One of my favorite aspects of the Wonder Woman series has always been her link to Greek mythology. The first issue of volume four of Wonder Woman (the new 52) is resplendent with mythological aspects. Let’s examine some of them, shall we?
I do not claim to be an expert on Greek mythology, but I’ve always been fascinated. This is giving me a chance to research and learn more about the aspects of the mythology that effect Wonder Woman.
The first mythological aspect that we see is Apollo himself. Though it is never explicitly stated in the issue that he is Apollo, the dialogue in this image (“I’m the Sun of a King”), heavily implies it, with Sun being a play on words (Apollo is the son of Zeus and the Sun God). [Note: There was a character design image released by DC Comics that clearly states that this is Apollo.]
Apollo is the son of Zeus and Leto. His twin sister is Artemis, the Goddess of the Hunt. “Apollo has been variously recognized as a god of light and the sun, truth and prophecy, medicine, healing, plague, music, poetry, arts, archery, and more.” [Wikipedia]
This is a very interesting interpretation of Apollo. He starts out with dark skin and hair, almost like molten rock. As the sun starts to rise throughout the issue, he gets brighter until this:
Next we see someone (seemingly female) cloaked in peacock feathers. We never get a look at this person beyond an arm, a leg, and a silhouette. The peacock has long been associated with Hera, queen of the Gods [*]. She is frequently shown as being very jealous of her husband Zeus’ many lovers. If she knows that Zola is pregnant with Zeus’ child (as revealed at the end of issue 01), it makes sense that Hera (or perhaps an agent of Hera) would attempt to kill Zola.
Next we see Hermes, the messenger of the Gods. In George Perez’s reboot of Wonder Woman in 1987, Hermes is the God who gifted Diana with speed and flight. Here we see him with winged bird feet and a helmet similar to the one he wore during George Perez’s run [**]. No caduceus in sight.
Centaurs! Body of a horse with the torso and head of a human. There are two different origins for centaurs, both of which have connections to happenings in this issue. In one, centaurs were born of Ixion (son of Ares) and Nephele (a cloud nymph in the form of Hera [***]). In the other, all centaurs are descended from Centaurus. Centaurus is either the child of Ixion and Nephele, or the child of Apollo with Stilbe (a water nymph and daughter of River God Peneus). Whether connected through Apollo or Hera (or even not at all), centaurs play a heavy role in Greek mythology. It makes sense that Wonder Woman would come across them.
Finally, we have these three. Though these three start out as regular human women, they seem to be Oracles of some kind. It is possible they were nothing more than regular oracles (perhaps even imbued with the power of Apollo). However, the fact that there are three of them and they speak in turn could be a reference to the Moirae, the spinners of fate. The women could have been channeling the Moirae. It is unclear exactly who they were and why they could foretell the future.
That’s all for this issue! Come back next month when we examine mythological aspects of issue two!
[*] The story of Hera’s association with the peacocks revolves around Zeus’ affair with Io.
[**] George Perez’s Hermes can be seen here. This image was from Wonder Woman (v2) issue 07.
[***] Nephele was made by Zeus in the image of Hera to test Ixion’s integrity. Ixion has shown lust for Hera. He failed Zeus’ test and mated with Nephele (whom he believed to be Hera). And thus, the centaurs were born.
SPOILER WARNING: This review contains spoilers!
Wonder Woman #01
Written by: Brian Azzarello
Art by: Cliff Chiang (interior art and cover), Matthew Wilson (colors), Jared K. Fletcher (letters)
Story Title: The Visitation
Release Date: September 21, 2011
Ratings: 4.5 out of 5
Dusk, on the rooftop terrace of a skyscraper in Singapore, Apollo and three young human women are talking. In Virginia, a humanoid (presumably female) draped in a cloak of peacock feathers in a horse stable takes a scythe and uses it to cut the heads off of two horse. Where their heads were arms and a head start to grow. In a nearby house, we see a young woman pointing a shotgun at a bird-footed, blue skinned humanoid. He is trying to protect her, but the young woman, Zola, doesn’t believe him. The horses have turned into centaurs and are attacking Zola’s home. The man takes an arrow for her and gives her a key. The key teleports her to London and the bedroom of Diana, the Wonder Woman. While Diana and Zola teleport back to Zola’s house to face the centaurs, Apollo is being told his fortune by the three women (who have become Oracles). The man from earlier is revealed to be Hermes, and he beckons Diana to take Zola and run “to the ends of the Earth. Protect her, or the Queen will see her dead.” Hermes reveals that Zola is pregnant with Zeus’ child. The prophecy of the Oracles reveals that one of Zeus’ children will murder another and take their place.
I’m very impressed with this issue. A lot of the DC New 52 stuff really suffered from premiere-itis. The stories fell a little short when weighed down with introducing a new origin, or they were confusing as to when they took place in relation to other appearances of the same character (I’m looking at you Superman). Wonder Woman did not have that problem. The world knows who Wonder Woman is (at the very least, Zola instantly recognized her). The Gods of Olympus are active and alive. There were no lingering continuity or origin related questions from this issue.
