I was thinking about how Wonder Woman was part of DC's holy trinity of iconic, globally recognizable, and highly revered characters. The other 2/3 of the triumvirate being Superman and Batman, of course. What makes them so iconic? And, what makes superheroes so iconic in the first place?
Superman has his cape and his iconic "S" symbol. Through the years, there have been tweaks to his costume and appearance. Spit curl, no spit curl. Mullet. Panties, no panties. The constants being the cape and the "S."
Then, we have Batman. You have the cape, you have the cowl, and, of course, you have the Bat symbol. I bet dollars to donuts that the Bat symbol is one of the most recognizably iconic symbols in the world this side of the Nike swoosh. Like Superman, Batman has had tweaks over the year, too. Long ears, short ears. Blue costume, black costume. Panties, no panties. (Do you see where I'm going here?)
A brief note about panties. Somewhere along the line, someone decided the most iconic thing about superheroes had to go . . . panties on the outside of the pants. Trunks or shorts, if you'd rather . . . but underwear as outerwear was as synonymous with superheroes as capes or secret identities. I guess the look was considered "dorky," and more and more modern costume designs came sans panties. We can only assume the underwear returned to the inside of the outfits and that we aren't dealing with a bunch of commando-clad protectors. (The thought of The Flash free-balling makes me wince.) I believe this trend started as superhero movies became more successful, and I suppose the look doesn't translate well to the big screen.
Which brings us to Wonder Woman. She has no cape. She has no cowl. Her chest emblem has switched back and forth from an eagle to to a double "w" symbol that may or may not instantly evoke Wonder Woman, but may take common folk a minute to make the connection. She has her tiara, but that seems to change up from time to time, as well. Her golden lasso? As iconic as it is, it stands alone as well as Batman's utility belt might.
So, what is it about Wonder Woman that makes her iconic? What is the instantly recognizable thing about her that lets everyone know without mistake that this is Wonder Woman? Well, in my opinion, it has to be the star-spangled panties. Sure, it seems sexist and trite, but I think my theory holds water. Why else would fans be so up in arms every time DC Comics tries to put Diana in long pants? It created such an outrage when DC released images of Wonder Woman sporting long pants in solicitations for the New 52 that they pulled the pants and returned to the panties before things got ugly. In the ill-fated, never-aired, new television series, there was Wonder Woman in long pants much to the fans' dismay. DC is poised to upset the apple cart once again, revealing another costume change in the comics that not only loses the panties, but has Diana clad head to toe in what looks like a gaudy priest with a stylist that needs to be fired yesterday. When DC announced Wonder Woman would make her big-screen debut, there was much concern over her costume, with good reason. Early images of the WW costume had controversial casting choice Gal Gadot sporting a brown, leather-looking thing reminiscent of Xena, Warrior Princess. Subsequent images have shown the costume with a more traditional palette, but gone are the star-spangled panties. I suppose there is little practical justification for the function/aesthetic of doing battle wearing little more than bedazzled "Hanes her way" in 2015, but it still saddens me to bid adieu to such iconography. I'm sure a lot of people may disagree. All I know is that whenever I see a cape, I think of Superman. Whenever I see a cowl, I think of Batman. And, whenever I see a pair of star-spangled panties, there is only one iconic character I think of.