- Posted by Johanna on April 2, 2010 at 7:46 am
- Category: Books and Prose, KC
- CREDITS: by Bob Greenberger
- PUBLISHER: Universe/Rizzoli; $35 US
Review by KC Carlson
More of an art book than an in-depth history of the character, Wonder Woman: Amazon. Hero. Icon. is a 208-page hardcover featuring over 250 illustrations of the world’s most popular Amazon and trailblazing female superhero. Nonetheless, essayist Bob Greenberger was given ample space to present a well-rounded general history of the character as well as providing much detail and insight into the various creative folks who have contributed to the character’s almost 70-year legacy.
Roughly chronological, the book is broken down into several chapters of character and origin background (The Amazons, The Contest, The Olympians, Coming to Man’s World); details of characters and gadgets (The Opponents, The Lovers, Friends and Allies, Tools of the Trade); and spotlight chapters on specific eras of the character (The Mod, The Diplomat, The Other Realities). Each chapter is illustrated by well-chosen examples from the very long list of talented artists who have contributed to the character over the years, including George Pérez (who also provides a fascinating Foreword to the book), Alex Ross, Adam Hughes, Brian Bolland, John Byrne, José Luis García-López, Dick Giordano, Terry and Rachel Dodson, Rags Morales, Jim Lee, Frank Miller, Carlos Pacheco, J.G. Jones, Phil Jimenez, Mike Deodato, Jr., Don Heck, and many, many others. Many of the illustrations are reproduced at full-page or two-page size for full effect.
Several actual comics story pages are reproduced as well, including the opening origin sequence from All-Star Comics #8 (Wonder Woman’s first appearance in comics) and the contest sequence from Wonder Woman #1, both by creator “Charles Moulton” (William Moulton Marston) and Harry G. Peter. There are also one-page spotlights of several creators who have made special and long-lasting contributions to Wonder Woman over the years, including original artist H.G. Peter, Robert Kanigher, Ross Andru and Mike Esposito, Mike Sekowsky, George Pérez, and Greg Rucka.
The opening chapter of the book focuses on Marston and his radical and controversial views on women as well as his unusual lifestyle. Fans of this early Marston/Peter era of the heroine will not be disappointed by the amount of material presented here. Also included in the book is a week’s worth of strips from the little-seen Wonder Woman syndicated comic strip from 1944, also by Marston and Peter.
Wonder Woman is easily one of comics’ most complex characters, with a rich history of experimentation to keep this long-running icon fresh and prominent. From straight ahead super-heroics to mysteries steeped in ancient mythology, Wonder Woman’s story encompasses fantasy, politics, espionage, and sisterhood, as well as life and death. All of this is covered in this enjoyable history.
Just a quick flip-through of the book visually indicates what a diverse lineup of artistic interpretation there has been over the decades. I was very happy to see included much of the mostly unpublished work José Luis García-López did on the character for DC’s Licensing Department over the years. García-López is such an unheralded artist on the character, and fans of his artwork are invited to slip off the dust jacket (also gorgeous, by Alex Ross) for a special treat underneath.
Suprisingly not included: a photo of Lynda Carter, TV’s iconic Wonder Woman. Pérez mentions her in his Foreword, and there are a couple of illustrations inspired by her memorable twirling transformation trick from the show, but other than that, the book concentrates on Wonder Woman in the comic books. However, the classic Ms. Magazine first issue cover (art by Murphy Anderson) is included.
Wonder Woman: Amazon. Hero. Icon. is a beautiful book, wonderfully designed, and one that you’ll want to pick up again and again, just to browse the wonderful reproduction — and large size — of the well-chosen artwork. Greenberger’s essays are short — but fact-packed — for casual reading as well. One final note: Some publicity information (as seen most notably at Amazon.com) indicated that Adam Hughes’ art from the long-delayed All-Star Wonder Woman project is included in the book. That is an error. No such artwork was offered to the book’s compilers. Caveat emptor. (The publisher provided a review copy.)