DC RetroActive: Wonder Woman

The three covers

The 70s, #1, Sept. '11: "Savage Ritual" Dennis O'Neil—writer; J. Bone—artist; J. Bone—cover; Kwanza Johnson—editor. Reprint: Vol. 1, Issue #201: July-Aug. 1972, "The Fist of Flame?"

The 80s, #1, Oct. '11: "Double, Double..." Roy Thomas—writer; Rich Buckler (pgs. 1-14), Tim Smith 3 (pgs 15, 19-26), Carolos Rodriguez (pgs 16-18)—pencillers; Joe Rubinstein (pgs 1-11, 25-26), Jack Purcell (12, 15, 20-22), Norman Lee (13-14, 23-24), Carlos Rodriguez (16-18)—inkers; Rich Buckler—cover; Kwanza Johnson—editor. Reprint: Vol. 1, Issue #288, Feb. '82, "Swan Song!"

The 90s, #1, Oct. '11: "Wonder Girls" Bill Messner-Loebs—writer; Lee Moder—penciller; Dan Green—inker; Lee Moder—cover; Kwanza Johnson—editor. Reprint: Vol. 2, Issue #66: Sept. '92, "A Sudden Deadly Leap."

Gearing up for their Sept. '11 all-number-one's Nottaboot, DC made all three of these issues number 1's. They also released these every other week (or was it every week?) in succession.

The idea was to give modern readers the feel of the decade in question, and to get the staff who'd been on the various books at the time to return for one more story. DC also charged $4.99 for each book, with the excuse of a full-issue reprint in the back of each. In Wondie's case at least, each reprint was the first of a multi-part story, so the reader didn't get to see what happened next. ???

The 70s book begins with a post-Mod era, fully-powered Wonder Woman parachuting from a rented plane to get to Paradise Island. ???

Suddenly she finds herself powerless and Mod again. She faces three trials (as 50s-era WW stories often did their plots, but this is a 70s retrospective), but we only see two of them, and they are stupid indeed.

Meanwhile, a brown-haired Hippolyta watches. At least she wears the traditional ice cream cones in her hair. And an aged Amazon serves as the queen's scientific assistant. Aged Amazon? The art is extremely cartoony, with faces and figures distorted. Mr. Bone can't even get Mod Di's hairdo right, but instead gives her a Linda Danvers headband to wear.

It's all a riff on the old "V'ger" Star Trek plot, where [alien] technology programmed for good has gone awry. Nope, no one had to sweat any brain cells over the making of this book. Together, the story and art (and very non-70s colors) seemed like someone had thrown it together and that perhaps a few people along the way hadn't taken their proper medications. Or as one friend put it, "O'Neil has never gotten Wonder Woman, has he?"

childish artThe 80s book is a real mishmash of art. Almost every time you turn a page, a distinctively different art style assaults you. Some of the styles are, well... Just look at this example on the right.

Rich Buckler gave us a very muscular, non-graceful Wondie, and together with the colorist (who did not realize they should be applying their colors according to 90s norm), presented Diana Prince and Lt. Etta Candy as members of some kind of military organization that put their members in olive green and brown leisure suits, when they should have been in the Air Force, wearing proper uniforms not only in style but color as well.

The story itself concerns a fairly new Silver Swan, who is in love with the idea of being a Wonder Woman so she can get a good mate—like Dr. Psycho, who arranges for her to look the part. But the Swan decides she wants (redheaded) (ugly-haircutted) Steve Trevor instead. Then she decides she wants Psycho's version of Steve as Captain Wonder (a recent, one-time event) even more.

All this time Psycho has used his ectoplasmic tech to endow the Swan not only with Diana's looks but her powers too—with the addition of flight. (Which Diana did not possess pre-Crisis.) All the Swan has to do is not foul things up for a period of time and the change will be permanent.

Of course Swan can't keep her big mouth shut and in revenge Psycho triggers the self-destruct button on his tech, which kills him. High in the air, Swan reverts to her human self and falls to her death. Steve and Diana never notice either. Quite an un-Nineties ending! Back in those days, heroes were heroes and ALWAYS came through, no matter what.

The 90s book is another entity entirely! Not only has DC secured a staff who can stick it out for the entire book, but they chose WML to do the writing, and he delivers one of the best WW stories ever printed! It's a story that recalls the very heart of Wonder Woman and her mythos: that of positivity. Joy. Empowerment.

The plot is that Etta(she has red hair again!)'s sister(sister?)'s daughters (daughters?) [fyi: Jazz, who looks Indian and has long, straight hair in addition to being long and straight herself; and Lisa, a chubby redhead who wears glasses] belong to an informal girls' club. The ethnically-diverse girls, who look to be in their early teens or pre-teens, like to sit around reading glamor magazines, having tea parties, and playing with Barbies.

Diana is left to care for the girls by herself. At first stymied by the job, she decides that what the girls are doing is boring, and for the next three weeks treats them a lot like she herself was treated as a child on Paradise Island. There are exhausting runs and hikes, diving and javelin-throwing.

At first unenthusiastic (an understatement!), the girls get into the swing of things. Then Etta confronts Diana:

Etta asks Diana if she might be, well, bullying the girls. Diana is shocked.

So Diana tries to ease off a bit. How hilarious is this?

I've given the text below.

Can you read this? As Diana plays with the Ken & Barbie, she play-acts Ken: "I, Ken, am home from the masculine world of work. Wife, feed me while I ogle your bulbous femininity. Display for me your subservience, for I am the man!"

Okay, I have a bit of a problem with this in that Diana's plan for the girls ONLY involves male-approved activities: physical training with a mention of scientific work. She turns up her nose at the girls' socialization efforts as if those were a bad thing when they display perfectly legitimate if female-oriented mindsets.

There's everything right about playing house, about visualizing a future in which one has a mature relationship that establishes a family. But we're shown that's wrong. Why? Women don't have to be men to be successful at life.

Okay, put that aside and look at the story. It's funny. It's fun. Diana has a great sense of humor! She does funny things! She's put in her place and tries to correct herself. She's empowering these girls so they grow up to be more than they would have. And in the end she pulls off a fabulous rescue from the jaws of defeat. Not only do the girls find out on their own that they can best an arrogant neighborhood basketball team, but they and Diana rescue some boys trapped deep within a cave, boys who were part of a "no girls allowed" club.

If that ain't the very definition of Wondie, what is?

Trust me: you'll have a great time with this ish! It should be in every WW fan's collection!

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