Sensation Comics Featuring Wonder Woman volume 2


By Michael Jelenic, Adam P. Knave, Alex De Campi, Amy Chu, James Tynion IV, Heather Nuhfer, Lauren Beukes, Cecil Castelucci, Sara Ryan, Aaron Lopresti, Drew Johnson, Matthew Dow Smith, Ray Snyder, Neil Googe, Bernard Chang, Noelle Stevenson, Ryan Benjamin, Mike Maihack, Chris Sprouse & Karl Story, Christian Duce & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-5862-7

The Princess of Paradise Island originally debuted as a special feature in All Star Comics #8 (December 1941), conceived by psychologist and polygraph pioneer William Moulton Marston and illustrated by Harry G. Peter, in a calculated attempt to offer girls a positive and forceful role model and, on forward-thinking Editor M.C. Gaines’ part, to sell more funnybooks to girls.

Wonder Woman then catapulted into her own series and the cover-spot of new anthology title Sensation Comics one month later.

An instant hit, the Amazing Amazon won her own eponymous supplemental title a few months later, cover-dated summer 1942…

Once upon a time on a hidden island of immortal super-women, American aviator Steve Trevor of US Army Intelligence crashed to Earth. Near death, he was nursed back to health by young, impressionable Princess Diana.

Fearful of her besotted child’s growing obsession with the creature from a long-forgotten and madly violent world, Diana’s mother Queen Hippolyte revealed the hidden history of the Amazons: how they were seduced and betrayed by men but rescued by the goddess Aphrodite on condition they forever isolate themselves from the mortal world and devote their eternal lives to becoming ideal, perfect creatures.

However, with the planet in crisis, goddesses Athena and Aphrodite instructed Hippolyte to send an Amazon back with the American to fight for global freedom and liberty. Although forbidden to compete, closeted, cosseted Diana clandestinely overcame all other candidates to become their emissary: Wonder Woman.

On arriving in the Land of the Free she purchased the identity and credentials of lovelorn Army nurse Diana Prince, which elegantly allowed the unregistered immigrant to stay close to Steve whilst enabling the heartsick care-worker to join her own fiancé in South America.

The new Diana soon gained a position with Army Intelligence as secretary to General Darnell, further ensuring she would always be able to watch over her beloved. She little suspected that, although the painfully shallow Steve only had eyes for the dazzling Amazon superwoman, the General had fallen for the mousy but supremely competent Lieutenant Prince…

That set up enabled the Star-Spangled Siren to weather the vicissitudes of the notoriously transient comicbook marketplace and survive the end of the Golden Age of costumed heroes beside Superman, Batman and a few lucky hangers-on who inhabited the backs of their titles.

She soldiered on well into the Silver Age revival under the canny auspices of Robert Kanigher, Ross Andru & Mike Esposito, but by 1968 superhero comics were in decline again and publishers sought new ways to keep audiences interested as tastes – and American society – changed.

Back then, the entire industry depended on newsstand sales and if you weren’t popular, you died.

Jack Miller, Denny O’Neill & Mike Sekowsky stepped up with a radical depowering and made comicbook history with the only female superhero to still have her own title in that marketplace. Eventually however, merely mortal trouble-shooter gave way to a reinvigorated Amazing Amazon who battled declining sales (thanks to a TV-inspired boost) until DC’s groundbreaking Crisis on Infinite Earths after which she was once again fundamentally reimagined.

Minor tweaks in her continuity accommodated different creators’ tenures until 2011 when DC rebooted their entire comics line again and Wonder Woman once more underwent a drastic, fan-infuriating root-and-branch refit.

Possibly to mitigate the fallout the publishers okayed a number of fall-back options such as this intriguing package…

Sensation Comics Featuring Wonder Woman began as “digital first” series appearing online before (months later) collecting a number of chapters into every issue of a new standard comicbook. Crafted by a fluctuating roster of artists and writers, the contents highlighted every previous era and incarnation of the character – and even a few wildly innovative alternative visions – offering a wide variety of thrilling, engaging and sincerely fun-filled moments to remember.

The comicbook iteration was enough of a success to warrant its own series of trade paperback compilations which – in the fullness of time and nature of circularity – gained their own digital avatars as eBooks too.

This second full-colour paperback collection collects Sensation Comics Featuring Wonder Woman #6-10 (March-July 2015) and offers another legion of talent and multitude of different visions, beginning with ‘Generations’ by Michael Jelenic & Drew Johnson wherein an annual odyssey to find the perfect gift for Amazon Queen – and forbidding mother – Hippolyta leads Diana into battle with mythical monsters, an old arch enemy and her own drive to over-achieve…

‘Not Included’ by Adam P. Knave & Matthew Dow Smith then pairs the Princess of Paradise Island with Apokolyptian New God Big Barda against the evil super-science and robotic hordes of The Brain and M’sieu Mallah, after which a decidedly different take by Alex De Campi & Neil Googe finds Wonder Woman coming to the rescue of a commercial space station above the Second Rock from the Sun in ‘Venus Rising’

Amy Chu & Bernard Chang go out-world to celebrate the concept of Wonder Woman in ‘Rescue Angel’ as soldiers pinned down in Afghanistan are saved by Lt. Angel Santiago. The wounded woman warrior then claims her outstanding actions under fire are the result of a vision from her beloved comicbooks…

Spectacular action and sinister skulduggery informs Heather Nuhfer & Ryan Benjamin’s clash between the Amazing Amazon and Lex Luthor, who proves that ‘Sabotage is in the Stars’ when the Indian government’s space program starts impacting Lexcorp’s projected profits…

James Tynion IV & Noelle Stevenson introduce feisty teen Riley as guide to a culture-shocked young Diana in ‘Wonder World’. As they bond over stupid boys and cheesy beachside entertainments, the girls are blithely unaware that the Princess’ Amazon bodyguards are frantically searching for their AWOL charge…

‘The Problem with Cats’ by Lauren Beukes & Mike Maihack takes a light-hearted look at sisterhood and the rivalry between Wonder Woman and the Cheetah… or is it all in the over-active imagination of frustrated. grounded little African girl Zozo…?

When Daily Planet journalist Lois Lane is ordered to interview Wonder Woman, the ice is only broken after an monster invasion leads to a splendid ‘Girl’s Day Out’ courtesy of Cecil Castelucci, Chris Sprouse & Karl Story whilst Sara Ryan & Christian Duce reveal a timely intervention that saves the life and emotional stability of ‘VIP’ pop star Esperanza…

Aaron Lopresti then wraps up this parade of pulse-pounding peril and cavalcade of insightful episodes with a brutal dragon-slaying clash. ‘Casualties of War’ shows Diana’s abiding reluctance to engage in battle but how sometimes there is no other choice…

Augmented by a spectacular covers-&-variants gallery from Paul Davey, Shane Davis, Michelle & Alex Sinclair, Ben Caldwell & Francesco Francavilla, this is another scintillating snapshot of the astounding variety of visions Wonder Woman has inspired in her decades of existence, and one to delight fans old and new alike.
© 2015 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Diana Prince, Wonder Woman volume 1


By Mike Sekowsky, Denny O’Neil, Dick Giordano & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-84576-776-1

With Wonder Woman once again a media darling and screen superstar, I think it’s high time I revisited a favourite trade paperback collection whilst conspicuously grinding an old axe of mine. Diana Prince, Wonder Woman was originally collected in the first decade of this century, celebrating a critical period in the long life of the amazing Amazon but has dropped out of print now and isn’t even available in a digital format. That’s just wrong, wrong, wrong… especially as it portrayed her as a mere mortal overcoming astounding odds with no more than wits, grace, training and a formidable fashion-sense…

I hope you’ll forgive me that heartfelt outburst, but with the movie hype in full blast, it’s about time DC Comics re-released one of the most appealing and memorable sequences in the long history of the most famous female comic character in the world…

In 1968 superhero comics were once again in decline and publishers were looking for ways to stay profitable – or even just in business – as audience tastes changed. Back then, with the entire industry dependent on newsstand sales, if you weren’t popular, you died. Handing over the hoary, venerable and increasingly moribund Wonder Woman title to Editor Jack Miller and Mike Sekowsky, the bosses sat back and waited for their eventual failure, and prepared to cancel the only female superhero in the marketplace…

The superbly eccentric art of Sekowsky had been a DC mainstay for decades, and he had also scored big with Man from Uncle fans at Gold Key and at Tower Comics with T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents and war comic Fight the Enemy!

His unique take on the Justice League of America had contributed to its overwhelming success, and now he was stretching himself with a number of experimental projects, focussed on the teen and youth-markets.

Tapping into the teen zeitgeist with the Easy Rider styled drama Jason’s Quest proved ultimately unsuccessful, but with the Metal Men and the hopelessly hidebound Wonder Woman he had much greater impact. Sekowsky would ultimately work the same magic with Supergirl in Adventure Comics (another epic and intriguing run of tales long overdue for compilation).

This first volume (collecting Wonder Woman #178-184 of the comic book series, spanning October 1968 to October 1969) shows just how bold were those changes to the Amazing Amazon’s career. With neophyte scripter Denny O’Neil on board for the first four tales, we see the old star-spangled stalwart one last time as she clears long-time boyfriend Colonel Steve Trevor of a murder-plot in ‘Wonder Woman’s Rival’ before everything changes…

Issue #179 heralded huge changes as ‘Wonder Woman’s Last Battle’ saw the immortal Amazons of Paradise Island forced to abandon our dimensional plane, taking with them all their magic – including all Wonder Woman’s astounding gadgets and weapons such as the Invisible Plane and Golden Lasso – and even her mighty superpowers. Despite all that her love for Steve compels her to remain on Earth.

