The last story in Wonder Woman #1 may be the most offensive story written yet. Okay, actually, I don’t think it’s any more offensive than the one about the circus’ elephants earlier this issue.
In this story, Mint Candy, brother of Etta and solider in the US Army, is targeted by Japanese spies in order to get information about his division’s orders. In a very convoluted plot, Mint hits his head after a fall from a sabotaged motorcycle and Etta and Diana head to the Candy family’s ranch in Texas to cheer him up. Etta wants to set Mint up with Diana, and Diana just wants information to save America from the Axis.
Mint’s portrayed as something of a Gomer Pyle-like character. He’s simple-minded, but is always trying to do his best to help out his country. While the text never says he’s not good enough for Wonder Woman, it’s implied. But that’s okay because he ends up finding true love away. He also serves as Steve’s damsel-in-distress proxy for this tale.
The first bit of fail comes when Diana and Etta are aboard the train to Texas. Etta has the Porter bring her her suitcase. Sadly and unsurprisingly, the Porter, who is black, is drawn in black-face and speaks jive, and also sadly and unsurprisingly, Etta’s suitcase is full of candy, just enough to get her through the trip.
When Etta offers Diana a box of candy, Diana declines and then proceeds to give Etta a lecture on how fat she is and how she needs to go on a diet. Instead of say, being worried about her best friend’s health, Diana starts off her lecture telling Etta she needs to slim down in order to catch a man. When Etta claims that men love her, Diana goes into Wonder Woman-mode telling Etta that it’s unpatriotic to hoard, to hoard extra fat in your body. That’s right, being fat is unpatriotic. At that point, Etta concedes and tells Wonder Woman she’ll go on a diet and lose 10 pounds, and if she likes that, she’ll lose 50. Etta’s diet is not mentioned again until the end of the story, but Etta notably does not eat candy for the rest of their trip.
Etta and Diana meet up with Mint and Pancho, the Candy’s Mexican horse trainer. Interestingly enough, Mexicans are the only people of color to appear in Wonder Woman comics which aren’t outright racist stereotypes. Their portrayal is not completely unproblematic, but their portrayal doesn’t have the same problems of the Japanese, Burmese, or African-Americans’ depictions.
Mint decides to take them to an abandoned mine on the Candy property. (Pancho stays behind and makes a suspicious phone call.) In the mind shaft, the trio finds a woman, Pepita tied up inside and Mint proceeds to rescue her. Pepita claims that she’s been kidnapped and raped by a man who’s determined to marry her. Mint and she fall instantly in love with each other. Though the narration refers to Pepita several times as “dark and dangerous.”
Later, when they’re alone, Pepita gives Mint cigarettes, which turn out to both knock him out and act as a truth serum. Pancho shows up and interrogates Mint on his division’s orders. Interestingly enough, Pancho’s skin coloring makes him the darkest Mexican, which I do think equates him with being the evilest. Pepita, on the other hand, is a lot lighter, which is used as a shorthand for her beauty and her innocence in all this.
Pancho makes a dramatic exit before Etta and Diana show up. Though the horse trainer ends up being bucked off his horse later and consequently dies off-screen, never delivering his information.
Etta and Wonder Woman (in costume) leave Mint behind to chase (Etta riding on Wonder Woman’s back as she runs) after Pepita (on horseback) to Mexico City. To which I would like to point out that from the southern most tip of Texas to Mexico City is over 300 miles. But from Brazos, Texas (where the Candy ranch is, near Forth Worth) to Mexico City is over 600 miles. Pretty sure you had a map in 1942, Marston.
Pepita escapes when Etta and Diana are stopped at gunpoint by Mexicans and Japanese spies. Then they’re loaded into cars and taken part way to Mexico City. Mid-trip, the spies decided Etta is not only fat, but dead weight, and drop her off the back of the car so the other car (with Wonder Woman inside) can run her over. Wonder Woman, of course, easily breaks her bonds and somehow swerves both cars into crashing. All the bad guys die, and Wonder Woman and Etta continue their journey to Mexico City.
In Mexico City, they discover that Pepita is a famous bullfighter (another stereotype). She has killed 50 bulls in the ring, and they watch as she defeats another. But then, while waiting for the next round, one of the bulls, El Terrifico breaks out and goes right for Pepita. Wonder Woman swoops in to save her and lassos the bull. She makes El Terrifico lick her hand and then do a headstand.
In her dressing room, Pepita confesses to Etta and Wonder Woman that the Japanese threatened to kill her family and that’s why she helped get the information from Mint. She also gives them directions to a secret Japanese port base in Mexico and information that the Japanese plan to attack Mexico. (Another map note: Mexico City is over 150 miles from the ocean, and it’s more like 200 on the Pacific side.) Wonder Woman and Etta meet up with Steve Trevor and Mexico’s Captain Diaz (the whitest Mexican of them all, who apparently works out of Washington DC) at the base, and all the Japanese soldiers and spies are captured.
The story then quickly wraps itself up. Steve reads a newspaper, whose headline says that Wonder Woman has saved Mexico from the Japanese with the help of Steve Trevor. Pepita and Mint are reunited, and Wonder Woman gives their love a blessing from Aphrodite. And Etta tells Diana that the diet’s off and she’s going back to eating candy. Diana then laments in her thoughts that no one, not even Wonder Woman, can convince Etta to diet.