For whatever reason, DC wanted to make a drastic change in the Wonder Woman book. For the past few years she'd been powerless Diana Prince, and now the time had come to kill off Ching, bring the Amazons back to Earth, and give Diana back her powers and title as Wonder Woman.
But the Seventies was a totally new era for Wonder Woman. The world had awakened while she'd been powerless. Civil rights and women's rights made the headlines every day now. New editor Robert Kanigher took over with issue #204, Jan-Feb 1973: "The Second Life of the Original Wonder Woman." Art by Don Heck and (maybe?) Bob Oksner, perhaps Colletta. (These first two Nubia issues look to me to be Colletta inks, even next issue, which is definitely credited to Oksner.) By page 4, I Ching lay dead in Diana's arms. By page 8, after sending his killer (accidentally) to his death, Diana lay in a hospital with total amnesia. And by page 12 she'd been rescued from a watery grave by just-returned Amazons, that all-white, all-female society that had been firmly established in DC's universe since 1941.
Hippolyta had Amazon doctors hook Diana up to the memory electrodes of the Amazon memory bank -- remember, in pre-Crisis times the Amazons were very technologically advanced -- and except for Hippolyta's order not to replay "channels 3 and 5" (later passage include channel 4) Diana received a memory transplant.
Because she hadn't been back to input the memory bank during her Diana Prince years, there were no Di Prince memories to restore. But the rest came flooding back to Diana: the origin of the Amazons, her own amazing birth as Hippolyta sculpted a toddler girl and Athena endowed her with the powers of the gods. (But during the birth sequence there was a puzzling blank area in the memory tapes.) Diana grew to be a loving daughter, a devoted Amazon, and a superpowered champion.
Coming out of her hookup, Diana steps forth before the congregated nation to reassert herself as princess and Wonder Woman, "the mightiest Amazon in the world!" But wait -- an armored female intruder steps forward to challenge Diana. The two wrestle bulls a la the games of ancient Crete, then face each other in swordplay. Diana and the intruder seem evenly matched until the intruder knocks the sword from Diana's hands -- hesitates to kill -- and gives Diana the chance to wrestle her to a draw.
Queen Hippolyta calls for the stranger to identify herself:
As Diana and Nubia embrace, the Queen wonders: "Is it possible? -- After all these years -- that Nubia is -- is --?"
Nubia has to leave to return to her Floating Island, "concealed in the mist offshore!" and tells Diana that they will meet again until one proves herself the only true Wonder Woman. Diana herself also leaves, but for the mainland and to start up a secret identity as the mousy, timid Diana Prince, a translator at the UN.
WW #205, Mar-Apr 1973, gives us the infamous "I love being strapped to big, hot, manly missiles" cover by Cardy, who could do LOTS better than this. Interior story by Kanigher, art by Heck and Oksner.
A major player, Morgan Tracy, gets introduced as Diana's new love interest at the UN. The organization puts Diana squarely within a world in which not all people are white or American -- a new venue for Wonder Woman. Unfortunately through all this good intention, embarrassing racial stereotypes abound. In this issue, tourist Inuits show up in full fur winter costume, rubbing noses. In the next (written by Cary Bates, who should definitely have known better), we'd see Asians saying "so sorry," and Amerinds in buckskins shouting, "Remember Custer!" Keep repeating to yourself: "His intentions were good. His intentions were good." WW wasn't the only character to receive the brunt of Kanigher's skewed social commentary: remember Lois Lane hauling her foster "papoose" around on her back? Or "I am Curious -- Black!"? Good intentions, horrid delivery.
Thus it's surprising that all this political incorrectness didn't touch Nubia when she appeared. In the back of issue 205, she got a little short story to herself. It began as Nubia left Paradise the issue before, with Hippolyta calling to her to wait before she departed. Men (WHO STAND ON THE DOCKS OF PARADISE!!!!) dressed in Deepest Africa tribal regalia stand ready to defend and escort "Princess Nubia" back to their island, but Nubia tells them to back off, that "women have NOTHING to fear from women!" (Scuze me while I choke.)
