Official movie poster for the 2009 direct-to-v...

Official movie poster for the 2009 direct-to-video animated film Wonder Woman. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Usually this is when I do Saturday Night Showcase, but since I couldn’t make the Wonder Woman Day celebrations near me (stupid allergy season nearly took me out when I went shopping yesterday) I made a last-minute decision. Just like I did when the first Iron Man movie came out, I decided to look at the many different versions of Wonder Woman outside of the comics.

While this is the first time Diana of Themyscira,,,hey, I finally spelled it right! Of course it will still always be Paradise Island to me. That’s what I grew up with when Wonder Woman aired on TV and the comics I grew up with. This may be her first movie but in animation and live-action television the amazing Amazon has still battled evil. Unfortunately I haven’t seen any of the direct-to-video movies except for the adaptation of Justice League: The New Frontier and that includes the animated Wonder Woman movie from 2009. I can only judge her regular TV appearances but I do hope to see that movie someday as well as the live-action one. (Actually, I’m surprised I didn’t see the animated movie on store shelves while shopping yesterday.)

This one is going to be very video heavy (sorry to people on slower connections) and I’m kind of loathe to bring you this first one. There are three Wonder Woman TV pilots from over the years, and this one may actually be worse than the David Lynch one. You have to see it to believe it but thankfully it’s short. Not short enough because it exists, but short.

{HUGE CORRECTION: Not David Lynch, David E. Kelley! And it’s not the only time I make that mistake in this article. Sorry, folks, I goofed. Just when you read “Lynch”, think “E. Kelley”.}

The 1960s pilot

 

You probably recognize the narrator from the 60s Batman or even the Green Hornet TV show from the same time. However, while the Batman show reflected the comics of the time and The Green Hornet was a product of its time, this crap was nothing like the comics. If anything it was an insult to Diana, and even Hippolyta. Also, Wonder Woman couldn’t fly on her own at the time unlike today. That was added post-Crisis On Infinite Earths. Instead she had an invisible jet, which the other shows on this list save one also included. When the Lynch pilot is closer to Wonder Woman than the one you created, you really need to rethink your approach. Luckily the next pilot was…okay, it was just slightly closer and had its own adaptation problems but it was actually good.

Cathy Lee Crosby as Diana Prince in the pilot ...

Cathy Lee Crosby as Diana Prince in the pilot movie 1974. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The 1974 Pilot

The movie itself is quite good. Ricardo Montalbán gives one of his best villain roles this side of Freakazoid…sorry, Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan. That scene showed his plan that prepared for every attempt to find him while getting a ransom. And he planned to actually return what he stole with as few deaths as possible once he got the money so that he wouldn’t become a priority. It’s like he read the Evil Overlord list. His only mistake was hiring a lead henchman that was the kind of villain you’d expect. Cathy Lee Crosby, Olympic track star turned actress, also does a decent job as a lady agent who pretends to be Steve Trevor’s secretary but is actually his secret weapon and only he knows it. Yep, here Steve knows Diana Prince is Wonder Woman and uses her to stop the bad guys.

As an adaptation however this movie suffers greatly. You can see Crosby’s Wonder Woman outfit is closer to something she’d wear warming up on the track. We do get the leaving Paradise Island moment and she name drops the invisible jet, and that’s all you get. Her character doesn’t seem to have any superpowers. The fight scene with an evil Amazon (who frankly looks more like Diana than Cathy Lee does) wasn’t very well choreographed. And she escapes this trap thanks to a gimmick in her bracelet that she has to remove to use. At the time removing the bracelets was a huge no-no as they restrained her more violent tendencies. Here it’s just something she wears that has a James Bond gadget. I do recommend the movie; just don’t expect a good adaptation.

The 1960s TV Series

Season 1

The first season took from the early days of the comics, minus Etta Candy and her college girl brigade. It was set in World War II, which is when the comic started, so Wonder Woman was fighting Nazis. I’m sure the movie switched to World War I to avoid as many connections to Captain America as possibly, but since the shield and sword were added in the New 52, you could have dropped them. The public at large who only know her from TV wouldn’t miss it and I don’t think the comic fans would care either, especially ones like me who didn’t care for the New 52 incarnation.

