Wonder Woman and the Star Riders – 30th Anniversary!

This might be the greatest doll story you’ve never heard. And like so many wonderful, forgotten things, it begins in the ‘90s. 


In 1993, DC characters represented big money, especially where merchandising was concerned. Four years earlier in 1989, Tim Burton’s “Batman” flew into theaters and the public’s imagination. Bat-mania swept the country. And while Burton also directed 1992’s “Batman Returns,” Warner Bros. Animation was in on the action as well. For television, Bruce Timm and Paul Dini created 1992’s “Batman: The Animated Series.” While the art-deco series was inspired by Burton’s films, the creators made their own universe for the heroes and villains of Gotham to play in. And much like the movies before it, a raft load of toys followed. More Batman variants than you could shake a batarang at.

One has to imagine that, flush with bat-bucks from cartoon toys, DC was eager to license out other big-name characters to toy makers.

Enter Wonder Woman and Mattel. Diana, Princess of Themiscyra, is an Amazon princess who left her island paradise home to come to “Man’s World” and make a better world. Alongside Superman and Batman, Wonder Woman makes the third of DC’s Big Three “Trinity.” She’s a character with a rich, mythology-laced history and her own cast of supporting characters and foes.

At last, in a world torn by the hatred and wars of men, appears a woman to whom the problems and feats of men are mere child’s play. A woman whose identity is known to none, but whose sensational feats are outstanding in a fast-moving world.

She serves as a symbol of integrity and humanity, so that the world of men would know what it means to be an Amazon. With a hundred times the agility and strength of our best male athletes and strongest wrestlers, she appears as though from nowhere to avenge an injustice or right a wrong!

As lovely as Aphrodite- as wise as Athena- with the speed of Mercury and the strength of Hercules – She is known only as Wonder Woman!

—Narrator – All Star Comics #8 (Introducing Wonder Woman) – Written by William Moulton Marston


For an excellent history of the creation of Wonder Woman, we recommend the book “The Secret History of Wonder Woman” by Jill Lepore. You can read a great article written by Lepore for Smithsonian Magazine here. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/origin-story-wonder-woman-180952710/

Or check out this review from the NYT: https://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/24/books/the-secret-history-of-wonder-woman-by-jill-lepore.html 

Wonder Woman had been adapted multiple times by the ‘90s. First and foremost is the campy live-action ‘70s show with Lynda Carter in the title role. Wonder Woman had also appeared in DC’s “Super Friends” cartoons. An action figure of Wonder Woman was released as part of the ‘80s Kenner “DC Super Powers” line.

But she had never had her own animated series. Batman: The Animated Series stuck largely to adapting the Bat-Family of characters. So while we saw Catwoman, Harley Quinn, Poison Ivy, Batgirl, and Zatanna, none of the other ladies of the DC universe appeared. When Superman: the Animated Series ran a few years later, other DC characters like the Flash and Green Lantern started appearing, but Wonder Woman was sadly absent again.

But in 1993 all that was about to change.

Sparkling super heroines!


Introducing an exciting new world of fun where imagination and adventure know no bounds – where magical allies literally reach for the stars! This is the world of super heroines, brought forth by the combined creative genius of DC Comics, Mattel, and Warner Bros. Consumer Products. The arrival of Wonder Woman and the Star Riders signals a unique and truly progressive entry to the licensing arena. Fashioned with shimmery costumes and possessing fantastical powers, these super heroines will captivate girls ages 4 to 10. Their home is the spectacular Star Riders Palace, where they were brought to fulfill their dreams and destinies. They are the keepers of the magical jewels that protect the Earth and all its resources from the sorcery of evil foes. Each character has special powers that are magnified by the glistening star-jeweled belts they wear. And as a team, they are invincible. Their heroic adventures also inspire the gifts that every girl possesses – intelligence, courage and conviction.

The Wonder Woman and the Star Riders toy line will appear at the retail level by September ‘93. A dazzling debut is planned, including an animated, half-hour television special developed by Warner Bros. Animation, home video release, Mattel advertising, and other major marketing programs. These colorful and dynamic characters, unrivaled as role models, will delight and encourage girls to REACH FOR THE STARS!

