For this project, I'll be going over the early days of Wonder Woman. Specifically I plan to read the Wonder Woman stories in Sensation Comics #1-12.

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Sensation Comics #1 - "Wonder Woman Arrives in Man's World"

Published: January 1942

Writer: William Moulton Marston (as Charles Moulton)

Artist: Harry G. Peter

 

Diana flies Steve back to the USA in her invisible plane. She then takes him to a hospital so he can get the care he needs, but leaves before answering any personal questions.

 

Diana then goes window shopping, looking at the clothes. Some people talk behind her back about her costume (or the lack thereof). The males in the crowd seem particularly taken with her.

 

Suddenly some bank robbers run out into the street. Diana intervenes, and when the crooks attempt to shoot her she deflects the bullets with her bracelets (one thing you have to wonder is what happened with the bullets. Was she good enough to deflect the bullets where they would do no harm?). She then easily defeats the gang, turning them over to a nearby police officer. However, once again she leaves before answering any questions.

 

As she runs away, she's pursued by a man in a car. He attempts to catch up to her, but she's easily able to run away from him. Eventually she lets him catch up and he explains he has a business proposition for her; his name is Al Kaley, and he's a theatrical agent. After seeing the things she can do, he wants to put her on stage and charge admission, thinking that there's a lot of money to be made. She realizes that she will need some money until Steve gets better, so she agrees. Unsurprisingly, her act is a huge hit, and the newspapers dub her "Wonder Woman".

 

One day, while reading the newspaper, she sees that Steve Trevor is healthy again (slow news day, I guess) She tells Al that she's quitting, which annoys him, but since there was never a contract he can't do anything. At the same time, he never paid Diana, and he decides to abscond with her money. She sees him and--well, it doesn't end well for Al.

 

The next day she goes to the hospital. She's trying to figure out a way to be around Steve when she spots a nurse crying on the steps. The woman tells her that she's an army nurse who was just transferred to the hospital, but her fiancé was sent to South America and can't afford to send for her. Diana realizes that this woman is a doppelganger for her, and suggests that the nurse sell her her identity so she can go to South America and be with her fiancé. The nurse--whose name is Diana Prince--agrees.

 

Now Diana attends Steve's bedside. Steve is still just a little delirious and mistakes Diana for Diana initially, then tells her that he needs to return to his work. She tells him that she thinks he just wants to chase after this woman that brought him to the hospital. However, later Steve reads the newspaper and decides to check himself out. The doctor admonishes Diana for leaving the room as Steve is suffering from over-exertion which may kill him. Diana reads the newspaper and realizes that Steve spotted an article about some saboteurs and means to stop them.

 

As Wonder Woman retrieves her costume and airplane, Steve reports back to headquarters and tells his superior that he will stop this saboteur--who's bombing army bases with poison gas. .

 

Steve--flying what appears to be a P-40 Warhawk--encounters the bomber, but the bomber's airplane is much too fast, and somehow his bullets don't seem to be having much effect either against the bomber, what appears to be a Messerschmitt BF-110. He decides to ram the bomber with his own airplane. This succeeds, but Steve's parachute is destroyed in the process, and he thinks he's a goner.

 

Fortunately for Steve Trevor, Wonder Woman is on the scene. She manages to catch him before he goes splat and pulls him back inside of her airplane. She also manages to capture the enemy pilot as he parachutes down as well. Unfortunately, as they bring him aboard, they realize he's dying. The enemy pilot boasts of more pilots with more poison gas bombs on the way.

 

Steve realizes the enemy pilot was right, but Wonder Woman tells him that she can find their secret base--especially since she had her mother look for it before leaving Paradise Island. The tow of them land on the island base and manage to take out the processing plant for the poison gas. However, the leader decides to use his last resort and pulls a self-destruct lever. Diana manages to easily avoid the blast, but Steve--since he's not an Amazon--isn't so lucky. He's lucky enough to only break a leg however.

 

Diana takes him back to the hospital and it's congratulations all around for Steve Trevor. However, he refuses the accolades and insists it was all the work of his angel, Wonder Woman. Diana tells him that they all think he's delirious and attempts to flirt with him, but he tells her that the only woman for him is Wonder Woman.

 

My rating: 8/10

 

Well, this was fun.

 

Wonder Woman is a character that I think has been broken ever since Marston's death, and stories like this support my feelings. This Diana enjoys herself, enjoys testing herself against others, and just generally seems to have fun. She even cracks a smile from time to time. When's the last time you saw Wonder Woma smiling?