Effectively becoming her own secret identity of Diana Prince, she resolves to fight injustice as a mortal (#180 ‘A Death for Diana’, February 1969). A meeting with the blind Buddhist monk I Ching shows her how and she becomes his pupil; training as a martial artist, and quickly becoming embroiled in the schemes of a would-be world-conqueror after incurring ‘The Wrath of Doctor Cyber’. And then Steve Trevor is branded a traitor and disappears…

When Sekowsky took over the writing himself (with the fifth tale ‘A Time to Love, A Time to Die’) the rip-roaring adventures moved in some wildly diverse directions, including high-fashion and high fantasy…

In #183 (August 1969) older fans got a surprise treat after ‘Return to Paradise Island’ found Diana and Ching traversing myriad planes of existence to lost dimensions to join her sister Amazons and fabled heroes such as King Arthur, Lancelot, Siegfried and Roland in a cataclysmic clash against the monster-filled armies of the old adversary Mars, God of War, grimly culminating in ‘The Last Battle!’

With apparently nothing to lose, the switch to amateur espionage agent/peripatetic troubleshooter in the trendy footsteps of such popular TV characters as Emma Peel, The Girl from Uncle and Honey West – not to mention our own ultimate comic strip action-heroine Modesty Blaise – seemed like desperation, but the series was brilliantly written and fantastically drawn, with master inker Dick Giordano adding a sleek veneer of gloss and glamour to the oh-so-readable proceedings.

Steeped heavily in Hippie counter-culture and the Mod-fashion explosion, the New Wonder Woman quickly found a dedicated fan-base. Sales may not have rocketed but they stopped sliding and the character was one of the few frantic, scrabbling refits of that era (even Green Lantern/Green Arrow, X-Men and Silver Surfer not faring quite so well) to avoid cancellation…

Eventually, as times changed, the magical Amazons returned and Wonder Woman once again became a super-powerful creature, but that period of cool, hip, bravely human heroism and drama on an intimate scale stands out as a self-contained high-point of quality in a largely bland career.

That modern readers can’t readily experience this most enjoyable reading experiences is a truly sad state of affairs and one which hopefully be rectified as matter of extreme urgency…
© 1968, 1969, 2008 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Wonder Woman: Amazonia – A Tale of the Wonder Woman


By William Messner-Loebs & Phil Winslade, with Patricia Mulvihill & John Workman (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-56389-301-8

In its original print release, this slim oversized all-original tale was originally released under DC’s Elseworlds imprint wherein characters were liberated from their regular continuity’s shackles for adventures that test the limits of credibility and imagination.

…And now that it’s available in digital format, hopefully a lot more people will get to enjoy it…

Amazonia posits a world where a tragic fire (suspiciously) destroys the entire British Royal Family in the 1890s and a very distant cousin becomes ruler of Victoria’s Empire. Under this aggressively male sovereign the Empire goes from strength to strength and the rights of women are squeezed, wither and die.

Once more and forever they are playthings and possessions, to the point of having to wear chains in public…

Enter the thoroughly unpleasant Steven Trevor, late of His Majesty’s Air-Marines, and now trying to make a living as a music-hall impresario. His actress-wife is a foreign beauty, dark, tall, statuesque, able to jump huge distances and strong enough to wrestle lions. When she saves the royal heir from an assassin, it begins an inexorable and bloody series of events that will liberate half the Empire and end decades of cruelty, abuse and atrocity.

Effectively evoking the favourite paraphernalia and themes of Steampunk – airships, flashy militaria, Jack the Ripper – this is a powerful and challenging fable of sexual equality, blending the Wonder Woman mythology with modern imperialist fantasy and with cracking and memorable effect. William Messner-Loebs writes with convincing authenticity and Phil Winslade’s Victoriana-styled, etchings-inspired artwork – beautifully reminiscent of both Penny-Dreadful engravings and the lovely sweeping line of Charles Dana Gibson – is utterly captivating.

Often the Elseworlds variations came off as ill-conceived or poorly executed, but when it all comes together as it does in Wonder Woman: Amazonia the result is pure gold…
© 1997, 2014 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Sensation Comics Featuring Wonder Woman volume 1


By Gail Simone, Gilbert Hernandez, Rob Williams, Ethan Van Scriver, Marcus To, Dean Haspiel & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-5344-8

The Princess of Paradise Island originally debuted as a special feature in All Star Comics #8 (December 1941), conceived by polygraph pioneer William Moulton Marston and illustrated by Harry G. Peter, in a calculated attempt to offer girls a positive and forceful role model and, on forward thinking Editor M.C. Gaines’ part, sell more funnybooks.

She catapulted into her own series and the cover-spot of new anthology title Sensation Comics a month later.

An instant hit, the Amazing Amazon won her own eponymous supplemental title a few months later, cover-dated summer 1942…

Once upon a time on a hidden island of immortal super-women, American aviator Steve Trevor of US Army Intelligence crashed to Earth. Near death, he was nursed back to health by young, impressionable Princess Diana.

Fearful of her besotted child’s growing obsession with the creature from a long-forgotten and madly violent world, Diana’s mother Queen Hippolyte revealed the hidden history of the Amazons: how they were seduced and betrayed by men but rescued by the goddess Aphrodite on condition they forever isolate themselves from the mortal world and devote their eternal lives to becoming ideal, perfect creatures.

However with the planet in crisis, goddesses Athena and Aphrodite instructed Hippolyte to send an Amazon back with the American to fight for global freedom and liberty. Although forbidden to compete, closeted, cosseted Diana clandestinely overcame all other candidates to become their emissary: Wonder Woman.

On arriving in the Land of the Free she purchased the identity and credentials of lovelorn Army nurse Diana Prince, which elegantly allowed the unregistered immigrant to stay close to Steve whilst enabling the heartsick care-worker to join her own fiancé in South America.

The new Diana soon gained a position with Army Intelligence as secretary to General Darnell, further ensuring she would always be able to watch over her beloved. She little suspected that, although the painfully shallow Steve only had eyes for the dazzling Amazon superwoman, the General had fallen for the mousy but supremely competent Lieutenant Prince…

That set up enabled the Star Spangled Siren to weather the vicissitudes of the notoriously transient comicbook marketplace and survive the end of the Golden Age of costumed heroes beside Superman, Batman and a few lucky hangers-on who inhabited the backs of their titles.

She soldiered on well into the Silver Age revival under the canny auspices of Robert Kanigher, Ross Andru & Mike Esposito, but by 1968 superhero comics were in decline again and publishers sought new ways to keep audiences interested as tastes – and American society – changed.

Back then, the entire industry depended on newsstand sales and if you weren’t popular, you died.

Editor Jack Miller & Mike Sekowsky stepped up with a radical proposal and made comicbook history with the only female superhero to still have her own title in that marketplace. Eventually merely mortal troubleshooter gave way to a reinvigorated Amazing Amazon who battled declining sales until DC’s groundbreaking Crisis on Infinite Earths after which she was radically rebooted.

There were minor tweaks in her continuity to accommodate different creators’ tenures, until 2011 when DC rebooted their entire comics line again and Wonder Woman once more underwent a drastic, fan-infuriating root-and-branch re-imagining.

Perhaps to mitigate the fallout DC created a number of fall-back options such as this intriguing package…

Sensation Comics Featuring Wonder Woman began as “digital first” series appearing online before (months later) collecting three chapters into every issue of a new standard comicbook. Crafted by a fluctuating roster of artists and writers, the contents highlighted every previous era and incarnation of the character – and even a few wildly innovative alternative visions – offering a wide variety of thrilling, engaging and sincerely fun-filled moments to remember.

The comicbook iteration was enough of a success to warrant its own series of trade paperback compilations which – in the fullness of time and nature of circularity – gained their own digital avatars as eBooks too.

This first full-colour paperback collection collects Sensation Comics Featuring Wonder Woman 1-5 (October 2014-February 2015) and displays a wealth of talent and cornucopia of different visions, beginning with Gail Simone & Ethan Van Scriver’s ‘Gothamazon’ which details how the mythologically militaristic Wonder Woman uncompromisingly and permanently cleans up Batman’s benighted home when the Gotham Guardians are taken out of play…

Amanda Deibert & Cat Staggs’ ‘Defender of Truth’ pits the Amazon against man-hating sorceress Circe to deliver a lesson that never gets old before ‘Brace Yourself’ from James Bischoff & David A. Williams reveals how little Princess Diana spent her formative years testing her growing abilities and the Queen’s patience and love…

In ‘Taketh Away’ Ivan Cohen & Marcus To tackle an interesting issue by addressing the religious implications of a pagan-worshipping hero in Judaeo-Christian America whilst delivering an action-packed mystery and super duel with old enemies Cheetah and Doctor Psycho whilst Sean Williams & Marguerite Sauvage explore her media profile as crime-buster, female role model and singer/lead guitarist with global rock sensation ‘Bullets and Bracelets’

‘Morning Coffee’ by Ollie Masters & Amy Mebberson offers a quirky, manga-inspired duel of wits and ideologies with infallible thief Catwoman after which Gilbert Hernandez and colourist John Rauch go incontrovertibly retro for a blockbusting Silver-Age celebration of maidenly might as Wonder Woman, Mary Marvel and Supergirl smash robots, aliens, super-villains and each other in a cathartically cataclysmic clash entitled ‘No Chains Can Hold Her!’

An alternate Earth mash-up by Rob Williams & Tom Lyle sees the classic Justice League and Thanagarian shapeshifter Byth face the ‘Attack of the 500-Foot Wonder Woman’ whilst ‘Ghosts and Gods’ (Neil Kleid & Dean Haspiel) finds the Golden Age Amazon and her trusty aide Etta Candy united with restless spirit Deadman to foil the schemes of immortal eco-terrorist Ra’s Al Ghul.

