Category Archives: Wonder Woman

Wonder Woman: The First Decade

Unsurprisingly Ms. magazine’s staff were big fans of Wonder Woman. Hence this 1972 Wonder Woman anthology being identified on the inside as a “Ms. Book,” and opening with an essay from Gloria Steinem (one of the better known feminists of the Bronze Age) discussing her own love for the book and the presence of female role models other than The Girlfriend (not just WW but Queen Hippolyta and the other Amazons). There’s also a good essay by Phyllis Chesler on the history of the Amazon legend.

Just to put this in perspective, in the early Bronze Age there were few resources for reading Golden Age stories. No TPB archives. No digital collections. Either you found a comic shop that had Golden Age material for sale and ponied up, or you read whatever reprints DC occasionally offered (the same is true of Marvel, but as their glory days were the Silver Age, that was most of their reprints until the 21st century). So that made this collection that much more interesting.

After the first couple of stories introducing the Amazons and bringing Wonder Woman to America (which I already have reprints of), the book breaks down into several categories:

Sisterhood. Stories of the Amazing Amazon empowering women: defeating Dr. Psycho’s misogynist propaganda, helping his wife when she’s enmeshed in another bad guy’s schemes. And rebutting the claims of sexists that women have no place outside the home.

Politics. As John Trumbull recently pointed out at Atomic Junkshop, comics have always had a political element. The first story in this section, for instance, has an American town threatened by post-WW II homegrown fascists. The next two stories are much weaker and The Five Tasks of Thomas Tighe seems it would fit better under Sisterhood (to win needed funds for their college, Etta Candy and her sorority sisters have to accomplish a misogynist’s five impossible missions).

Romance. Here it’s two out of three. The first story involves a crime ring giving Steve superpowers in the belief he’ll overawe Wonder Woman, marry her and turn her into an ordinary housewife. Diana, however, decides she can’t accept a man who’s stronger than she is, so Steve gives up his new powers on the spot. The next story is a more conventional romantic rivalry and the last one (by Robert Kanigher) is just sexist (Diana falls for a disguised bad guy, Steve ends up saving her). Of course, as Marston biographer Jill Lepore has pointed out, a lot of the non-Marston stories were more sexist, so it’s a fair representation of the era.

Overall, though, it’s a good collection, worth reading if you like this era of the Amazing Amazon — though now you can find most of these stories in several more recent collections from DC.

WW image by Harry G. Peters, all rights to cover remain with current holder. #SFWApro



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Wonder women, national heroes and an anything box: this week’s reading

WONDER WOMAN: Godwatch is the best of Greg Rucka’s Rebirth Wonder Woman run (with various artists in this TPB) because it breaks new ground rather than retconning out the New 52. This story shows Rucka’s run from the viewpoint of villain Veronica Cale and her desperate attempts to save her daughter from Ares’ sons Phobos and Deimos. It’s still a disappointing run, but this volume was way more enjoyable.

MONSTRESS: Awakening and MONSTRESS: The Blood by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda are fantasy graphic novels set in a world of mages, mortals and anthropomorphic animals pulling itself together after a cataclysmic war. Maika Halfwolf, the protagonist, becomes the target of everyone because of her legendary mother’s heroism and the magic that has placed some sort of monster inside her. The first volume was beautiful to look at, but it didn’t hook me, simply because I couldn’t tell the various factions (Dawn Court, Cumaea, Arcanics) apart even though the creators provide a score card. Vol. 2, though, held my attention much better as it has a simpler plot, involving Maika’s quest aboard a pirate ship for information about her curse. I look forward to Vol. 3.

SUPERGIRL: Escape From the Phantom Zone by Steve Orlando and Brian Ching was a big improvement on the previous volume, if only because it’s not so obviously tied to the TV show. With Batgirl’s help, Supergirl breaks into the Phantom Zone to rescue one of the prisoners, but of course things don’t go smoothly … While the A plot was readable, I don’t see the point in using a new version of the Legion of Super-Heroes’ arch foes, the Fatal Five, as Supergirl’s adversary — or does that mean the Legion will show up just as they’ve done in the CW Supergirl this season?

