Why is DC Afraid of Wonder Girl? Donna Troy’s Strange History Explained

Donna Troy, the heroine formerly known as Wonder Girl has been one of DC Comics‘ most popular and enduring female heroes for more than 50 years, and a mainstay of the DC Universe. Though ostensibly  Wonder Woman’s kid sister (most of the time) and a founding member of the Teen Titans, for some reason, DC’s corporate owners at Warner Bros. just seem to hate the character. And this isn’t something new either — this goes back decades.

When the character of Wonder Girl was introduced in the first season of  Lynda Carter‘s Wonder Woman TV show, played by future Oscar nominee Debra Winger, she wasn’t even called Donna–they called her Drusilla instead. When the Teen Titans animated series debuted on Cartoon Network in the early 2000s and became a huge success, every character from the comics who had ever been a Titan made an appearance. But Wonder Girl, one of the team’s founding members, never did.

Donna Troy never appeared in Young Justice either, although Cassie Sandsmark, the second heroine to use the name Wonder Girl, did. And now Warner Bros. animation is releasing a feature length animated version of Teen Titans: The Judas Contract, a story Donna has a big part in the comics… and she’s nowhere to be found. And while almost every female hero are part of the DC Superhero Girls and DC Bombshells product lines, Wonder Girl is once again missing. So what gives?

The reasons may have to do with an unconscious bias against Wonder Girl’s backstory and history as too convoluted for use in popular entertainment. And while that’s kind of true, the media versions, be they live action or animated, have always cherry picked what aspects of the character’s comic book history to use. For example, back in the ’90s, the character of Supergirl in the DC Comics was a protoplasmic, shape-shifting alien who bonded with a dead human girl and became an Angel. Bruce Timm and the producers of  Superman: The Animated Series essentially said, “Forget all that noise,” and went with the easiest, most explainable version of Supergirl: she’s Superman’s cousin Kara. So why hasn’t that courtesy been extended to Donna Troy?

The bizarre, convoluted History of Donna Troy

What a lot of fans don’t realize is that Wonder Girl wasn’t really a separate character from Wonder Woman, at least initially. Although most sources (including Wikipedia) give the character’s first appearance as Brave and the Bold #60 in 1965 (the first official appearance of the Teen Titans), there had already been a Wonder Girl since 1958. That Wonder Girl was the teenage version of Wonder Woman, and the Wonder Woman comics of the time devoted several issues to spotlighting Diana’s teenage adventures on Paradise Island. She was so popular that DC started to publish a series of “Impossible Tales,” in which the teenage version of Diana had adventures with her older self, her mom Queen Hippolyta, and even the baby version of herself as Wonder Tot (yes, there was a Wonder Tot).

Eventually, the whole “impossible tales” designation was dropped, and the average Wonder Woman reader just accepted that teenage and baby versions of Wonder Woman just hung out and had adventures with their older self, even if it made zero sense. (Let’s not forget, the average reader at this time was between eight and 12 years old). When DC decided to launch a “Junior Justice League” book called Teen Titans in 1965, the team needed the usual “token girl.” The editors of Teen Titans decided to use Wonder Girl, although the writer and editor of the book had no idea at the time that Wonder Woman and Wonder Girl were essentially the same person.

For the first three years of Teen Titans, Wonder Girl was a key member of the group, although interestingly, she didn’t even have a real name. Robin, Kid Flash and the others just called her “Wonder Chick” or “W.G.” all the time. But she was already a distinctly different character from her adult counterpart, loving to go-go dance to ’60s pop music and to flirt and pal around with the boys on the team. At this point, Wonder Girl was probably DC’s most prominent female hero after Wonder Woman, Lois Lane, Supergirl, and Batgirl. She even made her TV debut on the original Teen Titans cartoon show, a full six years before Wonder Woman debuted on Super Friends.

In 1968, Wonder Woman got a controversial makeover where she lost her powers and became a kind of female James Bond, while her mother and all her fellow Amazons retreated to another dimension. This meant DC had to explain why Wonder Girl stayed behind, and also, who the hell she really even was. A very young writer named Marv Wolfman (he’ll be really important later) wrote Teen Titans #22 in 1969, which finally gave us Wonder Girl’s backstory.

