With Wonder Woman so much on people’s minds, a trip to Cover Browser’s Wonder Woman gallery reveals much about society, changing roles of women, and artistic styles. Let’s take a trip down memory lane, shall we?
Let’s get this party started. In the words of Old Spice, “I’m riding a horse.”
An H.G Peter classic, showing not only Wonder Woman’s arch nemesis the Cheetah but the Holiday Girls, including Etta “Woo! Woo!” Candy in all their glory. You’ll note that WW’s costume at this time consists of what would later be known as bike shorts, but at the time were probably more related to actual bathing suits.
Is it any wonder Peter has gotten the Dan Nadel treatment? This cover could have been published by Buenaventura Press!
Flash forward to 1955 and Irv Novick. Steve Trevor, WW’s now-forgotten love interest, appeared on surprisingly few covers and here he’s been transformed into a heavy gold paperweight, undoubtedly a huge influence on Lyle Waggoner’s portrayal.
It was also, lest we forgot, the Monkey Era. Note that Wonder Woman’s assets here are completely downplayed — no cleavage or ass shadows. This is post Wertham but up to this point WW hasn’t been flaunting her charms as we would describe it today.
Several covers from this era feature three Wonder Women — doubtless a nod to the “Triple Goddess.”
1962. You had me at “Wonder Tot” although “Catch her while I battle the swordfish!” is a cry that covers many situations. Ross Andru drew sexy ladies, but this is still more of an action pose than a cheesecake shot. Also see…
I wouldn’t doubt that many lads who viewed this cover thought it was quite fantasy worthy, but, in defiance of nature on so many levels, Wonder Woman’s flagrante debutto is almost shyly illustrated — the pose makes a strong composition, so the butt is shown but not emphasized.
Mike Sekowsky. Times were changing, and so was the amount of blue eyeshadow being purchased.
Mike Sekowsky, 1970. My god, what a fucking hero.
Another Sekowsky gem. By now, cover styles had changed and seeing the hero triumphant — or confronted by problems like monkeys and turtles — wasn’t enough. Suffering and domination enter the picture. At least this time Wonder Woman is being menaced by another women — her mom, Hippolyta.
Early Jeffrey Jones. A lovely drawing, but around this time, Wonder Woman’s breasts begin to become more of a focus of attention.
1973, Nick Cardy. I think this pose can be safely categorized under “You went full retard.”
In this issue, Wonder Woman must face the menace of a phallic rocket! Around this time, Wonder Woman began to be tied up an awful lot. Jose Luis Garcia Lopez and renowned letter writer Vinnie Colletta do the honors.
Only two issues later and an almost identical pose, this time by Mike Nasser. Editor Denny O’Neil, where were you!
In this issue, Wonder Woman must face the menace of phallic snakes! Ross Andru is back.
I put this one in just for Trish Mulvihill. Gene Colan!
Frank Miller gets the call and goes full morbid.
As Wonder Woman ended her first run, Garcia Lopez has given her a fully modern look, with an almost mannish physique and trunks rendered as sexlessly as any old Superman comic.
Aaaaand she’s back, for George Perez’s classic, defining run. Anatomy is more defined, but there’s no question she’s in the heroic role.
This one is just nice.
Chained up yet again — btw, I don’t mean to suggest that male heroes of the time weren’t tied up and defeated on covers just as often. I haven’t done a similar comparison of Supes and Batman, but it would be interesting. Although this pose has many opportunities to sex it up, Perez thoughtfully throws her knee over her crotch to avoid even more unseemly connotations. Besides, Circe is plenty sexy enough.
Although now wearing a skirt, Wonder Woman does not need to wear biker shorts because artists just don’t draw her crotch, even when she’s facing the menace of a giant phallic serpent. Again, a well-posed knee helps avoid showing too much.
This HAD to be a very special issue.
Ah. Jill Thompson. 1992.
Brian Bolland, for my money, one of the best cover artists of his time, took over with the very next issue. Wonder Woman is now trim but soft-fleshed with no definition. Her bustier has been lowered several inches and her breast-shape is now a focal point of the composition.
Wonder Woman is in chains, with a black eye and she’s clearly in pain.
Wonder Woman’s distressed period continues. Not all the Bolland covers feature themes of bondage and submission, but when they did, it was a home run.
Compare this 1994 ass shot to the 1962 ass shot. Women are working out more and wearing skimpier bottoms. She’s gotten her muscles back, as well as a subtle, defining shadow on her rumpus.
Briefs are also way smaller in the front.
John Byrne. We can only guess what was going on here.
The great, great Jose Luis Garcia Lopez again. Although this is clearly a heroic pose, it’s way more pin-uppy than previous heroic pose covers.
And now the Adam Hughes era. Although known as a cheesecake artist, Hughes’s incredible sense of design and fearless invention with poses make these covers totally entertaining. Nonetheless, as well executed as they are, we are very very far from the idea of Wonder Woman as a hero. Hughes will often draw a figure with a frontal crotch shot and a lot of space between the legs, unlike most of the previous covers, solidifying the feeling of a pin-up.
This is sexy and playful, two words which pretty much define Hughes’ run.
Karl Waller, whoever that is, from 2000. This is a pretty typical stylization from that period with a lot of emphasis on the angular crotches and butt hollows. In other words, the internet has happened and so has internet porn reference.
If anyone else had drawn this, it would have been revolting.
In case you haven’t noticed, Wonder Woman’s breasts shave been getting bigger and bigger over the years. The other Jeff Jones does a nice, realistic brokeback pose here as Wonder Woman is once again tied up.
Ass shadows are now fully rendered.
Once in a while, post steroids, the muscles get the spotlight. The era of the painted-on costume and six-packs on women has also arrived.
And so, to today.
BONUS: Alex Ross
I don’t buy that the swimsuit is always stupid as a fighting costume, to be honest. It depends on the character inside the swimsuit. Ross’s fierce, deadly Amazon would look fierce and deadly naked or in a muumuu. It’s all how you draw it.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.