By Charles Moulton & HG Peter with Elizabeth Moulton and Olive Byrne, Robert Kanigher, Ross Andru & Mike Esposito, Paul Dini & Alex Ross, Mike Sekowsky & Denny O’Neil, Elliot S! Maggin & Curt Swan, Kanigher & Jose Delbo, George Pérez, Phil Jimenez & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1401212162 (TPB)
Win’s Christmas Gift Recommendation: Star of Wonder, Star so Bright… 9/10
Until DC finally get around to republishing and digitally releasing their vast untapped comic treasures reserves, I’m reduced to recommending some of their superb past printed glories whenever I feel like celebrating a key anniversary of the world’s preeminent female superhero who first caught the public’s attention 8 decades ago…
Wonder Woman was created by polygraph pioneer William Moulton Marston – apparently at the behest of his remarkable wife Elizabeth and their life partner Olive Byrne. The vast majority of the outlandish adventures were limned by classical illustrator Harry G. Peter. She debuted in All Star Comics #8 (cover-dated December 1941) before gaining her own series and the cover-spot in new anthology title Sensation Comics one month later. She was an instant hit, and gained her own eponymous title in late Spring of that year (Summer 1942).
Using the nom de plume Charles Moulton, Marston & Co scripted all the Amazing Amazon’s many and fabulous exploits until his death in 1947, whereupon Robert Kanigher took over the writer’s role. The venerable H.G. Peter continued until his own death in 1958. Wonder Woman #97 – in April of that year – was his last hurrah and the end of an era.
Sadly, for long periods of publishing, Wonder Woman’s material failed to live up to her heritage or status, but this curated anthology offers a good sampling for casual readers and interested parties to start their comic book addiction with.
The mandatory origin is taken from 2001’s graphic album Wonder Woman: Spirit of Truth, by Paul Dini & Alex Ross. Hidden from the eyes of man, a race of immortal superwomen has prospered in all fields of science and art, secure in their isolation and the protection of their Hellenic Gods. This all abruptly ends when global war forces US air-force pilot SteveTrevor down on their secluded home.
Nursing him, Diana, young daughter of the queen – I know there’s no men, but don’t ask, just read the book – falls in love, and determines to return with him to ‘Man’s World’ to fight evil and be near him.
Following on from that is the character’s second ever appearance, taken from Sensation Comics #1 (January 1942). Here pop psychologist Marston and artist H.G. Peter reprise how the Amazon Princess returns wounded aviator Trevor to the modern world and chooses to remain, adopting a human identity to be near him in ‘Wonder Woman Comes to America’.
By the same team, ‘Villainy Incorporated!’ comes from 1948 (Wonder Woman #28): an epic-length tale of revenge as eight of her greatest enemies escape from attitude-altering Transformation Island where they were imprisoned, to seek the Amazon’s destruction.
Another team with long experience of our heroine was writer Robert Kanigher and artists Ross Andru & Mike Esposito. Their work is represented here by ‘Top Secret’ (Wonder Woman #99, 1958) wherein Steve tries to trick her into marriage – something the creep tried a lot back then – and ‘Wanted – Wonder Woman’ (#108, 1959), as Flying Saucer aliens frame her for heinous crimes as a precursor to a planetary invasion.
In the mid-1960s, many attempts were made to boost ever-diminishing sales and the profile of the iconic star, and Kanigher, Andru & Esposito began recycling the stories and even style of Marston & Peter. From that period comes ‘Giganta – the Gorilla Girl’ (Wonder Woman #163, 1966), as an evolutionary experiment transforms a great ape into a 7-foot tall, blonde human bombshell with the hots for Steve.
Even greater evolutions and contortions were in store for Princess Diana. With the arrival of Mike Sekowsky and young scripter Denny O’Neil, the Amazon lost her powers, compelled to rely on human skills an determination: evolving into an Emma Peel/Modesty Blaise-like character, fighting evil with nothing but her wits, martial arts and the latest Carnaby Street outfits. From Wonder Woman #178 (1968) comes ‘Wonder Woman’s Rival’, the prequel to that big change and the new team’s first work on the character in a tale of blackmail, murder – and fashion!
Eventually Ms. Prince regained her powers and petitioned to rejoin the Justice League of America. To reassure herself, Diana set twelve tasks to prove her competence and asked for a different JLA-er to monitor each one. Wonder Woman#212, from 1974, saw her saving the world from nuclear Armageddon with Green Lantern along for the ride. ‘Wish Upon a Star’ is a relatively shock-free romp courtesy of Elliot Maggin, but has lovely art from Curt Swan & Frank Giacoia.
Kanigher returned for the sentimental but endearing. ‘Be Wonder Woman… And Die’ (#286, 1981), illustrated by Jose Delbo & Dave Hunt, as much the tale of a dying actress as the Awesome Amazon.
After the Crisis on Infinite Earths maxi-event of 1985, Wonder Woman was re-imagined for the brand-new, stripped-down DC Universe, and her comic book started again with a new #1. From issue #20 of that run comes ‘Who Killed Myndi Mayer’ (1988) by writer/artist George Pérez and inked by Bob McCloud: an intriguing mystery concerning the shooting of the Amazon’s controversial publicist.
This sparkling primer concludes with a pretty but rather slow “day-in-the-life” tale as top-flight journalist Lois Laneinterviews the princess and cultural ambassador to Man’s’ World, providing readers with valuable insights into the hero and the woman. ‘She’s a Wonder’ (Wonder Woman volume 2, #170, 2001) is written and drawn by Phil Jimenez with inks by Andy Lanning: providing a cosy way to wrap up proceedings.
Wonder Woman is a global presence of comic fiction, and set to remain one. This unchallenging collection is a solid representation of what makes her so .
© 1942, 1948, 1958, 1959, 1966, 1968, 1974, 1981, 1988, 2001, 2007 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.