All this month, SYFY FANGRRLS is celebrating Warrior Women Month, sharing the stories of female warriors in folklore, fantasy, and genre from around the world. These women — real and imagined alike — inspire us to make change and fight for what's right, no matter the cost.
There are countless amazing warrior women of genre, and it’s to be expected that some of them might be forgotten over the years. Chances are when naming iconic characters, very few people would immediately cite Glory, an albino warrior princess from another world. This is a real shame, though, because she has one of the most fascinating character arcs in comics. A direct reference to Wonder Woman, the origin story is similar but the method of storytelling is completely different. Glory has most certainly earned her status as an original character over time.
Despite relative obscurity and a derivative origin, Glory is the star of one of the most flat-out entertaining superhero comics to have ever graced the shelves, and she deserves to be credited as such. This is a comic that deserves a second look.
In the early ‘90s, changes in editorial at Marvel led to a great deal of creator turnover. Many writers that had been on books for long stints were slowly pushed off of the books in order to give more creative control to young artists like Todd McFarlane, Jim Lee, and Rob Liefeld. These artists and others defined a great deal of Marvel’s early ‘90s output for better or worse, then moved on to found their own company called Image. Each creator had specific properties that they worked on; for instance, Jim Lee had WildStorm. Although many of the comics released in the first wave of Image are highly derivative of Marvel and DC properties, several of the characters and creators alike have survived their shaky beginnings to greater destinies overall. Legally, Image creators were quickly at odds with one another, and the company went in many different directions. WildStorm was acquired by DC in 1998 (it would be shut down in 2010, then revived in 2016 by Warren Ellis), and Image carried on as an entity mostly if not entirely separate from its founders.
Rob Liefeld’s Extreme Studios began in partnership with Image. After it ceased to be, he began another company called Awesome, which had a lot of crossover with characters of the Extreme Studios era. Among those characters was a Superman analog called Supreme, and a Wonder Woman analog named Glory. Writer Alan Moore enjoyed a critically acclaimed stint on Supreme, but legal and financial difficulties indeed marked a great deal of Liefeld’s time as a publisher, and the company eventually ceased to exist in much the same manner of Extreme.
When Glory resurfaced, it was once again through Image, written by Joe Keatinge and with art by Sophie Campbell, lettering by Douglas E. Sherwood, and work by various colorists over its run. The series took over numbering from the old series, rather than restarting with #1, and ran from #23 - 34. Tragically short-lived and underrated, this Glory series is where the character really came together after years of seemingly half-hearted attempts at revivals.
The first origin story for Glorianna Demeter was that she was a child who existed simply to create a truce between two warring species, demons on her father’s side and Amazons on her mother’s. She was trained by the Amazons for years but felt she had no place in either world. She traveled to Earth and helped the Allies in an alternate dimension version of WWII. In the modern age, she was generally shown to struggle with her dark side, occasionally flying into rages and taking on demonic characteristics similar to her father’s.
The 2012 series reimagined parts of her character, but essentially gave us a take on Glory who had been in an emotional spiral since witnessing her demonic father murder her pacifistic mother in cold blood. Engaging in a brutal war, she vanished from her host Gloria’s life for years before returning as a complete wreck. A young girl named Riley shows up, claiming she’s been having dreams of Glory. When she glimpses a future timeline in which Glory is a destroyer that leads to great catastrophe, she begins to believe that she is destined to stop her.
Glory’s complicated relationship with Supreme was addressed previously, but only in the 2012 run did it truly come together. As they meet on a beach during WWII, in which both of them are serving alongside the Allies, Supreme discloses that he doesn’t trust her. He immediately attempts to intimidate her into stating her role and her intentions, to which she responds with clarity that she has no interest in what his intentions or concerns are. She very adamantly insists that she will be continuing along on her own path and attempting to make the world a better place, regardless of what his preferences happen to be.
This interaction was needed. Supreme begins the conversation by calling her strength “second only to his,” which reflects back on a popular adage in DC comics in concern to Wonder Woman and Superman. Always, it is emphasized that Superman is stronger than Wonder Woman, while Diana is essentially “tough, for a girl." In this world, it is quickly established that Glory’s brutality and her years of training allow her the position of refusing to concede to Supreme regardless of which of them is “the most strong,” whereas in DC, Wonder Woman will likely continue to be forced by editorial edict to take a role forever secondary to Superman. Establishing a different, combative relationship between Glory and Supreme set the mood for Glory’s overall role in her greater universe without having to delve much deeper into it while also positing that Glory will absolutely not be cast as the mild counterpart of the male hero.
Throughout the arc, Glory is unquestionably brutal. Her mortal host Gloria tells Riley from the beginning that Glory is dangerous and must be taken down if the world is to survive. When her “demon side” takes hold in a childhood memory, she is shown to attack another little girl, for which her mother scolds her very seriously. In the first panels of her appearance, even as Glory is sick in bed, Gloria mentions that something has happened to her that made her different. Bearing scars over her body and at one point biting all the way through an enemy, even Glory refers to herself as a weapon rather than as a human. Much of the story is based around the emotional and physical fallout from centuries of battle. Even the relatively innocent Riley is thrown into the fray and is terrified by what she sees.
One of the most important things in the reboot of Glory was that Sophie Campbell drew Glory as being actually ripped. Often, femme superheroes are forced into unreasonable body sizes and poses, and the first stint of Glory definitely reflected the mid-’90s style of objectifying women in comics. In a welcome about-face, Campbell took the few iconic elements of Glory’s appearance and pushed them to extremes, such as transforming her white hair and pale skin to an albino appearance and beefing her up considerably. In many parts of the comic, Glory is shown to absolutely tower over other characters. It’s exciting to see such an epically drawn woman in a comic that isn’t being hypersexualized, and it lends a lot to the story. When the other characters seem to be terrified of Glory, it’s understandable.
Besides giving her a design that felt better, the reboot also succeeded in commenting on the way war and constant battle affects people. Again, this is in stark contrast to Wonder Woman, whose apparently paradoxical relationship with pacifism and war is seldom addressed by creators. Above all else, Wonder Woman must be a very specific, marketable kind of icon, while Glory is under none of that pressure. The series didn’t have enough time to get fully into it, but the way battle wears on Glory and the people around her is one of the primary driving points of the arc.
Glory might have started out as what could most kindly be referred to as an homage to Wonder Woman, but where her relevance comes in is that there was a certain amount of freedom to do interesting things with this relatively minor character that could never be done with Wonder Woman. Besides allowing her physicality to reach epic proportions in a way seldom seen in superhero comics or even in previous issues of Glory, Sophie Campbell gave the world a surprisingly new take on superheroes. Meanwhile, Glory’s relentlessness and ability to see to the end game while everyone around her questioned and doubted her read as similar to what many women go through in their day to day lives without the advantage of superpowers, and as such Glory and her arc holds a special place in the hearts of many fans.