Sunday, April 17, 2005

Looking To The Stars: Who Is Donna Troy?

Who is Donna Troy?

For some, this is the title of a beloved Teen Titans story. For others, it is the title of a much-anticipated trade paperback. For me, however, it is a question that winds up in my e-mail at least once a month from some confused fan just getting back into comics who is confused by the endless, contradictory and just plain confusing history behind the woman known as Donna Troy. And Wonder Girl. And Troia. And Darkstar. And “russin-frackin-so-and-so” for those of us fond of cartoon swearing.

Still, enough people have asked for me to try… and I emphasize the word TRY, even for a DC Comics history buff of my standing this is a tall order… to answer this question. A question that has become so complicated it had even transcended the labyrinth-like history of the old “Who Has The Most Complicated Story” stand-by Hawkman/Hawkgirl. Who the &*#@ is Donna Troy?

It all began simply enough. Back in the day, there was a Wonder Girl. And lo, it was that she was a young Wonder Woman as Superboy was a young Superman. But then the Teen Titans were formed. And so it was that, in order to put a girl on the team, Wonder Girl did join the team. And it was revealed that this was a different Wonder Girl. A new Wonder Girl. A Wonder Girl named… Donna Troy.

Donna went without a background for a good while. Her first backstory came about not too long after the infamous de-powering of Wonder Woman, when she became a martial-artist instead of being the wonder we know and love (Not one of Denny O’Neil’s better ideas, but I digress). Donna was having “sickly” spells and Robin wondered if this was connected to the events that temporarily depowered the Amazons. Donna says that can’t be it, because she isn’t truly an Amazon.

A later story clarified things further. Donna was put up for adoption by her mother, Donna Hinckley, whom was dying of cancer. Donna was adopted by the Stacey family, but was put back up for adoption shortly after her foster father was killed by Doctor Octopus. Following the death of his blood daughter Gwen…

(Just making sure you were paying attention. That was “Stacy” with no “e”, anyway.)

Actually, Donna was put back up for adoption after her foster father was killed in a car-crash. Her foster mother, Fay, proved unable to care for a daughter by herself, so back Donna went into foster care. Or rather, she should have. She was actually kidnapped and put into a baby-smuggling ring. It was here that Donna was saved by Wonder Woman, who rescuing her from the burning warehouse where she was being kept. So Donna was raised by the Amazons, who were able to use their advanced technologies to give Donna the proportional strength and powers of an Amazon warrior though she was not truly of Amazon blood.

Now, there have been some stories which had Donna being saved from the house-fire that killed her parents by Wonder Woman. No business about a baby-smuggling ring. About the only thing all parties agree on is that Donna was saved from a fire by Wonder Woman, regardless of the circumstances as to what was on fire and who was holding her. All well and good either way. Nice and simple origin, right?

Well, it was. Up until Crisis.

Yes, Crisis on Infinite Earths, while having fixed a lot of continuity problems, did not address all of them and actually created quite a few. Donna Troy’s story was one of them. You see, one change to come out of Crisis was that Wonder Woman did not appear until five years after the first appearance of Superman and Batman. But the Teen Titans, made up of the sidekicks of Batman, Green Arrow, Aquaman and The Flash… was formed sometime before Wonder Woman appeared. And Wonder Girl? She was there too.

It was a Catch-22. Wonder Girl was a popular member of the Teen Titans, which was a very popular book back in the early ‘80s. But you couldn’t have her there without a Wonder Woman. Could you?

And so came the first change. It turns out that Donna was not saved from the fire by Wonder Woman, but by a Titan of Myth named Rhea. Rhea took Donna to New Chronus; the home of the Titans. Donna and several other children taken from around the galaxy were raised and trained for 13 years- the plan being to return them to their home-planets with amazing powers that they would slowly develop, eventually growing to replace the god-like Titans who had raised them.

Upon her return to Earth, Donna adopted the surname of Troy and made a costume for herself based on the American flag. Armed with the weapons that Titans of Myth had given her (bracelets and a lasso suspiciously like those of Wonder Woman), Donna began her career as a crime-fighter and went on to become a founding member of the Teen Titans, having no memory of her amazing past, save the memory of a figure saving her from a fire. This was all detailed in New Titans #50 (1989).

Now this was the status quo for quite a while. Donna was Wonder Girl, even as she grew up and got married to college-professor and single-father Terry Long. And sometime during the next few years, Donna took on the name Troia. Why? Well, it sounds like Troy and it sounds all… aggressive female warrior, I guess.

The name change came after Donna was contacted by one of the Titans of Myth called Phoebe. One of the other children, Sparta by name, had gone mad and threatened to destroy all of New Chronus. Donna and the rest of the Teen Titans came to their aid and Donna learned the truth of her past and the origin of her powers. The Titans of Myth were so thankful that they gave Donna several gifts, which she put into a new costume. (This change began, not too long after Donna’s origin was explained, in New Titans #55)

After that, Donna had her first child; a son named Robert. She had to keep from getting killed by people from the Future called the Team Titans, who thought her son was going to grow into a huge threat. (It turned out they wanted Sarah Conner, not Donna Troy) This battle took a huge toll on Donna, who asked for her powers to be removed by the Titans of Myth so she could be a normal, full-time mommy and live on a farm in New Jersey.

(Still with me kids? We haven’t gotten to the bad part yet…)

Her request was granted, but she began to miss being super-powered REALLY quick after she realized that she still had a lot of super-powered villains after her and having a superhero team living with her didn’t help this much. Knowing the life-expectancy for attractive women without superpowers in the comics world, she asked to have her powers given back and was… naturally, refused.

