Trinity volume 1


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Batman/Superman/Wonder Woman: Trinity

New, Revised Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wonder Woman Archives volume 4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wonder Woman Archives volume 3


By Charles Moulton (William Moulton Marston & Harry G. Peter) with Frank Godwin (DC Comics)
ISBN: 1-56389-814-4

Wonder Woman was conceived by polygraph pioneer William Moulton Marston and illustrated by Harry G. Peter in an attempt to offer girls a positive and forceful role model. She debuted as a special feature in All Star Comics #8 (December 1941), before springing into her own series and the cover-spot of new anthology title Sensation Comics a month later. An instant hit the Amazing Amazon quickly won her own eponymous supplemental title in late Spring of that year (cover-dated Summer 1942).

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

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

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

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

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

This third superbly luxurious full-colour deluxe hardback edition collects her every groundbreaking adventure from Wonder Woman #5-7 and Sensation Comics #18-24 from June-December 1943, and commences, after an appreciative Foreword from comics historian Les Daniels, with ‘The Secret City of the Incas’ from Sensation #18, illustrated by the superbly talented classical artist Frank Godwin, in which the Princess of Power rescued a lost Inca tribe from a despotic theocracy and ancient greed whilst in #19 (Godwin again)‘The Unbound Amazon’ responded to a little boy’s letter and stumbled onto big trouble in the far north woods. Of course Diana knew little Bobby from the Adventure of the Talking Lion (as seen in the previous Archive edition) and with wicked Nazi spy Mavis on the loose wasn’t about to take any chances.

This terrific thriller is notable for the revelation that if an Amazon removed her Bracelets of Submission she turned into a raving, uncontrolled engine of sheer destruction…

H. G. Peter drew the vast entirety of Wonder Woman #5 (June/July 1943), which presented an interlinked epic in the ‘Battle for Womanhood’ as war-god Mars (who instigated the World War from his HQ on the distant red planet through his earthly pawns Hitler,  Mussolini and Hirohito) returned to plague humanity. This time he enlisted the aid of a brilliant but deformed and demented misogynistic psychologist with psychic powers. The tormented Dr. Psycho used his talents to marry and dominate a medium named Marva, using her abilities to form ectoplasmic bodies as he sought to enslave every woman in the world.

Happily Wonder Woman countered his gods-sponsored schemes, after which prominent sidekicks ‘Etta Candy and her Holliday Girls’ comedically crushed a burglary before ‘Mars Invades the Moon’ returned to the overarching tale when the frustrated war-god was ousted by the Duke of Deception.

In attempting to take over the Moon – home of peace-loving goddess Diana – Mars made the biggest error of his eternal life as the Amazing Amazon led a spectacular rescue mission which resulted in the invaders’ utter rout.

The issue then concluded with ‘The Return of Dr. Psycho’ who had escaped prison and again perpetrated a series of ghastly attacks on America’s security and the freedom of women everywhere until the Holliday Girls and their demi-divine mentor stepped in…

Sensation #20 was also by Peter – who was slowly coming to grips with the increased extra workload of the explosively popular 64-page Wonder Woman series every three months – and ‘The Girl with the Gun’ saw Diana Prince investigate sabotage at a munitions factory and the murder of a General at WAACs training base Camp Doe. To the Amazon’s complete surprise the culprit appeared to be Marva Psycho, but there was far more going on than at first appeared…

Godwin handled the art for #21 as Steve and Diana tracked down insidious traitor the American Adolf as he conducted a murderous ‘War Against Society’ whilst issue #6 – another all-Peter extravaganza – introduced another macabre foe in ‘Wonder Woman and the Cheetah’.

Marston’s psychiatric background provided yet another deeply disturbed antagonist in the form of sugar sweet debutante Priscilla Rich who shared her own body with a jealously narcissistic, savage feline counterpart dedicated to murder and robbery. The Cheetah framed the Amazing Amazon and almost destroyed Steve, Etta and the Holliday girls before Wonder Woman finally quashed her wild rampages.

It wasn’t for long as the Cheetah returned to mastermind an espionage-for-profit ring in ‘The Adventure of the Beauty Club’ which resulted in the Perfect Princess being captured by Japan’s High Command before spectacularly busting loose for a final confrontation in ‘The Conquest of Paradise’. Here the Feline Fury infiltrated the home of the Amazons and almost irretrievably poisoned the minds of the super women sequestered there…

By this time Peter was fully adapted to his new schedule and in Sensation Comics #22 took the psychological dramas to new heights when a cured Priscilla Rich was seemingly attacked by her manifested evil self  after the Cheetah stole America’s latest weapon ‘The Secret Submarine’…

In issue #23 the creators tackled school bullying and women in the workplace as production line staff were increasingly stricken by ‘War Laugh Mania’. Only one of the problems was being promulgated by Nazi spies though…

It was back to straight action in #24 as ‘The Adventure of the Pilotless Plane’ saw Steve abducted by Japanese agents whilst investigating a new gas weapon which prevented US aircraft from flying. The vile villains had nothing that could stop Wonder Woman from smashing them and freeing him however, and the status quo was fully restored for the last saga in this lavish hardcover collection.

Wonder Woman #7 offered an optimistic view of the future in a fantastic fantasy tale ‘The Adventure of the Life Vitamin’ wherein America in the year 3000AD revealed a paradisiacal world ruled by a very familiar female President where a miracle supplement had expanded longevity to such an extent that Steve, Etta and all Diana’s friends were still thriving.

Sadly some old throwbacks still yearned for the days when women were second-class citizens subservient to males which meant there was still work for the Amazing Amazon to do…

‘America’s Wonder Women of Tomorrow’ continued the wry but wholesome sex war with Steve going undercover with the rebel forces uncovering a startling threat in ‘The Secret Weapon’ before the focus returned to the present and a far more intimate crisis for wilful child Gerta whose mother Paula (fully reformed ex-Nazi Baroness Paula von Gunther) was forced to deal with a ‘Demon of the Depths’.

But was that the evil octopus at the bottom of the paddling pool or her daughter’s dangerously anti-authoritarian attitudes…?

Far too much has been made of supposed subtexts and imagery of bondage and submission in these early tales – and yes, there really are a lot of scenes with girls tied up, chained or about to be whipped – but I still don’t care. Whatever Marston and Peters might have intended, the plain truth is that the skilfully innovative dramas and incredibly imaginative story-elements influenced the entire nascent superhero genre as much as Superman or Batman, and we’re all the richer for it.

