Today, the thirteenth day of the month of Adar, marks one of the most joyous occasions on the Jewish calendar. Today we recognize the holiday of Purim, a celebration of the persistent survival of the Jewish people despite overwhelming historical odds—and, specifically, the valor of Queen Esther, who in ancient Persia captured the heart of a king and exposed a vile enemy to save her people from certain doom. Purim may not get the widespread cultural recognition of Hanukkah, Passover or Rosh HaShanah, but as we commemorate the heroes who have scaled the dizzying heights of social status to provide a voice for their downtrodden people, we can also look to the royal women throughout the DC Universe in whom shades of Esther can be recognized. As superheroes have risen to become our own modern mythology, here are five queens of the comics who each carry with them a chapter or two from the Book of Esther.
Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld
So many of the great stories throughout human history and culture begin with a hero of humble origins assuming a grand destiny. In the story of Purim, Esther, the young niece of a Jewish scholar during a period of exile from their homeland, is drafted into a competition to become the bride of King Ahasuerus. It wasn’t the life that Esther ever imagined for herself, but one she took to nevertheless by winning over the royal palace with her charm and grace.
Such is also the story of Amy Winston, an average suburban high schooler who discovers she is truly the magically empowered princess of a lost kingdom, from which she too was banished. But despite initial misgivings, Amy quickly assumes her fated role as Princess Amethyst, ushering in a new age of light and prosperity for the magical Gemworld.
Adrianna Tomaz, Isis of Khandaq
The story of Queen Esther isn’t just about a Jewish girl who gets a royal break. Esther’s greatest accomplishment was how she influenced the amoral and hedonistic Ahasuerus to deal justly with the wicked and mercifully with the poor and innocent through the love she kindled in his heart. It’s a story which bears similarities to the arc of the mighty Black Adam, absolute ruler of Khandaq, whose divinely powered iron grip over his people was relaxed by his love for Adrianna Tomaz, with whom he eventually shared his power and his kingdom. Together, Black Adam and Isis ushered in a new age of prosperity for his nation, until Isis was tragically struck down by a vile enemy.
Not all the great stories end happily. But perhaps, like Ahasuerus, the good man that Isis saw in Teth-Adam may one day emerge again.
Mera, Queen of Atlantis
Queen Esther’s gifts for inspiring the best in those around her were great, but they would have amounted to little if they weren’t matched by her natural aptitude for palace intrigue. Like Queen Esther, Mera of Atlantis knew that every royal court is a nest of vipers, laden with enemies ready to strike for their own advancement—and who could only be dispatched through delicate awareness of courtly conduct.
In the story of Purim, Queen Esther identifies the plot of the wicked advisor Haman to enact an order of genocide against the Jewish people. She then dutifully follows the intricate royal customs necessary to position herself for a favor from the king which would allow her to order the execution of one so highly placed as Haman. In Mera’s own time as queen of Atlantis by Aquaman’s side, unworthy seekers of the throne and xenophobic radicals of every sort have consistently brought the future of their ancient kingdom under threat. But while Mera is viewed by many as an outsider, her shrewdness and resolve continue to keep Atlantis safe—and sometimes even protect the surface world from all-out war.
Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons
The end of the Purim story is one of total victory for the Jewish people. Not just in their circumvention of a Persian genocide, but in Esther’s union with Ahasuerus that eventually leads to the exiled Jewish people’s return to ancient Jerusalem and the reconstruction of their Great Temple. As Queen Hippolyta earned the favor of her gods to lead the Amazons to follow their faith on Paradise Island, so too did Esther catalyze the return of the Jewish people, at least for a time, to their own Promised Land.
Chay-Ara, Princess of Eternity
The biography of Hawkman and Hawkwoman is a long and complex one (made elegantly clearer in their most recent volume). But for most of their history, the story was this: Hawkman was once Prince Khufu of Egypt and Hawkwoman was once his bride, Chay-Ara. Gifted with a rare and coveted metal, Khufu and Chay-Ara led their people into a golden age, and soon found themselves in an eternal cycle of reincarnation. Since their first incarnation, every generation has had a Hawkwoman to watch over us from the skies.
Through the celebration of Purim, another kind of reincarnation takes place. The story of this unlikely Persian queen from humble Jewish stock continues to inspire new Esthers through the ages to use the power they gain or receive towards a better tomorrow for their people. After all, if there’s one theme in common between Purim and the ongoing saga of the DC superhero, it’s to always use the gifts we have to care for those around us.
Well, that and cookies. We know Martian Manhunter is a Chocos guy, but he’d go crazy for hamantaschen.
Alex Jaffe is the author of our monthly “Ask the Question” column and writes about TV, movies, comics and superhero history for DCComics.com. Follow him on Twitter at @AlexJaffe and find him in the DC Community as HubCityQuestion.