For an extended/updated version of this article, check out Kistler’s web-site.
Let’s face it. With the exception of Hawkman ((shudder)), no DC character has suffered a more convoluted history of constant revision than Donna Stacey Hinckley Troy. She’s been Wonder Woman’s sidekick, Wonder Woman’s magical twin, a protege of the Titans of myth, and a cosmic policewoman. But no matter how confusing her story sometimes becomes, people just love her and she’s not going away.
So what are we waiting for? Enter the HISTORY OF DONNA TROY!
THE GIRL WHO WASN’T MEANT TO BE
I love DC Comics. I love the DC Universe. Truly, I do. And you know what? I actually okay that every 15 years or so, some things in continuity and history get tweaked a little bit. I sometimes even like certain character origins being re-written in order to view it from a new perspective and represent it in a way that is fresh for new readers and (hopefully) respectful of the spirit of the original stories that were loved by old readers. BATMAN: THE LONG HALLOWEEN and BATMAN: DARK VICTORY are prime examples. They are, at their core, revised origins for Two-Face and Robin respectively and I think they work wonderfully.
Sometimes, revisions and retcons (“retroactive continuity” for you uninitiated) take things in weird directions. And sometimes they wind up over-complicating a character who, even if hokey, was fairly understandable beforehand.
Case in point, a girl who’s recently returned to us from the grave. Donna Troy.
Try to keep with me here.
In days of yore, DC started doing stories about Superman "when he was a boy." We were introduced to Superman having developed his powers at such an early age that he figured, hey, why wait to be a hero when I’m indestructible. He made a jr. version of the all-too-familiar costume and became Superboy, defending Smallville as well as the planet in general. Kids seemed to like this, so DC did a few stories of Wonder Woman "when she was a girl."
These stories were pretty much the same thing, except with the notation that these were “impossible stories”, very akin to Superman’s “imaginary stories”, meaning that these tales were considered out of continuity (an odd title considering that all their stories were technically “imaginary”). In the first “Wonder Girl” story, we saw Hyppolyta watching home movies of her daughter Diana. She got bored and edited footage of Diana as a kid, as a teen and as an adult and made an imaginary story in which they three versions all somehow co-existed and fought alongside each other. This tale was popular enough that we started seeing more “impossible story” team-ups between Wonder Woman and the teenage version of herself, who was labeled Wonder GIRL appropriately. As the stories went on, writers stopped showing Hyppolyta at the editing table at the beginning of each story to introduce that it was imaginary. They just assumed readers would basically remember that tidbit and understand there was no way this story could be considered “real.” Fools.
Some stories showed Diana’s “real continuity” when she was a teenager living by her lonesome. Unlike the impossible stories that involved a time paradoxical team-up, these tales were just supposed to be stories of Wonder Woman “when she was a girl.” During these adventures, Diana referred to herself as “Wonder Girl”, to emphasize to readers that she was still just a teen and not yet a full-blown super-hero who was operated outside of her island home and visited “Man’s World.” Then, in one story, an editorial mistake labeled her real name as “Donna” rather than “Diana.” Oops. Oh, well. Not like that matters, right?
Meanwhile, DC writer Bob Haney wanted to add a couple characters to the original Teen Titans team he was writing. In their first adventure, this group of teenage sidekicks included the first Robin (Dick Grayson), Aqualad (now called Tempest, thankfully) and Kid Flash (Wally West, the current Flash). Haney skimmed over the old Wonder Woman stories and didn’t realize they were meant to feature a younger Diana. He just assumed that Diana had a teen sidekick named Wonder Girl. The story in which Wonder Girl was called “Donna” confirmed his belief. And so, Donna the Wonder Girl was seen joining the Teen Titans before anyone realized she wasn’t supposed to exist! WHOOPS!
Rather than brush this off and admit their error, DC went with it and from then on stated that Wonder Girl was not merely Diana when she was younger but was actually Diana’s new sidekick, a girl named Donna Troy. It was a retcon before the term was even invented.
Of course, readers now needed a history for her. Where did this sidekick come from if Wonder Woman was supposed to be the only child that had been raised on her home of Paradise Island? It was said that Donna was a girl who Wonder Woman discovered in an apt. building that was burning down. Readers assumed her parents had died in this fire and so did Wonder Woman. Rather than take her to an orphanage (which would’ve made a lot more sense), Diana apparently decided "Batman seems to like having a kid around to model into a miniature version of himself, perhaps unhealthily so, maybe I should do that too."
