ELISE HU, HOST:
Wonder Woman turns 75 this year. She first swung her golden lasso in "All-Star Comics #8" in December 1941. And today, she's still fighting for freedom and the rights of women. NPR's Petra Mayer attended some of her birthday celebrations at San Diego Comic-Con.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: One, two, three.
UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: (Cheering).
PETRA MAYER, BYLINE: The sound of Wonder Woman's famous invisible jet plays out of speakers in a parking lot in San Diego's Gaslamp Quarter. DC Entertainment is marking the Amazon's birthday by unveiling a replica of the jet that fans can climb into for pictures. Izola, who only goes by that one name, was waiting her turn for the jet in an elaborate armor-plated costume she made herself.
IZOLA: So if you can hear this, (tapping breastplate), breastplate's hard as a rock. I could probably, you know, stop a bullet.
MAYER: What does Wonder Woman mean to you?
IZOLA: She is empowering. She represents a strong woman. And I hope that I can be like her.
MAYER: And that's pretty much in line with what Wonder Woman's creator, William Moulton Marston, intended. A psychologist with connections to Margaret Sanger's birth control movement and a strong interest in feminism, he invented Wonder Woman as an antidote to what he called the blood-curdling masculinity of the comics. Arriving on comics pages just as the horrors of World War II were descending, Wonder Woman would rise above male aggression - she almost never kills - and she would leave her home on Paradise Island to fight for America, the last citadel of democracy and of equal rights for women.
JIM LEE: She really is the first superhero humanitarian.
MAYER: That's Jim Lee, the co-publisher of DC Comics and a former "Wonder Woman" artist himself. He says Wonder Woman's lasted so long partly because of good timing. She was just one of the first female superheroes. But also...
LEE: It is a interesting, unique tale of someone that basically is giving up a life of comfort to take on conflict and to be a crusader for justice and peace. And I think those are the things that give characters their longevity.
MAYER: It's the story that connects us to superheroes, Lee says, not the gadgetry, not the bullet-deflecting bracelets or the golden lasso. Wonder Woman has sometimes had trouble connecting. Like many long-lasting superheroes, she's been through many incarnations, from fierce Amazon to romance editor to taco-joint waitress. She became a feminist icon, appearing on the first cover of Ms. magazine in 1972 and on the TV show that made a generation of fans fall for Lynda Carter.
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "WONDER WOMAN")
LYNDA CARTER: (As Wonder Woman) You're about to tell me everything you know.
MAYER: But there were years when fans just weren't paying attention. Now, however, that may be changing.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Let's check out the trailer for "Wonder Woman."
MAYER: In a packed and sweaty ballroom at San Diego Comic-Con, hundreds of fans roar as the big screen flashes a trailer for the upcoming "Wonder Woman" movie. Gal Gadot, who stars as the Amazon princess, is here on stage.
GAL GADOT: 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.
MAYER: The "Wonder Woman" movie will be out next year, and filmmakers hope to hook a new generation of fans, like 8-year-old Chloe Samiley and her 9-year-old friend Winona Fabi, who are both dressed up as their favorite superhero.
WINONA FABI: She's a really good superhero. She can fly. She has a rope.
CHLOE SAMILEY: She saves people, and she becomes a human and then a superhero when she spins.
MAYER: Not bad for a 75-year-old. Petra Mayer, NPR News, San Diego.
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