The comic cavalcade concludes on a far more sombre and sinister note as ‘Dig for Fire’ by Corinna Bechko & Gabriel Hardman discloses how Diana invades Apokolips to rescue two of her Amazon sisters only to discover amidst the horror and degradation that true evil is not the sole preserve of depraved new god Darkseid

Augmented by a spectacular covers-&-variants gallery from Van Scriver & Brian Miller, Phil Jimenez & Romula Farjardo Jr., Ivan Reis, Joe Prado & Carrie Strachan, Adam Hughes & Lawrence Reynolds, this is a fascinating snapshot of the sheer breadth and variety of visions Wonder Woman has inspired in her decades of existence, and one to delight fans old and new alike.
© 2014, 2015 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Showcase Presents Super Friends volume 1


By E. Nelson Bridwell, Denny O’Neil, Ric Estrada, Joe Orlando, Ramona Fradon, Kurt Schaffenberger, Bob Smith & Vince Colletta (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-4757-7

Once upon a time comics were primarily created with kids in mind and, whilst I’d never advocate exclusively going back to those days, the modern industry is greatly lacking for not properly addressing the needs and tastes of younger fans these days.

A superb case in point of all-ages comics done right can be seen in Showcase Presents Super Friends volume 1 which gathers the licensed comicbook tales which spun off from a popular Saturday Morning TV Cartoon show: one that, thanks to the canny craftsmanship and loving invention of lead scripter E. Nelson Bridwell, became an integral and unmissable component of the greater DC Universe.

It was also one of the most universally thrilling and satisfying superhero titles of the period for older fans: featuring the kind of smart and witty, straightforward adventures people my age grew up with, produced during a period when the entire industry was increasingly losing itself in colossal continued storylines and angsty, soap opera melodrama.

Sometimes all you really want is a smart plot well illustrated; sinister villains well-smacked, a solid resolution and early bed…

The TV show Super Friends ran (under various iterations) from 1973 to 1986; starring Superman, Batman and Robin, Wonder Woman, Aquaman and a brace of studio-originated kids as student crimebusters, supplemented by occasional guest stars from the DCU on a case by case basis.

The series then made the transition to print as part of the publisher’s 1976 foray into “boutiqued” comics which saw titles with a television connection cross-marketed as “DC TV Comics”.

Child-friendly Golden Age comicbook revival Shazam!- the Original Captain Marvel had been adapted into a successful live action television series and its Saturday Morning silver screen stablemate The Secrets of Isis consequently reversed the process by becoming a comicbook.

With the additions of hit comedy show Welcome Back Kotter and animated blockbuster Super Friends into four-colour format, DC had a neat little outreach imprimatur tailor-made to draw viewers into the magic word of funnybooks.

At least that was the plan: with the exception of Super Friends none of the titles lasted more than ten issues beyond their launch…

This bombastic black-&-white extravaganza collects Super Friends #1-24 (spanning November 1976 to September 1979) and opens with a crafty two-part caper by Bridwell, Ric Estrada, Vince Colletta & Joe Orlando.

‘The Fury of the Super Foes’ found heroes-in-training Wendy and Marvin – and their incredible astute mutt Wonderdog – studying at the palatial Hall of Justice, even as elsewhere a confederation of villains prove that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery if not outright intellectual theft…

The Penguin, Cheetah, Flying Fish, Poison Ivy and Toyman, having auditioned a host of young criminals, are creating a squad of sidekicks and protégés to follow in their felonious footsteps and Chick, Kitten, Sardine, Honeysuckle and Toyboy are all ready and willing to carry out their first caper.

When the giant “Troubalert” screen informs the heroes of a three-pronged attack on S.T.A.R. Labs’ latest inventions, the champions split up to tackle the crises but are thoroughly trounced until Wendy and Marvin break curfew to help them.

As a result of the clash, Chick and Kitten are brought back to the Hall of Justice, but their talk of repentance is a rascally ruse and they secretly sabotage vital equipment…

Unluckily for them Wonderdog has seen everything and quickly finds a way to inform the still-oblivious good guys in issue #2 but too late to prevent the Super Friends being briefly ‘Trapped by the Super Foes’

The incomparable Ramona Fradon – aided and abetted by inker Bob Smith – took over the pencilling with #3 as ‘The Cosmic Hit Man?’ saw fifty intergalactic super-villains murdered by infernal Dr. Ihdrom, who then combined their harvested essences to create an apparently unbeatable hyper-horror who utterly overwhelmed Earth’s heroic defenders. However he soon fell victim to his own arrogance and Wendy and Marvin’s logical deductions…

‘Riddles and Rockets!’ found the Super Friends overmatched by new ne’er-do-well Skyrocket whilst simultaneously trying to cope with a rash of crimes contrived by King of Conundra The Riddler.

It wasn’t too long before a pattern emerged and a criminal connection was confirmed…

Author Bridwell was justly famed as DC’s keeper of the continuity, possessing an astoundingly encyclopaedic knowledge of DC’s publishing minutiae. ‘Telethon Treachery!’ gave him plenty of scope to display it with a host of near-forgotten guest-stars joining our heroes as they hosted a televised charity event whilst money-mad menace Greenback lurked in the wings, awaiting the perfect moment to grab the loot and kidnap the wealthiest donators…

The Atom played a crucial role in stopping the dastardly depredations of an animal trainer who used beasts as bandits in ‘The Menace of the Menagerie Man!’ before a huge cast change was unveiled in #7 (October 1977) with ‘The Warning of the Wondertwins’

TV is very different from comics. When the new season of Super Friends aired, Wendy, Marvin and Wonderdog were gone, replaced without warning or explanation by alien shapeshifters Zan and Jayna and their elastic-tailed space monkey Gleek.

With more room – and consideration for the fans – Bridwell turned the sudden cast change into a bombastic battle to save Earth from total annihilation whilst properly introducing the adult heroes’ newest students in memorable style…

At the Hall of Justice Wendy and Marvin spot a spaceship hurtling to Earth on the Troubalert monitor and dash off to intercept it. Aboard are two siblings from distant planet Exor: a girl who can change into animals and a boy who can become any form of water from steam to ice. They have come with an urgent warning…

Superman’s alien enemy Grax has determined to eradicate humanity and devised a dozen different super-bombs and attendant weird-science traps to ensure his victory. The weapons are scattered all over Earth and even the entire Justice League cannot stretch its resources to cover every angle and threat…

To Wendy and Marvin the answer is obvious: call upon the help and knowledge of hyper-powered local heroes…

Soon Superman and Israel’s champion The Seraph are dismantling a black hole bomb whilst Elongated Man and titan-tressed Godiva are performing similar duties on a life-eradicator in England and Flash and mighty-leaping Impala are dismantling uncatchable ordnance in South Africa…

Hawkman and Hawkwoman then join Native American avenger Owlwoman to crush darkness-breeding monsters in Oklahoma whilst from the Hall of Justice Wendy, Marvin and the Wondertwins monitor the crisis with a modicum of mounting hope…

The cataclysmic epic continues in #8 with ‘The Mind Killers!’ as Atom and Rising Son tackle a deadly device designed to decimate Japan even as in Ireland Green Lantern and Jack O’Lantern battle multi-hued monstrosities before switching off their target of technological terror.

In New Zealand time-scanning Tuatara tips off Red Tornado to the position of a bomb cached in the distant past and Venezuela’s doom is diverted through a team-up between Batman and Robin and reptile-themed champion Bushmaster whilst Taiwan benefits from a melding of sonic superpowers possessed by Black Canary and the astounding Thunderlord

The saga soars to a classic climax with ‘Three Ways to Kill a World!’ in which the final phases of Grax’s scheme finally fail thanks to Green Arrow and Tasmanian Devil in Australia, Aquaman and Little Mermaid in the seas off Denmark and Wonder Woman and The Olympian in Greece.

Or at least they would have if the Hellenic heroes had found the right foe. Sadly their triumph against Wrong-Place, Right-Time terrorist Colonel Conquest almost upset everything. Thankfully the quick thinking students send an army of defenders to Antarctica where Norwegian novice Icemaiden dismantles the final booby-trap bomb.

However, whilst the adult champions are thus engaged, Grax invades the Hall of Justice seeking revenge on the pesky whistleblowing Exorian kids, but is completely unprepared for and overwhelmed by Wendy, Marvin and Wonderdog who categorically prove they are ready to graduate to the big leagues…

With Zan and Jayna enrolled as the latest heroes-in-training, Super Friends #10 details their adoption by Batman’s old associate – and eccentric time travel theoretician – Professor Carter Nichols just before a legion of alien horrors arrives on Earth to teach the kids that appearances can be lethally deceiving in ‘The Monster Menace!’ after which Kingslayer’ pits the heroes against criminal mastermind Overlord who has contracted the world’s greatest hitman to murder more than one hundred leaders at one sitting…

Another deep dive into DC’s past then resurrected Golden Age titans T.N.T and Dan, the Dyna-Mite in ‘The Atomic Twosome!’

