Now isn’t this a comic we all wished we owned? Or could go back to tell our grandparents to spend their ice cream money on.
The first thing that jumped out at me was Wonder Woman being presented as a hero we already know and love. Yes, William Moulton Marston’s going to give us Wonder Woman’s background. But at the same time, there’s a strong notion that Wonder Woman just saved our cat from a tree and gave us a hug. (This is what all Golden Age superheros do after they punch Hitler.) In a way, Wonder Woman’s set-up reminds me a lot of how Brian Michael Bendis wrote in Jessica Jones to the Marvel universe as an already existing hero who’s background was still a mystery. Of course, back when Marston wrote, I assume that’s what everyone else did too.
I think the opening paragraph’s very pivotal in setting up who Wonder Woman is. It’s as if I’m seeing Marston’s editorial pitch:
At last, in a world torn by the hatreds and wars of men, appears a woman to whom the problems and feats of men are mere child’s play — a woman whose identity is known to none, but whose sensational feats are outstanding in a fast-moving world! With a hundred time the agility and strength of our best male athletes and strongest wrestlers, she appears as though from nowhere to avenge an injustice or right a wrong! As lovely as Aphrodite — as wise as Athena — with the speed of Mercury and the strength of Hercules — she is known only as Wonder Woman, but who she is, or whence she came, nobody knows!
First, Wonder Woman’s set up as superior to men. And here I don’t think Marston meant “men” as “humans,” but really “men” as “male humans” given women’s limited roles — especially when it came to power in politics and business — in 1942. Humanity’s problems are nothing to Wonder Woman. Not only can she beat them physically, but she also pounces them with her superior mind. Clearly, Wonder Woman could easily solve World War II.
Second, I think her coming out of nowhere is particularly interesting. Did Americans (and other Western cultures) of the 1940s long to be saved from their problems by others? (This is a particular contrast to the somewhat Americans-do-for-America or World-working-together sentiments of today.) Granted, you know Wonder Woman supports America’s side because she dons red, white, and blue, plus the stars and the eagle. Not to mention, Wonder Woman worshiped and was given gifts by the Greeks gods, who at the time, most schoolchildren were familiar with. And she’s beautiful and wise.
Third, Marston promises us he’ll give us all her secrets so she’ll be familiar. I like that Marston knows his audience. Clearly, he wants girls to read this. He wants them to love Wonder Woman the same way he does. These are American girls in an uncertain time, and Wonder Woman is the hero they can imagine helping their fathers, uncles, and brothers fighting in World War II. And keeping them safe…
It’s incredibly pivotal that when Steve Trevor crashes on Paradise Island, Wonder Woman won’t leave his side. Despite her strength, Wonder Woman uses her wisdom and gentleness to nurse him back to health. (Nursing being one of the few occupations where women could basically serve on the front lines.) Steve is an incredible war hero, who despite being too high-ranking for his spy mission, would rather risk himself than his men for Nazi secrets. (Granted, I’m not really clear just what Steve’s plan was here or why he ever thought he’d succeed.) Steve’s a noble, self-sacrificing hero. If Wonder Woman was a normal woman rescuing him, Steve would come off as incompetent; but because she’s superior, we buy Steve being the great solider he’s written as.
The dues ex machina of the Magic Sphere here seemed like a relic of the 1940s. I wonder what happened to it? The Magic Sphere parts also seemed to lend to Marston telling, not showing, the history of the Amazons. Though I do get he had to cram as much background information as he could in this short 8-page story. (Wonder Woman’s tale shared the comic with two other stories; the JLA story being the one featured on the cover.) I thought Hippolyta’s story was interesting in its feature of the Magic Girdle (very feminine) as being the key to the Amazons’ strength and the manacles of submission (put on them by male slavers) as the reminder of their slavery to Hercules/men.
The story pretty heavily implied that Hippolyta lost her Magic Girdle by sex/romance with Hercules. Which seems to be saying her submission to Hercules as an Amazon was a bad move. On a side bdsm culture note, many bdsm practitioners believe you must first submit in order to truly understand what it means to be the master. The Amazons have clearly learned their lesson to keep their strengths.
I also think the Magic Sphere’s past and future seeing ability really helps Marston hang a lampshade on Wonder Woman not worrying about culture shock when she travels to America with Steve.
The spirits of Aphrodite and Athena appearing “as though in a mist” to Hippolyta in order to dispense advice seems more like her getting advice from her wise gal pals instead of two goddesses. Also an interesting emphasis on Aphrodite being more than just a love goddess. The gal-pal feel negates worries of Wonder Woman leading 1940s children to worship anyone, but Jesus.
The contest starts of pretty soft with a running with a deer footrace, which a masked Wonder Woman, of course, wins. But then quickly turns brutal as Wonder Woman and Mala basically shoot at one another while the other blocks the bullets with her bracelets. Seriously, Mala gets a bullet to the shoulder and looses. Harsh. Hippolyta is both shocked, but knows her duty, when the winner’s revealed as Wonder Woman.
This comic is actually better than I expected. And I definitely am enjoying reading Wonder Woman’s original tales.
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