Okay, maybe she didn’t actually say that, but I like to imagine that this is what crossed her mind.
Diana took Donna to Themyscira, the “Paradise Island”, and while she was there she hung out with the Amazons and learned to fight. She also got super-powers from that healing machine the Amazons made called "The Purple Ray" (evidently Amazonians have no imagination when it comes to naming cool tech). Donna took the last name Troy (she was too young to remember her whole name) and then journeyed into “Man’s World” as the teen hero Wonder Girl.
Wonder Girl came to be considered as one of the founding Teen Titans even though the team had had a few missions before she joined. When the team reformed years later, TEEN TITANS writer Marv Wolfman emphasized the now slightly older Wonder Girl as a strong, confident woman who was held her own against seemingly more powerful champions. This hit a chord with fans and Donna started growing in popularity and in personality, becoming the natural choice to eventually replace Robin as the team leader.
Wolfman also introduced a love interest for Donna, a college professor named Terry. But Donna felt self-conscious about entering a relationship when her own past was still a mystery to her. She asked Robin to investigated her past to find the answers such as what her real name was and just what happened to her parents the night Wonder Woman found her?
Thus, Wolfman fleshed out Donna’s story. Dick Grayson found out that Donna was the only daughter of Donna Hinckley, who gave the girl up for adoption when she discovered she was dying of cancer. Young Donna was adopted by the Stacey family. Her adopted father Carl died in a car accident soon afterwards and thus his wife Fay, unable to support a child alone, gave Donna back to the orphanage.
Donna had then become part of a child-selling ring. Two criminals who were involved in the ring had masqueraded as her parents in the interim. Sometime later, there was a fire and the building was burned down, killing everyone in it except for Donna, who was saved by the timely intervention of Wonder Woman and the rest was history.
Not bad. A bit funky in that in a way many fans now felt like they should call her Donna Hinckley Stacey Troy, but whatever. Donna continued being a strong female character and even got married to Terri, finally throwing off any doubts about whether or not she’d grown beyond her mentor’s shadow. She was a very strong character and one of DC’s most popular young heroes.
And then came 1985, the year of THE CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS.
What’s that? You don’t know what that is? Well, put simply, it was the first major company crossover that involved just about everyone in the DCU. Before the CRISIS, some DC character lived on parallel Earths with different designations. After the CRISIS, their universes merged with the main one and writers used it as an excuse to re-do/revise/retcon large bits of continuity here and there that they no longer wanted to deal with and to re-imagine some characters to make them cooler of "more realistic." Some characters were essentially started from ground zero. Wonder Woman was one such character. Her comic was restarted from issue #1 and it was stated that this was now her first appearance. Batman and Superman and many others had still been around for years, yes, but Wonder Woman had only just been introduced and was only now beginning her career as a hero. Thus, all pre-Crisis stories featuring her were wiped from continuity.
A lot of fans disliked this, even if they did like the revision s to her origin and the fact that she was made more powerful. But as if that wasn’t bad enough, something else was altered. Because Donna Troy had been such a popular character in her own right and with the Teen Titans, it was decided that her pre-Crisis stories were still valid.
Meaning, that Wonder Girl’s career now PRECEEDED Wonder Woman. Talk about paradox.
Yeah, I know. You’d think that logic would’ve gone one way or the other. Either BOTH Diana and Donna would be new character or BOTH would be old heroes with history, even if parts of that history was changed. But nope! Due to some inexplicable reasoning, the DC gods decreed that they wanted it both ways.
So now what? Donna’s past of having been raised on Paradise Island could no longer apply if Wonder Woman had not come to Man’s World until just now. A new history had to be made.
Now, it wasn’t Wonder Woman who saved Donna from the fire but rather Rhea, one of the Titans of ancient myth. Rhea brought young Donna out of the burning building and to New Chronus, the home of the Titans. Donna was one of a group of other children who were gathered from around the galaxy to be trained successors to the mythical Titans. The children remained there for 13 years, training and gaining powers. Afterwards, they were returned to their home planets, their memories of being on New Chronus buried. It was expected that after 50 years of living at their homes, they would return to take their place as gods.
An odd plan, in my opinion, but these are not human beings we’re talking about so I guess they think differently.
