Category Archives: Comics

Voodoo, archeology, a dying world and a suicide slum: books read

MAMA LOLA: A Vodou Priestess in Brooklyn grew out of author Karen McCarthy Brown’s doctoral thesis but expanded as she became friends with the eponymous Haitian American priestess, participating in vodou rituals and even undertaking spirit marriage to Damballah. Brown manages to bounce between Mama Lola’s (though she refers to her mostly by her regular name of Ahlourdes) life, the Haitian culture and worldview (“There’s no Heaven in Vodou — the spirits constantly complain of how cold and hungry the afterlife is.”), the nature of the spirits and the various religious rituals without losing the book’s unity, which isn’t always the case; not what I expected, but most interesting.

A SHORT HISTORY OF ARCHAEOLOGY by Glyn Daniel was part of a series of archeological books. Daniel traces the beginnings of archeology back to the 1500s-1700s as the idea developed that ancient sites could be studied, not just as looted for pretty items, though some found that concept pretty implausible (Samuel Johnson scoffed that a few ruins couldn’t possibly tell us what the great writers of the past hadn’t said). Unfortunately this is very dry, mostly a list of Great Names and Their Discoveries, though I don’t know if there’s a better way to cover the topic.

I wondered how Leigh Brackett would wrap up her Skaith trilogy when Stark appeared to have won in Hounds of Skaith. In the opening of REAVERS OF SKAITH, we learn the space captain taking Stark and his father-figure Simon home to civilization sold them back to their enemies on Skaith, then began looting the planet. Now Stark has to escape, cross the world again and find a means to communicate with the Galactic Union or he and Simon will be stuck on the dying planet.

While Skaith has been introduced as a dying planet from the first, now the death-throes of the world are in full swing, as a final ice age begins inching across the planet. All the cults and races must either prepare for the end or try to join Stark in emigrating. The exception are the Lords Protector who are confident that after most of the population dies, they can rebuild their society without any major changes. The brooding mood made this less effective than Hounds but even second-string Brackett is pretty cool.

After launching Captain America at Marvel, Jack Kirby and Joe Simon moved to DC for a successful run (their Boy Commandos was only a little short of Superman and Batman in sales). THE NEWSBOY LEGION, Volume One collects one of their creations, the story of four homeless, orphaned newsboys (Scrapper, Tommy, Big Words and Gabby) struggling to survive in the grinding poverty of the Suicide Slum neighborhood. Jim Harper, the new cop in the slum, is finding it just as hard to accomplish anything until he adopts the masked identity of the Guardian. As the kids have an uncanny knack for stumbling onto crimes and Nazi plots, it’s just as well Harper has their back in both his identities, though it sure frustrates the kids that they can never quite prove Harper’s the man under the mask.

The stories have a goofy charm and Kirby’s usual visual energy, as you can see from the cover here. Like a lot of Golden Age stuff, YMMV but I definitely enjoyed them.

#SFWApro. All rights to cover image remain with current holder.

Leave a comment

Filed under Comics, Reading

Old foes in new bottles: George Perez’s Wonder Woman (again)

Since I last reviewed the George Perez Wonder Woman reboot, I’ve read slightly over another year’s worth of issues, and a busy year for Diana it was.

Crossovers. Following the success of Crisis on Infinite Earths, crossovers became an annual event. In #8, which is told in a series of letters and diary entries, Wonder Woman participates in the dreadful Legends crossover event. A couple of issues later, she launches a plotline that ties into the much better Millennium crossover. These things can bog a series down, but Perez handles them well. Legends happens offstage and Millennium ties into Diana’s own story.

The myths. Following her defeat of Ares, Zeus, egged on by Pan (who turns out to be one of Millennium‘s villainous Manhunters) generously offers to have sex with her. Diana refuses; an indignant Zeus commands her to enter Doom’s Doorway below Paradise Island and test herself against the monsters there, to prove her worth as Amazon champion in “the Challenge of the Gods.” Plenty of action, mythological monsters, a big reveal about how closely Diana’s tied to Steve Trevor and the discovery of Hercules, imprisoned there in torment. It’s a good story that gives Hippolyta a chance to shine too. However the Amazons forgiving Hercules for assaulting, enslaving and raping them doesn’t sit as well with me as it did on first reading.

