The comics describe Wonder Woman as:
Beautiful as Aphrodite, wise as Athena, swifter than Hermes, and stronger than HerculesHow do you draw that?
If you're many artists, you chuck the icon and start drawing a swimsuit model in a "sexy" pose.
As an example, DC took some ribbing thanks to the "variant" cover for JLA #2, which featured the usually tough-looking male members of the JLA, and then a kind of youngish, kittenish version of Wonder Woman. I don't know that there was a better way to make the point that WW needs to be portrayed as a peer to her JLA colleagues and not as the resident cheesecake, but in response fans created the "what if male superheroes posed like Wonder Woman" meme. You sort of hope DC brass hears about these things and applies changes as they go along.
I wasn't a Wonder Woman reader until way late in the game. I was vaguely embarrassed then (and now) to pick up "sexy" covers on comics, and during the 90's, when I was curious about the character, DC was in the middle of experimenting with both good girl and bad girl art on the title. But when Phil Jimenez came on Wonder Woman, I couldn't help but notice the covers weren't cheesecake, the stories were different from everything else I was reading, and when I flipped through the comics, the art was absolutely stunning. I became a fan of the character thanks to the work of Jimenez, and then had a lot of work to do catching up.
The original artist on Wonder Woman was not one of the upstart cartoonist kids of the Golden Age, but Harry G. Peter, an older gentleman who's aesthetic fell more in line with turn-of-the-century newspaper cartooning than anything going on in the pages of Superman, Whiz, Flash or other comics of its era.
|Wonder Woman prepares to bring two steely fists of justice to WWII|
Any feelings I have toward Peter's work is mostly fascination with the historical context of his work more than the raw affection I have for early Kirby, Eisner or Shuster. But there's rarely any doubt regarding whose handiwork you're seeing until Peter left the title. And he most definitely did get to participate in that whole light-bondage era of Wonder Woman scholars and nerds like to talk about.
|hey, kids! Comics!|
But let's skip forward, shall we?
The Modern Formula: George Perez
After Crisis on Infinite Earths, artist and writer George Perez took over Wonder Woman for a good, long stretch, rebooting Wonder Woman and placing her timeline as re-starting in 1986. It's a great run with stupendous artwork and action-packed stories. And, it was the end for Steve Trevor's direct relevance in Wonder Woman's adventures.
His Wonder Woman started as young and somewhat naive, but with a heart of gold and a warrior's spirit, and I think Perez's art conveyed that all very well. That these books aren't continually reprinted is a bit of a crime as they do kind of work with current continuity.
Two decades later he did this splash as part of a story that was meta-commentary on Wonder Woman as the first great female superhero.
Cover artist Adam Hughes has become a fan favorite for his work featuring DC's female heroes. He plays with a whole range of takes from stuff like the warrior image directly below, to flirty, to fun, to epic and sometimes mysterious. I have no idea what media he's working in most of the time, but I included the three images below to demonstrate the range not just of Hughes' work, but of how he evokes different aspects of Wonder Woman's character.
I'm not a huge fan of the height of the legline Hughes applies to Wonder Woman's shorts, and he could go further north with the breastplate, but he has a great knack for poses, faces, etc...
|this is the DCU I want to be reading about|
|this is actually an all-time favorite cover and comic of mine|
If you've never read the issue where Lois follows around Wonder Woman for a day, its pretty great. At the time DC was doing something I found interesting and altogether plausible; they were making it clear Wonder Woman and Superman were pretty good pals. In this issue, Lois is both getting a sort of "slice of life" take on Wonder Woman as ambassador, and also trying to figure out what is up with this woman her husband is always hanging out with. Its good stuff, and has some great character beats that I think are all too often missing from modern comics.
Hughes' Wonder Woman is most definitely Amazonian in stature, but he doesn't take a lot of risks with her appearance. She's still mostly representative of beauty standards of the era, etc... He just happens to handle those pretty well.
If you've never read Cooke's New Frontier, you're missing out on a terrific piece of superhero fiction. It feels more like the energy of the post-Korean War era than the comics of the time in which it was published, pulling in red-scare energy, and the idealism, adventurous spirit that led to the space race. Good stuff.
What I liked about Cooke's look for WW was that he wasn't afraid to give her curves.
I think there are a few ways you can think about what someone who can pick up a truck looks like, and I think one of those has to be a bit thicker of body than the average depiction of women in comics. His take doesn't just play off the strengths of the era's fashions, it calls back to the fact that this was an era in which Jayne Mansfield, Jane Russell and Monroe were icons. And then it lets that icon stop bullets.
|see, this is why I'm okay with the idea of Christina Hendricks as WW|
The aforementioned Phil Jimenez
I don't know why Jimenez was more or less just handed Wonder Woman in its entirety. But I can't argue with the result.
His Wonder Woman owes a whole lot to work of George Perez, no doubt. He managed to make her appealing but never exploited her figure, and after some of the "sexy" Wonder Woman stuff going on in the 90's, it was a welcome change.
I had the totally weird experience of telling Green Lantern and Justice League artist Doug Mahnke that I really liked his take on Wonder Woman. He seemed oddly pleased. Maybe complimenting his Wonder Woman is not something he hears often, but I especially liked the nigh-Mediterranean look he gave our Greek ass-kicker. And that she looked like she was built a bit like an Olympic pentathlete. The smooth hair is atypical for Princess Diana, who we usually see with a bit more volume, but it's an interesting look.
|YOU did not kick in your fair amount when the office went to lunch!|
And, of course, Alex Ross
Ross's watercolors always blow me away. The most "realistic" portrayals of these comic characters is a harsh reminder how far afield it seems Hollywood seems to want to go when it does adapt the costumes when Ross manages to make the costumes and looks make sense.
The Turn-Arounds: Jose Luis Garcia Lopez
a funny thing happened with the New 52 and the costume redesigns - fans somehow didn't quite cotton to them and it meant the artwork of Jose Luis Garcia Lopez, used for licensing purposes and reference purposes circa 1984, made the rounds.
I still remember seeing some of this art in a DC Comics Role Playing Game guide and being absolutely amazed. And I still am blown away today.
Again, these were intended for licensing and reference, so the images basically have no context. This was pre-George Perez reboot, so WW was pretty much a straight superhero at this point and much less of an Amazon Warrior, which led to all the stuff with armor, grim faces, etc...
|I have no idea what put the spring in WW's step in that middle image, but it's freakin' me out.|
|WW is really trusting the auto-pilot on the Invisible Jet|
What I can't name
While there are some great female superhero comic artists, I can't think of anyone who has taken on Wonder Woman for an extended period or been asked to make their mark on Wonder Woman. Gail Simone wrote the book for a while, and even novelist Jodi Picoult did a few issues, but on art chores? Nothing springs immediately to mind.
Seems like a pretty simple fix, but DC hasn't given any women a significant run that I know of. I do have one immediate recommendation for DC.
I'm a fan of the work of Jill Thompson (Sandman, Beasts of Burden) and bought this print from her website a few years back.
Normally I don't do non-official prints, but this was very much the spirit of the comic at the time, and I loved the idea.
Maybe one day...