At what point does innovation become derivation? Where exactly is the line the separates a simple bottle of homemade soda from being Coca Cola? These are questions that have plagued artists and enriched copyright lawyers to no end. There’s this nebulous gray area between being Apple and being Weird Al Yankovich that few seem to know how to traverse. But if that area were a hidden temple, then Bruce Timm would be Indiana Jones.
With Justice League: Gods and Monsters, Bruce Timm has once again proven what Apple proves to its investors every time it introduces a new product. It’s not enough to just make something similar to an established product. It’s more important to make it awesome. That’s how characters like Daredevil can thrive, despite key similarities to Batman. That’s also why the last two Die Hard movies have failed so spectacularly. Being similar is okay. Failing to be awesome is not.
When reinventing Superman and Batman, Bruce Timm pushed the narrative into bold new territory with Hernan Guerra and Kirk Langstrom. But with Justice League Gods and Monsters: Wonder Woman #1, he gives that narrative more of a firm kick to the gut. But in doing so, it manages to create a version of Wonder Woman that doesn’t just make a case for being a female icon. She violently shoves herself into that conversation and proves herself in ways that would leave Johnny Cochran himself speechless.
Unlike Superman and Batman, the Wonder Woman of Justice League: Gods and Monsters is not a mere renovation as much as she is a complete overhaul. There are no Amazons. There’s no Themyscira. There are no Greek gods that seduce mortal women and impregnate bulls. Instead, Wonder Woman is Bekka, one of the New Gods from New Genesis. Like Kirk Langstrom as Batman, she comes from one the more obscure sectors of the DC Universe. In the pre-Wikipedia days, most comicbook fans wouldn’t know she even existed.
This makes her a perfect foundation on which to build a new Wonder Woman. She’s not a completely blank slate, but it never feels like she was poofed into existence like a trick from Mr. Mxyzptlk. She’s very much a product of the war between New Genesis and Apokolips, a conflict that is to DC Comics what World War II is to the History Channel. This already puts her in the same league as Diana and the Amazons in terms of fighting experience, but with much less misandry.
From this foundation, Bekka is basically cast from this devastating war and into ’60s era Earth. It’s not exactly the most peaceful time in world history, but it’s not Medieval Europe either. It’s a world that Bekka sees through a remarkably balanced perspective, more so than most news organizations today. It helps that she has Mother Box, which basically acts as a more SFW version of Google. It allows her to learn about and explore this world as Diana once did after she left her home.
In many respects, Bekka follows in Diana’s footsteps and embraces this world as she did. However, Bekka does it her own way. There’s no Steve Trevor to guide her as there was for Diana. She carves her own path. This leads from a tiny village in India to a hippie commune in the United States. And somehow, she finds a way to thrive in both environments. She even finds a way to make some very devious enemies in the form of evil hippies. Even on her worst day, Diana never had to deal with evil hippies.
It’s a twisted yet fitting way to push the theme of Justice League: Gods and Monsters, putting Wonder Woman in a somewhat darker set of circumstances. It’s hard to get much darker than evil hippies. Even so, it never becomes goofy on the levels of a Deadpool comic. And like Batman and Superman before it, the scope and scale of the story never escalates beyond a certain point. The story isn’t about Bekka saving the world and becoming Wonder Woman. It’s about her embracing Earth as her new home and becoming the woman who ascends to that title.
This is where the story in Justice League Gods and Monsters: Wonder Woman #1 is at its strongest. Throughout her journey from her arrival on Earth to her encounter with evil hippies, we see her grow into a woman that becomes worthy of such an iconic title. The core of Wonder Woman involves embodying feminine ideals and strength. Bekka has all that on top of being a sexy redhead. She’ll embrace others in a maternal way, as she does with some of the not-so-evil hippies in this story. She’ll also protect the weak in the traditions of every badass warrior in history, male and female alike. And she does it in a way that actually makes living on a hippie commune seem attractive.
But beyond doing justice to the title of Wonder Woman, Bekka does set herself apart in a few key ways. It’s not just that she’s a redhead either. Unlike Diana and the Amazons, Bekka is basically an exile like Superman. She has no sense of sisterhood to guide her. She’s more an individual following her own path, which even hardcore feminists can appreciate. And there’s never a point where she separates “Man’s World” from “Woman’s World”. They’re all the same to her. While that might not resonate with hardcore feminists, it should suffice for most reasonable people.
These differences put Bekka on a wholly unique path to being Wonder Woman, but it’s a path that makes the story in Justice League Gods and Monsters: Wonder Woman #1 feel complete. Through this story, Bekka grows from a semi-blank slate to a woman worthy of being an icon. It’s a personal story and one that isn’t solely defined by her saving the world from evil hippies. At a time when female characters are just starting to be taken seriously, Bekka’s story couldn’t be more appropriate. She might not make it into Joss Whedon’s next movie, but she proves she’s more than worthy.