There’s also a minor retcon of John Byrne’s Genesis crossover, which established that all Earthly pantheons are indirectly the children of Jack Kirby’s New Gods. I never liked that (Kirby’s awesome, but he ain’t Homer) and Perez specifically negates it, at least for the Olympians.

Romance, or at least as close as Perez’ Diana ever came. In Legends she meets Superman and understandably she’s blown away by him. Is the feeling she has when she thinks about him what people in Patriarch’s World call love? It isn’t (there’s a team-up story in Action Comics that settles that) and Diana’s love life goes dormant until the 21st century. I think this suffers from Perez not wanting to get into the possibility of Amazon lesbian love (so Diana would understand love, just without heterosexual examples) though he did touch on it later (Greg Rucka made it explicit).

Talk and more talk. In an interview (never published, alas) I asked one comics writer and WW fan what she thought of the reboot, and she said it was too talky. I didn’t think so at the time, but I must admit it’s more notable rereading. #8 is mostly people talking about Diana, rather than Diana doing anything; in #17 Diana visits Julia and Vanessa in Greece and there’s a whole bunch more talk. Not that talk is a bad thing — James Robinson’s Starman is conversation-heavy and usually uses its well — but in these books the dialog is not really interesting enough.

•Old foes. In these thirteen issues, Perez reboots three pre-Crisis adversaries, to varying success. First came Barbara Minerva, the post-Crisis version of the Cheetah. Minerva is an archeologist who steals relics she can’t collect legitimately. When she’s not able to steal Wonder Woman’s lasso, she tries taking it by force, transforming herself into the fast, deadly Cheetah (as you can see a cat-woman rather than a woman in costume).

I’ve never thought well of this Cheetah, but rereading I realize that’s not Perez’ fault. His Barbara Minerva has a focus; multiple other writers have used her since, but without any focus. She’s just a Wonder Woman villain with no distinctive motives or goals beyond villainy. That’s damn boring. But that isn’t Perez’ fault, so I apologize for thinking so.Next up, the post-Crisis Silver Swan. Surprisingly for a guy who loves mythology, Perez skipped Roy Thomas’ version (a descendant of Helen of Troy) in favor of an abused woman whose bullying husband has not only empowered her with a sonic cry (science, this time) but brainwashed her with a jealousy of Wonder Woman (quite close to the original Cheetah’s, actually). It’s an effective story, but Thomas’ mythological origin was so much better, I wish Perez had incorporated it (I think it could be done without losing the abusive relationship aspect).

And finally we get Circe, who markedly improves on Dan Mishkin’s version. It turns out the part of Greece Wonder Woman visits is under control of Circe, who lives on an isolated island but uses her shapeshifted slaves (“beastiamorphs”) to monitor the area in animal form; work against her and you die. The resistance sees Wonder Woman’s presence as a chance to get free; Circe sees her as a prophesied threat (as did the Mishkin version, but the prophecy’s easier to understand here).

What makes Perez’ Circe interesting isn’t the curse but that she’s Wonder Woman’s polar opposite. Diana preaches gender equality and friendship between men and women. Circe, by contrast, is a misanthrope who hates both sexes (used by men, shat on by other women, or so she sees it); she’s devoted her immortality to spreading distrust, manipulation and hostility between them, including murdering Hippolyta’s sister Antiope (her marriage to Theseus was too warm and friendly). There’s a passing reference to Circe running various vice enterprises under pseudonyms to further her aims; today she’d probably be running revenge porn websites.

After such a strong beginning, unfortunately, Circe didn’t return until 1991’s War of the Gods crossover, and I don’t think she kept the malevolent MO (both the Cheetah and Silver Swan came back quicker). We’ll see.

Like his initial arc, Perez’ work doesn’t blow me away as much as it did, but it’s still damn good.

#SFWApro. Wonder Woman covers by George Perez, New Gods by Jack Kirby, all rights remain with current holder.

Leave a comment

Filed under Comics, Reading, Wonder Woman

Romance for Tuesday

While I’ve never been a romance comics reader, I do find some of the comics covers striking. See what you think. First, one by John Romita.

