I never used to be a comics person. While I was definitely exposed to a lot of gateway drugs that should have guided me into American comics passion – like the early-2000’s Teen Titans series – it was a hard transition for a preteen girl.
Because of that, the first time I picked up a real American comic was when I was fifteen, and after I read WONDER WOMAN: THE HIKETEIA, my life changed.
HIKETEIA follows the story of Danielle, a woman who offers herself to Wonder Woman in a ritual called Hiketeia to gain Wonder Woman’s protection. She has killed four men in Gotham City and needs Wonder Woman to protect her from Batman, who is looking to bring her to justice. But we as readers don’t find out why she killed those men until almost the end of the story, and the reason is heartbreaking; by the end, you’re left with the sensation of having witnessed epic levels of Greek tragedy.
This is not the kind of story that a publisher assumes a fifteen-year-old is going to pick up. As a person who read and loved NINETEEN EIGHTY-FOUR at 13, though, it was a perfect serious graphic novel with a pair of protagonists I felt able to relate to.
The story, while being a Wonder Woman graphic novel, isn’t so much about superhero exploits as it is about the young woman who seeks WW’s protection. Danielle has a stutter, and the way she speaks to Diana suggests she lacks self-confidence – or maybe even self-respect. She submits to the hiketeia ritual without believing she’s good enough to offer it, though Diana accepts with the belief that she is.
When I read HIKETEIA, I felt very attracted to its themes of duty, compassion, and sisterhood as well as the idea that superhero stories could be about women, too. (As it turns out, comics don’t have to be about sweaty, muscular dudes beating up other sweaty, muscular dudes. Who knew.)
HIKETEIA isn’t perfect, and there are definitely a couple bizarre and problematic things about it – when Danielle offers herself as a supplicant, for example, Diana stands around posing in a weirdly supermodel-like way – but as the first American comic I read, it’s always going to hold something special for me.
Feliza Casano founded Girls in Capes in 2013 and serves as editor in chief of the magazine. She writes for all sections of the site. Follow her on Twitter @FelizaCasano. You can watch her speak more on THE HIKETEIA, Keladry of Mindelan, and Mulan here.