By Robert Kanigher, Ross Andru & Mike Esposito (DC Comics)
The Amazing Amazon Adventuress was created by polygraph pioneer William Moulton Marston – apparently at the behest of his remarkable wife Elizabeth – and illustrated by Harry G. Peter just as the spectre of another world-girdling global Armageddon loomed.
She debuted as an extra feature in All Star Comics #8 (December 1941) before catapulting into her own cover-starring series in Sensation Comics a month later. An instant smash-hit she also quickly won her own title in the Spring of that year (cover-dated Summer 1942).
Using the nom de plume Charles Moulton, Marston scripted all her many and fabulous adventures until his death in 1947, whereupon Robert Kanigher took over the writer’s role. The venerable co-creator H. G. Peter continued on as illustrator until his death in 1958. Wonder Woman #97, in April of that year, was his last hurrah and the discrete end of an era.
This second economical monochrome Showcase collection covers issues #118-137 from November 1960-April 1963, a period of increased fantasy frolics and wildly imaginative excess which still divides fans into violently opposing camps…
With the notable exception of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and a few anodyne back-up features, costumed heroes died out at the beginning of the 1950s, replaced by a plethora of merely mortal champions and a welter of anthologised genre titles.
Showcase #4 rekindled the public’s interest in costumed crime-busters with a new iteration of The Flash in 1956 (see Showcase Presents the Flash volume 1 or the first Flash: Archive Edition) the fanciful floodgates opened wide once more…
Whilst re-inventing a section of Golden Age Greats like Green Lantern, Atom and Hawkman, National/DC also updated all those hoary survivors who had weathered the backlash especially the Man of Steel, Caped Crusader and the ever-resilient Amazing Amazon…
Artists Ross Andru & Mike Esposito, who illustrated all Kanigher’s scripts in this all-ages compendium, had actually debuted as cover artists from #95, but with Wonder Woman #98 (May 1958) they took over the interiors as the writer/editor reinvented much of the old mythology and tinkered with her origins before letting her loose on an unsuspecting world.
The fanciful blend of girlish whimsy, rampant sexism, untrue romance, alien invasion, monster-mashing and all-out surreal (some would say-stream-of-consciousness) storytelling continues unabated here with ‘Wonder Woman’s Impossible Decision!’ (#118) and found the comely crusader constantly distracted from her mission to wipe out injustice by the antics of her savagely-sparring suitors Colonel Steve Trevor and Manno the mer-man.
Amazon science (and the unfettered imagination of Kanigher, for whom slavish continuity, consistency or rationality were never as important as a strong plot or breathtaking visual) had long enabled readers to share the adventures of Wonder Girl and latterly Wonder Tot – the Princess of Power as teen and toddler – both in their appropriate time-zones and, on occasion, teamed together on “Impossible Days”.
WW #119 opened with an adventure of the Titanic Teenager in ‘Mer-Boy’s Secret Prize!’ wherein the besotted undersea booby repeatedly risked his life to win his inamorata a flashy treasure, whilst in ‘Three Wishes of Doom!’ a capable but arrogant young girl won a competition and claimed Wonder Woman’s Bracelets, Lasso and Tiara, with the disastrous idea of using them to out-do the Amazing Amazon…
‘The Secret of Volcano Mountain!’ in #120 pitted teen and adult Amazon – a decade apart – against the same terrifying threat when an alien elemental twice attempted to conquer the world, after which an Impossible Day event had Wonder Girl, her older self and their mother Queen Hippolyta unite to defeat the monster-packed peril of ‘The Island Eater!’
‘The Skyscraper Wonder Woman’ introduced her pre-schooler incarnation when the Sinister Seer of Saturn sought to invade Earth with a colossal robot facsimile whilst de-aging the Amazon to her younger – but thankfully, no less competent – adolescent and pre-adolescent incarnations…
Wonder Woman #123 opened with a glimpse at the ‘Amazon Magic-Eye Album!’ as Hippolyta reviewed some of the crazy exploits of her daughter as Tot, Teen and adult adventuress, whilst the issue after managed to team them all together against the unfortunately named shape-shifting nuclear threat of the Multiple Man on ‘The Impossible Day!’
