The All-New Batman: The Brave and the Bold volume 1


By Sholly Fisch, Rick Burchett, Dan Davis & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-3272-6 (TPB)

The Brave and the Bold premiered in 1955 as an anthology adventure comic featuring short complete tales about a variety of period heroes: a format reflecting the era’s filmic fascination with flamboyantly fanciful historical dramas. Devised and written by Bob Kanigher, issue #1 led with Roman epic Golden Gladiator, medieval mystery-man The Silent Knight and Joe Kubert’s Viking Prince. Soon the Gladiator was alternated with Robin Hood, but the adventure theme carried the title until the end of the decade when the burgeoning costumed character revival saw B&B transform into a try-out vehicle like Showcase.

Used to premiere concepts and characters such as Task Force X: The Suicide Squad, Cave Carson, Hawkman and Strange Sports Stories as well as the epochal Justice League of America, the comic soldiered on until issue #50 when it found another innovative new direction which once again caught the public’s imagination.

That issue paired two superheroes – Green Arrow and Martian Manhunter – in a one-off team-up, and was followed by more of the same: Aquaman and Hawkman in #51, WWII “Battle Stars” Sgt. Rock, Captain Cloud, Mme. Marie & the Haunted Tank in #52 and The Atom & Flash in #53.

The next instant union – Robin, Aqualad and Kid Flash – evolved into Teen Titans and after Metal Men/the Atom and Flash/Martian Manhunter appeared, a new hero debuted in #57-58: Metamorpho, the Element Man.

From then it was back to the increasingly popular superhero pairings with #59. Although no one realised it at the time, that particular conjunction – Batman with Green Lantern – would be particularly significant….

A return engagement for the Teen Titans, issues spotlighting Earth-Two stalwarts Starman and Black Canary and Earth-One’s Wonder Woman and Supergirl soon gave way to an indication of things to come when Batman returned to duel hero/villain Eclipso in #64: an early acknowledgement of the brewing TV-induced mania mere months away.

Within two issues (following Flash/Doom Patrol and Metamorpho/Metal Men), B&B #67 saw the Caped Crusader take de facto control of the title and a lion’s share of team-ups. With the late exception of #72 and 73 (Spectre/Flash and Aquaman/Atom), the title was henceforth a place where the Gotham Gangbuster invited the rest of DC’s heroic pantheon to come and play…

Decades later, Batman: The Animated Series – masterminded by Bruce Timm and Paul Dini in the 1990s – revolutionised the Dark Knight and subsequently led to some of the absolute best comic book adventures in his 80-year publishing history. It also led to a spin-off print title…

With constant funnybook iterations and tie-ins to a succession of TV animation series, Batman has remained immensely popular and a sublime introducer of kids to the magical world of the printed page. One fun-filled incarnation was Batman: The Brave and the Bold, which gloriously celebrated the team up in both its all-ages small-screen and comicbook spin-off.

Shamelessly and superbly plundering decades of continuity arcana in a profusion of alliances between the Dark Knight and DC’s lesser creations, the show was supplemented by a cool kid’s periodical full of fun, verve and swashbuckling dash, cunningly crafted to appeal as much to the parents and grandparents as those fresh-faced neophyte kids…

This stellar trade paperback and digital collection re-presents issues #1-6 of the second series – The All-New Batman: The Brave and the Bold – in an immensely entertaining all-ages ensemble suitable for newcomers, fans and aficionados of all ages. It was originally released between January and June 2011. Although absolutely unnecessary to the reader’s enjoyment, a passing familiarity with the TV episodes will enhance the overall experience as will knowledge of the bizarre minutiae of 1960s and 1970s DC lore…

Crafted by Sholly Fisch, Rich Burchett & Dan Davis and following the format of the TV show, each tale opens with a brief vignette/prequel adventure before telling a longer tale. TA-NB:TB&TB (last time I’m typing that!) #1 sees the Caped Crimebuster battle Joker robots  beside Black Canary before main feature ‘Bottle of the Planets’ reunites him the “World’s Finest” partner in a devious mystery set in the last outpost of Krypton: the Bottled City of Kandor…

Having successfully solved the case of vanishing super-weapons, Batman teams with talking tiger Mr. Tawky-Tawny, magical (Captain) Marvel Shazam and his gods-powered family to save Christmas in ‘That Holiday Feeling’. That involves finding, fighting and foiling the emotion-bending Psycho-Pirate whilst #3 sees Flash (two, actually) and the Dark Knight hunting Mirror Master and the Mad Hatter through a mirror dimension inhabited by all the characters from Lewis Carroll’s books. Curiouser and curiouser …

Wonder Woman headlines in #4 as irate godling Eros seeks to teach her a lesson by using his arrows to instigate a wedding in ‘The Bride and the Bold’. The ceremony between Bat and Amazon sparks a lot of interest and – thanks to jealous Talia Al Ghul – a wave of super-villain attacks and the biggest wedding party brawl of all time before order and sense are restored…

‘Man-Hunted’ find Batman and Emerald jerk Guy Gardner fractiously allied to defeat a legion of the killer robots, but diverted to other realms to save a glorious enclave of nigh-forgotten 1960s alien beasts and sidekicks like Cryll and Zook(look them up, I double-dog dare ya…) from manic main man Lobo

Ending this excellent excursion through DC’s daftest corridors is a beguiling contest between the Dark Knight Detective and Martian Manhunter J’onn J’onzz who tests his abilities against classic observation and deduction in ‘Now You see Me…’; sadly the salutary learning experience goes slightly awry when the calamitous Clayface is accidentally exposed…

Despite being ostensibly aimed at TV-addicted kids, these mini-sagas are wonderful, traditional comics thrillers no self-respecting fun-fan should miss: accessible, splendidly rendered yarns for the broadest range of excitement-seeking readers. This is a fabulous rollercoaster ride confirming the now-seamless link between animated features and comic books. After all, it’s just adventure entertainment in the end; really unmissable entertainment…

What more do you need to know?
© 2010, 2011 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Wonder Woman: 80 Years of the Amazon Warrior – The Deluxe Edition


By William Moulton Marston & Harry G. Peter, Trina Robbins, Joye Hummel, Robert Kanigher, Samuel R. Delany, Cary Bates, Roy Thomas, George Pérez, Len Wein, Lynda Carter, William Messner-Loebs, Phil Jimenez,Joe Kelly, Allan Heinberg, Amanda Conner, Brian Azzarello, Mariko TamakiGreg Rucka, Becky Cloonan & Michael W. Conrad, Patty Jenkins, Ross Andru & Mike Esposito, Dick Giordano, Don Heck, Gene Colan, Jill Thompson, Lee Moder, Gary Frank, Cliff Chiang, Elena Casagrande, Nicola Scott, Jen Bartel & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-7795-1157-7 (HB)

Win’s Christmas Gift Recommendation: Classic Triumphs of Wondrous Empowerment… 9/10

Without doubt Wonder Woman is the very acme of female role models. Since her premier in 1941 she has permeated every aspect of global consciousness and become not only a paradigm of comics’ very fabric but also a symbol to women everywhere. In whatever era you observe, the Amazing Amazon epitomises the eternal balance between Brains and Brawn and, over those decades, has become one of that rarefied pantheon of literary creations to achieve meta-reality.

For decades, the official story was that the Princess of Paradise Island was conceived by psychologist and polygraph pioneer William Moulton Marston: a calculated attempt to offer girls a positive and forceful role model and – for forward-thinking Editor M.C. Gaines – a sound move to sell more funnybooks to girls. From a guest shot in All Star Comics the Amazon immediately catapulted one month later into her own series and the cover-spot of new anthology title Sensation Comics.

An instant hit, Wonder Woman won her eponymous supplemental title a few months later (cover-dated summer 1942). That set up enabled the Star-Spangled Sensation to weather the vicissitudes of the notoriously transient comic book marketplace and survive beyond the Golden Age of costumed heroes beside Superman, Batman and a few lucky hangers-on who inhabited the backs of their titles.

We now know that Wonder Woman was a team if not truly communal effort, with Moulton Marston acting at the behest of his remarkable wife Elizabeth and their life partner Olive Byrne. Barring a couple of early fill-ins by Frank Godwin, the vast majority of outlandish, eccentric, thematically barbed adventures they collectively penned were limned by classical illustrator Harry G. Peter.

This stunning compilation is part of a series introducing and exploring the historical and cultural pedigree of venerable DC icons. Available in hardback and digital formats, it offers a sequence of sublime snapshots detailing how Diana of the Amazons has evolved and thrived in worlds and times where women were generally regarded as second class, second rate, painfully functional or strictly ornamental.

It re-presents material from All-Star Comics #8; Sensation Comics #1; Wonder Woman volume 1 #5, 78, 98, 124, 162, 203, 206; Comic Cavalcade #11; DC Special #3; DC Comics Presents #41; Wonder Woman volume 2 #6, 57, 73, 170;Wonder Woman Annual #1, Wonder Woman volume 4 #23; Wonder Woman #600, 750; Future State: Immortal Wonder Woman #1 and 2: cumulatively covering July 1940 to February 2021. The comics stories are augmented throughout by essays and brief critical analyses from significant personages linked with the Amazon, but we begin with the origin…

‘Introducing Wonder Woman’ was an extra story in All Star Comics #8 (cover-dated December 1941/January 1942), home of the mighty and popular Justice Society of America, and led directly to Wonder Woman Comes to America’: her formal debut in Sensation Comics #1 (January 1942). In combination they reveal how, once upon a time on a hidden island of immortal super-women, American aviator Steve Trevor of US Army Intelligence crashes to Earth. Near death, he is 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 reveals 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 isolate themselves from the mortal world: devoting their eternal lives to becoming ideal rational beings.

However, after Trevor explains the perfidious spy plot which accidentally brought him to the Island enclave and how the planet is in crisis, Athena and Aphrodite instruct the Queen to send an Amazon back with the American to fight for global freedom and liberty. Hippolyte declares an open contest to find the best candidate and, despite being forbidden to compete, young closeted, cosseted Diana clandestinely overcomes all other candidates to become their emissary.