 

Anyway, as an introductory story, I'd call this a success. While everything about Wonder Woman isn't introduced, enough of the lore and mythology is created to give the reader a good feeling for who she is and why she's awesome. It's all pretty much straight superhero stuff, so none of the more "experimental" ideas that Marston would later introduce into the stories.

 

 

 

The GCD notes the cover's WW figure was taken from the splash panel of the preview WW story in All-Star Comics #8. It attributes the rest of the cover to Jon Blummer, whose work has long reminded me of Peter's early style.

Marston was born in 1893 and Peter in 1880, so they were older than most Golden Age creators. Peter was drawing a superhero feature called "Man O' Metal" for Reg'lar Fellers Heroic Comics. He was also the initial artist on the similar "Fearless Flint", which started in Famous Funnies the month Sensation Comics #1 came out.

Earlier super-superheroines include the Magician from Mars, the Blue Lady and Super-Ann from Amazing Man Comics, Fantomah from Jungle Comics, the one-shot heroine Amazona from Planet Comics #3, Miss America from Military Comics, Wildfire from Smash Comics, Canada's Nelvana of the Northern Lights, and Invisible Scarlet O'Neil in newspapers. The Golden Age Black Widow had also appeared.

Bulletgirl was Bulletman's partner, and Hawkgirl had just become Hawkman's. Sheena was starring in Jumbo Comics and her own title was about to start. Phantom Lady and the Black Cat were also already appearing. Miss Fury's strip had debuted, and Lady Luck appeared in the Spirit sections.

DC's active costumed heroines were Hawkgirl and the Red Tornado, and Miss X had appeared a few times in "Tex Thomson" before it became "Mr. America". However, a number of DC features had or had had strong female characters (Lois Lane, Dian Belmont, Joan Williams, Doris West, Peachy Pet), and one of DC's first features had been "Sandra of the Secret Service" in New Fun/More Fun/More Fun Comics.

(My hat-tip to Toonopedia for a number of the heroines.)

Sadly, I don't have anything to read along with.  The WW Golden Age TPB that came out recently is on my want list though.  Thanks for starting this thread Randy, this story sounds like fun.

A couple of questions if I may:

- Why did you skip over WW's first appearance in All-Star 8?

- You said you feel the character has been broken since Marston's death.  Did you read the post-Crisis Perez version?  If so, what were your feelings on it?  It was the first time I found WW interesting in about a decade, made really good use of mythology (both Greek and DC), just generally very well done for the first 25 issues or so.



John Dunbar said:

- Why did you skip over WW's first appearance in All-Star 8?

A) I forgot. B) In all honesty, IMO, most origin stories are best skipped. Wonder Woman's origin is just fine, but I wouldn't call it exceptionally compelling like the ones of Batman or Spider-Man. If someone wanted to cover it and dd it in here, I'd be just fine with that.

- You said you feel the character has been broken since Marston's death.  Did you read the post-Crisis Perez version?  If so, what were your feelings on it?  It was the first time I found WW interesting in about a decade, made really good use of mythology (both Greek and DC), just generally very well done for the first 25 issues or so.

I'm guessing I've read some of Perez's run, although I couldn't say for sure. That being said, I'd have to guess he wrote the character exactly the same as every other creator since the mid-1970's--humorless and boring.  Kanigher did her no favors during the Silver Age, but at the very least there was some whimsy. After he was done with her, she became a dour, overly preachy one-dimensional cardboard cut out.

When I compare Marston's Diana to every Diana since his death, It's just not the same character. Certainly I'm aware of Marston's eccentricities, but it seemed as if when those were removed so was everything else that made the character fun--the sense of challenge, the desire to prove herself, and how much fun she had when she succeeded. She talked trash, she smiled, she always enjoyed herself, her power and her ability to compete, and all of that was gone after Marston's death.

Of course, worse was done to Etta Candy, but that's another tale.

Sensation Comics #2 - "Dr. Poison!"

Published: February 1942

Writer: William Moulton Marston (as Charles Moulton)

Artist: Harry G. Peter

 

Diana is taking care of Steve in her "Diana Prince" persona. He's not enjoying being a patient, however. He wants to go back to headquarters to identify the suspects from last issue's adventure--he thinks something suspicious might happen--but Diana tells him his leg won't be back to normal for another three weeks.

 

At this point, two Army intelligence officers enter and tell Steve they need him to identify some suspects. He's never seen them before but takes them at their word (and so continues the reality that Steve Trevor is an idiot). Over Diana's objections, they wheel him off to a waiting ambulance. They decide to take her as well as Captain Trevor will need someone to take care of him. Diana begs to bring along her medical bag, and they allow it. Diana suspects that something fishy is going on, but decides to play along.

