From 1942 to 1954, a feature ran in the back of DC’s Wonder Woman comics highlighting powerful and innovative women from history. This week, DC’s new graphic novel anthology, Wonderful Women of the World, picks up where that feature left off and expands upon the short biographies and comic illustrations with longer pieces written, illustrated and colored by various (also powerful and innovative) women and nonbinary people.
Edited by author Laurie Halse Anderson (who in addition to many novels, also wrote Wonder Woman: Tempest Tossed, one of DC’s graphic novels for young adults), Wonderful Women of the World connects each highlighted woman through the lens of them being “wonder women” in their own rights—whether they’re athletes, entertainers, scientists, activists or someone who (on purpose) doesn’t fit any specific mold.
The book is divided into five sections: Strength, Compassion, Justice, Truth and Equality—all characteristics/guiding tenets of the women in the book and Diana of Themyscira herself.
The “Strength” section features stories about tennis star-slash-so-many-other-things Serena Williams, indigenous pilot Teara Fraser, education activist Malala Yousafzai and trans dancer and choreographer Leiomy Maldonado. “Compassion” includes author and speaker Brené Brown, multi-talented superstar Beyoncé, “Little Miss Flint” Mari Copeny and tech founder Mariana Costa Checa. In “Justice,” you’ll find stories about Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, climate change activist Greta Thunberg and marriage equality activist Edith Windsor. “Truth” features comics about Professor Khatijah Mohamad Yusoff, climate change activist and educator Francisca Nneka Okeke, disability activist Judith Heumann and water scientist Márcia Barbosa. And in “Equality,” you’ll find features on astronaut Ellen Ochoa, fashion influencer and comedian Naomi Watanabe, trans activist Marsha P. Johnson and actor Keiko Agena. Mixed throughout are portraits of former DC Comics president and publisher Jenette Kahn, Jamaican medicine woman Mary Seacole, first woman Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation Wilma Mankiller, first computer programmer Ada Lovelace and tennis superstar (slash many things, just like her sister) Venus Williams.
Quite the mix! Each story—even the portraits, which feature short blurbs about the women in addition to lovely art—explains why these women are worthy of being included in such heroic company. And gosh, if I didn’t feel completely awed and inspired by the end of the book while simultaneously feeling like I’ve done absolutely nothing with my life. The comics are short but no less interesting in their brevity. And many feature notes that lead to additional resources to learn more about each of the women, if you’re so inclined. Although I already knew about many of the women included in the book, it was fascinating to read about women I’d never heard of—I don’t envy Anderson for having to determine who was going to be included and who had to wait their turn for a follow-up. (Note: I have no idea if there will be a follow-up, but there are certainly more than twenty amazing women deserving of a feature.)
I particularly enjoyed learning about Mariana Costa Checa and Ellen Ochoa, two women who spoke to my passions both present and past. For my day job, I’m a woman in tech, and definitely see the need for more women in the STEM—particularly the T—fields. Checa is the co-founder of a tech incubator in Latin America that helps women learn career skills and get placed in technology jobs they might otherwise have been passed over for. I’ve worked with similar groups here in the U.S. and am always proud to see the passion and drive the women involved have!
Meanwhile, Ochoa is a new hero of mine and someone I’ll be looking into further. In high school, I used to want to become an astronaut but a lack of interest in advanced physics and a severe issue with motion sickness drove me in another direction. But you can bet I’m still passionate about the idea of space, and even more so about women making strides in the field.
Each story is an eye-opening account of a truly fabulous and daring individual, all of whom are worthy of the “hero” title, superpowers or no. Whether you’re looking for an additional person to look up to or just want to learn more about some of history’s most impressive women—or want to find new writers and artists to check out, because they too are stellar—Wonderful Women of the World is a book you’ll want to pick up and read more than once. You might even want to buy a few copies to gift to the impressive people in your own life so that they, too, can find a new hero…or fifteen.
Wonderful Women of the World edited by Laurie Halse Anderson is now available in bookstores, comic shops, libraries and as a digital graphic novel.
When Mandy Curtis isn’t reading books by Leigh Bardugo or Sarah J. Maas, she’s dreaming of busting bad guys with Wonder Woman—if Steve Trevor’s there, too, she won’t complain—and writing about YA fiction and pop culture at Forever Young Adult. Follow her on Twitter at @mandyannecurtis.
NOTE: The views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of Mandy Curtis and do not necessarily reflect those of DC Entertainment or Warner Bros.