After Nubia reiterates her claim that she and only she is Wonder Woman, and that their next duel will decide the title, Hippolyta tells her, "Aye, Nubia, that IS the law. ANYONE may challenge my daughter's right to that title. Until then -- may I wish that YOU find favor in wise HERA'S EYES as you already have in MINE?"
Princess Nubia and her troupe depart "towards her FLOATING ISLAND realm perpetually girdled by concealing fog..." There Nubia approaches a Central African-type village with straw huts and men (there don't seem to be any other women) in vivid feathery headdresses, bare feet and loincloths. The men Goolah and Kenyah wage a fierce sword fight for the hand of their princess. But Nubia interrupts with her own sword, saying, "No man will ever own NUBIA!"
The men protest: "I claim the right to compete for you, Princess Nubia!" "It is the law of the FLOATING ISLAND!" "Mars' law of conquest!"
Nubia calls for a man: "Strip me of my armor, Assah!" (Kanigher's on an "-ah" kick this time around, in contrast to all the "-o" names of the Wonder Family era), and steps forward to engage Kenyah in combat for possession of herself. Kenyah says, "How can you hope to compete with me? I AM A MAN!"
Nubia beats him easily, burying her sword next to his head. "A woman doesn't destroy life -- she CHERISHES it!" Nubia tells Kenyah, and then returns to her hut:
Ah. "Lonely as a star." Isn't that a lovely phrase? (Q: Did Kanigher come up with this, or was it really penned by Cary Bates? Actually, it does sound like a Kanigher phrase, but the situation seems more Bates-ish to me. I mean, Kanigher writing a soul-searching scene? I mean, really?)
WW #206 (June-July 1973) (with a cover that shows just how great Nick Cardy could draw -- man, what art! I'd blow it up to gigantic proportions here -- really, it's one of the all-time Great Comics Covers -- but you can probably stroll over to Mile High Comics to see their large version of it and marvel for yourself.): Story: Cary Bates (though Kanigher's still editor), art: Heck and Colletta. "War of the Wonder Women!"
Saving her unnamed roommate (we never did learn their names; one was a token Asian and the other a token Black) reminds Diana of Nubia, and we flash over to see a troubled Hippolyta, who reviews memory tapes 3-5, the origin of her child... or children:
Don't dwell on how the statues are those of toddlers, but now the live children who result are infants. Hippy forms two children, one of dark clay, one of light; this time Aphrodite and not Athena gives them life, and this time the gods themselves come to gift Diana with powers AFTER Mars kidnaps little Nubia. Which means that those godly gifts really weren't what they were cracked up to be, as it seemed way back in issue 105, when Diana seemed to already be empowered before receiving her blessing. It seemed so all during the Silver Age (as well as the Golden Age) when Amazons claimed that it was Amazon Training -- which anyone could learn -- that gave them their powers.
Come for a visit; we'll have tea and I'll tell you how those godly gifts should REALLY be used for greater impact AND across-the-board continuity!
At any rate, we have a twin sister for WW now, one who has been raised by Mars as his agent of destruction, his "instrument of vengeance against the Amazons -- whom I hate because their ways of love -- will eventually destroy my ways of war -- unless I annihilate them first! Nubia will do this for me!"
A hail of "fiery meteors" erupt from the Floating Island -- which we discover the Amazons call Mars' Slaughter Island -- and smash into Paradise Island. Hippolyta sends Diana a mental SOS, and Diana "plays soccer" with the meteors, forming a plug for the volcanic mouth that disgorges the boulders.
Temporarily fooled by a mirage, Diana bests a gang of the island's men, but Nubia knocks her down with the flat of her blade. Indeed, we find that her magic sword is the only weapon on Earth that can counteract Diana's lasso.
