The Wonder Woman movie is now on HBO, and it expands the DCEU in new and exciting ways. It also draws on all elements of the over 75 year history of Wonder Woman to tell a fresh, exciting origin story. And oh yeah, it’s packed with DC Comics references.
So, here’s how this works…other than the intro (which I decided to do on its own), this isn’t chronological, I’m just making connections where I can. Now, it’s entirely likely there are things I missed, and that’s where you come in! If you spotted any cool DC Comics references or DCEU Easter eggs that aren’t in this article, drop ’em in the comments or give me a holler on Twitter. Together, we can make this the most comprehensive list of Wonder Woman coolness around!
The opening of this movie, with a shot of planet Earth and Diana talking about how much she loves our world, is reminiscent of the opening pages of DC Universe: Rebirth. That story featured a different character’s monologue but it still contained a similar message. Whether this is coincidental or not (it probably is), Wonder Woman as a movie serves the same purpose as DC Universe: Rebirth did – it restores a sense of hope, optimism, and heroism to the DCEU.
She also mentions a “Great Darkness” that’s surrounding the world. Again, this reminds me of Rebirth, but it also calls to mind the villains of the upcoming Justice League movie. The Justice League will fight Steppenwolf in that film, but he’s the advance agent of Darkseid, the cosmic despot of the planet Apokolips. When Darkseid had been absent from the universe for hundreds of years and reappeared in the distant future in the pages of Legion of Super-Heroes, the story was called… ”The Great Darkness Saga.” While that story has nothing to do with Wonder Woman, it’s awesome and you should read it.
You may notice that the license plate on the Wayne Enterprises armored car starts with the letters JL. (It’s JL-828-VZM to be exact). That’s JL, as in “Justice League” and it’s amusing since Bruce is basically using Wayne vehicles to carry out unofficial Justice League business by delivering this photo (first seen in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice) to Diana.
One other thing we just found out (and thanks to ScreenRant for bringing it to our attention). Zack Snyder has a cameo in the movie. If you look to the far right of the World War I photo of Diana and friends, you can see a blurry, out of focus soldier in the background. That’s Mr. Snyder.
Wonder Woman Movie Setting
I love the fact that they set this movie against the backdrop of World War I. For one thing, it helps give the DCEU some real flavor and takes us further back than we’ve seen screen superhero narratives ever attempt (the natural fit is usually World War II, which we saw in Captain America: The First Avenger and the first season of the 1970s Wonder Woman TV series).
Characters like Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman all came of age during World War II, but setting this movie there would have drawn comparisons to Captain America: The First Avenger. World War I was, meanwhile, especially senseless with no clear “villain” and its legacy would, well, inspire a follow-up. The exceptional brutality of World War I is the perfect counterpoint to Diana’s relative innocence.
By the way, if you want an incredible history of World War I, I can’t recommend Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History series on it, Blueprint For Armageddon, highly enough.
Wonder Woman Movie Heroes
Wonder Woman has been around almost as long as Batman and Superman, first appearing in All-Star Comics #8 in 1940 where she was created by Dr. William Moulton Marston and Harry G. Peter. How powerful was Wonder Woman? By the 1950s, when superhero comics were in steep decline, only three DC superheroes maintained continuous publication, and one of ‘em was Diana. You can guess who the other two were.
That same story introduced Steve Trevor. Etta Candy didn’t come along until about two years later in Sensation Comics #2. Incidentally, the civilian version of Etta that we meet here is more in line with those early comics. In more recent DC history, Etta is a military woman and quite the badass.
There had been some speculation that Steve’s ragtag band of good guys would end up being the World War I equivalent of the Blackhawks, but there was nothing in the movie to indicate that. For one thing, nobody flies a plane. As far as I can tell, these were all characters invented for the movie.
But let’s talk about that origin story for a minute…
THE ORIGIN STORY
OK, Wonder Woman’s origin story is a tricky thing, because there have been a few different versions, but they all follow the broad strokes we see here in this movie. In the original comics, Diana was indeed sculpted from clay and given life by the gods. Here, it’s just a story Hippolyta tells Diana to mask the fact that she’s actually a demi-god, and the daughter of Zeus.
That Zeus wrinkle is a fairly recent addition to the lore, coming into play when DC relaunched their entire publishing line with The New 52 initiative in 2011, which reset significant elements of continuity. A lot of people don’t love this change, but I’ve always been kinda down with it. But historically, all of Diana’s gifts came from an assortment of goddesses that gave her clay form life and power.
Overall, the way they streamline lots of different elements of the comic book history in this movie is really great and reminds me of the best big screen superhero origins like Superman: The Movie, Batman Begins, or even Sam Raimi’s first Spider-Man.
– The expositional animation that explains why there aren’t any gods hanging around the DCEU these days is really clever and feels like a callback to the equally visually impressive animation that told Krypton’s history in Man of Steel.
– The “there are no children on Paradise Island” thing is basically as old as Wonder Woman herself, but I just want to mention that later in the movie when Diana sees a baby in London? I react the same way, except with doggies. I’m going to get my typing fingers bitten off petting strange dogs one day.
– The idea of Antiope as Hippolyta’s sister came from the character’s second DC Comics incarnation, which happens to be from the comics that inspired this movie the most: George Perez’s time as writer/artist in the ‘80s. For real, if you seek out one volume of Wonder Woman comics because of this movie, make it this one.
