Back to the Future

The new era was pretty much as we had left it: Diana was still at the UN, but now a US Army Investigation team was hot on Steve Howard's trail. They had linked him to Steve Trevor and wanted to know just who he was and where Trevor's body was. (Larry Hama as editor and Jack Harris as writer must have had a great interest in spies, for now WW and Steve faced all kinds of spy organizations: S.C.Y.T.H.E., Spy-On-Spy, and "the Organization" all came into play.)

By #247, Diana and Steve realized that it wasn't working out between them. Diana was always busy while Steve wanted to do something about their relationship. Diana mused to herself, "...But you're not Steve Trevor anymore. You're no longer the one man who held an Amazon's heart!" Pretty strange to hate the secret identity of one's lover, especially when one has one's own secret ID.

Diana didn't have long to agonize over the situation, for in that same issue the Dark Commander used Steve Trevor Howard's life force to animate a demon and, in so doing, killed Steve. Dead for the second time.

WW #247During issues #247-249, Wonder Woman carried a back-up series called "Tales of the Amazons," but would have been more appropriately termed "Tails of the Amazons." Supposedly about the adventures of the Amazons while they were en route to Paradise Island thousands of years ago, it instead was the merest shred of a plot giving an excuse to show the well-endowed Amazons packed into g-string armor and loose, transparent tunics. It was pathetic, and, unfortunately, the g-string armor that had begun in the Earth-Two series stayed around even in the mainstream WW stories.

Although issue #250 was billed as the start of a new Wonder Woman series, it wasn't that much of a change. Due to an unjust decree from the gods, an Amazon named Orana won the right to be Wonder Woman. Orana was portrayed as jealous, power-hungry, with no sense of sportsmanship -- just the opposite of what an Amazon is supped to be! Of course, she died during her first adventure and Diana became WW once again, but this time she accepted a position as a NASA astronaut trainee and left New York in issue #251. The job didn't last long. By issue #256, Diana had exposed her new NASA boyfriend as a crook and, heartbroken, returned to the UN.

This time Morgan Tracy, formerly her associate, was out for Diana's hide because she had "flaws" in her background file. During the course of the next couple of years and under a new writer readers would discover that Morgan, who had once been an obvious writers' attempt at a new boyfriend for Di, was in reality a lieutenant of the villain Kobra and in charge of a wide-reaching criminal underground. This just shows how Wonder Woman writers would grasp at straws in order to complicate and cause "interest" in her stories.

Tales from this era were also running in World's Finest, then Adventure Comics. The various writers were furiously digging their own graves. They piled complication upon complication, and when they didn't improve sales, they tried to work their way out of the accumulated mess by formulating new complications.

Wonder Girl starred with her sister in Adventure Comics #461 and appeared in her own back-up feature (in which she saved the Teen Titans' once-mentor, Mr. Jupiter, from a kidnapping plot) in Wonder Woman #265-266. In the former story, the gist was that people who thought they had stolen WG's powers could not have because those powers were a result of Amazon Training. Now, in the definitive Wonder Girl origin over in Teen Titans (first series) #23, it was made abundantly clear that WG's powers are artifical because she is the only person on whom Amazon Training never had any effect.

Even with this mention of Amazon Training, though, the writers of the stories during this era (mainly Conway and Dan Mishkin) operated on the premise that Wonder Woman's powers were artificially imbued. By now the other Amazons were as powerful as Wonder Woman, though in issue #301 it was restated that Diana was granted powers by the gods, and thus was more powerful than ordinary Amazons. And yes, eventually the Amazons made actual clothes to wear when they were going out to do battle.

In what can be called the Beginning of the End, issue #270 had the word "New" displayed next to the title. Gerry Conway proceeded to heap a few more complications upon the myth.

Diana was fed up with Man's World. There seemed to be no end to the evil that she had to fight, an her lover was dead. She wearily made her way back home and told her mother her troubles. It ws clear that she was suffering a nervous breakdown, a total collapse.

Hippolyte asked Aprhodite to ease her daughter's pain. The goddess assented and made Diana forget Steve Trevor -- both of him. But then, through some weakened dimensional barriers, a plane plummetted from another dimension, carrying -- you guessed it -- a parallel world Steve Trevor. Giving up to fate, Hippolyte and Aphrodite decided that they had to make the entire world forget about the first Steve Trevor, and a little magic accomplished the job. Only the Amazons (sans Diana) remembered what had happened, or that there had ever been another Trevor.

In issue #297, Dan Mishkin came on as scripter, determined to exploit all the complications that had begun before him in order to form a Meaningful Plot. Unfortuantely, he was also bound to explore the soap-opera side of each and every one of the secondary characters, their landlords, their daughters, their ex-spouses, etc., etc., and give each subplot at least a page apiece in his issues. This wreaked havok on story pacing and comprehensibility.

With mostly Greek-myth-based and Nazi villains (and one Greek-Aztec team-up) to provide menace in his stories, Mishkin capitalized on the instances in which Hippolyte in some way blanked the memories of her daughter. Through the use of an ex-criminal turned neo-Amazon, Sophia, and a tribe of Amazons who had mutinied against Hippolyte thousands of years before, he began to characterize the queen as deceitful, weak, and lying. He created power-hungry Amazons who wanted to overthrow the queen. He told the story of the first Wonder Woman -- up to now unknown, another secret the queen had kept from her daughter -- who had gone into the outside world and been corrupted, partially due to Hippolyte's maneuvering.

But in the lettercols when readers protested this characterization, Mishkin and editor Alan Gold claimed they were setting up a wonderful character for Hippolyte by which people would like her much better. She'd prove what a wonderful person she reallly was, they promised. Unfortunately, they never got around to vindicating the queen. They'd forgotten that Hippolyte is the symbol of Paradise Island, and Paradise Island the symbol of Wonder Woman's ideals, and as Hippolyte deteriorated and Wonder Woman rejected her, sending her into a breakdown of her own, so did the storyline. It wallowed in a morass of excess plot complication.

When, in issue #322, Mishkin revealed that the god Eros had merged with Steve Trevor #1's soul to create Steve Trevor #2, and then had the Purple Ray take that part of Steve who still remained in the immortal god merge with Steve Trevor #3 to form a Steve who was really two (two, two) Steves in one, the point of no return had been reached. The series had been brought to the point where only a complete housecleaning like Crisis could save it.

The Huntress back-up series had been helping carry the book's sales since issue #271. She left the book with #321 and, from then on, the book would have to sink or swim on its own. It sank.

Issue #326 brought scripter Mindy Newell in and proceeded to relate the mutiny of the Amazons against Hippolyte's weak-willed rule, with the power-mad Antiope vying for the crown. The Crisis on Infinite Earths hit in #327, and by #329 Hippolyte and Diana were reconciled in the face of the disaster. Antiope had died saving the queen the issue before, and now the second army of Amazons fought beside the originals.

To bring some triumph out of the certain end of Crisis, Diana married Steve Trevor in what had to be the unhappiest marriage in the history of comics. The doomed lovers were separated soon after their wedding as a burst of temporal energy from the Anti-Monitor's death-throes struck Wonder Woman in Crisis #12 and erased the histories of her and those who had been touched by her, turning Diana back into clay and forming a tabula rasa upon which a future history, that crafted by Perez and Potter, could be written.

WW #329

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