Wednesday Comics

Wednesday Comics: Wonder Woman Summer, 2009. Written and illustrated by Ben Caldwell. Editor: Mike Chiarello. Reprinted in VERY large hardback form (with pages slightly reduced) in 2010.

 

Wonder Woman in full costume

The 12-issue weekly, Wednesday Comics, was an experiment in... Well, I'm not quite sure what. I'm sure it was to interest new readers, but I only saw this in comic book shops.

Each issue held one page of story per hero, and each issue told the stories of 15 heroes.

When this came out I was iffy about paying $3.99 for something that I was only interested in 2 pages of. (Amanda Conner was drawing Supergirl!) I finally reached the WW page and couldn't understand why something even faintly close to any kind of WW logo had not been used. All the other comics utilized logos that were either standard ones or close enough. But not Wondie's.

But it did set the stage for Ben Caldwell's unique artwork. To say it was imaginative is not giving it near enough credit. It was breathtakingly creative. (And to make it even better, Ben posted amazing WW sketchbook ideas on his blog.) The figures, the colors, the concepts, the movement... It was mind-blowing!

But also EXTREMELY difficult to read. It didn't help that the original issues were printed on newsprint and the printer apparently had a heavy hand with the black ink. Whereas the other stories might use an occasional tiny panel that measured 2.25" square, the WW story used SCADS of itsy-bitsy panels, some of which were only 1.25x0.25" big. (Or smaller!)

I actually got out a magnifying glass to try to make it through the page.

The second issue was the same way and I threw up my hands. "Someday they'll reprint this and it'll be a lot clearer." Well, it turned out to be somewhat clearer, but having all the story together helped enormously as well. Still, when the page that has a 2/3-page panel still has 13 other panels on it, and when 6 pages clock in at over 40 panels and one other page leads the pack at 66 panels... Well, something's not quite right.

A big part of a comic book story relies on readability and ease of access to the reader. 66 panels imho is not easy on anyone.

And yet no one can deny the genius of this story. We had an entirely new look for Diana and some of her foes (otoh, the story about "how Wonder Woman got her fancy stuff" was one we long-time readers have seen a lot) (but newer readers hadn't; granted). Compositions kept us to a fast pace as the designs swept us across the pages. Colors were as fantastical as Diana.

Dr. Poison wears gas mask, but otherwise is very manga, with two topknots.Dr. Poison was damned scary, and Etta was a refreshing bit of comedy. (When she first meets Diana she says, "So you're like a girl Supe—" Hah!) Cheetah was (to me) unrecognizable; at first I thought she could be (gag) Veronica Cale. She certainly didn't need to be Cheetah.

Story? Oh yeah. Let's get to that.

The entire thing takes place in Diana's dreams... Or do they? Apparently when she dreams the Three Gray Women (from the Perseus myth) (who ironically are pictured in pinks here) transport the new Amazon Champion to the Outside World so she can gather the "Seven Stars," or MacGuffins... I mean, "arms and aids left behind in Mortals' World so long ago" by the Amazon queen.

Diana introduces herself as "the last Amazon. Of all my warrior-sisters, I was chosen by heavenly fate to bring PEACE and HARMONY to Mortals' World!"

The Cheetah is a normal-looking woman wearing white hot pants and a cheetah-patterned duster. But Dr. Poison and Cheetah (Priscilla Rich) are also hot on the trail. Diana must learn to master her new power of flight (or swimming through the air), while dealing with her unfamiliarity with the outer world and lacking her iconic weaponry as she battles the roadblocks Poison and Cheetah throw in her way.

Some of these roadblocks are a garbage monster, Shutendouji; a dragon, Granny Cipactli; and Fenris, who gets a lovely large panel showing off his giant self.

Wide-eyed Etta Candy also has two topknots, but looks quite wacky.Etta and her uncle Jack Kirkridge ("a professor of early British SOMETHING") are also searching for some of the things. Oh, I haven't named what the Seven Stars are. Let's see...

(1) The queen's shield, (2) the Tiara of the Shakyamunis, (3) the Mors Crocca (Caesar's sword) (? what's that doing here?), (4) the golden lasso of the Amazons... Er, um... There are more. Let me check again. Darned tiny panels! (5) Lost gauntlets of the Amazon queen... Seven, you say? Last one is the (6) girdle. Still missing one. A little help, please?

Ah, thanks, Goldenboy882 (from the CBR message boards). He says that the (7) eagle that suddenly appears on her costume out of nowhere as she begins her "dream" on page 9 must be one of them. Diana looks at her chest and says, "The eagle of Zeus! Then it IS time!"