Turns out, her real name was Donna Troy, and she was an orphan rescued from a burning building by Wonder Woman as a baby. With no known living family, Wonder Woman brought her to Paradise Island to be raised as an Amazon by her mother, making her Diana’s adopted sister. The Amazons each gave a portion of their strength using Amazon tech to the baby girl, so she’d grow up as strong as her big sis. At age 13, she returned to America and became a Teen Titan. With this revelation, Donna now finally had a name and a true separate identity from Wonder Woman, and she got a kickass new costume to celebrate–one she would wear a variation of for 20 years.

In 1980, Marv Wolfman and George Perez relaunched the titles as The New Teen Titans, which quickly became DC’s best selling book. Donna was now 18, and a successful fashion photographer with her own studio. She was portrayed as the most together member of the team, and everyone’s best friend. While Starfire was often the wildly emotional loose cannon and Raven the cold, emotionless figure, Donna struck the perfect balance between the two women. She was also dating a divorced college professor 10 years (at least) her senior, but it didn’t seem that creepy because Donna seemed like such a together adult.

Some of the best Titans stories of this time period centered around Wonder Girl, like her hiring Robin to uncover the truth about her real parents, in the classic story “Who Is Donna Troy?” When Wonder Girl married boyfriend Terry Long in Titans #50, it was the unusual comic book wedding that went smoothly without being ambushed by a villain of some kind.  An argument can be made that at this point in time, Donna Troy was  far more interesting and compelling character than her famous sister.

Things start to get really weird

Then, things started to get very weird for poor Donna, and this is (probably) when she started to scare so many people off–both creators and fans. When DC reintroduced the character of Wonder Woman following their universe changing Crisis on Infinite Earths, she was reinvented as an all new hero to the DCU. Meaning, Wonder Girl’s origin no longer made any sense, as there was a Wonder Girl before a Wonder Woman. Marv Wolfman came up with a second backstory for Donna, one where instead of being saved as a baby by Wonder Woman, she was now saved by the Titans of Greek mythology and raised among them. Why she chose the name and costume inspired by a superhero who had not appeared yet was not explained. On top of this, she was given a rather hideous new costume and a new code name–she was now Troia.

Over the next 25 years, the character suffered indignity after indignity. She had a baby, but her husband suddenly turned into a jerk and divorced her, and soon after he and the child died in a car crash. She lost her powers and became a member of a wannabe Green Lantern Corps called the Darkstars. Then things got even more confusing, when writer/artist John Byrne decided to find a way to make Donna Troy into Wonder Woman’s sister again.

He came up with the idea that when Wonder Woman was a child on Themyscira, an Amazon witch took a fragment of her soul to create an identical magical duplicate of Diana, so she’d have another child to play with. A villain named Dark Angel, who was an enemy of Queen Hippolyta’s, kidnapped the magic clone thinking it was Diana herself, and subjugated her to an endless cycle of lives. This resulted in even more stories about how Donna didn’t feel like a real person, ultimately ending with her being killed off… although she got better relatively fast.

Donna Troy: Rebirth?

Ultimately, Donna Troy was one of the most high profile characters to not make it into the New 52 relaunch of the DCU, although due to popular demand, she is now back in DC Rebirth (although in keeping with tradition, her true origins are once again a mystery). Donna did finally make it into animation once again with the Super Best Friends Forever shorts on Cartoon Network, which showed her hanging around with Supergirl and Batgirl. These cartoons were great, but there were only five episodes produced.

There are many reasons why Donna Troy is a great superhero, and deserves wider recognition not only in the comics, but also in DC media like cartoons, toy lines and TV shows. She’s a competent and great leader, and a sounding board for the other characters. During her peak years in New Teen Titans, she showcased a successful career of superheroing, had a significant other who wasn’t threatened by her super strength, and always had a kind word for everyone. And just like Robin is great for little boys who imagine themselves fighting alongside a Batman, Wonder Girl is great for little girls who could imagine themselves as Wonder Woman’s kid sister and confidant.

There’s no reason for Donna not to be included in various media these days (how great would she be as a character on Supergirl, or Young Justice?). Creators at DC and Warner Bros. just need to get over this idea that her character is too convoluted to bring to life in other media. Yes, her history is convoluted, but her character isn’t. Just stick with the most basic version of Donna Troy, and go with that. After 50 years of ups and downs; Donna deserves at least that much.

Do you think it’s high time Donna Troy got the respect she deserves? Let us know down below in the comments!

Images: DC Comics / Warner Bros.

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