This year marks the 75th birthday of Wonder Woman and DC Comics has been delivering some wonderful gifts to celebrate the occasion. Princess Diana is the world's most famous female superhero and by now has been captivating readers with her adventures for generations. While some claim she's just a sex object, other devoted fans have been inspired by her message of love and peace and her status as symbol of female empowerment. Two new books, created by female comic creators, illustrate how important her inspiration continues to be.
The first book is Wonder Woman: The True Amazon, an original tale written and illustrated by Jill Thompson. Thompson's story concentrates a young Diana, and takes place on Amazon island of Themyscira. It reads like a fairy tale or better yet a Greek Myth, even beginning with the phrase "Once upon a time." We learn about the Amazons and how they came to their island to live as immortals away from the world of man. Hippolyta, queen of the Amazons, longs for a child and the Greek gods grant her wish giving her a baby, who she names Diana. As the only child on the island, Diana is adored and pampered by all the Amazons. She is also blessed by the gods with mighty powers which she uses to make mischief and perform heroic deeds to win even more adoration from her Amazon people. She grows up spoiled and arrogant. When one Amazon refuses to fawn over her, Diana's pride leads to a fateful tragedy. This is a beautiful book that reads like a classic fable.
Now let's talk about the art – beautiful watercolors created by Thompson. The rich, vibrant colors just add and enhance the myth-like feel of the story.
Thompson has done her research too, with so much detail given to every costume and background, it makes every panel a delicious feast for the eyes. Thompson is also wonderful at giving her characters great facial expressions, especially Diana as a precocious child. We also get a bonus section to see her process in designing her characters to painting a page. Her technique makes her unique in the comic world. (Her other work – such as her award-winning children's series of "Scary Godmother" books which tell of young Hannah's adventures visiting the Fright Side with all its monstrous inhabitants, and the "Beast of Burden" series with writer Evan Dorkin about a group of dogs and cats who wander their neighborhood of Burden Hill investigating the paranormal – are both are worth checking out.)
"Wonder Woman: The True Amazon" is a must-have for any Wonder Woman fan as it takes the story of Diana's youth and immortalizes it to a classic myth. This is a handsome hardcover where the art alone makes this a gift to fans who'll want to peruse its pages again and again. I'd love to see an all-ages version of this book, with some minor text and art edits, as both the story and it's lesson should be enjoyed by a wider audience.
The next book is The Legend of Wonder Woman Volume 1: Origins written and illustrated by Renae De Liz which takes Diana back to her origin roots with some new twists. [Editor's note: Earlier this month De Liz tweeted that DC had abruptly cancelled Vol. 2 of this book. DC has yet to make a statement as to why they cancelled the series. Fans are shocked since this was a very popular comic and has received lots of praise.] It begins on Themyscira where young Diana senses a threat to her mother the Queen and her fellow Amazons. She spends years training to defend her people and when a man, pilot Steve Trevor, crashes on her island home she discovers a plot by traitors to overthrow her mother. Saving Trevor's life Diana finds herself thrust into 'man's world' with no way to return home. Arriving amid the horrors of World War II, the Amazon realizes it's her destiny not only to save her island but the whole world. This book is much more a superhero story but it captures all of Diana's love and compassion for others.
De Liz's story really shines in her supporting cast, especially Etta Candy. Etta is a hoot, the heart this story. She's overflowing with spunk and humor as she takes Diana under her wing and teaches her about the world of 1943. Etta, along with the members of her musical group the Holliday Girls, help Diana emerge as the heroine the world sorely needs – Wonder Woman. Etta even comes up with Diana's superhero alter ego, creating the name and the costume.
The art, while in a more traditional comic book style, is beautiful. De Liz creates a fully-realized setting whether it's the mythic island of Themyscira, the dance halls of the 1940s, or war-ravaged Europe. Her characters have so much personality with great character design, expressions, and wardrobe. And a special shout out to Ray Dillon (De Liz's husband) whose work on this book, especially his gorgeous colors, compliment the art bringing it to vivid life.
This is a great book either for the long-time Wonder Woman fan or for those new to the Amazing Amazon's story. To say this book is an epic adventure is an understatement: This thick hardcover clocks in at just under 300 pages. But plenty of daring-do and laugh-out-loud moments make this a page-turning joy to read. It's Diana's journey from birth to claiming her destiny. She's a heroine that can inspire with not only her strength and bravery but her love and compassion. For the adventures ahead, Etta's not going to let her pal travel the exciting road alone and I think I'll tag along too.