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As Wonder Woman turns 75, creators of comic and movie talk about her legacy

‘Now is the time,’ says Gal Gadot

Susana Polo is an entertainment editor at Polygon, specializing in pop culture and genre fare, with a primary expertise in comic books. Previously, she founded The Mary Sue.

At San Diego Comic-Con’s Wonder Woman 75 panel, director Patty Jenkins and actress Gal Gadot gave five lucky Wonder Woman cosplayers prints of the newly released first poster for the character’s first feature film. Two of the cosplayers were men. One of them was wearing the highest heels of any of them.

If there’s a better example of Wonder Woman’s broad appeal, it would be difficult to find.

Like her counterparts Batman and Superman before her, Wonder Woman celebrates the 75th anniversary of the publication of her first story in Sensation Comics #1 this year. DC Comics paid tribute to that occasion with a panel at San Diego Comic-Con featuring current Wonder Woman artist Nicola Scott, DC Comics co-publisher Jim Lee, Wonder Woman director Patty Jenkins and Wonder Woman herself (at least in the movies), actress Gal Gadot.

But whether they were working on the 75-year-old legacy of Wonder Woman in comics, or crafting her story anew for a modern movie adaptation, the panelists agreed: Wonder Woman is having a moment.

"It feels like for the first time in a really long time," Scott told the audience "the general cultural awareness of Wonder Woman is really strong again, and the hunger for a great iconic female character is there again. And I’m so glad it’s Wonder Woman coming out first, because it really should be — it should be Wonder Woman first."

Scott is one of two artists splitting duties on the latest arc of Wonder Woman, on twin story arcs that follow the character’s true origin and her modern-set search for the truth of her own self. The series is being written by Greg Rucka and drawn by Scott and Liam Sharp.

"We’re being able to [make the comic] at a time when there’s so much Wonder Woman content," Scott said. "People are sort of saying ‘Thank you for bringing Wonder Woman back,’ and it’s like ‘She didn’t go anywhere.’ It’s just people stopped paying attention or they weren’t quite seeing the Wonder Woman that they think of in the books. But we’re trying to bring her back to her core and to be able to do that at this time is the most ridiculous honor. The pressure is just to not screw it up."

As Scott said that, Jenkins had a clear sympathetic reaction. Panel moderator Tiffany Smith asked "Is it the same kind of feeling?"

"Aw, man," was Jenkins’ response.

Patty Jenkins has also been waiting a long time for Wonder Woman to come around.

"I’d been talking about doing female superhero films since I got my foot in the door and even before that," she told the audience. "There was period of time where people were so afraid — [afraid] to do Wonder Woman in particular, but [also] to do any [female superhero film]." She got the sense from studios that they thought the character would need to be changed to appeal to a broader audience.

"I kept feeling ..." she countered, "until we can make them universal, until you can make any kind of person universal, then you’re not really making a movie about them. Why do only white men get to be universal and everybody else has to be some smaller story?"

Many of the folks up on the panel’s stage were introduced to Wonder Woman by the 1979 television show, and Jenkins was no exception, but her superhero pedigree goes deeper than that. The Directors Guild Award-winning creator of 2003’s Monster — a docudrama about the female serial killer Aileen Wuornos featuring Charlize Theron in the lead role — has always been fascinated by how closely Richard Donner’s Superman touched her. In her filmmaking, she said, she has always wanted to make people feel the way movies have made her feel.

Though that’s sometimes been misunderstood. "I started making small movies by myself, in New York," she said, "and people were like, ‘Oh, you’ll be like a ‘Woody Allen’ filmmaker’ ... and so when I made Monster, and I go out meeting people — the first meeting that I had with Warner Bros. — I walked in, they were like ‘Great, what do you want to do?’"

She said "I want to do Wonder Woman."

As for doing the film itself, Jenkins had nothing but praise for Gal Gadot and the bond they formed while filming. Gadot is Wonder Woman in real life, the director emphasized, sharing the remembered image of Jenkins in a full mountain climbing parka to protect herself from the bitter weather, as Gadot capably performed scenes in her much less insulated costume.

For her part, Gadot said she couldn’t have asked for a better partner than Jenkins, and shared her own understanding of Wonder Woman’s 75-year legacy.

"I think that it’s so important for girls — and for boys as well — to have a strong, active rolemodel, superhero," said the actress, who served two years in the gender-integrated Israeli military. "There’s not many female superheroes that we are exposed to, and the fact that we have Wonder Woman coming back big time now is just so important."

"I’m not a big spiritual person," Gadot said near the end of the panel, "many times it felt like we got signs from the universe. Swear to god!" Most of those stories would have to be told later, she said, though she did give the example of the last day of shooting coinciding with the birthday of Wonder Woman’s creator, William Moulton Marston.

"It felt like we were just a vessel for a greater story," she continued, "that we need to share it with everyone. It wasn’t about me being an actress, it wasn’t about Patty being a director. We were treating this story in such a holy, almost, way; with so much respect, that it felt like ‘now is the time.’

With 76 years between Wonder Woman’s creation and her first feature film, "now is the time" is an understatement. DC Comics will be celebrating the anniversary in several ways, including a Wonder Woman retail day in October, several installations around Comic-Con (including an invisible jet, which you can, in fact, see), and a set of commemorative stamps from the United States Post Office.

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