Welcome! Historia is a brand new bi-monthly series that will be examining The Amazing Amazon’s rich history. The feature will span the war-haunted Golden Ages in which she was forged, through the sweeping currents of The Silver Age, the shifts of The Bronze Age, the trials of The Dark Age, all the way to The Renaissance and The Prismatic Age of the modern century.
We’ll be looking at and discussing the various influences and archetypal antecedents that underlie the Wonder Legend, the power of the conceits it upholds, the politics of the whole enterprise, the terrifying nature of myths and narratives, and how the character and property have changed, evolved, or even regressed. What is this curious little experiment that began under a polyamorous polymath psychologist that became an icon of the feminist movement and a vital corporate symbol? Let’s dig in.
In the name of my mother, Hippolyta, whose own spirit protects this island and continues to guide mine everyday, I propose a recommitment to such ideals. To freedom. To love. To peace. – Wonder Woman #189
Diana’s been through some trying times. The 90’s era with Deodato, followed by the arrival of Byrne, and more musical chairs, as a big, notable consistent voice for her was absent. But things were about to change. And change is what lay on the horizon for Diana Of Themyscira. A new creative voice was set to arrive and alter the fate of her world(s).
It’s a run perhaps unlike any other in Diana’s history, since the original Marston work.
Phil Jimenez was here.
Phil Jimenez had been a lifelong Wonder Woman fan. Growing with the Lynda Carter show, he was a super-fan of the character. Drawn to the lovely art of Diana by the likes of José Luis García-López and George Perez, he grew up with a tremendous passion for Wonder Woman. To a young gay man who loved these super-stories, she was the icon with the greatest draw. Going onto, essentially, be George Perez’s student, ascending from fan to student, Jimenez was very much a storyteller from that school of comicking. He’s been called things such as ‘The Next George Perez’ and he’s never disliked such monikers. He’s proud of and quite pleased by his overt influences. So it only made sense that eventually the student would stand where the mentor once did. That he’d get his own turn with the Amazing Amazon he so adored as Writer/Artist.
And it was…a tumultuous turn, to put it lightly. Jimenez inherited the ongoing book in extremely poor conditions and it wasn’t even his intent. Jimenez pitched to do a 12-issue maxi-series with Wonder Woman and her cast of characters, rather than do the ongoing itself. He had a very specific story he wanted to tell from the get-go. But alas, it wasn’t to be. The Wonder Woman run he did get on the main title, was edited by…Eddie Berganza, which, yeah…yeah.
Berganza is the infamous sexual harasser and scumbag who stuck around DC as one of its powerful editors, handling the Superman Office and line of books, and often more beyond that. And if you’ll notice, virtually every single major problem and/or issue that’s been associated with Berganza as an Editor, the endless crossover nonsense, the terrible editorial edicts and mandates, the constant changing of the mind, the absolute screwery of talent that pushes them away, hurting and taking away from the stories they wanna tell, they’re all here! Every checkbox you can tick if you’re familiar with his disastrously terrible handling of the Superman line is present here.
It should be noted that the first two issues (part of a four-parter) of his run are edited by Tony Bedard, but from there on out, it’s all Berganza. Jimenez, it turns out, had absolutely terrible luck. And, as we’ve established, DC wasn’t exactly very caring with Wonder Woman. Here’s Jimenez talking about it:
From the very first issue, it was a fight. It was a fight with the same person who I was fighting with on Team Titans. [laughs] It reads that way in the pages, but looking back, there’s enough stuff in there that makes me go, that’s pretty good, but the struggle I was having with the company was clear from the first few pages.
At the time, she was not considered an A-list character. She was more of a burden than anything else. Nobody could figure out how to get her sales up. When I came in, I pitched a 12 issue maxi-series. I didn’t want to be on the regular book. I’d had success with Tempest and I knew the story I wanted to tell and I wanted to be isolated a little bit, but then they put me on the regular book. On some level that’s why I got into comics – to write and draw Wonder Woman – so this was a dream come true. I’d just turned 30, I think. Of course it was a nightmare from page one. The funny thing is, I kept thinking, this is never going to happen again, so do what you can to make the best of it. There was an enormous amount of conflict and crossover and I had to truncate stories and elongate stories and kill off a supporting character and 9/11 happened. I look back on it and there was a lot of shell shock.
