WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for Wonder Woman: Earth One Vol. 2 by Grant Morrison and Yanick Paquette, in stores Oct. 7.
First introduced in Sensational Comics #4 by Wonder Woman creator William Moulton Marston, Paula Von Gunther has gone through a number of shifts and changes over the years -- in the Golden Age she was redeemed, post-Crisis she became a magical baddie. In most cases, she was just a one-dimensional villain for Wonder Woman to punch.
But she’s never been as compelling as she is in Grant Morrison and Yanick Paquette’s Wonder Woman: Earth One Vol. 2. A product of Nazi training who had her principals broken down via mind control without a thought about the consequences, the “Uber Fraulein” is one of the most surprisingly complex parts of the story. During a roundtable interview, Morrison elaborated on the character and what he sees as the tragedy at her core.
The Uber Fraulein
Paula was one of the first Wonder Woman villains and a prominent early threat for the character, especially in the tense setting of World War II, but it didn’t take long for Paula to reveal a soft side. She was only a villain to save her daughter from the Nazis, and eventually came into the service of the Amazons. It’s something the classic comics saw as a positive progression for the character, but Morrison sees other shades to the Amazonian actions.
"In the original comics, Paula Van Gunter is this classic Nazi super spy," said Morrison. "She has a bunch of girls that do her bidding. But in the end, she willingly submits to the Amazons, and she’s taken and she’s seen as this kind of success story for the Amazons because they managed to reprogram her.”
The Amazons of Wonder Woman: Earth One are not the more modern interpretation of the characters. Instead, Morrison purposefully explores a Themyscira that, like Marston originally envisioned, was far more technologically adept than the rest of humanity. They have flight, machines that can heal fatal wounds and a means to “cleanse” someone of their hatred and opinions. Effectively, brainwashing. That aspect of Themysciran society spoke to Morrison.
"With Paula Gunther, it was that idea of seeing what happens when the Amazons apply their technology and to see her being broken down," said Morrison. "I find it quite horrific, almost. When we see the Amazons taking away her sense of self and suddenly she’s admitting to this inferiority and she’s on her knees. It’s kind of scary. I felt sorry for the character, and she’d originally been set up because ‘let’s see Wonder Woman fight a super Nazi woman, that’ll be fun’ … I realized, this is just a woman that’s just been controlled by everyone.”