In honor of the first Wonder Woman trailer being revealed this past weekend at San Diego Comic Con International (how awesome was that?!), I invite you to look at some of the other leading super-women that have become icons in their own right, many of which paved the way for the leading ladies of the future.
1. Lynda Carter/ Wonder Woman (TV series, 1975–1979).
Lynda Carter's portrayal of the character is still widely regarded as one of the best ever and it remains one of the most beloved series of all time. Wonder Woman was one of the first instances of a female lead with this type of presence. Wonder Woman was not a damsel in distress but a strong and tough woman that didn't need anybody's help.
This iconic series influenced the direction of the comics that it was based on. Notably, the spin transformation was incorporated into the comics and is now synonymous with the character, continuing to be used in Wonder Woman related media. Heck, there is even an ongoing comic book series since 2015 published twice monthly by DC comics titled Wonder Woman '77, which follows further adventures of Lynda Carter's Wonder Woman.
Although Lynda Carter's Wonder Woman was very much a product of her time: with the cute and colourful outfit and generally soft and feminine demeanor, her portrayal remains to many the definitive version of the iconic character.
2. Lucy Lawless/ Xena: Warrior Princess (TV series, 1995–2001).
Let's be honest, Lucy Lawless is one of the most badass women on television, period. From her role of Xena to her more recent role of the manipulative and calculating Lucretia in Spartacus. I don't care if she's just acting, I would not want to cross Mrs. Lawless!
The characters and concepts of Xena and Wonder Woman are a lot a like. Both revolve around Greek mythology, Amazon warriors and pursuing the "greater good". Xena, however, is flawed and is trying to escape her past and make up for her sins. Audiences could connect with Xena on a little more of a human level than we can with Wonder Woman, Xena is not far off from being an anti-hero.
Xena has also enjoyed a cult status in the lesbian community. Some of the fan base see Xena and her closest friend and companion, Gabrielle as a lesbian couple and they have become somewhat lesbian role models. Although the status of their relationship is left deliberately ambiguous by the show's writers and has never really been confirmed, Lucy Lawless came to believe that Xena and Gabrielle's relationship was "definitely gay".
"There was always a "Well, she might be or she might not be" but when there was that drip of water passing between their lips in the very final scene, that cemented it for me. Now it wasn't just that Xena was bisexual and kinda liked her gal pal and they kind of fooled around sometimes, it was 'Nope, they're married, man'."
Xena: Warrior Princess also got her very own ongoing series this year, published by Dynamite Entertainment, acting as a sequel to the show.
A reboot series is also reportedly in the works, so it doesn't look like Xena will be stepping off her pedestal anytime soon!
3. Sarah Michelle Gellar/ Buffy the Vampire Slayer (TV series, 1997-2003)
Buffy the Vampire Slayer is one of the most successful television series of all time. Many critics argue that it was the 'descent into this golden age of television'. Robert Moore of Popmatters expressed,
"TV was not art before Buffy, but it was afterwards"
Buffy gave us something that was slightly more relatable than anything of it's kind that we had seen before. Buffy was a high school student being forced into something that she did not want to do. It is a position that we have all been in (not being made to slay vampires but you get my point). Buffy was a little vulnerable and in an 'unsure' time in her life. It gave us a 'real life' high school side to counter the other, dark and crazy side.
Buffy's impact ushered in a new era of television dramas with strong female leads including Dead Like Me, Joan of Arcadia and Charmed. (Although that last is arguable as it started only just over a year later).
Buffy renewed interest in monsters and the supernatural in fiction. Without Buffy, shows like Once Upon a Time, Good Witch, The Vampire Diaries, Supernatural or even the revived Doctor Who, may not have been possible.
Doctor Who executive producer Russel T Davies said of Buffy's influence on the revival of the beloved Sci-Fi series:
"Buffy the Vampire Slayer showed the whole world, and an entire sprawling industry, that writing monsters and demons and end-of-the world is not hack-work, it can challenge the best. Joss Whedon raised the bar for every writer—not just genre/niche writers, but every single one of us"
Buffy also continues on today as a comic book published by Dark Horse Comics. The comic book series is currently on it's 10th season, following the television series after concluding with it's seventh season.
4. Melissa Benoist/ Supergirl (TV series, 2015-Present).
Along with Wonder Woman, DC created only the second female fronted superhero series in Supergirl. Supergirl is part superhero action series and part Devil Wears Prada. Supergirl had us all a little skeptical as it seemed to be trying to overly appeal to female audiences (and it never misses a chance to express feminism), but Supergirl surprised us all and is a heck of a lot better than we expected.
Unlike the other shows I have mentioned, Supergirl is, at least at the moment, primarily an origin story. Kara Zor-El is one of the last surviving Kryptonians and decides to protect her new home, Earth, from evil after an incident forced her into action, revealing the powers she vowed to hide. The show focuses on what most superhero stories do: balancing super-heroism with a 'normal life' of work and her adoptive family.
Melissa Benoist shines as Superman's plucky little cousin and it is a show that balances dark and light perfectly. It can appeal to everybody and is doing just that. Both Supergirl and Melissa Benoist can be a role model to little girls with big dreams, she can be somebody that we can all root for and just be a plain badass chick that we love to see beat up the bad guys.
Hopefully we're starting as we mean to go on. There are so many great female comic book characters and superheroes that it would be a real shame to not explore as many as we can, and hopefully Wonder Woman will be the start of that.
Wonder Woman stars Gal Gadot, Chris Pine and Connie Nielsen and is set for release on June 2nd, 2017.
Who are your favourite female heroes? Let us know!