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The Golden Age/Silver Age Diana in one last bondage-infused pre-Crisis fling – The Legend of Wonder Woman

April 12, 2012

A while back I posted an old advertisement that hawked this (at the time) upcoming series. In my stupid, still embarrassingly adolescent zeal, I of course focused on and made a joke of Wonder Woman’s prominently displayed breasts. HA HA. Then I finally got around to reading the actual four issue miniseries, and now I feel a bit ashamed. Ashamed like a lunch-eating construction worker who whistles at a passing long-legged hottie, and said hottie then turns around and gives him a terrible tongue-lashing, calling him a pig and a moron and everything else in the book while his hard-hatted buddies drink their coffee and eat their sandwiches and laugh at his sorry ass.

You see, this series, a final adieu to the old Wonder Woman, is an unexpected delight. A significant delight.

It’s the original Wonder Woman’s equivalent of the sublime Alan Moore/Curt Swan Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?, the non-canonical tale which pulled the curtain on the Silver Age Superman. It’s not up to that level, but it’s worthy of being mentioned in the same breath, which is still a high compliment. But, unlike that rightly hallowed story, there’s an actual void at play here. Whereas the Silver Age Supes just sort of faded away, morphing into the square-jawed hero of John Byrne’s reinvention, the Silver Age Wonder Woman was actually eliminated by the Crisis on Infinite Earths. This mini, which was published in the interregnum between WW volumes one and two, hence offers more definite, and thus more effective, closure.

While that Superman door-shutter fiddled liberally with Kal-El’s colorful rogues gallery, utilizing everyone from the Toyman to the Parasite, Wonder Woman’s list of villains has never had that cachet (*cough* Egg Fu *cough*). Solution? Delve deep into forgotten plots and strip-mine them for all they’re worth, with pitch-perfect artwork from Trina Robbins (more on her — and her art — in a moment).

(Let me get a quibble out of the way in another parenthetical. As I’m about to lay out, this comic makes liberal use of 1940s Wonder Woman comic mythology, well within any definition of what constitutes the Golden Age. But this series memorializes the Silver Age WW, who was the one who “died” during the Crisis, getting thrown back in time and becoming one with the Paradise Island clay. A little confusing. Though, in defense of this jumbling, the Silver Age Wonder Woman didn’t have a set “1st appearance.” There was no magic moment when the old bloomers broad became the new one. It was just that one day the Earth-2 WW showed up, and you realized that the current lady was a denizen of Earth-1. So whatever. Go for it, comic book. Take whatever you want from the WW grab bag.)

Remember the Land of Mirrors, from Sensation Comics #79? No? Well, it’s in there:

I was inordinately gratified to see that Atomia, the queen bee of the Atomic Galaxy, was the main villainess of this farewell story. Her sole appearance was in Wonder Woman #21, an ancient comic with a nifty cover that was featured all too briefly here a spell ago. This coincidence — that the only Golden Age Wonder Woman book I own would be revived for this mini — is blog kismet of some sort, I suppose. I’m self-centeredly tickled about it. Here’s Atomia on the cover of the third issue, along with some good ol’ Wonder Woman bondage:

Even the minor stuff, like the gigunda kangaroos that the Amazons ride around Paradise Island on, are on prominent display (they’ve also made an appearance before in these parts):

The story? There’s an aura of melancholy at play, as the Amazons, whose Paradise Island is about to vanish into the post-Crisis ether, are packing up like graduating seniors sad about the end of their four-year college idyll. Hippolyta is, of course, the saddest, as she’s still mourning the recent loss of her daughter:

That Magic Sphere, another Golden Age relic, is the View-Master through which we experience this final journey. We watch alongside Hippolyta and the Amazons as Wonder Woman, with allies like Steve Trevor and young Wonder Woman fan Suzie, whom WW befriends (an obvious insertion of once-young fan Robbins into the story), battle freedom’s foes in a 1950s (new) flashback. It’s a fun, meandering all-over-the-place romp. Oh, and the Holliday Girls are referenced too, including the never-far-from-sugary-calories Etta Candy:

Kurt Busiek, who would go on to great renown for nostalgic walks through comic lore (see: Marvels) co-plotted and scripted this together with the indispensable Robbins. More known for her underground comics work, Robbins brought her life-long love for the old-timey Wonder Woman to this series, employing a Golden Age style that at no point rings false or cloys. It evokes while still feeling fresh, which is an incredible achievement. She invests the sometimes stiff old way of drawing figures and action with such zest, you find yourself wanting to go back and read through some of those clunky, musty tomes.

Mimicking an older style can be tricky business, and in lesser hands it can fall flatter than a wet pancake. When done right, though, the rewards are high. This mini is one long reaping of said rewards.

You can tell that Robbins poured a lot of love into her half of the work, love which she addresses quite well in an essay/paean at the end of the second issue:

From what I can tell, this story has never been reprinted, nor has it ever been collected in a trade. It should have been, and it still should be. It’s a story that honors what has come before as it elevates and refines it, and you can ask nothing more from such a tribute, especially one that deals so intimately with one of DC’s holy trinity.

If you see these four issues in a bin somewhere, pick them up. Wonder Woman’s cleavage (OH MY GOD I DID IT AGAIN) commands it.

One Comment leave one →
  1. September 20, 2014 2:52 pm

    I definitely want to find this miniseries now. It looks like fun.

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