Accepting the will of the gods, the worried mother outfits Diana in the guise of Wonder Woman and sends her out to Man’s World armed with an arsenal of super-scientific and magical weapons…

Leading from the front in her own series in anthological Sensation Comics, the first tale resumed where the introduction left off. ‘Wonder Woman Comes to America’ sees the eager culture-shocked immigrant returning the recuperating Trevor to Man’s World before trouncing a gang of bank robbers and briefly falling in with a show business swindler.

An intriguing innovation was her buying her secret identity from lovelorn Army nurse Diana Prince, elegantly allowing the Amazon to be close to Steve whilst enabling the heartsick medic to join her fiancé in South America. Even with all that going on, there was still room for Wonder Woman and Captain Trevor to bust up a spy ring attempting to use poison gas on a Draft Induction centre. Typically, Steve breaks his leg and ends up in hospital again, where “Nurse Prince” looks after him…

New Diana 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 painfully shallow Steve only had eyes for the dazzling superwoman, the General had fallen for mousy but supremely competent Lieutenant Prince…

As previously mentioned, the Amazing Amazon was a huge and ever-growing hit, gaining her own title in late Spring of 1942 (cover-dated Summer). This comic frequently innovated with full-length stories, and the extract here – the opening chapter of Wonder Woman #5, June/July 1943 – presented an interlinked epic: the ‘Battle for Womanhood’ that had repercussion for the cast for decades to come.

War-god Mars (who had instigated the World War from his HQ on the red planet through earthly pawns Hitler, Mussoliniand Hirohito) returns to plague humanity directly, this time enlisting the aid of a brilliant but physically deformed and intellectually demented woman-hating psychologist with psychic powers. Tormented Dr. Psycho uses his gifts to marry and dominate a medium named Marva, employing her unique abilities to form ectoplasmic bodies as he seeks to enslave every woman on Earth. Allegorical or what, huh?

Veteran cartoonist and herself something of a feminist icon, Trina Robbins shares her thoughts on ‘Wonder Woman’before the Golden Age delights resume with The Cheetah Returns!’ (Comics Cavalcade #11, Summer1945) as the savage miscreant and symbol of selfish, chaotic wilfulness wreaks havoc after escaping prison and replacing her remarkably similar-seeming cousin…

Drawn by Peter, this tale was scripted by another lost author – Joye Hummel. Born in 1924 and forgotten for decades, she ghost-wrote at least 70 Wonder Woman stories between 1944 and 1947 as Marston gradually succumbed to cancer. She left, ostensibly to raise a family but apparently because themes of universal female autonomy were being editorially edged out by male management…

The dawn era of superheroes was drawing to a close and fantasy was giving way to grittier, more manly themes. Included here is a rare treat, as ‘The Cheetah’s Thought Prisoners’ finds the cat criminal released on a legal technicality and using Amazon thought modification to torment and dominate her archenemy and friends.

With the author unknown – could it be Hummel? – this H.G. Peter yarn was scheduled for Comic Cavalcade but shelved when that quarterly became a funny animal title. Eventually exhumed and published in reprint giant DC Special #3 (June 1969), it shows the dangerous power of a woman in command!

By the time of Wonder Woman #78 (November 1955) Robert Kanigher was scripting Diana’s dramas and ‘Zero Hour for an Amazon!’ sees her struggling but triumphing after all her magic weapons malfunction: a standard tale as the author sought to maintain the series status quo.

Utilising group nom de plume Charles Moulton, Marston – and his collaborators, albeit with the women uniformly unacknowledged and uncredited for decades – generated the Amazon’s amazing exploits until his death in 1947, whereupon Kanigher ultimately assumed command with the venerable Peter soldiering on until his own death in 1958. Wonder Woman #97 – in April of that year – was his last hurrah and the end of an era.

Ross Andru & Mike Esposito had debuted as cover artists 3 issues earlier, but with the opening inclusion of Wonder Woman #98, took over the visual component whilst Kanigher reinvented much of the old mythology and even tinkered with her origins.

Whilst costumed colleagues foundered, Wonder Woman soldiered on well into the Silver Age and far beyond it, benefitting from constant revisionism under Kanigher’s canny auspices: re-energising her for the Silver Age renaissance and beyond…

With the exception of DC’s “Trinity” (plus those few innocuous back-up features like Aquaman and Green Arrow), superheroes all but vanished at the end of the 1940s, replaced by mostly mortal champions in a deluge of anthologised genre titles. Everything changed again after Showcase #4 rekindled the public’s interest in costumed crimebusters with a new iteration of The Flash in 1956.

From the moment those fanciful floodgates opened wide once more, and whilst re-inventing Golden Age Greats such as Green Lantern, The Atom and Hawkman, National/DC began updating the venerable veteran survivors who had weathered the 1950s backlash – none more so than the ever-resilient Amazon.

As editor, Kanigher had always tweaked or reinvented much of the original mythos, but now his tinkering with her origins unleashed a very enthusiastic yet motherly Diana on an unsuspecting world in a fanciful blend of girlish whimsy, rampant sexism, strange romance, alien invasion, monster-mashing, utterly surreal almost stream-of-consciousness storytelling. This was at a time when all DC’s newly revived, revised or reinvented costumed champions were getting together and teaming up at the drop of a hat – as indeed was the Princess of Power – in Justice League of America. However, within the pages of her own title, a timeless, isolated fantasy universe was carrying on much as it always had. Here, that transition is marked by ‘The Million Dollar Penny!’ from #98 (May 1958) with Kanigher, Andru & Esposito reinventing the mythology and adjusting her origins…

When goddess Athena visits an island of super-scientific, immortal women, she informs Queen Hippolyta that she must send an emissary and champion of justice to crime-ridden “Man’s World.”

Declaring an open competition for the job, the queen isn’t surprised when her daughter Diana wins. She is then given the task of turning one penny into a million dollars in a day – all profits going to children’s charities, of course…

Just as the new Wonder Woman commences her coin chore, American airman Steve Trevor bails out of his malfunctioning jet high above the magically hidden isle, unaware that should any male set foot on Amazon soil the immortals would lose all their powers. Promptly thwarting impending disaster, Diana and Steve team up to accomplish her task, encountering along the way ‘The Undersea Menace’ before building ‘The Impossible Bridge!’

Following a chat about the comic champion’s real world influence ‘In Conversation with Gal Godot’, mythic madness resumes with ‘The Impossible Day!’ (WW #124, August 1961).

Amazon science (and the unfettered imagination of Kanigher, for whom slavish continuity, consistency or rationality were never as important as strong plots or breathtaking visuals) had already enabled readers to share the adventures of the teenaged Wonder Girl and toddler Wonder Tot both in their appropriate time-zones and, on occasion, teamed together on “Impossible Days”.

Here Tot, Teen and adult teamed together against shape-shifting nuclear threat Multiple Man, with the threat or promise of more pairings to come…

As the 1960s progressed Wonder Woman was looking tired and increasingly out of step with the rest of National/DC’s gradually gelling – and ultimately cohesively shared – continuity but, by the decade’s close, a radical overhaul was on the cards – but before looking forward, the company turned back…

Kanigher never forgot he was writing comic books and constantly pointed it out to the readership – even though their preference might not be to have narrative rules, and suspension of disbelief flouted whilst fourth walls were continually broached. In #158 (not included here), he gathered the entire – vast – series cast in his office and told them that most were fired. Readers were then challenged to guess who would be back for the Big Change…

The promised reboot consisted of a full switch to the faux 1940’s stories mimicking the triumphs of the Golden Age.

‘The Startling Secret of Diana Prince!’ opened WW #162, (May 1966) by reworking Sensation Comics #1, relating again how the Paradise Island Émigré purchased the identity and papers of lovelorn Army Nurse Diana Prince to be close to Trevor at all times…

By 1968 superhero comics were again in deep decline and publishers sought new ways to stay profitable – or even just in business – as audience tastes and American society evolved. Back then, with the industry dependent on newsstand sales, if you weren’t popular, you died.

Handing over the increasingly moribund 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. Sekowsky’s unique visualisation of the JLA had contributed to that title’s overwhelming success, and at this time he was stretching himself with a number of experimental projects, focussed on teen and youth-markets.

With scripter Denny O’Neil, he killed Steve Trevor, removed the Amazons and Paradise Island, taking with them all their magic and paraphernalia – including Diana’s astounding weapons, Invisible Plane, Golden Lasso and mighty superpowers. Despite all that, her love for Steve compelled her to remain on Earth. Effectively becoming her own secret identity of Diana Prince, the now-mortal champion resolved to fight injustice as a human would…

Sekowsky’s root and branch overhaul offered a whole new kind of Wonder Woman (one heavily based on TV character Emma Peel) but, as always, fashion ruled and in a few years, without any fanfare or warning, everything that had happened since Wonder Woman lost her powers was unwritten.

From that period comes the last adventure of Diana Prince, with celebrated novelist Samuel R. Delaney joining Dick Giordano to take the hero – abortively – in a fascinating new direction. Socially-aware polemic ‘The Grandee Caper’(December 1972) sees Ms. Prince championing underpaid, bullied and exploited department store workers (all women because they can be legally paid less) in a tale that pulls no punches, offers no easy solutions and can’t even manage a happy ending…

A true landmark in every way, it was immediately scuppered as – without warning or explanation – the superpowered Amazon was back in the next issue. Not included here but crucial to know is that in #204, her mythical origins were revised and re-established as she abruptly returned to a world of immortals, gods, magic monster and super-villains. There was even a new nemesis: an Greco-African 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 Sekowsky’s run and the most logical reason is probably television. Wonder Woman had been under option since the 1966 Batman TV show and by this time (1973) production had begun on an original pilot featuring Cathy Lee Crosby. An rapid return to the character most viewers were familiar with from their own childhoods seems perfectly logical to me. By the time Linda Carter made the concept work in 1975, Wonder Woman was once again “Stronger than Hercules, swifter than Mercury and more beautiful than Aphrodite”…

Eventually however – after the TV-inspired sales boost ended with the show’s cancellation – the comic slumped into another decline, leading to another revamp. Showcasing that tenuous era is ‘War of the Wonder Women!’ from #206, (July 1973) in which Cary Bates, Don Heck & Vince Colletta pit the Amazon and Nubia against war god Mars and discover the origins of Diana’s long-lost twin sister…

Another relaunch and return to past glory came in DC Comics Presents #41 (January 1982) as a “Prevue” insert by Roy Thomas, Gene Colan & Romeo Tanghal offered (‘A Bold New Direction for Wonder Woman’). It entailed returning Captain Prince and resurrected Colonel Trevor to military intelligence duty just in time for the Amazon to enjoy a costume tweak and settle old scores with Hercules – the demigod who abused his mother and brought about the first fall of the Amazons…

Those themes were key to the next iteration of the Amazon. Following Crisis on Infinite Earths’ mass restructuring of continuity, Diana was radically re-imagined for the modern DCU. Her comic series started again from #1, with a February 1987 cover-date, crafted by Greg Potter, George Pérez & Bruce Patterson. The new history revealed how Amazons are actually reincarnated souls of women murdered by men in primordial times. Given potent new form by female Hellenic gods, they thrived in a segregated city of aloof and indomitable women until war god Ares orchestrated their downfall via his demigod dupe Herakles.

