Wonder Woman #1 was published in the summer of 1942 and was the first full-length comic book featuring only Wonder Woman stories. It’s composed of four stories, and so I’m choosing to spread out this issue into four blog posts because Wonder Woman #1 is important.
As an introduction, there’s a biography of Miss Alice Marble, associate editor of Wonder Woman. Which is basically a fluff piece on how she’s making sure Wonder Woman stays true to herself and as a hero for girls. Plus, how even grown women love Wonder Woman. While Marble was famous for playing tennis, her secret life a spy on Nazis was perhaps far more interesting. She retired due to being shot in the back while obtaining Nazi financial information in Switzerland. Now that’s some serious real life bad guy fighting. Interestingly enough, this all took place after she started editing Wonder Woman.
In addition to Marble’s bio, there’s also a page called “Who’s Wonder Woman?” where Greek gods — Aphrodite, Athena, Mercury, and Hercules — are used to explain Diana’s powers and beliefs as an easy introduction for new readers.
The first tale is a retelling of the origins of both the Amazons and how how Wonder Woman came to be in America. Some details are rehashed, some are new, and others have been edited. I felt like Marston had an editor’s red pen scribbled all over his original story. Here there is little to none of his cabinet of curiosities, and while there are still some ridiculous elements, the tale feels a lot tamer and less full of wacky what were they thinking moments. Wonder Woman’s original origin story appears in All-Star Comics #8.
The story’s framed by a doctor at the army hospital finding a parchment dropped by Wonder Woman. He realizes it’s ancient and sends it to the Smithsonian. The parchment contains the story of the Amazons and how they came to inhabit Paradise Isle, among other things.
The basic tale is the still the same. The Amazons are fierce warrior women who are conquered by Hercules when he tricks Hippolyta into removing her magic girdle to have sex with him. (Though Hercules keep calling it “making love.”) The Amazons are then enslaved by Hercules and his men. Aphrodite eventually frees them, and the Amazons are granted Paradise Isle as a sanctuary of peace away from the men.
Added details: Aphrodite crafts all the Amazons from clay. (Just like Wonder Woman is eventually crafted.) She also admits to basically leaving the Amazons as prisoners to teach them the “folly of submitting to man’s domination.” Aphrodite leads the Amazons to the isle by boat.
Then Marston tells for the first time the creation of Wonder Woman. Like the other Amazons, she’s molded from clay. Only she’s molded by Hippolyta as Hippolyta’s child and brought to life by Aphrodite. Aphrodite names her Diana, after the virgin goddess of the hunt.
(This is not the only time in his tale where Marston calls a Greek figure by their Roman name. At one point, he refers to Ares as Mars.)
We also see Diana as a child. A child who can pluck whole trees from the ground and run as fast as deer. We see her grow up and be devoted to both Aphrodite and Athena. She gets both her “bracelets of submission” and to drink from the fountain of youth.
Then there’s a retelling of Steve’s crash landing on Paradise Isle and Diana finding him. She then goes as a masked figure in the contest to be able to take him back to America.
The major differences include:
• Mala — who’s stated to be Diana’s best friend — and Diana drag Steve and his plane to shore. They don’t tell Hippolyta, but get a doctor.
• Diana stays up 5 days and nights in order to create a magical purple healing light. Which restores a pronounced dead Steve back to life. And healthy enough to wake up from his coma before he’s taken off the island.
• Aphrodite sends an Amazon to the world of men because she’s determined that Ares has not won. America is Aphrodite’s symbol of hope, whereas, Ares is just excited about World War II.
• In the athletic competition, there’s kanga riding with swords and wresting. But don’t worry, Marston kept the part where Diana shoots Mala in the arm.
• During the wrestling challenge, Marston creates an Amazon named Fatsis, who’s — you guessed it — fat and a “two ton grease heap.” The guy had some serious weight-related issues.
• Hippolyta seems less upset at Diana going to America, and Diana’s given her magic lasso right away. Diana also gets her Wonder Woman costume, which she gets really girly about her new clothing.
• Steve points out on a map that the Axis spy plane which shot him down is on a nearby island. They stop on their way to America. The spy is Japanese, and Diana uses her lasso to make him confess.
• The comic then turns to Steve’s point of view, and after Diana shows up with Steve at the army hospital, the next scene we see is Colonel Darnell congratulating him on a job well done and Nurse Diana at his side.
Like I said, I feel like an editor got after Marston’s origin story. Taking out some of the extraneous elements and cleaning house. There aren’t any elements I’m sad to see go, but at the same time, this feels almost too polished.
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