Robot 6

What Wonder Woman’s costume says about her message

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My first thought when Wonder Woman with Grant [Morrison] was mentioned was ‘I don’t want her to be dressed as an American flag.’ Not because an American flag is wrong but it made no sense. She’s coming from such a rich, wonderful culture with so much iconography (Greek culture), so why does she not use that, and why would she dress up as a flag? She’s not Captain America. But at the same time, I understood that this kind of iconic color/texture is something that’s recognizable, so in that aspect it does have value. If I could reach the same design with a few differences, but make it so it’s not coming from the flag, it’s coming from a natural extension of her culture, I could live with this.

Wonder Woman: Earth One artist Yanick Paquette, on redesigning her costume from the ground up

Wonder Woman’s costume gets a lot of attention every time someone tries to change it, but usually the discussion is about how much skin it is or isn’t covering. That’s old and tired, and I’m glad Paquette is thinking about it for a different reason. I’d argue it’s the right reason.

One of the things that seems to stump a lot of Wonder Woman writers is her mission: What the hell is she supposed to be doing in our world? Is she a warrior or an ambassador of peace? Are those mutually exclusive descriptions or can she be both at once?

I think she can be both, in the same way that in her early years she could be a bondage fetishist while also advocating freedom. People who know a lot more about bondage than I do tell me it can be an incredibly liberating experience. Likewise, some of the biggest peace advocates I know have been career soldiers. It’s a strange dichotomy, but it’s real, and I can see it working in All-Star Comics #8, the first appearance of Wonder Woman.

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Nazis make great villains. Most everyone agrees they were evil, and most everyone hates them. It’s still true today, but it was even more true in the late ’30s and early ’40s, when Nazis were actually trying to take over the world. In those days, people didn’t have a hard time reconciling the term “fighting for peace.” That’s why it made perfect sense for Wonder Woman to leave Paradise Island wrapped in an American flag. She was leaving to join an American pilot in the fight against Nazis, “the forces of hate and oppression,” and her mother dressed her appropriately.

The accuracy of Athena’s claim in the panel above that the United States was “the last citadel of democracy, and of equal rights for women” is a whole other deal. It’s enough for us to understand, however, that American William Moulton Marston felt able to make that statement for his American audience. As far as they were concerned, it was true. It’s only in looking back that a lot of us groan or snicker about it, because we — regardless of what country we live in — don’t see the world that way anymore.

The modern worldview is more complex and global, to the point that the U.S.-centric nature of fictional heroes like Wonder Woman, Superman and the Justice League are routinely called into question. It hits Marvel, too, and the Avengers have gone worldwide during various times. Captain America gets away with wearing the flag, but very few understand why Wonder Woman still does. It made sense when she first appeared in 1941, but it’s more difficult to explain in 2013.

That’s why it’s great that Paquette is giving this some thought. I love that he’s figured out a way to include iconic elements in a new design of Wonder Woman’s costume, but in a way that makes sense for a mission that doesn’t involve fighting America’s enemies. In that same interview, he says, “The retro-engineering of her costume into something that makes sense is already embedded into the story.” I hope that means Grant Morrison has also figured out a legitimate reason for her to leave the Amazons and spend time with us. It needs to be something that threatens peace in such a way that it’s worth going to war against, and I don’t envy Morrison the task of writing that story in a way that will feel grounded while also not pissing off half its potential audience.

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44 Comments

It’s not difficult to retrofit the original eagle & stars motif to make it based on myth more related to the Amazons.

Aquila is a constellation in the northern sky. It’s Latin for Eagle and represents the bird that carried Zeus’ thunderbolts.

That can also be the basis for the stars, or another constellation can be represented. Or the stars can each be an award of a some kind.

I would take issue with Paquette taking for granted that these Amazons are of Greek culture. In the DCU, these gods/goddesses *exist* and as such, creators miss an opportunity by sticking to Greek motifs. Assuming these entities exist, and that we have been exposed to Greek culture’s interpretation of them, doesn’t have to mean that they were being accurate or that these “gods” have Greek heritage – they’re gods.

