She’s easily the most famous female superhero of all time, and she’s doing it on her own. She’s Wonder Woman, and she’s been a solo superhero since her first DC Comics appearance in 1941. Though Gal Gadot is taking her to the big screen in Wonder Woman, out Friday, until now, the best-known depiction of Wonder Woman has to be the Lynda Carter version, which first premiered on Nov. 7, 1975.
That theme song! It’s enough to make you want to spin around and see if maybe this time you’ll magically change into her very same star-spangled costume. Carter’s performance as Wonder Woman was everything a ’70s superhero should be, and years later she’s still fielding questions about the character. In 2014, shortly after Gadot challenged her to the ALS ice bucket challenge, Carter spoke to Nerdist about what made the TV show version so beloved.
“It wasn’t about brawn. It was about brains. And yes, she happened to be beautiful, she happened to be kind of extraordinary in some way, but she wasn’t a guy,” Carter said. “And I think that, often times, they try to put out a female hero, and all they are doing is changing the costume from a man to a woman. It’s really a man who could be doing the same part; they’re not showcasing any of the tremendous dichotomies than women possess in term of softness and toughness, sweetness and grit, and inner and outer strength.”
A TV movie titled The New Original Wonder Woman segued into the TV series simply titled Wonder Woman, which ran for three reasons beginning April 21, 1976. However, Carter wasn’t actually the original Wonder Woman. Today, we’re looking at her notable incarnations so far – and some of the more famous actresses associated with the character.
1. Jane Webb on The Brady Kids (1972)
Believe it or not, this story begins with The Brady Bunch – specifically The Brady Kids, the animated spinoff to the sitcom that had the siblings going on magical adventures with talking animal characters. (No, really. Just watch that intro in the above clip.) It was here that Wonder Woman appeared for the first time off the comic page, and she was voiced by Jane Webb, who’d already voiced Batgirl on The Batman/Superman Hour. Shortly thereafter she appeared on the Saturday morning series Superfriends and subsequent cartoons, where she was voiced by a series of actresses, but it’s just too weird not to mention that Wonder Woman got her showbiz start with The Brady Kids.
2. Cathy Lee Crosby in Wonder Woman (1974)
Carter also wasn’t the first live-action Wonder Woman. A 1967 pilot, titled Who’s Afraid of Diana Prince?, had Ellie Wood Walker playing the title character, who’d turn into Planet of the Apes star Linda Harrison to become Wonder Woman. In 1974, Crosby, who’s today best known now for hosting That’s Incredible!, played a blonde Wonder Woman in an ABC TV movie that ultimately helped bring about the Carter TV series.
3. Lucy Lawless in Justice League: The New Frontier (2008)
Wonder Woman, voiced by Susan Eisenberg, persisted as a character on the Justice League animated series for years, but it wasn’t until all the way in 2008 when a household name played the character again: Lucy Lawless. And it’s funny, because if anyone could have played a live-action Wonder Woman in the meantime, it would have been Xena herself, but we had to settle for Lawless voicing the character, even if she did so pretty awesomely – and in this scene, opposite Kyle MacLachlan as Superman.
4. Keri Russell in Wonder Woman (2009)
Years before she played a Soviet agent on The Americans, Russell honed her tough girl voice as Wonder Woman in a 2009 animated movie – her first feature-length solo adventure in years. For the record, we’d have been cool with Russell playing a live-action Wonder Woman too.
5. Maggie Q on Young Justice (2010)
The Cartoon Network series focused on the younger counterparts to the Justice League, but Wonder Woman was a prominent character nonetheless. And she was voiced by Russell’s Mission: Impossible III co-star, Maggie Q, of La Femme Nikita fame.
6. Adrianne Palicki on Wonder Woman (2011)
Ally McBeal creator David E. Kelley filmed a pilot for NBC, but the network ultimately opted not to pick it up. It leaked online, and fans were a bit puzzled by how much the pilot departed from the traditional Wonder Woman back story. However, most agreed that Palicki had the chops for the role. Years later, it was Supergirl who eventually got her own show on a major broadcast network. However, Palicki ended up joining the Marvelverse with a recurring role on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D..
7. Michelle Monaghan in Justice League: War (2014)
Monaghan, yet another Mission: Impossible III co-star, lent her voice to the role, and she did it well. She sounds every bit as strong and battle-ready as we’d want her too, and you know what? We could actually see her in the tiara and bracelets, too. It’s almost like the producers of these animated movies were working from a list of actresses who could have played Wonder Woman in non-animated form, almost like they’d been pushing for a live-action version this whole time. Hmm
8. Cobie Smulders in Justice League: War (2014)
There doesn’t seem to be a handy clip of the Lego version of Wonder Woman talking, but trust us: How I Met Your Mother star Cobie Smulders provided the voice. The casting wasn’t arbitrary, either. For a period, Joss Whedon was considering a live action Wonder Woman movie and casting Smulders in the role. (Can’t you picture it?) This role in The Lego Movie was a small way of making good on that idea. Smulders, meanwhile, joined the Marvel cinematic universe, playing Maria Hill in the Avengers movies.
9. Rosario Dawson in Justice League: Throne of Atlantis (2015)
10. Gal Gadot in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) and Wonder Woman (2017)
Entertainment Weekly’s “Ultimate Guide to Wonder Woman” is out now.
You probably noticed that a lot of these Wonder Woman performances have been in animated features. You’re right. By the time the Man of Steel sequel hit theaters, it had taken nearly 36 years for Wonder Woman to be realized again in live action. The film also marked the first time ever that Wonder Woman appeared in an official, theatrical movie – though only a supporting role.
Gadot’s Wonder Woman hits the big screen again in her namesake film this Friday, with Chris Pine playing her love interest, Steve Trevor. We’re crossing our fingers for Wonder Woman on her first big cinematic adventure. Or should that be crossed arms, right at the wrists, in the style of Lynda Carter in the TV series? Until then, the tiara is Carter’s to keep. Wear it well.