When I was sixteen, I tried my hand at cosplay. I already knew that I would never be “cool” in the traditional sense of the term, but (being an incorrigible nerd already) figured I might as well accumulate nerd cred. I dressed as Donna Troy, the least interesting of Wonder Woman’s sidekicks, on the grounds that:
- She wore pants;
- She covered her midriff;
- She was not usually drawn as someone who bought her bras at a specialty shop; and
- We both had straight black hair, which meant that I would not have to buy a wig.
I didn’t really like any of the comics in which Donna appeared. Rest assured, I wanted to. My parents had forbidden me from reading comics as a kid, which meant that I had a lot of catching up to do as a teenager. I studied message boards, trying to figure out what was most important among everything I’d missed. According to the most cantankerous and middle-aged of the posters, The New Teen Titans was one of the best comics ever written. I read it diligently, and heaped all the scorn upon the animated version that was fashionable at the time, even though I liked the show better.
Unfortunately, the comic never really clicked for me. With the exception of the pitiable Kid Flash (who left the series pretty quickly) and the poisonous Terra (who died before she could really deliver on the spectacular villainy she promised), the characters seemed bland and stilted. Donna was far-and-away the blandest of them; but we looked vaguely alike and she wore pants, so I was committed to making it work.
But Donna Troy is a Fighting Kid who was created both by and for middle-aged men, and I’m not sure why she still appears in comics. Cassie Sandsmark, her 1990s replacement, is the stronger character. Cassie was introduced as an awkward and ineffectual kid who desperately wanted to do something mythic, and gradually matured into someone who could make mythic things happen. As a teenager, I related to Cassie. We both had overprotective mothers, never knew the right thing to say, and made cringe-worthy fashion choices. But I can’t imagine the teenage girl who related to Donna. You see, Donna wasn’t created to be relatable. She was initially created to be a Pretty Girl for the boy Titans to dance with, and kept around because a particular writer liked the idea of sticking her in hot-tubs and marrying her to a fictional character who looked like him.
At her best, Donna reeks of the overly-operatic nonsense that keeps people from getting into comics, and undermines Diana’s status as the only daughter of the Amazons and the bridge between Themyscira and Everywhere Else; at her worst, she’s a Pretty Girl who exists solely to wrestle with Starfire and play mother hen to the boys. Personally, I think Wonder Woman’s sidekick can do better. Donna Troy should be re-invented with modern-day girls in mind, or retired altogether.