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REVIEW:
DC UNIVERSE CLASSICS WONDER WOMAN
By Thomas Wheeler

DC Comics arguably has a trio, or "trinity", to use the title of a particular weekly magazine they published recently, of characters that are regarded as a bit more prominent than most of their pantheon of heroes. That would include Superman, Batman, and WONDER WOMAN.

Despite their current treatment of Batman, it can certainly be argued that the two male characters of that list, Superman and Batman, have received the lion's share of the attention. This isn't especially surprising. Comics, especially super-hero comics, remain a male-dominated industry. So do action figures. So while both Superman and certainly Batman have received considerable action figure treatment over the years -- heck, decades -- Wonder Woman hasn't fared quite as well.

Toywise, Wonder Woman's first really prominent product was a figure that was part of Ideal's "Super Queens" line in the 1960's, a sort of girl doll not-quite tie-in to their Captain Action line, which also featured Supergirl, Batgirl, and Mera.

In the 1970's, Mego gave Wonder Woman a bit more respect, including her as part of a group of female super-hero figures that also featured Batgirl, Supergirl, and this time around, Catwoman, as well as giving the character her own 12" action figure line as a result of the popular 1970's live-action TV series.

That TV series, which ran for several seasons in the mid-to-late 1970's, and starred Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman, remains arguably the high point in the character's career as far as a public presence is concerned, although she was also very active in the animated "Super Friends" cartoon series for many years, produced by Hanna-Barbera.

In the 1980's, Wonder Woman was the lone female character in the Super Powers line of action figures from Kenner -- although there were reported plans to add Batgirl and possibly Supergirl later on.

And, of course, the character has turned up in the animated-style figure line based on he Justice League series, courtesy of Mattel. But while she perhaps hasn't fared too badly, neither has she been as prominent as the rest of DC's "trinity", and it's probably also fair to say that there hasn't really been a figure that has captured the character's comic likeness effectively since the Super Powers line.

Until now. Mattel has brought Wonder Woman into their superb line of DC Universe Classics action figures, as part of the fourth series, and they really did a nice job with her. Before we get to the figure, let's consider the history of the character, and get an understanding as to why the character is regarded as so prominent by DC Comics.

Wonder Woman is a fictional character, a DC Comics super-heroine created by William Moulton Marston. First appearing in All Star Comics #8 (December 1941), she is one of three characters to have been continuously published by DC Comics since the company's 1944 inception (except for a brief hiatus in 1984).

Created during World War II, the character was initially depicted fighting the Axis military forces, as well as an assortment of super-villains and super-villainesses. In later decades, some writers and their editors preferred to retain the World War II setting, while others updated the series to reflect an ongoing "present day." Wonder Woman has also regularly appeared in the team books Justice Society (from 1941) and Justice League (from 1960). Arguably the most popular and iconic super-heroine in comics, she is informally grouped with Superman and Batman as one of a "Trinity" of DC characters who are regarded as especially important, both within their fictional universe and without. She was named the twentieth greatest comic book character by Empire Magazine.

In an October 25, 1940 interview, William Moulton Marston described what he saw as the great educational potential of comic books. This article caught the attention of comics publisher Max Gaines, who hired Marston as an educational consultant for National Periodicals and All-American Publications, two of the companies that would merge to form the future DC Comics. At that time, Marston decided to develop a new superhero.

According to the Fall 2001 issue of the Boston University alumni magazine, it was his wife Elizabeth's idea to create a female superhero: William Moulton Marston, a psychologist already famous for inventing the polygraph (forerunner to the magic lasso), struck upon an idea for a new kind of superhero, one who would triumph not with fists or firepower, but with love. "Fine," said Elizabeth. "But make her a woman." Given the go-ahead from the publishers, Marston developed Wonder Woman with Elizabeth (whom Marston believed to be a model of that era's unconventional, liberated woman).

Initially, Wonder Woman is an Amazon champion who wins the right to return Steve Trevor -- a United States intelligence officer whose plane had crashed on the Amazons' isolated island homeland -- to "Man's World," and fight the evil of the Nazis and other crime.

During the Silver Age, Wonder Woman's origin was revamped, along with other characters during the era. The new origin story, increased the character's Hellenic roots, receiving the blessing of each deity in her crib, Diana is destined to become "beautiful as Aphrodite, wise as Athena, stronger than Hercules, and swifter than Mercury."

At the end of the 1960s, under the guidance of Mike Sekowsky, Wonder Woman surrenders her powers to remain in Man's World rather than accompany her fellow Amazons to another dimension.

The character would later return to her super-powered roots and the World War II-era, (due to the popularity of the Wonder Woman TV series), in Justice League of America and the eponymous title, respectively.

Wonder Woman seemingly was killed at the end of Crisis on Infinite Earths, but following the 1985 series, George Pérez and Greg Potter relaunched and reintroduced the character and wrote Wonder Woman as an emissary and ambassador from Themyscira to Patriarch's world.

