Minorities in cartoons: The Amazons of Paradise Island/Themyscira

This week’s minorities in cartoons entry is about the Amazons of Paradise Island/Themyscira. The island is the home of the superheroine Wonder Woman.

The Amazons first appeared in “All Star Comics” #8 (January 1941). They were created by William Moulton Marston and Harry G. Peter.

The Amazons’ details have changed over the years, including the name of their island home. (“Paradise Island” in older stories, “Themyscira” in most modern ones.) However, the two most prominent versions are Marston’s original Golden Age version and George Perez’s 1987 post-“Crisis on Infinite Earths” reboot. Thus, that’s mainly what I’m going with. (The less said about the 2011-2016 “New 52” versions, the better.)

Background

To summarize, the Amazons originated in ancient times as women who, for a time, were enslaved by Hercules (or Heracles). After freeing themselves, they fled “Man’s World” to found an island nation of their own. Paradise Island stayed purposefully cut off from the outside world. Watched over by the ancient Greco-Roman goddesses they worship, the residents stayed immortally youthful.

In the earlier comics, the Amazons developed a highly advanced scientific culture along with an ancient Greek-inspired one. Their advanced technology let them develop the Purple Healing Ray and Wonder Woman’s invisible plane. Modern comics show the Amazons with a more Bronze Age culture instead (despite the actual ancient Greeks’ interest in science). However, some recent stories brought back in limited usage the Purple Ray and invisible plane.

More modern stories also put a heavy emphasis on the Amazons’ classical Greco-Roman warrior aspects, sometimes excessively. This is one reason why Wonder Woman mainly wields a sword (despite her having superpowers) rather than her more famous lasso these days, if curious.

As her people’s ambassador, Wonder Woman’s goal is to spread Amazonian ideals of peace and love through the world. Said mission’s aided by Diana’s superpowers. However, all Amazons usually have some degree of super-strength, speed, and stamina.

Golden and Silver Age comics forbid any men from setting foot on Paradise Island (under “Aphrodite’s law”). If they did, the Amazons would lose their immortality/powers. Modern comics dropped this aspect.

Prominent Amazons

Besides Diana, other prominent Amazons include:

Hippolyta

The ruler of the Amazons is Queen Hippolyta, the mother of Princess Diana (aka Wonder Woman). Hippolyta’s varied between having blonde hair (Silver Age/Earth-1, New 52) and black hair (Golden Age/Earth-2, post-Crisis, etc.). Pre-Crisis, her name was spelled “Hippolyte.”

Nubia

Nubia’s an Amazon separated from the Themysciran ones, with varying versions of her backstory explaining why.

I’ve written previously about Nubia. Among her modern appearances, Nubia was seen in a 2014 issue of “Scooby-Doo Team-Up.”

Philippus

Philippus from Wonder Woman
Philippus. From “Wonder Woman Secret Files and Origins” #1 (March 1998). Art by Dick Giordano.

Philippus first appeared in Perez’s 1987 reboot, and has become one of the more prominent Amazons. She’s usually Hippolyta’s right-hand woman and a general/captain of the guards. Philippus is also an excellent combatant.

She’s also the woman (besides Hippolyta) most responsible for raising and educating Diana.

Philippus has appeared in some spin-off media, including “Justice League Unlimited.”

Sexuality

The residents of Themyscira have a large number of rituals, befitting a several thousand-year-old culture. Among these include romantic rituals. While it’s been hinted at for years, stories since the 90s have revealed that, yes, many of the Amazons are in same-sex relationships.

Along these lines, the 2016 “Rebirth” revamp has revealed that Philippus and Hippolyta are (officially) in a relationship. The initial “Rebirth” Wonder Woman writer, Greg Rucka, also declared that Wonder Woman herself is non-heterosexual.

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