WONDERING ABOUT WONDER WOMAN

KC Carlson by Stuart Immonen

KC Carlson by Stuart Immonen


A KC COLUMN by KC Carlson

I suppose it won’t be much of a surprise to anyone that occasionally, I have no idea what I’m doing.

I usually have a few ideas about topics I want to write about. I’m supposed to be doing at least 36 of these columns a year… I’m somewhere in my tenth year of doing this for Westfield (and long-time subscribers/readers also know I used to produce (with help!) a print Westfield Newsletter — in-between the years I was editing for DC Comics).

So, that’s a lot of writing. It won’t be too surprising that sometimes it’s a struggle to come up with a new topic to write about. Roger frequently helps with this, as do my occasional discussions with Bob (Robert) Greenberger, Beau (Beau) Smith, and Wayne (Crusher) Markley. This time around, having a Monday holiday didn’t help. (I actually have to think today?!) So what have I never written about?

Wonder Woman first came to mind. This seems weird that I’ve never written much about her, and truth be told, since I’ve been with Johanna (well over 20 years now), I haven’t really had to — because she’s the huge Wonder Woman fan in the house. I recently inventoried our back issues of the series. 100% of the issues going backwards from the ‘80s (or so) to the Silver Age (and a handful of Golden Age) are from her original collection, which merged with my meager WW one.

Wonder Woman #72

Wonder Woman #72


Now that I’ve started getting this run in order, I noticed that somehow, I’ve managed to misplace (hopefully temporally) Volume 3 of the series, which ran from 2006 to 2011. I’m not too concerned about this, because there’s at least a hundred or so boxes (out of some 500 in the whole collection) that aren’t properly labeled. Also, since I remember actually reading some of the runs from creators like Allan Heinberg, Jodi Picoult, Terry and Rachel Dodson, Gail Simone, J. Michael Straczynski (JMS), and others, all of whom were part of the V3 numbering, I’m pretty sure it’s around here somewhere!

A passing observation: Wonder Woman Volume 1 ran from 1942-1986. Since then, there have been four more volumes, with the last three happening every five years or so, as renumbering became a marketing stunt. More on this in future columns.

ME NOT BELIEVE THIS…

I first started buying and reading Wonder Woman in the late 1960s. I came in at the end of the Robert Kanigher/Ross Andru/Mike Esposito run. By then, the comic seemed to be obsessed with what were called “Wonder Family” stories. In the 1960s, pretty much all comics were aimed primarily at kids. But for some reason, Kanigher frequently wrote for much younger readers, and Andru & Esposito usually had a very non-threatening, kid-friendly art style.

Wonder Woman #138

Wonder Woman #138


These were crazy Wonder Women stories. The “Wonder Family” consisted of “Wonder Queen” (Hippolyta, Diana’s mother), Wonder Woman (Diana as an adult), Wonder Girl (Diana as a teenager), and Wonder Tot (Diana as a near-toddler, babbling in typical DC-time-tested baby talk, like “Me think me not need nap!”). Since three of these characters were all the same person (Diana) at different ages, they were termed “Impossible Stories” by Kanigher. In story, there was some kind of time viewer involved, making them the ancient equivalent of editing together home videos from way different years for no good reason.

Wonder Woman #126

Wonder Woman #126


At some point, Wonder Girl was apparently the most popular of the foursome, so she had a number of solo adventures with possible teenage suitors with names like Mer-Boy and Bird-Boy and gonzo villains like The Glop — who also had a crush on her because… you know… girls… Also, Wonder Tot hung out with a giant genie with a sinister mustache (named, of course, Mr. Genie) more times than actually seemed comfortable. Unbelievably, that Wonder Tot “series” had several book-length adventures.

Eventually, these ran their course, and Kanigher (as both writer and editor) then decided that what Wonder Woman fans really wanted was stories told in the style (both writing and artwork) of the Golden Age. So that was a thing for a many months.

Wonder Woman #178

Wonder Woman #178


And then, the British Avengers TV show (spies, not super-heroes) made it to America and created a popular cult following. Kanigher, Andru, and Esposito were gone from Wonder Woman by then, but new writer/artist Mike Sekowsky (although Denny O’Neil frequently provided dialogue) was obviously a fan, and so in 1968 in Wonder Woman #178 (cover dated October), comics saw one of the most radical “makeovers” (although that was not a word then) that any superhero had gone through to date. Sekowsky redesigned Diana Prince to look almost exactly like actress Diana Rigg from the TV show, including removing her powers in favor of martial arts-like moves.