The 1940s mystery men had been under government wraps ever since their radioactive powers began to melt down, but when an underground catastrophe ruptured their individual lead-lined vaults, the Super Friends were called in to prevent a potential nuclear nightmare…

The subterranean reason for the near tragedy was tracked to a monstrous mole creature, and led to the introduction of eternal mystic Doctor Mist who revealed the secret history of civilisation and begged help to halt ‘The Mindless Immortal!’ before its random burrowing shattered mankind’s cities…

Super Friends #14 opened with ‘Elementary!’; introducing four ordinary mortals forever changed when they were possessed by ancient sprits and tasked with plundering the world by Overlord. When the heroes scotched the scheme, Undine, Salamander, Sylph and Gnome retained their powers and determined to become a crime-fighting team dubbed The Elementals

The issue also contained a short back-up tale illustrated by Kurt Schaffenberger & Bob Smith. ‘The Origin of the Wondertwins’ at last revealed how the Exorian genetic throwbacks – despised outcasts on their own world – fled from a circus of freaks and uncovered Grax’s plot before taking that fateful rocketship to Earth…

Big surprises were in store in ‘The Overlord Goes Under!’ (Fradon & Smith) as the Elementals began their battle against evil by joining the Super Friends in crushing the crimelord. All the heroes were blithely unaware that they were merely clearing the way for a far more cunningly subtle mastermind to take Overlord’s place…

‘The People Who Stole the Sky!’ in #16 was a grand, old fashioned alien invasion yarn, perfectly foiled by the team and the increasingly adept Wondertwins whilst ‘Trapped in Two Times!’ found Zan and Jayna used by the insidious Time Trapper (nee Time Master) to lure the adult heroes into deadly peril on Krypton in the days before it detonated and future water world Neryla in the hours before it was swallowed by its critically expanding red sun.

After rescuing the kids – thanks in no small part to Superman’s legendary lost love Lyla Ler-rol – the Super Friends used Tuatara’s chronal insight and Professor Nichol’s obscure methodologies to go after the Trapper in the riotous yet educational ‘Manhunt in Time!’ (illustrated by Schaffenberger & Smith), by way of Atlantis before it sank, medieval Spain and Michigan in 1860AD, to thwart a triple-strength scheme to derail history and end Earth civilisation…

Issue #19 saw the return of Menagerie Man in ‘The Mystery of the Missing Monkey!’ (Fradon & Smith) as the beast-breaker boosted Gleek, intent on turning his elastic-tailed talents into the perfect pickpocketing tool, after which Denny O’Neil – writing as Sergius O’Shaugnessy – teamed with Schaffenberger & Smith for a more jocular turn.

Chaos and comedy ensued when the team tackled vegetable monsters unleashed when self-obsessed shlock-movie director Frownin’ Fritz Frazzle got hold of Merlin’s actually magical Magic Lantern and tried to make a masterpiece on the cheap in ‘Revenge of the Leafy Monsters!’

Bridwell, Fradon & Smith were back in #21 where ‘Battle Against the Super Fiends!’ found the heroes travelling to Exor to combat a brace of super-criminals who could duplicate all their power-sets, after which ‘It’s Never Too Late!’ (#22, O’Neil, Fradon & Smith) revealed how temporal bandit Chronos subjected the Super Friends to a time-delay treatment which made them perennially too late to stop him – until Batman and the Wondertwins out-thought him…

The Mirror Master divided and banished teachers and students in #23 but was unable to prevent an ‘SOS from Nowhere!’ (Bridwell, Fradon & Smith) to the fleet-footed Flash. This episode also spent some time fleshing out the Wondertwin’s earthly secret identities as Gotham Central highschoolers John and Joanna Fleming

This splendid selection of super thrills then concludes with ‘Past, Present and Danger!’ by O’Neil, Fradon & Smith wherein Zan and Jayna’s faces are found engraved on a recently unearthed Egyptian pyramid. Upon investigation inside the edifice, the heroes awaken two ancient exiles who resemble the kids, but are in fact criminals who have been fleeing Exorian justice for thousands of years.

How lucky then that the kids are perfect doubles the crooks can send back with the robot cops surrounding the pyramid – once they’ve got rid of the Earthling heroes…

Brilliantly entertaining, masterfully crafted and always utterly engaging, these stories are comics gold that will delight children and adults in equal proportion. Truly generational in appeal, they are probably the closest thing to an American answer to the magic of Tintin or Asterix and no family home should be without this tome.
© 1976, 1977, 1978, 1979, 2014 DC Comics, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Wonder Woman: The Twelve Labors


By Martin Pasko, Elliot S. Maggin, Cary Bates, Len Wein, Curt Swan, John Rosenberger, Irv Novick, Dick Dillin, Kurt Schaffenberger, Dick Giordano, Jose Delbo & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-3494-2

The Princess of Paradise Island originally debuted as a special feature in All Star Comics #8 (December 1941), conceived by polygraph pioneer William Moulton Marston and illustrated by Harry G. Peter, in a calculated attempt to offer girls a positive and forceful role model and, on forward thinking Editor M.C. Gaines’ part, sell more funnybooks.

She catapulted into her own series and the cover-spot of new anthology title Sensation Comics a month later. An instant hit, the Amazing Amazon won her own eponymous supplemental title a few months later, cover-dated Summer 1942.

Once upon a time on a hidden island of immortal super-women, American aviator Steve Trevor of US Army Intelligence crashed to Earth. Near death, he was nursed back to health by young, impressionable Princess Diana.

Fearful of her besotted child’s growing obsession with the creature from a long-forgotten and madly violent world, Diana’s mother Queen Hippolyte revealed the hidden history of the Amazons: how they were seduced and betrayed by men but rescued by the goddess Aphrodite on condition that they forever isolated themselves from the mortal world and devoted their eternal lives to becoming ideal, perfect creatures.

However with the planet in crisis, goddesses Athena and Aphrodite instructed Hippolyte to send an Amazon back with the American to fight for global freedom and liberty and, although forbidden to compete, Diana clandestinely overcame all other candidates to become their emissary Wonder Woman.

On arriving in the Land of the Free she purchased the identity and credentials of lovelorn Army nurse Diana Prince, which elegantly allowed the Amazing Amazon to stay close to Steve whilst enabling the heartsick care-worker to join her own fiancé in South America. Diana soon gained a position with Army Intelligence as secretary to General Darnell, further ensuring she would always be able to watch over her beloved. She little suspected that, although the painfully shallow Steve only had eyes for the dazzling Amazon superwoman, the General had fallen for the mousy but supremely competent Lieutenant Prince…

That set up enabled the Star Spangled Siren to weather the vicissitudes of the notoriously transient comicbook marketplace and survive the end of the Golden Age of costumed heroes along with Superman, Batman and a few lucky hangers-on who inhabited the backs of their titles.

She soldiered on well into the Silver Age revival under the canny auspices of Robert Kanigher, Ross Andru & Mike Esposito, but by 1968 superhero comics were in decline again and publishers sought new ways to keep audiences interested as tastes – and American society – changed.

Back then, the entire industry depended on newsstand sales and if you weren’t popular, you died.

Editor Jack Miller and Mike Sekowsky stepped up with a radical proposal and made a little bit of comic book history with the only female superhero to still have her own title that marketplace.

The superbly eccentric art of Sekowsky had been a DC mainstay for nearly two decades, and he had also scored big with fans at Gold Key with Man from Uncle and at Tower Comics in T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents and on war title Fight The Enemy!

His unique take on the Justice League of America had cemented its overwhelming success, and now in 1968 he began stretching himself further with a number of experimental, young-adult oriented projects.

Tapping into the teen zeitgeist with Easy Rider style drama Jason’s Quest proved ultimately unsuccessful, but with the Metal Men and the hopelessly moribund Wonder Woman he had much greater impact. He would subsequently work the same magic with Supergirl.

The big change came when the Amazons were forced to leave our dimension, taking with them all their magic – including Wonder Woman’s powers and all her weapons. Now no more or less than human, she opted to stay on Earth permanently, assuming her own secret identity of Diana Prince, dedicated to fighting injustice as a mortal, very much in the manner of Emma Peel and Modesty Blaise.

Blind Buddhist monk I Ching trained her as a martial artist, and she quickly became embroiled in the schemes of would-be world-conqueror Doctor Cyber. Most shockingly her beloved Steve was branded a traitor and murdered…

Sekowsky’s root and branch overhaul offered a whole new kind of Wonder Woman (and can be seen in the magical quartet of full-colour collections entitled Diana Prince: Wonder Woman) but as I’ve already said fashion ruled and in a few years, without any fanfare or warning, everything that had happened since Wonder Woman lost her powers was unwritten.

Her mythical origins were revised and re-established as she returned to a world of immortals, gods, mythical monster and super-villains with a new nemesis, an African (Greek?) American half-sister named Nubia

Such an abrupt reversal had tongues wagging and heads spinning in fan circles. Had the series offended some shady “higher-ups” who didn’t want controversy or a shake-up of the status quo?

Probably not.

Sales were never great even on the Sekowsky run and the most logical reason is probably Television.

The Amazon had been optioned as a series since the days of the Batman TV show in 1967, and by this time (1973) production work had begun on the original 1974 pilot featuring Cathy Lee Crosby. An abrupt return to the character most viewers would be familiar with from their own childhoods seems perfectly logical to me… By the time Linda Carter made the concept live in 1975 Wonder Woman was once again “Stronger than Hercules, swifter than Mercury and more beautiful than Aphrodite”…

But as Diana returned to mainstream DC continuity the fans expected her to fully reintegrate, leading to this early and impressive example of a comics miniseries which ran in Wonder Woman #212 to 222 (cover-dated July 1974 – March 1976) and detailed how the Amazing Amazon rejoined the JLA.

Scripter Len Wein and artists Curt Swan & Tex Blaisdell got the ball rolling with ‘The Man Who Mastered Women!’ as the Hellenic Heroine thwarted a terrorist attack at New York’s United Nations building where Diana Prince worked as a translator. In the aftermath she surprisingly met old friend Clark Kent.