Abused, subjugated and despondent, the Amazons were rescued by their patron goddesses in return for eternal penance in isolation on hidden the island of Themyscira.

Into that paradise Diana was born: another murdered soul imbued with life in an infant body made from clay. She excelled in every endeavour and became the Wonder Woman…

After relocating to the outer world, Diana becomes an inspirational figure and global hero whilst constantly trying to integrate and understand the madness of “Patriarch’s World”, but only after saving all mankind from armageddon…

Concluding the initial story arc, ‘Powerplay’ – by George Pérez, Len Wein & Bruce Patterson from Wonder Woman volume 2 #1, 6 (July 1987) – sees a naive but valiant Diana fighting beside an elderly Steve Trevor who will never be her romantic partner and a select band of mortal friends to stop Ares and his vile children from making mankind destroy itself with nuclear war. Driven by the unbounded creativity and sensitivity of Pérez, this incarnation was possibly the most effective, entertaining and true to the Marston group’s original concept…

‘In Conversation with Gal Godot’ precedes ‘The Fugitive Kind’ (Wonder Woman vol. 2 #57, August 1991) with Pérez scripting for illustrator Jill Thompson & Romeo Tanghal as the Amazon is blamed for a massacre in Gotham City…

William Messner, Lee Moder & Ande Parks take the displaced Amazon further into fresh territory in ‘Losses’ (Wonder Woman vol. 2 #73, April 1993) as Themyscira vanishes from Earth and Diana, deprived of financial support, starts looking for work and a place to live, ignorant of the machinations of a new foe…

Change became a constant and by the time of ‘She’s a Wonder!’ (Wonder Woman vol. 2 #170, July 2001) by Phil Jimenez, Joe Kelly & Andy Lanning, she is again a global celebrity.

This beguiling day-in-the-life tale sees Lois Lane interviewing the superhero/Themysciran cultural ambassador to Mans’s World during a typical day, providing readers with valuable insights into the heroine and the woman.

‘Backstory’ from Wonder Woman Annual #1 (November 2007) has Allan Heinberg, Gary Frank & Jon Sibal set intelligence operatives Diana Prince and Nemesis on the trail of Wonder Woman following her execution of Maxwell Lordduring the Infinite Crisis event: a sharp way of updating the readership in a time of rapid and sweeping change, after which Amanda Conner delivers a sliver of sheer delight as the Amazon and Power Girl hilariously bond over baddie bashing and cat care tips in ‘Fuzzy Logic’ from Wonder Woman #600 (August 2010).

In 2011, the entire DCU was reimagined and Wonder Woman enjoyed one of the biggest upheavals, learning that she was not born from clay but was actually an illegitimate daughter of ever-philandering Zeus. Her life became a melee of shifting alliances or constant battle against outraged deities and fellow demigods culminating in ‘God Down’ (Wonder Woman volume 4 #23, October 2013). Here Brian Azzarello & Cliff Chiang detail the death of gods, defeat of the usurping First Born and the creation of anew god of war after which Wonder Woman #750 (March 2020) provides a brace of tales starting with Mariko Tamaki & Elena Casagrande’s ‘The Interrogation’.

Here Diana again defeats Ares – but in a most unconventional manner – whilst ‘Never Change’ by Greg Rucka & Nicola Scott sees her and former archenemy Circe offer one final chance at redemption and salvation to the monstrous Cheetah…

The comics conclude with a glimpse at a potential tomorrow. Future State: Immortal Wonder Woman #1 and 2 (January & February 2021) reveals how Diana copes with the end of existence in an impossibly distant tomorrow populated by ghosts and hardy survivors – like Superman and Darkseid – in an intriguing continued epic by Becky Cloonan & Michael W, Conrad, & Jen Bartel.

‘In Conversation with Patty Jenkins’ provides some final thoughts from the Wonder Woman. movies’ director to wrap up the celebrations…

Wonder Woman is a primal figure of comic fiction and global symbol, and looks set to remain one. This compilation might not be all of her best material but it is a solid representation of what gave her such fame and should grace any fan’s collection.
© 1941, 1943, 1945, 1955, 1958, 1961, 1966, 1969, 1973, 1982, 1987, 1991, 1993, 2001, 2007, 2010, 2013, 2020, 2021 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Showcase Presents Wonder Woman volume 2


By Robert Kanigher, Ross Andru & Mike Esposito & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-1373-2 (TPB)

Win’s Christmas Gift Recommendation: Silly Sagas and Some Socially Forbidden Fruits… 8/10

Until DC finally get around to republishing and digitally releasing their vast untapped comic treasures, 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 in October 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 they collectively penned were limned by classical illustrator Harry G. Peter.

The Astounding Amazon 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 a month later. She was an instant hit, and won her own eponymous title in late Spring of that year (Summer 1942).

Using the nom de plume Charles Moulton, Marston & Co – the women unacknowledged and uncredited for decades – 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. Ross Andru & Mike Esposito had debuted as cover artists 3 issues earlier, but with the opening inclusion of Wonder Woman #98, took over the visual component as Robert Kanigher reinvented much of the old mythology and even tinkered with her origins.

This second economical monochrome Showcase collection covers issues #118-137: spanning November 1960 to April 1963, a period of increased fantasy frolics and wildly imaginative excess which still divides fans into violently opposing camps…

With the exception of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and a few anodyne back-up features, costumed heroes went extinct at the beginning of the 1950s, replaced by merely mortal champions in a welter of anthologised genre titles. When Showcase #4 rekindled the public’s interest in costumed crime-busters with a new iteration of The Flash in 1956, the fanciful floodgates opened wide once more…

Whilst re-inventing Golden Age Greats such as Green Lantern, Atom and Hawkman, National/DC also updated those hoary survivors who had weathered the backlash – especially the Man of Steel, Caped Crusader and ever-resilient Amazing Amazon…

The fanciful blend of girlish whimsy, rampant sexism, untrue romance, alien invasion, monster-mashing and all-out surreal (some would say-stream-of-consciousness) storytelling continues unabated here from the get-go beginning with ‘Wonder Woman’s Impossible Decision!’ (#118) seeing the comely champion constantly distracted from her mission to wipe out injustice by the antics of her savagely-sparring suitors Colonel Steve Trevor and Manno the merman.

Amazon science (and the unfettered imagination of Kanigher, for whom slavish continuity, consistency or rationality were never as important as strong plots or breathtaking visuals) had already enabled readers to share the adventures of Wonder Girl and latterly Wonder Tot – the Princess of Power as teen and toddler – both in their appropriate time-zones and, on occasion, teamed together on “Impossible Days”.

WW #119 opened with a tale of the Titanic Teen. ‘Mer-Boy’s Secret Prize!’ sees the besotted undersea booby repeatedly risk his life to win his intended inamorata a flashy treasure, whilst in ‘Three Wishes of Doom!’, a capable but arrogant young girl wins a competition and claims Wonder Woman’s Bracelets, Lasso and Tiara with the disastrous notion of using them to out-do the Amazing Amazon…

Issue #120’s ‘The Secret of Volcano Mountain! pits teen and adult Dianas – a decade apart – against the same terrifying threat as an alien elemental twice attempts to conquer the world, after which an “Impossible Day” event sees Wonder Girl, her older self and their mother Queen Hippolyta unite to defeat the monstrous peril of ‘The Island Eater!’

‘The Skyscraper Wonder Woman’ introduces Diana’s pre-schooler incarnation as the Sinister Seer of Saturn seeks to invade Earth with a colossal robot facsimile whilst simultaneously de-aging the Amazon to her younger – but crucially, no less competent – adolescent and pre-adolescent incarnations…

Wonder Woman #123 offered a glimpse of the ‘Amazon Magic-Eye Album!’ as Hippolyta reviewed some of the crazy exploits of her daughter as Tot, Teen and adult, whilst the issue after contrived to team them all together against shape-shifting nuclear threat Multiple Man on ‘The Impossible Day!’

Steve and Manno resumed their war for the princess’ hand in marriage in #125’s ‘Wonder Woman… Battle Prize!’ with the improbable romantic triangle ending up marooned on a beast-&-alien amoeba-men-infested Blue Lagoon…

‘Wonder Tot and Mister Genie!’ was the first of two tales in #126, depicting what might happen when an imaginative super-kid is left on her own, whilst exasperated US Air Force lieutenant Diana Prince gets steamed at being her own romantic rival for Trevor in ‘The Unmasking of Wonder Woman!

The next issue sees her stopping another extraterrestrial assault in ‘Invaders of the Topsy-Turvy Planet’ before ‘Wonder Woman’s Surprise Honeymoon!’ gives usually incorrigible Trevor a terrifying foretaste of what married life with his Amazon Angel might be like…

WW#128 revealed the astounding and charming ‘Origin of the Amazing Robot Plane!’ before things turn (a bit) more serious when the Amazon endures the deadly ‘Vengeance of the Angle Man!’

In #129, another spectacular Impossible Day sees the entire Wonder Woman Family (that would be just her at three different ages with mum alongside to save the day) in ‘The Vengeance of Multiple Man!’ whilst #130 opens with Wonder Tot discovering the ‘Secret of Mister Genie’s Magic Turban!’ and closes with an outrageous and embarrassing attack by Angle Man on her mature self in ‘The Mirage Mirrors!’

WW #131’s, ‘The Proving of Wonder Woman!’ details the origins of her unique epithets (such as “Thunderbolts of Jove”, “Neptune’s Trident” and “Great Hera”) before back-up ‘Wonder Woman’s Surprise Birthday Gift!’ has indefatigable, incorrigible Manno risk all manner of maritime monstrosity to find her a dazzling bauble, whilst the Amazon herself was trying to find her mother a present.

