18 years ago - Cassie Sandsmark is born the daughter of noted anthropologist Helena Sandsmark.
12 years ago - 6-year-old Cassie first meets Diana Prince when she starts working with Dr Helena Sandsmark to study Amazonian influence on the outside world
11 years ago - 7-year-old Cassie gains an adopted big sister when Donna Troy stays with her and her mother Helena Sandsmark.
4 years ago - 14-year-old Cassie travels with her mother Helen Sandsmark to Themyscira while she works on her book, and steals several Amazonian artifacts to become Wonder Girl. When she returns them, she manages to gain an audience with Zeus & impresses him, gaining her powers. Diana Prince and Artemis agree to help train her on Themyscira. She soon joins Young Justice.
3 years ago - 15-year-old Cassie is recruited by Cyborg into the New Teen Titans, and is given her lasso by Ares. She battles Edgar Cizko and saves Diana Prince from him.
1 year ago - 17-year-old Cassie goes to the homeworld of the Titans of Myth with all the surviving Titans to save Donna Troy. She and Connor Kent begin their relationship.
now - 18-year-old Cassie steps up to lead the Titans when Tim Drake leaves to find Batman. She bonds with Krypto after Connor Kent's death.
While comics in the 90's get a lot of flack for being notably insane, there was also a huge infusion of creativity with new and legacy characters popping up all over the place. Cassie Sandsmark's Wonder Girl was born in this era, wielding the huge legacy potential of her name and connections to both the Golden Age hero and the Teen Titans with a deftness that belied the lunacy of the era. She was a well characterized, thoughtful character that grew in leaps and bounds before our eyes both as a hero and a young woman. She's fallen victim to comics tendency to underwrite certain characters at times, but also to the sweeping change and massive company wide crossovers that affected so much of DC in the past few decades. Still, the original premise of Cassie's Wonder Girl remains innovative and relatable, and we tried to make sure our version of her focused on that.
Wonder Girl's Comic History
Cassie appeared for the first time in 1996, in Wonder Woman #105. She was at the time just the young daughter of Diana's friend and colleague, Dr. Helena Sandsmark. Reading the comic at the time it wasn't exactly telegraphed that Cassie was meant to eventually become a new Wonder Girl, but there was a sense that there had been a missed opportunity with a similar character Vanessa Kaptelis, another daughter-of-a-friend-of-Diana's who eventually became a version of Silver Swan. I remember thinking that Cassie looked like a more well-thought-out character being set up to step into the role, even if she wasn't being played that way.
Cassie was a slightly troubled kid, which was interesting. She didnt necessarily behave, but she had an adventurous spirit, and would sometimes use Themysciran artifacts and a home-made costume to become Wonder Girl even before she had Diana's blessing. Once she managed to impress Zeus into giving her powers of her own, you had the groundwork laid for a character with pretty solid potential.
It was her membership in Young Justice that really saw the character begin to evolve into what she eventually became. She joined specifically because she had a fangirl crush on Superboy, which is at once adorable and a little pandering. The book was notably fantastic and filled with all sorts of awesome energy and characterization of it's young heros, and Cassie saw a huge amount of growth, evolving into a confident leader. When the book ended and it's members were brought into a new Teen Titans team by Geoff Johns, Cassie moved with them.
While she's had her own limited series, Cassie is almost always featured in team books. This can sometimes be a double-edged sword, because while she gets all sorts of great interaction with other characters, she doesn't always get handled with the same degree of care that she experienced in Young Justice. Sometimes she isn't really treated as an A-List character. Sometimes she's really only defined by being pretty, or by her relationship with Superboy. Her characterization during the New 52 Teen Titans was completely unrecognizable. Her appearance in the Young Justice animated series was cool, but didn't really have the nuance of her personality from the comic, since so much of her characterization had already been used in the first season for Miss Martian. She's been redesigned again for the brand-new Young Justice series being written by Brian Michael Bendis, so hopefully we'll see a return to the character that was so fantastic back in the original series.
Our Wonder Girl Story
Like the other current Teen Titans, we need to make sure to be frugal with how we tell Cassie's story, because we only have so many years to work with. We've fit Cassie and her Mom all the way back into the beginning of Wonder Woman's story, making her an integral part of Diana's (and Donna's) backstory. Just like the comics, she steals Amazon artifacts to fight alongside Diana before Zeus himself grants her her powers. In the comics, it's later revealed that Zeus is actually her father, but there is this tendency in Wonder Woman comics to try to retroactively make everyone Zeus's daughter, which just seems an unnecessary simplification. I'm more a fan of the idea that Cassie EARNED her powers by displaying the sort of pluck and toughness that should always be at the forefront of her characterization.