Wonder Woman #181

Wonder Woman #181


Sekowsky/O’Neil also overhauled pretty much everything else, sending Paradise Island and the Amazons into another dimension and killing off Steve Trevor. (Spoiler: he got better.) Diana started looking more like a fashion model than a superhero. She wore a lot of all-white outfits. One other trendy addition: Diana suddenly had a mysterious oriental mentor named I-Ching. He originally died at the end of the “powerless Wonder Woman” storyline, but he has popped up occasionally in more recent DC books. (Recycling: a comics way of life.)

This entire “Diana Rigg” run of the title has been collected in four volumes of Diana Prince: Wonder Woman trade paperbacks, first published in 2008. (Although, I bet if you have the patience, DC will probably collect the whole run in an Omnibus or Deluxe Hardcover someday.) It is one of the high points of Wonder Woman Volume One, despite how poorly it has aged over time.

MOVING ON…

After Sekowsky’s run on the Wonder Woman comic book, it quickly switched back to telling traditional superhero stories, although, sad to say, there aren’t many memorable storylines between that era and Crisis on Infinite Earths (which had a huge effect on the Wonder Woman characters — at least for a while). There was a run where Wonder Woman was petitioning to re-join the Justice League (after the powerless era) that was both kinda cool and kinda creepy. It was neat to see each member in turn praise her, but the 12 stories (like the labors of Hercules) were all over the place, and the implication was that she had to be monitored by the members of the League like they couldn’t trust her. (The ‘70s were weird!) For a period, the comics again abandoned a present-time setting to tell stories set during WWII as a tie-in to the TV show then airing.

Wonder Woman #288

Wonder Woman #288


By 1982, Roy Thomas, Gene Colan, and Dick Giordano began working on the title. It looked great for a while, but Roy co-wrote with many of DC’s younger writers, and this era never jelled much either. I recall being informed early on about DC’s plans regarding what would become Crisis on Infinite Earths. That 1986 maxi-series was planned to definitely deal with how best to remake Wonder Woman into something that DC (and its fans) could be proud of again. It was about that same time (and with the exposure from the TV series) that Wonder Woman became a symbol of feminism — especially after appearing on the cover of the first issue of Ms. Magazine.

Wonder Woman on the cover of Ms.

Wonder Woman on the cover of Ms.


HEADING TO BETTER THINGS

Those of you that remember Crisis on Infinite Earths — and you should because it’s essential reading for a complete (if frustratingly bolloxed later) DC continuity experience — probably recall that Crisis ended without ANY Wonder Women in the DC Universe. Golly!

Crisis affected both Wonder Women greatly (both Earth-1 and Earth-2 versions), so once it was over, the Wonder Woman series needed to be restarted. Kinda from scratch. This is where George Pérez (coincidentally, the artist on Crisis) comes in. After resting up a bit, Pérez’s next assignment would be to both write and draw Wonder Woman. He had a bit of help: Greg Potter and Len Wein both helped with dialogue, and on the art side, George had friends like inkers Bruce Patterson and Dick Giordano and penciller Chris Marrinan to help out.

Wonder Woman by George Perez Omnibus Vol. 1

Wonder Woman by George Perez Omnibus Vol. 1


Pérez managed to find a way to make the world’s leading superheroine fresh again, creating some of her best stories, period. All of his Wonder Woman work has been collected in two volumes of Wonder Woman by George Pérez Omnibus, first published in 2015 and still in print. More affordable trade paperbacks are also available. But I think the Omnibi have the best presentation and reproduction quality. The story pages are also sized larger than the original printings.

This is a good place to stop talking about Wonder Woman, because I believe I’ll have a lot more to say about this multi-year run. I’ll pick up the discussion soon in a future column. (Which also gives you the chance to track down the Omnibi and read them if you haven’t. It’s a very rewarding experience — one of DC’s best series of that era!)

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KC CARLSON SEZ: I read the first George Pérez Wonder Woman storyline (#1-9) when it was originally published. By that time, I was working as an editor for DC Comics. That kept me so busy editing my own projects that I had less and less “free time” to read other comic books. I (regretfully) never got back to the series after that. Now that I’ve got the Omnibi, I see that this is the way to read this work, and I was up until midnight last night re-reading #1-9 in the Omnibus. Tonight I hope to read at least two more (new to me!) storylines! So much fun!

WESTFIELD COMICS is not responsible for the stupid things that KC says. Especially that thing that really irritated you me. . . . Like, where is that “missing” Wonder Woman box!!!

Classic covers from the Grand Comics Database

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