This sterling deluxe book of nostalgic delights is a marvel of exotic, baroque, beguiling and uniquely exciting wonder and these Golden Age adventures of the World’s Most Fabulous female are timeless, pivotal classics in the development of comicbooks and still provide astounding amounts of fun and thrills for anyone interested in a grand nostalgic read.
© 1943, 2002 DC Comics, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

The Brave and the Bold volume 2: The Book of Destiny


By Mark Waid, George Pérez, Jerry Ordway, Bob Wiacek & Scott Koblish (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-1838-6 (hc)   978-1-4012-1861-4 (tpb)

The Book of Destiny is a mystical ledger which charts the history, progress and fate of all Reality and everything in it – except for the four mortals entrusted with its care at the end of The Brave and the Bold: The Lords of Luck…

The death-defying Challengers of the Unknown – cool pilot Ace Morgan, indomitable strongman Rocky Davis, intellectual aquanaut Prof. Haley and daredevil acrobat Red Ryan – live on borrowed time and were bequeathed the terrifying tome by Destiny of the Endless since their lives are not included within its horrifying pages…

After the staggering spectacle of the previous Brave and the Bold story-arc, here Mark Waid, George Pérez and inkers Bob Wiacek & Scott Koblish are joined by co-penciller Jerry Ordway for a stunning sequel featuring most of the DC universe…

This compilation collects issues #7-12 of the high-energy, all-star revival of the venerable DC title and plays novel games with the traditional team-up format when a mysterious mage begins manipulating heroes and villains in a diabolical alchemical scheme to transform the cosmos forever…

Beginning with ‘Scalpels and Chainsaws’ wherein Wonder Woman and the ever-abrasive Power Girl rub each other the wrong way (oh please, what are you, ten!?) whilst tackling an undead invasion, the case takes a strange turn and the Princess of Power accidentally discovers the Caped Kryptonian has been brainwashed into trying to murder her cousin Superman…

Their ill-tempered investigations lead to the fabled Lost Library of Alexandria and a disastrous confrontation with the deranged Dr. Alchemy, but he too is only a pre-programmed pawn – of a sinister presence called Megistus – who needs Power Girl to use the mystical artefact known as the Philosopher’s Stone to turn the Fortress of Solitude into pure Red Kryptonite…

Thanks to Wonder Woman’s battle savvy, the plot is frustrated and the stone thrown into the sun… just as Megistus intended…

All this has been read in the mystic chronicle by the Challengers and their fifth member Dr. June Robbins – whose merely mortal existence and eventual doom are tragically recorded in the Book. They rush off to investigate the universe-rending menace even as ‘Wally’s Choice’ brings the Flash and his rapidly aging children Jai and Iris West into unwelcome contact with manipulative genius Niles Caulder and his valiant Doom Patrol. “The Chief” claims he can cure the twins’ hyper-velocity malady, but Caulder never does anything for selfless reasons…

With no other hope, Wally and wife Linda acquiescence to the mad doctor’s scheme which relies on using elemental hero Rex Mason to stabilise their kids’ critical conditions. It might even have worked, had not Metamorpho been mystically abducted mid-process – consequently transforming the children into bizarre amalgams of Negative Man and Robot Man…

Worst of all, Flash was almost forced to choose which child to save and which should die…

Thinking faster than ever, the Scarlet Speedster beat the odds and pulled off a miracle, but in a distant place the pages of the Book were suddenly possessed and attacked the Challengers…

‘Changing Times’ featured a triptych of short team-up tales which played out as the Men that History Forgot battled a monster made of Destiny’s pages, beginning as the robotic Metal Men joined forces with young Robby Reed who could become a legion of champions whenever he needed to Dial H for Hero.

Sadly not even genius Will Magnus could have predicted the unfortunate result when crushingly shy robot Tin stuck his shiny digit in the arcane Dial…

Next, during WWII the combative Boy Commandos were joined by the Blackhawks in battling animated mummies intent on purloining the immensely powerful Orb of Ra from a lost pyramid, after which perpetually reincarnating warrior Hawkman joined substitute Atom Ryan Choi in defending Palaeolithic star-charts from the marauding Warlock of Ys, none of them aware that they were all doing the work of the malignly omnipresent Megistus…

The fourth chapter paralleled the Challengers’ incredible victory over the parchment peril with a brace of tales which saw the Man of Steel travel to ancient Britain to join heroic squire Brian of Kent (secretly the oppression-crushing Silent Knight) in bombastic battle against a deadly dragon, whilst the Teen Titans‘ second ever case found Robin, Wonder Girl and Kid Flash in Atlantis for the marriage of Aquaman and Mera.

Unfortunately Megistus’ drone Oceanus crashed the party, intent on turning Aqualad into an enslaved route map to the future…

And inCalifornia, the Challengers attempted to save Green Lantern’s Power Battery from being stolen only to find it in the possession of an ensorcelled Metamorpho…

As the Element Man easily overwhelmed Destiny’s Deputies, Jerry Ordway assumed the penciller’s role for issues #5-6.

‘Superman and Ultraman’ saw the natural enemies initially clash and then collaborate at the behest of an alternate universe’s Mr. Mixyezpitelik, who revealed the appalling scope and nature of Megistus’ supernal transformational ambitions, leading to a gathering of the heroic clans and a blistering Battle Royale in the roaring heart of the Sun…

With the fate of reality at stake and featuring a veritable army of guest stars ‘The Brave and the Bold’ wrapped up the saga with a terrible, tragic sacrifice from the noblest hero of all, whilst subtly setting the scene for the upcoming Final Crisis…

With fascinating designs and pencil art from Ordway to tantalise the art lovers, this second captivating collection superbly embodies all the bravura flash and dazzle thrills superhero comics so perfectly excel at. This is a gripping fanciful epic with many engaging strands that perfectly coalesce into a frantic and fabulous free-for-all overflowing with all the style, enthusiasm and sheer exuberant joy you’d expect from the industry’s top costumed drama talents.

The Brave and the Bold: The Book of Destiny is another great story with great art, ideal for kids of all ages to read and re-read over and over again.
© 2007, 2008 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

DC Universe Online Legends volume 1


By Marv Wolfman, Tony Bedard, Howard Porter, Adriana Melo, Mike S. Miller & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-3218-4

No matter how much nostalgic old geezers like me might wish it otherwise, most of the classic American Superhero characters have far outgrown their static 2-Dimensional origins and are far more creatures of the screen now: Movie, TV or Computer – and often all three.