Characters & Dolls

This attempt to bring Wonder Woman to the toy aisles and small screen surrounded her with heroes old and new. Justice League members Ice and Dolphin were joined by new characters Solara and Star Lily, with a new villainess named Purrsia. (Considering Cheetah is one of Wonder Woman’s main antagonists, a cat-themed villain in the Star Riders line is not unexpected, but considering the recent (1986) use of Catra in the She-Ra: Princess of Power toys and cartoon, it feels a bit tired to have another cat-themed villainess in a magical doll line from Mattel so soon after.)

The dolls are what can be considered “fashion-action” – 6-inch small dolls with long, combable hair, and fabric fashion pieces over a molded bodysuit design. This scale is clearly meant to invoke She-Ra, Golden Girl, and all the other fashion-action dolls of the mid to late ‘80s. It also meant that the molds used to make She-Ra’s horses and Clawdeen could be reused for Nightshine, Cloundancer, and Pantha, saving on tooling costs.

Aside from the dolls and animals, there was also the Starlight Palace Playset that looked significantly less ornate than She-Ra’s Crystal Castle. It featured an elevator, bed/table combo, monitoring room, and places to land the flying horses.

You can see the prototype dolls, animals, playset, and a couple of comic art pages in the 1993 Toy Fair Catalog from Mattel. These are the only real images of the dolls that have ever been available. Images have also surfaced of a possible 2nd-year addition of a Supergirl doll.

The characters were each given backstories in a 1993 Promotional Folder that was given out to potential licensors. This also included the lyrics to a theme song that sadly does not have sheet music to go along with it! There is also a great 3D foldout of the Starlight Palace along with Nightshine and Cloudancer.


Wonder Woman – Leader of the Star Riders

A wise and powerful woman came forth from the secret island of Themyscira to serve a valiant mission. The royal Princess Diana, daughter of Hippolyte, Queen of the Amazons. Now she is Wonder Woman. Wonder Woman uses her intelligence, courage and super-human strength to perform countless heroic deeds. Her golden Lasso of Truth forces her foes to tell no lies. The silver bracelets she wears are made of the strongest metal known to humankind. Her magical Wonder Wand amplifies her powers over corrupt forces and foes. She is pledged to protect the innocent and to promote justice in the world. She has a healing and compassion- ate nature, and works as a doctor when peo- ple of the Earth are in need.

Wonder Woman defends the ethereal Jewel of the Air, the force that sustains all earthly life. Each Star Rider was chosen guardian of a particular star-jewel because of her particular talent.

The Star Riders are bound by a monu- mental cause, but their determination will be tested again and again by the trials and adventures they face. To her sister Star Riders, Wonder Woman is not only a friend but also a gentle mentor. 


Solara – Guardian of the Sun’s Rays

Many dawns ago, high atop the Aztec Pyramid, the winged spirit of the Sun foretold the great purpose of Solara. That was the day she arrived on Earth. Her hair was the brilliant color of daybreak. The magnificence of the Sun shone from within her. Now, with the help of her luminous powers, all living things on Earth can flourish and grow strong.

The radiant Jewel of the Sun is in Solara’s care. She guards against foes who would block the Sun’s life-giving rays, or would force its blaze to scorch the Earth. She understands that the potent jewel she defends can be used for good or evil. Her own fiery light can blind the Sun’s enemies or melt menacing ice and snow. Solara brings passion and warmth to her adventures with the Star Riders, and also devotes her energies to a job as a photographer.


Ice – Protector of the Frozen North

Ice always knew that her future would be filled with frosts and flurries and glistening glaciers. She lived her early years as a princess of the legendary Ice Folk, whose secret home lies hidden deep within the snowy mountains of Norway. The peaceful people of her homeland knew her then as Tora Olafsdotter. But as she grew in beauty and wisdom, her future clearly called. She must take the name of Ice, confront the hazards and dangers of the outside world, and seek to bring harmony everywhere on Earth.

