I happened to stumble across Wonder Woman #216 yesterday, because that's the sort of thing you find lying around our house.(In case you didn't know, the famous Captain Comics is my husband and our house doubles as the Comics Cave. We have anywhere from 50,000-60,000 comics in our house--even the Captain isn't sure of the exact number.)

So Wonder Woman #216 from 1975 is lying out in the open as a consequence of the Captain's current re-boxing and re-boarding obsession. In case you're curious, it was written by Elliot S. Maggin with art by John Rosenberger and Vince Colletta. On the cover Black Canary, with very Farrah Fawcett-looking hair, is saying, "Why are men forbidden on Paradise Island? What would happen if one stepped on the soil of the Amazon Isle? Here, at last, is the ASTOUNDING ANSWER!" So, I thought, I'll bite, what is the astounding answer? I picked it up and took it downstairs to read.

In a kind of clever writer's ploy--supposedly Black Canary is recounting the story of an adventure she had with Wonder Woman on her home island to the rest of the Justice League. It seems a very wealthy and powerful Greek tycoon named Mr. Diamandopoulos (who looks a lot like Aristotle Onassis) has decided that he just has to know the secret of why no man can set foot on Paradise Island, the home of the Amazon women. So he sends his male minions to attempt to do just that. Somehow Black Canary finds out about this attempt (by reading it in the newspaper!) and decides to go to New York to see what Wonder Woman is going to do about it. So, she takes off for New York on her motorcycle, with her JLA gasoline credit card! It's so funny that the writer saw the need to point that out! Perhaps gas credit cards--maybe credit cards in general--seemed like a new and nifty advancement in 1975! And, I guess they are nice, especially when someone else is paying the bill. Black Canary also has a funny interchange with a parking attendant, who asked her if she always drives her motorcycle like a maniac. She said, "Listen, to get into the Justice League, you have to make it across town in minutes--and most of my friends can fly!" But, back to our story--Black Canary observes Wonder Woman have an odd adventure in New York. She has to rescue a sculpture from being stolen by Diamandopoulos's minions with the use of what looks like a flying saucer with a tractor beam. (Apparently Diamandopoulos has access to some very advanced technology, like Lex Luthor.)

Anyway, after the rather dumb sculpture-rescuing adventure, Black Canary for some reason decides she needs to disguise herself as a newspaper reporter and interview Wonder Woman at her regular job, where she goes by the name of Diana Prince and holds some kind of security position with the United Nations. That interview didn't last long, because the strange Mr. Diamandopoulos appears in some sort of 3-D projection in Diana's office, and so Diana hustles Black Canary out as fast as possible. Diamandopoulos makes some super-villainous threats, and Wonder Woman swings into action! And at the same time, Batman fires up the--get this--JLA teleporter --and sends Black Canary to Paradise Island so she can witness events there.

Diamandopoulis's army attempts to invade the island using giant robotic vehicles on two legs that look like they are from "The War of the Worlds"...there's some fighting...then it turns out the island they are invading is actually a decoy, and not the real Paradise Island! After the fighting, Black Canary is transported to the real Paradise Island where Queen Hyppolyte reveals to her (on what looks like a flat-screen television) what would really happen if a man sets foot on the island. After returning a magic girdle stolen by Hercules to Queen Hyppolyte, the goddess Aphrodite decreed that any Amazons seeing a man on their island will instantly fall in love with him and fight each other to the death over him. It's Aphrodite's idea of a great cosmic joke. In Queen Hyppolyte's words, "Until we, who base our society on love and respect, are reduced to barbarians over a man!" Indeed, jealousy has turned many perfectly nice girls into "barbarians."

Meanwhile, Diamandopoulos faces off with Wonder Woman on this decoy island where he confesses that the reason he is obsessed with the Amazons is because he is in love with her! (Didn't you see it coming?) Maybe he thought his profession of love would win over WW, but, no! Of course not! She is pissed! Because as she said, "You...threatened to destroy that civilization to impress one you claim to love...?" So she hustled him off the island in dejected defeat. That was the end of the adventure. Black Canary wraps up her story, making a point to leave out the explanation of what would happen if a man set foot on Paradise Island, thinking to herself, "There are some things that must be known to no man--not even the men of the Justice League of America!" So now you know the secret that even Batman doesn't know!

Here are some of my personal observations:

1.) Comic books used to be a lot more "wordy" than they are now. The pages are just filled with dialog and thought balloons and editor's notes. It seems like the writer didn't trust that the pictures would tell the story, and indeed, the art is rather pedestrian. Modern comics creators seem to think more visually. But as a consequence of all the words, the story is chock full of ideas. It was only 20 pages long, but seemed like a much longer and more complex story than that.