CAPTAIN BRITAIN: The Siege of Camelot by multiple artists and writers goes in the opposite direction, dropping in quality from the stories in Birth of a Legend. The last installments of Cap’s original strip are written by Stan Lee’s less talented brother Larry Lieber and only occasionally get good. Then Chris Claremont scripts a fun crossover with Spider-Man, then the book switches to the Black Knight’s backup strip in the UK Hulk Weekly. This introduced Captain Britain as a supporting character, but never rises much above stock sword-and-sorcery B-list stuff. Too bad the book cuts off before Alan Moore took over Britain’s adventures.

BLACK PANTHER: A Nation Under Our Feet, Book Three by Ta-Nehisi Coates and Brian Steelfreeze wraps up Coates arc as T’Challa finally brings piece to the war-ravaged Wakanda. Coates writes politics and political debate better than a lot of comics writers, but the big dramatic ending of Wakanda becoming a constitutional monarchy (I think) lacks punch — it’s not like overthrowing Dr. Doom, after all. Better than a lot of non-comics guest writers manage but not a winner.

THE ANYTHING BOX by Zenna Henderson is one of her two collections build primarily around the premise “what if the world was as irrational and impossible as children think?” A TK boy picks the wrong time to grow up. A teacher steals a child’s fantasy (“I have almost forgotten my glimpse of what your heart’s desire looks like when it’s built on someone else’s heartbreak.”). A five-year-old locks up a force of darkness in a rabbit’s burrow. Darker than I remember Henderson (which isn’t bad) but quite enthralling. Cover by Hector Garrido, all rights remain with current holder.


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Wonder Woman: So nice, she reboots twice! (#SFWApro)

In my last Wonder Woman post I predicted it would be a while before my next rereading post. But the issues launching the next soft reboot parallel the Greg Rucka/Liam Sharp Rebirth TPB The Truth so I figured I’d combine them in one post.

After exposing Morgan Tracy as the Master Planner, Gerry Conway’s follow-up issue (cover by Ross Andru and Dick Giordano, all rights remain with current holder) has Diana trying to get back to normal. However the unceasing violence of Man’s World is getting to her, as is the police inability to lock up bad people (because Miranda rights! Fourth amendments! Obviously guilty criminals getting off!). And learning Tracy arranged Steve’s death just rubs that wound raw. So Diana returns to Paradise Island, thinking maybe she’ll stay for good. Hippolyta decides the best way to make her daughter happy is to erase her memories of Steve (not the first time she’s mucked with Diana’s memories).

Everything is fine, but after a couple of issues dealing with extradimensional intelligences mistakenly thinking the Amazons are a threat, a plane crashes on Paradise Island. The pilot? Steve Trevor.

Diana doesn’t remember him, though she’s conscious she feels astonishingly attracted to him almost at once. A bewildered Hippolyta goes to ask Aphrodite who explains that this Steve Trevor is a parallel world version whose plane crashed through the dimensional barriers into our world (and there’s no way to figure out where his home Earth is). Aphrodite concludes that destiny is clearly a Diana/Steve ‘shipper, so there’s no point in fighting it. Instead, she magically erases the world’s memory of Steve Trevor’s death so that this Steve can take up his counterpart’s life unawares. Once again the Amazons hold a tournament to decide who will accompany Steve back to Man’s World; while reluctant to leave, Diana is obligated to compete and finally accepts she can’t let her fears hold her back. She and Steve head off to the US together.

This, of course, is close to Robert Kanigher’s late-Silver Age reboot, but that suffered from lack of clarity — was it a complete reboot? Set back in the 1940s? Or what? Here readers know exactly why the book is redoing the origin. In the same retro spirit, Diana would go on to become a military intelligence officer alongside Steve in subsequent issues—I haven’t read ’em yet but I remember them. Apparently it was a successful move as this reboot lasted close to sixty issues — nothing since they dropped that set-up has done that well.

I only wish The Truth had been as good a reboot. Capping off Rucka’s first two volumes, this finishes retconning the New 52 Wonder Woman away.