As they grapple in mid-air (they both glide on air currents and don't fly), a glimpse of the ring Nubia wears jogs Diana's memories. She recognizes it as Mars' ring, and intuitively realizes that she must divest Nubia of it. As soon as she does so, Nubia takes her place beside Diana, facing down Mars. Her ring had mentally controlled her all these years. The two discover that on some level, Mars fears women and the peace they embody. He shouts that he disowns Nubia now and disappears. Nubia tells Diana, "I must lead my warriors into ways of peace!"
When Diana returns home, Hippolyta shows her the missing memory tapes and Diana discovers she has a sister.
But that was the last we'd ever see of Nubia within the pages of Wonder Woman.
In other venues I've commented about how the Amazon, all-woman concept is too old-fashioned to be used any more. Sure, back in the Forties WW needed an all-woman society (1) to showcase Marston's ideas of female superiority and (2) to have a base from which a strong woman could appear. But this was the Seventies. Women could come from anywhere and still be strong. Certainly today a strong, heroic woman could come from anywhere in the world or fantasy world. The idea of Amazons is a keen mythologic icon, but it is also inherently sexist and arguably unnecessary. A reboot of Wonder Woman need not necessarily come from Amazon roots any more, or those Amazons could be a two-sex society, fully capable of nurturing a strong woman character.
Okay, one set of Amazons is okay. But the constantly recurring waves of all-female societies or all-female teams in Wonder Woman bring with them the idea that the figurative bar has to be lowered in order for women to look good heroically. Mustn't let any men in or the women will come off badly in comparison. Fmeh to that!
Similarly in this Nubia story we see a society of all Blacks. And all-Black men to boot, save for Nubia. They are Ares' pawns, they are in a non-technological society. What does this try to tell us about Blacks? Any way you look at it, it's got negative connotations.
And yet Nubia had real promise. An equal to Diana, a possible headlining Black heroine -- would she have been the first in comics? If not, she was close to being so. If DC had run with her, I think they would have been pleasantly surprised. She was strong spinoff material, never fully realized, who appeared at the right moment for positive exploitation.
But sorry, the next appearance of Nubia came in a dismal Supergirl series -- not a highlight of Supergirl's Silver Age at all. Supergirl (first series) #9, Dec.-Jan. 1973/74: Robert Kanigher, editor, Art Saaf (I think) did pencils and Vince Colletta the inks. No credits, so I think we'll guess that Kanigher did the story as well. It reads like him (but the Bates story in WW read like him, too). "The Super-Amazon!"
Horrible, horrible, most horrible of stories! The sheer stupidity of it places it far out of continuity. Supergirl finds that her boyfriend is double-timing her, and when she rescues another man, he berates her. "Men -- who needs them?" she asks herself, and runs into another scene showcasing male conceit.
In a huff, Supergirl flies hither but mostly yon, coming upon an Amazon ship being attacked by shark-men. Nubia is there in unarmored purple miniskirt and defends her mother from them, but is wounded in the attack. Supergirl flies the entire ship back to Paradise, where Hippolyta sees her daughter off to Amazon physicians and then asks Supergirl if she'd like to join the Amazons' ranks as her adopted daughter.
Such a heartwarming scene: Supergirl thinks, "I'd be FREE of men forever!" and says, "I've made up my mind.... You've just adopted yourself another daughter!" Such familial love! Someone hold me and pass me the Kleenex! Boo hoo hoo!
Using superspeed, Supergirl acquaints herself with Amazon history (did you hear that, Donna Troy? She actually tried to LEARN something about the Amazons before becoming adopted by them!) and of course easily accomplishes various physical tests.
The Amazons present her with golden tiara, belt and boots (boots?) to signify her position and Hippy says, "From now on, SUPERGIRL -- you shall be called by your native KRYPTONIAN name -- KARA! I dub thee KARA, the AMAZON PRINCESS!"