‘Wonder Tot and the Flying Saucer!’ sees the adult Amazon turn herself into a toddler to converse with a baby and discover the secret of a devastating alien atomic attack, whilst a second story reveals ancient romantic encounters which occurred when ‘Wonder Queen Fights Hercules!’

Wonder Woman #133 cover-featured the Impossible Tale of ‘The Amazing Amazon Race!’ wherein Tot, Teen, Woman and Queen compete in a fraught athletic contest with deadly consequences, whilst in Man’s World, Diana Prince takes centre-stage to become ‘Wonder Woman’s Invincible Rival… Herself!’ when a movie-project went dangerously awry.

‘Menace of the Mirror Wonder Women!’ pits her and Steve against the Image-Maker: a deadly other-dimensional mastermind able to animate and enslave reflections, before #134 closes with another disastrous sub-sea date for Wonder Girl when she must prevent ‘The Capture of Mer-boy!’

It was one more time for Multiple Man as he/it returned to battle the Wonder Family in #135’s Impossible Day drama ‘Attack of the Human Iceberg!’, whilst #136 had the Female Fury transformed into a ravenous, colossal threat to humanity after alien machine men infect her with a growth-agent to become ‘Wonder Woman… World’s Greatest Menace!’

This compendium concludes with #137’s classic duel on an ersatz Earth, where mechanical replicas of humanity and metal facsimiles of the Amazons run amok. Here, Earth’s foremost female defender must overcome ‘The Robot Wonder Woman!’

By modern narrative standards these exuberant, effulgent fantasies are usually illogical and occasionally just plain bonkers, but in those days far less attention was paid to continuity and shared universes: adventure in the moment was paramount and these strangely infectious romps simply sparkled then and now with fun, thrills and sheer spectacle.

Wonder Woman is rightly revered as a focus of female strength, independence and empowerment, but the welcoming nostalgia and easy familiarity of such innocuous costumed fairy tales must be a delight for unbiased readers, whilst the true, incomparable value of such stories is the incredible quality entertainment they still offer.
© 1960-1963, 2008 DC Comics, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Wonder Woman – The Once and Future Story


By Trina Robbins, Colleen Doran, Jackson Guice & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-56389-373-5 (TPB)

Win’s Christmas Gift Recommendation: Star of Wonder, Star so Bright… 9/10

Until DC fully republish and digitally release their vast comic treasure reserves, I’m reduced to regularly recommending some of their superb past printed glories whenever I feel like celebrating a key anniversary such as that of the world’s preeminent female superhero. She first caught the public’s attention 8 decades ago and has broken out of fiction to shake the real world over and over again, just like here…

Every so often the earnest intention to do some good generates an above-average comics product, such as this stunning one-shot created to raise awareness of domestic violence. A hugely important but constantly ignored issue – and one far too many unfortunate children are cruelly aware of from an early age – it is also one of the oldest “social” topics in comic book history. Superman memorably dealt out rough justice to a “wife-beater” in his very first adventure (Action Comics#1, June 1938). It’s a true shame that we’re still trying to address let alone fix this vile situation…

Less visceral – and far more even-handed regarding such a complex issue than I would have thought possible – The Once and Future Story is a beautiful and subtle tale-within-a-tale from Trina Robbins, illustrated by Colleen Doran & Jackson Guice. It opens as Wonder Woman is summoned to an archaeological dig in Ireland by a husband-&-wife research team who hope their guest can verify the findings hidden within a 3000-year-old tomb containing the body and burial trappings of a princess from the fabled island of Themyscira…

As she translates the scrolls – detailing the story of Princess Artemis of Ephesus, daughter of Queen Alcippe, who was taken as a slave by legendary Greek hero TheseusDiana slowly realizes that the animosity of dig-chief James Kennealyis perhaps more than professional jealousy, and that his wife’s Moira’s defensive attitude and constant apologies may mask a dark secret.

Artemis’s brutal, painful quest to rescue her mother mirrors Moira’s journey to awareness as both women – separated by three millennia – ultimately take control of their so different, yet tragically similar, lives…

Challenging, powerful but still wonderfully entertaining, this is a tale both worthy and worthwhile, and one far too long overlooked. Now what does that remind me of?
© 1998 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Wonder Woman – The Greatest Stories Ever Told


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.

Showcase Presents Wonder Woman volume 1


By Robert Kanigher, Ross Andru & Mike Esposito & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-1373-2 (TPB)

Until DC finally get around to republishing and digitally releasing their vast untapped comic treasures, 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 in October 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 by 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 a month later. She was an instant hit, and won 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 discrete end of an era.

This first cheap and cheerful monochrome Showcase collection covers what came next: specifically issues #98-117, spanning May 1958-October 1960.

With the notable exception of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and inoffensive back-up B-listers Aquaman and Green Arrow (plus – arguably – Johnny Quick, who held on until December 1954 and cowboy crimebuster Vigilante who finally bit the dust a month earlier), costumed heroes died out at the beginning of the 1950s, replaced by a plethora of merely mortal champions and a welter of anthologised genre titles.

When after almost no time at all, Showcase #4 rekindled the readership’s imagination and zest for masked mystery-men with a new iteration of The Flash in 1956, the fanciful floodgates opened wide once more. As well as re-imagining Golden Age stalwarts such as Green Lantern, The Atom and Hawkman, National/DC consequently updated all its hoary survivors such as the aforementioned Emerald Archer and Sea King. Also included in that revitalising agenda were the company’s High Trinity: Man of Steel, Caped Crusader and the ever-resilient Princess of Power…

Artists Ross Andru & Mike Esposito had debuted as cover artists 3 issues earlier, but with opening inclusion Wonder Woman #98 they took over the entire comic book as Robert Kanigher reinvented much of the old mythology and even tinkered with her origins in ‘The Million Dollar Penny!’ when goddess Athena visits an island of super-scientific immortal women, informing Queen Hippolyta that she must send an emissary and champion of justice to crime-ridden “Man’s World.”

Declaring an open competition for the job, the queen isn’t surprised when her daughter Diana wins and is given the task of turning a penny into a million dollars in a day – all profits going to children’s charities, of course…

Just as the new Wonder Woman begins her coin chore, American airman Steve Trevor bails out of his malfunctioning jet high above the magically hidden isle, unaware that should any male set foot on Amazon soil the immortals would lose all their powers. Promptly thwarting impending disaster, Diana and Steve team up to accomplish her task, encountering along the way ‘The Undersea Menace’ before building ‘The Impossible Bridge!’

Issue #99 opened in similar bombastic fashion with ‘Stampede of the Comets!’ as Trevor is lost undertaking a pioneering space mission and Wonder Woman goes to his rescue thanks to incredible Amazon engineering ingenuity. After foiling an alien attack against Earth, the reunited lovers return in time for the introduction of the Hellenic Heroine’s new covert identity as Air Force Intelligence Lieutenant Diana Prince in ‘Top Secret!’ – beginning a decade of tales with Steve perpetually attempting to uncover her identity and make the most powerful woman on Earth his blushing bride, whilst his bespectacled, glorified secretary stands unnoticed, exasperated and ignored right beside – or slightly behind – him…

The 100th issue was a spectacular battle saga commencing with ‘The Challenge of Dimension X!’ and an alternate Earth Wonder Woman competing with the Amazing Amazon for sole rights to the title: all culminating with a deciding bout in ‘The Forest of Giants!’, whilst ‘Wonder Woman’s 100th Anniversary!’ deals with the impossibility of capturing the far-too-fast and furious Amazon’s exploits on film for Paradise Island’s archives…

‘The Undersea Trap!’ opened #101, with Steve tricking his “Angel” into agreeing to marry him if she has to rescue him three times in 24 hours (just chalk it up to simpler times, or you’ll pop a blood vessel, OK?) after which the odd couple are trapped by a temporal tyrant in ‘The Fun House of Time!’

Steve’s affection and wits are tested by an alien giant in ‘The Three Faces of Wonder Woman’ when he’s forced to pick out his true love from a trio of identical duplicates to save the world in #102, before ‘The Wonder Woman Album’ returns to the previously explored “impossible-to-photograph” theme in #103, but devotes most space to sinister thriller ‘The Box of Three Dooms!’ wherein the murderous Gadget Maker attempts to destroy the Amazon with a booby-trapped gift.

‘Trial By Fire’ pits Diana Prince against a host of deadly traps only Wonder Woman could survive after which ‘Key to Deception!’ closes #104 by reintroducing Golden Age villain the Duke of Deception as a militaristic Martian marauder in a gripping interplanetary caper.

Issue #105 debuted Wonder Girl in the ‘Secret Origin of Wonder Woman’, revealing how centuries ago the gods and goddesses of Olympus bestowed unique powers on the daughter of Queen Hippolyta and how – as a mere teenager – the indomitable Diana brought the Amazons to Paradise Island. Continuity – let alone consistency and rationality – were never as important to Kanigher as strong story or breathtaking visuals, and this eclectic odyssey is a great yarn that simply annoyed the heck out of a lot of fans… but not as much as the junior Amazon would in years to come…

Second feature ‘Eagle of Space’ is a more traditional tale of predatory space Pterodactyls and a dinosaur planet where Steve and Diana lend a civilising hand to the indigenous caveman population.

‘The Human Charm Bracelet!’ in #106 sees Wonder Woman battling an unbeatable extraterrestrial giant who wants Earth for his plaything, and her younger self encounters a chameleonic lass in ‘The Invisible Wonder Girl!’

The high fantasy adventures of the junior heroine clearly caught somebody’s fancy as they started coming thick and fast: ‘Wonder Woman – Amazon Teen-Ager!’ opened #107 as the youngster finds a romantic interest in merboy Ronno, undergoing a quest to win herself a superhero costume, whilst her adult self is relegated to a back-up battle against ‘Gunslingers of Space!’

