WW #197
Issue #197: Nov-Dec 1971.
Cover by Dick Giordano. Suddenly Dorothy Woolfolk takes over as editor, giving us reprints of issues #181-182. No reasons are given the readers why Sekowsky is so inexplicably and completely gone and we are left with reprints instead of new story. The lettercol says, "We, the new editors of WONDER WOMAN, would like to thank all of you for your continuing enthusiasm, whether for the old or the new versions of our favorite heroine." It promises "great new adventures" ahead, as well as the return of Denny O'Neil writing the next issue. (Whoops, he didn't show up untill issue #199.) This all leads me to believe that Sekowsky had been abruptly fired. I've read a couple of articles that said he had a drinking problem, he had health problems, and that he and DC's PTB did not get along at all. Pick one or three and take a guess. Of course, I could be entirely wrong. Someday I might actually ask someone who knows for sure.

WW #198Issue #198: Jan-Feb 1972. Cover by Dick Giordano. Reprints issues 183-184 with better colors. The lettercol gives us a warning that editorship is about to change again next issue.

WW #199Issue #199: Mar-Apr. 1972. Cover by the incomparable Jeff Jones, one of my all-times, who also did the cover for the next issue. Both are bondage themes. Sorta like having Adam Hughes doing his run of covers on the modern-day Wonder Woman in his wondrous style -- but they're all sex-kitten covers. Though pretty, these covers could have been more in keeping with the feminist/adventurer book. Our new editor is Dennis O'Neil, returned to Wonder Woman. Story by Denny O'Neil; art by Don Heck and Dick Giordano. Giordano's familiar touch lessens the shock of transition to a new penciller -- and unfortunately, Don Heck was not one of my favorite artists, though he was far from being my least favorite. Wonder Woman was to have worse in the future.

Denny O'Neil gave us a sharply-crafted story that took Jonny Double, a detective who'd had a tryout issue of Showcase and there had been a rather bumbling moocher ("Hide the paper clips! It's Jonny Double!"), and turns him into a hard-boiled though Steve Trevor-bland PI. I learned to be as sorry for Jonny as I was for Black Canary over in the Green Lantern series -- once a vivacious heroine who earned her spectacular spot in comics history with hard work, turned into a weepy Girlfriend of a Hero.

Jonny confronts Diana on a rainy New York street and draws her into an alley, where she proceeds to make mincemeat out of him before he can tell her that he was sent to test her mettle. He has a client who wants to meet her. Before they leave, Diana turns to retrieve her umbrella, but an old woman picks it up, pricks herself on a dart that has imbedded itself in it, and falls down dead.

Jonny takes Diana to meet Fellows Dill, a Hugh Hefner type who runs a string of nightclubs that feature female employees called Milkmaids. Dill's being threatened by some conservatives who see him as what's wrong with America and there have been attempts made on his life. He figures that if he, the king of beautiful women, has a beautiful woman as a bodyguard, the assassins will be caught off-guard.

He insists that Diana dress like one of his Milkmaids: sleeveless leotard, fishnet stockings, floppy hat -- and Diana shakes her fist at him. "NOTHING you could POSSIBLY do or say would persuade me to put on one of those RIDICULOUS... costumes!" Uh huh. And you paraded around HOW as Wonder Woman, Di?

Dill flashes a photo of Ching at her and says he'll pay her enough to get an operation for Ching that will restore his sight. This is the first time anyone's ever said that Ching's blindness was operable. Certainly Diana has had her hands on money in the past and has access to the Amazons' advanced medical technology. You'd think if it could have been done, it would have been done by now.

Diana's one-time "uniform"But let's overlook that plot point. Diana takes the job, and on page 9 she trains in her martial arts techniques: karate, kung fu, judo, and then yoga, wearing the new outfit that would become her "official" costume in the DCU.

Di leaves Ching behind as she goes off with Dill, Jonny, and Dill's entourage on his private railway. A gang of cloaked thugs derail the train and attack, eventually overcoming even Diana by using sleeping gas (though Dill escapes through snowy woods). The two awaken before a Tribunal of Terror that declares that they, as employees of Dill, should die beneath a headsman's axe. Jonny makes a deal that he remain as hostage while Diana goes out to track down Dill. The tribunal reverses the conditions and Jonny is led away. He has three days to find Dill.

For those days Diana hangs in chains in a cold cave but she puts herself in a trance to get through it. The headsman approaches her an hour before execution time and gets close enough to her so she can kick him unconscious -- and then grab his keys with her toes AND unlock her chains with them as well. It was an old Houdini trick. Impressive AND ooky!

Diana battles her way out (using a double-edged axe, which is practically the symbol of the modern WW, isn't it? This may have been the only time the Silver Age WW used one.) to the main cave. Disguising herself as one of the tribunal that has met to see why the returned Jonny doesn't have Dill with him, she gets in far enough to grab Jonny and run. Escaping through caves, they make their way "hand in hand" for some reason through the wintry woods and finally sit down to talk. Jonny explains that he's "alerted everybody from the MARINES to the GIRL SCOUTS" about the Tribunal. Then there in the cold with assassins very probably still on their tails, Jonny tries to take a kiss from the very willing Diana. But he's shot instead.

