Who Was Your First Hero, Sharon Arnold?

My first hero is totally a fictional character. I didn’t have a lot of good role models (who does?) so it’s probably not very surprising. I was born right in the middle of the 1970s, the same year the Runaways were born, and the year Lynda Carter first donned the strapless red, blue, and gold bootyshort costume that is iconically Wonder Woman. I will never forget her.


It’s ridiculous to watch it now. It’s super campy and the plot line is – I don’t even know what it is. She gets the bad guy and looks great doing it. But Lynda Carter is still the sexiest thing I’ve ever seen on television and her disco glam version of Wonder Woman will always be first in my heart. When I was four, I was inseparable from the bracers and crown that I would make out of paper and I would wear everywhere until they fell apart. When they did, I made more. My grandmother (who raised me) would help me carefully wrap the poster board in foil so it would be “metal” and I’d color it with a yellow marker to make it gold. If my grandmother insisted upon the removal of said adornment because of something as mundane as a bath, I’d yell indignantly. Greek goddesses don’t need to remove their armament to bathe – they’re just magically amazing and nice-smelling. They probably don’t even need baths. How silly to even suggest it.

Later, in 2nd grade at a school carnival, I was over the moon about a cardboard Wonder Woman at the photo booth. As I stepped up the ladder to put my head over her body the photographer exclaimed, “You look just like her!!” and I thought I would die. The resulting photo does not make any effort to hide the biggest, shit-eating grin I think I’ve ever worn. 


As I grew up and got into comics, my love for her became deeper. It isn’t just that she’s drop-dead gorgeous, tall, athletic, independent, super strong, and invincible. It’s that she’s complex. Descended from Amazons and Greek mythology, she is expected to endure a world that is not yet ready for her. If she removes her bracers, she will be unfathomably powerful but she will also lose her mind. Once, she gave up her powers to stay here. She  got them back. She’s smart as hell, using her wit and wisdom to solve problems, not using her beauty. She’s been through multiverses and spans a myriad of alternate Earths. She’s in love with Hades. She is presumed to love Superman. She is a warrior, but she is a woman.


The love affair blooms because she, like most Greek heroes, is who we aspire to be. The truth is that Wonder Woman is the ultimate human. She is not infallible. She’s emotionally layered. She has to make tough choices and they may not always be the right ones – there are consequences. We can do it all, but there is always a price. You can’t have everything. We can imagine ourselves in her place, doing the same thing, facing the same choices. It’s a fantasy – of course we could never be her. But, because she is human, we see ourselves in her, and we dream that some part of her exists in us, too.

Sharon is a Seattle-based artist, curator, and writer. She studied at Pratt Institute in New York and graduated Magna Cum Laude from Cornish College of the Arts, focusing on sculpture, art history, and philosophy. She is Founder of Bridge Productions/LxWxH and writes for her art blog Dimensions Variable and Art Nerd Seattle.

Some notes about the images: The Bather by William Bouguereau 1879 Photoshopped by FlashDaz for an online contest– I included it because it’s my favorite adaptation of Wonder Woman and it merges my art life with my superhero life; Wonder Woman’s New 52 costume. Panel from Justice League Vol. 2 #3 (Nov. 2011). Art by Jim Lee and Scott Williams; Wonder Woman in battle armor: 2003 DC Comics Wonder Woman: The Ultimate Guide to the Amazon Princess. –SA