My original pitch would have been so simple. Twelve issues and four stories and each one did a different thing. I’m always amazed at how difficult we make it on ourselves – partly me, partly the publisher – because again, we’re a reactive industry. You hired me so let’s do this. I’m not here to sabotage your company. I will give you something that is good. But again – and I’ve told this story so many times – I had to kill off her mother and her mother was a major part of my 12 issues so I had to truncate all these stories because I was losing a character halfway in. Then they weren’t going to let me kill her off. She was going to die in a Superman event and it would happen in Superman. What was amazing was that all of the Superman creators were fighting for me saying, shouldn’t her only supporting character die in her own book? The Editor in Chief finally conceded, not happy about it at all, and it ended up being one of my most successful issues. It’s funny because I still look back on it and don’t understand the fight we had about that. Or the fact that we fought about every issue. I don’t know what was happening above him or around him, but boy was that a constant struggle. That having been said, I did get some good material out of it. I read an issue and I was making some smart observations back then about stuff I still believe in and somehow I got it in print. It’s kind of messy and paced strangely, but it’s there. Clearly it touched certain people in the way that I hoped it would. So in that weird way it was successful.
Perhaps no better summary of the Jimenez Era exists than this. A constant fight, a constant uphill battle, and a work that was regularly, actively compromised by Editorial. That’s the tragedy of it. It’s a mess. Yet at the same time, amidst that mess, there’s this strange beauty to it. And it’s worth unpacking why.
Jimenez’s run, when broken down is fairly simple. It starts out with Gods Of Gotham, a re-establishment arc for the series, is followed by an Amazonian Civil War arc, then a beloved Day In The Life Of issue, then some big event tie-ins, after which there’s a big Circe saga, followed by a big Villains team-up tale, ultimately culminating in the rebuilding of The Amazons. It’s a fairly simple throughline and that’s more or less how it all works, even if that wasn’t necessarily the intention.
The kick-off, Gods Of Gotham, was basically Phil Jimenez doing a spiritual sequel to the original Perez run and its own launch of Gods and Monsters. It was a statement, a way to almost say Wonder Woman is back! And she certainly was under Jimenez’s pen, as for the very first time since Perez put down the pen, it felt like his Diana was back at last, but refreshed, made all-new, with a new fire and spirit. Jimenez pit Diana against Ares and his children, much in the same way the original did, with the resolution once more being Ares learning from Diana.
Now, the key with this arcwas that this time, it was just all the divine figures of Diana’s mythology displaced onto the mortal shells of Batman villains. The whole arc basically brings together the Wonder-Family and the Bat-Family and sees them united in the face of a mythic threat in mortal form. Immediately, right out the gate, Jimenez made his mark. Not since George Perez had Diana and her world looked so magnificent, realized with such breathtaking scope and vision. Jimenez was the writer/artist the book deserved. I recall the man once saying that he’d grown up loving dioramas and that’s what helped shape his approach and understanding to building things and telling stories and certainly, that’s evident. Jimenez’s work has a dense and intricate constructive quality to it, consistently, as pages are loaded and packed with detail and information for the reader to take in.
Amidst all this though, this launch made one thing clear on DC’s part. The gambit was clear: Use Batman and Gotham, ie. something people really care about, to smuggle in Wonder Woman and garner sales. If nothing works, use the Bat-Card, basically. And it’s not a bad move per-se, considering it was obviously a temporary gimmick and Jimenez was the one executing it, evoking Perez’s iconic first story. Given the terrific Adam Hughes covers the book had as a draw, the incorporation of that wider-universe to get people in, and keep them there isn’t a terrible notion. And Jimenez was able to pull it off with charm.
But charming as this arc is, it immediately underlines the kind of blatant messiness present in the period. The rule laid down by Editorial was nobody in Gotham would see or know Diana was in Gotham, which, for an arc titled “Gods Of Gotham” sounds exactly as stupid as you’d think. And it’s precisely the kind of dumb sabotage of titles Berganza would become renowned for. And those sorts of moves making you think ‘Wait, this makes no sense. Why would they do that? How did that choice end up there? What the hell is this?’ These conflicts are all over the run.
The Many Wonders
Following the move of garnering an audience with the power of The Batman, the run immediately plunged into an Amazonian Civil War story, another obvious key gimmick to keep the momentum and an audience that loved its action. The Amazons who worshiped the Grecian Gods and The Amazons Of Bana-Mighdall who worshiped the Egyptian Gods were living together as one, so cue some shenanigans with a pinch of possessions, mind-control and other paranoia and you have yourself a big ‘everyone fights everyone’ arc. But through the awkwardness of that whole thing, Jimenez is able to extract genuinely meaningful ramifications.