‘Wanted… Wonder Woman!’ features Flying Saucer aliens framing our heroine for heinous crimes as a precursor to a planetary invasion and ‘The Stamps of Doom!’ offers a plot by another murderous inventor to kill the Princess in #108, before the next issue steps back in time to feature ‘Wonder Girl in Giant Land’ with the nubile neophyte easily overcoming ambush by colossal aliens. Her mature self is represented by ‘The Million Dollar Pigeon!’ wherein gangsters think they’ve found a foolproof method of removing the Amazing Amazon from their lives…

Wonder Woman #110 was a full-length saga with the indomitable warrior maid searching Earth for a missing alien princess in ‘The Bridge of Crocodiles!’ If the wanderer can’t be found, her concerned family intend laying waste the entire planet…

In #111, ‘The Robot Wonder Woman’ commissioned by gangsters provides no competition for the genuine article, whilst ‘Battle of the Mermen!’ sees Wonder Girl drawn into a sub-sea rumble between competing gangs of teenaged fish-boys…

The youthful incarnation led off the next issue. ‘Wonder Girl in the Chest of Monsters!’ takes the concept to unparalleled heights of absurdity as, in contemporary times, a heroic girl is rewarded with three Amazon wishes and travels back in time for an adventure with Wonder Woman’s younger self, whilst #113 return to relatively straight action with ‘The Invasion of the Sphinx Creatures!’ with the Adult Amazon battling the ancient weapons of a resurrected Pharoah-Queen, before ‘Wonder Girl’s Birthday Party!’ recounts how each anniversary event seems to coincide with geological disaster, mythological menace or uncanny event…

Aliens once more attack in #114’s ‘The Monster Express!’, turning parade balloons into ravening monsters until Diana and Steve intercede, after which ‘Wonder Girl’s Robot Playmate!’ demonstrate how hard it is growing up special…

Old enemy Angle Man returns revamped for the Silver Age in #115’s ‘Graveyard of Monster Ships!’ whilst ‘Mer-Boy’s Undersea Party!’ proves that above or below the waves Wonder Girls just don’t want to have fun, whilst in #116 both Ronno and Young Diana prove capable of serious heroism in ‘The Cave of Secret Creatures!’, before the Adult Amazon finally stops a millennial menace to mankind in ‘The Time -Traveller of Terror!’

This initial enchanting epistle concludes with Wonder Woman #117 wherein ‘The Fantastic Fishermen of the Forbidden Sea!’ revive Golden Age stars Etta Candy and the Holliday Girls – in modernised, marginally less offensive incarnations – for a fantastic tale of aquatic invaders before Amazon time-travel techniques allow the impossible to occur when ‘Wonder Girl Meets Wonder Woman!’… or do they?

By modern standards these exuberant, effulgent fantasies are all-out crazy, but as examples of the days when less attention was paid to continuity and concepts of shared universes and adventure in the moment were paramount, these outrageous romps simply sparkle with fun, thrills and sheer spectacle.

Wonder Woman is rightly revered as a focal point of female strength, independence and empowerment, but the welcoming nostalgia and easy familiarity of these costumed fairy tales remain a delight for all open-minded readers with the true value of these exploits being the incredible quality of entertainment they provide.
© 1958-1960, 2007 DC Comics, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Superman: The City of Tomorrow volume 1


By Jeph Loeb, Stuart Immonen, Mark Millar, Mark Schultz, Joe Kelly, Mike McKone, Steve Epting, Dough Mahnke, German Garcia, Joe Phillips, Yannick Paquette, Kano, Butch Guice, Ed McGuinness & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-9508-0 (TPB)

The Man of Tomorrow has proven to be all things to most people over more than 80 years of action and adventure, with Jerry Siegel & Joe Shuster’s iconic Superman now practically unrecognisable to most fans after continual radical shake-ups and revisions. Nevertheless, every refit and reboot has resulted in appalled fans and new devotees in pretty much equal proportion, so perhaps the Metropolis Marvel’s greatest ability is the power to survive change…

These days, in the aftermath of the Future State and Infinite Frontier events, myriad decades of accrued mythology have been re-assimilated into an overarching, all-inclusive media dominant, film-favoured continuity, with the grittily stripped-down, post-Crisis on Infinite Earths Man of Steel (as re-imagined by John Byrne and built upon by an army of immensely talented comics creators) regarded as a stunning high point.

As soon as the Byrne restart had demolished much of the mythology and iconography which had grown up around the “Strange Visitor from Another World” over fifty glorious years, successive writers, artists and editors expended a lot of time and ingenuity restoring it, albeit in terms more accessible to a cynical, well-informed audience far more sophisticated than their grandparents ever were.

Even so, by the mid-1990’s Byrne’s baby was beginning to look a little tired. The sales kick generated by the Death… and Return of Superman was already fading, so the decision was made to give the big guy a bit of a tweak for the fast-approaching new millennium: bringing in new creators and moving the stories into more bombastic territory.

The fresh tone was augmented by a new sequence and style of trade paperback editions and this new collection adheres to that format in gigantic themed tomes like this initial outing re-presenting material from Action Comics #760-763; Superman #151-154, Superman: Man of Steel # 95-98; The Adventures of Superman #573-576 and Superman: Y2K, covering December 1999-March 2000.

It spectacularly opens with ‘We’re Back!’ by Jeph Loeb, Mike McKone & Marlo Alquiza (from Superman #151), which sees the recently wrecked Daily Planet restored, rebuilt and returned to glory after a dark period under the ownership of Lex Luthor, allowing Lois Lane-Kent plenty of opportunities for reflection, remembrance and handy recapping before the sinister son of alien marauder Mongul explosively crashes to earth…

‘Higher Ground’ (by Stuart Immonen, Mark Millar, Steve Epting & Denis Rodier from Adventures of Superman #573) then details Luthor’s machinations and political chicanery in the creation of a proposed elite “hypersector” to cap the rebuilding of “his” City of Tomorrow. Only stubborn landowner Jerome Odett stands in his way, but with the mayor on his team and bending the law to his needs Lex is assured of victory… until Superman intervenes using sentiment, nostalgia and happy childhood memories as his weapons of choice to arouse popular opinion…

Mark Schultz, Doug Mahnke & Tom Nguyen then reveal that ‘Krypton Lives’ (Superman: Man of Steel # 95) after a Superman robot malfunctions in the Antarctic, allowing humans to enter the Kryptonian’s Fortress of Solitude and triggering the escape of a bizarre string of ancient yet impossibly alive Kryptonian artefacts and creatures.

Forced to destroy the last vestiges of his alien heritage, Kal-El returns to Lois, thinking that a precious chapter of his life is over, but he couldn’t be more wrong…

Crafted by Joe Kelly, German Garcia & Joe Rubinstein, Action Comics #760 depicts ‘…Never-Ending Battle…’ as a legion of minor menaces and misfits lead the Man of Tomorrow to Latina sorceress La Encantadora who sells slivers of Kryptonite to thugs trying to lay our hero low. Even after the elusive enchantress is corralled, she delivers one last surprise which will make much mischief for the Last Son of Krypton…

‘Deadline U.S.A.’ (Superman #152, Loeb, McKone & Alquiza) resumes the interrupted battle with Mongul Jr., but all conflict ceases when the mammoth monster finally gets the Man of Steel to stop hitting and listen…

The brutal tyrant has come to warn of a vast, universe-ending threat and, in conjunction with Luthor, is offering to train Superman to beat it…

There are more pedestrian but just as critical distracting problems to deal with. During Superman’s sparring with Mongul, Jimmy Olsen took a photo of the hero’s hand sporting a wedding ring. When the picture is leaked, the media goes into a feeding frenzy…

‘Something Borrowed, Something Blue’ (Immonen, Millar, Joe Phillips & Rich Faber; Adventures of Superman #574) follows that strand as old foe and potential bunny-boiler Obsession resurfaces in a Superwoman outfit, claiming to be the much-sought Mrs. Superman. However, her deranged tantrum leads to nothing but tragedy and disaster…

Returning ‘Home’ (by Schultz, Mahnke & Nguyen in Superman: Man of Steel #96) Clark Kent finds his Metropolis apartment transformed into a terrifying outpost of his destroyed birthworld, courtesy of renegade miracle machine The Eradicator. In the resultant clash, Superman looks doomed to destruction, until Lois takes decisive action…

Her valiant nature and wifely tolerance is truly tested in Action Comics #761, as – courtesy of Kelly, Garcia & Rubinstein – Lois is abandoned after Wonder Woman requests the Man of Tomorrow join her in battle beside gods against devils.

For the feisty journalist it’s mere days until Clark returns, but she’s blissfully unaware that her husband and the perfect warrior woman have been comrades – and perhaps more – ‘For a Thousand Years…’

The last Christmas of the 20th century ends in Superman #153 (Loeb, McKone & Alquiza) as ‘Say Goodbye’ finds the Action Ace heading into space with Mongul to battle Imperiex, Destroyer of Galaxies who has targeted the Milky Way for destruction…

When the pair implausibly triumph, Mongul instantly betrays his erstwhile pupil and only a violent intervention by bounty hunter Lobo prevents a tragic travesty. What nobody knows is that the Imperiex so recently destroyed is just a fractional drone of the real cosmic obliterator, who is now really ticked off…

Offering a brief pause and change-of-pace ‘A Night at the Opera’ (by Immonen, Millar, Yannick Paquette, Dexter Vines & Rich Faber; Adventures of Superman #575) sees Luthor poison Clark in a churlish attempt to monopolize and impress Lois, before Schultz, Mahnke & Nguyen’s ‘Bridge the Past and Future’ (Superman: Man of Steel # 97) focusses on John Henry Irons – AKA Steel – and his niece Natasha. The high-tech armourers to the City’s police force join Superman against the possessed personification of the Eradicator, still hell-bent on making Earth an outpost of lost Krypton, but now afflicted by an all-too-human consciousness …

As year and millennium anxiously count down to potential doom (kids – this was a genuine concern at the time, you should check it out…) Christmas tensions escalate in Action Comics #762 as Kelly, Garcia, Kano & Rubinstein’s ‘All I Want for Christmas’ finds Man of Steel battling occasional ally Etrigan the Demon beside current foe La Encantadora, before all rediscover the true meaning of the season…

Finally, the long-dreaded doom days begin with the Superman: Y2K one-shot special, crafted by scripter Joe Kelly and artists Butch Guice, Kevin Conrad, Mark Propst & Richard Bonk. ‘The End’ traces the history of the Luthor dynasty in Metropolis, from the first settlers in America to the present day when Last Son Lex practically owns the entire place as a counterpoint to the ongoing action…

With the end of the Holidays fast approaching, staunch traditionalist Clark is facing an existential crisis: Lois and his own mother want to elbow the sacrosanct seasonal tradition of a quiet New Year’s on the Smallville farm for a (professionally-catered, not home-cooked) vacation in the Big City…

Bowing to the inevitable, the Hubby of Tomorrow ferries the family to a Metropolis suddenly gripped with terror: fearing that all the computers on Earth will imminently expire, precipitating the end of civilisation as the millennium closes…

When the countdown concludes, everybody’s fears are totally justified. An alien entity overwhelms the world’s digital systems, triggering a wave of destruction affecting every electronic device on Earth…

Alien digital dictator Brainac 2.5 has upgraded himself since his last attack, but his hatred for Luthor is undiminished. As every hero on Earth battles panic, riots and failing technologies, and Superman and Green Lantern are busy fielding all the nuclear missiles launched during the terrifying induced glitch, the computer dictator is trying his hardest to murder Lex and his new baby daughter Lena Luthor.