Jay Scott Pike provided this striking image.And dang, this pretty much embodies the idea of a sexy young woman from around the time I hit puberty. Dick Giordano did the art.A somewhat more old-fashioned image by Bernard Sachs shows that even in 1950s love comics, musicians got the girls.And another by Sachs. Love the yearning, heartbroken look, but as a friend of mine says, where does she keep her intestines?Another RomitaAnd another uncredited one. “The Life and Loves of Lisa St. Clair” involved a wealthy young woman searching for a man who’d love her for herself, not her money.For anyone who does have an interest in this genre, Jacqueline Nodell’s Sequential Crush blog is very good.

#SFWApro. All rights to images remain with current holders. Source for covers was the invaluable Mike’s Amazing World website.

Leave a comment

Filed under Comics, cover art

Nursing is a world of danger, drama and death!

Because obviously a Bronze Age Marvel Comic wouldn’t lie about that would they?

And it is my imagination or does the protagonist have some serious push-up bra action going on?

#SFWAPro. Cover by J. Winslow Mortimer, a veteran comics artist dating back to the Golden Age. All rights remain with current holder.

Leave a comment

Filed under Comics, cover art

Scooby-Doo, Smash and Robert Bloch: books read

SCOOBY DOO TEAM-UP Vol. 2 by Sholly Fisch, Dario Brizuela and Scott Jeralds continues in the spirit of V1, except broadening the range: rather than sticking to DC superheroes, they time travel back to the “modern stone age” of the Flintstones, forward to the age of the Jetsons, then encounters with Superman Jonny Quest, Secret Squirrel and Harley Quinn. A lot of the fun is the in-jokes (“I’m glad you kids won’t be here for breakfast — Barney keeps trying to steal my cereal.”) so the weakest installment is with Secret Squirrel — he simply doesn’t have enough of a history to contribute much material. Second weakest is Superman, because while funny, the kids really don’t affect the plot any. Still, a pleasure to read.

SMASH: Trial by Fire by Chris A. Bolton is a graphic novel in which pre-teen Andrew accidentally acquires the powers of the world’s mightiest hero when the villainous Magus’ attempt to steal the powers of the Defender goes slightly awry. The results as Andrew struggles to live up to his new powers are funny, but the art got too confusing in the action scenes.

THE BEST OF ROBERT BLOCH is a collection of short stories ranging from Yours Truly Jack the Ripper (which Bloch himself considers somewhat overrated), to the pastiche The Man Who Collected Humor the gentle humor of All on a Golden Afternoon (easily his gentlest mockery of psychiatry) to the utopian World Timers and the computer-terrorism story The Oracle. Not all A-list — The Learning Maze is a tedious Western Union — but overall excellent. The cover comes from Bloch’s Hugo-winner That Hellbound Train, a funny but pointed story about our inability to know how good we have it.

#SFWApro. Covers by Dario Brizuela (top) and Paul Alexander, all rights remain with curren tholders.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Comics, Reading, Uncategorized

Golden-Age Wonder Woman: Surprised by Joye

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Comics, Wonder Woman

Hellboy in Mexico! Charles Fort damned! A missing planet! This week in books

Despite the cover, HELLBOY AND THE B.P.R.D. 1956 by Mike Mignola and the usual assortment of collaborators doesn’t have much Hellboy in it. This overlaps with the time frame of Hellboy in Mexico so while Hellboy is off brawling and drinking with luchadores and making the Hellboy vs. Lobster Johnson film, the BPRD is continuing its investigation into US/UK/USSR occult espionage programs, which is not making people in the spy world happy. This was good, but feels more like an installment than it should for five issues of story: there’s no payoff, just setting off for a big finish in (maybe) 1957.

Interweaving the timing of the two books for the Hellboy Chronology was difficult, but I’ve done the best I could. I may revise it later so if anyone has questions about my reasoning, feel free to comment there.

