Wonder Woman finally made her big-screen debut in 2016's Batman v Superman – which led into her successful standalone film the following year – but Diana Prince has been starring in DC Comics since 1941. It can be tricky figuring out a place to start if you want to delve into the lore of the character after Wonder Woman. The film, which stars Gal Gadot as the Amazon Princess, successfully worked in a lot of backstory into a relatively short amount of time, but don't worry: this list breaks down all the crucial Wonder Woman stories you need to know.
While the film did touch on the origins of Diana herself, it’s important to know where Diana comes from and the environment that she was raised in to truly appreciate how unique she is as a superhero. Here are six of the best Wonder Woman storylines that provide an in-depth look at the Amazon Princess.
Written and drawn by the legendary George Pérez, the Post-Crisis reboot of Wonder Woman established and refined the backstory for every run that followed. With the Greek mythology dialed up to 11, Pérez gives readers a beautiful origin story of the Amazons - something that was more or less glossed over until this point - that is nothing short of awe-inspiring feminism at its finest.
Pérez established that the Amazons were born of the souls of women that were murdered by men over the course of thousands of years and they were to be the emissaries of the goddesses Aphrodite, Artemis, Athena, Demeter, and Hestia on Earth, teaching men about love, virtue, and equality. They lived in the Greek city of Themyscira.
A series of events involving Heracles leads to the drugging, capture, and implied rape of Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons, culminating in a battle for their liberation. The Amazons eventually gain their freedom, but because they slaughtered the men who enslaved them, the goddesses declared them failures as teachers. The goddesses forced the Amazons to relocate to the Paradise Island, which they renamed Themyscira, after their home they had to abandon. There, they are charged with guarding a great evil (the gates of Tartarus - the underworld in Greek mythology), isolated from the world of men.
Time passes and it is revealed that the soul of the woman that Hippolyta was reincarnated from was pregnant. Following the instructions given to her by Menalippe, she crafts a baby out of clay, which is then given life and the blessings of the gods, and Diana is born.
From here on, we have the story most people know; Diana is charged with returning Steve Trevor to America, Ares is up to no good, and battles are fought. It’s worth noting, though, that the tensions and hopes for resolution surrounding the tail end of the Cold War are major themes of this run, emphasizing compassion and peaceful resolution over violence and mindless fear.
In this one-shot graphic novel from 2002, an established Wonder Woman is living in New York City and acting as the Themysciran Ambassador to the United Nations. A young woman by the name of Danielle approaches Diana and - in an act of total supplication - invokes an ancient rite, Hiketeia, seeking protection and shelter from Wonder Woman, in exchange for total submission and service. Diana being Diana, of course, respects the ritual and invites Danielle into her home, unknown to her that Danielle is wanted by a certain Caped Crusader from Gotham City.
More than anything, this book shows the insane amount of compassion Diana is capable of as a person - something many die-hard Wonder Woman fans are likely hoping to see in Gadot's portrayal.
One of the newest editions to grace the Earth One series, Grant Morrison gives Wonder Woman another origin story, straying away from Brian Azzarello’s retooled origin that was released with the New 52 relaunch in 2011, and pays homage to George Pérez’s while making it his own. One thing you’ll notice right away is the art style that was used when drawing Themyscira - everything is curved; there are almost zero phallic symbols and the invisible/swan plane looks like a vagina. This version is heavily influenced by William Moulton Marston, the creator of Wonder Woman in the 1940s, so expect themes of bondage and submission laced throughout the story, in addition to an incredibly feminist message that’s really been lost over the years following the initial George Pérez run.
Best known for her work on Birds of Prey, Gail Simone was the perfect writer for Wonder Woman after a line of really lackluster books following Greg Rucka’s departure from the title and the Volume 3 reboot in 2006. This four-issue arc from 2009 revolves around the discovery of a plot to kill Diana shortly after her birth and explores Diana's identity as a daughter that we don’t really see that much outside of the origin arcs. Also, there’s a super-soldier called Captain Nazi that gets his ass handed to him.