Originally, Wonder Woman owed her abilities to the goddess Aphrodite creating Amazons superior to men, with Diana being the best of their best. With the inclusion of Wonder Girl in Diana's back-story, writers provided new explanations of her powers; the character became capable of feats which her sister Amazons could not equal. Wonder Woman Volume One #105, reveals that Diana was formed from clay by the Queen of the Amazons and was imbued with the attributes of the Greek gods by Athena. Wonder Woman's Amazon training also gave her limited telepathy, profound scientific knowledge, and the ability to speak every language known to man.

After the Crisis, Wonder Woman's origin was overhauled somewhat. The Amazons, the hardest of soldiers, picked Diana to be their emissary to man's world, it stands to reason that she's not a woman to trifle with. She's the best warrior of a race of women bred to war. She can best Batman in unarmed combat, rival Superman for sheer strength, and make people tell the truth.

Wonder Woman's body is a mystical creation made from the clay surrounding Themyscira. Through divine means, her disembodied soul was nurtured in and retrieved from the womb of the High Matriarch and sole progenitor of the Titans of Myth and the Olympian Gods, Gaea. Once the soul was placed into the body it immediately came to life and was blessed with metahuman abilities by six Olympian deities.

Wonder Woman's strength is nearly limitless, making her one of the strongest and most powerful heroes in the DCU, rivaling that of Superman himself. She has been observed assisting in the movement of entire heavenly bodies, catching cavernous-sized asteroids, supporting the weight of bridges, hefting entire railroad trains, subway trains, ships and aircrafts. It has even been stated that the only being potentially stronger than Diana is Superman himself.

Diana is considered the greatest and most skilled fighter of her race. More recently Athena bound her own eyesight to Diana's granting her increased empathy and the ability to see anywhere and sense others' emotions allowing her to "see" through deception.

Diana is an above Olympic-level athlete and acrobat who has been trained since infancy in the art of war. The "daughter" of more than 4000 warriors, favored of Athena and granddaughter of Ares, the God of War/ Conflict, Diana is a master of over 3000 years of armed and unarmed combat. She is a brilliant military strategist and her colleagues in the Justice League often look to her for advice on tactical strategy.

An unparalleled swordswoman and archer, she is nearly peerless with the battleaxe, lasso, quarterstaff, bo staff, dagger, spear, nunchuku, throwing star, sai, tonfa, kama, escrima stick, baton, boomerang and shield and she has mastered Iaido. Diana is an expert hand-to-hand combatant, having perfected innumerable forms unarmed combat including Shaolin, Wing Chun, Pa Kua, Hsing-i, and Tai Chi Kung Fu styles, Aikido, Judo, Jujitsu, Ninpo, Ninjutsu, Taekwondo, Hapkido, Karate, Capoeira, Boxing, Wrestling, Kickboxing, and countless forms of combat lost to the modern world, but still practiced by the various tribes of Amazons. Through her interactions with her teammates and allies, Diana is also proficient in Apokiliptan, Asgardian, Atlantean, Daxamite, Kryptonian, Martian, Okaaran and Titanese forms of combat.

Although you'd hardly think she needs them, Wonder Woman has an impressive array of weaponry. Easily the best known of these is her "magic lasso", officially known as the The Lasso of Truth, or Lariat of Hestia. It is of limitless length and is absolutely unbreakable, restraining beings as powerful as Superman or Captain Marvel. The Lasso burns with a magical aura called the Fires of Hestia, forcing anyone within the Lasso's confines to be truthful. The Fires can restore lost memories, dispel illusions, renew the wielder's body, protect those encircled by it from magical and nonmagical attacks, and even cure insanity.

It has been noticed that when she has her lasso in her hands, it moves as if it is alive. That's sort of creepy... The full power of her lasso has yet to be seen, but it is noted that it is considered one of, if not the most deadly and powerful weapons in the universe.

Wonder Woman also has the Vambraces, sometimes called bracelets, which were formed from the remnants of Zeus' legendary Aegis shield at the request of Athena to be awarded to her champion. These forearm guards are completely indestructible and can absorb the impact of anything they are braced against. When Diana crosses them they provide her added protection by creating an impenetrable and invisible force field all around her person; when this enchantment is evoked nothing can pierce it.

Even Wonder Woman's golden tiara can be used as a weapon. It has also doubled as a dagger and a throwing weapon used for long-distance attack or defense. It was crafted from Apollo's discus, which returned to him whenever thrown, like a boomerang.

Just don't get me started on her invisible airplane. The figure doesn't come with this, and we'll be here all day if I have to explain that...

So, how's the figure? Really incredibly impressive. Obviously, Wonder Woman isn't going to be using any of the multi-use body molds that have legitimately found their way around to quite a few of the male characters in this excellent line of DC Universe Classics. Wonder Woman is an entirely unique figure.

She stands almost precisely 6-1/2" in height, which puts her on an even height with the majority of the male figures in this line. She can look any of them in the eye. Just disregard the quarter-inch heels on her boots, okay?

