- The New 52 reboot of Wonder Woman introduced a darker and more horror-based tone to her comic.
- The run revealed a controversial change to Wonder Woman’s origin story, revealing that she was actually the child of Hippolyta and the god Zeus, instead of being created from clay.
- The depiction of Greek mythology in the New 52 run was much darker and showcased the pettiness and brutality of the gods.
Wonder Woman has had comic books since the 1940s, with the Amazing Amazon being a part of DC Comics’ Trinity of heroes. Many of her earlier comics took an overly superheroic tone, while the post-Crisis on Infinite Earths reboot emphasized her ties to Greek mythology and epic fantasy. One rather infamous run took those elements to a greater extreme, however, turning the star-spangled Amazon’s adventures into a grisly horror story.
The New 52 reboot was contentious as a whole, with many fans noting how much darker certain heroes were portrayed. Wonder Woman was no different in this regard, with the Brian Azzarello/Cliff Chiang Wonder Woman run being easily her darkest tales yet. The result was a fantasy horror book that felt more in line with a ’90s Vertigo title than Princess Diana’s usual stories.
The New 52 Changed Everything About Wonder Woman
Before the New 52, Wonder Woman had a fairly cemented backstory. Although there were some changes between the Golden Age, the Silver Age, and the character’s post-Crisis era, the general gist remained the same. In those takes, Diana of Themyscira was created by Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons. Crafted out of clay by her mother, Diana was unique among her Amazonian sisters because of her origin. Most notably, this added to the rebellious feminist allure of the Amazons and Wonder Woman herself, with Diana’s birth not being tied to her conception by a man. This all changed in the New 52, with Diana’s origin being the most controversial of said changes.
In her new monthly series by Azzarello and Chiang, Wonder Woman learned that her clay origins were a fabricated lie. In fact, the ruse was told to her by Hippolyta in order to hide her true parentage as the child of the god Zeus and herself. Conceived years ago by the lusty sky god, Princess Diana’s clay origin was concocted by the queen of the Amazons to stave off the wrath of Zeus’ wife Hera. It was a huge revelation for the character and a major change for fans. This darker, more twisted origin story reflected the tone of the rest of the Azzarello/Chiang run.
Wonder Woman’s Most Controversial Series Was a Horror Book
Before the title came out, writer Brian Azzarello described his version of Wonder Woman as anything but a superhero book. Instead, he described the title as a “horror book,” which was certainly a change of pace for the Amazonian hero. She had long been depicted as a female equivalent to Superman, despite her harsh, mythology-based storytelling. Thus, the ensuing stories that came about during the New 52 felt in line with the horror tone that Azzarello had foretold.
The Azzarello Wonder Woman run was quite violent, emphasizing Diana’s training as an Amazonian warrior. This saw her brutally deal with threats such as centaurs and even other demigods. The action had a more visceral quality to it, even when the combatants were magical deities. Likewise, the dread and almost Lovecraftian nature of the story meant that it lacked the prominent “hope” seen in more generic superhero stories. Diana and her allies were constantly facing new threats from the gods of Olympus, making it seem that the deck was perpetually stacked against them. This element in particular was another point of contrast to usual takes on the heroine and adaptations of Greco-Roman myth in general.
The New 52 Wonder Woman Had a Dark Depiction of the Greek Pantheon
Greek mythology is ubiquitous in pop culture, although this is something of a double-edged sword when it comes to accuracy. Many times, the Greek myths are sanitized in a way that makes them more marketable or politically correct for modern times. Likewise, names from Greek and Roman myth are frequently mixed up, resulting in errors. This wasn’t an issue in the first New 52 run on Wonder Woman, however, which took a completely opposite approach.
This run showed the Greek pantheon in all their might and majesty, with the horror tone being supplemented by the designs of the gods. Many of them emphasized different “horrors,” namely in their sometimes inhuman forms. Even the friendly Hermes looked like a humanoid bird, being far from a majestic messenger. Poseidon was a gigantic sea monster that didn’t look human at all, while Hades was a fittingly demonic looking boy with a burning candle atop his head. Strangely enough, Wonder Woman’s usual foe Ares was given perhaps one of the most human designs, although it even it was poetically violent. Given a design that resembled series writer Brian Azzarello, Ares’ mere presence inspired hatred and conflict among humans. It’s no wonder his otherwise pedestrian form still showed his true colors with blood-soaked pants legs.
These gods were far from noble skyfathers or easy stand-ins for religious figures. Instead, they were all too human, showcasing the pettiness of the gods as they are in the actual Greek myths. Their wrath and endeavors have many times disastrous effects on the humans nearby, with the gods themselves caring little about the fallout. Even Hera herself gets a taste of this brutal reality when she loses her powers, although this is only after the introduction of the story arc’s true villain. Named The First Born, he’s the true first child of Zeus and Hera who was blotted out from history. Raised by hyenas, he embodied a cycle of animalistic violence that began long ago with Zeus and his father Cronus. Even the Amazons were changed from being as pious as they usually are, with their bloodthirsty and sexist form of reproduction showing them to be a much less than “enlightened” group of women.
Diana herself had emotional outbursts and even renounced the Amazons for their past actions, proving that she herself wasn’t a perfect hero. These concepts all resulted in a Wonder Woman run like no other, for better or worse. Of course, this made it more than contentious with fans, especially since the run and its storyline lasted for so long. However, many of the changes were undone by DC Rebirth, starting with a run by previous Wonder Woman scribe Greg Rucka. Still, the Zeus origin was actually used in the DCEU, and the scandalous run as a whole proved that even paragons like Wonder Woman can fit in stories that would horrify even the gods.
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