THE BOOK OF THE DAMNED is my first encounter with the legendary researcher of the occult Charles Fort and makes me appreciate why he was so influential, though I can’t say I’m blown away. The strength of the book is Fort’s long catalogue of weird events, with so many cannonballs, frogs, fish, blood and raw flesh falling out of the sky even a skeptic might wonder if “picked up in a cyclone” really explains it all (the one event I looked up proved to be a head-scratcher even today). However Fort’s arguments against conventional scientific thinking (his title reflects his view that his unorthodox ideas have been cast out into the dark) come off like a bad mix of hippie mysticism and deconstruction, made murkier by his writing style. For instance, writing about the failure of astronomers to locate the planet Vulcan (inside Mercury’s orbit, where it supposedly explained Mercury’s orbit not following Newtonian physics) Fort’s conclusion is not that science is fallible but that scientists know nothing except what orthodox dogma says they should no! And unsurprisingly his 1919 theories that falling objects come from a nearby planet/UFO (though he doesn’t use the term) haven’t aged very well now that we’ve gone up and found nothing there).

Reading Fort prompted me to check out THE HUNT FOR VULCAN … And How Albert Einstein Destroyed a Planet, Discovered Relativity and Changed the Universe by Thomas Levenson, which looks at the seismic impact Isaac Newton’s theory of gravity had, seemingly explaining everything from planetary orbits to tides to why things fall to the ground. That made it unthinkable that Uranus and Mercury didn’t conform exactly to Newton’s predicted orbits; when astronomers successfully predicted and found Neptune, it was logical to think a similar planet might be the cause of Mercury’s fluctuations. While some astronomers reported seeing Vulcan, the sightings weren’t replicated, leaving an awkward puzzle until Einstein’s general theory of relativity showed how gravity’s distortion of space-time explained the departure from Newton’s laws. Levenson uses the story to show how scientific advance is more awkward than popular portrayals suggest; even after it appeared Newton’s theories were discredited completely, astronomers refused to let go. A more levelheaded account of the issue than Fort (who doesn’t mention Einstein’s explanation, but that wasn’t common knowledge yet when Book of the Damned came out).

#SFWApro. Cover artist Dave Johnson, all rights to image remain with current holder.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Comics, Reading

Crisis in the Arrowverse: Mid-Season reviews

If you follow this blog, you know I’m a huge fan of DC Comics’ superheroes, and of the Arrowverse. So as we’ve now reached the mid-season break point partway through the Crisis on Infinite Earths crossover, I thought I’d review the first half-seasons. Every show but Black Lightning was shaped by the looming crossover and predictions Flash and Green Arrow would both die.

I gave up on the CW’s initial superhero show ARROW after its flat S6 and the uninteresting opening of S7 (Ollie in prison and a B-plot with his kids trying to save Star City in the future). However, with the Crisis looming and this season announced as the finish, I figured I’d give it a try — and I’m glad I did. With nothing left to hold back, the season has Ollie working for the Monitor to try and stave off the looming apocalypse. In the process he gets to see most of the show’s long-gone cast including Thea, Roy Harper, Nyssa al Ghul, Katana and Tommy and Malcolm Merlyn (parallel world versions who die in the first episode when their world is devoured by anti-matter). Plus the show brought the future kids William and Mia and their teammate Connor into the present, and interacting with the regular cast they became much more interesting.

FLASH‘s previous season was so-so (though as I love the character, I rated it better than perhaps it deserved) and the main plot this season was disappointing. The villain, Bloodwork, tried using dark matter to cure his lethal illness and instead became a freak who can create zombie armies by his control of blood. He’s not interesting, nor is he tragic (they try) and the big zombie battle that wrapped up was uninspired. On the plus side, Barry and Team Flash trying to deal with the Crisis and Barry’s inevitable death (spoiler: not so inevitable after all. You’ll see) was a lot more interesting. Unfortunately we’ll be back to Bloodwork next year.

SUPERGIRL also had a mixed previous season, ranging from the high of Jon Cryer’s Lex Luthor to the low of wasting Manchester Black. This season she’s been dealing with J’Onn’s evil brother M’alefic; Lena seeking revenge for what she feels is Kara’s betrayal; and Leviathan, a cabal of aliens out to preserve the Earth by mass-culling of the human population (plus the corporate takeover of CatCo). Some of this worked well, like M’alefic’s redemption, some of it not so much: while I can understand Lena having trust issues given her murderous family, it’s hard to have that much sympathy for her. Katie McGrath does her best, but as Alex points out, Lena kept her own secrets last season. But I’m more hopeful for the second half than I am with Flash.