Ice guards the Jewel of Polar Balance. She challenges those who would disturb the natural forces and wreak havoc on the Earth. She fends off any force that would melt the polar ice caps and flood the precious planet. With the twinkling sound of her Magic Snowflake Wand, she can freeze foes in their tracks. Ice tends to be seri- ous and thoughtful, and her sister Star Riders admire her heartfelt devotion to her tasks- including her jobs as a writer, illustrator and part-time employee at an ice cream shop.


Dolphin – Denizen of the Deep Blue Seas, Friend to all Sea Creatures

Somewhere below the tides and beneath the Bermuda Triangle, a princess was born who would one day be called Dolphin. The people of her aquatic kingdom lived tranquil lives and curiosity was not their custom. But this princess had a keen and curious nature. She wondered about other watery worlds. And so she was sent forth to explore the briny deep, where she was schooled by dolphins both clever and quick. Now, as Dolphin, her resourceful and imaginative mind helps the Star Riders in vast and wonderful ways.

Dolphin defends the lustrous Jewel of the Ocean. She can deafen foes with her sonar shriek or encircle them with her Magical Bubbles. The creatures of the sea depend on her to help keep the waters clean and free from harm. She can speak the dolphin language and is the fastest of swimmers sliding and shimmering through the sea. Yet Dolphin lives just as easily on the land with all of humankind. In fact, having a job at Ocean World suits her talents perfectly.


Star Lily – Defender of Forests and Flora

Star Lily once lived with her family in a secret, lush land, hidden in an ancient volcanic crater. Her people formed a special symbiotic relationship with the plants that grew in the crater, and Star Lily learned to communicate telepathically with all the flowers and forests that surrounded her. All of nature was her classroom. It seemed a place where nothing could go wrong. But one day a terrible volcanic eruption occurred that ravaged this paradise. Only Star Lily escaped, holding tight to her favorite flower. She sensed that her survival was an extraordinary thing and, from that day forward, dedicated herself to serving the abundant Earth.

Star Lily safeguards the sumptuous Jewel of Plant Life.. She is an ally to the flora and fauna, the vines and vegetation, and the many trees of the forests. Her telepathic powers alert her to any dangers that lurk. One whiff of her Magical Flower instantly lulls her foes to sleep, but to anyone with good intentions it gives off a delightful scent, Star Lily is a steadfast and nurturing friend to her sister Star Riders.She also cultivates her natural abilities in her job as a florist and gardener.


Purrsia – Greedy Sorceress

Purrsia comes from a distant dimension, where she dwells in a dark crystal cave. Her powers are great, but her greed is greater. She covets and craves every gemstone she sees – especially the star-jewels that protect the Earth! Slipping through the secret portal that takes her to Earth, she stalks the Star Riders for a chance to snatch their magical jewels.

Wonder Woman and the Star Riders have reason to worry with Purrsia on their trail. The sorceress can detect the hidden magic within gemstones, and uses those properties to cast her evil spells. Peering through her glittery, cat- eyed glasses, she can spot magical gems and disappearing gems and every other sort of enchantment. But the jewels she touches absorb her wicked traits, as well. If she were to seize the magical star-jewels, the Sun would flare – the polar caps would thaw – the oceans would dissolve – the forests and plants would wither – and the air would be poisoned forever.

There was a time when Purrsia could have been like the Star Riders. She could have saved her own planet from ruin. Instead, she stole the jewels she was sworn to protect, thinking only of herself and her lust for power and riches. Now she loathes all goody-goodies, and detests Wonder Woman and the Star Riders most of all. Purrsia has vowed to defeat their goodness and she doesn’t give up easily.


Purrsia’s Cat (Pantha) – Servant to Purrsia

Purrsia’s cat is a reluctantly obedient servant. He doesn’t really mind being her main means of transportation and he likes it when she casts the spell that enables him to fly. But when she bosses him around and burdens him down with all her stolen gemstones, this feline thinks he would just rather work for somebody else.. He always manages to pick the wrong times to assert his independence and voice his hidden resentments. Consequently, he often botches up Purrsia’s schemes. If only Purrsia would treat him with more respect, perhaps he wouldn’t make so many mistakes. 