Over the course of the conversation she realised her memories had been tampered with and suddenly understood why her JLA colleagues hadn’t called her to any meetings… she had resigned years ago…

Although her former comrades begged her to re-enlist, she declined, fearing that her memory lapses might endanger the team and the world. After much insistent pleading she relented enough to suggest that the League should covertly monitor her next dozen major cases – in the manner of Hercules’ twelve legendary tests – as she proved herself competent and worthy, for her own peace of mind if not the JLA’s…

Once they grudgingly agreed she left and Superman began the surveillance, observing her flying to Paradise Island in her Invisible Plane. Correctly deducing that she had been subject to Amazonian selective memory manipulation, she confronted her mother and learned of her time as a mere mortal and of Steve’s death.

Although the past had been removed by her well-meaning Amazon sisters, Diana now demanded that every recollection excised be returned…

Back in Man’s World a crisis was already brewing as costumed crazy The Cavalier began exerting his uncanny influence over women to controlling female Heads of State, but his powers proved ultimately ineffectual over Wonder Woman…

As a result of that case Diana Prince changed jobs, going to work as a troubleshooter for dashing Morgan Tracy at the UN Crisis Bureau, and her first mission wasn’t long in coming…

Wonder Woman #213 was crafted by Cary Bates, Irv Novick & Blaisdell as an alien robot landed and removed all aggression from humanity in one stroke. As the Flash helplessly observed however ‘The War-No-More Machine!’ also quashed all bravery, determination, confidence and capability and the species faced imminent – if long and drawn out – extinction.

Happily Diana, a teenaged girl and a murderous criminal were all somehow immune to the invader’s influence…

Elliot S. Maggin, Swan & Phil Zupa then disclosed Green Lantern Hal Jordan’s undercover observations after a lost Amazon gem in unwitting, unscrupulous hands almost started World War III and the Princess of Power had to avert a nuclear holocaust triggered by a ‘Wish Upon a Star!’

The superb and vastly undervalued John Rosenberger pencilled Cary Bates’ tale of the ‘Amazon Attack Against Atlantis’ (inked by Vince Colletta) as Aquaman watched Wonder Woman unravel a baroque and barbaric plot by Mars, God of War to set Earth’s two most advanced nations at each throats, after which #216 found Black Canary uncovering the Amazon Sisterhood’s greatest secret in ‘Paradise in Peril!’ by Maggin, Rosenberger & Colletta.

The tale concerned an obsessed multi-millionaire risking everything – including possibly the collapse of civilisation – to uncover exactly what would happen if a man set foot upon the hidden Island of the Amazons…

One of Wonder Woman’s oldest foes resurfaced in ‘The Day Time Broke Loose!’ (by Maggin, Dick Dillin & Colletta) and Green Arrow was caught in the crossfire as the Duke of Deception attacked the UN with temporally torturous images and hallucinations designed to create madness and death on a global scale.

Issue #218 was produced by Martin Pasko & Kurt Schaffenberger and offered two short complete tales. Firstly Red Tornado reported on the ‘Revolt of the Wonder Weapons’ as an influential astrologer used mind-control techniques to gain power and accidentally undermined Diana’s arsenal, after which The Phantom Stranger stealthily observed her foiling a mystic plot by sorcerer Felix Faust which animated and enraged the Statue of Liberty in ‘Give Her Liberty – and Give Her Death!’

This was a time when feminism was finally making inroads into American culture and Pasko, Swan & Colletta slyly tipped their hats to the burgeoning movement in a wry and fanciful sci-fi thriller.

Thus issue  #219 found Diana preventing a vile incursion by the dominating males of Xro, a ‘World of Enslaved Women!’ with stretchable sleuth Elongated Man secretly traversing the parallel dimensions in Wonder Woman’s wake.

With the epic endeavour almost ended, regular scripter Pasko added a patina of mystery to the affair as the Atom watched Diana tackle ‘The Man Who Wiped Out Time!’ Illustrated by Dick Giordano, Wonder Woman #220 found temporal obsessive Chronos eradicating New York’s ability to discern time and time pieces: a plot foiled with style and brilliance by the on-form, in-time Power Princess.

The only problem was that during that entire exacting episode Hawkman had been watching Diana tackling another potential disaster hundreds of miles away…

The Feathered Fury’s report detailed how Crisis Bureau operative Diana Prince had been targeted by Dr. Cyber and Professor Moon – old enemies from her powerless period – who combined a hunger for vengeance with a plan to steal a UN-controlled chemical weapon in ‘The Fiend with the Face of Glass’ (illustrated by Swan & Colletta).

How she could be in two places simultaneously was revealed by Batman, who wrapped up the twelve trials in ‘Will the Real Wonder Woman Please… Stand Up Drop Dead!’ (art by Jose Delbo & Blaisdell), detailing how a beloved children’s entertainment icon had been subverted into a monster feeding off people and replacing them with perfect duplicates…

With covers by Bob Oksner, Nick Cardy, Mike Grell, Dick Giordano & Ernie Chan, this is a spectacular slice of pure, uncomplicated, all ages superhero action/adventure starring one of comics’ true all stars.

Stuffed with stunning art and witty, beguiling stories, this is Wonder Woman at her most welcoming in a timeless, pivotal classic of the medium: one that still provides astounding amounts of fun and thrills for anyone interested in a grand old time.
© 1974, 1975, 1976, 2012 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Wonder Woman Archives volume 5

WW arc 5 bk
By Charles Moulton (William Moulton Marston & Harry G. Peter) with Joye Murchison (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-1270-4

The Princess of Paradise Island debuted as a special feature in All Star Comics #8 (December 1941), conceived by polygraph pioneer William Moulton Marston and illustrated by Harry G. Peter, in a calculated attempt to offer girls a positive and forceful role model and, on Editor M.C. Gaines’ part, sell funnybooks.

She then catapulted into her own series, and held the cover-spot of new anthology title Sensation Comics a month later. An instant hit, the Amazing Amazon won her own eponymous supplemental title a few months later, cover-dated Summer 1942.

Once upon a time on a hidden island of immortal super-women, American aviator Steve Trevor of US Army Intelligence crashed to Earth. Near death, he was nursed back to health by young, impressionable Princess Diana.

Fearful of her besotted child’s growing obsession with the creature from a long-forgotten and madly violent world, Diana’s mother Queen Hippolyte revealed the hidden history of the Amazons: how they were seduced and betrayed by men but rescued by the goddess Aphrodite on condition that they forever isolated themselves from the mortal world and devoted their eternal lives to becoming ideal, perfect creatures.

However with the planet in crisis, goddesses Athena and Aphrodite now instructed Hippolyte to send an Amazon back with the American to fight for global freedom and liberty, and Diana clandestinely overcame all other candidates to become their emissary Wonder Woman.

On arriving in America she bought the identity and credentials of lovelorn Army nurse Diana Prince, elegantly allowing the Amazon to be close to Steve whilst enabling the heartsick medic to join her own fiancé in South America. Diana gained a position with Army Intelligence as secretary to General Darnell, ensuring she would always be able to watch over her beloved. She little suspected that, although the painfully shallow Steve only had eyes for the dazzling Amazon superwoman, the General had fallen for the mousy but supremely competent Lieutenant Prince…

Using the nom de plume Charles Moulton, Marston (with some help in later years from assistant Joye Murchison) scripted the Amazing Amazon’s fabulous adventures until his death in 1947, whereupon Robert Kanigher took over the writer’s role. Venerable veteran illustrator and co-creator H.G. Peter performed the same feat, limning practically every titanic tale until his own death in 1958.

This fifth lavishly deluxe full-colour hardback edition collects the increasingly fanciful and intoxicating adventures from Wonder Woman #10-12 and Sensation Comics #33-40, spanning cover-dates September 1944-April 1945 and following the unique champion of freedom from her primarily war-footing to the scary days of a world notionally at peace…

After an appreciative Foreword from industry insider, historian and comics all-star Jim Amash detailing the cultural contribution of the creators and their billion-dollar baby, the action opens with ‘The Disappearance of Tama’ from Sensation Comics #33, wherein the Amazon’s college friend Etta Candy overhears a plot to kidnap and murder a movie starlet and embroils herself and Diana in a delightfully bewildering farrago of deadly doubles and impish impostors, after which Wonder Woman #10 (Fall 1944) offered a novel-length epic of alien invasion.

In ‘Spies From Saturn’, a rare vacation with Etta and her sorority sister Holliday Girls leads to trouble with outrageous neighbour Mephisto Saturno who turns out to be the leader of a spy ring from the Ringed Planet. However even after imprisoning his extraterrestrial espionage squad the danger is not ended, as the aliens insidious “lassitude gas” turns America into a helpless sleeping nation and forces the Amazon to take ‘The Sky Road’ to the invaders’ home world to find a cure and rescue her beloved Steve…

The cataclysmic clash concludes in ‘Wonder Woman’s Boots’ as the victorious Earthlings return home, unaware that Mephisto is still free and has a plan to avenge his defeat…

Social injustice informed ‘Edgar’s New World’ in Sensation Comics #34, when the Amazing Amazon tackled the case of a “problem child” near-blind and living in squalor whilst his mother languished in jail. Soon however the big-hearted heroine uncovered political chicanery and grotesque graft behind the murder charge sending innocent Esta Poore to the death chamber…

In Sensation #35 ‘Girls Under the Sea’ found Wonder Woman again battling to save lost Atlantis from tyranny and misrule after beneficent ruler Octavia was ousted by a committee of seditious anarchists, whilst #36 pitted the Power Princess against deranged actor Bedwin Footh, a jealous loon who envied the Amazon’s headline grabbing, and organised her old foes Blakfu the Mole Man, Duke of Deception, Queen Clea, Dr. Psycho, The Cheetah and Giganta into an army against her. However all was not as it seemed in the ‘Battle Against Revenge’

Wonder Woman #11 (Winter 1944) offered big thrills and rare (for the times) plot continuity as ‘The Slaves of the Evil Eye’ saw Steve and Diana battling an uncanny mesmerist intent on stealing America’s defence plans against Saturn.

