Circe (comics)

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For the Marvel Comics character, see Sersi.
Circe
The witch Circe and a Bestiamorph.
Art by George Pérez
Publication information
Publisher DC Comics
First appearance Historical:
Wonder Woman vol. 1 #37 (Sep/Oct 1949)
Modern:
Wonder Woman vol.2 #18 (July 1988)
Created by Robert Kanigher, Harry G. Peter
In-story information
Alter ego Circe
Team affiliations Injustice Gang
Notable aliases Cassandra Colchis, Donna Milton

Circe (pronounced "sur-see") is a fictional character, a villainous sorceress and a major adversary of Wonder Woman appearing in DC Comics publications and related media. She was created by Robert Kanigher, and Harry G. Peter and is based upon the Greek mythological character of the same name who imprisoned Odysseus in Homer's Odyssey, the comic book incarnation of Circe first appeared to bedevil Wonder Woman in the 1940s in Wonder Woman, vol. 1, issue #37. As the narrative continuity of the Wonder Woman comic has been adjusted by different writers throughout the years, various versions of Circe, with various physical appearances, have emerged to challenge the Amazing Amazon. All of these have retained a set of key features: immortality, stunning physical beauty, a powerful command over wicked sorcery, a penchant for turning human beings into animals (like her mythological antecedent), and a delight in humiliation.

Publication history[edit]

Pre-Crisis on Infinite Earths[edit]

Circe debuts in Wonder Woman #37.

In the original DC Comics continuity (prior to the Crisis on Infinite Earths), Circe is a centuries-old enchantress who is kept young by an elixir called vitae. It is made from a special combination of plants and herbs. While living on the island Aeaea, Circe gains magical powers. Circe is very skilled at turning men into any animal resembling their personality, and, for her crimes against mortalkind, the Amazon Queen Hippolyta banished her to Sorca, "an island planet in space, where she could do no harm".

Upon her return to Earth, Circe tries to destroy Wonder Woman, having heard from an oracle in ancient times that the daughter of Hippolyta will be her undoing. Unlike many of Wonder Woman's other Golden Age foes, Circe does not repent when her plot fails, and a legendary enmity is born. (Wonder Woman #37) [1]

In Captain Marvel Adventures #66, set on Earth-S, it is revealed the evil immortal Oggar gave Circe immortality 3,000 years ago when she was a beautiful Graecian princess, hoping she would marry him. But because he did not give her eternal youth she keeps aging and becomes ugly, meaning she hates men who now have a hatred of her face and learns magic to turn them into animals. Captain Marvel and Oggar battle on her island, and she turns Billy into a goat, before turning him back. She finally helps Captain Marvel defeat Oggar by turning him into a boar. He jumps into a bluff and apparently dies, meaning she finally dies happily as his spell wears off.

A woman claiming to be a descendant of the original Circe later appears and gives Superman an evolution serum, which temporarily transforms him into a partial lion after he does not agree to marry her. She leaves the planet by the time Superman returns to her island. Realizing the serum contains kryptonite, Superman theorizes the original Circe may have been from Krypton. (Action Comics #243)[1]

In ancient times, Circe is responsible for changing Biron the centaur into a horse and later gives him super-powers as Comet the Super-Horse. She is depicted as more heroic during her appearances with Comet and Supergirl (Action Comics #293, 311, 323, 331).[1] She also has encounters with Lois Lane and Lana Lang, and battles Rip Hunter, who meets her during his time travels. (Superman's Girlfriend Lois Lane #13, 39, 40; Showcase #21) Catwoman once used Circe's wand to turn Superman into a cat, but he is turned back by an Egyptian mummified magic cat's paw used by Lana Lang.

Later, Saturn Woman (a version of Saturn Girl from an alternate timeline) poses as Circe as part of Superman’s plan to defeat the Superman Revenge Squad. (Superman #165)[1]

During World War II, Circe transforms a British soldier who misses being in the cavalry into a centaur, then, upon his death, into a horse. At another point in World War II, she turned Nazis into swine and consumed them.[2]

The character reappears, unnamed, in Wonder Woman #302 (April 1983)[1] and is identified as Circe in issue #305 (July 1983)[1][3] Circe reappeared with a mission to kill Wonder Woman in order to prevent an oracular prophecy of Circe's death at Wonder Woman's hands from coming true. After she failed to kill the Amazon with a series of attacks by man-animal hybrids, she took up with the Aztec god Tezcatlipoca, who set in motion a chain of events that led Wonder Woman to the jungles of Tropidor. Circe called on the god to send lightning down to kill Wonder Woman, who deflected the lightning bolts away from her and incinerated the herbs that made Circe immortal, thus fulfilling the prophecy. Circe then disappeared, swallowed up by Tezcatlipoca's magic obsidian mirror, which the god used to torture her with an image of herself as a crone.