As such it’s no longer odd to see such veteran pen-and-ink superstars return to funnybook pages as their own spun-off avatars, in adventures where they are transformed, sometimes bastardised versions of (to me at least) their “true” selves.

One of the better examples in recent years of this chimerical commercial alchemy was a phenomenal Armageddon Epic based on a computer game starring the Justice League of America which actually surpassed much of the company’s contemporary output vis á vis thrills, chills and old fashioned comicbook class…

DC Universe Online Legends first appeared as a 27-issue series running from March 2011 to May 2012, based on a Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game (or MMORPG for those computerati already in the know). It featured the final triumph of paramount Superman villains Lex Luthor and Brainiac as the starting point for a blistering “Twilight of the Gods” scenario and this first compilation volume gathers #1-7 of the fortnightly series and also includes the “issue #0” which came free with the game itself.

‘Prelude’ by Tony Bedard and artists Oliver Nome, Michael Lopez & Livio Ramondelli, starts the ball of doom rolling as cosmic marauder and collector of civilisations Brainiac launches a harrowing assault on Metropolis, and the JLA – Aquaman, the Martian Manhunter, Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern, Superman and Batman – mobilise to stop him. Unbelievably they fail…

Marv Wolfman, Bedard, Howard Porter, John Livesay, Adriana Melo & Norman Lee then kick things into high gear with ‘Legendary’ as in the near-future Luthor, now more machine than man, finally slays his life-long nemesis in the ruins of a ravaged Earth and leaves the Kryptonian to rot amidst the corpses of his fellow fallen heroes.

The obsessive villain had long ago entered into a devil’s bargain with Brainiac and now intends to rule the remains of Earth, but soon discovers that the Scourge from Space (an implacable, unstoppable planetary plunderer who has destroyed most of the civilised universe and even crushed the immortal Green Lantern Corps) has played him for a fool and now acts to assimilate the planet’s remaining valuable resources – which includes Luthor’s mind – and eradicate the gutted shell…

Realising too late the horrific mistake he’s made, Lex swiftly formulates a plan to undo the damage he’s caused and repay Brainiac for his treachery. The first step is to gather all the surviving metahumans – heroes and villains all oblivious to the fact that Luthor has already slain their greatest champions – into an attack force whilst the infuriated evil genius prepares to unmake recent history…

Meanwhile, several years earlier, a fully human and hero-hating Lex Luthor is contacted by a drone from deep space and enters into a sinister alliance with the alien reiver whose mutual dream is to destroy Superman forever…

Scripted by Bedard, ‘Control’ finds Luthor directing his rag-tag team of deeply suspicious resistance fighters (Dr. Fate, Mr. Freeze, August General in Iron, Solomon Grundy, Power Girl, Cheetah, Blue Beetle, Black Canary and the Atom) in forays against the extraterrestrial Exobyte nanomachines and robot drones disassembling the world, unaware that they were secretly produced in the malign magnate’s factories years before…

In those long-ago days, Brainiac’s probing attack has captured the Daily Planet building in Metropolis. The alien inquisitor apparently needs test samples of base-line humanity to examine before he can calibrate his ghastly devices and begin harvesting Earth’s metahuman resources…

In the furious future the schemer’s pawns continue their missions utterly unaware that, to ultimately save humanity, Luthor plans to sacrifice them all…

Wolfman, Mike S. Miller, Melo & Norman Lee disclose the master manipulator’s ‘Betrayal’ of his team after Power Girl discovers the corpse of her cousin Superman and the resistors demand vengeance. After first setting a horde of bloodthirsty villains upon them, Lex then murderously saves his squad of heroic stooges, pleading repentance and offering to surrender to justice once earth has been saved.

Of course, he’s still lying…

In the present, whilst Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen and Perry White explore their options as captives of Brainiac, an increasingly unstable and impatient Superman chafes at the JLA’s caution, unaware that the cosmic conqueror is planning an imminent and devastating sneak-attack of the League’s satellite citadel…

Bedard & Porter take the creative lead for the all-action episode ‘Strike Force’ as, in the world of today, the Justice League battle valiantly but futilely against swarms of Exobytes which readily bypass all their defences and begin stealing the powers of the embattled defenders. In the Foredoomed Tomorrow, Luthor leads his duped disciples in a fool’s errand onto Brainiac’s ship, tasked with recovering a city-full of yellow power rings, originally used by the minions of renegade Green Lantern Sinestro, whilst the master manipulator himself plans to confront the invader face-to-face…

Wolfman & Miller produced the shocking ‘Three Minutes’ in which the JLA lose their holding action and have to abandon their orbital Watchtower to the Exobytes – but not every hero escapes – whilst in the future the raid has gone equally badly and one of Luthor’s key pawns is maimed, leading to time-split ‘Downfall’ (Bedard, Porter, Livesay & Pop Mhan) for both teams of champions.

In our time, after warning Luthor to get out of the city, Brainiac casts the Watchtower out of orbit and aims it at what’s left of Metropolis, with the Man of Steel desperately attempting to rescue his stranded comrades and simultaneously save his hometown, whilst in days to come Luthor, Atom and Black Canary split up…

The heroes now carry a canister of retrieved Exobytes holding all the planet’s harvested super-powers – enough to turn all Earth’s survivors into metahuman warriors – but the disgraced Machiavelli who guides them is determined to personally destroy the alien who played him for a fool…

In the past, Superman narrowly saves Metropolis, but fallout and debris from his last-ditch attempt falls on the fleeing Luthor, crushing his body whilst in the future the cyborg genius at last battles Brainiac but is easily and resoundingly beaten…

This first explosive chronicle concludes with the revelation that Luthor has a secret ally as, in the untitled seventh chapter (by Wolfman, Porter & Livesay), a Batman also more mechanoid than mortal manhunter acts with a band of freshly created superheroes to use the Exobytes in a bold and radical manner.

Rather than boost the dying earth’s meagre surviving population with the stolen super-powers, what if the nanobots were taken back in time and used to turn an entire overpopulated earth into a planet of “metas” before Brainiac’s invasion beachhead was established?

