WW #187
Issue #187, Mar-Apr, 1970.
No credits. No title, either, so we'll do with what's on the cover: "Earthquaker!" It's the first of a two-parter that left some extremely loose ends.

One day Ching receives a phone call from a friend, Chauen-Lee, who needs his help. Ching tries to find a flight to Hong Kong, but can only find a seat on a freight airline run by an old friend he once rescued, Patrick McGuire. Diana leaves Cathy in charge ("Yes, master," the ex-slave says with a smile), and our adventurous duo soon find themselves on a rather nice freight plain with another passenger, a stylish woman named Lu Shan.

Lu ShanDuring the night of the long flight, stowaways armed with guns break out of their crates. They are members of the Tiger Tong who are after something that Shan holds for her employer. Diana and Ching go after the Tong members, and when a missed shot hits the pilot, Eddie, a lurch sends almost all the bad guys flying through an open door and into the Pacific. Diana barely saves Shan before Patrick takes the controls. She patches up Eddie and then goes back to check the body of one of the Tong guys who got hit by a stray bullet. He wears a tiger's eye tattoo, which Shan identifies as marking Tong members.

While Ching comforts Shan, he feels her ring and calls Diana over to check: (get ready for it...) a partial coin medallion he wears around his neck exactly complements the partial coin ring Shan wears. Yes, it's the old broken-necklace motif!

"At last -- my long search is OVER!" Ching says. "Only my long lost daughter, Lu Shan, could have possessed the OTHER half of that coin!" And Shan gives her name to them AGAIN. (Why didn't Ching notice when she first introduced herself to them?) Shan claims that she knows nothing of her birth or a good part of her past. Neither will the reader, for except for one claim she'll make, the story was never told. We don't know if her father really did... well, we'll get to her claim in a while.

We get a bit of playful male reactions to Diana -- apparently she has charmed Patrick, Eddie and the British major who checks their papers. Though in this story Diana seems mildly interested in Patrick, it is only in a healthy, introductory way and not the falling-head-over-heels fashion she exhibited in her first two story arcs.

Lu Shan asks that Ching and Di accompany her to her employer's but the Tong follows them in traffic, and Diana has to battle the hoods from their moving pickup. After a nasty fracas, more Tong come along but so does Patrick, who plays chicken with them and, while dispatching the criminals, arranges a dinner date with Diana.

While Shan's truck is unloaded at a dock, Diana notices that a guard carries a machine gun and wonders what she's gotten into. Surprise! Shan's employer is no other than Dr. Cyber, who unveils Shan's cargo: components to finish six earthquake machines scattered throughout the city. She plans to blackmail the world, "and the most DELICIOUS part of the whole thing -- YOU TWO -- my WORST ENEMIES have helped to make it all POSSIBLE!"

Cyber tells Diana that Shan is a "deadly shot," and when Shan get permission from Cyber, she fires point-blank at Ching. "He is the man who twenty years ago MURDERED my MOTHER, his WIFE!" They are interrupted as Lum Fong, the head of the Tiger Tong, comes to steal the earthquaker from Cyber, but Cyber skewers him and his men with harpoons.

But one of the men does not die right away. He raises his machine gun, lets loose blindly, and hits a brazier full of red-hot coals which fall on Cyber, sizzling across her face.

In the smoky melee that follows, Diana carries Ching away while Shan carries Cyber. A police boat rescues Diana and Ching, who's still alive despite Shan's brilliant ability with a gun. Cyber gives the order to activate the earthquakers -- and someone please kill Diana Prince.

