The Socialist, The Capitalist, and The Internationalist, Thoughts on the Origins of the Big 3 (Wonder Woman #3, Cover Date October, 2006)
Major Heroes: Wonder Woman, Nemesis, Hercules
Minor Heroes: Robin, Wonder Girl, Donna Troy
Major Villains: Circe
Minor Villains: Giganta, Cheetah, Dr. Psycho
After a brief recounting of the birth of Wonder Woman, Hercules single-handedly saves Diana, Donna, and Cassie from the triple-threat of Giganta, Cheetah, and Dr. Psycho. When Agent Prince stops Hercules from killing Dr. Psycho, however, the trio of villains disappear. Hercules proclaims himself Wonder Woman's replacement, but when Agent Prince and Nemesis sneak in to his place, Nemesis and Hercules are turned into bestiamorphs, leaving just Diana and Circe. Circe acccuses Diana of not doing enough good for women, and then turns her into a mortal.
I'm going through a "Golden Age" phase, inspired by my recent purchase of Wonder Woman Archives, Volume 1, and am going back and reading all of the earliest adventures of the Big Three. My summarizations are as follows:
Superman: The ultimate passivist socialist. He stops all violence from war to spousal abuse. He protects the proletariat (soldiers, miners) from the destructive powers of the military-industrial complex. (Action #2-#3)
Batman: The ultimate capitalist. Portrayed as a rich playboy, Batman fights his fight to preserve the status quo. A prototypical adventure is the Joker announcing that he will kill Henry Claridge and steal the Claridge diamond. Batman then must protect the wealthy, and ensure that their wealth remains concentrated. (Batman #1)
Wonder Woman: Started on the cusp of World War II, Wonder Woman is the structural internationalist. She's not fighting for the rich or the poor, she's fighting for "America", assisting against the Nazis. A prototypical adventure has her foiling a German spy ring and protecting the launch of a new, secret submarine. (Sensation Comics #6).
If I could re-imagine the 1940 Presidential election, with Superheroes, my picture is Superman campaigning for Franklin Roosevelt, Batman supporting (and funding) Wendell Wilkie's candidacy, while Wonder Woman is a non-partisan, chairing the League of Women Voters, moderating the debates, serving on the Federal Election Commission, and ensuring that the ballot box counts are accurate. (In the end, the election is unchanged. It remains a landslide even if Batman is able to deliver Gotham's electoral votes for Wilkie.)
I was thinking about these origins and how well they still hold true while contemplating Circe's accusations of Wonder Woman, which Amy addresses well, here, such that I do not feel the need to reiterate, except to re-emphasize that there is more than one method to the same goal. ("I did not renounce my mission -- Just the means --" WW). Where one method may certainly be saving individual women from anti-feminist assault, another equally (or even more) effective approach may be the protect the elements of the political system that allow women and other people to help themselves.
Would "Women" be better off if Wonder Woman stopped a dozen attempted rapes or sexual assaults while the Germans took over America? Sixty-five years later, the advances so many groups have been able to make toward equality emerged with renewed force from America's desire, after World War II, to distinguish ourselves from the Nazi system or strict hierarchy. Sometimes the best way to help women is to make sure that everyone is free. If you do that, the women can take care of themselves.
So, is there really a duality between fighting for "women" and fighting for "the ol' Red, White, and Blue"? Not really, and the accusation that Circe makes is actually answered before it is asked, by Nemesis.
Nemesis: She served in the interest of justice. She didn't mete it out.And I think that's the point.