Of course even here in Earth’s final hour, Luthor cannot resist betraying his comrades but has again underestimated the sheer dogged determination of the demi-digital Dark Knight…

This high-octane Fights ‘n’ Tights shocker also includes a selection of covers and variants by Carlos D’Anda, Jonny Wrench, Jim Lee, Scott Williams, Alex Sinclair, Ryan Sook, Ed Benes, Randy Mayor, Jorge Gonzalez, Tony Aviña & Carrie Strachan as well as pages of behind-the-scenes character, tech and scenario designs and sketches from the game iteration.

Fast, furious, spectacular and devilishly devious, this is a sharp, no-nonsense graphic Götterdämmerung saga that will delight traditional comicbook action fans as well as all those young plug-in babies of the digital age.
© 2011 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Showcase Presents Wonder Woman volume 4


By Robert Kanigher, Ross Andru & Mike Esposito, Irving Novick & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-84856-474-9

Wonder Woman was created by psychologist and polygraph pioneer William Moulton Marston and uniquely realised by respected illustrator and co-creator Harry G. Peter just as the spectre of World War II began to directly affect America.

Using the pen-name Charles Moulton, Marston scripted all her adventures until his death in 1947, whereupon Robert Kanigher took over the writer’s role. H. G. Peter soldiered on with his unique artistic contribution until he passed away in 1958. Wonder Woman #97, in April of that year, was his last hurrah and the end of an era.

With the exception of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and a few innocuous back-up features, costumed heroes had all but vanished at the end of the 1940s, replaced by mostly mortal champions in a deluge of anthologised genre titles until Showcase #4 rekindled the public’s interest in costumed crime-busters with a new iteration of The Flash in 1956.

From that moment the fanciful floodgates opened wide once more, and whilst re-inventing Golden Age Greats such as Green Lantern, Atom and Hawkman, National/DC gradually updated all the those venerable veteran survivors who had weathered the backlash and none more so than the ever-resilient Amazing Amazon …

Artists Ross Andru & Mike Esposito, who had illustrated every script since Wonder Woman #98 in May of 1958, finally bowed out during the dog-days of this pivotal monochrome collection (re-presenting issues #157-177, October 1965-August 1968), graduating to Superman, Brave & the Bold, The Flash and eventually new Kanigher combat creation The Losers, whilst the Amazing Amazon floundered on the edge of cancellation – as indeed she had done for much of the 1960s.

Writer/editor Kanigher had constantly reinvented much of the original mythos, tinkering with her origins and unleashing her on an unsuspecting world in a fanciful blend of girlish whimsy, rampant sexism, strange romance, alien invasion, monster-mashing and utterly surreal (some would say-stream-of-consciousness) storytelling…

By the time this volume opens the Silver Age superhero revival was at its peak and, despite individual stories of stunning imagination and excellence, the format and timbre of Wonder Woman was looking tired and increasingly out of step with the rest of National/DC’s gradually gelling – and ultimately shared – continuity but, by its close, costumed characters were again in decline and a radical overhaul of Diana Prince was on the cards…

While all the other champions and defenders were getting together and teaming up at the drop of a hat – as indeed was the Princess of Power in Justice League of America – within the pages of her own title a timeless, isolated fantasy universe was carrying on much as it always had.

The madcap mythological mayhem began with the first of a two-part shocker from Wonder Woman #157 when Diana followed her beloved on a suicide mission to Red China – or Oolong Island, at least – where an insane and obnoxious giant cybernetic menace was planning to launch Nuclear Armageddon against the West.

Captured and transformed into ‘I – the Bomb!’ Steve Trevor was only saved by Amazon science but still had to endure separation and ‘The Fury of Egg Fu’ in #158 before crushing the ovoid outlaw once again.

Kanigher never forgot he was writing comicbooks and he took pains to constantly point 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. With ‘The End – or the Beginning?’ which closed out the issue, he gathered all the vast cast of the series in his office and told them that most of them were fired. Readers were then challenged to guess who would be back for the Big Change in #159…

The promised reboot consisted of a full switch to the faux 1940’s stories road-tested in #156 (see Showcase Presents Wonder Woman volume 3) and began with ‘The Golden Age Secret Origin of Wonder Woman’ wherein we saw the humbling and self-exile of the Amazons, and how thousands of years later baby Diana was shaped from clay and given life by goddesses Athena and Aphrodite. Growing to mighty maturity, the girl then rescued downed Air Force pilot Steve Trevor and after winning a divinely-ordained contest travelled back to “Man’s World” to conquer injustice and aggression through Amazon strength and ideals.

There was even room for a follow-up tale in which their journey was interrupted by enemy agents who brought down Wonder Woman’s Invisible Plane on ‘Doom Island’, only to discover the staggering power of America’s latest defender…

Issue #160 found her battling deranged bandit The Cheetah who took her Amazonian Bracelets of Submission and inadvertently unleashed all Diana’s pent-up hostility in ‘The Amazon of Terror’ before arch foe Mars psychically prompted a brilliant if misogynistic mutant midget to attack her in ‘Dr. Psycho’s Revenge’…

WW #161 opened with a convoluted clash against freelance spy Countess Draska Nishki whilst rival film companies battled to produce the ultimate filmic Pharaonic epic. Happily ‘The Curse of Cleopatra’ proved to be industrial espionage and not ancient Egyptian evil and, undaunted, Diana then foiled a crooked attempt to steal Steve’s knowledge by Nishki and Angle Man who shrank inside his skull. Determined to save her beloved’s honour the Amazon had to win an incredible ‘Battle Inside of a Brain!’

‘The Startling Secret of Diana Prince’ opened #162 and disclosed how the Paradise Island Émigré purchased the identity and papers of lovelorn Army Nurse Diana Prince in order to be close to Trevor at all times before ‘The Return of Minister Blizzard’ pitted Wonder Woman against an icy usurper determined to steal the throne and heart of a polar princess by giving her Manhattan as a gift…

Psycho returned in #163 and used an evolutionary advancement device to turn a two-ton anthropoid into curvaceous eight-foot tall blonde berserker. ‘Giganta – the Gorilla Girl’ then attacked the Amazon, determined to have Steve as her mate… ‘Danger – Wonder Woman’ then reintroduced the Machiavellian Paula von Gunta – also inexplicably hot for Trevor – who used thugs, hypnosis and the Amazon’s own magic weapons in her campaign to remove her romantic rival.

Issue #164 featured a full-length thriller wherein the Power Princess was almost bamboozled into marrying Steve’s commanding officer General Darnell, before being compelled by Angle Man and her own magic lasso into attacking America in ‘Wonder Woman… Traitor’ whilst in #165 ‘Perils of the Paper Man’ found an incredible parchment pariah turn to crime in an effort to win the Amazon’s heart before ‘The Three Fantastic Faces of Wonder Woman’ were made manifest by the irrepressibly evil Dr. Psycho.