And while it can't be easy to make a character look both feminine and powerful at the same time, Hasbro has managed this admirably well. Wonder Woman is not muscular, but neither does she look like a weakling. Her body's form and muscles are well defined without making her look like some sort of body-builder. Her arms are slender, but the musculature is apparent.

The headsculpt is nothing short of incredible. One of the reasons I especially enjoy this DC Universe Classics line over much of what DC Direct does -- and no insult against them, they put out some very cool toys -- but it seems to me that increasingly, DC Direct is turning out figures from specific storylines, and duplicating the art styles, at least insofar as certain art styles can be accommodated in a three-dimensional action figure. And that's fine, if that's what you're interested in.

What Mattel is doing, and what I especially appreciate, is that they're seeking to create the most straightforward and, dare I say, realistic (again, within the limits of the character's basic design) action figure of whichever character the figure represents. In other words, this figure isn't Wonder Woman "as envisioned by this particular artist" or "from this particular story series". This is, arguably, Wonder Woman as you might expect to see her if the DC Universe were a real place you could visit -- articulation lines notwithstanding.

And for Wonder Woman, that has resulted in a very impressive overall appearance, and especially the head. I think maybe just a little Lynda Carter worked in here, but not a lot. The facial expression is perfect. She's almost smiling, but there's a determined look in her eyes that tells you that she'll be friendly if you'll be friendly, but if you mess with her, you'd better hope you've got good medical care available. The painted details on the face, including the eyes, eyebrows, and lips, are done with a level of precision that I dearly wish we would see more of in the toy world at large. This is what a toy company can accomplish when it pays attention.

Additionally, the sculpted hair is superbly crafted. It looks just slightly windblown, and groupings of strands are loose. It's really an excellent job just in and of itself, and really enhances the look of the figure. I might wish that it had been molded from a more flexible plastic, as it does hinder head articulation a little, but it looks so good it's hard to complain.

Now, Wonder Woman has never had the most -- extensive of costumes. In the 1940's, she had a shirt to go with her top. These days, her outfit looks more or less like a very colorful one-piece swimsuit. Go ahead, you tell her she's under-dressed for the general public. You're going to say that to someone who could give Superman a fair fight, be my guest. Far as I'm concerned, she can wear whatever pleases her.

Which in this case is a rather patriotic outfit consisting of a red top and blue trunks. The red top used to have a gold eagle emblem across it, but for some times now has had a double "W" logo that manages to be reminiscent of the original, but more specific to the character. She has a gold belt, and there are white stars on the blue trunks. Additionally, she has the aforementioned bracelets and tiara, as well as red boots with white trim.

Accessory-wise, some fans have complained that Wonder Woman doesn't have her magic lasso. Well, technically, she does. It's coiled and hanging off the right side of her belt. It can't be unfurled and used, but it's there. If you want a functional lasso, go to an art supply store and see if they still make and sell elastic gold cord. That'll work just fine.

The figure does come with an impressive and ornate battle-axe, which has a blade that's been designed to merge both the original "eagle" emblem as well as the modern "double W" insignia. Very fancy way to get carved into little bits, I'm sure. She also has a round shield, mostly gold with silver stars around it. Nothing Captain America is going to get upset about design-wise, but it looks sufficiently protective.

Articulation of the figure is just as good as any of the male figures in this line. Wonder Woman is poseable at the head, arms, upper arm swivel, elbows, wrists, mid torso, waist, legs, upper leg swivel, knees, and ankles.

Any complaints? Minimal. Although most of the paint detailing is superb, there is a little area of red on the back of the figure that looks like it was scuffed or handled or something before it fully dried. Probably could have been avoided. And it appears as though the entire figure has been painted, top to bottom. This seems to be a sporadic matter in this line depending on the character. Personally, it's not a practice I approve of, since I don't think it's necessary, and it opens the figure's production up to an additional layer of potential mistakes. The wrong glob of paint in the wrong place where if the figure had been designed differently wouldn't've been there to begin with results in a nasty "skin condition" or something that ruins the look of the figure. Fortunately, I found a good Wonder Woman figure.

Mattel has a really, really superb action figure line here, in DC Universe Classics, that I think has the potential to be one of the finest super-hero action figure lines of all time, and I sincerely hope that it lasts for many years. But there's some quality issues that they seriously need to address, even above what I would usually say about that for the average action figure line.

However, it's not at all impossible to get really good versions of the figures in this line, although it would certainly help if the line were more greatly distributed and more extensively carried by stores. DC Universe Classics is a line where the result can be spectacular, if you're careful about what you buy, and if you can find it in the first place.

But -- this Wonder Woman figure is excellent, and certainly is a welcome and significant addition to the line, as the character is a significant part of the DC Universe. Certainly the character deserved to be in this line, and Mattel has produced a remarkable figure here. I'm sincerely pleased and truly impressed, and the DC UNIVERSE CLASSICS WONDER WOMAN definitely has my highest and enthusiastic recommendation!