Central to Jimenez’s entire take on Wonder Woman and his run as a whole is the relationship between Diana and her mother, Hippolyta/Lyta. Wonder Woman is a book about women, about female relationships and thus, it’s inevitably a book about mothers and daughters. Jimenez understood that best. Coming onto the title, he was of course saddled with the John Byrne retcons and messes, with Lyta as the now Golden Age Wonder Woman who worked with the JSA due to time travel shenanigans, while Diana was a goddess. But he approached the whole enterprise with great flair, tackling it all as ‘Use everything. Everything matters.’, even that which he may not have loved. He took it all and tried to blend it together into a cohesive whole, into one big thing, a sum of all the parts that had been. And nowhere is that seen better than in the way he handles Lyta/Diana.
The war culminates in a grand dissolution of the Amazonian Monarchy, as Lyta steps down as Queen and the royal family is no more. Diana is a princess no more (there goes the tiara) and neither is Donna. And it all occurs because Lyta consistently prioritized this Byrne choice, this being Wonder Woman, over the actual role that existed for her prior to that. It’s a point Diana consistently brings up and she isn’t pleased with her mother being Wonder Woman. But it matters not, because she is. And in the end, all that’s left, when the titles have been taken away, are three women: a mother and two daughters.
The Wonder-Family is an idea best expressed in this run and period, as Jimenez does it best. There is, always, an unassailable humanity to Jimenez’s characters and it’s genuinely astonishing. Notice the above panel and how much Jimenez captures in that second panel. Cassie gently touching the hands of her friend, to calm her and assure her, but also doing so out of fear, uncertainty, doubt, to calm herself. And she’s not holding onto her friend, she’s just got her hands touching her, simultaneously almost as a move of distance and closeness. And then there’s Tammy holding tightly onto the phone, with that look on her face. The body language and the little mannerisms that Jimenez nails are so wonderful to see and he constantly makes you FEEL like you’re reading about emotionally real individuals.
But even beyond that, the humanity of his heroes hits hard. They are so…fundamentally decent, caring, loving, and kind. And it’s not a product of naivete, no, never. It’s the product of wisdom. They KNOW how hard it is, how messed up so many things are, they’ve looked into the heart of hatred itself and have felt its terrible nature, they know what darkness lies in the hearts of men and…still, they persist. They refuse to give in. They look all that monstrous hatred in the eye and respond with love, which isn’t to say they don’t beat the living snot out of Nazis and other scum. But they never let the worst parts of us stop the fire of passion that makes them be as good as they are, as kind as they are. They behave as they do in the most trying of times, because what else is there to do, but be kind, but be decent? That’s what you do for a better world.
It should be stated at this point that Phil Jimenez is effectively the #1 Donna Troy fan in the world. Is the man basically the Wonder Womanologist, having written literal encyclopedias and other thorough guides on the character, her world and history, updating it, having read basically every WW comic you can think of? Almost certainly. He knows Diana and her world inside and out, like the back of his hand and he is the absolute encyclopedic expert. But he is also the definitive Donna expert and creator to boot. Now, mind you, that isn’t saying much given the extremely low bar for Donna’s entire history and how she’s been mistreated, but his interpretation of the character is by far the most worthwhile.
Around the start of his run, Jimenez put together a special Donna Troy one-shot, in the aftermath John Byrne’s Terry Long & Son killing. Now, far be it from me to ever feel bad for Terry Long or to not think ‘Good riddance’ given he was creepo supreme, the kind of old dude who’d marry his 19-year old student and also tell her on their honeymoon that she looks like her mom, but this issue works. No, it does not work in that it makes you care for Terry Long. Not even God and Jack Kirby could pull that move off. But what it does do is show how Donna deals with loss and how she processes pain and what makes her a resilient character in the face of her misfortunes. She sobs, sitting in a church, wondering why her fate as a character has been as it has. Why must she have this misfortune? What has she done? And what is she to do?