In #166 ‘The Sinister Schemes of Egg Fu, the Fifth’ to steal US submarines were quickly scrambled by the Amazing Amazon whilst in ‘Once a Wonder Woman…!’ Diana’s attempts to win Steve in her unglamorous mortal persona were accidentally foiled by the perfidious Cheetah and WW# 167 offered up ‘The Secret of Tabu Mt.’ when the real Diana Prince needed help rescuing her new husband from a lost Aztec tribe, after which Steve shamefully used the ‘Strange Power of the Magic Lasso’ to make the Amazon his slave for a day…

After inexplicably forgiving the sod, in #168 Diana almost lost her magical lariat in ‘Three Hands on the Magic Lasso’ when a ruthless collector hired Giganta, Dr. Psycho and Paula von Gunta to steal it for him whilst ‘Never in a Million Years’ found Diana back on Paradise Island attempting to forcibly dissuade a love-struck Amazon from following a man back to America.

The Golden Age veneer was gradually slipping and it once again seemed that the series was sliding towards oblivion. Middle period fantasy elements began to reappear, so when Mars created an almost unstoppable menace in #169, guile and passion at last won the day when ‘Wonder Woman Battles the Crimson Centipede’ after which General Darnell renewed his romantic campaign when the Amazon was trapped in ‘The Cage of Doom!’

A duplicate of Steve created by Dr. Psycho in #170 psychologically tortured and almost destroyed ‘The Haunted Amazon’ and unconquerable alien apes could only be stopped by ‘Wonder Woman – Gorilla’ after which WW#171 saw vacationing Amazons sucked into the ‘Terror Trap of the Demon Man-Fish’ before a malign miniscule malcontent reared his furry head again in the crime caper ‘Menace of the Mouse Man!’

Veteran war artist Irv Novick took over the art with #172 (October 1967) and ‘A Day in the Life of an Amazon’ presented a slightly more realistic edge, even though the portmanteau tale saw Diana crush costumed criminals, fight a giant baby and blitz an alien invasion whilst ‘The Amazing Amazon Crime!’ found her hard-pressed to defeat a felonious android facsimile…

Firmly re-established back in the late Sixties, #173 revealed ‘Wonder Woman’s Daring Deception’ when a jealous Amazon tried to usurp her position as ambassador to Man’s World after which she briefly became ‘Earth’s Last Human’ until a neat time-travel trick enabled her to go back in time and foil a Martian sneak attack. In #174 her boyfriend at last got to outshine Diana when mysterious power-pills (courtesy of Angle Man) enabled the Air Force pilot to become a superhero in ‘Steve Trevor – Alias The Patriot’ whilst ‘Wonder Woman vs. the Air Devils!’ ended the issue in a tense duel between the Princess of Power and the self-proclaimed King of Crime…

With the end in sight and after decades at the helm, Kanigher managed one last genuine surprise twist in #175 when ‘Wonder Woman’s Evil Twin!’ from a parallel Earth attacked, determined to take everything our heroine cherished, but his final script was something of an anticlimax when the ‘Threat of the Triple Stars’ (#176 June 1968) found the Amazon seriously outmatched by three brothers whose sibling rivalry extended to seeing whom could out-power, woo, overwhelm and wed her. Apparently she had no say in the matter…

The final tale in this volume – and indeed of the old Amazing Amazon – was a fill-in by Bill Finger, J. Winslow Mortimer & Jack Abel, and one of the best tales of the entire run.

‘Wonder Woman and Supergirl vs. the Planetary Conqueror!’ (August 1968) detailed how interplanetary marauder Klamos had briefly tired of battle and sought a mate. Abducting the most powerful females from a host of worlds, the astral emperor forced them to battle for the “honour” of being his bride. In a thrilling, gritty tale, the Girl of Steel and Amazing Amazon at last showed their mettle – and feminist credentials – by trashing everything and exposing a colossal deception at the heart of an evil empire that spanned a dozen galaxies.

It was a splendid high note to end on. With the next issue Mike Sekowsky would begin a root and branch overhaul that would see Steve murdered, Diana stripped of her powers and the Amazons gone from the Earth. A whole new kind of Wonder Woman was coming… and can be seen in the magical quartet of full-colour collections Diana Prince: Wonder Woman, and hopefully one day in an equally stunning monochrome Showcase edition such as this one…

Always wild, bold, action-packed, thrilling and utterly delightful, whilst often mind-boggling and practically incomprehensible by modern narrative standards, these exuberant, effulgent fantasies are usually illogical and occasionally just plain bonkers, but in those days adventure in the moment was paramount and if you could put rationality and consistency aside for a moment these utterly infectious romps simply sparkled then and now with fun, thrills and sheer spectacle.

Wonder Woman is rightly revered as a focus of female strength, independence and empowerment, but the welcoming nostalgia and easy familiarity of such innocuous imaginative fairytales must be a magical escape for open-minded readers, whilst the true, incomparable value of these stories is the incredible quality entertainment they still offer.
© 1965, 1966, 1967, 1968, 201 DC Comics, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Wonder Woman Archive Editions volume 2


By Charles Moulton (William Moulton Marston & Harry G. Peter) & Frank Godwin (DC Comics)
ISBN: 1-56389-594-3

Wonder Woman was conceived by polygraph pioneer William Moulton Marston and illustrated by Harry G. Peter in an attempt to offer girls a positive and forceful role model. She debuted as a special feature All Star Comics #8 (December 1941), before springing into her own series and the cover-spot of new anthology title Sensation Comics a month later. An instant hit the Amazing Amazon quickly won her own eponymous supplemental title in late Spring of that year (cover-dated Summer 1942).

Once upon a time on a hidden island of immortal super-women, an American aviator crashed to Earth. Near death, Steve Trevor of US Army Intelligence was nursed back to health by young Princess Diana. Fearing her growing obsession with the man, her mother Queen Hippolyte revealed the hidden history of the Amazons: how they were seduced and betrayed by men but rescued by the goddess Aphrodite on condition that they isolated themselves from the rest of the world and devoted their eternal lives to becoming ideal, perfect creatures.

