For Wonder Woman fans of a certain age who grew up on a balanced diet of Lynda Carter and Super Friends, it’s an image you can’t help but conjure: the Amazon Princess seated in flight, hurtling through skies of repeating clouds as she manipulates the wheel and levers of an invisible console to keep the barest outline of a plane afloat. But hey, isn’t Wonder Woman able to fly on her own? What does she even need a plane for? And where in the world did she get such a thing? Let’s find the answers together in this special DCComics.com investigation.
First of all, it’s worth noting that for most of her history, Wonder Woman WASN’T able to fly. In fact, most airborne heroes today only had flight added to their de rigueur list of superpowers over time. (This is why heroes like Hawkman could make a whole career out of simply being able to fly on their own. These days, you need more of an angle than just jumping without coming down.) When Diana made her debut in 1941’s All-Star Comics #8, the Invisible Jet was already right there with her, ready to take her away from her home island of Themyscira and into man’s world. In addition to allowing silent, supersonic flight, the jet also allowed Diana to comfortably seat passengers with her for long journeys (such as Steve Trevor, on its maiden voyage). But most importantly, and yet often overlooked today, was the jet’s ability to emit a rainbow beam which could penetrate the mists around Themyscira—otherwise making it virtually impossible to access. Much later, 1981’s DC Comics Presents #41 explains the odd depiction of Wonder Woman seated in the silhouette of a plane: by illustrating that these visual aids are only present for the reader’s convenience, and that in-fiction the plane and occupants alike are rendered completely transparent.
Early appearances of the jet provide two explanations of its origin: one as a gift from her patron Aphrodite and the other claiming that Diana built the craft herself. After all, Golden Age appearances under the tenure of her creator, real world inventor William Moulton Marston, often established her as a skilled inventor and engineer in her own right. These two alternate accounts found reconciliation in 1955’s Wonder Woman #80, where Diana tells a story set during her preparation to leave Paradise Island. To prepare proper transportation, Diana undergoes three labors to collect the pieces of the Invisible Jet, so that she could assemble them herself for the journey to come.
It was three years later, in 1958’s Wonder Woman #98, that Diana began to soar on her own—but these powers were limited, only allowing her to ride undependable air currents like a bird in mid-flight. To reliably get around, Diana still relied on her Invisible Jet, which she could call to her from anywhere using a telepathic link though her tiara.
In 1961’s Wonder Woman #128, the Invisible Jet was given a new origin for the Silver Age. In this tale, we learn that the jet is none other than Pegasus, the winged horse of Greek myth, who Wonder Woman rescued from a terrible plight while still on Paradise Island. In gratitude, Pegasus swore an oath of fealty to Wonder Woman’s service forevermore. In adapting to the changing world of man, Pegasus magically transformed into a jet while outside of Themyscira and could cloak himself from sight whenever needed. But considering this story is told during the “Impossible Tales” era of Wonder Woman continuity where three different versions of Diana—Woman, Girl and Tot—co-existed at the same time, maybe we should just move on and pretend that this idea doesn’t exist.
Then came 1985’s Crisis on Infinite Earths, and the last we’d see of the Invisible Jet for quite some time. In the George Pérez-helmed 1987 reboot of Wonder Woman’s origin, Diana was finally, completely able to fly under her own power, no strings attached.
It was John Byrne who brought the Invisible Jet back into Wonder Woman’s life in 1996’s Wonder Woman #115, the strangest origin story yet. By Byrne’s accounting, the Invisible Jet was actually a semi-sentient, extraterrestrial artifact known as a Morphing Crystal, which naturally takes the form of a translucent egg. Separated from its family of crystals, one such artifact fell to Earth to be discovered by a sub-Antarctic race called the Lansinarians. The Lansinarians refined this crystal into what they referred to as a Morphing Disk. As a token of gratitude for saving their people, the Lansinarians gifted this Disk to Wonder Woman, who could use it to take the form of any mode of transportation, from horse-drawn carriages to rocket ships.
In 1998’s Wonder Woman #140, the Disk reaches its ultimate form as the WonderDome, Diana’s own invisible, completely mobile floating equivalent to the Batcave or Fortress of Solitude. This WonderDome takes its last flight in 2004’s Wonder Woman #201, where it nobly sacrifices itself to save Themyscira itself from a massive, crashing wave which would have otherwise cast it into oblivion.
The Invisible Jet wouldn’t appear (or not appear) again until 2011's New 52 era, when it was reintroduced as an experimental A.R.G.U.S. stealth craft. This version is mainly used by A.R.G.U.S. agent Steve Trevor, who deploys it to transport his own Justice League of America.
But to our minds, the most elegant explanation for the Invisible Jet comes from the recent Wonder Woman: Year One storyline and graphic novel collection. Providing a new Wonder Woman origin for the Rebirth era, this 2016 story posits the origin of the jet as Steve Trevor’s own, crash-landed on Themyscira. As Steve recuperates amongst the Amazons, the Themyscirans repair his downed jet for passage back to man’s world, and enchant it with invisibility for good measure, allowing him to leave without giving away their closely guarded position. It’s not too different from the approach taken by Patty Jenkins for the Invisible Jet’s debut in Wonder Woman 1984, where it’s a regular jet made invisible by Diana using the same magic that hides Themyscira from sight.
Given the alternatives of strange alien crystals, transformed pegasi and boons from the goddess of love, it really is the case that sometimes the simplest origins are the best.
Alex Jaffe is the author of our monthly "Ask the Question" column and writes about TV, movies, comics and superhero history for DCComics.com. Follow him on Twitter at @AlexJaffe and find him in the DC Community as HubCItyQuestion.