The spy trail led to bizarre performer Hypnota the Great and his decidedly off-kilter assistant Serva, but there were layers of deceit behind ‘The Unseen Menace’, and a hidden mastermind intent on re-igniting the recently-ended war with Saturn in the climactic final chapter ‘The Slave Smugglers’.

This spectacular psycho-drama of multiple personalities and gender disassociation was another masterpiece directly informed by Marston’s psychiatric background and provided another weirdly eccentric tale unique to the genre…

With the war in Europe all but over, comicbook content was changing and constantly experimenting. Sensation Comics #37 (January 1945) depicted ‘The Invasion of Paradise Island’ wherein troubled orphans Kitty and Terry stow away aboard Wonder Woman’s invisible plane even as Diana and Steve were busting the orphanage’s crooked, grafting owner. When the kids were discovered back on Paradise Island they found themselves at the tender mercies of a horde of rambunctious Amazon toddlers (don’t ask – it’s comics, ok?) just as a U-Boat of escaping Nazis arrived looking for a safe harbour and refuge to conquer…

For years Wonder Woman had been celebrating Christmas with exceptional Seasonal offerings and #38 was no exception. ‘Racketeers Kidnap Miss Santa Claus’ revealed how young sceptic Pete Allen sought the Amazon’s help to save his mother from an abusive relationship and learned the true spirit of giving after the Amazon stopped a brutal bullion grab…

Etta and the Holliday Girls then resurfaced in #39 as an expedition to find a lost Roman colony left them ‘In the Clutches of Nero’ and urgently requiring the assistance of their Amazon associate to quash the ambitions of the latest madman to bear the name, whilst Sensation Comics #40 introduced urbane, untrustworthy freelance spy Countess Draska Nishki, eager to earn cold hard cash spying for General Darnell. Sadly her loyalties couldn’t stay bought and Steve and Diana had good reason to call her ‘Draska the Deadly’

This glorious tome of treasures concludes with Wonder Woman #12 and another epic fantasy.

When alien Queen Desira declared WWII over, she also brought warning that warmongers were already preparing for the next conflict. In ‘The Winged Maidens of Venus’ this news inadvertently led to Diana Prince’s capture by spy Nerva and her bosses – a cabal of Capitalists who always profited from destruction – until Steve and Etta came to her rescue…

When the profiteers were transported to Venus for reconditioning, they escaped and fomented chaos and rebellion in ‘The Ordeal of Fire’ almost resulting in ‘The Conquest of Venus’ and carnage on Earth until Wonder Woman and Steve stepped in to save the day…

This last tale is credited to Marston’s assistant Joye Murchison who shared the author’s workload as first polio and then lung cancer increasingly hampered him until his death in 1947.

Seen through modern eyes, there’s a lot that might be disturbing in these old comics classics, such as plentiful examples of apparent bondage, or racial stereotypes from bull-headed Germans to caricatured African-Americans, but there’s also a vast amount of truly groundbreaking comics innovation too. The skilfully concocted dramas and incredibly imaginative story-elements are drawn from hugely disparate and often wondrously sophisticated sources, but the creators never forgot that they were in the business of entertaining as well as edifying the young.

Always stuffed with huge amounts of action, suspense, contemporary reflection and loads of laughs, as well as the scandalous message that girls are as good as boys and can even be better if they want, Wonder Woman influenced the entire nascent superhero genre as much as Superman or Batman and we’re all the richer for it.

This exemplary book of delights is a triumph of exotic, baroque, beguiling and uniquely exciting adventure: Golden Age exploits of the World’s Most Marvellous Warrior Maiden which are timeless, pivotal classics in the development of our medium and still offer astounding amounts of fun and thrills for anyone interested in a grand old time.
© 1944, 1945, 2007 DC Comics, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Trinity volume 1


By Kurt Busiek, Fabian Nicieza, Mark Bagley, Scott McDaniel, Tom Derenick, Jerry Ordway & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-2277-2

DC’s mythologizing of its most renowned character properties saw their ultimate expression in the ambitious if overly-convoluted year-long publishing event Trinity which revealed the unexpected cosmic significance of the relationship between Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman.

The series explored the metaphysical underpinnings of the DC Universe through 52 weekly instalments, split into a lead chapter with a connected ancillary episode intended to ultimately combine into a complex web of narrative encompassing the entire multiversal cosmos.

This initial volume – of three, natch – collects issues #1-17 of the omniversal odyssey (from June to October 2008) and was conceived and written by Kurt Busiek, with Fabian Nicieza co-scripting the sidebar stories. The art on the primaries was by Mark Bagley& Art Thibert, with Scott McDaniel, Tom Derenick, Mike Norton and others tag-teaming on the back-ups…

The reality-busting drama begins with ‘Boys and their Games…’ in the heart of the cosmos where an ancient, immensely powerful and obsessive being struggles to break free of a vast all-encompassing prison. Meanwhile in Keystone City, as their heroic associates take care of the usual distractions, old friends Clark Kent, Bruce Wayne and Diana Prince meet for breakfast and discuss the distressing fact that they have all been enduring the same disturbing dreams of a monster escaping its imprisonment…

The first back-up tale ‘In the Morrows to Come’, by Busiek, Nicieza, McDaniel & Andy Owens, casts a light on Castle Branek where dark witch Morgaine Le Fey is accosted by a mysterious mortal dubbed Enigma who offers her the chance to rewrite Reality in her favour, tempting her with glimpses of other Earths and unfamiliar heroes. The first thing they need to do, however, is find a third co-conspirator and then seek out and capture a young girl with a strange knack for reading Tarot cards…

As the conspirators’ plans come together, reality begins to warp and wobble around Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman in ‘A Personal Best at Giant Robot Smashing’ (Busiek, Bagley & Thibert) but the heroes are proving remarkably resilient in the face of the bizarre and deadly outbreaks. Things are tougher for Green Lantern John Stewart in ‘It’s Gonna Throw the Car’ (Busiek, Nicieza, Derenick & Wayne Faucher) as alien powerhouse Konvikt and his diminutive mouthpiece and legal advocate Graak crash to Earth and go on a rampage.

Before long the unstoppable ETs are thrashing the entire Justice League in ‘Kplow’ (Busiek, Bagley & Thibert) and only the big three are left to stop them… until the big bruiser decks Superman… Meanwhile ‘Earth to Rita’ (Busiek, Nicieza, Norton & Jerry Ordway) reveals how street Tarot reader Marguerita Covas starts getting some very strange readings even as she realises her predictions have been misused by a local gangbanger.

However when the superstitious thug tries to abduct Rita to secure her exclusive services, concerned citizen Jose Delgado steps in too late and finds her dazed and reeling near a pile of dismembered gangstas. Something far more dangerous than the urban vigilante called Gangbuster is watching over the baffled clairvoyant…

The spectacular struggle against the fully amok Konvikt is going badly, prompting Batman to break off to investigate the aliens’ arrival point in ‘Caped Simoid Thinks So, Hm?’ (Busiek, Bagley, Thibert). During his absence a secretive new player makes use of the melee to surreptitiously brand Wonder Woman with a mystic sigil, whilst ‘World-Something…’ (by Busiek, Nicieza, Norton, Ordway, McDaniel & Owens) reveals how Rita’s dreams contact another alien  monster. The bloodthirsty Despero is mercilessly eradicating the forces of his stellar rival Kanjar Ro and, although she doesn’t know how or why, Rita is painfully aware that her foresights will become fact, affecting her and the entire Earth…

‘Great. Now He’s Holding His Breath.’ (another BBT production) sees the defeat of Konvikt by Batman, who also captures the mystic Howler which branded Wonder Woman. Miles away Rita’s Tarot face cards undergo a bizarre transformation, whilst things get hot for her self-appointed bodyguard Delgado as hired super-freaks Blindside, Throttle and Whiteout attack the ‘Knight in Shiny Armor’ (Busiek, Nicieza, Norton & Mark Farmer) to seize the tarot-reader…

Barely escaping, the hero and his charge flee, but Tarot is almost oblivious to her personal peril: all she can see is that the pictures on her cards keep changing…

‘Truth, Justice & the American Way…’ follows the recovering Trinity of heroes through the visions of the ever-evolving Tarot. Her attempts to divine the meaning and significance bear no fruit until a horde of Howlers overpower Gangbuster and drag the girl away. Just as ‘Almost’ (Busiek, Nicieza, McDaniel & Owens) shifts focus to Hawkman, as he defeats the seductive Nocturna , the reincarnated warrior stumbles onto the bloodied and brutalised Delgado who is obsessively searching for Rita. His hunt has taken him to StonechatMuseum – where her old Gangsta associates are stealing ancient artefacts – and into accidental combat with the Winged Wonder.

Once the dust settles and amends are made, the two heroes confer and learn that other relics are being taken from museums all over the world…

With odd incidences of threes occurring everywhere, the League start researching and discover a link to the “primal creation energies of the universe”. A check on the Cosmic Egg holding captive the rogue Guardian of the Universe Krona proves a dead end, but the Amazon’s brand has changed shape and ‘A Third Symbol Now’ is revealed just as Hawkman and Gangbuster arrive.