As part of his scheme Brainiac 2.5 has also enslaved Earth’s many robotic and android entities such as Red Tornado, Hourman and the Metal Men, but the AI invader is blithely unaware that he too is being used…

With the world – and especially Metropolis – crashing into ruin the secret invader makes its move: from the far distant future the merciless Brainac 13 program has been attempting to overwrite its ancient ancestor and take over Earth centuries before it was even devised…

As described by Loeb, Ed McGuinness & Cam Smith in Superman volume 2 #154 (March 2000), the crisis intensifies in ‘Whatever Happened to the City of Tomorrow?’ as the colossal chronologically-displaced construct begins reformatting the world: converting matter into materials and designs analogous to its own time. Unfortunately, that’s very bad news for the billions of human beings inside buildings, vehicles and vessels abruptly undergoing those transformations…

Even Luthor is helpless, locked out of his own corporate tower as “his” city falls apart whilst the Man of Steel is occupied battling Brainiac 13 and upgraded cyborg assassin Metallo. Assistance arrives in most unwelcome form as little Lena begins offering technical advice. The toddler has been possessed by presumed-destroyed Brainiac 2.5: simultaneously becoming hostage and bolt-hole for the outmoded, nigh-obsolete alien menace…

With the aid of the Metal Men, Superman defeats Metallo and confers with Lois and Jimmy Olsen. The games-mad lad theorises that the transforming city is starting to resemble a gigantic motherboard…

As elsewhere Jonathan and Martha Kent are trapped aboard a subway train programmed to deliver organic units to a slave-indoctrination station, the Action Ace attempts to dislodge the computerising city’s main power cable. When Brainiac 13 tries to digitise and absorb the annoying Kryptonian, it accidentally reverts the hero to a previous incarnation: the intangible electrical form dubbed Superman Blue

The hostile planetary hacking continues in The Adventures of Superman #576 as ‘AnarchY2Knowledge’ (Millar, Immonen & José Marzan, Jr.) finds the Man of Energy hopelessly tackling Brainiac 13. He seeks to quell the rising body count of helpless humans, whilst far below Luthor and Lena 2.5 battle through marauding B13 creations in the overwritten bowels of the LexCorp Tower towards a stolen secret weapon…

The alien-occupied infant shares a direct link with all Brainiacs’ core programming and has discovered a possible backdoor that could enable them to destroy the all-pervasive program from the future. Their progress is greatly facilitated after Luthor’s lethally devoted bodyguards Hope and Mercy finally locate them. As preparations proceed, the villains opt to rescue Superman, incidentally restoring the Metropolis Marvel to a flesh and blood state. To save Metropolis for his family, the evil billionaire will even work with his most hated enemy…

Superman: Man of Steel # 98 continues the epic with ‘Thirty Minutes to Oblivion’ (Schultz, Mahnke & Nguyen) as the senior Kents escape conversion into B13 drones thanks to a last moment rescue by the Man of Steel and The Eradicator.

After a lengthy period of self-imposed banishment in deep space (for which see Superman: Exile) Kal-El returned to Earth carrying an incredibly powerful Kryptonian artefact which had survived the destruction of the planet. The Eradicator could reshape matter and was programmed to preserve or resurrect and restore the heritage and influence of the lost civilisation at any cost.

After a number of close calls Superman realised it was too dangerous, so he buried it in an Antarctic crevasse and foolishly assumed that ended the affair. Such was not the case and the miracle machine returned many times, always attempting to remake Earth into New Krypton.

When Superman died, it manufactured a new body and sought to carry on Kal-El’s legacy… Eventually it failed and fell into the hands of dying scientist David Connor who merged with the manufactured body to produce a phenomenally powerful – if morally and emotionally conflicted – new hero…

Superman’s understandable anxiety is assuaged as Eradicator points out a weakness in B13 tech assimilation. Its transmode programs have been unable to infect Kryptonian systems such as those in the Fortress of Solitude, but the base has now become the invader’s primary target. If the program masters Kryptonian systems it will be utterly unstoppable…

After finishing off Metallo and the co-opted Metal Men, Eradicator and Superman head to the Fortress, whilst in his factory John Henry Irons and Natasha find their own temporary answer to the threat of the constantly encroaching and bloodthirsty B13 drones…

Deep below LexCorp, Luthor and Lena 2.5 are working towards similar goals with the same insights whilst planning to betray each other later. Admitting that Brainiac core systems can’t even see Kryptonian tech, the baby bodysnatcher advises Lex to modify the robotic warsuit stolen from Superman and deploy it against the apparently omnipotent digital invader.

In the Antarctic, events have moved to a crisis point. The Fortress – transformed by echoes of the original Eradicator – has reconstructed itself into a colossal warrior attempting to overwrite the predatory B13 programs and satisfy its own primary mission… recreating Krypton.

To counter this threat David Connor pays an intolerable price…

The epic comes to a startling conclusion in ‘Sacrifice for Tomorrow’ (Kelly, Garcia, Kano & Alquiza in Action Comics #763) as Superman returns to Metropolis armed with the knowledge of B13’s Achilles’ heel and his repurposed Kryptonian butler Kelex

Attacking the monstrous computer tyrant with a battalion of mechanoid heroes, the Man of Tomorrow is again repulsed and seeks Luthor’s aid. However, despite Lex’s resolve to work with his nemesis to defeat Brainiac, the billionaire cannot resist turning the warsuit on its previous owner. Typically, Superman was counting on treachery, using it as an opportunity to hijack the Kryptonian armour’s systems to power a forced crash in Brainiac 13…

The blockbuster battle ends as Earth is rapidly reconverted to its original state, but for some inexplicable reason the remission halts outside Metropolis. The city remains a valuable, incomprehensible artefact of a far future with Luthor in the driving seat, frantically patenting thousands of incredible technological advances. There is no sign of baby Lena and the new master of Metropolis refuses to hear her name mentioned…

To Be Continued…

With covers by Phil Jimenez; Dwayne Turner & Danny Miki; Ian Churchill & Norm Rapmund; Bryan Hitch & Paul Neary; Lee Bermejo; Guice; McGuiness & Smith; Immonen & Marzan; Mahnke & John Dell and Garcia & Mendoza, this blistering paperback and digital blockbuster tome introduces a whole new world – and a wealth of fresh problems – for the venerable, wide-ranging cast to cope with: building built upon the scintillating re-casting of the greatest of all superheroes. Lovers of the genre cannot help but respond to the sheer scale, spectacle and compelling melodrama of these tales which will delight all fans of pure untrammelled Fights ‘n’ Tights fiction.
© 1999, 2000, 2019 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

World’s Finest: Guardians of Earth


By Denny O’Neil, Mike Friedrich, Steve Skeates, Len Wein, Elliot S! Maggin, Dick Dillin, Joe Giella & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-7795-0178-3 (HB)

For decades Superman and Batman were quintessential superhero partners: the “World’s Finest team”. The affable stalwarts were best buddies as well as mutually respectful colleagues, and their pairing made sound financial sense since DC’s top heroes could happily cross-pollinate and cross-sell their combined readerships. This most inevitable of Paladin Pairings first occurred on the Superman radio show in the early 1940s, whilst in comics the pair had only briefly met whilst on a Justice Society of America adventure in All-Star Comics #36 (August-September 1947) – and perhaps even there they missed each other in the gaudy hubbub…

Of course, they had shared covers on World’s Finest Comics from the outset, but never crossed paths inside; sticking firmly to their specified solo adventures within. In fact, they never shared an official comic book case. However, once that Rubicon was crossed in Superman #76 (May 1952), the partnership solidified thanks to spiralling costs and dwindling page-counts. As 52-page titles dwindled to the 32, WFC permanently sealed the new deal and the industry never looked back…

The Cape and Cowl Crusaders were partners and allies from #71 onwards (July 1954), working together until the title was cancelled in the build-up to Crisis on Infinite Earths in 1986. All that is, except for a brief period when the Man of Steel was paired with other stars of DC’s firmament.

This mighty compelling compendium re-presents those cataclysmic collaborations from the turbulent 1970’s (World’s Finest Comics #198-214, spanning November 1970 to October- November 1972), as radical shifts in America’s tastes and cultural landscape fostered a hunger for more mature, socially relevant stories. That drive even affected the Dark Knight and Action Ace – so much so, in fact, that their partnership was temporarily suspended: paused so Superman could guest-star with other DC icons.

After three years, another bold experiment reunited them as parents of The Super-Sons before the regular relationship was revitalised and renewed. With the World’s Finest Heroes fully restored, their bizarrely apt pre-eminence endured another lengthy run until the title’s demise.

Without preamble the action kicks off here by returning to a thorny topic which had bedevilled fans for years…

The comic book experience is littered with eternal, unanswerable questions. The most common and most passionately asked always begin “who would win if…” or “who’s strongest/smartest/fastest…”

Here, crafted by Denny O’Neil, Dick Dillin & Joe Giella, ‘Race to Save the Universe!’ and the concluding ‘Race to Save Time’ (WFC #198-199; November and December 1970) upped the stakes on two previous competitions as the high-speed heroes are conscripted by the Guardians of the Universe to circumnavigate the entire cosmos at their greatest velocities to reverse the rampage of the mysterious Anachronids: faster-than-light creatures whose pell-mell course throughout the galaxies is actually unwinding time itself and unravelling the fabric of creation. Little does anybody suspect that Superman’s oldest enemies were behind the entire appalling scheme…

Anniversary issue #200 was crafted by regular Robin, the Teen Wonder scripter Mike Friedrich, with Dillin & Giella doing the drawing – as they did for this entire book. ‘Prisoners of the Immortal World!’ (February 1971) focusses on college-student brothers on opposite sides of the Vietnam War debate abducted along with youth icon Robin and “Mr. Establishment” Superman to a distant planet where undying vampiric aliens wage eternal war on each other.