2.) The hairstyles on the women look incredibly like the wavy "piecey" long curls that are so in vogue in Hollywood right now, not at all like the elaborately layered hairstyles I actually remember from 1975. (Black Canary wears the Farrah Fawcett do only on the cover.) But remember, this comic book was written and drawn by middle-aged men, who obviously wouldn't be up on the latest styles of the '70's. But I don't know how they so presciently predicted the styles of the early 2000's. On the other hand, there are probably only so many ways to draw hair...

3.) The creators reveal their low opinion of 1970's fashions in one funny panel where Black Canary is walking though the streets of Manhattan in her costume and thinks, "considering the way people dress in New York, I don't look any more or less unusual than anyone else!"

4.) Aphrodite, who makes a cameo appearance, looks just like--who else--Marilyn Monroe.

There you have it. That's all I have to say about Wonder Woman #216.

Views: 212

Comment by The Baron on August 30, 2009 at 4:55pm
Interesting. I always thought it was that they would all somehow lose their "Amazon" powers if a guy ever set foot there.
Comment by Travis Herrick (Modular Mod) on August 30, 2009 at 9:13pm
I totally agree about how "wordy" comic books were then as compared to now. I can probably breeze through 3-4 current ones in the time it would take me to read something from the '70s or earlier.
Comment by ClarkKent_DC on August 30, 2009 at 10:22pm
Um ... Black Canary races across town on a motorcycle (convienently gassed up by use of her JLA gasoline credit card), but later in the story, Batman sends her to the fake Paradise Island with the JLA teleporter? Which of course raises the question of why she didn't or couldn't use it earlier in the story ...
Comment by Captain Comics on August 31, 2009 at 1:12am
I love reading my wife's take on stories I read years ago, because she is smarter than me -- plus, she isn't inculcated with the stuff I know.

So ... she's right. Why does Black Canary use a motorcycle early in the story ... and a teleporter later in the story? Isn't that ... well, stupid?

That's my wife.
Comment by Figserello on August 31, 2009 at 1:38am
But after a lifetime reading these comics, I 'fill in' these logical gaps almost without thinking.

Perhaps the teleporter uses fantastic amounts of costly energy and when the threat is just some rich buffoon noising off to the newspapers it only merits a cross-country trip on a motorbike, but when its a full-on invasion of a JLA member's home, they get clearance?

On the symbolic level, the 'cross country motorbike trip' was very potent device at this stage of US cultural development. Searching for 'reality', man!

Great article Joan. We do take a lot for granted when we're reading these comics, but sometimes its great to take a step back and see them through fresh eyes. They are a whole world of weird assumptions and strange ideas.

I realised myself only lately that a lot of the wordiness was making up for the disconnect between the writing and the art. There's a lot of stuff to go into there. It has as much to do with the company keeping the writer and artist in seperate boxes deliberately, as it has to do with distrust between the writer and the artist. You don't want your enthusiastic young artists actually communicating with the jaded old hands in case they start talking about things like pay and conditions!
Comment by Joan Carr on August 31, 2009 at 11:35am
Thanks for all your comments! I realize that you all know far more about comic books than I do, so I don't pretend to be some kind of expert. But I can bring a fresh perspective on familiar characters and subjects, and I do notice details that maybe you would not, like about fashions and hairstyles. So thanks for reading what I have to say and giving me a soap box here in your little online community!
Comment by ClarkKent_DC on August 31, 2009 at 11:37am
One other question ... so, Batman uses the teleporter to send Black Canary to "Paradise Island" ... but it's a decoy ... but "After the fighting, Black Canary is transported to the real Paradise Island." Does that mean the JLA does know where the real Paradise Island is?
Comment by Joan Carr on August 31, 2009 at 1:00pm
After the fighting, Queen Hyppolyte somehow magically transported Black Canary to the real island. I don't know if the JLA knows where the real island is or not.
Comment by Commander Benson on August 31, 2009 at 3:03pm
I agree: it is a great post---but in my case, for reasons only obliquely related to the thrust of Joan's post. It caused me to rethink one of the more well-known runs of the Wonder Woman title.

As I'm sure Cap has debriefed his missus, the Wonder Woman adventure with the Black Canary in issue # 216 was one of "twelve labours" that the Amazing Amazon was undertaking in her series at the time. For those who came in late, it was a way of cleaning the slate and setting up a new format for the character. Back in Wonder Woman # 204 (Jan.-Feb., 1973), Diana Prince was restored to her super-powered, star-spangled swimsuit status. In this and the following issue, the transition was explained reasonably well, but the next few issues made a mish-mash of the Amazon's continuity. For one thing, Colonel Steve Trevor participated in some of those stories, though he had been killed dead Dead DEAD some years before, in issue # 180. It was as if everything that had taken place during her time as a powerless adventuress had been forgotten.

So, when Julius Schwartz replaced Robert Kanigher as editor of the title, Julie decided, yeah, let's play it that way. In the first Schwartz-edited issue---# 212 (Jun.-Jul., 1974)---Wonder Woman is "interviewed" by Clark Kent following her defeat of a group of female assassins, and during their conversation, the Amazon is stunned when Kent asks her when her super-powers returned. To her recollexion, she had never lost them. Nor does she remember resigning from the Justice League, or that the group had moved to a satellite headquarters, or anything else that had happened since 1969 (real time, that is; the script indicates that her non-super, "Diana Rigg" period lasted only "months").

