© 2015 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. and Ratpac-Dune Entertainment LLC

Doesn’t Gal Gadot look awesome in Wonder Woman? But writers can do bad things even with good characters.

By Andrew A. Smith

Tribune Content Agency

Wonder Woman, whose first live-action movie premieres June 2, is usually described as “beautiful as Aphrodite, wise as Athena, stronger than Hercules and swifter than Mercury.” But that hasn’t protected her from some really dumb stories over her 76-year history. Here’s a Top 10 List of Silly Wonder Woman Bits:

10. HAPPY HOLLIDAYS

One of the early additions to the Wonder Woman mythos were her quasi-sidekicks, the girls of Beeta Lamda sorority at Holliday College. Led by the comically rotund Etta Candy – whose favorite exclamation was “Woo! Woo!” – the otherwise lithe and athletic Holliday Girls arose from research into sorority initiations by psychologist and WW co-creator William Moulton Marston. He had attended a “baby party” (where pledges were required to wear baby clothes and undergo “punishment”), and apparently it left a deep impression.

9. MS. PRINCE, WE’RE NEEDED

In 1968, writer Denny O’Neil decided Diana didn’t need all those pesky super-powers, and reduced her to a karate fighter a la Emma Peel of TV’s The Avengers, complete with white jumpsuits. Just to make sure she was put properly in her place, she was mentored by a male – an old Chinese gentleman with the unlikely name I-Ching. Because, man, it was the ‘60s. You dig?

8. GLASS CEILING

After she got her powers back, Diana re-joined the Justice League. But before she could, she had to perform 12 labors, Hercules fashion, to show she still had the right stuff.

Would the League do that to Superman? Batman? Of course not. Heck, they haven’t even done it to Green Arrow, who’s quit and re-joined approximately 43 zillion times. And he takes a bow and arrow to gunfights.

It was presented as her choice, but it was nonsense. Even in the Justice League, a woman has to be 12 times better than a guy to get the same job.

7. HIS GIRL FRIDAY

Before the Justice League, there was the legendary Justice Society of America, which united the greatest superheroes of two publishers in 1940. Naturally, it wasn’t long after Wonder Woman’s 1941 debut that Hawkman, chairman of the JSA (renamed “Justice Battalion” during the war) invited the Amazing Amazon to join their prestigious group … to take the minutes.

“Wonder Woman, the members of the Justice Battalion feel that even though you’re now an honorary member, we’d like you to act as our secretary,” announced the Winged Wonder in 1942.

“Why,” replied Diana, who could probably have twisted Hawkman into origami, “that’s quite an honor!”

 

6. WANT FRIES WITH THAT?

For a little while in the ‘90s, Diana worked in a fast-food joint called Taco Whiz.

I can’t even.

Copyright DC Entertainment Inc.

You’d think someone who was good friends with Bruce Wayne could make one phone call and never have to work again. Or at least she could get a job where “flying” and “super-strength” are requisites. (Art by Brian Bolland) 

5. FIT TO BE TIED

Marston brought a lot of positive qualities to his brainchild: a belief in the power of love, a faith in the equality (or superiority) of women, a desire to give girls a strong role model. He also had a keen interest in bondage, which made it into early Wonder Woman stories, too.

Now, getting captured and tied up is an occupational hazard in adventure stories, especially in the 1940s. But Wonder Woman Unbound author Tim Hanley did a comparative analysis of the first 10 issues of Batman, Captain Marvel Adventures and Wonder Woman – and found the number of times restraints were used in the Amazon’s stories to be, in comparison to the other two, “colossal.”

Hanley found that, on average, Batman and Captain Marvel Adventures depicted folks tied up 3 percent of the time – compared to 27 percent in Wonder Woman. And while the Amazing Amazon herself was only bound for 40 percent of the total – everyone was fair game in a Marston story – it was still women who were tied up a full 84 percent of the time.

I guess we should have gotten a hint from the fact that Wonder Woman’s chief weapon is a rope.

 

4. POLLY PARADOX

In 1986, a new origin established Diana as in her twenties, not in her five-hundred-and-twenties. So who was in all those Wonder Woman comics going back to 1941? To solve this dilemma, writer/artist John Byrne dressed Diana’s mother Hippolyta in the iconic costume and sent her back in time to fill in. The JSA called her “Polly.”

Which is weird, because Hippolyta has been alive since ancient Greece – she didn’t have to go back in time to be in World War II. She was already there.

You’d think people would notice a thing like that.

