The mega-launch of “Wonder Woman” introduced— and bombarded— a new generation with images of the Amazon princess.
But as we take a closer look at the character’s mythical origin story and past as a cultural icon, are we really celebrating all of its richest elements? As a big fan of the ABC network ’70’s hit television adaption of the comic book, I was captivated by Latina actress Lynda Carter’s feminine-yet-powerful portrayal of the character. As a young African American woman, Wonder Woman was — and still is — my girl. I never missed an episode.
As an episode usually goes, when confronted by a villain with an evil plan to destroy America, Wonder Woman uses her superhuman powers, and, of course, bulletproof bracelets, to bring her adversary to justice. I watch it every time knowing that the daughter of Zeus will always prevail. Women love Diana Prince because in her explosive, twirling transformation, she makes us feel a little stronger. It provides hope for me, and for other women, that we may someday be valued and no longer underestimated.
That story was always enough. But I wonder what might have happened if I had also gotten a chance to get to know Wonder Woman’s black twin sister, Nubia.
In 1973, in DC Comics issues 204–206, a masked, armored Amazon encounters Diana Prince, proclaims she is Wonder Woman, and challenges her to a battle to death for the title. While Prince and this mysterious woman are in a sword duel, the armored woman wins, but hesitates to kill her. A beautiful dark-skinned warrior then removes her helmet and declares “I am Nubia. Wonder Woman of the Floating Island.”
Diana wants to celebrate their meeting, but Nubia must return to her own island where she is the leader of male warriors. Queen Mother Hippolyta suspects Nubia may be her long-lost daughter who was snatched from her cradle by Mars, the God of war. Molded from black clay, at the same time Princess Diana was created from white clay, both were given gifts of life and beauty by Aphrodite, yet Wonder Woman was raised by the Amazons. The two women have the same powers, except Nubia possesses a magic sword which is the only weapon that can counteract Diana’s magic lasso. Nubia and Diana later defeat Mars and decide to band together in a sisterhood to lead men “into ways of peace.”
Back on Paradise Island, Queen Hippolyta reveals to Diana that Nubia is not a stranger, but indeed her sister.
Over 40 percent of children under the age of 17 are people of color.
As hundreds of thousands of young black girls head to the theater this summer, imagine how they might feel if they see themselves reflected in a superhero fighting side-by-side with Diana Prince — not just as a friend or ally, but as her sister and equal.
By including Nubia, the series could address the element of the Wonder Woman universe that goes unexplored — the racial discrimination that women of color suffer in addition to sexism, which in real life, is a major driver of stress and poor health.
To ABC network’s credit, they did begin taking steps in 1975 to add a character who would play Diana’s black twin sister. Mego Corporation even created a Nubia doll as part of their tie-in toy line for the show, but the series switched networks and alas, Nubia was not to be. In the comic book series, we unfortunately do not see Nubia again until the late 1990s and 2000s — where her mission is to guard Doom’s Doorway.
I hope Warner Bros. and DC Entertainment will remember that a more ethnically diverse generation of girls are watching. Incorporating more culturally encompassing images, storylines and characters, like Nubia, won’t just help empower girls — it will likely increase their bottom line.
With its $229 million total in profits, ”Hidden Figures” a film starring three real-life wonder women, made box office history. Last year’s Netflix launch of Marvel’s “Luke Cage” has been a huge success. And next year, Marvel Studios will release “Black Panther the first mainstream comic book film starring an almost all-black cast.
Celebrating strong characters like Nubia more visibly may allow girls to feel connected and inspire them to walk in confidence in a world that can make them feel invisible. Let’s just hope the studios see this as a major opportunity.
Dr. Regina Davis Moss is an expert in minority women and girl’s health and is an Allies Reaching for Community Health Equity Public Voices fellow at the The OpEd Project. She is currently working on a film about gender inequality. Follow her on Twitter @Dr4Equity.