Note: Oooh, the lettercol is a gold mine this issue. Not only does one Martin Pasco (respelled in the reply as "Pasko") write in to laud issue #185, especially for pushing the limits of the Comics Code and presenting a new theme in addition to the James-Bondian one -- you all know that Marty Pasko went on in a few years to write Wonder Woman for some time, right? And he wrote her danged well and even personally answered Yr Humble Svt's letter once with a lovely discussion about WW -- but Mike Sekowsky gives credits for ALL issues of recent note (no specific issue numbers) as scripts and pencils being done by him with inks by Giordano. Mike also goes on to report that there'll be reprints in the near future because so many readers had written to say that they'd missed issues, and also explains to someone who complained that the staff was kicking a winner (meaning the super Wonder Woman): "We are not kicking a winner, as you put it -- the Old Wonder Woman was a loser -- she was a loser for so long the book was going to be dropped as a matter of fact. The sales figures on the new Wonder Woman now make her a winner...."

This issue carries an ad for the Di Prince guest role in (gag) Jerry Lewis.

We had to wait until issue 192 to get questions about Lu Shan answered that were never answered within actual stories. In the lettercol Sekowsky writes, "Lu Shan hates her father, I Ching, because she holds him responsible for the death of her mother. Although her mother was actually killed by enemies of I Ching. Because I Ching was not there, but off helping someone else at the time of the slaying -- Lu Shan has never forgiven him. That coupled with the brainwashing of Lu Shan by the late Dr. Cyber has caused this hatred that Lu Shan holds for I Ching."

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WW #188Issue #188, May-June 1970. No credits, no title. Cover says "Cyber's Revenge!"

With Ching recovering in the hospital, Diana goes to the British authorities with her warning about the earthquakers. "Do you have any TANGIBLE proof of THIS?" Inspector McLain asks, and RUMMMBLL -- "THERE'S your proof!"

As Diana and Patrick dodge earthquake debris, they find themselves under attack from Cyberthugs and shock after shock hits Hong Kong. Swathed in bandages, Cyber radios her threat to the world: she wants to be declared Supreme Ruler of Earth "or there won't be a building left standing on the face of the planet!"

Another outfit

But Di chases down and tackles a Cyberthug. She twists her leg brutally, demanding to know where the earthquakers are located as Patrick urges Di to take the thug in for questioning. "And waste how many HOURS -- and LIVES?" Diana asks. "TALK!" She twists the leg again.

With a tsunami bearing down on them, the thug leads them to the first earthquaker and shows them where to disarm it. But Diana insists that the thug disarm it and sure enough, it was boobytrapped. Another painful questioning session, and Diana learns the locations of the final earthquakers.

The Hong Kong authorities handle four more earthquakers as Diana and Patrick race as best they can to the final one, which Cyber has boosted to full power, enough to reduce Hong Kong to rubble. Through an earthquake, Diana races down to the earthquaker silo only to fall through a trap door along with Patrick.

Cyber's disfigured faceWhen she wakes up in chains, she faces Cyber who unwraps her face (we only see gray, misshapen sections of it) and Diana turns away. Cyber comes closer to pull her face back to her -- exactly what Diana was counting on -- and Diana kicks Cyber unconscious, then pulls her chains from the wall. She uses those chains as weapons against Cyber's thugs, including a recovering Cyber, who falls back against electrical connections of the earthquaker and fries even as she pushes the destruct button.

That Cyber's one tough cookie. Note that in the quote mentioned for the previous issue Sekowsky now considered Cyber dead, dead, dead.

Di and Patrick manage to run a half-step ahead of the destruction while Lu Shan watches and vows to avenge Cyber. Diana helps with the massive rescue efforts going on in the city, and it is days before she can check in at the hospital. But when she does -- she discovers that Ching has gone, right after someone told him that Lu Shan had crossed into Red China the night before. Diana decides to follow him.

In recent issues Sekowsky had included a full page of preview for the next issue that seemed more like page filler at first until he started doing it all the time. This issue not only had that preview, but it had a two-page story, clearly a page-filler:

"Crime Does NOT Pay!" shows Diana shopping for a gift of some men's shaving lotion and bagging a shoplifter instead, plus a cross-dressing accomplice. Quick and painless -- but not for the crooks.

