Not long ago, a tweet started to make the rounds online from podcaster Brett White. He said:
DC/WB is all like "Wonder Woman's too confusing for a movie!" and Marvel/Disney is all like "Here's a raccoon with a machine gun"
— Brett White (@brettwhite) August 12, 2013
That's in reference to Amazon, the Smallville-inspired take on Wonder Woman that had been announced earlier this year, being shelved indefinitely while The Flash gets a TV series spinning out of Arrow.
Wonder Woman has already had one TV series--a short-lived but well-loved one that left the character even more a pop culture icon than she was when the program began in 1975. And, like Marvel's Incredible Hulk franchise, that success has driven the studio to mount a number of attempts at cashing in on the character's recognizability.
Unlike The Hulk, though, Wonder Woman's follow-ups never seem to make it to the small screen. Meanwhile, she's protected by DC/Warner as one of their "Trinity" along with Superman and Batman, which prevents her showing up on series like Smallville, where dozens of other DC characters put in an appearance over the show's decade-long run (she finally appeared in a recent arc of Bryan Q. Miller's Smallville Season Eleven comic book).
That she's a feminist icon at a time when the comics community finds itself frequently vexed as far as dealing with women contributes to the conversation--for some, the lack of any development on Wonder Woman is a black mark for DC/Warner and a sign that they're not interested in taking the character seriously, even though she's had more abortive attempts at getting to the screen both small (David E. Kelley being the most recent attempt prior to Amazon) and large (Joss Whedon turned in a script that didn't pass muster with the WB brass) than most other characters.
If she's one of DC's most important characters, people ask, why doesn't she have the same treatment as Superman and Batman? Those characters are difficult to get "right" as well, but that hasn't stopped films and TV series from being made--and now the pair are teaming up in a World's Finest-style movie that will hit the screen before there's even a whiff of a casting rumor for Wonder Woman.
In fact, even with four seasons of TV under her belt, we realized something: Wonder Woman isn't the most frequent live-action DC hero. She's not even third (behind Superman and Batman, the obvious frontrunners): Green Arrow has (already, before Arrow Season Two even happens) made more live-action TV appearances than has Wonder Woman.
Oliver Queen's bow-slinging alter-ego appeared in 52 episodes of The CW's Smallville, before getting his own series (unrelated to Smallville) that's already had 23 for a total of 75 appearances.
Even with the pilot, Wonder Woman only appeared in 60 episodes of her own series, and has never appeared on another DC hero's show. The closest she came was appearing on the Legends of the Superheroes TV movie--which also featured Green Arrow, Shazam and a number of other heroes with movie and TV credentials.
The Flash doesn't have quite as much--prior to his spinoff coming out of Arrow next year, he'll have appeared in 22 episodes of his own series and none from Smallville (that was Bart Allen, better known as Impulse/Kid Flash). There were a number of other Justice Leaguers who appeared in a number of Smallville episodes, but nothing close to what Wonder Woman had.
The top dog, of course, is Superman. Besides Smallville (which ran for 218 episodes), he also had Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman (87), The Adventures of Superman (104) and a Superboy live-action series that ran for 100 episodes. That gives the Man of Steel a whopping 509 live-action TV appearances (or 409 if you don't count Superboy and give or take five or so for the possibility that he didn't appear in a given episode of each of the shows).
Batman himself had 120 episodes of the Adam West show (plus one episode of Birds of Prey) in addition to the Legends of the Superheroes special. He stayed clear of Smallville because, like Wonder Woman, Batman was considered too valuable a commodity to be squandered as a supporting player in a CW series--and for a chunk of the series' run, Christopher Nolan was holding onto the Dark Knight with iron fist anyway.
While Wonder Woman's 60 episodes certainly makes her the most frequently-depicted, live-action DC superheroine (next, I think, is Barbara Gordon, who appeared as Barbara/Batgirl in 26 episodes of Batman plus as Oracle in 13 episodes of Birds of Prey), she's not--despite being the most recognizable female superhero in all of comicdom--the most frequent DC female.
That would be Lois Lane--who appeared in 141 episodes of Smallville along with 105 episodes of The Adventures of Superman and 78 episodes of Lois & Clark for a total of 324 live-action appearances. The next-best, as far as we can tell? Oliver Queen's Smallville girlfriend and Lois's cousin, Chloe Sullivan--a character who was created for Smallville and has only actually appeared, in continuity, in DC Comics five times.
That character, who has yet to appear in the New 52 and hasn't been adapted to other media outside of Smallville, appeared 204 times on the series--that's more than three times the number of TV appearances that Wonder Woman has made.
For those out there--I can already hear you warming up your keyboards for the comments section--that will be upset by the reality that Superman's female supporting cast (of which Wonder Woman has kind of become a member in the New 52) have scored a higher than Wonder Woman by such a wide margin, therefore marginalizing the most iconic female superhero on the planet, we do have a conciliatory note: Wonder Woman is still the champion female of DC animated television, having appeared in 218 episodes of TV animation--that's 1 episode The Brady Kids (yes, her first animated appearance), 109 episodes of Super Friends (all iterations), 1 episode of Superman from 1988, 52 Justice League, 39 Justice League Unlimited, 13 Young Justice and three episodes of Batman: The Brave and the Bold. That's compared to 58 scattered Lois appearances over many of the same series.
And, of course, Lois herself might not be a superhero but has been widely held up as one of DC's premier characters and a great role model for kids, especially in the more modern iterations when she's been less of a damsel in distress. So maybe the fact that she's outdone Batman isn't such a bad thing.