Comics offer an amazing opportunity to celebrate female strength in both the visual and narrative sense. Unfortunately, it doesn’t take more than a quick glance at the shelves of your local comic book store to see that the portrayal of female strength is often compromised in favor of hyper-sexualized female characters.
Thankfully, as more women enter the comics industry, we see a gradual diversification of how female characters are drawn and written. From Erica Henderson’s artwork in The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl to Kelly Sue DeConnick’s storytelling in Bitch Planet, women in comics have been showing comic book readers and creators just how compelling and diverse female characters can be. And, just in time for her 75th birthday, Wonder Woman has received a refreshingly powerful new treatment at the hands of a female creator, Renae De Liz (The Last Unicorn, Womanthology).
In The Legend of Wonder Woman, De Liz establishes Diana Prince as an independent and strong-willed character, a woman more likely to strike a warrior stance than a pinup pose. De Liz takes her readers back to Diana’s childhood, and we watch as Diana grows in the face of emotional and physical challenges. We see Diana struggle in her relationship with her mother, her mentor, and herself as she determines what is important to her and what her future will be. De Liz creates a strong emotional foundation upon which Diana Prince charts her path to becoming Wonder Woman.
De Liz’s artwork serves the story beautifully, emphasizing the characters’ personalities, emotions, and actions rather than their sex appeal. The amazon warriors are heavily muscled and armored and their waists are wider than their foreheads. Although this may seem like a small detail, it is an outlier in superhero comics and a conscious decision to more accurately represent the female form. De Liz’s treatment of Etta Candy, a character who has frequently been derided, demonized, and defined by her size, shouting “for the love of chocolate” for laughs in the 1940s and developing an eating disorder in the late 1980s, is remarkable in its singularity. Not only does De Liz embrace Etta’s curves, she refuses to let Etta’s size define her character or story. In this incarnation, Etta is confident and competent, a fiercely loyal friend who can crack jokes while manning warplanes.
De Liz’s thoughtful approach to creating her characters’ stories and looks revitalizes their relatability and appeal and serves as an example of why we need women creating, reading, and discussing comics. Wonder Woman’s been a warrior for 75 years, and thanks to Renae De Liz she’s got the emotional depth and the shoulder width to prove it!