If there was a super hero title during the Silver Age of Comics that organized comic book fandom just didn’t care for, then WONDER WOMAN was that series. Year after year, it would be voted the title most in need of improvement, its silly and often hallucinatory stories not really appealing to the slightly-older fan crowd. As a result of this, you would expect that back issues of WONDER WOMAN would be plentiful and go for less money than their contemporaries. But in the entirety of my Windfall Comics purchase of 1988, there was only one issue to be found, this one, #107. And my copy was a bit chewed up, as though it had been well-read by whoever initially owned it.
In 1959 when this issue first saw print, WONDER WOMAN was following the same structure of most other DC comics starring solo heroes: it would feature three stories–or, as in this issue, a two-chapter opening story followed up by a shorter back-up story. The writing and editing was being handled by Robert Kanigher, who had been doing it for more than a decade, since the death of William Moulton Marston, the character’s creator. About a year earlier, Kanigher had done a refresh on the series, dropping the dated style of the Amazon’s other creator H.G. Peters in favor of the more modern renderings of Ross Andru and Mike Esposito. The stories in WONDER WOMAN might often be silly and juvenile, but the artwork by Andru and Esposito was unerringly attractive.
Like his fellow editor Mort Weisinger was doing on the Superman titles, Kanigher was attempting to build up a mythology around the character of Wonder Woman. This went a bit less smoothly than it did on the Superman titles in part because Kanigher’s stories would often contradict one another. One successful idea he had innovated was in telling stories of Diana before she’d reached adulthood, when she was merely a Wonder Girl rather than a full-blown Wonder Woman. The opening tale in this issue focuses on this iteration of the character. It opens with her meeting Ronno, a Merboy, who will go on to become a regular romantic interest for the teen Wonder Girl. Young Diana also routinely tunes in the Magic Sphere on her future adventures as Wonder Woman–which seems like cheating somehow. Anyway, this story kicks off with her asking her mother if she can begin to start wearing her eventual Wonder Woman uniform, since she now knows what it looks like.
A pause here for another of those wonderful Ira Schnapp-designed house ads that DC was running all through this period. This one’s for the teen comedy series A DATE WITH JUDY, which ran for a while. I would guess that the assumption was that WONDER WOMAN had a large readership of girls, and that they would be more interested in this sort of a series than any of DC’s other action/adventure offerings. it’s still a very real-gone, ginger peachy, cool-cool piece of work, though.
Back at the story,. Wonder Woman’s mother Hippolyta tells her daughter that Diana will have to perform a series of awesome feats in order to win the right to wear her future Wonder Woman costume. Suggestions for these feats are solicited from all of the Amazons, but it’s Diana’s own suggestions which prove to be the toughest, and which are chosen for the competition. There are three parts to the challenge, and in each one, Wonder Girl must retrieve an item that will be a part of her eventual costume. The first takes her beneath the ocean, where she must dive into the awaiting jaws of a cannibal clam in order to retrieve the stars that will be a part of her skirt. But Merboy attempts to help her, and instead winds up in deadly danger himself from a nearby swordfish. Diana has to extricate herself from the clam and save Ronno–which, of course, she does.
After that, Diana needs to retrieve a golden lasso that lies within an active volcano, and her emblem, which has been placed in the nest of a gigantic Roc. Diana handles the first of these tasks easily, but Merboy once again attempts to assist her with the Roc, and winds up in jeopardy himself, needing saving. Despite the fact that he hasn’t really done anything but foul things up, Wonder Girl thanks Ronno for his help, and ends the story by completing her makeshift version of her future costume, which she will wear in all of her further (past) adventures.
After a two-page illustrated feature on dating that was reprinted from 1954 and whose advice seems even more dated than that (not to mention written by middle aged men) and a text piece on contemporary fashions that’s equally out of date but which satisfies the Second Class Postal Regulations, we get the second story in the issue, also by Kanigher, Andru and Esposito. In it, Wonder Woman is called into action when an Air Force jet is surrounded by Jesse James and his band of outlaws in midair. Diana needs to combat this threat, and also figure out just what is behind it, since the real Jesse James died years earlier.
The answer, of course, turns out to be aliens, who are impersonating Jesse James and Billy the Kid and ransacking the Earth as really a bit of sport. Having been thwarted twice by Wonder Woman, the aliens intend to humiliate Diana by taking her prisoner. But the Amazing Amazon turns the tables on them by constructing an enormous magnet, which attracts the metal in their alien clothes and pins them helplessly. Wonder Woman thereafter flies the huge magnet back to the aliens’ home planet using her invisible plane, which can apparently also travel through deep space. And that’s the end of it. It’s a nonsensical story that boasts some good looking art.
And because the assumption is that the readership for WONDER WOMAN is largely girls, and girls are interested in marriage and weddings, the issue wraps up with another one-page feature page written by Julie Schwartz and illustrated by Morris Waldinger, showcasing the wedding customs of other far-off lands.
6 thoughts on “WC: WONDER WOMAN #107”
I’m guessing Wonder Girl boosted sales a little because Kanigher started using her a lot (along with the Wonder Family). Which would make sense: when she debuted teenage heroes were rare, teenage female heroes rarer and unlike most teenage comics girls she was focused on her future career, not getting a date from Merboy (they did date but not as often as she had to save his fishy butt).
I still think it’s funny how Wonder Girl became a member of the Teen Titans, since Wonder Girl was originally supposed to just be Wonder Woman as a girl, like Superboy was Superman when he was a boy.
I think having all three ages adventure with Hippolyta as the Wonder Family was the turning point. At first they were “imaginary stories,” then Kanigher stopped bothering with the label. Anyone who read one of those later issues could have thought WG was a real sister to WW.
I dig that Wonder Girl became a thing, and not just a younger Dianna.
Guess I’ll find out if the following topic is safe ground on which to tread…
I recently did a blog essay on the 1959-1966 years of the first Wonder Girl, and unless I miss something , she was, unlike her Teen Titans counterpart, always clothed in some loose tunic or a shapeless version of WW’s costume.
And I started wondering, Why did they bother? Even in the years when Wertham’s creed was in ascendance, DC Comics was still pretty button down, and even most of their grown women didn’t show much cleavage, much less older teens like (say) the LSH girls. I suppose WG1 was supposed to be a younger teen, but then, why bother with “drapes?” Why not just draw her flat-chested like a lot of the old Mary Marvels, and thus frustrate those lubricious readers looking for “headlights?” Did they just want to give the censorship board nothing on which to focus their guns (so to speak)?
Maybe just an aesthetic decision by Andru/Esposito. It did help make her distinctive from her older self.