Circe begins to age normally and is last seen aiding a group of sorcerers who are trying to defeat the Anti-Monitor. (Wonder Woman vol. 1 #302, 305, 312-314; Crisis on Infinite Earths #9, 12)

Post-Crisis on Infinite Earths[edit]

Following the Crisis on Infinite Earths, Wonder Woman and Superman are rebooted. All of Circe's prior continuity is erased and she is reintroduced with a revamped history.

Greek mythology background[edit]

Circe is the daughter of the Titans Hyperion and Perseis. Circe is a powerful witch and former princess of Colchis. A beautiful, violet-haired, red-eyed sorceress, she is known for turning people into animals (which are called Bestiamorphs), as well as for powers of mind-control. Circe has been a devoted follower of the goddess Hecate for thousands of years. She has lived on the island of Aeaea where she became a powerful being in both magic and in influence over portions of man's world. During his adventure to her island, Circe fell in love with Odysseus and bore him three sons: Agrius, Latinus, and Telegonus.

Though Circe's patron goddess Hecate was an offspring of the Titans, she was not considered one of the main Twelve Olympians. Zeus gave her much respect, but she did not hold much favor with others on Olympus. As such she married the god Hades, but their marriage did not last and Hecate was demoted as handmaiden to her former husband's new wife. Because of this she left the realm of the gods and agreed to render her soul to her most devoted servant Circe. This caused Circe to attain her current goddess-level of power and immortality.[4]

Beginning of relationship with Wonder Woman[edit]

Diana and Circe battle above Themyscira.
Art by Mike Deodato.

When Hecate transferred her soul to Circe, she said the words: Upon the death of witch and the birth of witch, Hecate, by name and choice, shall repossess her soul. In addition to being goddess of witchcraft, Hecate is also a goddess of the moon. When Circe learned that Wonder Woman shared her name with moon goddess Diana, she decided that Hecate's cryptic warning must refer to her. Fearing that Diana would steal Hecate's soul and power, Circe decided to destroy her.

Once Diana learned of Hecate's pronouncement, she too felt it pertained to her, but of course Diana has no desire to have the soul of Hecate possessing her body. This issue is central to the conflict between the two women.

War of the Gods[edit]

Circe's most ambitious gambit was inciting war between the various pantheons of gods throughout the DC Multiverse, becoming known as the War of the Gods. Circe's overall ploy was to gain the power of all the warring pantheons after they had defeated or destroyed one another. Another plot of the war was to disgrace Diana and the Amazons in the eyes of the world by portraying them as terrorists, allying herself with the Amazons of Bana-Mighdall to this effect. True to her nature, Circe eventually betrayed them as well. Over the course of the war, Circe succeeded in killing Hermes, who had since been in a severely weakened state from being away from Olympus for so long and temporarily devolving Diana herself out of existence by reverting her back into the clay from which she had been formed. Finally realizing the truth of Circe's deceptions, Earth's heroes launched an assault on New Olympus, which Circe had conquered and pitted the gods of the Olympian and Roman pantheons against them. Elsewhere, with the aid of the Spectre, Deadman, and the Phantom Stranger, Diana was restored to life and in a concerted effort with Donna Troy, used the amulet of Harmonia to open a portal into an alternate universe where the Titans of Myth resided. This caused the soul of Hecate herself to withdraw from Circe's body, which rapidly aged and crumbled to dust. Hecate then attempted to take possession of Diana, but was destroyed by the Lasso of Truth.[5]

Circe returned to life sometime later, though no explanation has ever been given for this.