If I’m being unclear, look at the traditional depictions of Christ. He was a person who existed, but we generally accept that the culture that created the images that have been embedded in our minds of a fair-skinned, blue-eyed man was not really accurate to reality in terms of how the actual man probably looked. They had their own agenda in crafting his image, so I think it’d be interesting to show that the Greeks simply interpreted these beings and the reality might have actually been different.

In terms of this article and the stars and stripes, Wonder Woman’s image is iconic at this point and can’t be altered too much without outcry. Who’s to say the Amazons didn’t originate this stylistic motif and that back in the day, we found inspiration from them at some point? Well, that’s how I’d do it…

Is it really that Hard to explain? She was a discovered by an American Air Force pilot. Her first diplomatic mission was to America?

Personally I thought Gail Simone’s take that the Amazons inspired the flag was an eye rolling moment.

Even if reality doesn’t always match the ideal, the ideal of liberty can still be as much of a symbol in those colors as the country they are associated with.

Besides, America took most of its institutional designs from Greek and Romans anyway…

I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that Morrison had the idea to do that first (the costume redesign)

Wonder Woman’s origin is always a problem with modern audiences. In the 1940s, she was fighting against Nazis, who were considered the most evil people on earth, and are still considered this. Her costume was based on the fact that she sided with America, a group of people who were considered the exact opposite of the Nazis. In the 70s, she was fighting against Communists, which now seems silly since Communism pretty much died out of its own steam. George Perez had a pretty good idea of keeping it vague, and had her fight war mongers, but that always seemed too vague to me. Having her fight terrorists seems too trendy to me. I almost wish they started her origins in WWII and just said she was immortal. It worked for the television series after all.
As for the costume, if you are doing a modern day origin, it would be hard to have her wear the American flag when everything is pretty much going globalist. Is it possible that a Themischera flag is red, white, and blue, and has an eagle on it and maybe a star pattern design?
Also, her being an ambassador of peace and a warrior can go together, because the Greeks believed in this idea. Athena was, among other things, the goddess of defensive warfare, after all.

even in the 1940s, I think the British Commonwealth would like to have a few words with William Marston. ‘last citadel of democracy’ my ass.

I always wished they would figure out Paradise Island’s location. Is it in the “real” world or outside of our world? I felt if they treated it more like the myth of Avalon from Marion Bradley, that would work well. Paradise Island cannot exist in our world directly but can be accessed though with difficulty.
Also, why can’t her outfit borrow a little from Superman. if I remember correctly…in the New 52, Superman’s outfit colors shift to adapt to whatever place he is in. Why couldn’t Diana’s do somethign similar. Due to magic of course. It would make sense. She is going to a strange place and being a Champion to them…so her outfit could morph to fit in. Could be a good source of humor too depending on where she goes.

In the ancient Greek world in thinking, Wonder Woman is wearing the colors of the United States Flag to prove to us of the 1940s’ she is not an invader but on our side against the Nazis.

Globalism does complicate things, eh? Even Superman can’t get away with being a strictly American hero anymore. It’d be neat if they could actually come up with a universally appealing costume but it is ‘t likely. If you try to please everyone in the world, you’re still gonna end up turning a lot of people off. I’d say just go with something colorful and instantly recognizable and you’re good enough. Actually, that just described the outfit she’s worn most of her career.

W.W. costume was redesigned early in 1970′s. The Triple W was introduced to the overestimate replacing the eagle to show solidarity with women’s movement. Also the short skirt was dumped and a “formal” armour and cape were added. The ridiculous 52 universe retro fitting heroes is starting to backfire alienating long time supporters of D.C. while not getting the hoped for new fans.

One way to solve the origin/costume problem would have been to give her back the original origin, have her be immortal, and having rotating periods where she’s off the island and fighting for us with periods that she goes home…

Or she could just have her costume and no one needs to explain why it is the way it is and just move on and tell a story.

Did everyone forget they adorned her with the colors of the country she was to visit?

Many years ago in one of the re-imaginings, Wonder Woman of the WWII era is found to actually be Hippolyta. Diana was in an alternate timeline. The star spangled costume was explained by a female US fighter pilot crashing into the ocean near Themyscira, where she aided the Amazons in fighting a sea monster. The star spangled costume was taken from a USA patch the pilot was wearing. Just throwing that out there.

