One of the things that has kept Wonder Woman from achieving the same kind of fan-favorite status inside comic book fandom that her fellow icons Batman and Superman possess, according to many, is her lack of iconic storylines. Sure, she might not have her own The Dark Knight Returns or The Killing Joke, but that’s not to say that there aren’t decades worth of comic book stories to choose from when looking for Wonder Woman greatness. (She did, after all, debut back in 1941’s All-Star Comics #8.)
In fact, there are so many comic book stories that it can seem a little bit daunting to know where to start… and that’s where we come in. If Gal Gadot and director Patty Jenkins have you convinced that you need a little bit more Wonder in your life, here are the five (well, six, but we’ll get to that) places you should start, to help you understand just where the character has gone throughout the past seven decades of funny book action.
The earliest days of the hero are collected in this recent edition, which offers the first two years’ worth of stories by creator William Moulton Marston and artist Harry G. Peter. From today’s point of view, it’s a fascinating read — Peter’s overly stylized art feels as influenced by Aubrey Beardsley as any “traditional” comic book cartooning at times. Marston’s writing is fairy tale logic mixed with closeted BDSM and feminist subtexts — but it remains a wonderfully (no pun intended) unique, bizarre read, never mind the birthplace of such an iconic character.
After all, who doesn’t love a little bondage in their comic books?
DIANA PRINCE: WONDER WOMAN VOL. 1
By the late ‘60s, the powers that be at DC thought that Wonder Woman needed a makeover. Their solution? Strip her of her powers and costume — don’t get too excited — and transform her into an Emma Peel-esque martial artist trying to make the world better one karate kick at a time. It was a strange choice, and one later reversed after criticism from Gloria Steinem of all people, but the man responsible — writer and artist Mike Sekowsky — definitely went for it when he had the chance. This collection (the first of four) has the dated, pop-art, highlights of the run.
These are the days of mods, and Wonder Woman is ever the modern woman. In this case, she happens to be the mid-century modern woman. A must have for any serious collector.
WONDER WOMAN BY GEORGE PEREZ VOL. 1
After the mini-series that celebrated DC Comics’ 50th anniversary by rebooting its entire history — Crisis on Infinite Earths — Wonder Woman got a do-over from acclaimed writer/artist George Perez that leaned heavily on the mythological aspects of the character, making her more at home amongst gods and goddesses than superheroes and regular people. In many ways, it’s both a culmination and repudiation of Marston’s original intentions for the character, making it a fascinating reboot. The run continued for years, with this collection bringing together the first fourteen months’ worth of work.
If you want to know how Wonder Woman got her modern identity, you’ll need to read these comics. These are the first in which Diana begins to become the Wonder Woman we know today.
WONDER WOMAN: THE HIKETEIA Just how powerful is Wonder Woman? You’ll get an idea in this graphic novel that sees her face off against none other than Batman himself, in a story that saw crime writer Greg Rucka take on Wonder Woman for the first time. (Artist J.G. Jones provides able support, with some arresting images — especially that cover!) Focusing on the downsides of her devotion to honor and sisterhood, this is an unexpectedly dark read, but one that demonstrates the depth of the character and concept in a way that had previously been rarely touched upon.
Plus, the cover is literally Wonder Woman’s boot on Batman’s head. That’s an iconic image no matter how you slice it. I mean, suitable for framing and everything. This might be the best cover in the run. And that’s saying something. Even for a giant like DC, Wonder Woman attracted some top illustrators over the years.
WONDER WOMAN: YEAR ONE The current comic book run, once again written by Rucka with art by a team of creators (including, for this collection, the amazing Nicola Scott), takes on the unenviable task of trying to refine the various portrayals of Wonder Woman in recent years and redefine the hero moving forward. That it succeeds speaks not just to the talents of those involved, but the clear affection they have for Wonder Woman as a concept as well as a character. Although Year One is technically the second volume in the series — The Lies, by Rucka and Liam Sharp, being the first — it’s a perfect starting point for newcomers because it updates her origin story in a meaningful way. And, yes, it’s true: this was the comic that finally made it canon that Wonder Woman is queer. What else would you expect from someone raised on an island of only women?
Runner-Up Bonus Comic DC: THE NEW FRONTIER It’s not a Wonder Woman comic per se, but Darwyn Cooke’s The New Frontier — an epic that places the DC characters in the 1960s era many debuted in — features a take on the character that quickly became iconic to many: aggressive, fed up with patriarchal bullshit and eager to stand up for injustice even when it means facing off against Superman himself (“There’s the door, spaceman,” she sneers at him at one point), she might not be the Wonder Woman many recognize, but she’ll be one you’ll want to see again and again.