As with most comic book characters, there are often re-imaginations and different versions to a character’s past. We have chosen primarily to follow the storyline which unfolded in 1942’s Wonder Woman #1-2 and which was expanded upon in 1986-87’s Wonder Woman #1-2 and #6 and 2012’s Wonder Woman #0.
The character of Ares, often known by his Roman name Mars, was taken directly from Greco-Roman mythology. He’s the God of War and so has powers of a god, which make him difficult to fight and damn near impossible to destroy – just ask Wonder Woman. As a figure from myth, he doesn’t have an origin per se – so this video will focus on how he came to be part of Wonder Woman’s rogues’ gallery.
When Ares first popped up in 1942, readers learned that he and Aphrodite had long been at odds over whether the war-like nature of men or the loving nature of women was stronger. With the advent of World War II, Ares seemed to be winning – and so Wonder Woman was sent to Man’s World to teach Aphrodite’s message of love. Ares captured Steve Trevor, Wonder Woman’s special friend, and used him to lure her to his base on the planet Mars. Although Ares initially got the upper hand on her, the amazing Amazon ultimately won – and earned the god’s unending wrath
When Wonder Woman was rebooted in 1986, a more complete backstory was developed. In ancient Greece, Ares and Artemis argued before Zeus. Artemis wished to create a new race of peace-loving women and wanted Zeus’ blessing. Ares opposed this. Artemis presented a strong argument: that the gods receive their strength through the worship of mortals. If men die, so do the gods. Zeus found the matter beneath him and washed his hands of the matter. Artemis, aided by most of the other gods of the pantheon, then created the Amazons.
Ares used Heracles to trick and enslave the Amazons. When the goddess Athena freed them, they were lead to a secluded island, Themyscira, where they lived peacefully for thousands of years. Eventually, Queen Hippolyte created a child out of clay, which six of the gods and goddesses brought to life and blessed with exceptional powers. This was Diana, who would eventually become Wonder Woman.
In the modern era, an oracle told Hippolyte that Ares had gone mad. His strength had increased exponentially, due to some new mysterious power in Man’s World. If he could not be stopped, the gods themselves and the entire world would be destroyed. Thus Diana was chosen to leave Themyscira in order to fight Ares.
Before this could happen, Ares hatched his own plot. Ares controlled human underlings with a lust for power and war. He used one to send the peace-loving air force pilot Steve Trevor on a mission to bomb and destroy Themyscira. An unwitting pawn, Trevor fought back when he discovered the purpose of his mission, but it was too late. Fortunately, Wonder Woman disposed of the bomb and rescued the unconscious Trevor. Then, armed with half of a mystical amulet that would help her defeat Ares, Wonder Woman was taken to Man’s World.
Wonder Woman soon discovered Ares’ plot: to have his minions take control of the nuclear arsenal, creating a war that would entirely decimate the planet. Because, you know, power-mad gods do that kind of thing. With Steve Trevor and several other new friends by her side, Wonder Woman fought to prevent this catastrophe from occurring.
But it soon came down – no surprise – to the hero fighting the villain alone. Ares and Wonder Woman squared off in a mighty battle, which ended only when Diana used her magic lasso of truth to make Ares see the insanity of his plan. Realizing at last that the destruction of the Earth would mean his own destruction, Ares took Diana’s half of the magic amulet and fused it with his. This restored order and balance to the world. Ares then promised to stop taking an active role in the affairs of Man –and left Diana to save humanity from its baser impulses.
Ares came back, of course, but it wasn’t until the New 52 reboot that a truly new version showed up. In this retelling, Ares is renamed simply as War. He adopted the young Diana as his protégé, teaching her the ways of a warrior. One of War’s rules was that a person should show no mercy to one’s opponent – but Diana cannot follow this rule. Seeing this, War ceases to be her mentor and abandons her – along with his secret ambition that Diana should become his replacement as the God of War.
Ares has made some appearances outside of DC comic books, but not as many as you might think. Maybe being an actual god from mythology makes it hard to fit him in with the DC super-heroes. Or maybe they figure Darkseid’s got the omnipotent god of war thing covered already.