IIRC, Joey that female pilot was Diana Trevor — Steve’s mother and the reason post-Crisis Diana had a Roman name on an island that was otherwise Hellenic in culture.

And, Lee, be fair; Gail rolled her eyes at that herself. Read the pages again and tell me that Black Canary isn’t mocking that idea. Just an inside joke at a lot of years of “The Amazons invented this” stuff that had seeped into the book.

Why cant she wear Donna troys star-field costume, with the silver ww logo on it, with burnt sierra brown accents on the sides? and why cant it look a bit more like armor, instead of a bathing suit?? Amazons would not be fighting in a bathing suit, and they would wear brown colors, not red, and would be proud…to the point of not wanting to wear some other flags colors.

Shawn, Ancient Greece believed in wearing colors of flags of other countries. This is the reason Wonder Woman is wearing red, white, blue, she has entered our country without a passport. She does not want us Americans to view her as an invader but for us against the Nazis.

If she were to wear brown, the Nazis wore brown shirts, Wonder Woman does not support Nazis.

If Wonder Woman were a flag, it would be her own colors, the Greece Flag of today which would be blue and white.

If Wonder Woman were to wear a flag, it would be her own colors, the country Greece the Flag of today which would be blue and white.

As for the bathing suit Wonder Woman is wearing, originally she wore hear shape top and culottes of 1940s’. Women back then did not have sport wear. William Moulton Marston did not want his Wonder Woman in full Greek Armor this may be viewed by Americans as threatening and an invader.

Besides the bathing-suit had come from the photos found from Steve Trevor’s wallet when Queen Hippolyta and the goddess Athena was checking what was the style of clothing women wore in 1940s’. If the photos show a woman in a full length dress that comes to her ankles, I guess Wonder Woman would have worn that. She had brought with her through the use of the lasso spin, heart shape top was hot in 1940s’ common place in Washington DC in the summer:culottes, skirt, bathing-suit.

I think the Wonder Woman animated movie came up with a great one line explanation: Amazon ambassadors wear the colors of the country they visit in order to demonstrate their respect for that country.

on the costume, I think what Hyppolyta was saying was that the costume was designed for her to be accepted in America, and the animated film came up with the idea that the Amazons always adopted the colors and symbols of other nations they visited. As for her mission, I think if you look at the inventor’s perspective and ideology, he believed that women were going to save the world and in their private corner of it, they had created Paradise-a mix of scientific and cultural progress. Her mission as I see it would be a representative who comes to show people a better way of doing things. Unfortunately, the modern canon of Themiscryra is a continually war-town, angry, totally un-advanced culture, which makes her mission terribly unclear.

Actually, our founding fathers were influenced by Greek art and architecture. That’s something they should keep in mind.

Has anyone mentioned WONDER WOMAN ANNUAL #3 by George Perez? The author crafted a wonderful story about the design of the Wonder Woman costume that involved the Amazons and Steve Trevor’s mother, who crashed on Themyscira years before the pilot himself did.

@j.allen ‘W.W. costume was redesigned early in 1970′s. The Triple W was introduced to the overestimate replacing the eagle to show solidarity with women’s movement. Also the short skirt was dumped and a “formal” armour and cape were added’

I don’t know which comics you were reading – the WW emblem was brought in in the late Seventies to reflect the Wonder Woman Foundation DC publisher Jenette Kahn was involved with, and yes, there was a feminist link. But the rest of the costume remained the same – the cape seen occasionally on the TV show was never adopted as part of Diana’s superhero look in the comics, merely seen very occasionally on formal occasions as a nod to Lynda Carter. And she never wore a skirt … as Carol notes, she started out in culottes, but by the Seventies it had been shorts for decades.

Anyway, I want to see a classic Wonder Woman in Wonder Woman Earth One, one true to her origins in the Second World War; I’m heartily sick of creators reinventing the wheel. Why is Superman’s costume as family crest-bearing armour better than ‘Ma Kent thought it up to disguise and inspire’? What’s wrong with Diana wearing the US flag? She’s an American icon, created by Americans to reflect American ideals.

Let Wonder Woman be Wonder Woman, not Xena.

Great article. But just to point out: George Perez handled this ages ago when he rebooted the character. The Amazons used the design as a tribute to Steve Trevor’s mother, who had crashed on the island and died helping them prevent the escape of monsters from below the island. It was an explanation that was a bit odd, though it fit with the idea that the Trevors had a destiny linked to Themyscira.