It turns out that Ares is imprisoned on Themiscyra to prevent him destroying the world with war madness; the Amazons are there to guard him. If Diana ever returned home, that would give a road map to Ares’ sons Deimos and Phobos, who could then free him and drown the world in blood. To prevent that, all her trips back to the island have been imaginary (presumably so have all her New 52 Olympian adventures). Now that she knows she’s exiled from Themiscyra forever, she starts over with Steve, and the story ends with them exhausted in bed after making love.

As I said after reading Rucka’s first two TPBs, I really like his handling of Diana, I just don’t like the story he’s telling. This could have been wrapped up in two or three issues instead of seven — did we really need the two issues were Diana was locked up in an asylum believing her mind has snapped? And wouldn’t it just have been easier for the Amazons to tell Di she could never return home than play these games? I know, that’s par for the course in retcons and reboots, but much as I disliked the New 52 WW, this didn’t work for me. And unlike Conway’s, it doesn’t look like this is leading anywhere good: the current arc is focused on the Twin Brother We Never Knew Diana Had and Grail, Darkseid’s Amazon daughter. As they were both introduced by Geoff Johns in his Darkseid War arc in Justice League, I wonder if the current writer picked them or Johns’ standing at DC means they must be treated as the next big thing. I imagine I’ll find out when the library gets the TPBs.

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Wonder Woman: Cartels, assassins and Animal Man (#SFWApro)

So having seen Paul Levitz take over from Jack C. Harris (as described in a previous post), I said I was tentatively looking forward to Levitz’ run as he was a better writer. His “run” lasted all of four issues after which Gerry Conway took over with #259 (cover by Jose Delbo, all rights to current holder). Conway would stick around for a while, but he’d erase Paul Levitz’ changes — bringing her back to NYC and the UN — within a dozen issues. And two of those were stories held over from when Diana was an astronaut in training.

After a couple of unremarkable Levitz issues, Conway launched his first plotline, involving a scheme that felt like another hold over, from when he’d been a writer on Thor: Mars usurps Zeus’ control of Olympus, then manipulates Wonder Woman to make her look like a public menace, sets up Hercules as Earth’s new hero and schemes to thereby rule Earth as well as Olympus. It’s not dreadful but it’s not terribly good.

There’s also a subplot followed up from the astronaut period in which Diana’s been redflagged by security: someone’s discovered Diana Prince doesn’t exist, and is therefore a security flag. This doesn’t make much sense — it was established in both Silver and Golden Ages that Diana borrowed another woman’s identity — and it’s promptly dropped.

The big plot is Wonder Woman’s fight against the Cartel, a sinister crime syndicate run by the Master Planner who gives directives to his agents from the submarine he uses as a base. The Bushmaster (see the previous post above) was one assassin, who gets an upgrade (amped up versions of African weapons such as the knobkerry club) but they also have four other top killers each representing a different continent. The Gaucho is reasonably decent, but Red Fang (deadly martial artist), Lumberjack (axe-wielding Canadian killer) and the European disguise master the Chameleon (which is hardly a distinctively European skill) are far more forgettable.

More memorable is that she wound up teaming up with Animal Man in part of the adventures (cover by Ross Andru, all rights remain with current holder). While Grnat Morrison established A-Man as a good B-lister, this was his first appearance in a decade, so it was really notable (I was a fan of his early stories). Conway establishes a lot more about Buddy than we knew originally, like his last name and his profession (stunt man), though he also plays down Buddy’s previous stories to make him even more of a minor character.

The final confrontation with the Cartel is jaw-dropping, but not in a good way. It turns out the Master Planner is really UN troubleshooter Morgan Tracy (introduced first as a possible love interest, then as Diana’s boss) which makes no sense—it’s not just completely out of the blue but we never get any sort of explanation. And then we have Tracy declaring that as UN security chief (which isn’t his job) he’s the one responsible for Steve Trevor’s most recent death, which doesn’t make any sense at all (including motive). It feels like an awkward, rushed wrap-up to justify Diana moving on to a new setting/job. Knowing what’s ahead, I’m guessing it was another attempt to juice sales when the return to NYC didn’t do it, but I don’t know that for sure.