Green Lantern pops in for #201, contesting ‘A Prize of Peril!’ (O’Neil, Dillin & Giella) which would grant either Emerald Gladiator or Man of Steel sole jurisdiction of Earth’s skies. Sadly, all is not as it seems…

Batman returned for a limited engagement in #202 as the O’Neil-penned ‘Vengeance of the Tomb-Thing!’ sees archaeologists unearth something horrific in Egypt, just before Superman seemingly goes mad and attacks his greatest friends and allies. A superb ecological scare-story, this tale changed the Man of Tomorrow’s life for decades to come…

Current Aquaman writer Steve Skeates waded in for #203 as ‘Who’s Minding the Earth?’ pits Metropolis Marvel and King of Atlantis against parthenogenetic mutant dolphins attempting to terraform the polluted world into something more welcoming to their kind…

More ecological terror underpins O’Neil’s bleak warning in #204 as ‘Journey to the End of Hope!’ finds powerless former Wonder Woman Diana Prince and Superman summoned to a barren lifeless Earth. Here a dying computer warns that a butterfly effect will inevitably lead to this future unless they prevent a certain person dying in a college campus riot. Only time will tell if they succeed as the clash does indeed cost a life despite all their efforts…

Racism, sexism and the oppression of reactionary conservative values then get a well-deserved pasting in #205’s ‘The Computer that Captured a Town!’

Here Skeates deviously layers a Teen Titans tale with a wealth of eye-opening commentary after the team are locked into a mid-Victorian parochial paradise enforced by a dead man and alien tech, until the Man of Tomorrow wades in to set things straight…

WFC #206 (October-November 1971) was an all-reprint giant, represented here by its rousing Dick Giordano cover, after which #207 again reunites the true World’s Finest team as Batman returns to solve a murder mystery in the making and save the Man of Tomorrow in ‘A Matter of Light and Death!’, after which Earth-2 sorcerer hero Doctor Fate aids the Action Ace in thwarting the extraterrestrial ‘Peril of the Planet-Smashers!’ – both courtesy of Len Wein, Dillin & Giella.

Supernatural menaces were increasingly popular as a global horror boom reshaped readers’ tastes, informing (#209) Friedrich’s ‘Meet the Tempter – and Die!’ wherein Hawkman and Superman are seduced into evil by an eternal demon, whilst Elliot S! Maggin’s ‘World of Faceless Slaves!’ in #210 catapults the Caped Kryptonian and Green Arrow into a primordial magic kingdom to liberate the vassals of diabolical sorcerer supreme Effron

The Darknight Detective returns again in #211, as O’Neil, Dillin & Giella devise a global manhunt for a ‘Fugitive from the Stars!’ Their target is a political refugee whose arrest is demanded by warriors who are a physical match for Superman, but happily, not Batman’s intellectual equals…

‘…And So My World Begins!’ in #212 is O’Neil’s thematic sequel to Justice League of America #71, which saw Mars devasted by race war and its survivors flee to the stars in search of a new homeworld. Here, Martian Manhunter J’onn J’onzz seeks Superman’s aid to rescue the last survivors from life-leeching mechanoids, unaware that a traitor has sold them all out to predatory aliens…

Maggin drills deep into super science for #213 as ‘Peril in a Very Small Place!’ finds the greater universe endangered by a microscopic and insatiable Genesis molecule, demanding a fantastic voyage into the Microverse inside a phone line for the Atom and Superman before this compilation concludes with wild west weirdness from by Skeates, O’Neil, Dillin & Giella. Here Golden Age troubleshooter The Vigilante delivers the silver bullet necessary to save Superman when ‘A Beast Stalks the Badlands!’

With covers by Neal Adams, Dick Giordano, Nick Cardy and Curt Swan & Murphy Anderson, this book is a gloriously uncomplicated treasure trove of adventures which still have the power and punch to enthral even today’s jaded seen it-all audiences.

The contents of this titanic team-up tome are a veritable feast of witty, pretty thrillers packing as much punch and wonder now as they always have. Utterly entrancing adventure for fans of all ages!
© 1970, 1971, 1972, 2020 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Who is Wonder Woman?


By Allan Heinberg, Terry Dodson & Rachel Dodson (DC Comics)
ISBN13: 978-1-4012-1233-9 (HB) 978-1-4012-7233-3 (TPB)

Wonder Woman debuted in October 1941. With such a big anniversary and her second movie out at last (sort of) this year seems ideal to focus some attention on her lesser-known graphic triumphs. Here’s one I prepared earlier…

When the Amazing Amazon was relaunched in the wake of mega-crossover events Infinite Crisis and 52 with art stars Terry & Rachel Dodson illustrating the scripts of TV heavy hitter Allan Heinberg (Grey’s Anatomy, The O.C. and Sex and the City among others), there was much well-deserved media attention. However, the comic was plagued by missed deadlines and most of the series’ initial momentum was lost. After the fourth issue the saga was simply abandoned unfinished. A new writer stepped in with very impressive results (although that’s a tale for another time and, a separate review) while the original creators regrouped. The initial story-arc was eventually concluded in Wonder Woman Annual volume 2, #1.

When all the dust settled, the completed adventure was collected in this impressive if slim hardback and paperback and we can finally judge the story on its actual merit – unless you only read digital editions. Still. It can’t be long now, can it?

Following the reality realignments of Infinite Crisis, there was a hiatus of a year when Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman vanished. Sort of…

This story opens with an Amazon warrior battling some of Wonder Woman’s most fantastic villains and menaces, but she’s not Princess Diana of Themyscira. Rather Donna Troy, the original Wonder Girl, has taken the role – and excelled – but said oldest enemies have joined forces under the aegis of a mysterious mastermind and captured the replacement – as well as the new Wonder Girl…

Enter Sarge Steel, super spy Nemesis and the latest recruit to the Department of Metahuman Affairs, field agent Diana Prince! In case you’re a complete neophyte regarding Amazon continuity, that’s supposed to be a big, bewildering shock because Diana is secretly the original Wonder Woman herself…

What follows is an enjoyable romp with glamorous and spectacular “big visuals” art from the Dodsons, as Diana ultimately resumes her place in DC’s Trinity of megastars whilst also assuming a valid “ordinary” human life to complement the superwoman persona – although that’s a fairly relative term when said life consists of a super-spy day job.

This big, bold extravaganza repositions Wonder Woman at the heart of DC continuity and attempts to rationalise the disparate, if not clashing, elements that kept various versions of the character at the forefront of debate for decades. Most fans ask not Who is Wonder Woman but rather, Which version is Best?

Perhaps, in cases of such vigorous debate, maybe it’s safest simply to get them all…
© 2006, 2007 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Justice League of America: A Celebration of 60 Years


By Gardner Fox, Dennis O’Neil, Steve Englehart, Gerry Conway, Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis, Grant Morrison, Mark Waid, Brad Meltzer, Geoff Johns, Scott Snyder, Mike Sekowsky, Dick Dillin, George Pérez, Pat Broderick, Carmine Infantino, Jim Aparo, Dick Giordano, Gil Kane, Brian Bolland, Joe Kubert, Chuck Patton, Kevin Maguire, Howard Porter, Ed Benes, Jim Lee, Jim Cheung & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-9951-4 (HB)

Win’s Christmas Gift Recommendation: Comic Perfection and the ideal Stocking Stuffer… 10/10

A keystone of the DC Universe, the Justice League of America is the reason we have comics industry today. This stunning compilation – part of a series reintroducing and exploiting the comics pedigree of veteran DC icons and concepts – is available in hardback and digital formats and offers a too-brief but astoundingly enticing sequence of snapshots detailing how the World’s Greatest Superheroes came to be, and be and be again…

Collecting material from The Brave and the Bold #28; Justice League of America #29, 30, 77, 140, 144, 200; Justice League of America Annual #2, Justice League #1, 43 and Justice League of America volume 4 #1 (covering July 1960- August 2018), the landmarks selected are all preceded by a brief critical analysis of the significant stages in their development, beginning with Part I – 1960-1964: The Happy Harbor Years

After the actual invention of the comicbook superhero – by which we mean the launch of Superman in June 1938 – the most significant event in the industry’s progress was the combination of individual sales-points into a group. Thus, what seems blindingly obvious to everyone with the benefit of four-colour hindsight was irrefutably proven – a number of popular characters could multiply readership by combining forces. Plus of course, a whole bunch of superheroes is a lot cooler than just one – or even one and a sidekick…

The Justice Society of America is rightly revered as a true landmark in the development of comic books, and – when Julius Schwartz began reviving and revitalising the nigh-defunct superhero genre in 1956 – the true key moment came a few years later with the inevitable teaming of his freshly reconfigured mystery men…

When wedded to the relatively unchanged big guns who had weathered the first fall of the Superhero at the beginning of the 1950s, the result was a new, modern, Space-Age version of the JSA and the birth of a new mythology.

That moment that changed everything for us baby-boomers came with issue #28 of The Brave and the Bold, a classical adventure title that had recently become a try-out magazine like Showcase.

Just in time for Christmas 1959, ads began running…

“Just Imagine! The mightiest heroes of our time… have banded together as the Justice League of America to stamp out the forces of evil wherever and whenever they appear!”

When the Justice League of America was launched in issue #28 of The Brave and the Bold (March 1960) it cemented the growth and validity of the genre, triggering an explosion of new characters at every company producing comics in America and even spread to the rest of the world as the 1960s progressed.