This is probably the best adaptation of Wonder Woman. Steve is likable and smart but you can see why he needs Wonder Woman to be his muscle. Lynda Carter looks so much like Diana that even today she looks like what would happen if Diana never returned to Paradise Island and allowed herself to age. It’s was a million to one shot and none of the live-action Wonder Women before or since looks as close, although you could make the case that Gal Gadot does resemble Wonder Woman 52, which is faint praise considering it’s the New 52. They even left the “Bullets & Bracelets” competition because Wonder Woman never needed that shield. She blocked all those bullets with her bracelets and nobody minded. Except the Nazis of course. They minded a lot, but they’re Nazis so who cares?

Season 2

The setting was moved to modern day, Lyle Waggoner now playing Steve Trevor Jr., the son of the Steve Trevor from the original series. They did however recast Queen Hippolyta, and as much as I like Cloris Leachman as an actress I think this was a good move. From here the show changed from overcoming the Nazis to fighting the kind of sci-fi villains and criminal the Bionic Woman would face. Otherwise, nothing really changed. Carter is still perfect in the role, the outfit was improved…but I don’t know why they redid the Bullets & Bracelets competition. I know Diana returned to Paradise Island after the war and might need a retest, but the rules of the competition was changed. Otherwise I wish the show had gone on longer than it did.

That other pilot

You’ve probably heard of this pilot by now, either by seeing the leaked video or a review of it. It’s as bad as you’ve heard. Diana is reimagined as the owner of a major corporation who also happens to openly fight crime as a vigilante. And then she has a secret identity which she uses to watch romantic movies with her cat while eating ice cream right out of the container. Steve Trevor is reimagined as her ex-boyfriend though they still have feeling for each other but now he’s married…it’s a mess.

What makes it worse is how Diana treats the villain of the piece makes her look to be worse than the villains, or at least that’s how the citizenry should view her. It’s only the nature of the villains’ experiments that make her to be a hero. There’s bad commentary, unfinished effects because it wasn’t approved to be finished, and overall is just a sad product overall.


But it’s not just the world of live-action that featured Wonder Woman. While she didn’t have a TV series from Filmation, she did appear in an episode of The Brady Kids, the animated spin-off of The Brady Bunch. She also cameoed in an episode of the Ruby-Spears Superman and has been part of three different team-up series. Sadly she has never been given her own cartoon, but she did play a major role in these other shows. Frankly, the Brady cameo barely has her in it. Diana is working at a library when the kids magical bird transports them all to ancient Greece. You all remember their magical bird, right? Anyway there not much there to say so let’s go right to the other version you all probably know best if you’re in my generation:

 

Wonder Woman was one of the few female characters on Super Friends and I wouldn’t be surprised if that was only because of the live-action series. Outside of original character Rima (who was in maybe two episodes), I think Hawkgirl showed up a time or two, and junior Super Friends Wendy and Jana at various points. there weren’t a lot of female character. No Supergirl, no Black Canary…and those are the two I know were in that time period, and not counting those that showed up during the show’s run. They ended up with Firestorm and Cyborg, and they were created during the series, so I know that’s not an excuse.

Luckily Wonder Woman doe have a good showing in this show. (I count Super Powers Team: Galactic Guardians as part of Super Friends since it had most of the same actors and shared continuity plus both were made by Hanna-Barbera.) She can take on baddies on her own or helping the team. She wasn’t the damsel who needed saving or the secretary. She was very much a part of the team. So at least they got that part right. Remember, I love this show, but I would have loved it more if Supergirl had stopped by. Imagine Supergirl and Firestorm (or at least Ronnie) dating.

Superman (Ruby-Spears)

I tried to get a clip of Wonder Woman from this show but all I could find was a clip that focused on Lois and some scenes covered by the Lynda Carter theme. She guest-starred in the episode “Superman and Wonder Woman vs. The Sorceress of Time”. In it Wonder Woman comes to Superman from help when an evil sorceress named Cyrene is accidentally released and goes on a rampage in Metropolis. This was the first DC cartoon to take place in a post-Crisis DCU. For example Lex is an evil businessman (although it’s often clear the writers and Michael Bell weren’t ready for that change, a result of DC’s first hard reboot), and Wonder Woman can now fly without the plane.

I haven’t seen the episode in years now that it’s only available via purchase (the series is available through YouTube for a fee or on home video, which I wish I owned because I enjoy this take on Superman), but going by memory this was quite fair to Diana. The episode had Lois a bit jealous (oh, if you only knew what was coming, Lois) unnecessarily and she gets kidnapped to lure out Superman (although she doesn’t make her kidnapping easy) and Wonder Woman does get to do some cool stuff. She probably only needed Supes’ help because it’s his show.

