Friday, November 18, 2011


When I first started reading Wonder Woman in the 1960s, I found the
title...odd. Sometimes the stories were incredibly imaginative and
sometimes they were unbelievably silly. I always loved Ross Andru
and Mike Esposito’s artwork, though, up until the point when editor
Robert Kanigher decided to take Wonder Woman back to her earliest
1940s roots and have them imitate H.G. Peter’s art, a style I have
never found appealing. After a while, the 1940s vibe was dropped,
but Andru and Esposito moved on shortly thereafter. The title had
fallen on hard times.

When Mike Sekowsky came on board, aided and abetted by the modern-
as-all-get-out writing of Denny O’Neil, Wonder Woman shed all her
Amazon gear and powers to become DC’s version of Emma Peel from the
(British TV) Avengers. This astonishing change in direction was a
big hit with my teenage self. It would be years before it struck
me what a terrible idea the depowering of one of DC’s few heroines
had been. That doesn’t diminish my love for the Sekowsky issues,
but it’s a guilty pleasure.

Sekowsky seemed to get bored easily. During his few years drawing,
writing, and editing Wonder Woman, he changed genres quite often.
That continued when Sekowsky left and Denny O’Neil took change of
the title. I was never quite sure what I thought of Wonder Woman
in the early 1970s.

The new story in DC Retroactive: Wonder Woman - The ‘70s #1 [$4.99]
starts with Wonder Woman in familiar Amazon garb. Written by O’Neil with
not-quite-right-for-this-story art by J. Bone, “Savage Trials” has
someone ancient being castigating Wonder Woman for abandoning her
heritage and powers. The being depowers Wonder Woman again, puts
her in her Emma Peel outfit, and makes her face several supposedly
redemptive trials to prove her worth. This makes little sense to
me and, frankly, it’s just as offensive as when, in the mid-1970s,
Wonder Woman went through something like a dozen “trials” to “earn”
her way back into the Justice League.

The reprint is better written (O’Neil) and drawn (Dick Giordano),
but it’s all over the place. Sans her powers and wearing the Emma
Peel suit, Diana Prince and I-Ching face foreign intrigue, a tussle
with a Catwoman sorely lacking in personality, and some sword play
that, if I remember correctly, led into a other-dimensional meeting
with Fritz Lieber’s Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser. All in all, not a
very good issue.

DC Retroactive: Wonder Woman - The ‘80s #1 [$4.99] was more to my
taste. Both the new story and the old story were written by friend
and mentor Roy Thomas and I am of the opinion that we need more new
comics by Roy. Though the mix-and-match art on the new story was
awkward to say the least, it was great fun seeing the Amazon doing
battle with the Silver Swan and, behind the scenes, Doctor Psycho.
And the Gene Colan/Romeo Tanghal art on the reprinted story is as
sweet today as it was in the 1980s.

Trivia note: Gene’s splash page was a wee joke on the part of Roy
and him. It’s a nod to the very first Iron Man splash page drawn
by Gene back in the 1960s. Fun stuff then and now.

I don’t remember much about Wonder Woman in the 1990s. That decade
saw a lot of pandering to fleeting trends and speculators. I was
dealing with various health issues. And, about midway through the
decade, DC Comics again screwed me over re: Black Lightning. One of
the results of all of the above was that my reading of DC’s super-
hero comics was pretty spotty.

This is why DC Retroactive: Wonder Woman - The ‘90s #1 [$4.99] was
such a pleasant surprise. I don’t recall reading much - if any -
of writer Bill Messner-Loebs’ run on the title, but, if it was as
good as the new and reprinted stories in this issue, I missed out
on some good comics. It’s probably too much to hope for that DC
has collected his run since then.

“Wonder Girls” has Wonder Woman as a camp counselor for a group of
less-than-athletic young ladies. Drawn by Lee Moder with inks by
Dan Green, it puts me in mind of the girl-empowerment adventures of
Little Lulu. The emphasis is on character interaction with large
doses of humor. It was fun and fun is not something we see from DC
super-hero comics in this modern era.

The reprinted “A Sudden Deadly Leap” wasn’t as much fun as the new
story and wasn’t anywhere near as nicely drawn, but it was a solid
adventure tale. Unfortunately, it was but the first chapter of a
longer story.

I’m thinking I need to track down my friend Bill’s Wonder Woman run
and see what I missed. I’m also thinking, as I did often as I made
my tedious way through the mostly substandard “New 52" that DC and
its readers would benefit greatly from a return to active service
of veteran comics people like Messner-Loebs. Pretend all you want,
DC, but most of your newer writers and artists don’t have what it
takes to tell truly memorable stories.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2011 Tony Isabella


  1. "Pretend all you want,DC, but most of your newer writers and artists don’t have what it
    takes to tell truly memorable stories."

    Truer words have not yet been said today.

  2. the nostalgic Wonder Woman TV Series complete dvd boxed sets are among those that have a room on my library compartment. Romeo Tanghal, inker of the 80's DC Teen Titans is among one of those great talents who came from our local shore.

    Chris Lim

  3. I feel that DC Retroactive has been a big missed opportunity for the most part.

    It feels like they had a rather neat idea, but then everybody got caught up in preparing for the big "Heroes Reworn" nu52 relaunch and nobody really spent too much time or effort on those. They could have picked much better reprint stories, in many cases. And some of the artists they chose don't make a lot of sense to me, either.

  4. This was posted by Bill Messner-Loebs on Facebook just in the last couple weeks ...

    Some of you may be near Brighton or Howell, Michigan, and if you know of any possible jobs I would love to hear about it. I've worked in comic art for years, but I've also worked in retail, been a library clerk, edited an on line magazine, done custom framing and various other jobs. We are teetering on being homeless so I'm not picky. Thanks!

    SOMEBODY OUT THERE IN THE INDUSTRY GIVE THIS GUY SOME WORK!!! ... Bill's one of comics' best writers and, without a doubt, one of the nicest guys you'd ever want to meet ... it's heartbreaking when you see someone like this tossed aside by an industry that too often chews people up and spits them out. It's one thing for DC to throw him a few crumbs with the RETRO gigs but regular work is what he needs!

  5. The problem with Wonder Woman in the 90s was every writer wanting to leave a mark. George Perez did a wonderful job rebooting the franchise to have most of the background jettisoned by Messner-Loebs who had his work dumped by Byrne and so forth. I believe Messner-Loebs was most famous for making Artemis Wonder Woman during his run.