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Wonderful Women of the World | Review

Wonderful Women of the World coverWonderful Women of the World
Editor: Laurie Halse Anderson
Writers: Amanda Deibert, Danielle Paige, Tracie Sorell, Son M and others
Artists: Brittney Williams, Natasha Donovan, Safia Zerrougui, Nicole Goux and others
DC Comics; $16.99

As phenomenally popular as comic books were in their 1940s Golden Age, they had something of an image problem, with certain quarters thinking they were sub-literate trash distracting young people from more fulfilling types of reading and learning…among other problems. The Wonder Woman comic book of the time helped combat this stereotype with retired tennis player Alice Marble’s “Wonder Women of History” feature. It consisted of short biographies of noteworthy, inspirational women,  and was published alongside comic-style illustrations. The feature ran from 1942 to 1954.

DC’s new Wonderful Women of The World anthology takes its inspiration from Marble’s feature, of which it is essentially a dramatic expansion—and recontextualization. The book, edited by prose fiction author (and Wonder Woman: Tempest Tossed writer) Laurie Halse Anderson, collects the biographies of 20 different noteworthy modern women and tells their abbreviated biographies, although rather than doing so in prose, Wonderful Women of The World transforms its subjects into the stars of their own comics stories, running in length from 6-12 pages each.

These subjects vary quite a bi, but are mostly women who are still alive, and whose stories are therefore very much still in progress. (The late Ruth Bader Ginsburg is one of the book’s exceptions.)

They include household names like Beyoncé, Serena Williams, Malala Yousafzai and Greta Thunberg, scientists and thinkers like Mariana Costa Checa, Khatijah Mohamad Yusoff and Francisca Nneka Okeke, activists like Mari Copeny, Judith Heumann, and Marsha P. Johnson and others, including the likes of Edith Windsor, who fell in love and happened to make history because of where that led her, and Keiko Agena, who played a small-town Asian girl on Gilmore Girls and thus provided representation for countless girls watching at home (like Sarah Kuhn, who pens that particular story).

The subjects of the biographies—and the handful of portraits that kick off each chapter—are, of course, but one group of inspirational women the book offers for consumption. The other is the many talented women (and nonbinary) writers and artists who created the stories.

These include many women familiar from past DC original graphic novels (Danielle Paige, Kami Garcia, Marieke Nijkamp, Sarah Kuhn, Nicole Goux), others from their mainstream superhero comics work (Brittney Williams, Magdalene Visaggio, Louise Simonson, Lilah Sturges, Colleen Doran, Cecil Castellucci, Jody Houser), and plenty of newcomers and up-and-comers working in a variety of visual styles.

As inspirational as the lives and work of, say, Teara Fraser or Leiomy Maldonado might be for young readers, for young readers who wish to write and/or make comics of their own some day, there’s an even greater pool of talents to find inspiration from within the book.

As for Wonder Woman’s involvement, it is essentially only to pose for the cover, although in that respect too the book echoes the feature that inspired it; after all, the biographies come after a Wonder Woman adventure, even if this adventure is abbreviated to a flight around the world.

I suppose it would be impossible to include such comics bios as these at the end of each issue of Wonder Woman today, as it would up the page count and thus the price into an unreasonable range, but it would be great to see such stories told in such diverse styles attached to one of the publisher’s mainstream superhero books.

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J. Caleb Mozzocco About J. Caleb Mozzocco

J. Caleb Mozzocco is a way-too-busy freelance writer who has written about comics for online and print venues for a rather long time now. He currently contributes to Comic Book Resources' Robot 6 blog and ComicsAlliance, and maintains his own daily-ish blog at EveryDayIsLikeWednesday.blogspot.com. He lives in northeast Ohio, where he works as a circulation clerk at a public library by day.

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