In just a few days, the first lady of superheroism is poised to take us back to the 1980s in her latest (and now officially “certified fresh”) cinematic adventure, Wonder Woman 1984. Like the name suggests, the Gal Gadot-starring sequel is set during the year of Mary Lou Retton, Band Aid and The Karate Kid, which made us wonder…when we next see Wonder Woman on screen, how close will it be to the Wonder Woman we actually knew in 1984? To find out, let’s turn back the calendar some 36 years and take a look at twelve months in the life of Wonder Woman...
In 1984, the DC Univere skies were just beginning to take on their crimson hue. It was the final full year before Crisis on Infinite Earths would clear the decks, and the Monitor had just begun to test the mettle of the world’s heroes for the upcoming Armageddon. In 1984, though, that infinity of Earths was very much still in play. What this means is that throughout the year, there were not one, but two significant Wonder Women depicted in the Multiverse: Earth-One’s battler of the gods, and Earth-Two’s Nazi-fighting champion of the All-Star Squadron. We’ll be focusing on the Earth-One incarnation because those Earth-Two stories are set in the 1940s--and this is all about seeing what Wonder Woman was up to in ‘84.
To start the year off, Wonder Woman came face-to-face for the first time with one of the greatest enemies she would confront before the Crisis: the Aztec god of kings and warriors, Tezcatlipoca, in Wonder Woman #314. Years later, Tezcatlipoca would play a significant role in the backstory of Aztek and would later still be resurrected for a team-up arc between Aztek and Wonder Woman by Steve Orlando in 2018.
Wonder Woman and the rest of the Justice League were forced into the sidelines when the first major storyline of Alan Moore’s Saga of the Swamp Thing came to a head, and could only watch as Swamp Thing battled Floronic Man for the fate of the Earth in Saga of the Swamp Thing #24. Though Swamp Thing won the day, Wonder Woman would be rendered just as helpless when Tezcatlipoca stripped her of her powers in Wonder Woman #315, just as she had been once before during writer Denny O’Neil’s Wonder Woman run in the seventies.
Unlike those seventies stories, though, Diana would regain her powers in the very next issue, driving Tezcatlipoca from dominating the Amazon tribe of South America in Wonder Woman #316. Let it not be said that DC didn’t learn not to take the “Wonder” away from “Wonder Woman.”
The second quarter of 1984 got started in a big way for Wonder Woman and indeed all her fellow “Super Friends.” Kenner Toys released the first wave of its 1/16th scale of “Super Powers Collection” action figures, including a 4.5 inch Wonder Woman who was articulated to deflect projectiles with her magic bracelets. For cross-promotion, DC launched a line of Super Powers tie-in comics to feature the characters who would be showcased in the toy line…and got none other than the great Jack Kirby to write and draw the five-issue miniseries himself, which would prove successful enough to garner two sequels in the years to come. These comics are significant as the only time that Kirby himself would ever pitch the forces of Darkseid against the heroes of the Justice League. The first issue has Darkseid’s “Emissaries of Doom” enlist Brainiac in reawakening the warrior instincts of the Amazons to sew chaos on Themyscira. Meanwhile, over on Earth-One, Wonder Woman enjoys her victory over Tezcatlipoca as Atalanta, queen of the South American Amazons, shares more about her people in Wonder Woman #317.
While the Wonder Woman of Jack Kirby’s Super Powers struggles on Paradise Island, Earth-One’s Wonder Woman must save a Themyscira of her own when she’s transported by Aphrodite to the distant 63rd Century to liberate her people from hostile occupation by a race of mutant pig-men (oh yes, subtlety when it came to symbolism was a rare thing in the ’80s) in the out-of-this-world Wonder Woman #318.
On a lighter note, once returned to the present, Diana and Hippolyta gave Donna Troy their blessing for her to marry history professor Terry Long (honestly a bad move, IMO) in Tales of the Teen Titans #45.
Remember the 2007 miniseries Amazons Attack? Well, 23 years before that story, Jack Kirby had the Amazons declare war on Man’s world in Super Powers #3. Led by a Brainiac-brainwashed Diana, the Amazon warriors take over the missile base of the island nation of San Marcos, intending to move onto America next. When the Justice League arrives to interfere, Brainiac shifts his focus back to Superman, freeing the Amazons from his control...and regressing the Man of Steel into a brutal caveman, who uses his super strength against the League.
Back in pre-Crisis continuity, Wonder Woman is stopping a war rather than starting one, as her enemy Dr. Cyber, disguised as Diana Prince, steals US nuclear launch codes in Wonder Woman #319.
A secret identity comes in handy sometimes as a Dr. Cyber-framed Diana Prince is wanted for betraying the country while Wonder Woman works to stop Dr. Cyber’s designs on World War Three in Wonder Woman #320. But that’s not the only attack on America that the Amazon champion will be involved in this month. In Justice League of America #231, Wonder Woman joins the remaining Justice Leaguers who haven’t been transported to Earth-Two in the wake of the preceding “Earth-Mars War” in protecting the Pentagon from an attack by mythological beasts.