It’s very much a creator writing his heart out, making the character wrestle with the treatment she’s been given and it…works. And it’s a wonderful, pardon the pun, demonstration of what makes Jimenez’s take at large on the franchise so great. His characters, his women, are so, so strong. Not ‘strong’ in the shallow sense, wherein they’re ‘badass’ or what have you, but they possess such inner strength, such resilience that it’s amazing. You’re in awe of these women. They are so utterly beautiful in how human they are, how they feel anxious, how they suffer, get angry, mess up, but do their best and carry themselves in the face of the ugliness of the world. Everyone understands Diana is meant to be inspiring. Few are able to showcase what that is like and unveil the truth of it to the extent Jimenez does. ‘Good’ isn’t perfect. Inspiring isn’t ‘ideal’. You mess up. You screw up. You get angry. You’re in denial. You say things you wish you didn’t. You have flaws. But you do your best in the face of all that. You do your best in the face of trying circumstances. Anger comes easy. Loving through that anger is harder. And his women consistently make these hard choices that make you wanna sob, that melt your heart, because, by God, it’s something to see.
Jimenez has long said that the thing that primarily drew him as a young gay man to Wonder Woman was the fact that unlike Batman or Superman, she was allowed a gamut of emotions. Batman can’t cry. Superman doesn’t get to express himself in certain ways or ‘breakdown’, those characters are men written to embody a certain idea of strength. They don’t get to experience certain emotions or express their feelings in certain ways, as they’re expected to act in a certain fashion. Diana has no such stuff there and given DC hasn’t historically cared for or about Diana much, she’s granted a greater freedom. And that she’s not a dude means writers don’t impose those same notions upon her. She is allowed to be open, loving, sensitive, she can cry and go through a whole range of emotions that historically many of the leading male icons can’t.
The best illustration of that and another good display of the era at large is perhaps this:
As we’ve discussed, Vanessa (and her mother Julia) were mistreated, forgotten, lost once Perez left. Byrne replaced them with his own personal analogues in Helena and Cassie Sandsmark. Vanessa should’ve been Wonder Girl. But it wasn’t to be. The Perez potential was lost. And Jimenez knows that frustration, he understands the anger and problem there. So he dramatizes it. He turns it into potent story, wherein an angry, out-of-control Vanessa arrives as the new Silver Swan and the tragedy of the past curdles into gut-wrenching horror. He makes you feel the pain, the loss, the what-should’ve-been, the potential broken from Perez. He breaks your heart and his own, granting Vanessa dramatic weight, purpose, bringing her forward.
And while doing that, he threw in new toys into the sandbox as well, introducing Sebastian Ballesteros, the male Cheetah. With him and Circe as a sort of perverse power-couple behind Vanessa’s new transformation, you had, in essence, two families at odds. The Wonder-Family and The Circe Family, with Circe’s daughter (with Ares), Lyta Milton, being a sort of proto-Chris Kent/Damian Wayne-esque child character. It’s a run that’s built on everything that’s come before, taking maximum advantage of it.
If Byrne was the prototype for all the problems and failings of Wonder Woman runs, Jimenez’s was the prototype for all the genuine inspired brilliance, successes and achievements of WW runs, despite the failings and messes it’s got within it. It’s a run that celebrates and critiques, simultaneously. It’s the kind of run only someone who knew the book and its history inside-out could write.
It’s why when, as Jimenez describes above, Hippolyta, Diana’s mom, dies in the Our Worlds At War event (a poor man’s Galactus Saga, where Imperiex, a not-Galactus attacks the DCU) it hits hard. Diana is devastated. This is a run about the family Diana’s built for herself, it’s a run about legacy, both within the text and beyond it, given who Jimenez is, it’s about all that has been, is, and perhaps could be. So when Lyta Of Themyscira dies, it’s genuinely heartbreaking. Jimenez makes the two’s relationship and dynamic so real, so believable, and tangible that it’s impossible to not be struck by it. It feels like the relationships you or I have had, known or seen, but just heightened into the superhero sphere, wherein both the parent and the child are superbeings who will just not relent. They’re both so stubborn, they both care so much, they’re so much like each other and it’s beautifully touching to see.
Byrne may have made Lyta ‘Wonder Woman’, but it’s Jimenez who wrote her as a Wonder Woman. She felt like it, she lived up to it and she was, even in her final moments, magnificent. She was a terrific, brave, selfless hero and a deeply caring mother. And the nuances with which Jimenez depicted the relationship between her and Diana, both in the deep loving embraces they shared and the loud shouting matches they had and the resentments they held, it all felt…honest. The Jimenez run cared about people, plain and simple. There is such an affection for and attention towards people and their emotional struggles and relationships.