Amazon betrayal[edit]

After the Amazons of Bana-Mighdall lost their Egyptian city at the hands of Diana's gods and turned to Circe for revenge, Circe remained true to her word and granted the Bana-Mighdallian Amazons immortality and teleported them to Themyscira in order for them to take over the island for themselves. Unfortunately for them though, after this was done Circe eventually showed her hatred for all Amazons by betraying the alliance she had with the desert Amazons and cast the island and all its inhabitants into a dimension of demons. Thus both tribes of Amazons spent several years battling demons for their own survival. When Diana discovered what the witch had done, she forced Circe to return the island back to its original location after losing a bet with the Amazon.

This is not the only time Circe has lost a bet to Wonder Woman and was forced to cancel a spell made against her. Later Circe caused Queen Hippolyta to forget who she was and instead embrace the false life of a domestic housewife. Circe told Diana that if she could get Hippolyta to drink the antidote she would call off her attack. Diana was successful and Circe showed herself honorable once more by reversing all magical effects as promised.

Donna Milton[edit]

Circe as Donna Milton discovering her true identity.
Art by Mike Deodato.

One attempt Circe made in trying to destroy Diana involved a disguise as a mortal lawyer named Donna Milton.[6] In this persona she could get close enough to Diana in order to kill her when her defenses were low. Afraid Diana would see through her disguise with her power of truth, Circe cast a spell on herself. The spell made Circe believe that she actually was Donna Milton and her true persona would only return when Donna could strike. As Donna Milton she was hired by the mobster Ares Buchanan, who was really the god Ares in disguise himself. During their time together they formed a romantic relationship and Donna became pregnant. As Donna, Circe actually became a good friend of Diana and ended up saving her life from Ares. He was sucked into a mini-blackhole while Donna went into labor. No longer working for Ares, Donna gave birth to her daughter Lyta Milton[7] and became Diana's lawyer at her and Micah Rains' new detective agency.[8] When the Amazon Artemis single-handedly battled the White Magician, Diana realized that Donna was actually Circe and begged her to help transport her to Artemis' side. Not believing Diana and hurt that her friend would think her to be a villain, Donna yelled at Diana to leave and subconsciously teleported Diana to Artemis. Shocked, Circe's memories slowly began coming back to her. Still possessing some of Donna's false memories, she teleported herself to Diana in order to help her in her battle. Unfortunately she was not on top of her game as she still had ties to her Donna Milton body, and the White Magician was not affected by her magical attacks. She used the remainder of her power to save Diana by teleporting herself, a demonically-altered Cheetah and Cassandra Arnold, a television reporter and the White Magician's lover, away from the battle, leaving her last words to Diana be "You're my only friend, Diana". This is the last we see of Diana's friend Donna Milton.

Expanded horizons[edit]

Circe would make a faustian deal with the demon lord Neron in exchange for increased magical power. She later formed part of the Injustice Gang gathered by Lex Luthor, alongside the Joker, Dr. Light, and the Ocean Master. During a fight with the JLA, she became preoccupied with Plastic Man. His shapeshifting powers allowed him to immediately change out of the animal forms she turned him into. She later proposed both a business and romantic relationship with Luthor, which he immediately shot down.[4][9]

The Witch and the Warrior[edit]

Circe tries to take over New York City with her super-powered allies. Art by Phil Jimenez.

Shortly before Imperiex assaulted the Earth, Circe struck at Diana through her friends. She allied herself with Sebastian Ballesteros, who had usurped the power of the Cheetah from Barbara Ann Minerva and turned Diana's friend Vanessa Kapatelis into the new Silver Swan. Ballestros also became Circe's lover. She reveals herself after Vanessa attacks Wonder Girl, luring Diana into battle. After Hippolyta dies saving Diana from an Imperiex probe, Circe launches an attack on New York City. Her scheme involved the transformation of all male superheroes into her bestiamorphs save for J'onn Jonzz, Beast Boy and Plastic Man, who she took special means to keep imprisoned due to their shape-shifting abilities. She also imprisoned and transformed her former confederates in the Injustice Gang, taking particular delight in tormenting Luthor. As the only persons who were not affected by the spell were women, many female superheroes entered the city in an attempt to save their friends and stop the witch's plan. However Circe had planned for such a rescue and convinced the female members of various supervillain communities to join forces and stop the heroes by any means necessary. Leading the pack against Circe was Wonder Woman, who Circe also expected, sending a Doomsday-altered Superman. She hoped to demoralize the world by making Superman and Wonder Woman kill one another, while she transmitted the fight in a global simulcast. Ultimately Circe was unsuccessful in her plan as a majority of the female heroes were able to change back their male super-powered friends with the use of the herb Moly, which has a tendency to disrupt Circe's magic. After a protracted fight, Diana broke Circe's spell on Superman with her lasso. Luthor and the Joker managed to free themselves and threaten Circe's daughter. She quickly overpowered them and escaped with her allies. Circe continued to harass Diana and Donna Troy, appearing in their dreams as a dying Hippolyta. Diana tracked Circe to the Parthenon, where they fought in single combat, again on a global simulcast. Circe had cast spells on herself to make her Diana's physical equal, but ultimately she was defeated. During the fight, she claimed her hatred of Diana was fueled by the hypocrisy and naivete she perceived in Diana's beliefs in a better world. She attempted to goad Diana into killing her but Diana spared her.[10]