Anyway, Dr. Poison kidnaps a bunch of orphan girls to infuse with the hate ectoplasm of Ares. (??) (Isn't ectoplasm Dr. Psycho's shtick anyway?) Diana saves them; Poison and maybe Cheetah (darned small panels) are kicked into the ectoplasm and killed (?); and the Gray (Pink) Women tell Diana re: the orphans, "As for the girls... It is true, they have been irrevocably CHANGED by Dr. Poison. There is only one place in this world they can find PEACE—"

"You mean—"

"Perhaps you are not meant to be the LAST of the Amazons after all?"

The oddest bit for me was the Creator Bios page of the hardback. Where the others had quick professional bios, often laced with a bit of humor, Ben Caldwell's second paragraph comes off sounding sulky: "Caldwell's work on WEDNESDAY COMICS' 'Wonder Woman' has been widely praised as 'obtuse,' 'indulgent,' 'unreadable,' 'missed the whole point of this format,' 'a precise... combination of LSD, cocaine and powdered Disney film reel,' 'incredibly bad storytelling,' and 'one of the boldest experiments in mainstream comics history.'"

Nevertheless, it's a Mustn't Miss just to see the amazing artwork and sample some of the crazy riffs involved. Just bring a magnifying glass.

Not in continuity

I got this feedback from Goldenboy882:

I wish that DC would continue this story. I loved having a separate Wonder Woman story that I could read to my younger siblings. It was child friendly, but I did not think it was insultingly simplistic.

Plus, there were a lot of bits of the story that could have continued. The ectoplasm seemed to hint that Dr. Psycho was involved in Ares' plan (something that Carol mentions in her summary). Since Dr. Psycho was supposed to appear in Caldwell's Wonder Woman manga [proposal], I think we were meant to believe Dr. Psycho had some input.

I was looking forward to the appearance of the teenage dynamo of destruction, Eris. We would finally see Ares (who had really cool armor). Hippolyta would be added to the mix. Steve seemed like he was headed in the right direction. Together with Etta and Wonder Woman the three characters looked like a nice main cast.

Then there were a few mysteries left in the actual Wednesday Comics story. I have yet to figure out who the doll from page 8 is supposed to be (and Ben is keeping that close to his chest).

Oh, and the Cheetah was a nice mixture of Priscilla Rich and Barbara Minerva. A spoiled society girl, who used her wealth, intelligence and skill to collect artifacts and empower herself. She meets Diana and instantly sizes her up as a rival. Not, because she is jealous (she is too classy for that), but because she sees her as an equal who needs to be destroyed simply for the fun of the challenge. Plus, the outfit (I think) was great. The coattails provided the image of an actual tail, and the boots were similar to the claws of a cheetah.

Uhh... all of this is to say, I enjoyed it and I would like more.

Aaand... Ben Caldwell himself posted a response, and I quote:

the short answer is i cheated. i wanted the freedom to adjust the story as it developed (for example, etta candy originally had a much smaller role), so i showed the spear on page 1, but didn't specifically mention it anywhere. if things had worked out differently, page 9 would have been WW and cheetah going after the spear in south africa. i cut it to expand the corto maltese scene into 4 pages instead of 3.

as it is, i did not use the spear, but the bracelets count as 2 individual stars:

1-bracelet (japan)
2-bracelet (japan)
3-shield (mexico)
4-tiara (shangri-la)
5-sword (caer llud/london)
6-lasso (norway)
7-girdle (corto maltese)

if that sounds completely unfair, that's because it is.

semi-related comments:
there is an actual connection between caesar's mors crocca, w m marston, and ancient britain.
WW simply recognized the eagle outfit on page 9 as a divine (or at least supernatural) sign that her final battle was about to begin (she was wearing similarly aquiline training gear in her first battle, pages 2-3).
ectoplasm is usually associated with dr psycho (or used to be), but it was also a staple of GA WW more generally, hence the ectoplasm exhaled by the british mole men and the "ether-crank" that dregs up and ectoplasmically animates the skull of bran the blessed.

i also deliberately set up various loose ends in case any other creators wanted to play with them, for example there is a specific reason the story starts in gotham (and why cheetah is there in page 1), cheetah only has seven of her nine lives left, fenris is still stalking the world (and his nemeses the vala-keres); i am easily amused so the story is filled with easter eggs and suggestions.

 

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