But then bad news comes about Nubia. She needs a rare root to recover from shark poisoning. Supergirl flies to an Easter Island-type of setting to get it, but three witch doctors attack her with magic. Among other things, it takes away her powers so that when a handsome man named Fong rescues her and insists that she remain on the island where he can protect her (??), she and Nubia both seem doomed. But Supergirl tricks the witch doctors and her powers return, just in time for her to return with the root. Nubia recovers.
"My experience with FONG taught me a lesson!" Supergirl tells Hippy. "Although he meant well, it was WRONG of FONG to keep me on his island and shut me away from the rest of the world! And now I realize I was doing the same thing -- exiling MYSELF to PARADISE ISLAND! But the world NEEDS me! I'll never forget your kindness, HIPPOLYTA! And I'll always remember my ONE DAY as an AMAZON!"
Forgetting Donna Troy, Queen Hip replies: "And I'll always think of you as my THIRD Amazon daughter, KARA! Farewell!"
OUT OF CONTINUITY! OUT OF CONTINUITY! Nubia doesn't see much action or much panel space in this issue, and I suppose it's for the best.
Cut to: the Thirtieth Century and Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes. In issue #216 (May, 1976) the Legion encountered a young Black man. An angry young Black man. An angry young LOUD Black man who wore chains: Tyroc, a sonic-powered hero who became a Legionnaire. This was the Legion's first Black member (Shadow Lass was originally supposed to have been Black, but TPTB decided to make her blue instead).
Tyroc came from an island nation whose population was made up entirely of Blacks. The island operated like Brigadoon, appearing in the world every ten or twenty years or so. And the island's name was Marzal. Say it slowly: MARS-al.
Could it be that Marzal and the Floating Island were the same? How many magical, disappearing islands populated entirely by Blacks could DC Earth have? It's something to think about.
Add to it the fact that Tyroc's civilian name was TROY Stewart. Troy. Remind you of anyone else Wondie-related? Hm? Of course someone on the DCMBs said that the "Stewart" part could relate to perhaps Donna hooking up with another Green Lantern: not Kyle, but John Stewart... Ah, sometimes these things are just a coincidence.
Or are they?
Finally for the Silver Age: Nelson Bridwell never forgot a character. He brought this knowledge to the fore when he penned The Super Friends, a comic book based on the animated series, but which also somehow puzzlingly fit into regular DC continuity. For example, Super Friends gave us the Galactic Guardians, who popped up in the regular DCU on occasion. Heroes like Fire and Ice got their start in Super Friends. Marvin, that annoying cartoon kid, was explained as being the child of Diana Prince, the nurse whose identity Princess Diana bought when she first came to Man's World, and Dan White -- Golden Age characters who possibly had Silver Age counterparts. Who knew? It was Super Friends.
Super-Friends issue #25 (Oct. 1979): writer: E. Nelson Bridwell, penciller: Ramona Fradon, inker: Bob Smith, editor: Julius Schwartz. "Puppets of the Overlord!"
The upshot is: this guy, the Overlord, has a thought-induction helmet that he uses to take over the Super Friends. When he starts controlling Diana, she says, "You MEN -- always thinking you know best! I'll show you what a WONDER WOMAN can do -- starting with the liberation of the oppressed women of Africa!"
When next we see her, WW speaks in front of a crowd of women in a modern African city. She tells them that men still treat women as if they were possessions and it's time for women to stand up to men, with Wonder Woman as leader. But Diana is interrupted by... Nubia! Nubia tells her to back off and they brawl as absolute equals. The incident lasts for one page.
That's all we see of her for the rest of the issue. For the rest of the Silver Age. Nubia didn't even bother to show up long enough to get offed during Crisis. ("My BLACK SISTER!" indeed! She was probably still miffed about that, and miffed as well about being relegated to Africa just because she was Black. How much better would it have been if, say, Nubia had been active in Asia, showing her to be a world-class hero and not just relegated to the traditionally Black areas of the world?)