When goddesses Athena and Aphrodite instructed Hippolyte to send an Amazon warrior back with the American to fight for freedom and liberty, Diana overcame all other candidates and became the emissary Wonder Woman. On arriving in America she bought the identity and credentials of love-lorn Army nurse Diana Prince, elegantly allowing the Amazon to be close to Steve whilst enabling the heartsick medic to join her own fiancé in South America. Soon Diana also gained a position with Army Intelligence General Darnell as his secretary to ensure that she would always be close to her beloved. She little suspected that, although the painfully shallow Steve only had eyes for the dazzling Amazon superwoman, the General had fallen for the mousy but superbly competent Diana Prince…

Using the nom de plume Charles Moulton, Marston scripted all the Amazing Amazon’s many and fabulous adventures until his death in 1947, whereupon Robert Kanigher took over the writer’s role whilst venerable veteran co-creator H.G. Peter illustrated almost every WW tale until his own death in 1958.

This second superb full-colour deluxe hardback edition collects her every groundbreaking adventure from Wonder Woman #2-4 and Sensation Comics #13-17 from Fall 1942 to April 1943, and commences, after an appreciative Foreword from star comics editor Diane Schutz, with the epochal Wonder Woman #2.

After a photo-feature about ‘The Men Behind Wonder Woman’ and an illustrated prose piece about ‘The God of War’, a four-part epic introduces the Amazing Amazon’s greatest enemy in ‘Mars, God of War’ who instigated the World War from his HQ on the distant red planet and was chafing at the lack of progress since Wonder Woman entered the fray on the side of the peace-loving allies. Now he decides to take direct action rather than trust his earthly pawns Hitler, Mussolini and Hirohito…

When Steve went missing Diana allowed herself to be captured and transported to Mars where she began to disrupt the efficient working of the war-god’s regime and fomented unrest amongst the slave population, before rescuing Steve and heading home to Earth.  ‘The Earl of Greed’, one of Mars’ trio of trusted subordinates, took centre stage in the second chapter with orders to recapture Steve and Diana at all costs.

As the bold duo attempt to infiltrate Berlin, Greed used his influence on Hitler to surreptitiously direct the German war effort, using Gestapo forces to steal all the USA’s gold reserves.

When Steve was gravely injured, the Amazon returned to America and whilst her paramour recuperated she uncovered and foiled the Ethereal Earl’s machinations to prevent much-needed operating funds from reaching Holliday College where young girls learned to be independent free-thinkers…

With Greed thwarted, Mars next dispatched ‘The Duke of Deception’ to Earth where the spindly phantom impersonated Wonder Woman and framed her for murder. Easily escaping from prison the Princess of Power not only cleared her name but also found time to foil a Deception-inspired invasion of Hawaii, leaving only ‘The Count of Conquest’ free to carry out Mars’ orders.

His scheme was simple: through his personal puppet Mussolini, the Count attempted to physically overpower the Hellenic Heroine with a brutal giant boxing champion whilst Italian Lothario Count Crafti tried to woo and seduce her. The latter’s wiles actually worked too, but capturing and keeping the Amazing Amazon were two different things entirely and after breaking free on the Red Planet, Diana delivered a devastating blow to the war-machine of Mars…

This issue then ends with a sparkling double page patriotic plea when ‘Wonder Woman Campaigns for War Bonds’…

Sensation Comics #13 (January 1943) follows with ‘Wonder Woman is Dead’ as a corpse wearing the Amazon’s uniform was discovered and the astounded Diana Prince discovered her alter ego’s clothes and the irreplaceable magic lasso were missing…

The trail led to a cunning spy-ring working out of General Darnell’s office and an explosive confrontation in a bowling alley, whilst ‘The Story of Fir Balsam’ in Sensation #14 offered a seasonal tale concerning lost children, an abused mother and escaped German aviators which was all happily resolved around a lonely pine tree…

Wonder Woman #3 dedicated its entirety to the return of an old foe and began with ‘A Spy on Paradise Island’ as the plucky fun-loving gals of the Holliday College for Women and their chubby, chocolate-gorging Beeta Lamda sorority chief Etta Candy were initiated into some pretty wild Amazon rites on Paradise Island, inadvertently allowing an infiltrator to gain access and pave the way for an invasion by Japanese troops.

Naturally Wonder Woman and the Amazon prevailed on the day but the sinister mastermind behind it all was revealed and quickly struck back in ‘The Devilish Devices of Baroness Paula von Gunther.’

Whilst the on-guard Amazons built a women’s prison that would be known as “Reform Island”, acting on information received by the new inmates, Wonder Woman trailed Paula and was in time to crush her latest scientific terror – an invisibility ray…

‘The Secret of Baroness von Gunther’ offered a rare peek at a villain’s motivation as the captured super-spy reveals how her little daughter Gerta had been a hostage of the Nazis for years and a goad to ensure total dedication to the German cause. Naturally, the Amazing Amazon instantly determined to reunite mother and child at all costs after which ‘Ordeal by Fire’ found the Baroness aiding Diana and Steve in dismantling the spy network and slave-ring the Nazis had spent so long building in America, but only at great personal and physical cost to the repentant Paula…

Over in Sensation #15 (March 1943) ‘Victory at Sea’ pitted Diana and Steve against murderous saboteurs determined to halt military production and working with shady lawyers whilst in #16 ‘The Masked Menace’ was one of very few stories not illustrated by H.G. Peter but the work of illustrator and strip cartoonist Frank Godwin, stepping in as the crushing workload of an extra 64-page comicbook every couple of months piled the pressure on WW’s artistic director.

The tale saw steadfast Texan Etta about to elope with slick and sleazy Euro-trash Prince Goulash, until Diana and Steve crashed the wedding party to uncover spies infiltrating across the Mexican border and a plot to blow up the invaluable Candy family oil-wells…

The inescapable war-fervour was tinged with incredible fantasy in Wonder Woman #4 which opened with ‘Man-Hating Madness!’ wherein a Chinese refugee from a Japanese torture camp reached America and drew the Amazon into a terrifying plan to use biological weapons on the American Home-Front after which cruel and misogynistic ‘Mole Men of the Underworld’ kidnapped the Holliday girls and Diana and the reformed and recuperated Paula rescued them, freed a race of female slaves and secured America’s deepest border from attack.