From there, we follow the central arc of her story from the comics, in that she joins Young Justice and the Titans, dedicates herself to training on Themyscira (often to the detriment of her regular schooling), and eventually steps up as a leader of the team. Her relationship with Connor is of course in place, as is her having to deal with his temporary 'death'... but that brings up a whole other topic to address...
Cassie & Connor
The relationship between Cassie and Connor is actually one of my favorite romances in traditional mainstream superhero comics. It's kind of necessary to remember that this sort of storytelling is built around a pretty fundamentally childish sort of wish fulfillment, so couples in comics often have their stories suffer through some really weird arcs. This can be because of dated expectations (Lois & Clark), because characters are treated less as people and more like fantasy objects (Starfire & Nightwing), or maybe because comics are long-form storytelling and you can't ever give a couple a satisfying resolution (Kitty Pryde & Colossus).
Cassie & Connor came together in a very human, relatable way. They were teenagers. Cassie was a teenager with a crush. Cassie was created as a very normal-seeming girl, and it was really easy to identify with her. As long as both characters were being written well, you could see the blossoming romance between these two and easily recognize it. Their affection seemed earned. The problem came when Connor was killed in the pages of Infinite Crisis. The comics worked to depict Cassie's grief, but grief is a REALLY hard thing to represent effectively. Some comics handled it better than others, but comics already have a hard time really creating consistent characterization across different creative teams, and Cassie just felt less and less like a character we recognized. Soon she was being DEFINED by her grief.
We don't want to remove this story from our timeline. We want to include Connor's brief death and Cassie's handling of it, but we want to make sure that this is a growing experience. Both Cassie and Connor should come out of it stronger, more complex, and ultimately more interesting people... but they should still be fun to READ, which means they need to come out of it a stronger couple.
Wonder Girl's Costume
If you haven't noticed, i'm a huge fan of the original Young Justice Series. I adore Cassie's goggles & jacket costume, but I also recognize that it's best fit as a place to start from. She would go on to wear a version of Donna Troy's red Wonder Girl costume, and that evolution also works. From there, however, I don't know if I exactly agree with where the comics went. The blue jeans & shirt look she started wearing after Infinite Crisis was obviously a send-up of Connor's look. I don't dislike it at all, but it's a fairly obvious visual representation of the way Cassie was slowly being defined more and more by her relationship and less as her own person. In the animated series they went with a similar color scheme to her original outfit with her black top and red pants. Here I've used an online redesign that I really like whose artist I can't seem to find. It evolves away from the original look in a superheroic way without devolving her into a reflection of her boyfriend.
One other point on the topic of her look: I've more or less made my peace with the fact that comics tend to draw their female characters overly sexualized, and at this point I am just hoping that they manage to at least focus on them as characters rather than as objects. In Cassie's case however attempts to sexualize her are more frustrating that normal, because it's such a far cry from who she's really supposed to be. Speaking entirely in terms of archetypes; she's not a 'beautiful popular girl' character, she's an 'awkward girl who is discovering her own potential' character. Those tropes have problems all their own, of course, but if you're going to design your character around problematic character cliches, at least use the right one.
Wonder Girl's Future
Cassie has taken over as the leader of the Titans in the absence of Tim Drake while he is on his quest to find Bruce Wayne, but they will soon be reunited and undergo the story arc that redefines their small family of young heroes back under the Young Justice banner. While Tim is always going to be the tactical core of their group, they will definitely also look to Cassie as the rock that defines them.
During the new 52, Cassie had a completely different characterization, origin, and power set, and while I'm not in favor of using it now, it actually gives something interesting as a destination for her future. In the comic she is equipped with a set of morphing armor that is apparently somehow connected to Trigon... I didn't finish reading the series, so I don't know how it worked exactly. I don't know if THAT is necessary, but it does loosely reflect how, during Geoff John's run on Teen Titans, Cassie was given her own enchanted lasso by Wonder Woman baddie Ares. There is definitely something to that. Cassie is different that her amazonian big sisters Diana and Donna. She didn't grow up on Themyscira. She's very much mortal. There is the sense that she is going to be something different, and perhaps having her somehow claim some of the power of Diana's nemesis and making it her own might be a fun way to evolve her as she matures into the powerful hero she will become.