Family Ties

In the decade of the '50s, editor/writer Robert Kanigher wrestled with the several serious strikes against Wonder Woman: she was a woman, she was a woman who had the audacity to be athletic and to fight men, she came from a background that practically guaranteed that she was a lesbian or at least bisexual, and she was such a magnificent creation that she had become a symbol of female freedom.

None of these aspects could be retained by the post-Code version of Wonder Woman (other than the fact that she was female) and be expected to be approved by society. How could a woman super-hero survive and yet be bland enough to pass society's dictates, especially those expounded by the Comics Code?

By issue #100, Wonder Woman was no longer pencilled by H.G. Peter clones. Instead, Ross Andru and Mike Esposito were her art team, with Kanigher writer. The latter kept her in a holding pattern battling with doubles of herself (robots, aliens, parallel world doubles, etc.) or fighting some sort of natural disaster, be it earthquakes or giant rocs. Sometimes he featured her in contests with the Amazons.

There were other kinds of contests, too. It would have been too butch of Wonder Woman to actually fight men, her "natural superiors," so instead WW would make deals with crooks and invaders. If she could have a contest with them or merely complete some impossible task, the crooks/invaders would have to give themselves up or go away. She always emerged victorious, and the crooks/invaders always did the honorable thing and gave up.

Issue #105 gave the new origin of Wonder Woman: The Amazons were not creations of Aphrodite, they were merely wives in ancient times whose men were killed in wars. They decided to get away from the wars and go to Paradise Island. Before they left, the queen's daughter -- it was implied that Diana had a father -- was endowed by the gods with wondrous powers and was in fact a kind of Wonder Girl who aided the helpless Amazons on their perilous journey. There was no Amazon Training, no subjugation to Hercules, no reason for Amazon bracelets. Hippolyte became "Hippolyta" and went blonde.

All the Amazons were ordinary women unless the story demanded that WW engage them in some competition, in which case they suddenly developed powers that were almost equal to Diana's.

Speaking of developing powers, Wonder Woman's leaps had been taking her farther and farther lately. In issue #105 she mentioned being hampered by "a lack of air currents," and in issue #106 she actually began "riding" the air currents, wtih no narrative to explain her acquisition of the new power.

Stories tended toward romantic melodrama rather than super-hero adventure. WW often referred to marriage being the end of her career, and criminals plotted elaborately to get her to marry Steve. They knew that once she married she'd have to give up her career in order to become a wife, and they would be free to do as they wished.

The suddenly un-liberated Wonder Woman was painful to read when she had adventures in Man's World. It was her unbound adventures with the Amazons that shone.

Diana acquired another boyfriend -- Manno, a merman who lived with an entire civilization of merpeople a short way from Paradise Island. Manno and Steve were to develop quite a jealousy toward each other, very similar to the Lana Lang/Lois Lane feud, although the men never got quite as violent about it as the ladies. They wished each other ill, shouted at each other a lot, and although Manno couldn't stand the thought of Steve being around Diana while she was in her Diana Prince identity, Steve hated being physically inferior to the merman who was at home in the sea and could hop with the best of them on land.

Before long, Wonder Woman began a series of stories about Diana when she was a young teenager, stories which usually revolved around her romance with Manno when he was a boy. These stories were cute and very attractive to young girl readers, so they began to take place more and more often. There were stories in which the Wonder Girl of yesteryear tried desperately to team up with the modern Wonder Woman, but couldn't beause (classic DC logic) the same being couldn't be in the same era at two different ages. So Kanigher came up with a brilliant idea: he had Hippolyta take movies of her daughter at various stages in her career and splice the adventures together, forming one story with Wonder Woman at different stages: Wonder Woman, Wonder Girl (teenager), and Wonder Tot (about four years old), all of whom teamed up with Wonder Queen (Hippolyta) to form the Wonder Family.

These stores were called Impossible Tales, similar to Superman's Imaginary Stories, but they developed to the point where there were quite a few stories concerning the Wonder Family in which there was no labelling whatsoever indicating that these were Impossible Stories.

Readers became confused. Was this Wonder Girl Wonder Woman as a girl or her little sister? Wonder Woman referred to Wonder Girl as "she," implying that she was a separate entity. Even as recently as WW #307 (1983), the editor of the book claimed that Wonder Girl was Wonder Woman as a girl.

WW #124Despite the confusion, the series was a delight. Now Wonder Woman could have contests with her own family instead of with doubles of herself (although there was a story in which the Wonder Family battled giant extra-dimensional versions of themselves). But within the family was love and a feeling of domesticity and family support that was touching and gave the series credibility.

The lively character of Wonder Girl became so popular that two issues of Wonder Woman -- #152 and 153 -- had small cover blurbs reading "Wonder Woman presents:" with the large issue logo: "Wonder Girl."

An interesting side-note of the Impossible Tales is that we can even guess at Wonder Woman's father's identity. There is a running mention of a certain Prince Theno whom Queen Hippolyta had been in love with, but she explains that Wonder Girl's father was "lost at sea" and she was left alone to deal with the amorous and scheming attentions of Hercules. She never gave into the demi-god, though, so Theno was probably this Wonder Woman's father.

For the first time in the history of the series, the Amazons occasionally wore armor, for they would jump into their Amazon spaceships and fight the armies of Mars, defending Planet Earth from attack. When they weren't in armor they wore miniskirts, including the queen, whose skirt was always modestly covering everything that had to be covered even if she were upside down.

Despite the superficiality of the series, which was concerned with romance and lacked the courage to examine commitments other than family ties, and featured weak villains whose schemes weren't that threatening, this era was a happy interlude before one of the worst periods in WW's history.

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