But within the main story for the past two issues, the action had run at breakneck speed with lots of violence, explosions... and earthquakes. This could well have been a James Bond movie except that Bond movies just don't contain as much action as this story did!

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WW #189Issue #189, July-Aug 1970. No credits, but how do you credit a semi-plagiarized work? "Red for Death!" was pretty much the 1955 John Wayne movie, Blood Alley, with Diana in the John Wayne role. When I say "pretty much" I mean to say it was the SAME plot as the movie. I recall watching the Million Dollar Movie one afternoon (and as a rule I hate John Wayne movies and so don't watch them) with my mouth open in disbelief. "Kid's going to cry," I said to myself at one point, and sure enough, the kid cried. It's one thing to get inspiration from a movie, even to borrow elements from it. But to lift it lock, stock and barrel... Well.

Blood AlleyAlthough they're grateful for all Diana's help, the Hong Kong authorities refuse to allow her to travel to China. They'll revoke her passport if she tries. But after Patrick shows her (and the reader) the dangerous border system into Red China, he makes some private arrangements. After making themselves up as Chinese peasants, they take a light plane under radar range into China -- but still get shot down close to their target of the village of Ashai.

Shot down in ChinaThat night as they sneak into the village, Ching and a band of villagers startle them. Though he'd come to track Lu Shan, Ching's friends in the village inform him of a greater danger: the government has ordered the village relocated to the north and the villagers to work in the mines there, where they will surely die. The villagers are farmers and fishermen, and winter is approaching.

The villagers have an old steamboat they've hidden from the government, and have a cache of Japanese weapons left from WWII. But government soldiers finally come looking for survivors of the plane crash and search the village. Di, Patrick and Ching hide out in a nearby rice paddy, breathing through reeds until the soldiers are gone, and then we get to see a gratuitous shot of Diana taking a bath in a wooden tub, oh boy.

The villagers pack everything they can onto the boat and in the dead of night, they start off on their journey. It doesn't take long for soldiers to realize that the villagers are probably heading south in some fashion towards freedom. As the camouflaged boat lies tethered during the day, an army convoy stops nearby for lunch. The villagers must remain absolutely quiet -- and then a child cries.

They battle it out with the soldiers and win, but not before the soldiers can send a warning message out. The boat has to make a run for it in broad daylight. Power launches bear down on it, but grenades take care of them. MIGs strafe the boat, but Diana grabs a machine gun and brings some down herself until some shrapnel fells her. Leaping to her rescue, Patrick brings all but one done and then targets the final one -- but a British gunboat finishes it off for violating its territory.

Diana recovers in hospital and Inspector McLain informs Diana that her passport has been confiscated and she has 24 hours to leave Hong Kong, enough time for her to go out to dinner with him. Patrick interrupts to inform him that she'll go out with BOTH of them. (Ching comes along, too.)

While this three-issue story arc was filled with action and adventure and would normally garner high praise, the plagiarism issue earns it significant negative points on the Strickland Rate-o-Meter and a bunch of bad creative karma. My college watercolor professor, Charles Reep, told us that in commercial art it was A-OK to copy parts of others' work -- as long as we didn't copy the whole thing and gave it a good, hard twist to make it truly the product of our own sweat. This final chapter got a little spin -- I mean, I doubt if John Wayne would have liked to hear that his part was filled by a woman -- but the spin wasn't nearly hard enough and too many elements were borrowed.

Once again in the lettercol, Sekowsky tells us about the Why of It All Diana Prince-wise: "The old Wonder Woman was dropped because the sales on the old WW were so bad that the book was going to be dropped. The new Wonder Woman was given a chance -- (a last chance for the book) and it worked!... Super characters... aren't doing too well with today's readers -- and it's to today's readers that we must cater to, not to a bunch of old fuddy duddys who only look back... As for my hollering about WW's sales, I can honestly say that I am quite pleased to have taken a sow's ear and turned it into a silk purse.... I personally feel that too many of DC's stories are still being written and plotted for the year 1940 instead of 1970...."

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