What Makes A Wonder Woman?
Wonder Woman #170 is a whole issue of Lois Lane tagging along with Diana for a day to interview and write about her. Co-written by Joe Kelly, it’s very much flawed, as, at one point, the issue has the tiresome WW-Superman-Lois triangle talk, which just does not work in the slightest, and references the dreadful Kelly Action Comics story where Diana’s stuck with Superman in another dimension for ages (not unlike Tom King’s recent Batman issue). But that said, while it makes that major misstep, it pretty much nails everything else under the sun. It’s an issue that gets to the essence of WW incredibly effectively, showcasing her hopping about the globe, giving self-defense lessons to sex workers in Indonesia, playing Basketball with kids in Atlanta, staying with children in refugee camps in Rwanda, speaking at the U.N., performing science experiments on The JLA Watchtower, because Diana IS a scientist, even if that isn’t brought up much, addressing people on live TV and more. She does so much in one day, every day, she is so many things to so many people.
And more than anything else, this outlines the vision and mission of Wonder Woman clearest. She is here to help liberate us all, to help build a healthier, more loving world where we’re all self-sufficient and can live without the fear of persecution or prejudice.
But beyond that, too, it’s an issue that introduces the big, key love interest figure of this entire second volume of Wonder Woman.
Trevor Barnes was the director of the United Nations Rural Development Program and a huge human rights activist. He was a sensitive, caring, passionate man. Jimenez wanted to introduce a proper love interest back into the title, given his mentor Perez had removed that factor completely by making Steve Trevor an older gentleman, an older brother figure to Diana, who was now married to Etta. But when he did, he faced a serious storm of racist backlash. The idea of Diana getting together with this black man horrified a great many readers, it turns out and they lost their minds. Diana wasn’t shown to be a sexually active individual all that much in this entire volume (keep in mind Byrne’s ‘Diana is a heterosexual virgin!’ comment here), so many racist audiences went rabid at the thought of Diana losing her virginity to Trevor and Jimenez was hit with hatemail and a storm of violent bigoted nonsense. So if you ever assumed the likes of movements like Comicsgate was some new phenomenon, remember: conservatism, bigotry and hate have been entrenched deeply in comics and comic fandom for decades now. These terrible, ugly things have been around forever, they’ve now just organized into becoming an uglier monster It’s why so much of this stuff is where it’s at and it’s why it needs to be confronted, looked at, talked about and examined.
Here’s Jimenez himself talking about diversity, the privilege of the straight cis white male creator and the racism:
I’m of the belief that diverse characters have to be introduced, sometimes with quite a bit of zeal, onto consumers, who tend to be fairly conservative and attached to pretty specific iterations of their favorite characters. This is not always the case, but I find that diversity is only welcome as long as it’s introduced by the hegemony in charge; that is to say, if a straight white guy does it, it’s cool, and without agenda; if a creator of color, a female creator, or a gay creator introduces said diversity, it is often seen as full of agenda, and an obvious attempt at subversion. This is not always true, mind you, but I find it often is. It seems many readers are distrustful with sudden demographic shifts in their books, especially when it seems other, pre-established white characters might be shunted aside, and this situation was no different. (Ah, the sandbox of white privilege! You go play in your box with your own characters, because this one is ours!) Ultimately, my interest in introducing such diversity comes from two places: One, a desire to see my friends and the world I live in more properly represented in a medium I love, and two, the thousands upon thousands of new stories creators get when they have a diverse cast of characters and cultures to play with.
Reaction to Trevor Barnes was mixed at best, and hostile at worst. We got calls saying, “Get that Black monkey out of my ‘Wonder Woman’ comics” (Yes, seriously); and one fan reacted by saying he couldn’t relate to Trevor like he could to Steve, because Steve was “blond and blue eyed like him.” Many fans loathed the idea that Trevor might be the one to have sex with Diana (then, a virgin) before Steve himself did, even though the post-Crisis version of Steve was significantly older than Wonder Woman and married to another woman. Further, the fact that, in his first introduction, Trevor said “No” to Diana when she asked him out on a date made fans go ballistic, even though they had no idea why he said no (It was explained sometime later).
