Sunday, August 21, 2005

Who's that Girl? Part 4: All the Twos

Wonder Woman v.1 #224 - 243

With all the loose ends tied into a big knot at the end of #223 you might think that Wonder Woman was now in a position to boldly stride forward into new adventures. In fact all we get is several thin stories that range from forgetable to nonsensical. Elliot S Maggin drops by for an issue to whip up a story so stupid that it would probably take longer for me to list the faults in it than he did to write it. Martin Pasko is back next issue and he has been reading up on his mythology, introducing a new refuge from the greek pantheon in the form of Hephaestus, god of fire, who is working for Ares AKA Mars. Sadly Pasko hasn't been reading up on Wonder Woman as Mars/Ares' appearance is inconsistant with his previous appearance in WW #215, and you'd think it might be relevant in a story featuring Hephaestus to at least mention that he created WW's golden lasso. The rest of the story isn't much good, either.

Even the initially interesting subplot about Steve Trevor coming to terms with his new lease on life nosedives into stupidity as we are expected to believe that a man with no credentials of any kind and the fingerprints of a dead man can talk himself into a job in a government department of National security that monitors the work of other security departments (such as the CIA and the FBI). Meanwhile, Diana Prince has been promoted, if you can call it that, from being a troubleshooter in the UN Crisis Bureau to liason for a movie being made about the UN.

But in fact this is only the warm up for "The Strangest Wonder Woman Story of All!" An ambitious cover claim that would not convince anyone who had read a few Kanigher issues. In one of those abrupt changes of direction that are by now familiar to anyone who's read this far, our heroine bumps into a kind of cut-price Iron Man (who wears his bright red nazi uniform over his armour) and gets dragged into Earth 2 during World War 2, where she meets up with her Golden Age counterpart. Disappointingly, Earth 2 Wonder Woman is not wearing her Golden Age costume, but in fact one identical to her Earth 1 twin (minor cosmetic changes were made in subsequent issues to address fan complaints on this subject, but it still wasn't much like the Golden Age version). The only way this is at all forgiveable is that the whole deal is designed to complement the Wonder Woman TV show as it is at this point in our story that Lynda Carter twirls into action.

Personally I think the idea of altering source material so that it better fits an adaptation is fundamentally wrongheaded, but that's just me. It's easy to understand DC's wish to appear closer to the TV version, since this would likely bring in a lot of new readers, and compared with the current situation where a big screen version of Spider-Man or X-Men brings in readers who are liable to be bewildered by the variety of alternative versions of their heroes available in comic form, none of which bear much relation to the movie versions, it's positively inspired. So as Wonder Woman returns through the time/space warp at the end of WW #228 we get to stay and follow the adventures of her Golden Age analogue in World War 2 (that being the setting for the first season of the TV show) for a while.

It is also at this point that Wonder Woman gets a second series with a regular feature in World's Finest from issue #244. This also features the golden age Earth 2 Wonder Woman. During this period Earth 1 Wonder Woman can only be found in Justice League of America and a couple of guest spots.

Despite the claim that this is the golden age Wonder Woman whose adventures we are now following, it is in fact a heavily retconned version. Not only is the costume wrong for the period, but the only recognisable member of the supporting cast is Steve Trevor, Diana Prince is in the wrong job, and her invisible plane remains incongrously a jet until it magically develops a propeller in the two hour flight that takes place between the end of #234 and the beginning of #235.

In fact without Julius Schwartz looking over his shoulder, writer Martin Pasko seems to lose the plot. In #229 he throws in one of Kanigher's most idiotic additions to Wonder Woman's story that says if an Amazon removes her bracelets she will go berzerk. A piece of nonsense that is refuted in the very same issue, since Wonder Woman does not wear them in her Diana Prince identity.

Pasko goes on to introduce an ancient egyptian alien called Osira in #131. Seems he has been reading again, but a little too much Eric Von Daniken(1) and not enough egyptian mythology, or he might have picked the name of a female god rather than a male(2) as the basis for this villain.

Gerry Conway takes over as writer at this point, and even though he perpetuates the idiotic bracelet thing and even more bizarrely has Wonder Woman pop over to Germany and liberate two children from a concentration camp between scenes during #234, before flying them out to the mid-Atlantic so their father can see them, and then lecturing them on moral codes after they have watched him die(3). For some reason he also feels the need to address a loose plot thread from Wonder Woman's origin(4), apparently unaware that it was tied up way back in WW #9. And then again in WW #175. What's worse, internal continuity with the ongoing storyline means that Wonder Woman's origin has to be placed a year too early. Except that there is some odd timekeeping going on here; #228 is set in 1943, #230 is described as "a winter eve in 1942"(5) and by #239 it is June 1942.

Once again it is guest star time, as the period setting is just right for bringing in members of the JSA, one at a time. The god of war finally turns up in #239, and he's back to calling himself Mars and wearing the yellow armour he had in #215. It's about time considering the setting.

And then after being stuck for so long in 1942 we flash forward to 1945 and VJ day as the World War 2 sequence winds down ready for the return to Earth 1. It's a shame really, as this issue shows the most characterisation we have seen in the comic for a long time, as the various members of the cast consider what they will do now the war is over. A second crossover between the golden age Earth 2 Wonder Woman and her Earth 1 counterpart returns us to our story in progress and before you can say "Suffering Sapho" we are back in present day(6) adventures.


1. Chariots of the Gods was a bestseller at this time that suggested that many ancient depictions of gods were in fact records of alien visitations.
2. Osiris was a major egyptian god. A more appropriate name would have been that of his wife, Isis, although that might cause confusion with the Isis TV show for which DC had done an adaptation. Of course that still leaves plenty of other egyptian goddesses to choose from.
3. The heartless bitch.
4. In Sensation Comics #1 Wonder Woman borrows the identity of a nurse in order to be close to Steve Trevor. Not only is the nurse so similar looking that nobody spots the substitution, but she conveniently has the same first name.
5. It must have been a very mild winter since later in the issue we see people in their shirtsleeves taking a river trip on an open sightseeing boat.
6. 1977 in this case.

1 comment:

Scipio said...

"3. The heartless bitch."

Super-lecturing is Wonder Woman's real power, you know, given her by Sterna, Goddess of Preachification (off-panel in one of the 74 re-tellings of Wonder Woman's origin).

Superman shows you what the right thing to do is.

Batman beats you up when you've done the wrong thing.

Wonder Woman lectures you on whether you did the right or wrong thing.

That's what the lasso's for; tied up, you have to sit there and listen for hours, unable even to cover your ears...