BATWOMAN started its first season awfully slow as Kate Kane (Ruby Rose) discovers her cousin Bruce’s identity and deals with her longstanding trauma, the death of her mother and twin sister Beth in an accident that Kate survived. However things picked up fast as Kate stepped into the absent Bruce’s crimefighting shoes: Rose is good in the lead, supported by Lucius Fox’s son Luke (Camrus Johnson) and opposed by Alice (Rachel Skarsten) whom Kate becomes convinced is her missing sister, though dad (Dougray Scott) doesn’t believe it.

Skarsten’s Alice is a Joker-class lunatic and the actor nails it. I also like the sibling rivalry aspect: Kate’s stepsister Mary and Alice’s surrogate brother and partner-in-crime Mouse both resent that the twins still have a bond that rivals theirs. The pre-Crisis season ends with everything falling apart, so I look forward to what follows in 2020.

BLACK LIGHTNING ended S2 with the American Security Agency locking up the entire Pierce family. Things haven’t improved this season as the ASA places Freeland on lockdown, nominally to protect from the Markovian terrorists but just as much to control them. By the mid-season point, Jeff has given up on trying to be moderate, Blackbird’s a revolutionary, Jennifer’s doing wetwork for the ASA and the agency’s scheming Odell has Lynn addicted to the greenlight drug. It’s grim stuff, but I’m enjoying it. This show continues staying apart from the rest of the Arrowverse: Jeff appears briefly in the crossover (I’ll review that in a subsequent post) and the show’s final pre-crisis episode involves Jennifer encountering her parallel-world selves from out in the multiverse, before Black Lightning’s earth dies (don’t worry, I’m confident they’ll be back).

#SFWApro. Cover by George Perez, all rights to images remain with current holders

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Comics, TV

Beans, arsenic, books and cats: books read

Back in the 1980s I heard about Eclipse’s Tales of the Beanworld as a remarkable indie comic but I don’t recall seeing an issue (though one of the characters did turn up in Eclipse’s crossover event, Total Eclipse). Reading THE BEANWORLD OMNIBUS by Larry Marder makes me appreciate that “remarkable” understates it.

This is set in a world of living beans, most of whom look alike except for the female scientist Proffy and the beans’ champion, Mr. Spook (battling above against one of the Goofy Service Jerks). They exist in a weird alternate reality where they hunt for food across the dimensions, bask in the love of the mighty tree Gran’ma’pa and celebrate life with both music and art. Plus subplots such as Mr. Spook pondering his destiny, the birth of a batch of baby beans and one bean, Beanish, falling in love with some sort of sun goddess (Dreamish). None of which gives the flavor of this thing. I utterly loved it, and I look forward to getting the second omnibus.

THE ARSENIC LABYRINTH by Martin Edwards is a competent British mystery novel in a series about a Lake District cold-case detective who in this story reluctantly takes up an old missing-woman case a reporter has dragged back to public attention. When someone calls the reporter and insists the woman is definitely dead and not just vanished, the pressure ratchets up; then when they finally find the woman’s body, it turns out her corpse isn’t alone. This one was just “meh” for me; I’d gotten it because Edwards’ writing about the Golden Age of Mysteries sparked my interest, but it’s a conventional contemporary rather than a retro mystery.

WHEN BOOKS WENT TO WAR: The Stories That Helped Us Win World War II by Molly Guptill Manning looks at the immense efforts by librarians, publishers and the military to provide cheap books to the troops for reading during those long periods of boredom between combat. The most memorable accomplishment was the Armed Service Editions, small, portable and cheap editions of popular books GIs could carry around with them (the excellent paperback history Two-Bit Culture says that making them cheap and disposable protected against a glut of used books hitting the post-war market). Selections ranged from The Great Gatsby (Manning says it was the GIs reading it that turned it from Forgotten to Classic — I wish she’d gone into more detail), A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (beloved for giving the guys a nostalgic taste of home), H.P. Lovecraft and the historical romance Forever Amber (quite hot by the standards of the time). Good, though when Manning goes into background on WW II history, I just skipped over it.