As for Antiope’s on-screen death, the only time I know of her dying in the comics was in the pages of Crisis on Infinite Earths, which had nothing to do with Germans or the pursuit of Steve Trevor.
– While we’re on the subject of Amazons…I didn’t realize that Ann Wolfe was credited as Artemis.— Ann Wolfe (@AnnWolfeBoxing) June 2, 2017
Not be confused with the Greek goddess, the Amazon version of Artemis. At one point in the comics, she briefly replaced Diana as Wonder Woman.
– When Diana is on her quest to sneak the God Killer sword out, and she starts climbing up the tower wall, I was reminded of John Badham’s underrated Dracula movie from 1979, which featured a spooky as hell scene of Frank Langella as the Count scurrying along a wall at night. A more likely influence however is old adventure epics like The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) where Errol Flynn does much the same thing to steal a kiss with Maid Marian.
Speaking of that God Killer sword, that is indeed something from DC Comics, but it isn’t a weapon of Wonder Woman. Instead, that boon was granted to Slade “Deathstroke” Wilson by Hephaestus because he wanted Slade to kill the titan, Lapetus. In the comics, the Godkiller looks a lot more like the swords that Ares is wielding during the final battle.
Wonder Woman Movie Villains
Ares has been a factor in Wonder Woman’s life since some of her earliest appearances, notably Wonder Woman #1 in 1942. But the version we see in this movie, like so much else in the film, owes the most to Diana’s 1987 reinvention at the hands of the brilliant George Perez.
In that initial story arc (available here), which is set in modern times, we do see Ares possessing military figures and forcing them to do his bidding, although there, he was also aided by his nephews, Phobos and Deimos. Maybe they’ll be the villains of Wonder Woman 2…
Dr. Poison/Dr. Maru is one of Wonder Woman’s earliest comic book foes, first appearing in 1942’s Sensation Comics #2. Like Diana, Steve, and Etta, she was created by William Moulton Marston and Harry G. Peter. She worked for the Nazis in those days, and her poisons were less explicitly the kind of horrific chemical warfare deployed during World War I, but I have to say, she’s a perfect fit for this movie.
I don’t recognize the symbol on her notebook as anything particularly relevant to the DCU or Wonder Woman history, but if I’m wrong, please correct me in the comments!
Miscellanous Cool DC Stuff
– Wonder Woman’s secret identity of “Diana Prince” has fallen by the wayside over the decade or so as DC instead focuses on the mythic elements of the character rather than disposable superhero tropes like a secret identity. Fun to hear it mentioned here, and the bit where she gets glasses (and Etta Candy’s remark about it) is both a nod to Superman and the fact that Diana Prince often wore specs, particularly when Lynda Carter played her on the legendary TV series from the 1970s.
– The imagery of Wonder Woman with sword and shield, especially the shield, I really associate with the George Perez comics (although it has been heavily utilized since then by many creators). That, in my mind, was the evolution of Diana from traditional superhero to more aggressive mythical heroine, and the sword and shield are two key components of that. It might have been Phil Jimenez who brought the sword to the forefront, and he’s another brilliant Wonder Woman artist.
– There are strong Superman: The Movie vibes throughout this film, notably in how it takes its time establishing the main character’s origins, but also in the snappy dialogue, and the comedic elements when our “alien” character first makes it to the big city. There are two fun Superman: The Movie inspired moments when they get to London. I feel like Diana’s brief struggle with a revolving door is one.
But the other is more overt…
But nowhere is that more apparent than in the alleyway where Diana and Steve are accosted by German spies. This is a lovely homage to Christopher Reeve’s Clark Kent catching a mugger’s bullet meant for Margot Kidder. But the way this bit kicks off, with Diana and Steve ducking into the alley right down to a gun appearing in frame from behind a wall, is a perfect nod to Superman: The Movie.
– Diana trying ice cream for the first time and telling the vendor he should be proud of his creation is almost right out of Justice League (2011) #1 by Geoff Johns and Jim Lee.
Steve brings everyone Edgar Rice Burroughs novels. Burroughs is famously the writer behind Tarzan and John Carter of Mars, two characters who have kind of fallen out of the spotlight. But at the time, this was cutting edge stuff, making Burroughs somewhat like the DC and Marvel of his day. Both Tarzan and Jon Carter have light parallels with Diana’s story as well since they both ended up being a “stranger in a strange land” (that’s a book that Burroughs didn’t write, but you knew that already).
And as Nick points out in the comments, John Carter was the star of A Princess of Mars. Diana is a princess, and her enemy, Ares, is Mars. That’s pretty damn cool.
– That shot of Diana hoisting a tank over her head reminds me a lot of Superman in The Dark Knight Returns. But Matches Malone (I know who you really are, Matches, that’s why you’re a detective) reminded me of this wonderful Alex Ross painting of Diana from his Spirit of Truth GN.
– The moment when Diana wants to help the refugees, the wounded soldiers, and even the animals, struck me. When she says “I can help” it reminded me that for a while in the comics, she could indeed kind of “talk” to animals. Likely, one of the gifts from her namesake.
– This isn’t a DC thing, but it has been brought to my attention that Diana’s rescue of Steve is very much like The Little Mermaid.
That sequence also pulls visual cues from an iconic wartime melodrama, From Here to Eternity. The film also plays pretty deliberately with themes and beats from another such classic, Casablanca, which we detail here.
So what did you spot, DCEU fans? Let me know what I missed, and if it checks out, I’ll update this article. Shout ’em out in the comments or hit me up on Twitter!