Nightshine and Cloudancer are noble steeds who guard the Star Riders Palace and transport the Star Riders back and forth from the Earth. Nightshine, a flying unicorn, lights the way to the palace with his twinkling horn. He first brought Wonder Woman to the Star Riders Palace and has since become her devoted companion.


Cloudancer bears a luminous star on his forehead that shines through the skies as he carries the Star Riders home. Both steeds are excellent judges of character, choosing only those who are good at heart to ride with them to the palace.



The Star Riders Palace floats in a field of clouds high above the Earth. Only extraordinary eyes can behold this twinkling palace, and only the Star Riders and their flying horses know the way there. The palace serves as the home base of Wonder Woman and the Star Riders. Safe within its walls, they can meet to plan their strategies for protecting the Earth and thwarting foes. And because this is a magical place, the Star Riders can transform the inside of the palace into any setting or sight they want to see.


Mini-comic vs possible storyline from animation 

The one and only piece of Star Riders merchandise that ever made it to market was a small mini-comic packed in with Kellog’s Cinnamon Mini Buns cereal. This thing is tiny, like 2×3 inches, much smaller than the mini comics that came with He-Man or She-Ra figures. It is purported that the dolls would have come with mini-comics of their own to tell more story, as shown in the article by Andy Mangels in Back Issue Magazine from 2006. (This link will take you to the page where you can purchase a digital issue for $5 to read the whole story – it’s well worth it!)

The mini-comic story could be called spare at best. It starts in media res, with four of five Star Riders having already lost their Star Jewels to Purrsia and trying to figure out what to do. (I gotta say, for being these ageless guardian-like figures they lost those jewels with alarming ease.) Catra Purrsia, for no reason other than greed and hating the “goody goody” Star Riders, flies straight into the Starlight Castle, literally opens a drawer in a bureau, and steal’s Dolphin’s jewel too. (Security for literally the last Star Jewel they have? Nah.) This causes the seas to go crazy. Purrsia uses a sleep jewel on the Star Riders, except Dolphin who chases after the sorceress on Cloudancer. When it looks like Purrsia has the upper hand, the other Star Riders arrive to save Dolphin and recover their jewels. Wonder Woman traps Purrsia in the Lasso of Truth, where she reveals that she is envious of the Star Riders and wants to join their sisterhood. Well, apparently Purrsia has figured out how to lie while in the Lasso of Truth, because as soon as she is released she steals the Star Jewels again and escapes Starlight Castle.

Other than the cute artwork, this is such a mess! We don’t know the characters, how they got their powers, what their Star Jewels even really do, how they came together. One would think that there might be an interest in telling the beginning of this story, but perhaps I expect too much of a cereal pack-in comic. I’m sure the people making this never intended it to be the only thing released, and that other mini-comics and the television special would flesh out the story and characters.

From the article in Back Issue, it appears that the animated special would have been different from the toy storyline (something any fan of Masters of the Universe or Princess of Power is intimately familiar with). In the animated version, the Star Riders would have been modern young women who are new to their powers and called upon to protect the Earth (a la Power Rangers “Teenagers with Attitude,” anyone?) I would prefer this overall – it reminds me of “Tenko and the Guardians of the Magic” with young magic users trying to figure out their powers. It just works better for the young audience than these strange ageless characters who somehow still don’t have it together.

Very little has been seen from the animated special. Andy Mangels mentions having shown a clip of it at SDCC back in the day, but that is nowhere to be seen online. One notable piece of information about it though are the great animation designs done by the artist Steve Gordon. Gordon worked for Disney before going to NEST, where he did designs for Richard Rich’s “The Swan Princess” animated feature film released in 1994. The Star Riders designs must have been done concurrently or right before the Swan Princess work. In the early 2000s, Gordon would once again return to superheroes when he did the designs for the animated “X-Men: Evolution,” another take on young versions of popular comics characters.


