For years my only knowledge of Jill Thompson was as the artist for the run of Sandman that is collected in Brief Lives, my favorite book of the series. In 2015 she was a special guest of San Diego Comic Con and we had the pleasure of attending her panel. Her panel was the first one of the day in that room and she was worried people wouldn’t come, so she brought doughnuts for those who did come. In person she is funny, sweet and a delightful panelist. Through the course of the panel we watched her paint a picture of two characters from her comic Scary Godmother. Watching her paint was fascinating. She started in the background and worked her way forward, one color across the entire sheet at a time. Jill explained that when she paints her comics, she works the same way. First laying out the panels on the page. Next blocking out the text to know how much of each frame she can work with. Penciling in sketches and then beginning the painting. She paints the entire sheet of paper as a single picture, one color at at time building from the background forward, as opposed to painting each frame individually. The texture and depth she creates with watercolors is absolutely lovely. My two daughters were lucky enough to receive the painting Jill made during that panel. We all fell a little in love with her that day.
In March I was at my local comic shop picking up my daughters’ comics in preparation for the car ride to Wonder Con. While chatting with the guy behind the counter, I mentioned the painting from Jill Thompson. He responded with, “Have you seen her knew Wonder Woman graphic novel? It came out late last year.” “No,” as I scramble deeper into the shop after him. He presents it to me still wrapped in plastic. “I can take the plastic off if you want a closer look.” “That’s okay,” as I clutch the book in my hands, “It’s coming home with me”.
Growing up Wonder Woman was my favorite superhero. I loved watching her on Super Friends and in the Linda Carter TV show. Around the age of 5 I was Wonder Woman for Halloween. As I got older I didn’t so much as lose interest in her as become exposed to the wider world of superheroes, primarily through cartoons and movies, never the comics. But you don’t forget a first love and when I saw that an artist I liked personally and artistically had taken on Wonder Woman’s origin story, I had to have it.
Having never read a single WW comic I can’t say how this stacks up against other versions of Diana’s origin story. But I can say that this is a moving tale showing us how Diana, Princess of the Amazons became Wonder Woman. Queen Hippolyta longed for a child and nightly would create one out of sand at the sea’s edge, singing sweet lullabies to the sand infant. The Gods on Olympus heard her song and were touched by compassion so that they wept tears of gold and silver which fell on the sand. The tears of the Gods transformed the sand into a live baby girl and bestowed her with gifts beyond a normal Amazon. Hippolyta named her Diana.
Beloved by all the Amazons Diana grows up spoiled as they didn’t want to deny her anything. As a child she could be inconsiderate of other’s feelings, avoid duties, and have tantrums when corrected. Since she was also charming, intelligent and funny her faults were overlooked. Diana grew to be strong, cunning, adventurous, and brave. Using her gifts she came to be a great monster hunter. Bringing down fierce mystical beasts and reclaiming magical treasures. Songs were sung about her and many of her sisters fawned over her to gain favor and attention from the Princess.
Except one Amazon, Alethea. Alethea cared for the horses in the stable of the Queen and was the one Amazon not interested in currying favor. Diana came daily trying to dazzle her with stories of mighty exploits, flashing jewels and gowns, and trying to impress the unflappable Alethea. When Diana can stand it no longer and asks why she won’t earn Alethea’s favor. Alethea responds that she cares more about a person’s honest actions and how they treat others around them than treasures and exploits. And thus begins a small change in Diana.
Over time Alethea’s heart begins to soften as she witnesses Diana changing demeanor. To commemorate the wars that won the Amazons’ their peace and freedom they celebrate with games of physical skill and the arts of war, as a way to remember how grateful they are for the peace they now have.. The games are anonymous so that no sister will be distracted if fighting a loved one. Diana conspires to enter and win the games to show Alethea that she truly is the best Amazon. What happens during the games sets Diana on the course to becoming the Wonder Woman that we know and love today but at a terrible price.
Every page of this book is a gorgeous work of art and combined with a beautiful and touching retelling of Wonder Woman’s origin story I give it a 5 star review and highly recommend for anyone but especially for any Wonder Woman fan, regardless your knowledge level of the character.