The next phase actually lasted until the mid-1980s George Perez reboot erased all previous WWs. So I’ll probably do my next post after I finish Conway’s run (about a dozen more issues).

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The excruciatingly slow rebirth of Wonder Woman(#SFWApro)

As my three previous posts this week have been woman-centered, I figured I’d throw in one more. And conveniently, I just finished the first two TPBs of Wonder Woman Rebirth  The Lies and Year One — by Greg Rucka and artists Liam Sharp (The Lies) and Nicola Scott (Year One). Cover by Sharp, all rights remain with current holder.

Rebirth is DC’s latest reboot, meant to restore everything they screwed up when they rebooted their post-Crisis universe into the New 52. It’s been a mixed bag include books that don’t reboot at all and those that soft-reboot the character back to some earlier incarnation. In WW’s case, Rebirth means retconning away the New 52 origin and apparently most of her New 52 adventures.

In The Lies Wonder Woman finds herself torn between the post-Crisis origin from the 1980s and the New 52 daughter-of-Zeus version. Trying to figure this out requires saving Steve and her old foe the Cheetah from a demon-god with plans for them both. At the end, it becomes obvious the New 52 origin is just an illusion, but who imposed it on her? And why? In Year One we get the Perez origin retold with minor changes: Wonder Woman had lovers on Themyscira (this is actually a big change in the character, but it hardly affects the story any) she didn’t get super powers until after arriving in the US, Etta Candy is a black military officer (good, but I’d still pick the fun-loving sorority girl from Earth One as the best Candy reboot).

The good stuff. Rucka really does write a good Wonder Woman and I really enjoyed Year One. There’s a sequence where Diana uses her bracelets to protect a mother and child during a terrorist incident and its really powerful. And this is the first time in years the post-crisis version of the Cheetah has been interesting.

And I’m delighted to get rid of the New 52’s origin and the Olympian adventures. As I’ve said before, they’d have made a great story for a new character, not so much for Diana. It’s also nice to see Steve Trevor (Rucka writes him well) and Diana as a couple.

The not-so-good. This is the fifth version of Diana’s origin in the past few years, following Bombshells, Legends of Wonder Woman, Earth One and Wonder Woman: The True Amazon. Not to mention the movie. It’s a good story, yes, but it’s not that good. And unlike some of those other retellings, Rucka’s not throwing much that hasn’t been seen before. And while I realize there aren’t many other “iconic” WW tales to retell, there’s always the possibility of, you know, telling new ones.

And the villain in The Lies turns out to be Veronica Cale, a villain in a business suit who’s never interested me much.

The bad stuff. Like I said, I’m happy to get rid of the New 52 origin (though using it in the movie probably means it’ll stick around in the public mind) but at this point we’re ten issues into Rucka’s run and we’re still working on the reboot. The end of The Lies where Diana realizes the New 52 Paradise Island is just an illusion packs a punch — but we’d seen her make the same discovery about Olympus a few issues earlier. I’d have preferred to see this resolved in three issues tops. Likewise the origin could be done in one. True, Perez took a half-dozen issues, but his version was a major overhaul of the 1940s original. Rucka’s just retelling Perez.

I’m very glad I read library copies instead of buying them myself.



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Wolfhounds, syphilis, Wonder Woman and more: books (#SFWApro)

WOLFHOUND CENTURY by Peter Higgins (cover design by Lauren Panepinto, all rights to current holder) is an excellent fantasy (which I learned about through some posts by Michal Wojcik) in a very different setting, an alt.Russian city of the twentieth century, but with magic. The protagonist, Lom, is a provincial cop transplanted to one of the big cities (the blog posts suggest Leningrad as the prototype) to crack a conspiracy that may have infiltrated the secret police itself. It turns out Lom is caught in a struggle between a fallen angel and the soul of the Russian forests for the future of the nation. I really liked this one.