So Donna returned to Earth and took the last name of Troy, because she still felt a connection and belief in the Titans of myth as religious figures. Believing she was a mutant, she designed a costume to look like the American flag and took the name Wonder Girl, joining the Titans and so forth. Most of her stories applied, but if readers read those old stories they had to mentally edit out any mention she made concerning Diana or Paradise Island. Also, this still didn’t really explain why Wonder Girl’s costume and weapons were nearly identical to what Wonder Woman would design and use years later.
Time went on. Donna later changed her costume and name to "Troia" and continued adventuring with the Titans until she later quit. A while later, she became one of the Darkstars, before leaving that organization later on. While she was a Darkstar, she also dated the new Green Lantern Kyle Rayner for a short time.
One day, John Byrne came along and began writing for the Wonder Woman title. And one thing he did was send Diana to Olympus temporarily (she became the "goddess of truth" for a while, don’t ask) and have her mom Queen Hyppolyta take over the role of Wonder Woman. Hyppolyta (or "Polly" to her friends) later went on a time travel adventure with Jay Garrick a.k.a. the Golden Age Flash. During this adventure, Polly was transported to the year 1942 and stayed as a member of the Justice Society until she about 1950, at which point she returned to the present day. Thus, she became the Golden Age Wonder Woman.
Pre-Crisis, the Justice Society of America had existed on the parallel world of Earth-2 and had had their own versions of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman (though Superman and Batman had really been only reserve members for the most part). Post-Crisis, their history had been altered and obviously there could not be a Wonder Woman with them in the 1940s. But now, thanks to Byrne, those stories were restored. There was indeed a Wonder Woman around during the 40s, it was simply Polly instead of Diana.
Not a bad idea and it fixed a minor glitch, because now Donna Troy was said to have modeled her original Wonder Girl costume after the Golden Age Wonder Woman, who she’d read about in history books and the like. This explained then the similarities she would have to Wonder Woman’s guise when Diana showed up years later.
Good for Byrne. But then, Byrne did what he too often does. He gives me an idea I really dig, starts off well and then SCREWS IT UP by over-complicating it!
Immediately afterwards, we learned that when Diana was still a young girl, she got to be very lonely being the only kid on Paradise Island, so their resident witch Magala gave life to her reflection, essentially creating a clone through magical means. An enemy Polly had made during the 1940s called Dark Angel then came to Paradise Island and kidnapped the mirror child, thinking it was Diana, as a means of taking revenge on Polly.
Figuring that Polly was psychically connected to her daughter’s spirit, Dark Angel had Donna live a normal life and then manipulated it so that she suffered awful traumatic events. Then, when she was at the end of her rope, Dark Angel would erase the life she had just left, go back in time to the starting point, and have her live yet a new life, during which she would suffer tragedy again, though differently this time. And she repeated this process again and again. Each time, Donna Troy would live a new life, make friends and family, and then something would happen that would take it all away. Afterwards, Dark Angel would basically hit the "reboot" switch on Donna’s life and she’d have to live an entirely new life over the same basic period of time, while all traces of her previous life were wiped away and written over.
If you’re confused, read over the last paragraph. It should make a little more sense after a couple times.
Finally, one of Donna’s lives ended up being the one I’ve just described, the one where she was born Donna Hinckley, adopted by the Staceys, taken by a child crime ring, rescued by Rhea and returned to Earth to become Wonder Girl and later Troia and briefly join the Darkstars. But soon before Polly’s time travel adventure, Donna’s ex -husband and son were killed in a car wreck. While Polly was outside of time, Dark Angel reappeared in order to start Donna’s life anew again. Like before, no one remembered this version of Donna Troy. Except for Polly, who had been outside of time and returned to the present mere minutes later, and Wally West, the Flash, who had been doing a speed experiment and likewise been unaffected, since the Speed Force is somewhat connected to the timestream.
Wally and Polly rescued Donna and were able to make sure that the Donna Troy they remembered would return to them and be cemented in reality. Essentially, they recreated her from Wally’s memories, so that now Donna was beyond Dark Angel’s power and everyone once again remembered this version of her.
Yeah, I know, it makes my head hurt a bit too. The one good thing was that since she was revealed to basically be a magical twin of Diana’s, Donna had now re-cemented herself as part of Wonder Woman’s supporting cast and family and they became closer as characters, referring to each other as sisters. Donna went on to call herself "Troia" again and helped form a new version of the Titans.