The JLA convenes to examine the matter. As far as can be determined, WW is in perfect condition, except for those "months" of her life she cannot remember. "What happened to Steve Trevor?" "Who's this I Ching guy you keep talking about?" "How come my closets have nothing but white outfits?"

Concerned that her memory loss is a symptom of a loss of competency, Wonder Woman agrees to be secretly observed in action by a JLA member for her next twelve missions ("coïncidentally", the same number that there are of then-active Justice Leaguers).

Some have written, speaking to the fictional conceit of the series, that this arrangement signifies chauvinism on the part of the Justice League. Those that have clearly have not read the issue that kicked off this sub-plot. The assembled members are all for re-admitting WW right then. It is the Amazon herself who insists on being tested in this manner and refuses to rejoin the League until she is. The other members aren't worried in the least that she will fail them on League missions---they're confident in her abilities. It's Wonder Woman herself who has doubts, and she digs in her heels.

As for why DC and Julius Schwartz turned the series in this direction, the reason that seems most obvious to me was to boost sales. The Wonder Woman title had been a lackluster seller for the past couple of years. I figure the thinking went something like: more readers will buy Wonder Woman if we put the Justice League, or at least one member, in it for the next couple of years. Quite frankly, it wasn't bad figuring. I never bought Wonder Woman, but I picked up every issue of her "twelve labours" just because they featured at least one other super-hero.

But here's what dawned on me while reading Joan's post: the internal logic of the premise that WW needed to prove herself in action before rejoining the JLA is flawed.

Follow this: if Wonder Woman is so very concerned that her mental aberration will result in her incompetence on a Justice League mission---when her fellow members are around to pick up her slack---then wouldn't she be even more reluctant to operate as a solo heroine? Where she will be in situations where everything depends on her alone? Sure, one could argue that, if she did prove incompetent, the JLAer secretly monitoring her could step in to save the day. But even that undermines her contention; it's too risky for her to go on missions with a lot of her buddies around her, but perfectly fine to do so when there's only one other super-hero near-by?

I think it would have made a far more interesting arc of stories if, in Wonder Woman # 212, the Amazing Amazon had decided that she had to chunk the super-hero business entirely, at least, until she figured out why there was a big hole in her memory. Certainly it would wind up with the usual "The world needs (fill in name of super-hero)" revelation. But in the meantime, I can envision any number of interesting directions, had the series taken this tack. Diana Prince discovering the benefits and pleasures of having a normal life (something like what she tasted briefly 'way back in issue # 178). Her efforts to reconstruct the missing history in her life. And the frequent arising of circumstances that threaten to draw her into resuming her super-hero identity. That would have been an arc that allowed for some real character development.
Comment by Eric L. Sofer on September 2, 2009 at 7:31am
Commander, no insult intended sir, but I seem to remember (and perhaps conclude from events) that Wonder Woman did NOT have the JLA around to pick up the slack; in fact, more than once, it was clearly stated that Diana insisted that they not help her in any way. She also requested that they absolutely do not let her know when they were monitoring her - maybe to avoid the very situation you cite. So, as they were observing various adventures, she never knew if a member of the JLA was observing her or not; she HAD to do it on her own because it was quite likely that she WAS on her own.

BTW, although it might be coincidental that the JLA had twelve members and Diana had twelve tasks, it does seem to fit into the "Heracles" mold of 12 tasks as well. I'm not sure this played on coincidence as much as a nice little parallel to remind the readers that Wonder Woman has a very strong tie to the gods.

One other thought... Superman, Green Lantern or Flash in Wonder Woman definitely help WW recognition and sales, no question about it. But did appearances in WW help recognition of, say, Red Tornado, Elongated Man, or Black Canary? Julie Schwartz was a cagey fellow; this could easily have been a double edged sword.

Discussions... I think the reason Black Canary uses the motorcycle is because it's her mode of transportation. But as noted, riding a bike to Paradise Island is like hijacking a bus to Cuba... the mileage is terrible. :) I mean, if we were shooting for a sort of realism, wouldn't it be even quicker for Dinah to give Clark or Barry a buzz, asking them for a half second of their time to get her to Paradise Island?

And yes, I do believe the JLA knows where Paradise Island is - and at DC in the 60s and 70s, there was no question that every member was trustworthy enough not to reveal that location, and that the guys, under no circumstances, would set foot on the island. (I still would have been entertained by an earlier version of "Judgment in Infinity" - Batgirl, Supergirl, Hawkgirl, and Mera show up on Paradise Island to help WW and the amazons with a crisis. Ah, what dreams may wait...)

I remain,
Eric L. Sofer
The Silver Age Fogey


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