The 90s were not necessarily a good time for comics as so many books seemed to devolve into stories about violent anti-heroes with high body counts. DC Comics, for the most part, somewhat avoided this trend. True, characters like Lobo and Deathstroke had their own series, but the main heroes were still the main heroes. However, there was a weird trend involved there too. Many series that had been relaunched in the wake of Crisis on Infinite Earths were hitting big anniversary issues, and a number of DC’s classic heroes had major, generally temporary, upheavals. Hal Jordan went insane and Kyle Rayner became the Green Lantern. Superman died fighting Doomsday only for four replacement Supermen to come along. Batman’s back was broken, and his own temporary replacement seemed to be designed to be hated by fans. Green Arrow Oliver Queen died in an explosion and his illegitimate son Connor Hawke took his place for a while. Some of these changes in the status quo led to new heroes being introduced, and others were largely forgotten.
Somewhere inbetween those two areas, arguably, was Artemis, a woman with a knack for violence who was briefly Wonder Woman.
To understand a bit about where Artemis came from, it’s worth noting that she was part of an off-shoot tribe of Amazons. When the Amazons were fleeing Man’s World, they apparently split into two tribes. One group, led by Hippolyta, ended up on Themyscira. The other, eventually called the Bana-Mighdall, were honored by gods from other Pantheons with a city of their own protected by an enchanted sandstorm in the middle of a Middle Eastern desert. These women were eventually found by Diana, Wonder Woman, and reunited with the rest of the Amazons on Paradise Island.
But when Hippolyta got a vision that “Wonder Woman” would die battling a particular evil, she figured the best way to keep her daughter alive was to arrange a new tournament, now to include the Bana-Mighdall, and maybe set up a new Wonder Woman to die instead of Diana. Oh, and Hippolyta cheated a bit in favor of one Bana-Mighdall warrior. That would be Artemis.
And this Wonder Woman, with a cartoonishly long ponytail and a star-spangled thong that might as well not have been there, was heavily armed, unpleasant to deal with, and didn’t see a single problem that couldn’t be solved with a decapitation.
As for Diana, she took on a really unfortunate costume and continued to fight evil.
Now, I am a firm believer that some of these “replacement” heroes were there to show why the originals were as special that they were. True, some like Connor Hawke and Kyle Rayner were fine heroes in their own right, and two of Superman’s four temporary replacements became great allies on their own, but making Azrael Batman the way he was, he was as unpleasant and unlikable as the creators could make him in part so fans would stop asking for an edgier Batman. Artemis was never intended to be a permanent replacement for Diana. Indeed, the fact Diana was still hanging around was sign enough of that.
And sure enough, Artemis died fighting a baddie called the White Magician. During the fight, she actually realized why Diana was so special and gave the mantle of Wonder Woman back to Diana, after which Diana defeated the White Magician. True, Diana wasn’t happy with Hippolyta, but that tends to happen between those two from time to time.
Oh, and Artemis didn’t stay dead. She came back after more or less fighting her way out of the afterlife. She’s been a Wonder Woman supporting character ever since, and since the New 52/Rebirth era, she’s been one third of DC’s “Dark Trinity” alongside Jason Todd’s Red Hood and Bizarro.
Oh, and she did appear in the live action movie from director Patty Jenkins, but I don’t recall her doing that much.
So, really, a temporary Wonder Woman is now a permanent supporting character when people remember she exists. And that gets me to thinking…what happens when a new hero replaces a longstanding one that people often forgot about as well.
I think I have two more weeks of this column now.