During the TITANS/YOUNG JUSTICE crossover, a scheme by Brainiac involved the two teams being attacked by a Superman robot. Lilith and Donna were both killed in the battle and it seemed Brainiac had targeted Donna all along because somehow his descendant Brainiac 8 told him that her life would lead to a series of events that would eventually cause destruction to his home planet Colu.
THE RETURN OF DONNA TROY
Donna found herself resurrected on New Chronus, without her memories. The Titans of myth used this. They knew that this universe was in trouble soon and wanted her to pilot them to another one. Apparently, she had some latent knowledge within her that was valuable. As the new Teen Titans and the new Outsiders came to rescue her, Donna’s memories returned and so did something else, a deeply hidden revelation: the universe was not always this way. As she know remembered it, there had once been a full multiverse. She remembered the full nature and truth of the Crisis On Infinite Earths and what had happened afterwards. And she remembered the different versions of herself, including versions we readers had never met and were unaware of before.
“On Earth-1, I was an infant saved by Wonder Woman and rasied on Paradise Island … I became Wonder Girl … On Earth-2, I was an orphaned infant, saved from a burning building by a fireman and rased in the Kanigher Orphanage. One Earth-6, I wasn’t saved at all. But on Earth-7, I was saved by the Anti-Monitor and raised to be his harbinger of doom — Dark Angel. But Dark Angel was uncontrollable and vanished … and then the Crisis came. The multiverse was collapsed in on itself, time was reordered. Where there had been a thousand Earths, there was only one, with one history, and a Wonder Girl before there was ever a Wonder Woman. You see, this new unvierse didn’t quite know what to do with some of the more complicated holdovers from the multiverse, so it improvised. It tried to compress all my histories – a thousand lifetimes – into one. But Dark Angel escaped the compression and treid to erase it. On this new Earth, I was created by magic … Dark Angel stole me from Paraise Island, she tormented each of my aspects in an endless cycle … but she failed to destroy me. I was reincarnated as an orphaned infant, saved from the burning building by Rhea … who had been told in prophecy that one of twelve children from around the cosmos would save them from extinction. She sought me out becuase … I had become the sum total of all my selves … unique in all creation, a living connection to every universe that existed.”
Returning to Earth, Donna met up with Wonder Woman again, who informed her that Harbinger, the Monitor’s ally and record-keeper who had been staying on Paradise Island for a while, had recently been killed. Diana gave Donna Harbinger’s history orb, in which she’d recorded naerly all the history of the universe, just as Dark Angel was supposed to have done for the Anti-Monitor.
Looking over the files of the history orb, Donna realized something was wrong concerning the future of the universe. She saw “the end of everything, coming far too quickly.”
Donna then went around recruiting heroes to help her and was a major player in the heroes’ victory during INFINITE CRISIS. At the end of this event, reality was tweaked again and now incorporated elements of Byrne’s retcon along with the restoration of much of her Pre-Crisis history.
The story now goes like this. To give Diana a playmate, the sorceress Mala created Donna Troy out of Diana’s mirror image. This wasn’t in secret though, folks on Paradise Island knew about Diana’s twin Donna. But then Dark Angel showed up and kidnapped Donna, just like Byrne said. THIS time though, there was no weird “I’m forcing her to live multiple lives” thing. Instead, Dark Angel kept Donna as her prisoner and kept the girl defenseless and unaging thanks to her magic. By the time Donna was rescued, years had passed. Since she hadn’t aged, Diana was now OLDER than her, hence the age difference thereafter. Eventually, Donna learned enough that she felt ready to enter “Patriarch’s World” alongside her now-older sister as her sidekick “Wonder Girl.” And so it went …
After INFINITE CRISIS, Donna returned to Earth and Diana retired her Wonder Woman identity, wishing to travel the world and reconnect with its people. Nearly a year later, with Diana still missing, Donna took on the role of Wonder Woman herself, donning an armor version of the outfit. But eventually Diana returned from her self-imposed exile and Donna was all to happy to give up the mantle to the woman she felt was truly worthy of it. Her big sister.
In the current state of affairs, Donna has teamed up with her old boyfriend Kyle Rayner and the recently resurrected Jason Todd in a quest to find Ray Palmer (AKA the Atom II) who has been missing for some time and is somewhere in a parallel universe. At this moment, their quest is still in progress.
And there ya go. Don’t ya just feel enlightened now?
Alan Kistler is a comic book historian who has been interviewed for documentaries by Warner Bros. Pictures and FUSE TV. To see his archives/blog or contact him directly, check out his personal web-site.