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Is Changing Wonder Woman and the History of the Amazons A Good Idea?

Issue #7 of WONDER WOMAN introduced massive changes to Wonder Woman's heritage, but are these changes for the better or worse?

When the decision to relaunch the entire DC Comics universe came about, the question of whether to make integral changes to characters, character identities and concepts obviously came up. If this wasn't obvious before, it is certainly obvious now considering some of the massive changes made to characters and their histories, particularly recently.

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The latest issue of WONDER WOMAN #7 is certainly evidence of that, and it's also something that took readers by surprise. When Comic Vine received the preview for the seventh issue of WONDER WOMAN just two short weeks ago we were certainly excited, but there was no way of our knowing what huge revelations would take place in the latter portion of the issue. If you read the book you already know what I am talking about, and if you haven't then be aware that there will be some spoilers below.

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Whoever was responsible for the massive changes made to Wonder Woman and the Amazons seen in WONDER WOMAN #7 is beside the point. The real question is, were these changes a good idea? Were the things that happened in this issue positive or negative, overall? Before I divulge my personal perspective on the recent changes made to the heritage of one of the most iconic characters in comics, let's discuss what is actually different about Wonder Woman and the Amazons now, compared to the way they were before.

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Prior to the "new 52" the Amazons were seen as a group of women who never interacted with men. The Amazons were comprised as the souls of women throughout the ages who had been persecuted and killed, "dying before their time" who were given a chance to live a life based on "love and the teaching of the Gods" rather than "power and conquest." This origin can be seen in Wonder Woman #72, by Bill Loebs, Lee Moder and Ande Parks.

The story tells of the origin of the Amazons, their ideologies, as well as of Hippolyta's struggles against Heracles and the outside threats the Amazons faced. That origin, however, is vastly different from the one that was recently published in WONDER WOMAN #7. While the former paints the Amazons as a group of abandoned, disrespected women who are given a second chance at life to live out a happy, full and loving existence; their most recent incarnation brands them as a race of women who are warriors and have done what they must to ensure that their race would survive and persevere. The key word that defines these Amazons is "warrior."

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In issue #7 we see the Amazons as a race of warrior women who "thrice a century" leave their island, seduce men, eliminate those men and then return to their island where nine months later they celebrate the births of the baby girls and abandon the boys, giving them up to Hephaestus in exchange for weapons. Now, I've obviously simplified things a lot, so I recommend you read the issue in order to get the full scope of the inherent changes made to these characters and to the identity of the Amazons. What is obvious, however, is that these Amazons are vastly different than the Amazons of yesteryear.

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While very different, both of these stories have one thing in common: they both empower the Amazons. In Loebs telling of the Amazon's history we have a group of women who band together, support one another and live in peace and love after suffering years of abuse and persecution. In the most recent telling of the Amazon's history we see Amazons who have never feared persecution and have empowered themselves and their island of women by staying strong and embracing their warrior spirit. Both reflect this idea that women can be strong (and as strong) as men can be, even if the latter (and most recent version) does paint them to be a race of women who fail to regard the lives of men. Essentially, lacking compassion.

Loebs' Amazon's are emotionally empowered but they still live in isolation, away from men. Is this out of fear? Is it because they are afraid that their livelihood would be threatened? Meanwhile, Azzarello's version of the Amazons paint this portrait of a tribe of women who choose to live isolated from men but do not fear the penetration of men into their society, and fully prepare themselves to ward them off. While one version aims to protect the women from harm by shielding themselves from the eyes of the world, the other protects women by being prepared for any threat that comes their way.

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So is this change a good thing for the Amazons?

When it comes to comics, you have to expect change. And that change (although it might make you uneasy) may not necessarily be a bad thing. Reading the latest issue of WONDER WOMAN I found myself at the edge of my seat and completely in disbelief, not knowing what to feel. As a Wonder Woman fan familiar with her character history, I have always appreciated that she was surrounded by compassionate, loving women who were once persecuted and given a second chance. It's a beautiful character history. Yet, reading this new interpretation of the Amazons and their race I found myself completely enthralled in this new history. These women paved their own way and were not always kind to the world; but when was the world ever kind? Additionally, this new interpretation of the Amazons is also very consistent with the mythology of the Amazons.

In some versions of the myth, no men were permitted to have sexual encounters or reside in Amazon country; but once a year, in order to prevent their race from dying out, they visited the Gargareans, a neighbouring tribe. The male children who were the result of these visits were either killed, sent back to their fathers or exposed in the wilderness to fend for themselves; the females were kept and brought up by their mothers, and trained in agricultural pursuits, hunting, and the art of war. Source

Considering most Greek city-states were patriarchal societies (in Athens women were not even permitted to sit in on Assemblies and vote), the fact that the myth surrounding the Amazons painted them as self-sufficient with a warrior mentality is very interesting. Additionally, this new history adds something new to Wonder Woman. She has brothers. This change in her identity as an Amazon will allow Azzarello to explore her as both a warrior and as a compassionate woman. It will also give her compassion a purpose, and there's nothing wrong with that.

Did you read the issue? What did you think of the story? Do you think that making huge changes to characters is a positive or a negative?