Then ‘The Rubber Barons’ provided a rousing, romp which saw greedy corporate profiteers attempt to hold the Government and war effort to ransom with a new rubber manufacturing process in a high-tech tale involving mind-control, gender role-reversal and behaviour modification as only a trained and passionate psychologist could promote them…

The issue but not this book then concluded with an untitled saga as Paula, now fully accepted into Amazon society, was attacked by Mavis, one of her erstwhile spy-slaves. The traumatised victim then abducted her ex-mistress’ little Gerta and Wonder Woman, burdened with responsibility, was compelled to hunt her down…

This sterling deluxe book of nostalgic delights ends with a famed classic in Sensation #17’s ‘Riddle of the Talking Lion’ (also probably drawn by Godwin) wherein Diana Prince visited an ailing friend and discovered that Sally’s kids had overheard a Zoo lion speaking – and revealing strange secrets…

Although Steve and Diana dismissed the tall tale, things take a peculiar turn when the beast is stolen and the trail leads to Egypt and a plot by ambitious Nazi collaborator Princess Yasmini…

Too few people seem able to move beyond the posited subtexts and definite imagery of bondage and subjugation in Marston’s tales – and frankly there really are a lot of scenes with girls tied up, chained or about to be whipped – but I just don’t care what his intentions might have been: I’m more impressed with the skilful drama and incredible imaginative story-elements that are always wonderfully, intriguingly present: I mean, just where do such concepts as giant battle kangaroo steeds or sentient Christmas trees stem from…?

Exotic, baroque, beguiling and uniquely exciting these Golden Age adventures of the World’s Most Famous female superhero are timeless and pivotal classics in the development of comics books and still provide lashings of fun and thrills for anyone looking for a great nostalgic read.
© 1942, 1943, 2000 DC Comics, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Wonder Woman Archives Edition volume 1


By Charles Moulton (William Moulton Marston & Harry G. Peter) (DC Comics)
ISBN: 1-56389-402-5

Wonder Woman was famously created by polygraph pioneer William Moulton Marston – apparently at the behest of his formidable wife Elizabeth – and illustrated by Harry G. Peter in an attempt to offer girls a positive and forceful role model.

Her launch and preview came as an extra feature in All Star Comics #8 (December 1941 – and that’s the comic book heroine, not Mrs. Marston), home of the immortal Justice Society of America and one of the company’s most popular publications. The Perfect Princess gained her own series and the cover-spot in new anthology title Sensation Comics a month later.

The Amazing Amazon was a huge and instant hit, quickly gaining her own eponymous title in late Spring of that year (cover-dated Summer 1942).

Using the nom de plume Charles Moulton, Marston scripted all the Amazing Amazon’s many and fabulous adventures until his death in 1947, whereupon Robert Kanigher took over the writer’s role. The venerable co-creator H.G. Peter illustrated almost every WW tale until his own death in 1958.

This superb full-colour deluxe hardback edition collects that seminal debut from All Star Comics #8, and her every iconic adventure from Sensation Comics #1-12 plus Wonder Woman #1, after opening with a heartfelt and appreciative Foreword from performer, writer and social activist Judy Collins.

The comic milestones begin with ‘Introducing Wonder Woman’ as on a hidden island of immortal super-women an American aviator crashed to Earth. Near death Captain Steve Trevor of US Army Intelligence was nursed back to health by young Princess Diana. Fearing her growing obsession with the man, her mother Queen Hippolyte revealed the hidden history of the Amazons: how they were seduced and betrayed by men but rescued by the goddess Aphrodite on condition that they isolated themselves from the rest of the world and devote their eternal lives to becoming ideal, perfect creatures.

However when Trevor explained the perfidious spy plot which accidentally brought him to the Island enclave, Athena and Aphrodite appeared and ordered Hippolyte to assign an Amazon warrior to return with the American to fight for freedom and liberty.

Hippolyte declared an open contest to find the best candidate and, despite being forbidden to participate, young Diana won. 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…

A month later the story continued where the introduction had left off in Sensation Comics #1 as ‘Wonder Woman Comes to America’ found the eager immigrant returning the recuperating Trevor to the modern World before trouncing a gang of bank robbers and falling in with a show business swindler. The major innovation was her buying the identity of love-lorn 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 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 before Steve broke his leg and ended up in hospital again, where “Nurse Prince” could look after him…

Sensation #2 introduced the deadly enemy agent ‘Dr. Poison’ in a cannily crafted tale which also debuted the most radical comedy sidekicks of the era…

The plucky fun-loving gals of the Holliday College for Women and their chubby, chocolate-gorging Beeta Lamda sorority chief Etta Candy would get into trouble and save the day in equal proportions for years to come, constantly demonstrating Diana’s – and Marston’s – philosophical contention that girls, with the correct encouragement, could accomplish anything that men could …

With the War raging and a military setting espionage and sabotage were inescapable plot devices. ‘A Spy in the Office’ saw Diana transfer to the office of General Darnell as his secretary so that she could keep an eye on the finally fit Steve. She wasn’t there five minutes before she’d uncovered a ring of undercover infiltrators amongst the typing pool and saved her man from assassination.

Unlike most comics of the period Wonder Woman followed a tight continuity. ‘School for Spies’ in #4 saw some of those fallen girls murdered and introduced inventor genius and Nazi master manipulator Baroness Paula Von Gunther who used psychological tricks to enslave girls to her will and set otherwise decent Americans against their homeland. Even Diana succumbed to her deadly machinations until Steve and the Holliday Girls crashed in…

America’s newest submarine was saved from destruction and a brilliant gang of terrorists brought to justice in ‘Wonder Woman versus the Saboteurs’ before issue #6 found the Amazing Amazon accepting a ‘Summons to Paradise’ to battle her immortal sisters in Kanga-riding duels before receiving her greatest weapon: an unbreakable Lasso of Truth which could compel and control anybody who fell within its golden coils.

It proved very handy when Paula escaped prison and used her invisibility formula to wreak havoc on American coastal defences.

‘The Milk Swindle’ is a pure piece of 1940s social advocacy magic as racketeers and Nazi Von Gunther joined forces to seize control of America’s milk supply with the incredibly long-sighted intention of weakening the bones of the country’s next generation of soldiers, followed in Sensation #8 by ‘Department Store Perfidy’ wherein the Amazon went undercover in the monolithic Bullfinch emporium to win better working conditions and fair pay for the girls employed there.

