By Sebastien Malo
NEW YORK (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Wonder Woman's reign as a United Nations honorary ambassador comes to an end this week, the U.N. said on Monday, in an unexpected departure less than two months after appointment of the scantily clad, curvaceous comic book character sparked outcries of protest.
Plans had called for use of Wonder Woman in an empowerment campaign for women and girls into 2017, according to the comic book's publisher, but the character's role is ending on Friday, a U.N. spokesman said.
Appointment on Oct. 21 of the comic superhero as U.N. honorary ambassador to fight for gender equality, especially to appeal to young people, sparked heavy criticism that the choice sent the wrong messages.
Nearly 45,000 people signed an online petition asking U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to reconsider selection of the buxom character, typically clad in a red, white and blue body suit.
"Although the original creators may have intended Wonder Woman to represent a strong and independent 'warrior' woman with a feminist message, the reality is that the character's current iteration is that of a large breasted, white woman of impossible proportions, scantily clad in a shimmery, thigh-baring body suit," the petition read.
Wonder Woman, a DC Comics Inc. heroine, first appeared in 1941, fighting villains, rescuing victims and unearthing evil plots.
Dozens of U.N. employees protested at U.N. headquarters on the day of the appointment, when Diane Nelson, president of DC Entertainment, said the Wonder Woman campaign would feature various initiatives "over the course of the next year."
The U.N. did not provide further details as to why the Wonder Woman campaign was ending this week, but spokesman Jeffrey Brez said campaigns using fictional characters often last no longer than a few months.
The designation of "Angry Birds," a collection of animated characters that originated in an online video game, as U.N. climate change envoys in March lasted a single day, he said.
DC Entertainment, which publishes DC Comics, said it was pleased with the exposure Wonder Woman brought to the U.N.'s global goal to achieve gender equality and empower women and girls by 2030 "as well as elevating the global conversation around the empowerment of women and girls."
"Wonder Woman stands for peace, justice and equality, and for 75 years she has been a motivating force for many and will continue to be long after the conclusion of her UN Honorary Ambassadorship," said Courtney Simmons, a spokeswoman for DC Entertainment, a subsidiary of Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. that is a division of Time Warner.
Release next year of a special-edition Wonder Woman comic book on the empowerment of women and girls, announced in October, is still planned, said Simmons.
A full-length Wonder Woman movie, unaffiliated with the U.N. campaign, starring Israeli actress Gal Gadot is scheduled for release by Warner Bros. in June.
(Reporting by Sebastien Malo, Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org)