 

After entering the ambulance, Diana sees that Steve has been bound and gagged. Now that she understands that the men are spies (and one wonders why Steve Trevor--who's supposed to be skilled at intelligence--never questioned the men or asked for ID) she decides to play along and allows the men to tie her up in hopes of catching all of the spies.

 

Steve and Diana are taken to a mansion in a remote Southern area and presented to a man in a strange mask. He tells his men to remove Steve's gag so he can listen to Steve, but Steve tells him that he'll be disappointed in what he has to say. He addresses the man as Dr. Poison (apparently he paid attention during briefings, I suppose). Dr. Poison is pleased that Steve has heard of him and states hat he is the head of the saboteurs poison division. He continues to interrogate Steve, but Steve won't talk. Undaunted, Dr. Poison decides to inject Steve with truth serum for the interrogation.

 

At this point, Diana breaks from her captors to keep Dr. Poison from injecting Steve, fearing it might kill him. However, Dr. Poison threatens to cut Steve's throat, and Diana stops her assault. He then tells her to sterilize the syringe of truth serum (after all, Diana Prince is a nurse), and she swaps it for a syringe of harmless saline. She whispers to Steve what she's done and tells him to play along, to which he agrees. Dr. Poison injects Steve, and Steve begins mumbling things as if he's under the influence of the serum.

 

As Dr. Poison listens, Steve feeds him a bunch of lies about who they suspect are spies. Afterwards, Dr. Poison tells his men to lock Steve up. Diana begs to take Steve back to the hospital, but Dr. Poison tells her that if she intervenes that he'll have Steve shot immediately. She's taken to another cell and bound tightly, but as soon as her captors leave she easily breaks her bonds. She then changes to Wonder Woman and breaks out of the cell.

 

She goes to Steve's cell, but he's surrounded by guards with guns. Realizing she needs a diversion, she goes to a nearby garage and borrows a vehicle. She pushes it downhill before jumping in and driving off. The owners come and take shots at her which she easily deflects, and one of them recognizes her. Thinking it's a publicity stunt, he tells the other man to let her go (yup, car theft equals publcity stunt, so it's okay, right?).

 

Back at the spy headquarters, Dr. Poison tells his men that he's perfected a new drug called the Reverso, which will make US soldiers do exactly the opposite of what they're told to do. He plans to have his men dump it into the water reservoir that supplies the army base. By having his men dump in one gallon per hour, he plans to throw the entire base into confusion.

 

The next day, his men begin spiking the reservoir. As the soldiers drink the water, they begin to act very strangely. The Generals have no choice but to put the soldiers in internment camps==although they've figured out how to reverse their orders to get the men to do what they want. The next day, Dr. Poison shows the newspaper story to Steve, who is livid but can't do anything. Then one of Poison's men tells him about Diana's escape, which Poison thinks is ridiculous. He tells his men to find the girl. Steve thinks that Wonder Woman must have rescued her, but wonders how she found him. Dr. Poison has his men dig in against an attack.

 

Meanwhile, Wonder Woman has realized that a forceful attack will likely result in Steve's death, so she comes up with a plan. She drives her "borrowed" car to Holliday College for girls and asks for her friend, Etta Candy (how she met Etta has yet to be covered). Apparently Etta is rehearsing with the school marching band, and Wonder Woman goes to find her. she does find Etta but is surprised by her appearance as she was thin when she was in the hospital (apparently Diana Prince knows Etta but Wonder Woman doesn't). As Etta explains, she was thin when she entered the hospital but after having her appendix removed she could eat anything and so she did. She tells Wonder Woman that Diana was really nice to her and that she'd do anything to help her except diet. wonder Woman then tells Etta about Steve and his predicament. she then tells Etta of her plan involving the band, and also tells her she'll need 100 girls brave enough to capture dangerous men, to which Etta replies that she'll have no problem convincing 100 girls to capture men. Etta and Wonder Woman have their pick of the college students and choose the prettiest and strongest for this mission.

 

Having selected enough girls for the task at hand, Wonder Woman leads them near to Dr. Poison's mansion and arms each of the girls with handcuffs. She then leads her recruits onto Dr. Poison's grounds as a parade. Stopping outside, Wonder Woman explains to the leader that they're from Holliday College and they're here to catch men. The girls then begin their assault, making the men dance with them. As the old mansion has a huge ballroom, the men agree to dance with the girls. Wonder Woman then leads more girls to Steve's cell, and convinces his guards to dance as well. After the guards are gone, Wonder Woman breaks into Steve's cell and frees him.

