Comics

The Sensational World of Early Wonder Woman

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Those old comics, they must all be dopey and hokey, right? And how could there possibly be good Wonder Woman stories back then in the Golden Age, with the simplistic stories and almost exclusively cishet male writers? While it’s true that Action Comics #1 doesn’t have the emotional resonance of something like Superman Red Son, and that early comics were lacking in diversity, that doesn’t mean the Golden Age doesn’t have the occasional vein of gold.

Wonder Woman debuted in All-Star Comics #8 before headlining the new Sensation Comics in January of 1942. She proved so popular that not only did she join the Justice Society in June, but she got her own self-titled book in the summer. Diana, Princess of Paradise Island, got a solo title in half the time it took Superman and Batman to do the same.

Basically, she was a big damn deal.

Wonder Woman: Objectifying men since 1942

Wonder Woman: Objectifying men since 1942.

Contrary to what most people think, comics have been actively targeting girls since their inception.  Hell, Stan Lee wrote Millie The Model. Wonder Woman was created by William Moulton Marston, who once wrote,

“It seemed to me, from a psychological angle, that the comics’ worst offense was their blood-curdling masculinity.”

As for the Wonder Woman stories in Sensation Comics, what sets them apart? Aside from the then-novel presence of a female superhero, the book was really a war comic that starred a superhero. War comics were big business in the 1940s, and the same genre birthed both Captain America and Nick Fury. While other superheroes of the time mostly dealt with mobsters, Wonder Woman’s campaign against the rather ridiculous Nazi plots on American soil makes for exciting adventure fodder.

But if all you want is a costumed do-gooder matching the machinations of the morbid Nazi regime, why not just read Captain America? Because, unlike most of comicdom then, women not only exist, but are active and powerful in these stories.

Diana may be starry-eyed for the bland Steve Trevor, but she’s so much more than that. Diana investigates mysterious goings-on and discovers Nazi plots the Army never even suspects exist. She fights off Nazi agents by the barrelful. She helps other women, and relies on other women to help her. This version of Wonder Woman is brave, cunning and always ready with a line that’s just begging to shared all over Tumblr with endless “MISANDRY” and “MATRIARCHY” gifs underneath it.

Aside from Wonder Woman, there’s also her go-to gal pal Etta Candy. Whose name is a pun because she…likes to…eat candy…The picture below pretty much sums up everything you need to know about Etta.

pvp-ww-etta

Though she may be worried about losing her candy, she just stole a policeman’s bike to help Steve Trevor chase down a Nazi agent without being asked or prompted to. She’s just badass like that.

Though Etta gets at least one joke about her candy per issue and the girls of Holliday College are often busy tee-heeing about boys, Etta is always perfectly happy to march her girls against the Nazis. They prove surprisingly effective, often overpowering them without issue.

This isn’t to say these old stories are perfect. They fall into the era’s sexist claptrap about as often as Wonder Woman or Etta and her girls subvert it, but it’s not as bad as you might expect. Overall, they’re pretty sensational.

Diana does not have time for your feelings.

Diana does not have time for your feelings.

Hopefully I’ll be talking about this issues in a more in-depth way on an upcoming site. But that, dear reader, is a story for another time…

A good chap who frequently gets tea leaves stuck in his eyebrows.

1 Comment

  1. Ahmer

    May 18, 2014 at 2:01 PM

    I liked this article. I used to love reading Wonder Woman, she always seemed to have more fierce tenacity than a lot of heroes.

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