Brian Azzarello did a fantastic job of setting up the future of this new series without sacrificing telling a good story in this issue. That can be a very tough task for writers, but not Azzarello. Cliff Chiang’s art really shines here, with the help of very crisp and beautiful colors by Matthew Wilson. Everything really comes together to create what I feel is the strongest premiere issue of a run of Wonder Woman in a very long time. I can’t wait to read this book every month, and I hope Brian Azzarello sticks around for many years to tell some great stories.
I HIGHLY recommend this book to long-time Wonder Woman fans and new readers alike.
CBR has just released an interview with DC Publisher Dan Didio. The interview was conducted at Fan Expo Toronto in August, shortly before DC’s relaunch officially began (with Justice League #1). Dan had this to say about Wonder Woman:
CBR: Shifting topics a bit, let’s discuss Wonder Woman. There’s a sense from fans that DC hasn’t been happy with her in a long time. In recent years, she’s received a lot of makeovers, shall we say, especially considering the past year with both the infamous pants re-design and the -issue run by J. Michael Straczynski and Phil Hester.
Didio: Again, if you look at the history of the character, she has constantly changed. She has gone from the early ’40s version, there was a definite interpretation during the ’60s and they tried to stretch her out in almost the same way they did Superman, with Wonder Tot and Wonder Girl. They tried to rebuild the franchise in that fashion. Then, you get into the late ’60s and she takes on, as we call it, the “Emma Peel” look, where she loses the powers and puts on the jump suit. You get past that, and what’s Wonder Woman in the ’70s? Well, then she gets her powers back, and she goes to the Goddess thing, but then she goes to World War II, and she comes back from World War II. Then we have a couple more changes along the way. We get a little more stability when George Perez comes in in the ’80s, and that seems to hold for a while, but even then, we have the changes that take place with Artemis, and she’s working [at] Taco Bell or wherever else she’s working at that time, so you have a lot of changes there too. Then we roll through the ’90s and we get into 2000. Now, we have much more of a warrior woman and a social diplomat. We’ve had Hippolyta alive, we’ve had Hippolyta dead, we’ve had Paradise Island there — it’s one of those things that’s constant evolving.
There are a lot of key things that we wanted to address in the [New 52 Wonder Woman] concept. The good part about the relaunch is that Brian Azzarello is addressing a lot of things at the core. There are people in her life, but she’s never had that strong rogues gallery as existed with other heroes, and she’s never really had that strong supporting cast. You had Steve Trevor, you had Etta Candy, you had a couple of the Amazons, but for a character who’s had almost a 70-year history, that’s not a real big well to draw from. We’re trying to fill that well now.
CBR: So that was a big factor — introducing new characters?
Didio: Oh yes, absolutely. Without getting into too much detail, you’re going to be finding and meeting Wonder Woman’s family.
CBR: Having seen the cover of issue #3, people have been suggesting online that perhaps the reveal that will be pissing Hera off is that Diana is Zeus’ illegitimate daughter.
Didio: [Laughs] Well, if anybody knows, it’s — well, let’s put it this way: there are a lot of twists and turns in the future of “Wonder Woman.”
CBR: I wanted to ask how you felt about the “Odyssey” storyline from this past year, beginning with the fact that DC renumbered Wonder Woman to issue 600…
CBR: Fans were excited…
CBR: Then it went straight out the window…
CBR: And people’s first reactions were to be, frankly, pissed.
Didio: I was disappointed with how it went, but I was encouraged by how much effort was put into trying to keep it on track as much as possible. [The] problem was that Joe Straczynski was over-committed. Joe tried to work with us, and he made his plots and his storylines available to us to keep it going. But it’s always difficult to implement other people’s visions, because he had a very distinct vision for what he had planned for Wonder Woman. I think Phil [Hester] did a wonderful job taking what he had and trying to make it his own. We had a lot of things that were just working against us. For everybody that was involved in that project, from Joe and Phil through all the artists that were involved, everybody gave it their full effort. Some things work, some things don’t work, but our main goal is looking forward right now and concentrating on how to make sure everything’s as strong as it can be.
That’s all to be said about Wonder Woman, but you can read the full interview over at CBR!
The post from CBR also shows off this piece of Wonder Woman art from Cliff Chiang:
Newsarama posted an interview pertaining to the Wonder Woman series with Brian Azzarello. A lot of the same stuff that we have been hearing in the Coventry Telegraph interview and CBR’s Interview. The most interesting bit for me:
Newsrama: who is Wonder Woman as you start her series? Is she the character we know, the Wonder Woman who is recognizable by the public?
Azzarello: She’s very recognizable in this universe. This isn’t a hard reboot. It’s a soft reboot. Her history’s intact. She’s still an Amazon. She’s still from Paradise Island. She’s tough. She’s prepared. She’s Wonder Woman.
I find it a little disconcerting that I’ve only heard Brian Azzarello refer to Themyscira as Paradise Island. I know Paradise Island is the original name, and that the name Themyscira wasn’t introduced until the 80s reboot. I know that even after the reboot, people still referred to it as Paradise Island. But I am very fond of the name Themyscira. I really hope that it’s still called Themyscira.
Read the entire interview on Newsarama!