Soon the Pinioned Paladin’s millennia of knowledge and Batman’s deductive ability have reasoned out a link to Ancient Egyptian Tarot rites and discovered that an army of the Dark Knight’s old enemies have been hired to steal pertinent items and relics for an unknown client…

And far across the galaxies Morgaine and Enigma appear to Despero and offer him an equal partnership in controlling all that is…

In ‘Away from Creation’ (Busiek, Nicieza, Derenick & Faucher), John Stewart gives new Firestorm Jason Rausch a history lesson on Krona, who brought evil into the universe through his hunger for forbidden knowledge, unaware that the rogue Guardian and the Cosmic Egg that holds him are now in the possession of the triumvirate of universal usurpers…

Back on Earth ‘Have You Tied Him Up, Yet?’ finds Batman fighting off an attempt to brand him with a sigil as a new force of super-foes is formed by the still-unidentified masterminds. Atomic Furnace Sun-Chained-in-Ink, lovelorn super-ape Primat, eerie Trans-Volitional Man and the flamboyant Swashbuckler have their ‘Dreams of Power’ (art by McDaniel & Owens) as do the exultant Morgaine and her two comrades in re-Creation…

Overcoming the Howler pack assaulting him, the Dark Knight notices that he is acting out of character. All of the Trinity are slowly assuming each others attributes and attitudes, but this hasn’t stopped him deducing who is behind the Tarot-related plot in ‘Crumbs in the Forest’ (still Busiek, Bagley & Thibert) but before he can act a global crisis diverts the JLA’s attentions and forces the team to travel to another dimension, leaving Barbara Gordon, AKA digital information-wizard Oracle, to coordinate Batman’s network of Gotham-based champions on Earth by ‘Making the Pieces Fit’ as a series of macabre and surreal robberies mark the second part of the Dark Trinity’s scheme…

Anti-matter alternate metahumans the Crime Syndicate of Amerika have often battled the JLA but after their last clash their planet, – a polar opposite of ours where Evil, not Good, is dominant, was devastated by a super weapon called the Void Hound.

In ‘Rough World’ the villains were revealed to have abducted humans from many other Earths as a slave force intended to rebuild and repopulate the shattered world. However, as the Justice League arrived to rescue the victims, Superman became increasing infuriated and unstable…

On our Earth, the Dark Trinity’s plan continued to unfold as Robin and Nightwing clashed with Primat in ‘Maybe She Doesn’t Like Concrete?’ and Oracle got an inkling of what the bizarre scavenger hunts were actually for…

‘Distinguished Visitor’ saw the battle in the Anti-Universe seesaw dramatically with each side gaining and loosing ground whilst ‘The Next Step’ (Busiek, Nicieza, Derenick & Faucher) found Hawkman and gangbuster seemingly lose a battle but win the war against Primat and her esoteric allies, after which ‘100101010’ added a new wrinkle to the inter-dimension struggle as GL Stewart was revealed to have been possessed by the devastating Void Hound, and back here reformed villain Edward Nigma investigated the Tarot thefts and found himself accused of being the man behind the mask in ‘Riddle Me This’ from Busiek, Nicieza, Norton & Karl Kesel…

‘That Was a Sonic Boom’ revealed the League’s secret weapon in their war against the CSA, whilst ‘Drop the Coffin and Surrender’ (illustrated by Derenick & Faucher) saw a showdown between Hawkman, Gangbuster and the odd squad turn into an all-out clash involving the Outsiders, Justice Society and Teen Titans which went catastrophically awry when the Ink Chaining the Sun was atomically disrupted…

In the Anti-Matter realm the JLA’s victory provoked global anarchy and chaos which their attempts to rectify only exacerbated. However, ‘So What Now?’ also forced the enigmatic Enigma to reveal some of his many secrets, but when the victorious heroes gratefully returned to their own world, Superman had been sigil-branded. Dark Trinity: 2, Heroes 0…

With Sun-Chained-in-Ink literally in meltdown, ‘Let the Burning Begin’ (Derenick & Faucher) almost saw Earth’s last sunrise until Supergirl and Geo-force managed to shift the threat into deep space, whilst half a world away Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman tracked down Morgaine, Despero and Enigma for a climactic confrontation in ‘And I Finally See It’ but, even with almost every hero on Earth beside them, things did not go according to plan in ‘A Bit of Overkill’ (Busiek, Nicieza, McDaniel & Owens) and

‘We’ll Finish Things Here’ saw the conniving plotters win the day…

Scattered to the Winds’ (art by Norton & Ordway) found the helpless Rita come into her terrifying dormant powers just as Morgaine was ultimately victorious, and the heroic Trinity who inadvertently dictated the Shape of Reality vanished in ‘But So No Longer’ by Busiek, Bagley & Thibert…

As the universe altered into a new and unknown configuration, the origins of Konvikt were revealed in ‘Honor and Justice’ from Busiek, Nicieza, McDaniel & Owens, and this first volume ends on the incredible sight of an impossible world where there never was was a Man of Tomorrow, Dark Knight or Amazon Avenger…

This convoluted but compelling collection also includes a vast selection of covers by Carlos Pacheco, Jesus Merino, Allen Passalaqua, Andy Kubert, Edgar Delgado, Jim Lee, Scott Williams and Alex Sinclair and nine pages of sketches by Bagley and Shane Davis, but, despite being long, frantic and bombastically suspense-filled, it’s just the prologue for the really big story.

To Be Continued…
© 2008, 2009 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Batman/Superman/Wonder Woman: Trinity

New, Revised Review

By Matt Wagner with Dave Stewart & Sean Konot (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-0187-6 (TPB)         978-1-4012-0309-2 (HC)

Comics fans – especially aficionados of the superhero genre – have an innate appreciation and love of mythologizing. It lures like a siren, hits like a titan and dictates our lives and fate like Ragnarok arrived. We just can’t help ourselves…

DC comics have been compiling just such a feast of legend since the very creation of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman, slowly interweaving these undying fantasy favourites into a rich tapestry of perfect adventure which has taken on a life of its own, inextricably entrenched in the dream-lives of generations of children and the adults they became.

However it was only relatively recently that DC tacitly acknowledged or even realised the imaginative treasure-trove they were sitting on. However, the publishers were quick to respond when they did wise-up, cannily building on the epic, cross-generational appeal of the elder statesman appeal of their stars. Amongst the most impressive of the efforts is this tale, originally released as a three-part (of course) Prestige Format miniseries in 2003.

Auteur Matt Wagner – who has an uncanny gift for re-imagining and updating the raw power of Golden Age classics (as seen in Batman and the Mad Monk or Sandman Mystery Theatre for example) – was tapped to reveal a new, canonical first meeting of the all-conquering triumvirate and he did not disappoint…

Following an effusive Introduction from novelist and A-List comics-scribe Brad Meltzer, the story opens in the Art Deco Metropolis as oafish Clark Kent’s morning is ruined by an assassin who shoots a commuter train driver and brings the morning rush-hour to a screeching, crashing, cataclysmic halt…

It soon becomes clear that the subsequent near-disaster has been devised simply to distract and properly assess the mighty Man of Steel. That night a daring raid on S.T.A.R. Labs is ruthlessly foiled by a silent, caped visitor to the “City of Tomorrow” but Superman knows nothing about it until it’s all over.

…And at the bottom of the world more mysterious masked minions at last liberate Superman’s warped and retarded clonal antithesis Bizarro from its icy imprisonment deep beneath the Antarctic mantle…

Another promising day is spoiled for the reporter by a visit from Bruce Wayne, a reluctant occasional ally, and equally obnoxious whether in his playboy charade or as his true self: the dread Batman.

The visit is a courtesy call between distant colleagues. A terrorist group called “The Purge” would have obtained samples of Kryptonite if the Dark Knight hadn’t intervened, but now they plan to raid Lex Luthor’s citadel and professional courtesy demanded that Superman be fully apprised…

Meanwhile in a most secret hideaway a strangely formidable young girl named Diana auditions for the Most Dangerous Man on Earth: an overlord in need of a perfect warrior to lead his massed forces…

Ra’s Al Ghul always gets what he wants and after the charismatic Demon’s Head charms Bizarro with honeyed words of friendship, the freakish doppelganger is only too happy to bring him a present.

Tragically, Russian nuclear submarines are a bit tricky to handle and the super-simpleton manages to drop one of the atomic missiles en route. The lost nuke explodes far from any regular shipping lines, however. Apart from fish, the only creatures affected are a race of immortal women warriors, invisible to mortal eyes and forgotten by Man’s World for millennia…

As mysterious mercenary Diana prepares to carry out The Demon’s orders, in Metropolis another Amazon tracks down Superman and politely enquires why he dropped an A-Bomb on her home. Eschewing rash accusations or pointless fisticuffs they soon come to realise the true nature of the horrific event and unite to track the stolen sub to the Sahara, promptly falling into an ambush by Al Ghul’s fanatical forces.

The guns, knives, nerve gas and suicide bombers prove no problem but the booby-trapped nuke is another matter entirely…

Barely surviving the detonation, Man of Steel and Princess of Power head for GothamCity to seek the grudging assistance of The Demon’s most implacable foe, but the Dark Knight is already on the case, having just unsuccessfully engaged with Al Ghul’s Amazonian field commander.

Reluctant to admit a need for allies and inherently suspicious of bright and shiny super-people chronically unable to make hard decisions or get their hands dirty, Batman nevertheless enters into a tenuous alliance with the dilettante champions to stop the insane plans of an immortal madman determined to wipe out modern civilisation and cleanse the Earth of toxic humanity…

Hard-hitting, epic and spectacular, this Wagnerian (you have no idea how long I’ve wanted to use that) saga superbly illustrates the vast gulfs between the so-different heroes and how they nevertheless mesh to form the perfect team. Strongly character-driven throughout, the protracted struggle to defeat Al Ghul and his infamous allies offers tension, humour, mystery and powerful plot-twists galore, all wrapped up in a bombastic feast of frenzied action and supplemented with savvy cameos and guest shots by other, albeit lesser, keystones of  the DCU.

Stunningly illustrated by Wagner, lavishly coloured by Dave Stewart and subtly lettered by Sean Konot, the book also includes a glorious cover gallery and a beautiful Sketchbook section featuring many of the artist’s preliminary drawings and ideas.

