrilling, she’s extremely good at it, it lets her practice and improve her technique, and if there’s fighting to be done it’s usually best if she’s the one who does it.
Wonder Woman is also the champion of her people, designed by the gods for crushing strength and stunning grace. She feels proud to display her abilities and demonstrate the fighting traditions of the Amazon and the power of her divine patrons. For her it’s another way to represent. But mostly… it’s exciting.
This enjoyment of fighting is one of her main weaknesses. She is hot-blooded and can get carried away. A good sign that she’s starting to get a bit too worked up and aggressive is when she starts drawing from the rich tradition of Amazon trash talk, sounding like a Saturday night steel cage match extravaganza in Ancient Greece.
However, though she certainly has a temper, she can always be calmed and reasoned with. She will immediately curb her… enthusiasm, stay her hand and apologise. And of course, if anybody but herself risks being seriously hurt, she’ll immediately recover her cool head.
Diana the explorer
Another important role is that Diana sees wonders. She spends a lot of time exploring and adventuring among strange lands and peoples.
As this run starts she subdues super-gorillas in a strange corner of Africa, negotiates with several divine skyfathers, opposes angry gods to defend space aliens, then goes to have fantasy adventures with sword-and-sorcery heroes.
Though the character has known eras without much exploration, this hearkens back to her roots. The Golden Age Wonder Woman spent a lot of time dealing with pulp-ish aliens, lost civilisations, time travel to occasionally strange aeons, and other wonders.
Wonder Woman is not strongly associated with a milieu (unlike, say, Spider-Man with Manhattan). She has the skills and attitude to operate smoothly in even the strangest places. Her ambassadorial mission makes it normal for her to represent Amazon values anywhere, anywhen and to provide help and succour to anybody.
End of part #2
This profile is continued in Wonder Woman (Gail Simone take) part #3 – The feminine mystique (quotes, FAQ, game stats).
Source of Character: Gail Simone’s run on Wonder Woman in the late 2000s.
Helper(s): Eric Langendorff, Darci, Gareth Lewis, William Chamberlin, Woodrow Hill, Mike Winkler, Roy Cowan, Frank Murdock, Bearhugger, Chris Cottingham, Bryan Gittens.