At any rate, the important thing here is that WW be portrayed as a citizen of the world and a product of Themyscira. And I’m assuming here, of course, that Morrison’s take on Themyscira and the Amazons is going to be far more respectful than the atrocity perpetrated by Brian Azzarello on the Amazons.

Diana – like all major superheroes, including Superman – belong to the world, now. For Diana in particular, there should be no strong connection to American culture. She is the product of her own unique culture and this should be reflected in how she conducts herself.

The WW design was not introduced until the 80′s.

@BeccaBlast give me the issue number because I don’t remember black canary being a part of it. I have all of Simone’s run on Wonder Woman. Because I thought it was Wonder Woman that said Betsy Ross was inspired by the amazons. I don’t remember a joke being involved.

Also Internet Pet Peeve here People. Stop talking about fairness when people are going off the cuff having a casual chat, not everyone is hardcore enough to constantly double check their memories with source material

akkadiannumen

July 6, 2013 at 4:58 pm

“I would take issue with Paquette taking for granted that these Amazons are of Greek culture. In the DCU, these gods/goddesses *exist* and as such, creators miss an opportunity by sticking to Greek motifs. Assuming these entities exist, and that we have been exposed to Greek culture’s interpretation of them, doesn’t have to mean that they were being accurate or that these “gods” have Greek heritage – they’re gods. ”

@dekko: you have it ass-backwards. Within the context of Greek mythology (and, in this case, the DCU), the Greek gods created Greek culture (among other things). So yeah, they don’t have to have Greek heritage because they ARE Greek heritage.

Wonder Woman,s costume makes her look beautiful! Especially those beautiful red boots with the vertical stripes! I had a crush on Lynda Carter because she made WW look beautiful, brave and deviant in her costume,,,and Lynda looked so much better as Diana Prince in the 70′s than in the 40′s! I’d love to meet her!

If WW was created in a country other than America, and if her audience wasn’t 90% American, then probably her costume would look different.

WTF is it with people who can’t rest until everything is diluted and globalized until it means nothing? You can’t ever get everything perfectly mono-cultural. There’s no point in even trying all that hard. The only people who care about this are Westerners who have a chronic case of self-hate.

I don’t know a lot about Wonder Woman’s origins and mythology. but people here are associating the Amazons with a sort unified entity of Greece. While the Amazons are indeed an integral part of ancient Greek mythology their geographical range was not regarded as being in the “realm” of Greece at all. They tended to be associated with the steppe lands of ancient Scythia (now Ukraine) or Asia Minor (Turkey). So they were of a rather distant and fabled land to the Ancient Greeks.

And ancient Greece itself, being composed of rival city states and regions did not have a national flag or symbol or unified cohesion which Wonder Woman could adopt to say “I represent Greece”. She didn’t represent Greece, and moreover, other than perhaps the Macedonian conqueror, Alexander the Great, no one could really claim to represent ancient Greece.

Wonder Woman is a complete DC invention with a superficial sprinkling of pastiche pseudo Ancient Greek mythology thrown in.

She may as well wear the the Stars and Stripes since that is about as accurate as anything else she might wear beyond generic ancient world attire or the “robes” of the gods.

This really isn’t that difficult, folks. Even on the tv series, it’s said that the “colors were chosen to show your allegiance to freedom and democracy…” In the animated movie it was explained that the adopt the colors of the country they are going to….. in the Post Crisis universe, the Amazons used the colors and motifs of DIana Trevor (Steve’s mom) who was a US pilot, and who was one of their greatest heroes….

I flinch every time some writer feels the “need” to explain the costume….. SImone’s was asinine ( hunter’s moon and all that nonsense)… it doesn’t need to be tied to ancient culture….

M

Since Wondy’s costume is so iconic, any heavy rearrangement of colors would make her look not very much like Wonder Woman. What I would do? Change the stars for diamonds. Not diamond shapes. Actual diamonds. Without the stars, her colors are no more symbolic of America than Spider-Man’s. Keep the Red White and Blue. Those are colors. Stars over blue is hard to divorce from the American flag.

