The second half of THE GOLDEN AGE WONDER WOMAN OMNIBUS, Volume 2 (click here for my review of the first half)marks the first time a woman wrote Wonder Woman’s adventures. After 1946, that wouldn’t happen again until the 1980s Legend of Wonder Woman. William Moulton Marston had Murchison, his assistant, ghost-write a couple of stories (according to Lambiek) when he was pressed for time (that was S.O.P. for successful comics creators in the Golden Age). Then he faced the double-barreled shotgun of polio and cancer, so Murchison, along with Robert Kanigher, took up all of the workload.
Murchison’s first story involves taking a group of warmongers to Venus, to be reformed by their winged female population (introduced previously in a Justice Society story). It doesn’t go well, of course. Like most of Murchison’s work, it’s very much in the Marston mold, so I’m guessing he was still providing a lot of plotting or at least ideas. Some of Murchison’s later stories feel less Marstonian, such as an encounter with Neptunians: they’re a unisex society with no women at all, growing new generations in test tubes, some of whom are literally bred to be slaves. With the emphasis on how the strongest Neptunian rules all the rest and their hatred of women, it’s like an early shot at toxic masculinity (the cover shows Wonder Woman battling a Venusian tiger/ape hybrid). Murchison also brings back the Cheetah for a return engagement.
Robert Kanigher’s stories tend to be more conventional crimefighting tales, or to throw in the random monsters he’d use during much of the Silver Age.
Marston does contribute a few stories during this era. One introduced Countess Draska Nishki in Sensation Comics. The countess is a spymaster who shows up to inform Darnell she has top-secret information to sell him: American secrets that he can buy back for a cool million. She’s very much a clone of the now-reformed Paula von Gunther, but Paula was a formidable foe, so that works. Regrettably, Nishki only appeared once more until Kanigher’s god-awful Golden Age reboot near the end of his run.
“The Lawbreakers’ League” in Sensation Comics #46 interesting because it shows even Marston’s Diana was capable of entertaining seriously the possibility of submitting to Steve and letting him be the boss (something I associate more with the later Silver Age). The eponymous crime cartel give Steve a device that channels brain energy into his body, the same technique Amazons use (this is the first we hear of this). The device will make him stronger than Wonder Woman, which Ferva, one of the League’s leaders, assures her cohorts will make the Amazon melt and submit to him: deep down, all women want a man who can dominate them (a claim I still hear today). And then she’ll marry him and become nothing but a housewife, no threat to anyone.
Wonder Woman does indeed find it thrilling to be in the arms of a stronger, more powerful man … at first. By the end of the story, she tells Steve she could “never love a dominant man who’s stronger than I am.” Without a second’s hesitation, Steve smashes the League’s device, which is cool — Kanigher’s Silver Age Steve would never do that.
I don’t know when I’ll pick up V3, but I’ll have more of the George Perez reboot to review soon enough.
#SFWApro. All covers by H.G. Peters, all rights remain with current holders.