Wonder Woman and Lara Croft: A character comparison

Because it's Wonder Woman day, or weekend, or hopefully forever, I had to invest my pent-up (p)fangirl enthusiasm into something. The result was this video, delving into the characters of Wonder Woman and Lara Croft, and how they compare as two substantially different heroines:


If you don't want to watch me ramble on, here's the video script to read instead:

Lara Croft and Wonder Woman are both icons. One is the First lady of video games (literally) and the other the first female costumed superhero. Being icons they’ve had to bear a lot of representational burden over the years.

What was interesting to me to discover was, especially among cosplayers, the number of Tomb Raider fans who are also Wonder Woman fans. Why are people drawn to these two characters in particular - who I see as being quite different?


I’ve given this a lot of thought. There’s my ongoing fan fiction Living Legend, on FanFiction.net and Archive of Our Own. It’s a Wonder Woman-Tomb Raider crossover story. The premise is basically what if the first outsider from Man’s World to arrive on the isolationist Amazon island of Themyscira wasn’t Steve Trevor, but rather intrepid archaeologist Lara Croft?

The story is far from my most well-read but it’s been fun and rewarding from a writing perspective: delving into these characters, working with their distinct, different voices and exploring their interactions. What principles do they share, what opinions would they clash over, and how they would influence each other?

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Let's start with Wonder Woman - Princess Diana of Themyscira:


Most simply, she’s True North. She's there to do good, help people, ensure justice on every level. Whether that’s teaching a little girl how to defend herself in the park playground, or punching it out with a galactic overlord to save Earth.

Diana is an ambassador and role-model as much as a warrior. Discussion is important to her. She won’t jump straight to physical battle. An important point to make is that she’s not a na├»ve goodie two-shoes. She will get her hands dirty – no, bloody. She will kill if she deems that necessary, even if it pits her against Superman and Batman, the other members of the DC Trinity, with their strict No Kill codes. Diana does what has to be done.

The tension within Diana is the clash between idealism and reality. Especially at the start of her career when she’s inexperienced. She has this burning desire to make a difference. She also has a huge heart – Diana is about love and trust and acceptance – and that leaves her open for hurt and disappointment because she wants to believe the best of people. She’s fundamentally a Fixer – that’s her chosen purpose in life – she wants to help people achieve that best of themselves.

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Moving on to Lara Croft - The Tomb Raider:

First things first, when I talk about Lara Croft, I’m talking about a hybrid of Classic Lara and Reboot Lara. There’s a lot of fighting among fans over which version is better but I see them as the same person, and I write the character that way.


For example, in Living Legend, the Lara who arrives on Themyscira is in her mid to late 20s. She's been around the block, or the Pyramid, a few times. So at this point, Lara Croft isn’t a starry-eyed idealist "out to make her mark." She’s been betrayed multiple times, she’s seen people corrupted by greed and a desire for power. The effect of that is that she’s cynical, distrustful of others, misanthropic and a loner. Diana would probably find that sad.

Lara’s also an orphan; she’s lost or seen many people she loves, hurt so she keeps her emotional distance for the most part. This is very different from Diana, who has her mother’s love, and the love of the Amazons.

So Lara Croft, given her past, is fiercely self-reliant. Actually I think Lara Croft is a lot closer in personality to Queen Hippolyta, Diana’s mother – who has also suffered extreme betrayal at the hands of men. That similarity would lead to conflict. Diana and Hippolyta are both strong-willed women who hate being told what to do. They make their own rules.


I see Lara as being at home among the Amazons as a kind of unofficial Amazon herself – earning respect for her fighting spirit and tenacity – but the problem is her murky moral code. Living only really for herself, Lara is short tempered, impulsive, reckless. She certainly doesn’t fight with honour. Of course, the big difference is that unlike the Amazons, Lara Croft is fully human. She’s a lot more physically vulnerable than Goddess-blessed Diana, so she can’t and won’t go toe-to-toe with a God for example. She’d be dead in an instant. Instead she fights smart and is an opportunist. If winning means headshotting someone from a mile away, then so be it. You improvise.

Classic or Reboot, Lara Croft is a scrappy survivor. And you don’t survive by being nice. I see any heroism from Lara Croft as being more of a side-effect. She has her own shifting moral code. She’ll step in if nobody else will, but I always imagine it’s done quite grudgingly. Lara’s mission in life is answers, and solving the world’s great mysteries. And if she is forced to kill 50 guys in the process, well, it’s gotta be done. She’s not there to save anyone. In fact, she seems to spend more time fixing her mistakes and putting to rest the things she’s woken.

So I think she’d be horrified to hear that anyone considers her a role-model. I imagine there is some guilt there on her part, deep down, in terms of what she’s done. I don’t think she’s entirely comfortable with it, despite her cool, confident exterior.


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So, hypothetical time:

In a meeting of Wonder Woman and Lara Croft, I can see the women influencing each other, and providing some balance. I see Diana thawing Lara a bit, getting her to lower her thorny guard, showing her that she can rely more on others; love, laugh, and actually use her heart as much as her head.

With Diana, it would be the inverse. Lara would teach her to think more, to always be prepared. More importantly, that things aren’t always black and white – there’s a lot of moral grey in the world, and tough decisions related to that. In making those decisions there will be costs to your soul that you have to live with. Also, that mindless obedience and the status quo should be challenged. Lara Croft is all about that kind of independence.


So there you go: two fictional female characters who are immensely powerful, and inspirational to us in real-life in different ways.

Wonder Woman inspires to be a better, kinder person, socially conscious and benefitting others.

Lara Croft inspires on a far more personal level, to be brave and resilient, to be yourself and chart your own course even if that means falling and getting up a hundred times.

That’s why these women are so special to so many people.


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