Let's talk about that name, too. "Nubia." Some fans say, oh, it's a tribute to Africa, and ignore the fact that "Nubian" used to be a poetic word for "Black person." So Nubia's name could in effect be "Black person." Or Black Sister. It's the same as the comic strip "B.C." having a character named "Fat Broad." Rather degrading and objectifying, if you ask me.
But years passed, Crisis happened and more years passed. As post-Crisis writers and editors do, someone got bored and wondered what pre-Crisis tidbit they could rehash with a spectacularly new spin on it to make them seem creative when in fact it's just refried rehash over easy.
By the time this next issue came out, readers were still hotly discussing the fact that Donna Troy had been revealed to be the post-Crisis Wonder Woman's twin sister -- actually a magical replicant, formed when Diana was a young teenager. Advance word of this particular issue was that Nubia would return to post-Crisis continuity -- but the place of twin was already taken.
Wonder Woman Annual 8, Sept. 1999. "The Thin Gold Line" MaureenMcTigue, editor; Doselle Young; writer; Brian Denham, pencils; Jon Sibal, inks. This issue was part of the dismal "JLApes" summer crossover pseudo-event, one of the worst ideas DC has come up with.
But during the course of the almost incomprehensible story, the bad-guy gorillas breech Doom's Doorway and Wonder Woman, Shim'Tar and Artemis follow them down the river Styx. There Diana meets a mysterious Black woman who berates her for violating the rules of the country.
The woman calls Diana "Antiope," and is only slightly surprised to find that Diana is Antiope's niece. The woman names herself Nu'Bia and says that she is an Amazon who won an earlier tournament. She wears a lion's head decoration upon her armor, and threatens to turn a foe into stone. At one point she may have already done that to another foe, but the art is extremely unclear.
At the end of the issue, the ape chronicler -- who may well have gotten his facts wrong -- says of Nu'Bia: "You can learn a lot about a culture from its stories. Nubia [sic], for example, had her own story to finish. Currently, she's on her way to rescue her ex-boyfriend AHURA-MAZDA from his immortal enemy, AHRIMAN. What some people will do for love." Ex, huh? We'd find out differently.
Diana and co. wave farewell to Nu'Bia, but by this time the average reader (me included) was so confused and disappointed they probably couldn't have cared less. A really, truly BAD issue, folks.
Wonder Woman #154 (March 2000) (the one with the love-bunny cover by Adam Hughes) "Three Hearts" and Wonder Woman #155: "Three Hearts Part Two: Lies" (April 2000) Writer: Doselle Young, pencils: John McCrea, inks: George Freeman, editor: Maureen McTigue.
All the elevators in a Las Vegas hotel suddenly bear a lion insignia. When Diana (taking a break from battling a supervillain who has sworn to kill the entire population of the city) investigates and declares that it's a work of magic, a strange woman steps out of the elevator. She says, "Many leagues from the kingdom of light have I traveled. Through the province of Nox and the territory of shades have I hunted the demon-king Ahriman. Finally, to track him here, to Patriarch's World... to my ancient FARAWAY HOME. How passing strange it is then, Princess, that I should find you here, as well."
Diana hesitantly recognizes her: "Nu'Bia?"
Nu'Bia tells her story, how she was a Themysciran Amazon who won the "Tournament of Grace and Wonder" like Diana had, and become the Amazons' first champion. Her mission was to guard Doom's Doorway -- from the inside.
If you're familiar with the Perez years of the modern era of Wonder Woman, you'll know that the gods brought the Amazons to Paradise with the proviso that they guard the world from Doom's Doorway, which opened to all manner of horrific threats. Many times over the millennia the Amazons had beaten monsters back into their prison.
Now we find that one single Amazon has worked for how many years? -- possibly thousands -- in an ongoing war. Why was only one Amazon chosen? Why wasn't she relieved after a time with a new champion?