 

Having secured Steve, Wonder Woman returns to the ballroom and gives the signal, and ll of the girls begin handcuffing the men. Having taken them by surprise, the battle is over quickly. Steve then tells Wonder Woman that they have to get Dr. Poison to restore the men in the army to sanity. They go to Poison's laboratory and demand the antidote, but Poison won't give it to them. Wonder Woman removes Dr. Poison's mask, and surprisingly it turns out that Dr. Poison is a woman. She tells them that she is the Princess Maru and that her genius will destroy America. She tries to shoot Wonder Woman but Diana just laughs it off. Then the Princess is tackled by Etta.

 

They threaten to strip her naked and march her to Washington, and this breaks Maru's resolve, as she's more concerned about her dignity than she is about dying. She gives them the antidote, Wonder Woman takes Steve back to the army base while Etta and her girls watch over the prisoners.

 

Back at the Army hospital, Steve is asked how he got all of those girls to help him, and he explains that he didn't do anything, it was all Wonder Woman. Diana Prince tells him that she saw Wonder Woman and didn't think she was very pretty. Steve tells her she's full of it.

 

My rating: 7/10

 

So, an interesting adventure with a clever--if unlikely--resolution. I personally think Marston's introduction of Etta Candy and the Holliday girls was a good idea, particularly since I'm a big Etta Candy fan (this Etta, not the one that's popped up from time to time since Marston's death).

 

One of the things I enjoy about these early stories is the sense of fun within. Wonder Woman's plan to take out the spy base is treated more as a sorority prank as opposed to one that's potentially deadly. When Diana breaks her bonds in her cell, she complains that she wished they'd have been chains as it would have been more fun to break out of them. This is the sort of thing one just doesn't see in modern wonder Woman comics.

 

I will say that this story felt a little padded. There are several sequences that drag out a little, like Wonder Woman "borrowing" the car or the recruiting of the Holliday girls. It slowed down the momentum of the story, and I think it's likely the story would have been better if those sequences had been abbreviated. all in all, though, it was a bit of fun.

 

 

Sensation Comics #3 - "A Spy In The Office!"

Published: March 1942

Writer: William Moulton Marston (as Charles Moulton)

Artist: Harry G. Peter

 

Steve is ready to be discharged from the hospital. He finds Diana in his room crying that she'll never be able to see him again. In order to calm her down, he tells her that he'll do anything in his power to allow her to stay close to him. She asks if she can be his secretary, but he declines as he's already got a secretary he's perfectly happy with named Lila Brown. He then ells her that Colonel Darnell is looking for a secretary, and she demands that he help her get that job. He tells her he'll get the Colonel to give her a tryout, but that she has to be really good at her job. She swears she will be.

 

Later, Darnell is interviewing Diana. He asks why she wants to give up nursing, and she tells him that since she's been assigned to surgery she can't stand the sight of blood. He agrees to give her a dictation test, but intentionally talks way too fast in order to flummox her, but given that she's Wonder Woman, she's easily able to keep pace. She then types out the letter in record time, and perfectly as well. Darnell is impressed and hires her.

 

The next day, Steve introduces Diana to his secretary Lila. Lila is apparently quite jealous of Diana and uses every opportunity to cut her down. She accuses Diana of cheating on her dictation test as Diana hadn't used any of the well-known methods for taking shorthand, but Diana explains that it's her own system.

 

Later, Lila attempts to warn Steve away from Diana, but Steve dismisses her concerns as petty jealousy.

 

A little while later, an information leak is discovered within the office. Darnell orders Steve to investigate all of the secretaries and other office workers there. He interrogates Lila, who attempts to throw suspicion on Diana.

 

Meanwhile, Colonel Darnell orders Diana to set up health screenings for all of the girls in the office. She agrees to do so. She screens Lila, who is none too pleased about being screened by Diana. During the screening, another woman interrupts them and tells Lila that a man is there to see her and she wants "that envelope". Lila's blood pressure jumps as she denies having the envelope. Diana notices and decides to investigate. She starts searching Lila's clothes, and Lila attacks her, but as Diana is Wonder Woman, the fight is quite short. She reads the contents of the envelope, which gives information about a new airplane armor and the fact that Steve is going to be carrying those plans to New York. She confronts Lila and accuses her of being a spy, but Lila swears that she just found the envelope. She convinces Diana to leave her alone until after work, and then she can explain everything--also she tells her that Steve will not be traveling to New York that night. Diana agrees.

