Publisher: DC Comics
First Appearance: Super Friends #1 (1976)
Created By: E. Nelson Bridwell
Childhood is full of mysteries: Where do babies come from? What does the Tooth Fairy want with all those teeth? And, for countless kids in the 70s: Why are the Super Friends palling around with a couple of non-powered dorks and their dog?
Created to give half-pint viewers someone to relate to (someone wearing pants, Robin), Wendy and Marvin served little other purpose on the TV show other than educating the audience through Marvin’s screw-ups. In the tie-in comic, though, they were fleshed-out characters with connections to Batman and Wonder Woman, and their resourcefulness frequently got the Super Friends out of various jams.
In 2006 they were incorporated into the main DCU as fraternal twin geniuses and caretakers of Titans Tower. For a couple of years they hung out with the Titans and repaired the Tower or Cyborg whenever one or the other was damaged in a fight (so, like…once a month).
When a stray dog wandered into the Tower, the team christened him Wonderdog and gave him the run of the place. This turned out to be a bad idea, since Wonderdog was actually a hellhound sent by Lycus, the son of Ares, to destroy Wonder Girl. Wonderdog attacked Marvin and Wendy, killing the former and leaving the latter in a coma.
Oh, P.S. Did I mention Wendy and Marvin’s father was the Calculator, a.k.a. “Oracle for supervillains”? Yeah, he swore revenge on the Titans for what happened to his kids. Personally, I’d blame the dog.
When Wendy woke up, she found herself unable to move her legs. While Leslie Thompkins helped her through her physical recovery, Barbara Gordon attempted to help with the emotional one. Though at first Wendy rejected Barbara’s overtures, she eventually let Barbara start training her as a mini-Oracle, an eye in the sky for Stephanie Brown’s Batgirl. As she became more comfortable with this new role, Wendy took on the codename Proxy.
So What’s So Great About Her?
Here’s the problem with “viewpoint characters,” i.e. the non-starring character the reader is supposed to relate to: no one reads superhero comics to read about an ordinary schlub like themselves. When you’re reading the Justice League, you want to identify with Superman, not Snapper Carr*; when you’re reading Spider-Man, you want him to be a put-upon nerd who made good and married the supermodel love of his life, not a put-upon nerd who made average and downloads porn alone. Superhero comics are aspirational, and the best viewpoint characters are aspirational too, like Robin. The Super Friends comics got that right, making Wendy the smart-as-a-whip niece of a detective who trained Batman and sending her off to Amazon college on Paradise Island. But I can understand why her more well-known animated counterpart was resented.
(That said, I will never understand the mindset of writers who grew up in the 70s and shoehorn the characters and teams they loved as kids into their comics only to drag them through physical and emotional hell. But then, I was born in 1984, so maybe disco really was that scarring.)
The truth is, though, the later version of Wendy is the more relatable one. No, I can’t relate to being a tenth-level intellect. I can’t relate to hanging out with superheroes or being mauled by a giant demon dog or thinking a cropped baby tee, hot pants, and a neckerchief is a good look. I’m not even a twin.
But I can relate to being through trauma, though thankfully not as bad as Wendy’s. I can relate to losing a loved one so close to me I couldn’t imagine my world without them. I can relate to being scared, to being angry, to trying to make sense of my changed universe.
And if someday I’m faced with a setback as severe as Wendy’s, I hope I’ll be able to relate to picking myself up and putting my life back together.
What makes Wendy both relatable and aspirational isn’t that she has no powers and still hangs out with superheroes. It’s that she struggles with adversity, sometimes less than gracefully – during her recovery, she’s hostile, in willful denial, and mad as hell, all of which is completely understandable – and that she works to overcome it. It’s that she makes a place for herself (on a team of all women! how great is that to see in a superhero comic?) where her skills make her indispensable. It took 35 years, but by making Wendy a fully-realized character instead of an audience stand-in, DC also made her someone people want to be.
*Note: I freaking love Snapper Carr. I would still rather be Black Canary.
Super Friends #1-9
Teen Titans v3 #34, 35, 40, 51, 55-57, 60, 62-64, 66
Oracle: The Cure #1-3
Batgirl v3 #1, 3, 4, 8-13, 15, 16, 19-21