She was also rescued from possible death by the two living Gorgon sisters Stheno and Euryale once the island of Themyscira toppled into the sea. As repayment Circe revived their long-dead sister Medusa who eventually became a fellow enemy of Wonder Woman.

Shortly after Medusa's defeat, Circe's daughter Lyta was kidnapped by her father Ares while under the protection of the Amazons on Themyscira. Confronting Ares, she soon discovered that the time of the gods was at a crossroads and joined Ares as his consort as the new ruler of Tartarus. Thus, Lyta continued to be cared for by both of her parents, reunited.

"One Year Later"[edit]

Circe steals Wonder Woman's abilities in issue #3-4 of Wonder Woman. Art by Terry Dodson.

In the "One Year Later" storyline, Circe was revealed to be the source behind the new upgrades to Wonder Woman's rogues gallery, increasing their power "beyond their wildest imaginings". Circe stole Diana's powers, explaining her rationale for doing so was to avenge wronged women whom she believed Diana had no real interest in helping. After completing the spell Circe is shown in an altered Wonder Woman-style costume and proceeds to slaughter slave traders in various cities. This greatly resembles a previous occurrence written by Phil Jimenez in which Circe magically caused herself to possess the strength of "Earth's strongest woman". During her battle with Diana she proceeded to alter her costume several times. Diana eventually regains her powers from Circe but it was revealed that Circe and Hercules were the only Greek gods to disobey Athena's orders to leave the earthly realm. It is assumed that she left her daughter Lyta in the care of her father Ares.[volume & issue needed]

She was also responsible for giving Everyman his shapeshifting powers back in order to replace Sarge Steel at the Department of Metahuman Affairs and instigate the events leading up to the Amazons Attack! storyline. It was during this storyline that Circe revived the long dead mother of Wonder Woman and convinced her to reclaim her throne in order to attack the U.S. capital, Washington, D.C. Once Hippolyta discovered that part of Circe's plans involved the destruction of Themyscira, she threw a spear into Circe's chest, critically wounding her. She was presumed to have been killed, but she appeared at the end of Amazons Attack! #4 alive and well. She explains that she brought about the events of Amazons Attack to punish the Olympian Gods for allowing Ares to steal her daughter Lyta from her. Circe was then banished to Hades by a disguised Granny Goodness who stole the persona of the goddess Athena.[4]

Abilities[edit]

Circe is a goddess-level sorceress of incalculable power and as such is immortal. She is able to transform reality and solid matter through magic and spells. Among other things, she can alter minds, fire destructive magical energy blasts, create illusions, revive the dead (as she did with Medusa), teleport, and transform objects and beings. Her "signature move" is transforming men into various animals, like when she turned Odysseus's men into pigs. She can also use her transformative magics on herself, increasing her strength, endurance, speed and resistance to injury, making her a physical match for Wonder Woman.

As Hades is now the official ruler of Tartarus, as his consort it is also possible Circe may have some limited control over the dead.

Circe also possesses a magical mirror, often referred to as The Mirror of Circe, that allows anyone holding it to alter their features into that of another. It is considered a forbidden object by the Olympian gods but has been stolen several times and used by Hercules. Circe also can magically summon, lure and seduce men towards her with her enchantingly beautiful, seductive, melodic hypnotic calls, vocalized melodies, lullabies, or songs, similar to that of a siren.

Other versions[edit]

In the alternate timeline of the "Flashpoint" storyline, Circe was imprisoned by Hippolyta's sister, Penthesileia in Antarctica for uncovering the truth of the Western European Amazon/Atlantean war. Traci Thirteen, after getting the High Priestess (Tarot card), transports herself there and breaks Circe's chains.[11]

Circe appears in issue 7 of the Batman: The Brave and the Bold comics. She is seen at the beginning being defeated by Batman and Olympian.