There was a plethora of surprises in #9 with ‘The Return of Diana Prince’ from South America. Now Mrs Diana White, the young mother needed her job and identity back until her inventor husband could sell his invention to US army. Luckily, Wonder Woman and an obliging gang of saboteurs helped expedite matters…

The next landmark was the launch of her own solo quarterly title. The first issue began with the photo-feature ‘Introducing Wonder Woman’s New Editor’ before offering a text feature on the Amazon’s pantheon of godly patrons in ‘Who is Wonder Woman?’

The comic action then commenced with an greatly expanded revision of her first appearance in ‘A History of the Amazons: the Origin of Wonder Woman’, swiftly followed by the beguiling mystery tale ‘Wonder Woman Goes to the Circus’ wherein Diana had to solve the bizarre serial murders of the show’s elephants.

Paula Von Gunther again reared her shapely head in ‘Wonder Woman versus the Spy Ring’ wherein the loss of the Golden Lasso almost caused the heroine’s demise and the ultimate defeat of the American Army before the issued ended with ‘The Greatest Feat of Daring in Human History’ as Diana and Etta headed for Texas, only to become embroiled in a sinister scheme involving Latin Lotharios, lady bullfighters, lethal spies and a Nazi attempt to conquer Mexico…

Back in Sensation Comics #10 ‘The Railroad Plot’ celebrated Steve and Wonder Woman’s first anniversary by exposing a sinister plan by Japanese and German agents to blow up New York using the labyrinth of subway tunnels under the city, whilst ‘Mission to Planet Eros’ began the series’ long line of cosmic fantasies when the Queen of Venus requested the Amazon’s aid in saving an entire planetary civilisation from sexual inequality and total breakdown…

This first sterling compendium concludes with ‘America’s Guardian Angel’ from Sensation #12 with the Warrior Princess accepting an offer to play herself in a patriotic Hollywood movie, only to find the production had been infiltrated by Nazi Paula and her gang of slave-girls…

Too much has been posited about the subtexts of bondage and subjugation in Marston’s tales – and frankly there really are a lot of scenes with girls tied up, chained or about to be whipped – but I just don’t care what his intentions might have been: I’m more impressed with the skilful drama and incredible fantasy elements that are always wonderfully, intriguingly present: I mean, just where does the concept of giant battle kangaroos come from?

Exotic, baroque, beguiling and uniquely exciting these Golden Age adventures of the World’s Most Famous female superhero are timeless and pivotal classics in the development of comics books and still provide lashings of fun and thrills for anyone looking for a great nostalgic read.
© 1941, 1942, 1998 DC Comics, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

DC Comics: the 75th Anniversary Poster Book


By various, compiled and with commentary by Robert Schnakenberg & Paul Levitz (Quirk Books)
ISBN: 978-1-59474-462-4

Here’s another poster-sized (a colossal 282 by 356mm) full-colour art-book, this time with material far more familiar to comics fans. Beautiful, captivating and still readily available, this tremendous tome was released in 2010 to celebrate America’s premier funnybook publisher in their 75th year of continuous existence.

This 208 page compendium, devised with 100 whole-page images – suitable and intended for framing – with background information and a couple of equally vibrant and chronologically pertinent cover contenders on each reverse side, charts all the breakthroughs, major debuts and key events of the companies (initially National Periodical Publications and All-American imprints) which merged to become DC, and includes the fruits of other publishers like Fawcett, Quality and Charlton Comics whose creative successes were later acquired and assimilated by the unstoppable corporate colossus which forms today’s universally recognised multi-media phenomenon.

The obvious candidates are all there and of course the vast majority of these stunning illustrations are superhero themed, but there are also fine examples of the bizarre fads, eccentric mores and mind-boggling concepts that were simply part-and-parcel of comics from the last eight decades.

The four-colour graphic parade begins with New Fun Comics #1 (February 1935 and with issues #2 and 3 decorating the potted history of the company on the back) and follows with the obvious landmarks  such as Action Comics #1, Detective Comics #27, Superman #1 and 14, Flash Comics #1, Batman #1 and Sensation Comics #1 but also finds space for equally evocative but less well-used covers as Detective #11, Adventure #40, Action #19, Green Lantern #1 and Sensation #38.

From the almost superhero-free 1950s come such eccentric treats as Mr. District Attorney #12, Our Army at War #20, Mystery in Space #22, Strange Adventures #79 and 100, Showcase #12, Leave it to Binky #60, Adventure Comics #247, Detective #275 (“The Zebra Batman!”) and many more, whilst the tumultuous 1960s offers such treasures as Flash #123, Showcase #34, Brave and the Bold #42 & 58 and Justice League of America #21 as well as practically unseen treasures like Falling in Love #62, Heart Throbs #93, Girls’ Love #127 among others…

The 1970s through to today are represented by such examples as Wonder Woman #205, Shazam! #3, Prez #3, Detective #475, Weird Western Tales, #53, Weird War #89, New Teen Titans #1, Ronin #1, Swamp Thing #34, Crisis on Infinite Earths #7, the first issues of  The Dark Knight Returns, Watchmen, Hellblazer, Sandman, The Killing Joke, V for Vendetta and Preacher, Wonder Woman #0, Superman #75, Cat Woman #2, New Frontiers #6, Arkham Asylum Anniversary Edition, Batman: Year 100 #1, All-Star Superman #10 Batman #679 and others. All these covers can of course be viewed online through numerous database sites – but those aren’t crisply printed on high-grade card and ready to frame…

The artists include Lyman Anderson, Joe Shuster, Bob Kane, Creig Flessel, Gil Kane, Joe Kubert, Carmine Infantino, John Romita Sr., Ramona Fradon, Neal Adams, Joe Orlando, Berni Wrightson, Steve Ditko, Mike Sekowsky, Bob Oksner, Curt Swan, Nick Cardy, Jack Kirby, Brian Bolland, Dave Gibbons, David Lloyd, Dave McKean, Michael Golden, Darwyn Cooke, Dave Johnson, Adam Hughes, Jim Lee, James Jean, Tim Sale, Paul Pope, Frank Quitely, Alex Ross and a myriad of others…

For my rarefied tastes there are too few of the company’s superb young kids and funny animal titles and not enough of their genre successes, as exemplified by the War, Western, Romance, Science Fiction, Jungle Action, Sword & Sorcery and mystery/horror titles which kept the company afloat when mystery men periodically palled on the public’s palate, but this book is nevertheless a splendid catalogue of DC’s contribution to global culture and an overwhelming celebration of the unique glory of comics.

Even better; there are still thousands of covers left to shove into follow-up volumes…

Art and compilation © 2010 DC Comics. All rights Reserved.