Diana Prince: Wonder Woman Vol. 4

By Denny O’Neil, Samuel R. Delaney, Bob Haney, Don Heck, Dick Giordano & Jim Aparo (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-84856-156-4

In this concluding chronicle of the de-powered Wonder Woman (comprising issues #199-204 of her own comic plus her team-up with Batman from Brave and the Bold #105) the unique vision and quirky style of Mike Sekowsky is noticeably absent as sometime scripter Denny O’Neil returns for a by-the-numbers thriller illustrated by Marvel veteran Don Heck, with visual continuity assured by inker Dick Giordano.

‘Tribunal of Fear’ is a muddled, fashion-based crime thriller guest-starring private eye Jonny Double, and the concluding part (WW #200, by O’Neil and Giordano) sees the return of an old foe in ‘The Beauty Hater!’. Perhaps these tales should be best remembered for their covers, crafted by the illustrious Jeff Jones.

Catwoman contended with the mortal Amazon in #201’s ‘The Fist of Flame’ when Diana and her mentor I Ching journeyed to Tibet in pursuit of a fabulous, cursed gem which precipitated another extra-dimensional jaunt. Designed to introduce DC’s newest property, noted novelist Samuel R. Delaney joined Giordano for ‘Fangs of Fire’, a helter-skelter epic as Diana, Ching and Catwoman battled with and beside Fritz Leiber’s Fafhrd the Barbarian and the Gray Mouser (the soon-to-be stars of the brief but superb Sword of Sorcery licensed comic).

This wonderfully extravagant delight was followed by ‘Play Now… Die Later!’ (by Bob Haney and Jim Aparo, Brave and the Bold #105) as Diana joined Batman in Gotham City for a gritty, fast-paced thriller involving kidnappers and South American revolutionaries, before Delaney and Giordano took her into a fascinating new direction in the socially-aware Women’s Rights tale ‘The Grandee Caper’.

Comic fans love to gossip. When the next issue appeared it devoted the first twelve pages to undoing everything that had happened since Wonder Woman lost her powers in issue #179, before revising her mythical origin and returning her to her world of immortal Gods, Amazons and super-villains, with a new black nemesis, Nubia.

‘The Second Life of the Original Wonder Woman’ by Robert Kanigher, Heck and Giordano is not such a bad story, but its abrupt reversals had tongues wagging and heads spinning. Had the series offended some shady “higher-ups” who didn’t want controversy or a shake-up of the status quo?

I think not. Sales were never great on the title, and the most logical reason is probably Television.

The Amazon had been optioned as a series since the days of the Batman show in 1967, and by this time – 1973 – work had undoubtedly 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 Wonder Woman was once again “Stronger than Hercules, swifter than Mercury and more beautiful than Aphrodite…”

Comics are an art-form dictated by markets, driven by sales and influenced by fashion. For a brief moment all these factors and a few gifted creators gelled to produce a compelling, engaging and utterly fabulous tranche of tales that are timelessly perfect and eternally fresh. And now you can read them whenever you feel the need simply by opening these pages…

© 1972, 1973, 2008 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

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