 

However, Steve does leave for New York. One of Darnell's associates tells him to stop Steve from boarding the train as there are enemy agents waiting to kill him. He tells Darnell that he got a tip from a woman that told him that his secretary (Diana) was a spy and was carrying a secret message. Darnell dismisses the claim but calls for Diana. Diana agrees to being searched, but is perturbed when she's unable to find out who accused her. The matron that searches her finds the envelope and letter she'd taken from Lila. Darnell asks where she got the letter from, but she won't tell. She thinks that the men will bungle the investigation and wants to do it herself. Diana is arrested and confined to quarters.

 

Of course, Diana makes the quick change to Wonder Woman and escapes. She returns to Steve's office and takes Lila away to interrogate her. She tells Lila that she's the last hope that Steve Trevor has and she needs the truth, so Lila tells her what's going on. Basically, her younger sister Eve is the actual spy. She fell in love with an enemy agent named Gross and gave away some information without knowing who he was. He then coerced her into giving him more information. Lila found out that Gross had coerced Eve into getting the information about Steve's trip and took the envelope to protect them both. Gross was the man who came to get the envelope, and Lila wouldn't give it to him. She then tells Wonder Woman that a terrible woman named Diana Prince took the message from her and that she doesn't know where Diana is. She then tells Diana that Gross has a speedboat, and Diana grabs Lila so that they can catch Gross in his boat (Lila is the only one who knows what Gross looks like, which is why she must come along).

 

Gross is just leaving as they arrive, so they swim after him. Lila thinks they'll never catch him, but Diana proves her wrong. She easily catches the boat and when Gross tries to shoot her she blocks the bullets with her bracelets. She then boards the boat and overpowers Gross, getting Lila to identify him. She demands that Gross tell her the plans to kill Steve, but Gross refuses. Diana then dunks him in the water and he changes his tune. He tells her the plan was to get Eve to trick Steve into leaving the train in Baltimore, where his agents would intercept him and put him on a yacht in Chesapeake Bay where they would rendezvous.

 

Diana sends a mental radio message (I love mental radio, BTW) to Etta Candy telling her to gather some girls together and capture Eve. Wonder Woman herself plans to meet the Nazi Yacht in the Chesapeake Bay. Lila wonders how Wonder Woman was able to contact her assistants without the help of a radio or anything, but we cut to Holliday College where Etta is waiting with her sorority sisters, and they receive the message loud and clear. They rush to meet the train at the station.

 

Meanwhile, Eve approaches Steve on the train. She tells him that the Colonel sent her to identify some spies they caught there. When they arrive in Baltimore, she ushers Steve off the train after the supposed spies where he is ambushed. In the melee, Steve takes the plans he was ferrying and throws them away. Eve grabs them and makes a run for it as the men attacking Steve look to kill her as well. However, she runs directly into the hands of Etta and the girls, and they take her away. A passing conductor sees the way the girls are treating Eve and asks if they aren't' hazing her too hard, but Etta just tells him they're initiating her into their sorority, then offers him some candy.

 

Meanwhile, the Nazi agents are taking Steve to the yacht. They decide to torture Steve to get the information on the armor, but Steve won't talk. Lila and Wonder Woman pull up next to the yacht, and Wonder Woman boards. She easily defeats the gang of Nazis after leaping onto the yacht.

 

Afterwards, Steve is concerned about the plans and Lila is concerned about her sister. Wonder Woman suggests they go to Holliday College to see what's going on. When they arrive, they see that Eve is still being initiated. Wonder Woman tells them to let her go. Steve recovers the plans, and after her "initiation" Eve realizes how much of a fool she's been and willingly volunteers to be taken into custody.

 

Afterwards, Diana receives an apology and Steve receives plaudits, which he attempts to deflect to Wonder Woman. However, Diana is mildly annoyed that she always seems to get the short end of the stick as Steve gets praised while she did all the work.

 

My rating: 7/10

 

Another fun romp, although Nazi saboteurs are becoming a bit over-utilized as the baddies of the month. Once again, we see Diana enjoying her power and strength and having a pretty good time of everything, and I always enjoy seeing Etta and the Holliday Girls.

 

My complaints at this point are fairly minor. Nazi saboteurs without something special behind them are getting old as adversaries, as there's little challenge there for Wonder Woman. The fact that they're also outfoxed by a bunch of sorority girls also lessens their impact as villains. Still, the story is fun and enjoyable, and to me that's what matters.

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