But for all the crying and whining of the racists, Trevor was fantastic. He is arguably the best Wonder Woman love interest to date. His design was terrific to start, with gorgeous long hair and he was a kind, patient activist, not the soldier that Steve Trevor was. He embodied the Jimenez ideal of WW, activism, and a progressive push for change, rather than militaristic tendencies.
This is the run where Donna Troy takes on Neo-Nazis who’ve come to terrorize an event set up by Jewish people to remember the holocaust, wherein tons of queer men and women are openly accepted. It’s the run that had to go through and reflect the 9/11 period. It’s the run where hatred is looked in the eye and punched, but never given into. Jimenez’s mission and analysis of the history that preceded his work is perhaps relevant in this instance, to just illustrate how much the politics, the ‘relevance’ aspect of the character mattered:
I just read an academic essay about how the tenor of Wonder Woman had been changing. Post-George Perez, DC wanted something almost anti-Perez. They were very clear, don’t do what he did. They wanted her integrated into the DC Universe more. They wanted less mythology. She wasn’t seen as a particularly valuable asset and they were highly Superman and Batman focused, so I think she was the ugly stepsister – and treated as such. Editorial at the time didn’t have a point of view about the character. So I came on with a distinct point of view. I said, she forgot what her mission was. I wanted to remind her who her villains were. One story was about her relationship with her mother, which is such a crazy relationship. I forget what the fourth idea was. It was very specifically to get the character realigned so people would stop asking, who is she? Because every creator who came on that book took her in a different direction. Often in an attempt to either explore the political nature of the character or eschew it entirely. I think Mark Waid is on record as saying when you strip the character of her politics, she’s really boring. She’s most interesting when she’s most political. She changes radically decade to decade because ideologies about what she stands for change. Creators try to figure out how they feel about it, but still make her a salable property for Warner Brothers. I think that remains the longstanding conflict with that character.
Part of the thing people forget – again because of imagery – is that very early in his run, the Amazons gave up their armor. They melted it down because the only reason they had it was to protect the Gates of Tartarus and keep the monsters from escaping. Once they were defeated, the Amazons had no reason to be warriors and so they melted down their swords and shields and said, now we can live in paradise. They did for years until War of the Gods. Then they all disappeared when Bill Messner-Loebs wrote the book because he didn’t want to write them. What’s interesting to me is that everyone seems to forget that for several years of Perez’s run, the Amazons did not use armor or swords or shields. They were not warriors. And they were happy about it! There’s that famous image of Wonder Woman in the gatefold cover and that’s the image that many people associate with that run, but for most of that run, there is no armor. There’s very little weaponry. And the Amazons are good with that.
One of my favorite things that ever happened to me was I reinvented Paradise Island during my run and it became a sort of cosmic United Nations and a school. George Perez called me and said, I have to tell you, that is the perfect culmination of everything that I wanted to do with the Amazons. That it was now this peaceful place. He was raving about this decision I made which was inspired by the roots he’d laid down in his run. I was just using what he’d established and building what made sense to me. He and I have less militarized versions of those characters in our heads, which again, is not always commercial and a different take from most people’s. Most people think to make them soldiers – not even warriors, but soldiers.
I think that’s because it’s a very commercially viable iteration. Dudes like chicks with swords and shields and metal bikinis fighting monsters. I say that not to disparage. I think there’s truth to that. There are certainly some women who find empowerment in that idea and that imagery. That imagery is something that is familiar and easy to digest. It’s not a challenging iteration. It’s the default.
That informs a large part of the work here, because while many have suggested or even insisted that there is a contradiction to Wonder Woman, wherein she enforces peace through strength, that doesn’t really hold true when she’s written appropriately. Diana resolves problems without the need for conflict, yes, her ‘weapon’ is a lasso of truth, an open hand of compassion, yes. But there are those that must be fought. There are monsters in the world that will never change, that know only hatred, the bigots and vile people that are hell-bent on destroying anything and everything so long as they get just a bit more power. And you cannot change or save them by talking to them or extending that open hand. You punch nazis. You fight racists. You kick TERFS. Wonder Woman is an agent of peace, not an agent of centrism. She’s not going to sit around and say ‘I’m not going to lift a finger because to do so would mean contradictions. I’m a pacifist’. That’s not that character. She’s a progressive force for good, from a land where no one need work because everyone has plenty and anyone can be anything, without prejudice. That’s the world she fights for, across the board.
Wonder Woman needn’t be nice. She need only be kind. And that distinction matters.
