She wants candy, baby: The many lives of Etta Candy

Next to Steve Trevor and Hippolyta, nobody has been a part of Wonder Woman’s adventures as much as Etta Candy. Unlike them, there have been huge stretches of the series where Etta disappeared from the cast and her portrayal has varied much more wildly through the years.

Etta shows up in Sensation Comics #2 as a student at Holliday College where she’s a leader in one of the sororities.  Wonder Woman’s engaged in a battle of wits with Doctor Poison (yes, the villain from the Gal Gadot movie) and needs to distract some Axis spies. She contacts the Holliday Girls and Etta leads them in distracting the villains. It’s no great sacrifice: the girls were always shown as happy to flirt with men.

My memories of Etta from the few Golden Age stories I’d read were mostly negative: William Marston and artist Harry G. Peter present her as a fat young woman constantly obsessing over Candy. Reading the Golden Age Wonder Woman Omnibus I discovered I was wrong. Yes, Etta’s a glutton constantly complaining about not having enough candy or losing it in a fight but she’s also daring, unflinching in the face of danger and extremely capable in a fight. She’s also a Texan heiress.Etta continues attending college and fighting alongside WW until 1950, then she vanishes. In 1960 she returns in Wonder Woman #117. She’s once again a college student (DC’s reference guide from the 1980s, Who’s Who quips that having stayed in college so long she’s clearly a genius who’s racked up multiple degrees) accompanied by three sorority friends: toy-loving Tina Toy, tiny Lita Little and tall Thelma Tall. They crop up in several more adventures but they’re just a cheerleading section for Diana rather than mixing it up with villains Golden Age-style. After four stories Robert Kanigher dropped them; even when he rebooted the series to tell Golden Age stories he didn’t include Etta.

That left her MIA until the Wonder Woman TV show included Etta Candy (Beatrice Colen) as a character but this time a corporal rather than a college girl. When DC followed the show’s first season and shifted the comic book to World War II (the Wonder Woman of Earth 2 if that means anything to you) they brought back Etta Candy too. Once again she was military, which became part of her character from that point on. She also got a subplot of her own involving a Frenchman romancing her for ulterior motives, but the WW II era wrapped up before we learned his agenda.

When the Earth-One Wonder Woman adopts a military secret identity again, Etta returned as a military member and new buddy for Diana Prince. Regrettably she wasn’t a fighter here either and her struggles with weight were probably her main characteristic (with Diana grumbling about how men in Man’s World are so shallow not to see past the surface).

Etta got better storylines in the George Perez reboot. Perez wrote her tougher and more capable, plus Steve was now a friend to Diana rather than a  boyfriend. That freed him up to start dating Etta. Perez planned to marry them off in his final issue but wires got crossed and he was told to hold it over for the next writer. Ironically William Messner-Loebs, who took over the book, didn’t get around to marrying them either.

Since DC’s New 52 reboot Etta has been rebooted to be both black and lesbian; with Steve back as Diana’s lover, Etta’s now dating Barbara Minerva, the Cheetah. I’m a few years behind on Wonder Woman so I’m not sure if any of that’s changed.

#SFWApro. Art by Peter, Peter again, Ross Andru and Perez. All rights to images remain with current holders.

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Filed under Comics, Reading, Wonder Woman

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