Like our previous subjects, Superman and Plastic Man, her externals have changed little, if you allow for changes in hairstyle. Her costume is a little different (Is it an eagle? Is it a W? Is it their lovechild?), but then again, it always was. Like many heroes in the Golden Age, her costume was in flux and would sometimes vary in its particulars.
At some point, however, her breasts became large; I think she had work done. Pre-Crisis, Wonder Woman was never portrayed as busty, and she works much better as a character if she isn't. I suppose it's a legacy of the '90s. But in essence, she's still highly recognizable as the same character she was in the Golden Age.
And yet (again like Superman and Plastic Man), she has somehow turned into the opposite of what she was supposed to be.
The Golden Age Wonder Woman was funny. Wait, let me correct myself; she had a sense of humor. Whether it was funny or not, is a matter of taste. Like most Golden Agers, she made fun of people as she beat them up. In fact, she was wickedly sarcastic, more so, I think, than contemporary male heroes. Every time she ripped a vault door off its hinges or bent a gun barrel, she would invariably make some snarky crack like, "Oh, I'm sorry, I had no idea these were so flimsy ... in Man's World." Maybe that's why they originally chose Joss Whedon to direct the movie.
You'd be hard-pressed to find a more serious well-known comic book hero nowadays than Wonder Woman, with all the warmaking, and the mother-conflict, and the neck-snapping, and the monthly Dr. Phil episodes with Circe. Oh, sure, there have been attempts to show she has a sense of humor like a normal person, but generally these seemed forced as if the author simply feels obliged to show that WW is a well-rounded well-adjusted person, and therefore must have a sense of humor. Phil Jimenez actually told us once that she had a great sense of humor and that she told a knee-slapper of a joke.
Naturally, he never showed us this; he simply told us, making it meaningless. You really just can't write, "Hey, so and so is a hilarious person. I'm not going to show you any evidence of that, you'll never see them being funny, but you should just take my word for it." I find it amazing that when comic book artists (whom one would expect to be focused on showing rather than telling). are allowed to write they usually TELL you things rather than SHOW them to you. It's comic book irony, I suppose. Or perhaps simply more evidence that artists are generally bad writers.As lamentable as the lack of a sense of fun or humor is in most modern characters, it's particularly painful for Wonder Woman. Batman can get away without being fun, because his job is to look freaky, scare people, and beat up muggers. Wonder Woman? For pity's sake, she's wearing a tiara, a majorette's costume, and a lasso. She darned well better be fun, because if not, she's ridiculous. And to have a nearly humorless character as DC's symbol of feminism? Not the best move.
As previously shown (and told) on this blog, Golden Age Wonder Woman was all about the whole zany bondage/submission thing that her creator, William Marston, was focused on. Really focused on. Fixated, really. Nightly, I'll be bound.
Modern Wonder Woman is not about that. That's good; no arguments with that change. But it is a change, and an enormous difference between the Modern and Golden Age versions.
But the major difference between the Golden Age Wonder Woman and the modern one lies elsewhere. In the Golden Age, in a time of war, Wonder Woman was about peace. In the Modern Age, in a time of peace, Wonder Woman is about war.
Sure, WW walloped "Nazis and Nips" during WWII; she came to Man's World specifically because of the war, and that was her job. But she was an emissary of peace, and an apostle of a better way. She represented, literally and figuratively, the Power of Love & Wisdom versus the Power of Aggression, Athena & Aphrodiate versus Mars. That's why Marston's freaky bondage stuff makes a certain kind of (really twisted) sense. The female powers of Love and Wisdom were to halt and incapacitate the male tendencies toward War and Aggression.
Granted, what Wonder Woman offered was often what we would call Tough Love. But that was what Marston believed in and the times called for. But the ability to, the goal to, the need to overcome the enemy not simply with force but with your ideas was central to Golden Age Wonder Woman. The Amazons had "Reformation Island", and an entire place devoted to reforming people Wonder Woman caught. Wonder Woman's wicked foe, Paula Von Gunther? Reformed by the tough love on Reformation Island; they even gave her an extreme makeover so she would no longer look evilly Garboesque. Reforming aggressive men, reforming passive women, reforming warmaking societies, always done by showing people a better way where the sexes are treated with equal respect and Passion is yoked by Wisdom and Love; these were the recurring themes of Golden Age Wonder Woman.
In the Golden Age, the Amazons (and their emissary to Man's World) brought Americans promise of peace and the hope of a better way of doing things. In the Modern Age, they bring Americans Amazons Attack and good guys fighting good guys, like in a Marvel comic. They are no longer positive examples, but negative ones. They are dupes, who allow themselves to be misled by an addled and irrational leader under the sway of evil influences into a war on foreign soil, for no apparent gain and with little apparent provocation. Amazons, go home; Americans can provide that example themselves, thank you very much.
Perhaps Gail Simone will be able to change all this, since she, at least, knows how to write women as people and heroes as heroes. But for the moment, Wonder Woman is nearly the opposite of what she originally was in the Golden Age.
P.S. Were the 1930s/40s such a different time than this one, that at least three heroes should evolve into the opposite of their original selves?