The World Of Wonder
Beyond defining so clearly what Wonder Woman is and does, alongside the familial unit she’s surrounded by, Jimenez made her world feel massive. It felt explosive and huge. She felt like a vital, active part of the DC Universe, without feeling too generic. The above spread perhaps best illustrates the spirit and vibe of what Jimenez was going for. Just a massive LEGION of super-women out to save the world from the forces that would see it fall, out to change it no matter the cost.
And it is worth saying, the story in which this assembly happens does actually feel like a Legion Of Super-Heroes story, full of a billion characters, given tags, like it’s an LOSH book. And that tracks given Jimenez’s lifelong Legion fandom as well, but more likely is the fact that there’s a crossover of interests here, between what Legion is and what Perez excels at, which is gigantic legions of super figures, as mastered by him in Crisis.
But heroic peers aside, Jimenez arguably did far more for the rogues gallery of Wonder Woman than anyone else before (save Marston) or since.
I retain a great fondness in particular for Jimenez’s take on Angle Man, named Angelo Bend. Yes, that is an incredibly silly name and an even sillier character, but he’s absolutely perfect for Jimenez. He plays like a dude ripped straight out of a Grant Morrison/Phil Jimenez collaboration comic and it is supremely delightful. He’s an Italian gentleman and super-thief, who talks like the corniest character and just will not shut up. He always wears a nice-looking suit, with gloves, shoes and a hat to match. He likes to have fun and he’s almost like a Wonder Woman version of Mirror Master, only less Scottish and more Italian and let’s be honest, given the sick white suit, cooler. I said it.
He’s central to the back-up stories Jimenez ends up doing and almost becomes a sort of pseudo-love interest type for Donna Troy. An absolute anime-esque sore loser who tries so, so hard, says the dumbest nonsense, that makes you sigh and go ‘Is he always like this?’ as someone covers their face and another laughs at the silliness. He was a great underdog figure in the WW world, even though he wasn’t much of an underdog or an antagonist, just a loser who was surprisingly competent and corny. He was basically what Martin Mystery would be if he were a Wonder Woman rogue.
The real gem though, might be this one. We’ve discussed Villainy Incorporated extensively before in the earlier installments and Jimenez remains the ONLY Wonder Woman creator to use them in the title since Marston, really. And certainly the only one to openly reference them. This is what I mean when I say only someone who knew the character and the book could do this run. You had to have read the history to be able to manage. In a lot of ways, Jimenez’s approach here plays a bit like a very rough version of the approach Grant Morrison would go onto hone to perfection in his grand 2000s Bat-Epic.
But suffice to say, under Jimenez, everything counts. And suddenly, Queen Clea is back and the entire Marston history is available, with just Lyta slotted in instead of Diana, thanks to Byrne. And so with that, Jimenez pulls on that whole thread of history and builds a totally new legacy Villainy Inc. Once more a display of the sheer legacy and potential within the title, it’s loaded with some old players, like Clea and Giganta, some legacy figures, such as the new Doctor Poison, hot off the Erik Luke era revitalization, as well as some new additions and members, like Jinx, Cyborgirl and Trinity.
And at the heart of it was, again, a story rooted in the thematic core of the Jimenez era: Mothers and Daughters. The story saw a Diana, a daughter who’d just lost her mother, go up against Clea, a mother who’d lost her daughter, to get at those differing relationships, utilizing contrast to enhance meaning. Also, there’s Skartaris from Warlord mythology, which is a perfect pull to use given the history of WW as a title dealing with weird hidden away mystical/magical islands and secret kingdoms.
But as all that happened, the Jimenez era was coming to a close. It was time to wrap up. The reasoning, as explained by Jimenez, makes a lot of sense given all we’ve discussed:
Unfortunately, Our Worlds at War, Joker’s Last Laugh, the tragedy of 9/11, behind the scenes creative sparring (multiple editors; cutting issues; extending arc lengths; the ridiculous beats I had to incorporate into the Gods of Gotham arc, including the conceit that no one in Gotham City could ever see WW or know she was in town; fights over colorists; battles over the length of my run; incorporating Hippolyta’s death into the WW book as well as ACTION COMICS, etc.), the negative and often racist reaction to the Trevor Barnes character, and my own drawbacks as an inexperienced writer/artist helped to undermine some of these goals. It also didn’t help that my run was only extended in fits and spurts. So, I finally left out of frustration (it’s difficult to plot a book when you’re never sure how many issues you’re going to be on it). I wasn’t telling the stories I wanted to tell in the way I wanted to tell them, and I thought it better to finally hand over the reigns to Walt Simonson, and then Greg Rucka and leave on a relatively high note. I did love the last few issues of my run, though; I thought they were the most fun and the most fun to write and draw.
