With all the new trailers dropping, folks are talking a lot about Wonder Woman. The film looks good from what we’ve seen and that damn theme song is stuck in my head. The release is still a few months away, but I figured it was a good time to start looking at the comic history of some of the supporting characters that we’ll meet in the movie.
Let’s start off with Etta Candy, who will be played by Lucy Davis (Shaun of the Dead). In the film, Etta is Steve Trevor’s right hand woman, the person that makes everything happen. She is also the representation of a woman in a man’s world. She is the contrast to Diana, but she is not portrayed as weaker, rather she is extremely capable in different ways. That portrayal is what can make this an empowering film. But the character has not always been that way if you look into her comic roots.
Like Wonder Woman, Etta was created by William Moulton Marston and H.G. Peter. She debuted in Sensation Comics #2 in February of 1942. In her first appearance, Etta was a sickly, malnourished young lady that Wonder Woman discovered at a hospital. By her second appearance, she had become much more spirited, but also much larger… attributing her revitalization to her love of candy and sweets. She would become Diana’s best friend and she would lead the Beta Lambda’s at Holiday College. She would also assist Wonder Woman on numerous adventures. She was known for using the battle cry: “Woo! Woo!”. She once lead 100 sorority sisters in to taking over a Nazi prison camp to help Wonder Woman and Steve Trevor. She was accepted and welcome on Themyscira and her weight was something she was aware of, but never really bothered her. A good role model for being happy with who you are and not trying to live by other’s ideals.
When Marston handed over the writing to Robert Kanigher, the character of Etta Candy changed drastically. She was no longer the leader of the sorority, but became a follower. She became insecure and weight-conscious, eventually fading into the background of the series. It would be almost twenty years before the character would return to prominence in the series. She was reintroduced in 1980, having graduated college and joined the air force. She was the secretary for General Phil Darnell and would become a roommate for Diana Prince. Etta only knew Wonder Woman and never deal with her alter ego, so she was unaware of who she was really rooming with. But she was still portrayed as insecure and weight-obsessed.
That started to change in 1986 as Dan Mishkin and Mindy Newell started writing her with more confidence and even giving her a night as Wonder Woman, and then George Perez stepped in the next year. With his revamp of the series, Etta became a love interest for Steve Trevor. She was his aide and helped him when he was framed for treason by Ares. The two would become fugitives together, realizing they were in love and would eventually marry when everything was settled. There was a brief storyline where Etta had an eating disorder and passed out while shopping for wedding gowns with Wonder Woman. She was told to take better care of herself by Diana and that seemed to make the difference. Not really sure if that is a good way to address eating disorders in comics… but that’s how it was handled at the time.
She would again fade from the series for a while, only making an occasional visit until Gail Simone took over the series. This is post Infinite Crisis and Wonder Woman got a new origin as did her supporting cast. Etta was now an intelligence officer, but still married to Steve Trevor. She was recruited by Sarge Steel to report on Wonder Woman and her friends. Etta would be captured and tortured by Genocide, leaving her in a coma for months. When she regains consciousness, she tries to convince Wonder Woman to not feel guilty about what happened to her.
With the New 52, Etta would be re-introduced again, this time as a young African-American woman and assistant to Steve Trevor. He would come to trust her completely, sharing closely held secrets including his being in love with Wonder Woman. After Rebrith, Etta continues to work with Steve Trevor but has been promoted to Commander Candy.
The character has continued to change over the 75 years that she has been around, and not all of the changes have been good. Marsten created a strong, independent woman of her time and after regressing her to a stereotype, DC has almost got her back to that. But it looks like the film will be keeping the characters original creation in mind and making her a strong, independent woman of her time… and an excellent addition to the film.
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