Apparently Dill has been roaming the woods for three days and has gone insane.

The lettercol this issue contains no letters but a lengthy greeting from the new editor, who promises lots of adventure ahead. He graciously gives Mike Sekowsky praise for his stint on WW and then presents us with his own capsule verison of Diana:

Up front, she's beautiful. You need only glance at the pictures in the magazine you hold to see that. in fact, she's probably the most stunning girl in comics (though Black Canary is surely a contender for the title, and Lois Lane is nobody's Granny Gruesome, either.) Mike created her appearance -- Mike digs pretty girls -- and Don Heck and Dick Giordano are doing the fullest justice to Mike's concept. (Don and Dick also dig pretty girls. Sometimes they sit around just staring at their artwork. I'm usually staring over their shoulders. Then we pull ourselves together...) [All right, all right, they're all 100% straight boys with absolutely zero gay tendencies or thoughts of any kind. Pshee.]

But the beauty is only a tiny part of our Miss Prince. More importantly, she's capable -- tough. She's a master of many of the fighting arts of the orient -- karate, jung-fu, jiu-jitsu -- and currently she's learning yet another art, Aikido. She works at it: when she's not away from home, she practices for at least an hour a day in a small dojo in the basement of her boutique. She finishes each practice session with thirty minutes of Yoga, sometimes assuming those fantastic stretching postures that maintain the body's litheness and general health, sometimes sitting motionless and concentrating on gaining full control of her breath. She hopes someday she'll be able to do what only a very few Yogis can accomplish, free her spirit entirely from her mortal form, but she understand such mastery can take a lifetime.

For relaxation, she cooks, reads and listens to music on an excellent stereo she skipped lunch for six months to buy. The cooking is mostly Chinese vegetarian, but I'm told her Turkey Stroganoff is a treasure. The reading? She recently finished rereading Shakespeare's Timon of Athens, and the books waiting on her desk include Isaac Asimov's Intelligent Man's Guide to Science and a novel by a young writer named Richard Hill titled "Ghost Story." The music coming from that expnsive stero is often soft rock -- middle Beatles, late Bob Dylan -- but on rainy evenings, she prefers to put a Bach l.p. on the turntable and gaze at the rivulets on the window.

On those evenings, her face grows pensive, her eyes warm and deep. She's remembering, and she realizes she's lonely. For, despite the glamor and excitement of her life-style, she's made great sacrifices and suffered great tragedy. Once, she was an Amazon princess, strong and swift and immortal -- a goddess. She exchanged her immortality for a human existence, with all its pain and sorrow, to be near a man she loved. And then she saw him spill his blood on cold stones, held his hand as a final sigh whispered through lips already dead. Diana can't forget Steve Trevor; she wonders if his memory must deny her ever loving another mortal. She wants to love, she wants it desperately. She can't -- not now.

So she fills her days with adventure and learning and skills, waiting, and hoping, and wanting.

She's Diana Prince. Envy her, and pity her.

In other words, she's O'Neil's Black Canary but this time with black hair and without a sonic scream, whose overriding motivation in life is lonliness, indicating a need for romance. Puh-lease. Note that with Denny's reappearance the new, improved Diana went back having to a steady, dull boyfriend, she stopped gallivanting around in outrageous clothes, she proved herself a poor businesswoman because she didn't have any kind of savings, she would blubber on the nearest male's shoulder, she believed outrageous lies told to her in a demeaning manner, she didn't stand up for her friends, she didn't stand up for her SEX... Shall I go on?

How much better it would have been if he'd had us imagining Diana not only as a studious woman who takes her skills seriously, as a scholar (who might even read works by women, imagine that), but as a fun-loving HUMAN-person -- say, she likes to watch the "Brady Bunch" with the sound off while she jumps on the bed, playing air guitar to Aerosmith -- and when she gets tired, she turns on the Bach. O'Neil didn't treat his male lead characters anywhere near the same way he treated Diana (or Black Canary).

But no, these kinds of heroines have to be LADIES. Sit still. Keep your knees together. Mind your manners. Don't speak up. Know your place. And above all -- don't scare the men.

The rest of the issue contains one page that holds a lovely Giordano piece where Diana lays in front of a fireplace flipping through a scrapbook. It's obviously the introduction page for the story that came before, which was "Battle of the Mermen!" from WW #111. This shows the character I consider indeed the real Diana (not Donna Troy) as a girl in an undersea adventure with Mer-Boy and a gang of underwater centaurs.

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WW #200Issue #200: May-June 1972. Story: Denny O'Neil. Art: Dick Giordano. Just Dick alone, and it's some gorgeous stuff. As for Denny, he apologizes in the lettercol for missing the fact that this was Big Issue 200 until after most of the issue was on press, and promises big things for issue 300 instead.