 

3. SHORT STORIES

In the early 1960s, DC began running stories of Wonder Woman when she was a baby. She was called “Wonder Tot,” and met genies, monsters and mer-people, as you do.

She also met herself as a teenager and an adult for a number of stories, initially as a result of Hippolyta splicing old family movies together. These were called “Impossible Tales,” likely because they were.

 

2. BIRDS AND BEES (AND FISH)

Also in the early ‘60s, DC began running stories of Wonder Woman as a teenager. These “Wonder Girl” stories featured the Amazing Adolescent dating the sort of boys who were available around Paradise Island, which didn’t allow (human) males. Specifically, that would be Ronno the Mer-Boy and Wingo the Bird-Boy.

Ronno was from a race of people who were fish from the waist down. Wingo was from a race of people who were birds from the waist down.

Do I need to explain what’s wrong with this picture?

Copyright DC Entertainment Inc.

One odd choice in 1960s Wonder Woman comics was to have teenage Diana date outside her species. (Art by Ross Andru and Mike Esposito) 

 

1. WHO’S THE BABY DADDY?

Long-running comics characters often have details of their history changed or updated. But even by that standard, Wonder Woman’s past is amazingly fluid.

Some things remain somewhat standard. Diana’s powers always come from the Greco-Roman gods, either as gifts or genetics. Her mission remains constant: to bring peace to “man’s world.” She’s always the daughter of Hippolyta, queen of the Amazons.

But her daddy? Well, usually she doesn’t have one – in most origins, she’s a clay statue brought to life by the gods.

In 1959, though, writer Robert Kanigher (briefly) gave her a real father, later revealed as some dude named Theno, who was lost at sea. In fact, in that story, all the Amazons had husbands, but “all the men … wiped out … in the wars,” moaned Hippolyta. “Woe is us …” one Amazon replied, rather un-Amazonly. “We are … alone … now – !”

Alone – and talking like William Shatner. Oh, the humanity!

In 2011, another story established Diana as the daughter of Zeus – which made her related to a lot of the folks she’d been fighting for 60 years! It was writer Brian Azzarello’s intent to make the gods supporting characters, referring to the Olympians as “the original crime family.”

Currently Wonder Woman’s origin is being re-written once again. I’m giving “clay statue” 2-to-1 odds.

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You should try breaking down the tv show sometime Cap.

A few comments:

9) Some readers look fondly on Diana's non-powered phase as it has been brought back a couple of time and had FOUR trade paperbacks devoted to it. YMMV.

8) The Justice League wanted Wonder Woman back. Period. It was Diana who came up with the her Twelve Labors as she felt her memory was suspect. And it had been tampered with by her own mother. This story arc was one of her highlights of the 70s, IMHO.

7) Roy Thomas, I believe, justified Wonder Woman as the JSA's secretary by having her be horrified by the boys' record-keeping or lack of!

3) You forgot to mention that the Wonder Girl stories were so prevalent that Bob Haney thought that she was a separate character and added her to the Teen Titans and no one in editorial corrected him!

2) They also included a teenage Steve Trevor in one story! And they introduced the adult Mer-Man and Bird-Man just to spice things up!

1) Wonder Woman's Father??? No clue!

Lists are, by their nature, subjective and designed to be contested. I can see which of my choices you'd drop, and which you'd keep, Philip!

I wonder if Diana's non-powered phase would work as well today?  I didn't read those issues back then, but when I did read them I often wondered where Diana's foes went when she lost her powers.  Gigantic, Cheetah and lots of others should have been hunting for a non-powered Wonder Woman they could easily beat.

The "Taco Whiz" phase was a surprise to me. Was it a one-off or a continued story?

It lasted for a handful of issues, before she started freelancing with a private detective for a bit. 

William Messner-Loebs had a distinct interest in populating his comics with supporting cast members who weren't in the typical upper-class demographic of reporters for major metropolitan newspapers, millionaires, successful inventors and the like. (Or, say, the cast of Friends.) The Taco Whiz setting was his attempt to do that with his Wonder Woman run. His Flash run was a lot more successful in that regard, having Piper become a champion of the homeless, along with the various quirky denizens of Wally's apartment complex. I can't remember if his run on Dr. Fate had the same focus, but I wouldn't be surprised if it did.

Comics could really use more William Messner-Loebs stories.