POX: Genius, Madness and the Mysteries of Syphilis, by Deborah Hayden disappointed me. After spending a few chapters on the probably history of syphilis (there are large gaps in what we know — even the belief it came from the New World is still debated) focuses on various famous figures (Beethoven, Schubert, Van Gogh, Hitler) who had syphilis or may have had syphilis and reviewing their symptoms for evidence. I didn’t find anything terribly insightful in the results, nor even convincing in the speculative cases, though that may reflect I didn’t care that much.

WONDER WOMAN: The True Amazon by Jill Thompson is yet another retelling of Diana’s origins (in the past few years we’ve had Wonder Woman: Earth One, The Legend of Wonder Woman and now another version in DC: Rebirth. This one amounts to giving Diana a Peter Parker backstory: as the only child on Themiscyra, she grows up spoiled and selfish, leading to a tragedy in which her selfishness gets one of the other Amazons killed. And so she sets out into the world to redeem herself … I honestly never felt WW needed a redemption arc and this doesn’t change my opinion at all.

SIXTH GUN: Hell and High Water by Cullen Bunn and Brian Hurtt is the penultimate volume as Becky and Sinclair engage in a last-ditch attack on the Grey Witch before she can use the Six Guns to remake the world. They lose, but it turns out the guns only open a gateway to the place where the remaking actually happens. Things were so grim I felt disappointed we didn’t get a finish, but I’m hoping for a spectacular wrap-up.

STITCHES by David Small is a good graphic-novel memoir in which the author recounts his uneasy life with his dysfunctional (what else?) family, the discovery of a strange growth on his neck, and his slow realization it might be something serious. Well done.


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Wonder Woman in Love (or Out of It) (#SFWApro)

Writing about Wonder Woman’s romance with Mike Bailey this week had me thinking about her romantic life post-Silver Age. Or more precisely, her lack of one.

After Steve Trevor’s death, Diana had a couple of romances in her non-super period, but in the time honored TV/comics adventure tradition of meeting a beautiful/handsome person in one adventure, forgeting about them the next. Then we had a brief hint of romance with Diana’s UN boss, Morgan Tracy, then the return of Steve from the dead. But then we jumped to the retcon WW II adventures, where Steve was largely a coworker, not a boyfriend. After the series returned to the present, we had Steve die again, and I don’t think Diana had a love interest until he returned (I’ll get to that story eventually).

When George Perez rebooted Wonder Woman, Steve was emphatically not a romantic possibility, but Perez didn’t offer an alternative. She didn’t get a guy IIRC until she had a brief flirtation with Nemesis (which didn’t end well), then in the New 52 she and Superman were an item briefly.

That’s unusual for a super-hero. Green Lantern lost Carol Ferris in the mid-sixties (she married someone else) but he found other girlfriends (he’s bounced back and forth between Carol and whoever the current GL writer picks as an alternative ever since). Cap’s great love since the Silver Age has been Sharon Carter, but when she’s been dead or disappeared, he’s had other women (attorney Bernie Rosenthal, not-so-bad villain Diamondback). When Iris West died, Barry found a new girlfriend eventually.

I’m guessing writers feel awkward working with such a prominent female character/feminist symbol. Should they show her having sex? What sort of man is appropriate?  I know some fans love Steve Trevor precisely because he’s willing to date a woman who’s his superior in every way; other people favor Superman as someone who’s even more super than Wonder Woman.

Is it a good thing that WW’s not defined by her boyfriends or her romances? Certainly it’s preferable to the romance comics phase of her Silver Age adventures (from which the Ross Andru cover comes — all rights remain with current holder, of course). Or does avoiding the subject limit her as a character and a hero? Does it say something about how comics write female super-heroes? Now that I think about it, there are a lot fewer female heroes who date ordinary people than male heroes do. What does that signify — that it’s harder to imagine a guy in the conventional support role of the hero’s lover?

I have no firm conclusions, but I thought the topic was worth a post.

[UPDATE: Reading a later letter column I learned that during the space shuttle period they were thinking of hooking Diana up with Green Lantern but for various reasons it never came to pass. Which shows the risks of assuming comics are purely shaped by their creative teams and not by outside forces]


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