When producing this type of tale there’s always the dilemma of whether to trade on current continuity or to deconstruct and attain a more grandiose, mythic feel, but part-time and casual readers need not worry. Wagner has hewn to the evergreen fundamentals to craft a gratifyingly “Big” story which still manages to reveal more about the individual stars involved than a year’s worth of periodical publishing.

Trinity is primal adventure: accessible, exciting and rewarding, with Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman as they should always be but so seldom are. Team ups and retrofits should all be this good.
© 2003, 2004 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Wonder Woman Archives volume 4

WW arc 4 front
By Charles Moulton (William Moulton Marston & Harry G. Peter) (DC Comics)
ISBN: 1-4012-0145-8

Wonder Woman was conceived by polygraph pioneer William Moulton Marston and illustrated by Harry G. Peter in a calculated attempt to offer girls a positive and forceful role model and, on Editor M.C. Gaines’ part, sell funnybooks.

The Princess of Paradise debuted as a special feature in All Star Comics #8 (December 1941), before springing into her own series and the cover-spot of new anthology title Sensation Comics a month later. An astonishing instant hit, the Amazing Amazon quickly won her own eponymous supplemental title in late Spring of that year (cover-dated Summer 1942).

Once upon a time on a hidden island of immortal super-women, American aviator Steve Trevor of US Army Intelligence crashed to Earth. Near death, he was nursed back to health by young and impressionable Princess Diana.

Fearing her growing obsession with the creature from a long-forgotten and madly violent world, her mother Queen Hippolyte revealed the hidden history of the Amazons: how they were seduced and betrayed by men but rescued by the goddess Aphrodite on condition that they isolated themselves from the rest of the world and devoted their eternal lives to becoming ideal, perfect creatures.

However when goddesses Athena and Aphrodite subsequently instructed Hippolyte to send an Amazon back with the American to fight for global freedom and liberty, Diana overcame all other candidates and became their emissary – Wonder Woman.

On arriving in America she bought the identity and credentials of lovelorn Army nurse Diana Prince, elegantly allowing the Amazon to be close to Steve whilst enabling the heartsick medic to join her own fiancé in South America. Soon Diana also gained a position with Army Intelligence as secretary to General Darnell, ensuring she would always be able to watch over her beloved. She little suspected that, although the painfully shallow Steve only had eyes for the dazzling Amazon superwoman, the General had fallen for the mousy but superbly competent Lieutenant Prince…

Using the nom de plume Charles Moulton, Marston (with some help in later years from assistant Joye Murchison) scripted almost all of the Amazing Amazon’s many and fabulous adventures until his death in 1947, whereupon Robert Kanigher took over the writer’s role. Venerable veteran illustrator and co-creator H.G. Peter performed the same feat, limning practically every titanic tale until his own death in 1958.

This fourth lavishly deluxe full-colour hardback edition collects the increasingly fanciful and intoxicating adventures from Wonder Woman #8-9 and Sensation Comics #25-32 spanning cover-dates January to August 1944. After an appreciative Foreword from comics journalist and historian Maggie Thompson who outlines the landmarks and catalogues the achievements of the Amazing Amazon, the war-woven epics and imaginatively inspirational dramas begin with Sensation #25 and the ‘Adventure of the Kidnapers of Astral Spirits’ as Diana Prince witnesses a murder. However the killer was asleep at home in bed at the time and soon more impossible killings occur, drawing Wonder Woman into an incredible adventure beyond the Walls of Sleep into uncanny realms where even her gifts are useless and only determination and rational deduction can save the day…

Far less outré but no less deadly was the menace of ‘The Masquerader’ who replaced the Amazing Amazon in #26, following an unshakeable prophecy which saw the champion of Love and Freedom murdered by merciless racketeer Duke Dalgan. It took the covert intervention of Aphrodite and a Girl’s Best Friend to thwart that dire fate, but Diana never knew just who took her place…

When the Amazon, Etta Candy, her sorority Holliday Girls and former convict Gay Frollik resolved to raise a billion dollars for ‘The Fun Foundation’, they never expected their most trusted advisor to turn against them, but his greed led to his downfall and the clearing of a framed woman’s name in Sensation #27, after which Wonder Woman #8 offered another novel-length triumph of groundbreaking adventure.

The drama opened with ‘Queen Clea’s Tournament of Death’ as Steve, on an undercover mission, was snatched by a giant barbarian woman. Hot on his trail, Diana discovered her beau a captive of undersea Amazons from lost Atlantis, living in colossal caverns below the oceans.

Diana soon found herself embroiled in a brutal civil war battling the forces of usurping conqueror Clea of belligerent state Venturia and trying to restore the rightful ruler Eeras to peaceful, beleaguered Aurania. Should she fail, Clea intended to invade the upper world, looking for husky men like Steve to replace the depleted, worn-out puny males of her own realm…

After restoring order in Atlantis, the Amazon returned to her military job and civilian identity until a little girl begged for aid in finding her missing father. Closer investigation revealed that Clea’s forces had been capturing sailors and airmen but with the rebel queen imprisoned as ‘The Girl with the Iron Mask’, who could the leader of the raids possibly be?

After another fearsome subterranean clash the status quo was re-established, but when Diana later met a huge a powerful student at Holliday College she realised that the adventure was still not over as ‘The Captive Queen’ infiltrates Paradise Island and captures both Wonder Woman and Eeras’ wayward daughter Octavia.

Even after defeating her ponderous perpetual foe the action doesn’t end for the Princess of Power as her return to the land beneath the sea is interrupted by another revolution.

This time the ineffectual Atlantean men had used the constant distractions and American modern weapons to enslave the women, making the sub-sea empire a brutal, domineering patriarchy…

But not for long, as Diana and Steve led a brilliant counter-offensive…

In Sensation Comics #28 ‘The Malice of the Green Imps’ offered a welcome dose of metaphysical suspense as jealous thought and impulses were made manifest and drove gangsters and even good folks to attack the recently opened Fun Foundation Clinics sponsored by Diana and Gay Frollik, after which #29 saw another Amazon in Man’s World in the ‘Adventure of the Escaped Prisoner’. After imprisoning gambling racketeer and blackmailer Mimi on the Amazon’s prison island, Wonder Woman was unaware that the harridan’s subsequent escape also brought confused and naively curious fellow warrior Mala to New York where she quickly fell in with the wrong crowd…

Marston’s psychiatric background provided yet another weirdly eccentric psychic scenario in #30’s ‘The Blue Spirit Mystery’ as Steve, Etta Candy and Diana investigated Anton Unreal, a mystic and mentalist who offered to send his client to the heavenly Fourth Dimension – for a large fee, of course…

Unfortunately – although a crook – Unreal was no charlatan and the “ascended ones” certainly found themselves in a realm utterly unearthly, but definitely no paradise until Steve and Diana followed and took matters into their own immaterial hands…

Wonder Woman #9 saw the origins of one of the Amazon’s most radical foes and bizarre adventures. ‘Evolution Goes Haywire’ began with zoo gorilla Giganta stealing Steve’s little niece before the Amazon effected a rescue, after which crazy scientist Professor Zool used his experimental Hyper-Atomic Evolutionizer to transform the hirsute simian into an gorgeous 8-foot tall Junoesque human beauty. Sadly the artificial Amazon retained her bestial instincts and, battling Wonder Woman, managed to damage Zool’s machine, resulting in the entire region being devolved back to the days of cavemen and dinosaurs…

With even Diana converted to barbarism it was an uphill struggle to rerun the rise to culture and civilisation sufficiently to achieve a primitive Golden Age in ‘The Freed Captive’, but eventually the twisted time-travel tale took them back to where they had started, even if only after ‘Wonder Woman vs. Achilles’ – a deranged diversion to save her own mother and people from male oppression by the legendary warrior king…

Sensation Comics #31, by contrast, offered delicious whimsy and biting social commentary when the Princess of Power visited ‘Grown-Down Land’. When a wealthy socialite mother neglected her children the tykes ran away and almost died. Rescued by Wonder Woman, they told her of a dream world far better and happier than reality and next morning, when the kids can’t be awoken from a deep sleep, Diana realises they have chosen to stay in their topsy-turvy imaginary country. However when she enters their dream she finds genuine peril of a most unexpected kind…

This glorious tome of treasures then concludes with #32’s ‘The Crime Combine’ as Wonder Woman finds herself at the top of the American underworld’s hit-list. To scotch the scheme Diana asks fully reformed ex-Nazi and trainee Amazon Baroness Paula von Gunther to leave ParadiseIsland and infiltrate the hierarchy of hate, but it quickly seems that the temptations of Man’s World and allure of evil have seduced the villainess back to her wicked ways…

Seen through modern eyes there’s a lot that might be disturbing in theses old comics classics, such as the plentiful examples of apparent bondage, or racial stereotypes from bull-headed Germans to caricatured African Americans, but there’s also a vast amount of truly groundbreaking comics innovation.

The skilfully concocted dramas and incredibly imaginative story-elements are drawn from hugely disparate and often gratifyingly sophisticated sources, but the creators never forget they’re in the business of entertaining as well as edifying the young. There’s huge amounts of action, suspense, contemporary reflection and loads of laughs to be found here, and always the message is: girls are as good as boys and can even be better if they want to…

Wonder Woman influenced the entire nascent superhero genre as much as Superman or Batman and we’re all the richer for it. Even better, this exemplary book of past delights is a triumph of exotic, baroque, beguiling and uniquely exciting adventure, and these Golden Age exploits of the World’s Most Marvellous Warrior Maiden are timeless, pivotal classics in the development of the medium and still offer astounding amounts of fun and thrills for anyone interested in a grand nostalgic read.
© 1944, 2003 DC Comics, Inc. All Rights Reserved.