Monday, June 6, 2016

Wonder Woman Retconned Already in Her Eponymous Mag

Wonder Woman (1942) #1 Page 9 Panel 8: Diana works feverishly to create a healing ray to save Steve Trevor.
So, it turns out that one of my main gripes about Wonder Woman's debut gets retconned in the first issue of her eponymous mag.

Instead of falling in love with a comatose Steve Trevor (for no good reason), Now Wonder Woman not only gets the chance to interact with Steve before taking him back to the States, she actually builds the "healing ray" that brings him back to life!

Yup, that's right, this time Steve dies on the table from his injuries in the crash-landing. And Wonder Woman builds a device to bring him back from the dead.

Steve is a Zombie.
Wonder Woman (1942) #1 Page 42 Panel 2: Diana uses the Amazon Brain Wave Reader because she has a feeling someone needs her help.
Most Amusing Panel Prize:

Not only can Wonder Woman pick up "brain waves" with her handy-dandy Amazon invention, she is also psychic/intuitive enough to know when those brain waves are coming.


I only own Sensation Comics #1 and All-Star Comics #8 (as far as early issues starring Wonder Woman go), so I'm not sure what may have transpired between those issues and Wonder Woman #1, but in this inaugural issue of her own mag, Marston and crew retell Wonder Woman's origin story making some not insignificant changes.

This time the war between women and men is writ large on the mythos of Ares' rivalry with Aphrodite. Where he would have men rule the earth through violence ("the sword"), Aphrodite would have women "conquer men with love."

Wonder Woman (1942) #1 Page 4 Panel 7: Ares and Aphrodite stake their claims as to who will "rule" the Earth: men or women.

UGH. Gender norms, anyone?

Wonder Woman (1942) #1 Page 6 Panels 4 & 5: Hercules tricks Hippolyta with his "charms," stealing her magic girdle.
This presumed ongoing animosity between the genders is illustrated with a lengthier version of the Hercules myth in which he steals Hippolyta's magical girdle by seducing her or, as Marston puts it, using "woman's own weapon" against her.

More UGH.

Wonder Woman (1942) #1 Page 8 Panels 2 & 3: Hippolyta forms Diana in clay and the goddess Aphrodite breathes life into the form.
This time, however, Hippolyta does indeed mold Diana out of clay, and the goddess Aphrodite gives her life to answer Hippolyta's prayers, and while I am happy this detail of her female-centric origin made it into this retelling, Wonder Woman as an idealized woman takes on saint-like proportions in this version of her origin.

Wonder Woman (1942) #1 Page 13 Panel 7: "Diana, like any other girl with new clothes, cannot wait to try them on." UGH.
Hearkening back to Gilbert & Gubar's analysis of the Goddess and Whore dichotomy, Diana is firmly fixed in the goddess category. She is ultra-feminine (to the 1940's standards for white Western women) and completely selfless. She is purity itself in motive and deed.

Wonder Woman (1942) #1 Page 12 Panel 2: Mala, Wonder Woman's best friend on Paradise Island, wrestles with "Fatsis," mocking her about her weight calling her a "two-ton grease heap."Unfortunately, these traditional feminine beauty standards are actually reinforced by the Amazons through the mocking of their larger sisters. In the competition for who will take Steve Trevor back to America, Diana's best friend, Mala, wrestles with Fatsis (Fat-sis, seriously?), mocking her about her weight.

Wonder Woman (1942) #1 Page 44 Panel 8: Diana suggests Etta Candy should watch what she eats elsewise Etta won't be able to "catch a man." Etta, the proto-lesbian, has no problem with that (not catching a man).
Even Diana badgers Etta Candy into trying to lose weight so that she can "catch a man." When Etta argues with the "man motive," suggesting men find her attractive as she is (otherwise, she would "knock 'em for a loop"), Diana shifts tack to suggest Etta will feel better if she loses weight, but then Diana has to go and try to guilt her by suggesting Etta's being "unpatriotic to hoard...fat."

So, in addition to these antiquated notions of what makes women desirable/beautiful, there's some downright racist imagery of Black, Asian, and Hispanic characters in this issue. Yeah, yeah, a product of the time in which these stories were written... but, dang. They are truly awful (and so incongruous with the equality the mag ostensibly promotes through its American patriotism during WWII).

Wonder Woman (1942) #1 Page 10 Panel 7: Ares suggests he rules because the whole world is at war (WWII), but Aphrodite stakes her faith on America as the bastion of liberty and justice (plus she's sending an Amazon to help America to win the war).

Final Notions:

Wonder Woman (1942) #1 Page 53 Panel 5: Wonder Woman tries to persuade Pepita to use her talents for good.There's a lot to like about this Diana Prince. She tries to rescue, not just defeat. (When Pepita, the villain in the last story in this issue, is endangered by a raging bull, Wonder Woman saves her and encourages her to reform despite all Pepita has done through her villainy.)

But these early efforts at a feminist icon stumble along unconscious assumptions about gender (it's more complicated than boy/girl) and beauty (there's more than one body type) and race (just UGH).

(And Steve is still as interesting as a cardboard cut-out. Cardboard Zombie Steve. Diana fell in love with that?)

Wonder Woman (1942) #1 Cover
Series: Wonder Woman (1942)

Issue #: 001

Copyright: DC Comics

Cover Date: Summer 1942

Cover Price: 10¢

Page Count:  57 pages

Print Release: 22-April-1942

Digital Release: 25-June-2011

William Moulton Marston (as Charles Moulton)
DC Comics Logo
None Listed
Cover Art:
Source Links:
Story Titles:
“The Origin of Wonder Woman”; “Wonder Woman Goes to the Circus”; “The Master Plan of Paula Von Gunther”; “The Greatest Feat of Daring in Human History”

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