Wonder Woman is one of the most iconic and beloved comic book characters ever created. Since 1947, there have been many diverse iterations of the character, some more successful than others, but her core values always resonated with readers. There are few fictional role models as altruistic and moral as Wonder Woman, so you can imagine my shock when I read an article about a little girl who wasn’t allowed to bring her Wonder Woman lunchbox to school. The lunch box, stating “As Lovely as Aphrodite, As Wise as Athena,” apparently violated their policy on “violent characters” which they define as those “who solve their problems using violence.”
Not only did the school taint that poor girl’s image of her hero, their ignorant definition of Wonder Woman couldn’t be farther from the truth. Wonder Woman is a role model for people of all ages, races, and countries. She is a teacher, an ambassador, and a pacifist who only uses violence as a last resort to save others. Our world has become so jaded, so lost in misery and hatred, that we need icons like Wonder Woman now more than ever––a symbol of hope and love that encourages us to strive towards a better future…together.
“Don’t kill if you can wound, don’t wound if you can subdue, don’t subdue if you can pacify, and don’t raise your hand at all until you’ve extended it.” – Wonder Woman
A Mission of Peace
Arguably the most heralded run of the Wonder Woman comics (and my introduction to the character) began with the 1987 relaunch under the direction of George Perez. Diana, daughter of the Amazon warrior queen Hippolyta, is blessed with powerful gifts from the Greek gods. She is mythology given flesh but knows nothing of the world beyond her paradise island, Themyscira. When Diana earns the right to travel to “Man’s World” it is not to be a crime fighter or superhero but an ambassador. This is the single most important fact about the character: her philanthropic mission is to spread the morals and teachings of her homeland, acting as a bridge between two worlds.
“As ambassador to your world, my duty is to demonstrate the sincerity of my nation’s goals: to teach, and to learn; to live together peacefully, and to honor all equally; to understand compassionately, and to love unequivocally.” – Wonder Woman addressing the United Nations in issue #23, A God Among Men
During these formative years, Diana faces the harsh realities of our world while defending us against threats from her own. But it’s not the physical battles that define Diana as a person or the symbol of Wonder Woman––any superhero can fight––it is the commitment to her mission. Her core value of peace never wavers, even when she is bombarded by criticism for everything from her religious beliefs to simply being a woman. No matter who tells her otherwise, whether her mother or her gods, Diana never gives up on her mission or humanity.
Hero and Humanitarian
“In her travels, she brings the sum total of Amazon courage and knowledge, guided by a compassionate heart toward all people in need.” – Hippolyta
One of my personal favorite Wonder Woman stories, and perhaps the purest expression of her character, is Spirit of Truth by Alex Ross and Paul Dini. It is narrated in Diana’s own words to present an in-depth look at the unique challenges she faces all across the world. Wonder Woman travels from one crisis to the next, all while searching for her true self beneath her many roles as both hero and humanitarian. She battles street crime, exposes sweatshops, saves endangered species, and assists with a train wreck. But for every person who accepts her assistance and message of peace, others deny her
aid because of their warped perceptions of Wonder Woman, politician and civilians alike.
When a despot in the Middle East uses Muslim women as human shields to deter enemy shelling, Wonder Woman’s help is rejected. The women see her as an unwelcome foreigner who would only make the situation worse. Sometimes the larger-than-life symbol of Wonder Woman is counterproductive; sometimes she has to help people as one of them by relying on her heroic human traits. Diana goes undercover among the Muslim women and empowers them not to be herded for slaughter.
“My real victory is the lives that have been spared. For where there is life, there is the chance for new ideas, tolerance, and understanding.” – Wonder Woman
There is no end to Diana’s mission, no shortage of suffering to ease in the world. That she can shoulder such a burden shows strength of character that eclipses her physical prowess. Wonder Woman is whomever the world needs her to be yet never sacrifices the ideals that she promotes and embodies every day without fail.
Truth, Love, and Respect
One of the more revealing stories about Wonder Woman is She’s a Wonder (issue #170) written by Phil Jimenez and Joe Kelly. Lois Lane follows Diana on a typical day, finding her to be far more human than she ever thought––a woman of contradictions. One minute Diana is playing basketball with a boy’s group she mentors and the next she is providing solace in a Rwanda refugee camp.
“She sings a lullaby to the boy in her arms as his heart stops beating. Everyone listens. Some smile. It is the sound of suffering coming to a gentle, painless end. She will do the same for three more before we leave…three more too weak to save.” – Lois Lane
In Marseilles, Diana speaks to a university about her dissertation on equality between sexes, tolerance, and peaceful coexistence. She then uses a national TV appearance to laud the charity work of her Wonder Woman Foundation.
“Women and children must no longer fear abuse, anywhere in the world. They must be given information that will help them remain economically self-sufficient, and in control of their bodies and reproductive lives. The foundation’s mission statement promotes the liberation of men, women, and children from the terrible, antiquated religious philosophies and patriarchal fear––by educating them about the alternatives.” – Wonder Woman
Throughout the hectic travels, Lois struggles to find her story, one that is neither a promotional nor a smear piece, and the truth of it all lies in the humanity of Wonder Woman. It is the moments when she shows cracks in her perfect veneer that her human desires and fears shine through. Playing pool together in a dive bar at day’s end, Lois has seen the complete breadth of Diana…of Wonder Woman.
“Wonder Woman is a mirror…a mirror of human truth. She reflects the contradictions of the world––of the person staring at her––takes them into herself…and gives you truth, love, and respect in return.” – Lois Lane
A Role Model for All
Wonder Woman’s nature has been proven through decades of stories, and one thing is certain: she is not a character who solves her problems using violence. How dare a school put that stigma on her and change a young girl’s perception of Diana as a hero and woman? With all of the flavor-of-the-month, popcorn celebrities splashed across social media, a child’s admiration could be directed at far worse “heroes” than Wonder Woman.
The real world can be a dismal place, and any beacon of hope should be embraced. We don’t necessarily need Wonder Woman the superhero; we need more people like Diana the woman. We need her ideals, her love, and her unending belief in a future of peace and equality.