Nubia continues: "The ISOLATION, the loneliness that one endures when separated from one's people. The emptiness, punctuated time and again by CRISIS and WAR. There were moments of peace, times in which I renewed both my spirit and my body in the shallows and eddies of the Styx, crossed the veils of time and space to break bread with the Argonauts. In honor of a pact long since forgotten, the Gorgons blessed me with THE COLD SIGHT, which turns mortals to stone. Still, whether veiled or not, I remained... unseen, an invisible woman. An assassin of gods, loved by none.
"Until I met... him. Ahura-Mazda. Light of my life. Savior of my heart... and king of a mythology far from our own. In my darkest hour, abandoned and forgotten by our ancient gods, it was Ahura-Mazda who bound my wounds and made me whole. Through him, I found new life."
Now she reports that the demon Ahriman murdered Ahura-Mazda, carving his heart from his body. Nu'Bia has come in search of Ahriman in the hopes that she can revive her lover.
To make a long story short, Nu'Bia can sense Ahura-Mazda, and he can still communicate telepathically with her, so it doesn't take her long to find Ahriman. The demon is aging rapidly and almost anxious to return to whence he came. The last we see of Nu'Bia, she has the unwell demon (and hopefully the heart as well) in her possession and boards an elevator for a straight trip back to Hades.
Not one of WW's better stories; the writers were trying to be cute and serious at the same time, and the stories around this time were colored like mud. Why has Nubia been abandoned by her people and her gods? The gods released the Amazons from having to guard Doom's Doorway years before.
Why did Nu'Bia's life have to be shown revolving around a man? A really strange and ugly man, at that. A romantic story in which a relationship comes first in a woman's life can be wonderful because that woman has a LIFE: she has other matters that concern her and make her a well-rounded character. But in Nubia's case it's stressed that Ahura-Mazda is her entire life. That's damned unhealthy, even if you haven't seen another human, much less a man, in 2000 or 3000 years. Couldn't Nu'Bia's story have been enlarged to give her more reason for being where she was, and a grander design for her relationship to A-M? And Nu'Bia's outfit: her naked under a loose and revealing mini-suit of armor -- good grief. The WW staff is pandering to fanboys here, telling them that men are the sole aim of women, and that women want to dress like sex kittens, no matter how illogical (or uncomfortable, especially in this case -- owie!) the outfit is. Men are our gods, you know. (Well, maybe if their name is Brad Pitt...)
Since then a person who may or may not have been Nu'Bia has cropped up in a couple of crowd scenes. It seems to me that Nu'Bia and her people have parted ways and that she operates in different realms now. Certainly when Greg Rucka came on board as writer, he chose two story arcs in which Nu'Bia held expert experience: Gorgons and Hades, yet Nu'Bia was never contacted to help out or even advise. (A good case could be made [go on; ask me] that Rucka's run does not occur on mainstream DC Earth at all, since the run contains a lot of established and internal continuity errors.) Some fans have postulated that the post-Crisis Nu'Bia has been written out of Wonder Woman's most recent continuity.
This post-Crisis version of Nubia did not seem to have anywhere near the potential of the pre-Crisis version, although she did have a haughty, seen-it-all attitude that could be appealing if handled right.
As the universes changed once again (as they do every couple years or so any more) and the DCU expanded into 52 (at least) parallel universes, Nubia once again showed up on Earth where most superheroes were Black (Final Crisis 7, March 2009). After the DCU changed yet again, Grant Morrison wrote an issue of Action (#9, 2012) set on that same Earth. It is interesting to note that though Superman's skin is dark, his name is still almost "Kal-El," so his his heart and being must still the same. But in changing Wonder Woman's skin, a completely different character, Nubia, was used. They could not let WW remain a Diana in some form. This drives home DC's now-favorite idea: anyone can be Wonder Woman since there is nothing special about her. (Still, Nubia got a keen costume [except for the crotch point], don't you think? That's Gene Ha's design.)