The non-Wonder Years!
Hi gang I’m back! Did you miss me? I missed you. Continuing our celebration of WOMEN’S EMPOWERMENT MONTH we will continue with our look at Wonder Woman.
Last time together we spoke of a time when Wonder Woman wasn’t a costumed super-hero. Gasp! Yes, it’s true there was a time when Wonder Woman lost her powers and costume and continued her adventures as Diana Prince. Starting with WONDER WOMAN # 178 October 1968 and ending with WONDER WOMAN #203 December 1972 – a four year run – the adventures of Wonder Woman consisted of a de-powered Diana Prince now a martial arts expert continuing to fight crime based on her brains and skills alone.
Now I am on record as saying I approved of the changes and loved the new direction that Denny O’Neil and Mike Sekowsky took the comic book. Prior to their entering the picture Wonder Woman’s adventures had become stale and boring. Granted that her losing her costume and powers was a lot to take and did not sit well with a lot of fans. But the new stories were fresh and alive and more imaginative than what we had been getting. Here is a short sample of what Denny O’Neil and Mike Sekowsky hit us with.
– Mad scientist Doctor Cyber plans to kill congressmen, and congresswomen, by planting bombs in children’s toys and sending them to the politicians.
– Diana and her mentor I-Ching team up with private eye Tim Trench to battle Doctor Cyber. At her castle lair Cyber’s goons kill Steve Trevor.
– Diana Prince leads the fight against the mad god Ares and rallies the heroes of legend – King Arthur, Roland, El Cid, Siegfried, and all the rest. She then leads them as an army into battle against her grandfather Ares.
– Diana befriends a young runaway and in the process fights a street gang that preys on runaways and turns them into collared slaves.
– Diana fights Morgana the Witch pitting her martial arts expertise against the witch’s spells and manages to come out on top.
– In the other-dimensional land of Chalandor, Diana leads the fight against the evil queen. Thanks to Diana’s efforts the good guys win and the queen is exiled.
Amazingly enough Diana Prince had no powers but you never knew where she was going to wind up – London, Switzerland, other dimensions, Camelot, Manhattan – she got around more now than she ever did on her invisible plane. The stories written by Denny O’Neil, Mike Sekowsky, and later Samuel R. Delaney were outstanding! Yes, I said Samuel R. Delaney.
Nebula Award winning science Fiction writer Samuel R. Delaney – author of such works as NOVA, BABEL-17, and THE EINSTEIN INTERSECTION was the chronicler of Diana Prince’s final adventures in her de-powered state. Unfortunately, having a writer of Mister Delaney’s caliber is not a guarantee of appreciation – especially by those who meddle in what is none of their affair. Enter Gloria Steinem.
Feminist Gloria Steinem started a new magazine for women called MS. MAGAZINE. For her cover she chose a picture of Wonder Woman in her super-hero costume. Imagine her surprise to discover that Wonder Woman no longer looked that way and no longer had super-powers. Ms. Steinem was outraged and denounced DC Comics for de-powering the most powerful female super-hero. But she did this without ever checking out the Wonder Woman comic book. Her criticism came without her trying to understand why Denny O’Neil and Mike Sekowsky did what they did. Ms. Steinem knew nothing of the state Wonder Woman’s comic had been in nor did she know anything of the kind of stories the comic was doing now. It didn’t matter that Diana Prince was independent now for the first time – having no ties to the U.S. Military or the Amazons. It didn’t matter that Diana was now a businesswoman with her own Manhattan boutique. It didn’t matter that Diana was now righting wrongs using her brains and skills and not depending upon super-powers. All Ms. Steinem knew was that Wonder Woman’s powers had been taken away and she was infuriated. She complained to the publisher of DC – who had been a contributor to MS. MAGAZINE – and he decreed that Wonder Woman had to be turned back. At this point, as I said before, Samuel R. Delaney had taken over the writing chores and he was about to start a multi-part story where Diana Prince was going to save an abortion clinic. This was 1972. For a comic book to take that sort of stand would have been groundbreaking. For it to be Wonder Woman leading the way would have been historic. That would have been the essence of women’s empowerment. Unfortunately, it never happened thanks to Ms. Steinem’s meddling in things she should have stayed away from. Instead of the multi-part saga we said goodbye to Samuel R. Delaney and hello to a return to tired old plots and boring stories.
I showed you some of the plots from the stories by O’Neil and Sekowsky. Here is what we got back thanks to Ms. Steinem.
WONDER WOMAN #204 FEBRUARY 1973
A sniper kills I-Ching. Diana Prince goes after him but is struck in the head. An Amnesiac Diana steals a plane and heads for Paradise Island. Queen Hippolyta restores her memory with a device. She is given back all her old powers. But an armored woman challenges her for the right to be Wonder Woman. They fight to a draw so Diana stays Wonder Woman and returns to man’s world.
WONDER WOMAN #205 APRIL 1973
A terrorist by the name of Doctor Domino ties Wonder Woman to a missile and launches it in an attempt to force U.N. troubleshooter Morgan Tracy to give him the knowledge of a deadly weapon.
Excuse me while I yawn here!
WONDER WOMAN #206 JULY 1973
It turns out Wonder Woman has a twin sister Nubia who is Black and was raised by Mars the God of War. She was the armored woman from issue 204. As Mars attacks Paradise Island, Wonder Woman fights her sister.
WONDER WOMAN #207 SEPTEMBER 1973
Wonder Woman travels back thru time to help a princess and to find out why a statue of Wonder Woman was discovered in a 2000-years-old mummy case.
Hold on a moment. I threw up a little in my mouth over that one.
WONDER WOMAN #208 NOVEMBER 1973
Wonder Woman must run a gauntlet of four deadly dooms in order to save herself and her mother Queen Hippolyta.
Okay, that is enough. I can’t take anymore. This is a return to greatness? Needless to say I once again stopped buying this comic and crossed Wonder Woman off my list of favorites.
And so a noble experiment died not with a bang but with a whimper. We did not see a return to greatness for Wonder Woman until 1987 and the great George Perez. But that is a tale for another time.
To sum it up in my own inimitable style – everything prior to WONDER WOMAN #178 was crap and everything after WONDER WOMAN #203 was crap and only the four years in-between had anything approaching greatness. And to paraphrase one of my favorite writers Harlan Ellison – anyone who disagrees with me can come forward I’ll take you on one at a time or all together if need be.