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Reimagining the Golden Age in Wonder Woman: Earth One

Reimagining the Golden Age in Wonder Woman: Earth One

By Meg Downey Friday, March 16th, 2018

With GREEN LANTERN: EARTH ONE now in stores, we’re taking a look at the Earth One books in general, revisiting the now-classic standalone tales that set the stage for the newest graphic novel.

When it comes to comics history, there aren't many things stranger than the stories that exist for heroes that got their starts in the 1930s and ’40s. There are obviously a lot of reasons for this—comics were a brand new medium and superheroes were a brand-new concept, things like continuity and shared universes didn't exist—you get the idea.

The "classic" stories for the first generation of superheroes are all a little wild, but the wildest of the bunch all tend to have something to do with Wonder Woman. Diana has a specific predilection for the strange and unusual, whether it came in the form of repurposed ancient mythology or fantastic, vaguely defined pulp sci-fi technology. The further back you go in Diana's history, the more topsy-turvy things start to get.

Now, modern comics do a pretty good job handling this sort of thing. After all, there's bound to be some adaptation and some streamlining over the eighty-some-odd years since the dawn of the Golden Age, right? Superhero stories are always changing and evolving, that's part of what makes them timeless and fun. But sometimes, in certain cases, there can be real value in looking back at those old, crazy, weird, wonderful stories.

Enter WONDER WOMAN: EARTH ONE.

Free of the constraints of any past or future continuity, set far outside of the regular DC Universe, the Earth One stories are able to take superheroes you may or may not already know by heart and give them a little bit of a remix. In Diana's case, that means trying to see if and where all the disparate parts of her history fit together, and the result is a Wonder Woman like we've never seen before.

Among the most distinct adaptations is the Amazons’ level of technological advancement. In this world, Themyscira is a culture that has gone leaps and bounds past their traditional ancient Greek origins and started developing tech that explains all kinds of different legacies from the Wonder Woman canon. The invisible jet is no longer a campy holdover from SENSATION COMICS #1 here, and instead is an almost alien-flavored, fully weaponized spaceship. The purple ray technology is back, but taken to a whole new level, crafted into a feat of Amazonian engineering and medical science and developed over thousands of years. What's more, it doesn't work on Steve Trevor the way it famously did back in his introduction in the ’40s.

The Amazons ride armored kangaroos into battle, something that was originally introduced all the way back in 1942 and since developed into an on-again-off-again running joke. They're definitely not a joke here—in fact, they're actually pretty terrifying. The Holiday Girls are a sorority once more with Etta Candy as their de facto leader, a role she hasn't taken on in at least a couple of decades. You get the idea. The dream of the Golden and Silver Ages is alive and well here on Earth One.

Now obviously, there's more to telling an engaging Earth One story than just digging up old pieces of long forgotten continuity. These remixes and revivals come hand-in-hand with a few major consequences. With Themyscira's way of life a lot more rigidly defined and with the island's society much more advanced, Diana's arrival in Man's World is...well, multifaceted to say the least. For one, the culture shock is maybe even more intense than it ever has been before, because the rules of the Amazonian society are that much more strictly established. But it goes well beyond that. For the people of Man's World, this is a Diana that's a little harder to accept.

This isn't a wide-eyed, curious, completely altruistic Wonder Woman. This is a Wonder Woman who has a fully-formed opinion on the way the world is supposed to work, and by her estimation, the world of Men is doing things wrong.

Of course, just because she believes the rest of the world to be incorrect doesn't mean she is completely certain that Themyscira is in the right, either. Despite all their technology and altogether peaceful way of life, Diana is deeply unconvinced by her mother's staunch traditionalism. This is where it's possible to see the heart of Diana's character, Earth One variation or otherwise.

No matter how changed, reconfigured, or pulled from multiple sources her history becomes in any given story—no matter which Golden Age threads get picked up and woven into the tapestry—at the end of the day, the force that drives Diana is always stemming from the same place: the stalwart need to do what's right for everyone, not just the people she believes to be most in need of help.

Wonder Woman: Earth One might feel a little bit like falling down the rabbit hole if your idea of how Diana should work is built exclusively from modern stories, sure. But if you're in the mood to take a deep dive into some of the weirder corners of comics history, this is definitely the place to go.


Meg Downey writes about the DC Universe for DCComics.com and covers DC’s Legends of Tomorrow for the #DCTV Couch Club. Look for her on Twitter at @rustypolished.

WONDER WOMAN: EARTH ONE VOL. 1 by Grant Morrison and Yanick Paquette is available in print or as a digital download. Look for the newest Earth One graphic novel, GREEN LANTERN: EARTH ONE, now in comic shops.