Inspired by the work of Douglas Wolk and Jess Nevins (but under no illlusions that I could do better), I’m taking a stab at weekly Trinity annotations. Naturally, they’ll start with some very basic introductions: “Superman, a/k/a Clark Kent, was created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster and first appeared in ….”
Thinking about Wonder Woman, though, I wasn’t sure how much to put in her Big-Gulp-level bio. In the wake of Infinite Crisis, Wonder Woman’s history was altered in a way which directly affects her credentials as part of the “trinity.” I have to ask, therefore, whether the alteration matters — either for the character generally, or readers of Trinity specifically.
Wonder Woman was created by William Moulton Marston and first appeared in All-Star Comics #8 (December 1941). In 1987, after Crisis On Infinite Earths had bid farewell to her Earth-2 and Earth-1 incarnations, DC revamped the character from the ground up. Among other things, the revisions pushed the start of her Patriarch’s World career into the present; i.e., several years after Superman, Batman, et al., made their debuts. Because this would have made her a) a Themysciran resident and b) a teenager when the Justice League of America was formed, DC retconned Black Canary into the JLA’s origin. As a result, Wonder Woman didn’t join any Justice League full-time until 1993, a couple of years after the end of the Giffen/DeMatteis years.
The revised JLA history lasted until 2006. In Justice League of America vol. 2 #0, writer Brad Meltzer and a slew of artists revealed that, in fact, Diana had been a Leaguer all along. What’s more, the issue appeared to restore much of the Earth-1 history which George Pérez & Co. had wiped away.
At the time I liked that development, mostly because it finally put Wonder Woman on a footing comparable to the other sides of the so-called “trinity.” While Batman and Superman had been teaming up for decades, neither of them had developed a comparable relationship with her. JLofAv2#0 aimed to make up for that, and better retroactive than never.
Still, it threw the post-1987 continuity up in the air. That revamp effectively de-aged Diana from a second-generation character to a third-generation one — from a Barry Allen to a Wally West — and made her about as old as Donna Troy. As a result, she was more naïve regarding the “ways of Patriarch’s World,” and grew gradually into her Trinitarian role.
Thus, the post-Infinite Crisis restoration re-aged her, so that she is now once again a chronological peer of her Silver Age colleagues. In terms of plot, this is not as big a deal as it might seem. As a practical matter, Diana is ageless, and could look pretty much the same at the start of the Silver Age as she does now. Moreover, it’s possible to relocate her Pérez origin story (WW v.2 #s 1-7) far back enough along the revised timeline so that a career with the original Justice League could fit between it and the rest of Wonder Woman Volume 2. In short, after defeating Ares, she could have joined the original JLA and taken part in appropriate Earth-1 adventures.
Even so, that’s just a rough patch on continuity which doesn’t solve every problem. (How many years separated the White-Suit Period from the Taco Whiz Period?) More importantly, it ignores all of the character development which distinguished the work of Pérez et al. on Vol. 2. (How did Taco-Whiz Diana learn from White-Suit Diana?) These kinds of difficulties are undoubtedly frustrating to readers of many vintages (“this is why I don’t read DC,” etc.).
I am willing to bet, though, that those different vintages of reader share at least one common trait. As with most other long-running series, they expect the current Wonder Woman “saga” to make sense, and specifically to make sense from the materials which are presently in continuity. If that means reconciling (I’m picking at random) “Battle Against The Bodiless Uniforms!” from JLofA v.1 #35 (May 1965) with “The Men Who Moved The World, Part Three,” from Wonder Woman v. 2 #117 (January 1997), then so be it. In for a penny, in for a pound. Oh sure, neither story is likely to survive completely intact, and the more modern elements will probably win out. Nevertheless, what’s the point of resuscitating those old elements if you’re not going to use them?
It’s not really a rhetorical question. Part of the point of Justice League #0 was to strengthen Wonder Woman’s Trinitarian ties. The post-Crisis take on the Superman/Batman relationship put them at arm’s length for long enough that the three Trinitarians probably started from the same point. Still, as long as Wonder Woman was starting several years after the other two, she’d be seen as the junior partner.
Thus, upsetting the applecart of her continuity was an unavoidable consequence — but probably a minor one, in light of DC’s larger goals. I wrote back in ‘06 that, despite her continuous publication history, she was still not treated like Batman and Superman; and I think these recent attempts to form the three characters into a “trinity” try to make up for that. I don’t disagree at all with the attempts, but DC is literally rewriting history in order to facilitate them. (Matt Wagner’s 2003 Trinity miniseries took a similarly flexible approach to the timeline.)
That’s fine with me. DC is served better by creating the illusion of history than it is by relating that history in detail. While there are occasional remakes (last year’s Fourth World story in Superman Confidential comes to mind), the simple fact is that no shared universe is as seamless as fans would like.
Accordingly, the new Trinity series spans DC’s superhero line but isn’t necessarily synchronized with it. It’s written by Kurt Busiek, who has earned a reputation for using continuity positively, and who could probably navigate a weekly series through the maze of DC’s other superhero titles. (He did a fine job with his Countdown crossovers.) Since the “trinity” itself is the series’ core element, I expect we’ll see flashbacks and perhaps even some continuity patches; but I doubt that continuity will be a significant concern.
Regardless, don’t we need to know where Diana’s been so that we can evaluate how well Busiek et al. are handling her? Shouldn’t Busiek et al. at least try to reconcile Taco-Whiz Diana with White-Suit Diana?
I think the need for such reconciliation depends on the extent to which it affects the story Trinity is telling. At fifty-two weekly issues, there may well be enough room to reflect on both of those periods. More important, though, is Trinity’s ability to explore DC’s most familiar characters in a way which doesn’t depend on the harmonization of obscure details.
Of the three, Wonder Woman has gone through the most changes since her introduction; but she’s still capable of being defined in broad strokes. I don’t believe Trinity will get bogged down in continuity questions, and I don’t think its readers should get hung up on them either.