I'm pretty sure that none of Wonder Woman's enemies knew that she'd lost her powers--other than Ares/Mars, who seemed to spend most of that period attacking the Amazons in their "recharging dimension", I don't think any of them knew that she was Diana Prince or still in Mans World--the JLA & the Teen Titans seem to have been the only ones on Earth (other than I Ching) who knew that the karate chopping adventurer was the former Amazing Amazon (Ok, so Supergirl knew too, but only because they had the same artist at the time). Of course, considering that then, as now, WW's foes tended to get reformatted every time her "Wheel of Discontinuity" was given another spin, so there's no telling who, what, or where her past or current foes might have been during her "Mod" period.

Mark S. Ogilvie said:

I wonder if Diana's non-powered phase would work as well today?  I didn't read those issues back then, but when I did read them I often wondered where Diana's foes went when she lost her powers.  Gigantic, Cheetah and lots of others should have been hunting for a non-powered Wonder Woman they could easily beat.

Richard Willis said:

The "Taco Whiz" phase was a surprise to me. Was it a one-off or a continued story?



Rob Staeger (Grodd Mod) said:

It lasted for a handful of issues, before she started freelancing with a private detective for a bit. 

William Messner-Loebs had a distinct interest in populating his comics with supporting cast members who weren't in the typical upper-class demographic of reporters for major metropolitan newspapers, millionaires, successful inventors and the like. (Or, say, the cast of Friends.) The Taco Whiz setting was his attempt to do that with his Wonder Woman run. His Flash run was a lot more successful in that regard, having Piper become a champion of the homeless, along with the various quirky denizens of Wally's apartment complex. I can't remember if his run on Dr. Fate had the same focus, but I wouldn't be surprised if it did.

Comics could really use more William Messner-Loebs stories.

Diana's manager at the Taco Whiz, Hoppy, was a real salt-of-the-Earth type. She worked hard and cared about what she did, and that inspired Diana to do her job even better -- not that Diana is someone to shirk her work. I miss her. 


I think over the years -- and the many de-powerings and de-statusings -- that I've become intolerant of storylines where WW is reduced in power or rank. It feels like a pattern that one writer after another has felt the need to take Diana's powers away, or reduce her to working at a fast-food restaurant, or some other humiliation. I don't think it's on purpose, but it may be subconscious. At any rate, it happens often enough that even if I didn't suspect misogyny, I'd still call it a cliche -- and I have no patience for it.

I think when it was first done it was a bit of an innovation but since then it has become a cliche.  I'm sure there had been other heroes and heroines that went through a power down phase before her but I can't think of any.

Captain Comics said:

I think over the years -- and the many de-powerings and de-statusings -- that I've become intolerant of storylines where WW is reduced in power or rank. It feels like a pattern that one writer after another has felt the need to take Diana's powers away, or reduce her to working at a fast-food restaurant, or some other humiliation. I don't think it's on purpose, but it may be subconscious. At any rate, it happens often enough that even if I didn't suspect misogyny, I'd still call it a cliche -- and I have no patience for it.

Totally understand, Cap. I bristle a bit at it now, too. But while it does fit that sort of pattern for Diana (though in this case I don't think she was depowered; it was just a particularly unglamorous secret ID job), I'd argue that in this case, the pattern of Messner-Loebs's socioeconomic interest was probably what was driving it.

I really need to reread those issues. The WML comics I've read in the last few years -- his indie fronteir book, Journey -- were a real treat.

Captain Comics said:

I think over the years -- and the many de-powerings and de-statusings -- that I've become intolerant of storylines where WW is reduced in power or rank. It feels like a pattern that one writer after another has felt the need to take Diana's powers away, or reduce her to working at a fast-food restaurant, or some other humiliation. I don't think it's on purpose, but it may be subconscious. At any rate, it happens often enough that even if I didn't suspect misogyny, I'd still call it a cliche -- and I have no patience for it.

Dave Elyea said:

. . . the JLA & the Teen Titans seem to have been the only ones on Earth (other than I Ching) who knew that the karate chopping adventurer was the former Amazing Amazon (Ok, so Supergirl knew too, but only because they had the same artist at the time).

Just popped into this thread to say, per the story "The Superman-Wonder Woman Team", from Lois Lane # 93 (Jul., 1969), Wonder Woman's loss of super-powers was public knowledge.  She performed at a charity event as a mortal in front of crowds, and the loss of her super-powers, along with her new status as an adventuress was published in a magazine.  (It's no so clear if her secret identity as Diana Prince was also publicly revealed; the story never explicitly showing the public aware of that knowledge.)

Incidentally, if I got served by a waitress who looked and dressed like the one on the cover of Wonder Woman # 73 that Cap posted above for his item number six, I'd eat at Taco Whiz every blasted day and twice on Sundays.  Man does not live by burrito alone.

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