Meanwhile, in Super Powers #4, Green Lantern breaks through to the devolved Superman, and Wonder Woman joins the League in an attack on the Emissaries of Doom and their allies—only for the team to wind up stranded on Apokolips itself without a Boom Tube while Darkseid readies his invasion of Earth.
Okay, so that’s the Wonder Woman of Earth-Two on the cover you see above from Justice League of America #232 who’s getting whacked by Superman. Half of Earth-One’s Justice League fell under the control of the villainous Commander, who fought against Earth-Two’s Justice Society (including the Golden Age Wonder Woman).
In the meantime, Earth-One’s Wonder Woman is joined by the Greek god Eros in her ongoing battle against Dr. Cyber, who gets a little too overzealous in his involvement in man’s affairs in Wonder Woman #321. Finally, the first chapter of Jack Kirby’s Super Powers comes to a close in issue five, where Wonder Woman and her Justice League cohorts find unlikely allies in Joker, Penguin, Brainiac and Lex Luthor for stopping Darkseid’s global conquest. But just as one promotional effort for Kenner’s Super Powers toy line ended, another was about to begin…
September of 1984 was the beginning of the eighth and penultimate season of Super Friends, now bearing the full title of Super Friends: The Legendary Super Powers Show—all to better reflect the associated Kenner toy line. Just as the preceding Super Powers comic series pitched the Justice League against Darkseid, so too would DC’s own God of Evil make his on-screen debut in this season premiere. In “Bride of Darkseid,” the Lord of Apokolips sets his sights on forcing Wonder Woman to rule by his side by any means necessary while he spread his interplanetary conquest, a peculiar motivation which would play out through the rest of the season.
Meanwhile, back in the comics, a long-brewing storyline comes to a head as Wonder Woman learns that her mother and Eros had both been tampering with her memories and perception of Steve Trevor in Wonder Woman #322. But at least Diana still has family she can count on, as she helps her sister Donna prepare for her impending nuptials in Tales of the Teen Titans #49. But Diana is truly taken to task when, alongside Superman, she is tested for the first time by the behind-the-scenes machinations of the Monitor in DC Comics Presents #76. It truly must be September, because the Fall has arrived.
October 1984 was a fallow month for Wonder Woman comics, but not one without Amazon content. The back half of Super Friends: The Legendary Super Powers Show aired during this time, bringing the promotional season for the first wave of Kenner Super Powers Collection action figures to a close. In these episodes, Wonder Woman was captured by Darkseid (again), transformed into a “Dinosoid” (above), and fights the Wonder Twins in their final Super Friends appearance after they get mind-controlled by Brainiac.
The Wonder Wedding of the decade arrives, as Donna Troy ties the knot with Terry Long in Tales of the Teen Titans #50. Diana, of course, holds the position of Donna Troy’s Maid of Honor…though later storylines would suggest post facto that Starfire held that role instead. Who can say, really? To be fair, Wonder Woman has other things on her mind, as her enemies Cheetah and Doctor Psycho are out cutting deals with the mysterious Monitor, continuing in his capacity to test Wonder Woman for the war to come in this month’s Wonder Woman #323.
Early December is always a busy time of year as we try to head off the holiday rush, and that’s as true for Wonder Woman as it is for any of us. In Action Comics #565, Diana has to contend with a pushy Ambush Bug (a fourth wall-breaking character whose whole deal I do NOT have time to get into), who wheedles her in vain for a guest spot in his own nascent solo comic book series. But the busy heroine does have time to endorse Donna Troy and the Teen Titans after their tireless work to head off yet another potential world-ending threat at the hands of Trigon in The New Teen Titans #6. There’s little time for celebrating, though, as Wonder Woman not only must contend with the Furies of ancient myth, but must join forces with new-hero-on-the-block Blue Devil in order to do so in Blue Devil #10.
And that brings us into 1985! So, with all that in mind, what have we learned about Wonder Woman 1984 and its relationship to where Wonder Woman was at the time? Well, unless we’re in store for a surprise Darkseid appearance where he attempts to make Gal Gadot his bride, or Tezcatlipoca makes an unexpected cameo in the Cheetah’s backstory…it doesn’t seem like much. But if this writer may opine, the true significance of the number 1984 is what immediately comes after it—1985, the year that comics entered what is widely recognized as the “modern” era. 1984 is the final year of nostalgia before Crisis on Infinite Earths sets in. One last time where the DC Universe can afford to look back before it must forge boldly forward. In other words, whatever the future holds for the Woman of Wonder after her newest movie, it won’t be in the past.
Wonder Woman 1984 opens in theaters and on HBO Max on Friday, December 25th. For all the latest news, trailers and features on Diana’s return to the screen, visit our official Wonder Woman 1984 movie page.
A version of this article originally ran on DC Universe. Be sure to subscribe to DC Universe Infinite for unlimited access to more than 24,000 comics from every era of publishing, plus original titles, special fan events and more!
Alex Jaffe is the author of the "Ask the Question" column on DC Universe (soon coming to DCComics.com!), and writes about TV, movies, comics and superhero history for both DCUniverse.com and DCComics.com. Follow him on Twitter at @AlexJaffe.