Jimenez was set to go and finally knowing how long he had, how much space he would get, he was finally, freely able to do the few things he’d really wanted to. So you finally got Lynda Carter’s Blue Wetsuit Wonder Woman, with her helmet and goggles, riding the Wonder Bike. Here you go folks, here’s your Kamen Rider Wonder Woman. And you also got the above of skateboarder Wonder Woman. Now, if you don’t love that, I don’t know what to tell you. That’s just about the greatest thing.
But the fun and silliness aside, wherein Jimenez was just truly, fully, and finally having fun at last, there was more. The Trevor Barnes/Diana relationship didn’t progress much beyond very early stages and Jimenez didn’t have high hopes, so he basically brought it to a point where they were good friends but could also very well be together. It was just up to the new writer as to what would happen, Jimenez gave them space. Yet even as he did that, pulling back on this thing he’d tried, he placed another potential thread on the table for successors to pursue.
Trevor’s nephew, Bobby Barnes, was revealed to be a massive WW superfan. And she took him around for a whole day, living up to him as the hero he’d always seen her as. In a lot of ways, it’s impossible to not read this and see Jimenez. Bobby Barnes is Phil or rather more aptly an avatar for young Phil and boys like him who thought Wonder Woman and the ideas of love and peace she represented were the best. It was giving the female hero what every male hero had gotten, in the form of your Supergirls, Batgirls, and more: A Wonderboy.
Some might see the move as a bit indulgent, but it reads as…sweet, sincere and touching, really. There is such an awe and love towards what WW is and means and how positive that is and the positive impact her message has on everyone, including young men.
Of course, no one would ever pick this up and Bobby would be completely forgotten, but alas. Jimenez tried. He put forward the notion.
But that wasn’t to be his only final gift, lord no. There was more. Jimenez cared for Diana and her world far too much. He wouldn’t have left if he could help it. He had too many ideas. And so some of them are put into place here:
I loved the new incarnation of Themyscira as a sort of cosmic university, a place where weapons didn’t work (except on the Isle of combat training); a place dedicated to the democratic exchange of information between beings across the universe. And I loved that it gave the Amazons a specific function and purpose in the DCU.
I wanted it to be this grand, mythic place (thus the floating archipelago) where the Amazons commingled with mortals, aliens, and demigods; where the Amazons were afforded the opportunity to learn from these diverse cultures as they simultaneously promoted their own ideals. I wanted it to be a location as unique and magical as Krypton or Oa. I wanted to restore the Amazons to the tribe of scientifically, intellectually and emotionally advanced beings they had been many decades before; and I wanted to continue to use pre-established Amazons, maintaining a universe of supporting characters as unique as the individual members of the Green Lantern Corps (an organization with characters who were similar because of their costume color and weaponry, but were unique in physical appearance and POV).
The highlight of my career was the phone call from George Perez, who felt that this Paradise Island and my treatment of the Amazons was the logical conclusion of the characters and the Themyscira he had created 15 years before. That call kept me beaming for months.
The final offering Jimenez had left and saved was this: Themyscira, Cosmic University. A realm of unity, peace, kindness, understanding. Not just a place where discount-spartans cut each other up with swords (although there was the combat training isle), but so, so much more. A place open to a whole multiverse of individuals, from across all of space-time, a space for knowledge, education and wisdom. A bastion of both scientific and magical prowess, a home where the spiritual and the scientific weren’t splintered but were part of a larger whole.
Jimenez never saw the Amazons in their terrible reductions. He saw them, each and every one of them, in all of their complex multitudes. And he wanted to express that. And what better way than to do this? To erect this monument, this massive artifact, this legendary symbol for all that they represented, for all that they stood for and could be? It was the ultimate celebration of Wonder Woman and her legacy, her history, it was pure gratitude, from the ultimate fan who got to stand where his teacher had.
It was Phil Jimenez saying ‘Thank you, Wonder Woman. For all that you were and are to me. Thank you. Now, Diana…I let you go.”
He remains the first openly queer creator to have a major run on the character.