Crafted by Gardner Fox & Mike Sekowsky with inking from Bernard Sachs, Joe Giella & Murphy Anderson, ‘Starro the Conqueror!’ saw Flash, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, Aquaman and J’onn J’onzz – Manhunter from Mars unite to defeat a marauding alien starfish whilst Superman and Batman stood by (in those naive days editors feared that their top characters could be “over-exposed” and consequently lose popularity). The team also picked up an average American kid as a mascot. “Typical teenager” Snapper Carr would prove a focus of fan controversy for decades to come…

The series went from strength to strength and triumph to triumph, peaking early with a classic revival as the team met the Justice Society of America, now sensibly relegated to an alternate Earth rather callously designated Earth-2.

From issues #29-30, ‘Crisis on Earth-Three’ and ‘The Most Dangerous Earth of All!’ reprise the first groundbreaking team-up of the JLA and JSA, after the metahuman marvels of yet another alternate Earth discover the secret of multiversal travel. Unfortunately, Ultraman, Owlman, Superwoman, Johnny Quick and Power Ring are ruthless villains from a world without heroes who see the costumed crusaders of the JLA and JSA as living practice-dummies to sharpen their evil skills upon…

With this cracking 2-part thriller a tradition of annual summer team-ups was solidly entrenched in heroic lore, giving fans endless joys for years to come and making the approaching end of school holidays less gloomy than they could have been.

Although a monster hit riding a global wave of popularity for all things masked and caped, the JLA suffered like all superhero features when tastes changed as the decade closed. Like all the survivors, the team adapted and changed…

A potted history of that interregnum, emphasising the contributions of iconoclastic scripters Denny O’Neil and Steve Englehart follows in Part II – 1969-1977: The Satellite Years after which groundbreaking issue #77 exposes a new kind of America.

America was a bubbling cauldron of social turmoil and experimentation at this time, with established beliefs constantly challenged and many previously cosy comics features were using their pages to confront issues of race, equality, and ecological decline. O’Neil and his young colleagues began to utterly redefine superhero strips with their relevancy-driven stories; transforming complacent establishment masked boy-scouts into uncertain, questioning champions and strident explorers of the revolution.

Here, the team’s mascot suddenly grows up and demands to be taken seriously. The drama commences with the heroes’ collective confidence and worldview shattered as enigmatic political populist Joe Dough suborns and compromises their beloved teen sidekick in ‘Snapper Carr… Super-Traitor!’ Crafted by O’Neil, Dick Dillin & Joe Giella, the coming-of age-yarn changed the comfy, cosy superhero game forever…

By March 1977, the team was back in traditional territory but still shaking up the readership. Issue #140, by Steve Englehart, Dick Dillin & Frank McLaughlin questioned heroism itself in ‘No Man Escapes the Manhunter!’ as the venerable Guardians of the Universe and their beloved Green Lanterns are accused of planetary extinctions – until the JLA expose a hidden ancient foe determined to destroy galactic civilisation…

Sadly, all you get here is the opening chapter, but it’s worth tracking down the entire saga elsewhere…

Closely following is issue #144 ‘The Origin of the Justice League – Minus One!’ (July 1977) by the same team. Here Green Arrow does a little checking and discovers the team have been lying about how and why they first got together: a smart and hugely enjoyable conspiracy thriller guest-starring every late 1950’s star in the DC firmament…

Change is a comic book constant and events described in the essay fill in crucial context before Part III: The Detroit Years 1982-1987 precis’ the first Beginning of the End for the World’s Greatest Superheroes, starting with blockbuster anniversary giant #200.

Here scripter Gerry Conway and artists George Pérez, Pat Broderick, Carmine Infantino, Jim Aparo, Dick Giordano, Gil Kane, Brian Bolland, Joe Kubert, Brett Breeding, Terry Austin & Frank Giacoia reprise, re-evaluate and relive the alien Appellax invasion that brought the heroes together in ‘A League Divided’: a blockbuster saga involving every past member…

Big changes began in Justice League of America Annual #2 1984. ‘The End of the Justice League!’ by Conway, Chuck Patton & Dave Hunt saw the team disband following a too-close-to-call alien attack, leading Aquaman to recruit a squad of full-time agents rather than part-time champions. Relocating to street level in Detroit, his old guard veterans Elongated Man, Martian Manhunter, Zatanna and Vixen also began training a next generation of costumed crusaders…

The biggest innovation came after a couple of publishing events recreated the universe and a new kind of team was instituted. In 1986 DC’s editorial leaders felt their 50-year continuity was stopping them winning new readers. The solution was a colossal braided-mega series to streamline, redefine and even add new characters to the mix.

The worlds-shattering, reality-altering bombast of Crisis on Infinite Earths was such a spectacular commercial success, those movers-&-shakers felt more than justified in revamping a number of their hoariest icons for their next fifty years of publishing. As well as Superman, Flash, and Wonder Woman, the moribund and unhappy Justice League of Americawas earmarked for a radical revision. Editor Andy Helfer assembled plotter Keith Giffen, scripter J.M. DeMatteis and untried penciller Kevin Maguire to produce an utterly new approach to the superhero monolith: they played them for laughs…

The series launched as Justice League with a May 1987 cover-date before retitling itself as Justice League International with #7. The new team was formed from the ashes of the old on the basis of events comprising follow-up crossover-event Legends. The gathering comprised a roster of relative second-stringers as America’s newest champions – Black Canary, Blue Beetle, Captain Marvel (now Shazam!), Dr. Fate, Green Lantern Guy Gardner and Mr. Miraclewith heavyweights Batman and Martian Manhunter J’onn J’onzz as nominal straight-men.

The first story introduced charismatic filthy-rich manipulator Maxwell Lord – who used wealth and influence to recreate the neophyte and rather shambolic team who started their march to glory by fighting and defeating a bunch of rather inept terrorist bombers in initial outing ‘Born Again’ (Giffen, DeMatteis Maguire & Terry Austin).

An eventful decade passed and the team were rebooted again, as described in Part IV: The Watchtower Years 1986-2003

After the Silver Age’s greatest team-book died a slow, painful, wasting death, not once but twice, DC were taking no chances with their next revival of the Justice League of America, tapping Big Ideas wünderkind Grant Morrison to reconstruct the group and the franchise.

The result was a gleaming paradigm of comic book perfection which again started magnificently before gradually losing the attention and favour of its originally rabid fan-base. Apparently, we’re a really fickle and shallow bunch, us comics fans…

That idea that really clicked? Put everybody’s favourite Big-Name superheroes back in the team.

It worked, but only because as well as name recognition and star quantity, there was a huge input of creative quality. The stories were smart, fast-paced, compelling, challengingly large-scale and drawn with effervescent vitality. With JLA you could see all the work undertaken to make it the best it could be on every page.

The drama begins in ‘Them!’ (January 1997 by Morrison, Howard Porter & John Dell) as a family of alien super-beings called the Hyperclan dramatically land on Earth and declare that they’re going to usher in a new Golden Age – at least by their standards.

Almost simultaneously the current iteration of the Justice League is attacked in their orbital satellite and only narrowly escape utter destruction. Tragically, one of their number does not survive…

Hyperclan’s very public promises to make Earth a paradise and attendant charm offensive does not impress veteran heroes Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Martian Manhunter and Aquaman or even the latest incarnations of Flash and Green Lantern.

These legends see their methods and careers questioned and are not impressed by seeming miracles or summary executions of super-criminals in the streets. They know there’s something not right about the overbearing sanctimonious newcomers…

The hits kept coming: a strung of superb adventures that enticed the readership. One of the very best and often cited as one of the best Batman stories ever created, multi-part paean to paranoia Tower of Babel saw immortal eco-terrorist Ra’s Al Ghul’s latest plan to winnow Earth’s human population to manageable levels well underway. Again, only the first instalment is here but you know where else to look…

Issue #43 declared ‘Survival of the Fittest’ (by Mark Waid, Porter & Drew Geraci), as a series of perfectly planned pre-emptive strikes cripple Martian Manhunter, Flash, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Plastic Man and Green Lantern whilst Batman is taken out of the game by the simple expedient of stealing his parents’ remains from their graves…

Comics stars increasingly became multi-media franchises at the beginning of this century, and Part V: The Crisis Years 2006-2011 acknowledges the change as the printed form started a constant stream of ever-escalating blockbuster scenarios to compete. A perfect example is Justice League of America volume 4 #1 (October 2006) as Brad Meltzer, Ed Benes & Sandra Hope examine ‘Life’.

Thanks to the events Infinite Crisis, One Year Later and 52, Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman convene as a star-chamber to reform the Justice League of America as a force for good, only to discover that events have escaped them and a new team has already congealed (I really can’t think of a better term) to defeat the imminent menace of Professor Ivo, Felix Faust and the lethal android Amazo, plus a fearsome mystery mastermind and a few classic villains as well.

The tale is told through the heartbreaking personal tragedy of the Red Tornado, who achieves his deepest desire only to have it torn from him: an enjoyable if complex drama that hides its true purpose – that of repositioning the company’s core team in an expanded DCU which encompasses all media, tacitly accepting influences from TV shows, movies and animated cartoons underpinning everything – even the Super Friends and Justice League Unlimited-inspired HQ.

In 2011, DC took a draconian leap: restarting their entire line and continuity with a “New 52”. Justice League volume 2 #1 (November) led from the front as ‘Justice League Part One’ by biggest guns Geoff Johns, Jim Lee & Scott Williams introduced a number of newly debuted heroes acrimoniously pulled together to fight an alien invader called Darkseid

This celebration concludes with Part VI: The Media Era 1986-2018 and Justice League volume 4 #1 (August 2018) wherein Scott Snyder, Jim Cheung & Mark Morales kick off a colossal, years-long company-wide event. ‘The Totality Part 1’ sees the universe fall apart, its creator escape eternal imprisonment and the JLA hard-pressed to prevent the final triumph of Evil as represented by Lex Luthor and his Legion of Doom

Adding immeasurably to the wonderment is a superb gallery of covers by Sekowsky, Anderson, Rich Buckler, Dillin & McLaughlin, Pérez, Patton & Giordano, Maguire & Austin, Porter, Dell & Geraci, Ed & Mariah Benes, Lee & Williams and Jim Cheung.

The Justice League of America has a long, proud history of shaking things up and providing dynamic provocative, drama delivered with quality artwork. This compelling assortment is staggeringly entertaining and a monolithic testament to the inestimable value of a strong core concept matured over decades of innovation.
© 1960, 1964, 1969, 1977, 1982, 1984, 1987, 1997, 2000, 2006, 2005, 2011, 2018, 2020 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.