But for the record, I like it as it is (or rather, as it was. Not a fan of the silver). As I said, very iconic. I’d rather adapt an explanation to the costume than make a “logic” Wonder Woman costume that doesn’t make me think of Wonder Woman.

I can understand modernizing certain bits of a character, but do we have to be so politically correct all the time.

I’m so tired of people trying to change Wonder Woman’s costume, origin and the reason she fighting for peace. Please get over it and move on. This is Wonder Woman…trying to change her only diminishes her identity and makes her generic.

Perez’ origin, like everything in this world, isn’t perfect, but it’s the best summation of all previous IMHO. The costume look is simple…Steve crashed on the island, making the Amazons become involved in the affairs of the outside world, a contest ensued, Diana returns Steve to America in a costume related to his place of origin. She’s a representative of the Amazons…promoting peace and fighting to keep Democracy alive for the world and to preserve the Amazons’ way of living.

PretenderNX01

July 6, 2013 at 11:07 pm

akkadiannumen, no it is mankind who created the Greek culture around worshiping the Olympians, even if the Olympians were real. I exist and my friends know me personally but that doesn’t mean they get all my life stories right. And some stories may get passed around and embellished for fun or twisted to fit the person’s beliefs. Which is what is said to have happened in the DCU.

I don’t remember any mythology where Zeus lays out what to do cutlurally or how to go about doing it. The Greeks were largely filling in the gaps as they followed this soap opera in the sky.

akkadiannumen

July 7, 2013 at 8:03 am

@PretenderNX01: thank you for missing the point entirely and bringing a smile to my face. Fortunately, I can always count on the interwebz for that. :D

It’s already bad enough that we have to endure the “Emo” zon in the current new 52 books, with her over fussy, over accessorised, unnecessarily re-designed costume of dull, muted, colours in order for DC to emphasise this new “darker” take on the character.
I was hoping that Wonder Woman: Earth ONE would go some way in addressing this travesty with Morrison bringing us a classic interpretation of the REAL Wonder Woman.
based on these comments about them changing the costume from it’s roots it seems that I will be passing on this book too. The character has an iconic look and origin. Why does every writer/artists want to supposedly “fix” things? This smacks more of a writer either being too lazy or simply not being good enough to write compelling stories based on the character they have been given.
What’s next? Spock’s ears look funny – they need to go. Batman’s cape is impractical and would get in the way during the average fight. Time for it to be changed….
Wonder Woman is what she is. Deal with it.
And I get a little tired of hearing people say she is somehow warped in the American flag. The ONLY part of that costume that you could say bears any resemblance to the US flag are the star spangled briefs. It may be news to some people but America doe snot have the sole right sot the colours red, white and blue and I don’t EVER recall seeing gold appear ANYWHERE on the stars and stripes.

It is a disgrace to her character to remove the red white and blue. CRISIS was stupid enough as it is in concept but the new 52 went even further down the wrong track. Her origins should always be tied to WWII, make her immortal or slow to age if you are going to revamp her again.

She should wear armor, armored pants, and not in the colors of our flag. Amazons wouldn’t wear a bathing suit, or someone Else’s colors. they would wear variations of browns, greys, and blacks. Amazons , according to myth, were not conformists, and were not greek. they were from multiple parts of the world. they were women who left their various cultures as they frowned on what those cultures were doing.

Rob Mansperger

July 8, 2013 at 9:19 am

The 2009 animated film Wonder Woman provided a decent enough reason for her to be wearing a costume fashioned to be similar to the American flag – when leaving Themyscira with Steve Trevor, the costume was a bridge to America showing the peaceful intent of Diana and to honor the country.

While iconic, I’ve never quite bought into the US-centric approach to Wonder Woman. Over the years its been great to see Diana get more of a Mediterranean look with skin tone, particularly during the Rucka run on the title.

I’m definitely intrigued to see the new Earth One story given the talent being pulled into the book – but I’m also really enjoying the current monthly New 52 book, its definitely one of the best books DC has out right now.

George Perez did a whole story about the subject of Diana`s suit. the authors had to read more comics,

What Lucas said – it was a very good well thought out story too which side stepped a lot of the problems with USA not being a perfect society etc. Hell it would be nice if they stuck with that one to my mind.

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