Sadly, Wonder Woman and the Star Riders never made it to market in 1993, largely because of what appears to have been retailer disinterest. One must wonder if they’d had a glut of leftover Princess of Power toys that had been hard to move and were therefore reluctant to take on another action-fashion line.

Mattel however, having invested in the costly tooling for these dolls, was not about to let those molds go unused. And in 1993, what property was hotter than Disney? In Mattel’s 1994 Toy Fair Catalog you can see the debut of the “Disney Musical Princesses.” These 6-inch dolls use the Star Riders bodies as a base for a property Mattel could be sure would sell.

But in 1995, we got what I think to be the true spiritual successor to Wonder Woman and the Star Riders: “Saban’s Tenko and the Guardians of the Magic.” Saban’s “Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers” had made BILLIONS over the previous couple of years, and Mattel no doubt saw dollar signs in their eyes when looking to work with the television producer. Tenko retains a Japanese flavor and inspiration like Power Rangers, but instead of spandex, martial arts, and dinozords, we are following the world of stage magic and Starfire gems. Within the Tenko line, we also saw utilization of both the Swiftwind and Clawdeen molds from She-Ra as Pearl Rider the horse and Ninjara the snow leopard. (I’m always amazed at the utility of those molds and how much use Mattel got out of them!) Tenko unfortunately fizzled out after only 13 episodes and a single wave of dolls. It has never had a proper video or streaming release, but thanks to the preservation work of fans and the JRA, you can watch all the episodes on our YouTube channel.

Wonder Woman’s next outing was 2001, where she showed up as part of the Justice League / Justice League Unlimited cartoons. This was the first time getting a good Wonder Woman in animation, where her backstory and origins were considered. I think all the interpretations of Wonder Woman since this cartoon owe something to the portrayal here. Susan Eisenberg is still my favorite voice for the character, and I thought the not-quite-romance with Batman was a fun touch. Diana pops up again in animation in 2009 for the direct-to-video Wonder Woman movie produced by DC Animation. This is a fantastic one-shot movie showing Diana’s origins and how she became Wonder Woman, and I think a lot of the flavor of fish-out-of-water in Man’s World Diana from this movie was utilized for characterization in the 2017 live-action film.

I think the true realization of Star Riders potential happened in 2015 with the debut of “DC Super Hero Girls” from DC and Mattel. This featured heroes and villains of the DC Universe attending Super Hero High School. It featured comics, webisodes, books, and of course dolls! The concept was relaunched in 2019 under the direction of artist Lauren Faust (known for working on Powerpuff Girls and My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic), who had previously done a series of shorts for DC Nation called “Super Best Friends Forever!” featuring Batgirl, Supergirl, and Wonder Girl.

In so many ways, DC Super Hero Girls gave audiences the female-forward take on the Justice League that Star Riders couldn’t deliver on. Yes, there were still lines with gowns (Galactic Gala), and long brushable hair, but these versions of the characters remained recognizable to the public familiar with superheroes. They didn’t try to water down the characters into paper-thin versions. 

While the doll-collector me loves the possibility and “what-if” of the Star Riders line, I recognize that it’s unlikely that it would have been a hit at retail with consumers. Tenko and Jewel Riders just two years later both struggled to find large fanbases with similar concepts. But my writer brain adores this odd side-trip into both Wonder Woman and Action Doll history. Who knows, with a good cartoon, comics, and successive waves, it could have turned out to be a success. 

There’s also a small Jewel Riders connection we unearthed! When speaking with Greg Autore, the toy designer for Jewel Riders, he revealed that he used the Disney Musical Princess dolls when making mock-up prototypes for Jewel Riders, which was then known as Enchanted Camelot. So in a way, those molds originally intended for Star Riders found their way into the DNA of Princess Gwenevere and friends. And what a magical legacy that is for the doll line that never was.

Friends Together, Friends Forever!


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