In other media[edit]

Television[edit]

A character very similar to Circe appeared in "Superman and Wonder Woman vs. The Sorceress of Time", an episode of 1988's Superman animated series. The Sorceress of Time was called Cyrene (voiced by B .J. Ward) and while there was a mythical character by that name, she was more akin to Circe whose modern incarnation appeared earlier that year. After Superman destroyed an earthbound comet, part of that comet flew towards Paradise Island and destroyed a prison which had been holding "Cyrene". The witch then promptly used her magic to turn the Amazons (whose queen, Hippolyta, was made to look like her modern incarnation) into monsters and summoned mythical beasts from the past (like Griffins, Minotaurs, and Cyclopes). Her plan was to use the Globe of Darkness to destroy all technology and revive the age of magic. Wonder Woman then promptly brought Superman to help her and they triumphed against the sorceress.

Circe as depicted in the Justice League Unlimited episode "This Little Piggy."

Circe appears in the Justice League Unlimited episode "This Little Piggy" voiced by Broadway actress Rachel York who also sings the 1935 hit Lulu's Back in Town (music by Harry Warren, lyrics by Al Dubin) in the episode. In the show, she liberally displays her powers of transforming humans and other objects into animals, even turning Wonder Woman into a pig, and transforming Batman's batarangs into doves. The storyline here is that she was an old enemy of Wonder Woman's mother. Upon being released from imprisonment in Hades, Circe decided to get her revenge against Hippolyta by turning Diana into a pig (one of the terms of her release was that she could not attack Hippolyta directly). She agrees to turn Wonder Woman back after Batman sings "Am I Blue?" in front of an audience (the ability to sing supposedly being Batman's "darkest secret"), which caused Circe to burst into tears. She makes a cameo appearance in the episode "Dead Reckoning", when Wonder Woman, Batman and Deadman are trying to find the sorceress that helped Lex Luthor and other villains to escape (which happened to be Tala).

Video games[edit]

Circe is a boss villain on the third level of Justice League Heroes: The Flash. By the third level, the Martian asks Flash to help Themyscira, Wonder Woman's home island, where the sorceress Circe has taken over and turned all the guards into animals, and he's joined by the Green Arrow. Circe slips that Brainiac is behind the plot, but does not give further details.

Circe is in the video game DC Universe Online voiced by Michelle Forbes. In the game, Circe is the villain magic mentor and is located in Metropolis, as revealed on the official DC Universe Online site. Players on the hero faction choosing Wonder Woman as a mentor will have to face her at the end of the main campaign. Circe has a strong protagonism in the DLC packs Sons of Trigon and Amazon Fury pt. 1. She is also available as a character in the PVP battle simulation mode Legends, where players can use iconic characters to fight each others.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f Circe at the Grand Comics Database
  2. ^ Both stories are in Weird War Tales #65.
  3. ^ Manning, Matthew K.; Dolan, Hannah, ed. (2010). "1980s". DC Comics Year By Year A Visual Chronicle. Dorling Kindersley. p. 202. ISBN 978-0-7566-6742-9. "The sorceress Circe stepped out of the pages of Homer's Odyssey and into the modern mythology of the DC Universe in Wonder Woman #305, courtesy of Dan Mishkin's script and Gene Colan's pencils." 
  4. ^ a b c Jimenez, Phil (2008). "Circe". In Dougall, Alastair. The DC Comics Encyclopedia. New York: Dorling Kindersley. p. 83. ISBN 0-7566-4119-5. OCLC 213309017. 
  5. ^ War of the Gods #1-4
  6. ^ Wonder Woman (vol. 2) #78-100
  7. ^ Wonder Woman (vol. 2) #84
  8. ^ Wonder Woman (vol. 2) #94
  9. ^ President Luthor Secret Files #1
  10. ^ Wonder Woman Vol. 2 #174-176
  11. ^ Flashpoint: The World of Flashpoint #2 (July 2011)
  • Beatty, Scott (2009). Wonder Woman: The Ultimate Guide To The Amazon Princess. Dorling Kindersley Publishing. pp. 74–75. ISBN 0-7894-9616-X. 

External links[edit]