Jeff Jones turns in another beautiful cover, and in the lettercol Denny explains: "To my surprise and utter delight, Jeff confessed himself a Diana Prince fan at a party not long ago, and offered to submit cover ideas to us. It took me approximately a tenth of a microsecond to accept. The results exceeded our fondest expectations. " Denny also mentions that Dick volunteered for the pencils job, so it's not some fill-in kinda thing. Thank you, Mr. Giordano!

Okay, the story that the cover says is titled "The Beauty Hater!": Jonny's only nicked, and Diana takes out Dill quickly. They go off in search of wherever he's been staying but encounter a St. Bernard complete with brandy keg instead. Diana notices that his walk is odd for his breed (and yet in a couple issues she'll claim she knows nothing about the Women's Movement. How is it that Diana notices a dog's walk in comparison to other dogs' walks but knows nothing about a social movement that she's been a part of for years? Sigh.) and pulls Jonny and Dill down as the dog leaps over them, its keg of high explosives blowing it to smithereens.
Jonny Double's smooth machismo
But they do find a cabin nearby. Its interior is incredibly posh, loaded with statuary and portraits of beautiful women, all artwork disfigured. Suddenly a VTOL craft lands outside, and Diana takes care of its Tribunal thugs and then boards the vehicle. Once aloft, she finds that someone else is remotely guiding the craft, and we find a mysterious woman with her back to us is listening to them from another location. Another person, Dr. Moon (a member of Ras Al Ghul's crime cartel who debuted in Batman #240), prepares for surgery on Diana Prince, an operation she's not expected to survive.

The aircraft lands at Dill's private estate, which -- you guessed it -- a definitely live Dr. Cyber has taken over. Walking in full view into this pit of danger, Jonny and Di argue, make up and hold hands before Cyberthugs bear down on them.

Look, I'm all for romance -- I'm a member of Romance Writers of America, for goshsakes -- and Jonny wasn't a terribly bad pick for Diana (lord knows she'd chosen worse), but one just does not show a couple establishing a romance with a sensitive-let's talk-let's kiss-is something happening here between us? scene when said couple is out in the open with every expectation that a horde of terrorists has them in their sights. Yet this is TWICE in this story that O'Neil has done just that. Betcha he wouldn't have had Batman do the same thing...

Diana fights her way inside only to fall through a trap door into a dungeon where a dozen beautiful women are held in chains, apparently all in trances. Another trap leaves Diana unconscious and she awakens chained next to Jonny in an empty dungeon.

Cyber lives!The masked Cyber confronts them: "You thought me DEAD... perished in the explosion which destroyed my undersea HEADQUARTERS!" and explains that there was another route to safety.

Uh... Actually, that undersea headquarters was long, long ago. We last saw her electrocuted quite thoroughly next to her dry-land earthquaker (the issue number is correctly cited here in an editor's note). Hello? Maybe the shock gave her amnesia. Yeah, that's the ticket. Amnesia.

ANYWAY... Cyber explains that for a while she went mad but reestablished her organization and put the Tribunal together to "destroy all who trafficked in feminine BEAUTY!" She's also come up with a serum "to bend human minds to my WILL!" which she used on Dill, who even so managed to escape. She'd captured these women because she wanted a new, beautiful body and Dr. Moon has "perfected the technique of transferring BRAINS.. from one body to another!"

And now Doctor Cyber want's Diana's body.

Diana holds her breath as they administer anesthesia and then fights her way off the operating table as Jonny does what he can from where he's chained. Diana meets Cyber hand-to-hand and Cyber falls on a scalpel. They leave her for dead and Diana cries on Jonny's shoulder.

Comment: As you can judge from what Sekowsky said in a previous lettercol, he considered Cyber dead, dead, dead -- and a classy death it was! Such a pity that the brilliant career of the revived Dr. Cyber now swung around to a new direction with this issue. Instead of a great super-criminal, she now set herself on a search for beauty, the ultimate female stereotype. Adieu, the Dr. Cyber who fired our imaginations.

Mystery Amazons!But there are lots more pages in this 52-page issue, and again we get a page of intro by Giordano for "Mer-Boy vs Bird-Boy!" from WW #144, but something strange is going on. In this issue, Diana gives an intro for the story as if it concerned her as a girl, whereas in the original the intro named the protagonist as Wonder Girl, as a separate character from Wonder Woman, and indeed I'd classify this as a Donna Troy adventure.

Oh, but read on! This story has been RETOUCHED. All appearances of Diana as Wonder Woman have been redrawn so she's just some anonymous Amazon in a long tunic who hangs in back of Hippolyta's shoulder all the time. And hey -- there's a little kid (who looks amazingly like Wonder Tot) wandering around Paradise Island, dressed in a red and blue chiton.

What was the purpose of the redraw? You might get away with Diana, but why do it when the Tot is obviously there? Pshee.



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