THE CAT’S HOUSE by Bob Walker details how the author made multiple special remodels for his growing family of cats, such as building walkways up near the ceiling. Not terribly useful for me in planning for Wisp, alas.

#SFWapro. Cover by Larry Marder, all rights to image remain with current holder.

Leave a comment

Filed under Comics, Reading

Wonder Woman: The Million-Dollar Penny

So earlier this year I started a project I’ve wanted to do for a while: rereading the Silver Age, month-by-month. Or more accurately, that limited part of the Silver Age I actually have in original or reprint. I started with month of Barry Allen’s debut as the Flash in 1956’s  Showcase #4 —And now I’m up to mid-1958. Superhero books are starting to come out again (the early 1950s, that was a dead zone in comics) and I have more stuff in reprints, including Wonder Woman‘s Silver Age run. About two weeks ago, I read the earliest Silver Age WW I have, Wonder Woman #98, “The Million-Dollar Penny.” It’s a minor landmark, arguably the first Earth-One Wonder Woman story, and the first Robert Kanigher wrote with Ross Andru and Mike Esposito as penciler/inker instead of Wonder Woman’s original artist, H.G. Peters. It’s enough of a departure from William Marston’s Golden Age work I thought it worth looking at the changes in detail.

Marston’s WW origin shows the Amazons created by Aphrodite as a symbol of women’s independence and a force for pacifism. Kanigher ducks all that feminism and pacifism stuff and simply establishes the Amazons as general fighters against tyranny and oppression in the ancient world, much as Marvel’s Golem isn’t specifically a defender of the Jews. Wonder Woman is shown being one of them back then, which would make her centuries old. I doubt Kanigher had that worked out as he later showed her as Wonder Girl helping the Amazons find Paradise Island, and still later implied she was young enough in the present her missing father was still alive. (an odd retcon I covered for Screen Rant).

The story proper kicks off when Aphrodite tells Hippolyta to send one Amazon into Man’s World to fight injustice, rather than battle WW II. That’s because it’s not presented as a flashback but as something happening at the time it came out; Kanigher’s effectively retconning WW’s history and rebooting her.

Unlike Marston, Hippolyta’s issue isn’t that she doesn’t want her daughter leaving Paradise Island, it’s that when the Amazons compete for the privilege, she’s terrified she’ll choose Diana out of favoritism. Diana’s solution is to have every Amazon wear a mask of her face, so Hippolyta won’t know who to pick. This plays into one of Kanigher’s favorite motifs in the years to come, pitting Wonder Woman against a double, as in the cover image. Needless to say she wins, and almost immediately has to save Steve Trevor, parachuting out of a plane over Paradise Island; if he sets foot on the island, the Amazons will lose their power. Not to worry: Diana saves him without letting him touch down and returns him to the U.S. There she faces her first test: Aphrodite has ordered her to turn one U.S. cent into a million dollars within 24 hours, with the return on the money going to help a children’s charity.

This is another trope Kanigher liked to use, of Wonder Woman being set some impossible challenge. He used it as far back as “The Five Tasks of Thomas Tighe” in #38.  The result is a somewhat rambling story in which Wonder Woman tries several ways to earn the money, but gets distracted by an eagle stealing the penny, and by an enemy submarine from some unidentified nation. At the last minute she finds a solution: there’s a bridge that needs building, with a million for the contractor who does it. So she takes the penny and by stretching it out with her super-strength, makes a massive amount of copper she then makes into the bridge. Which makes absolute zero sense, even by the physics of superhero comics, but that’s characteristic of Kanigher’s Silver Age superhero writing too (one reason he worked better on a book with a goofier tone, such as DC’s Metal Men).

It’s more of a departure from Marston than I realized when I read it in Showcase Presents Wonder Woman the first time. And very much a harbinger of what was to come.

#SFWApro. Top image by Carmine Infantino, bottom by Andru/Esposito. All rights to images remain with current holder.

Leave a comment

Filed under Comics, Wonder Woman