Thankfully, there seems to always be an opening for superhero jobs if you know where to look and Donna was soon offered a spot in The Darkstars. The Darkstars were an intergalactic police-force founded by The Controllers (an even more fascist off-shoot of The Guardians of the Universe) in order to replace the now-dead Green Lantern Corps. And then Zero Hour came along and things got really bad for Donna.

For one thing, her husband was unable to handle the superhero thing anymore and filed for divorce. All of her team, save two members, was erased by the time-flow or went off into deep space to help rebuild Starfire’s planet (which is another long story). And her farm was destroyed, leaving her to move into Titans Tower again.

But it was not all bad. She found a new love in Kyle Rayner, the last Green Lantern, who was himself recovering from a bad break-up. She found new purpose as a Darkstar AND as one of the elder members of a new Titans team, along with Kyle. Alas, it was not to be. She waffled on her decision to be a superhero and decided to quit the Darkstars, become a normal woman again and devote herself to her work as a photographer and being a mommy.

And then, things went from bad to worse to suck.

In Green Lantern #90, we learned through a phone-call that Terry and Robert had died in a car-crash and Donna Troy tearfully broke up with Kyle Rayner as she rushed to get away. She got away into the Wonder Woman books, where her presence was required for John Byrne’s attempts to redefine the Wonder Woman saga. But why did he want Donna Troy? Donna didn’t have any connection to Wonder Woman now. Right?

(Go get a drink and sit down folks. We’re getting into the rough stuff now.)

It turns out that Donna was not really a random girl rescued by the Titans of Myth, granted fabulous powers and raised to become an intergalactic goddess. No. It turned out she was a magically-created clone of Princess Diana of Themyscria.

Yes, at a time when even Marvel Comics was starting to realize that clones were a bad gimmick, John Byrne turned Donna Troy into a clone.

The story now was that Diana, as a young girl, was bored. There were no other girls for her to play with and the Amazons were too busy with their own work to spend much time worrying about keeping her amused. So Diana went to the Amazon’s head priestess and magic-worker Magala, who created a magical duplicate of Diana to keep her company. Magala kept this a secret, knowing Hippolyta would not approve of such magic. Diana had this secret twin sister for six months before tragedy struck.

There was one more change brought about by Byrne that must be noted here. Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons, was forced to assume the role of Wonder Woman after her daughter’s death in modern times (Long Story Short: She got better really quick.) While acting as Wonder Woman, she went back in time to the 1940’s and joined the Justice Society of America, fighting the Nazis before returning to modern times.

This had little direct effect upon Donna except for two things. First, it explained away how she came up with the name “Wonder Girl” as there had now been a Wonder Woman in the distant past to inspire her choice of name. Secondly, Hippolyta made an enemy of a Nazi sorceress who went by the name of Dark Angel.

Dark Angel wanted revenge against Hippolyta and was able to use her powers to penetrate the barriers around Paradise Island. She planned to abduct Diana, and use her powers to send her throughout time, having her be constantly reborn into an infinity of horrible lives. Because of Diana’s bond to her mother, this would allow Hippolyta to feel the pain of each life, eventually going mad.

But there was one problem: Dark Angel abducted Diana’s duplicate instead of the real Princess Diana. And as the spell also made Diana forget about her duplicate once she outgrew the need for a companion, Diana came to believe her memories of a playmate were just the normal dreams of a girl’s imaginary friend. And not really being her daughter, Hippolyta felt nothing of the duplicate’s pain.

But something odd happened… and the duplicate became more and more real, the more and more she was “reborn”. Proof of the old saying that whatever doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger. And then in one of her lives, the woman was reborn as a girl who was rescued from baby smugglers by a Titan of Myth…
And you know the rest.

Things came full circle, with Donna Troy disappearing from reality as Dark Angel’s curse kicked in, her life now full of tragedy enough as her husband and son lay dead. And she would have been totally forgotten because of Dark Angel’s spell, had it not been for The Flash and Hippolyta being displaced in time when she was taken. Being in a place where magic couldn’t touch them, they still had memories of Donna Troy and did not understand why nobody else remembered her when they returned.

Through a combination of magic and The Flash’s memories of his childhood friend, Donna Troy was restored to life and Dark Angel was destroyed by Donna’s own hand. Somehow, the constant suffering and rebirth had made Donna purer. So pure, in fact, that her touch could destroy beings of pure evil such as Dark Angel. With her past revealed, Donna was adopted as a true Amazon and was treated by Hippolyta as her own daughter.

Despite all this, Donna’s life was still complicated. Having been brought back to life based on Wally’s memories, there was so much of her life that she had forgotten that he knew nothing about. She tried to reconcile things with Kyle Rayner but the two quickly realized that she was literally not the woman he fell in love with. Even the formation of a new Titans team did little to give Donna a sense of purpose. While she still fought crime with the same vigor, she found herself wondering just how much of herself was real.

In short, she went from having a slightly confused background to having a very confusing background. She went from being a fully rounded personality to a shadow of her former self given flesh, fueled by the memories of a friend who might barely make her “Top Five Closest Friends” list.

This all apparently got fixed by another reboot sometime during the Titans run, but I didn’t read any of that title past the first year. I understand I am very fortunate in this regard and was unable to find any other references to what happened on-line.

All of this became a moot point when, during Titans/Young Justice: Graduation Day, when Donna was killed by a rogue Superman robot. We saw an image of her running into battle in some other kind of world. But where this is and what it means are beyond me. Hopefully we will get some kind of answer in this in the upcoming “Return of Donna Troy” mini-series.

I think I’ll let someone else review that tone. If I never read another Donna Troy story at this point, it’ll be too soon.

Tune in next week. Same Matt time. Same Matt website.

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