Steve and Manno resumed their war for the heroine’s hand in marriage in #125’s ‘Wonder Woman… Battle Prize!’ with the improbable trio ending up marooned on a beast and alien amoeba-men infested Blue Lagoon…
‘Wonder Tot and Mister Genie!’ was the first of two tales in WW #126, depicting what might happen when an imaginative super-kid is left on her own, whilst exasperated US Air Force lieutenant Diana Prince got steamed at being her own romantic rival for Steve Trevor in ‘The Unmasking of Wonder Woman!’ The next issue opened with the defeat of another extraterrestrial assault in ‘Invaders of the Topsy-Turvy Planet’ before ‘Wonder Woman’s Surprise Honeymoon!’ gave the usually incorrigible Colonel Trevor a terrifying foretaste of what married life with his Amazon Angel would be like…
WW#128 revealed the astounding and rather charming ‘Origin of the Amazing Robot Plane!’ before things turned a bit more serious when our heroine endured the deadly ‘Vengeance of the Angle Man!’
In #129 another spectacular Impossible Day adventure featured the entire Wonder Woman Family (that would be just her at three different ages with her mum alongside to save the day) in ‘The Vengeance of Multiple Man!’ whilst #130 opened with Wonder Tot discovering the ‘Secret of Mister Genie’s Magic Turban!’ and ended with an outrageous and embarrassing attack by Angle Man on her mature self in ‘The Mirage Mirrors!’
‘The Proving of Wonder Woman!’ in #131 detailed the history of her unique epithets such as “Thunderbolts of Jove”, “Neptune’s Trident” and “Great Hera” whilst the back-up tale ‘Wonder Woman’s Surprise Birthday Gift!’ saw the indefatigable Manno risk all manner of maritime monsters to find her a dazzling bauble whilst the Amazon herself was trying to find her mother a present.
‘Wonder Tot and the Flying Saucer!’ depicted how the adult Amazon turned herself into a toddler to converse with a baby and discover the secret of a devastating alien atomic attack and the second story revealed some ancient romantic encounters which occurred when ‘Wonder Queen Fights Hercules!’
Wonder Woman #133 cover-featured the Impossible Tale of ‘The Amazing Amazon Race!’ wherein Tot, Teen, Woman and Queen competed in a fraught athletic contest with deadly consequences, whilst in Man’s World Diana Prince took centre-stage to become ‘Wonder Woman’s Invincible Rival… Herself!’ when a movie-project went dangerously awry.
‘Menace of the Mirror Wonder Women!’ pitted her and Steve against the Image-Maker; a deadly other-dimensional mastermind who could animate and enslave reflections, and #134 closed with another disastrous sub-sea date for Wonder Girl when she had to prevent ‘The Capture of Mer-boy!’
It was one more time for Multiple Man as he/it returned again to battle the Wonder Woman Family in #135’s Impossible Day drama ‘Attack of the Human Iceberg!’ whilst the next issue had the Female Fury transformed into a ravenous and colossal threat to humanity after alien machine men infected with a growth-agent and she became ‘Wonder Woman… World’s Greatest Menace!’
This fabulous follow-up compendium concludes with #137’s classic duel on an ersatz Earth with mechanical replicas of the world’s populace and metal facsimiles of all the Amazons. Our foremost female defender had to overcome ‘The Robot Wonder Woman!’ if she had any hope of returning with Steve to their own sweet home…
By modern narrative standards these exuberant, effulgent fantasies are usually illogical and occasionally just plain bonkers, but in those days less attention was paid to continuity and shared universes: adventure in the moment was paramount and these utterly infectious romps simply sparkled then and now with fun, thrills and sheer spectacle.
Wonder Woman is rightly revered as a focus of female strength, independence and empowerment, but the welcoming nostalgia and easy familiarity of such innocuous costumed fairytales must be a delight for open-minded readers, whilst the true, incomparable value of these stories is the incredible quality of entertainment they still offer.
© 1960-1963, 2008 DC Comics, Inc. All Rights Reserved.