© 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.

Reach Captain Comics by email (capncomics@aol.com), the Internet (captaincomics.ning.com), Facebook (Captain Comics Round Table) or Twitter (@CaptainComics).

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Rob, I liked Journey, too. I read the whole thing, and even have an issue of a follow-up series. I don't recall why I just have the single issue (it may be the only one published). It was a good story, and the art was the best Eisner pastiche I've seen.

Getting back to WW, one other aspect of my discomfiture with the constant de-powerings and whatnot is that for much of my youth -- before Perez, let's say -- Wonder Woman either had a lousy status quo, or didn't have one long enough to get established. Anything could happen in the Kanigher years (including the Wonder Girl SNAFU and two origins), so I didn't care what did, and then we had the abrupt shift with O'Neil/Sekowsky, which to me wasn't Wonder Woman -- it was Emma Peel, who already had a TV series if I wanted that.The few Marston/Peters stories I saw in reprints seemed like bizarre artifacts from a parallel world.

So deviations from the status quo that might be shocking and challenging in another book was just another Tuesday in Wonder Woman. I wasn't a fan. It wasn't until Perez that I felt like the character had a coherent, established backstory that could be deviated from for effect, and it wasn't until Azzarello that I thought she had an origin worthy of the most famous and powerful heroine in the world (demigod).

So now I finally feel invested in the character. It's taken a while, and now I feel a bit protective!

Keep in mind, the depowering occurred during the groovy late-1960s when superpowered representatives of the administration were not especially in demand. GL refused to use his ring if he could avoid it because it made things "too easy," and he'd slug it out with crooks or he'd conveniently lose it somehow.

Granted, I imagine the notion of WW being superpowerful and punching guys in the face doesn't go over that well. Considering that even Flash has an 8-pack of abs and  muscle definition you only get from steroids, probably the notion of someone being as slim as WW while able to lift buildings isn't something they like. Although a strong woman makes lots of guys nervous in any event, although it's not a good reflection on DC that they let it happen. 

-- MSA

I wasn't previously aware of Journey. It sounds right up my alley. Looking for it, I found most of it to be out of print and exorbitantly priced. I commented on Bill Messner-Loebs' FB page, asking if there were plans for it to be reprinted. I guess we'll see.

Cap, the Journey followup was Wardrums, and there were two issues. I imagine the second one didn't get as much distribution as the first. I have all the Journey issues too (and both issues of Wardrums, neener neener), and it was a really good series.

Richard, IDW did two TPB collections of the Journey series (although the GCD knows nothing of the second one, so it may not have come out).

There's one on eBay right now. It's $25.25, which seems like a lot, but that's cover price for the TPB (plus postage) for a collection of the first 16 issues, so it's a pretty good deal. 

Here's the list of what's in it: https://www.comics.org/issue/542181/

Here's the eBay listing: http://www.ebay.com/itm/2008-JOURNEY-Adventures-of-Wolverine-MacAli...

-- MSA

Thanks, Craig. The volume they're selling is Vol 1, which is also available on Amazon.

According to IDW's site, Vol 2 was published but is no longer available. This eBay listing is for Vol 2:

http://www.ebay.com/itm/NEW-2009-JOURNEY-V-2-Adventures-of-Wolverin...

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.

I think de-powering and de-statusing is the go-to move for writers who lack ideas. There once was even a graphic novel whose entire premise was that the writer was given the chance to write Superman but found the task too daunting because Superman was too great, too mythic, too iconic for him to tackle. I could only take that as: Why didn't DC fire this chump and get somebody who could do the job?  

Depowering can be a good storyline though.  Ben Grim comes to mind for me.  One of the first FF stories I read was when he was depowered and replaced for a time with Power Man.  I think some writers are scared of a powerful character because they don't see how the character can be challenged.  After all character growth comes mainly through over coming and/or dealing with a challenge of some sort.

The Thing is powerful but, like Power Man, is not world-shakingly powerful. One time when he lost his powers the human version of Ben Grimm wore a Thing exoskeleton.

This is why so many of the Superman stories in the Weisinger era were mainly focused on his love life or meetings with aliens or people from the past (and red kryptonite weirdness).

This is why so many of the Superman stories in the Weisinger era were mainly focused on his love life or meetings with aliens or people from the past (and red kryptonite weirdness).

Don't forget "Superman Under a Red Son" and his visits to Lexor to punch Lex and sacrifice for the inhabitants. They've always liked showing that the Man is as big a part of his heroism as the Super.

But those are always short-term deals, which the SA was big on. Depowering because you don't know what to do with a character is another thing.

-- MSA

The thing to remember about WW's Diana Prince period is it was supposed to permanent. It was really the replacement of the old Wonder Woman by a modern character.

Well, it lasted from September 1968 to January of 1973. That's pretty permanent for comics. Mostly, it rode out the period when superpowers were out of fashion. Even then, they gave her back to Kanigher for Paradise Island stories for another 18 months before she went through her JLA Labors.

Superman's depowered Sandman time was supposed to be permanent, and it was over in the blink of an eye. So I think Diana held up her end of the permanent depowering pretty well. These days, DC reboots their entire universe in less time.

-- MSA

I don't think I'll ever understand why they gave her to Kanigher to write, from what I hear he didn't like the character all that much.

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