Justice League/Justice League Unlimited

In this version Wonder Woman starts out as you’d expect, someone not quite understanding how “man’s world” works and learning to adapt. However, she does good things for women, has her trademark compassion, and she provides a lot of help to the team. As the show goes on she becomes more understanding of how the outside world works, and as the League expands becomes a good leader and friend. Also for some reason the writers tried to romantically pair her with Batman. I don’t understand that. She doesn’t need to be romantically paired with any of the superheroes. We’ll be coming back to that comments.

Batman: The Brave & The Bold

Another cameo as she pops up in one of the teaser adventures that featured in most episodes. That video is pretty much all of it. While she would show up a few times in the tie-in comic, that’s all you get in the show. I like the cover of the Lynda Carter theme, but it seems like the writer just wanted to make the Carter version. (Although Steve was never that big of a douche.) She’s back to the Invisible Jet, tossing her tiara, and otherwise comes off pretty well. It’s too bad she didn’t have a better showing on this show, but at least there was one woman who wasn’t trying to hit on Batman the whole time. Every other superheroine seemed to want to unbuckle Batman’s utility belt, although Green Arrow eventually won over Black Canary. At least this wasn’t the “Batman’s daughter in another dimension” version of the Huntress.

Justice League Action

One of two current DC superhero shows (and whatever the heck Teen Titans Go) thinks it is, Wonder Woman takes some cues from the New 52, in that she’s dating Superman (which kind of clashes with Superman being back with Lois in the comics….loooooooooooooong story) and a bit more of a punchy things kind of Amazon. She’s a good fighter, and for a show whose very name denotes “action show”, she comes off as a strong woman.

By the way, you may have noticed I’m skipping Young Justice. Wonder Woman, like most of the “big names” didn’t do much in that show, focusing instead on the sidekicks. So this was the first good showing by Wonder Woman on TV since Super Friends ended. There is one more version out there, though.

DC Super Hero Girls

Currently only a webseries on YouTube and a set of direct-to-video movies, including one from LEGO, a full TV series was recently announced. The show, for those of you who haven’t been following, is a re-imagining where Superman and Batman have inspired all of these heroes who go to Super Hero High and learn to become better superheroes. And there are a few other superhero academies based on DC Universe locations. In the first season Diana was new to Super Hero High…which you would think is a bad showing since she’s the only member of the “Trinity” to still be a high-school girl in this continuity. However, she is one of the best characters. We get to see her grow as a hero and get used to life off of her island. She makes friends and overcomes Cheetah’s attempts to ruin her chances. (Yeah, a few of the villains are made into heroes here, with only vice-principal Gorilla Grodd and later Big Barta being reformed villains.)

In season two the focus has shifted to the friendship between Supergirl and Batgirl, as Supergirl goes through what Wonder Woman did. Now a sophomore, Diana is kind of an inspiration to Kara, and there is still focus on her character and her friendship with Bumblebee (not the Transformer) and Harley Quinn, but she does have a lesser presence than she did as Supergirl goes into her spot, possibly because of HER live-action TV show. One wonders what will happen on the Cartoon Network series now that Wonder Woman has her own movie.

As to which version of Wonder Woman is my favorite, that easily the Lynda Carter version. She IS Wonder Woman. She looks like her, acts like her, and is the Wonder Woman most everybody thinks of unless they’re more into the comics. I hear that the Wonder Woman movie may actually be good despite the New 52 influences and being set in the wrong war, so maybe Warner Brothers got one of these characters right in their Extended Universe, so we dodged another Ghostbuster reboot problem. Here’s hoping this is the first step of the DCEU not sucking.

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About ShadowWing Tronix

A would be comic writer looking to organize his living space as well as his thoughts. So I have a blog for each goal. :)

2 responses »

  1. Sean says:

    Thanks for showing the numerous live action and animated versions of Wonder Woman. Of all these, it was the Linda Carter version and Superfriends kind that I’m most familiar with. You’re correct in that Linda Carter really does have that Wonder Woman look. But so does Gal Gadot. Plus, Gadot served in the Israeli military, so she truly does have warrior skills that helped prepare her for the role! So far, I’ve only been reading positive reviews about this current Wonder Woman movie. It’s been hailed by one critic as the best DC super hero movie of recent times (I think it was the critic from the Chicago Tribune). This film has done remarkably well money wise for its opening weekend….better than originally expected in terms of opening weekend ticket sales.

    Like

  2. Sean says:

    I also read one newspaper review that praised the current Wonder Woman film for how it depicted World War I. With this being the centennial years of WWI, it is great that popular movies are reminding people about this important time period in world history.

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