It’s no secret that I’m a huge comic fan, have been since I was a child. I don’t read many books any more, but I still follow what’s happening in the industry.
One of my favourites has always been Wonder Woman, not sure why. Maybe it’s a gay thing, since so many other gay men seem to love the character too. I remember reading the comics long vbeore Lynda Carter turned up in the role on the small screen.
In the early seventies, when interest in the character was at an all time low, DC tried a Hail Mary at generating interest in the character. Paradise Island was whisked into another dimension, Steve Trevor was killed and Diana lost her powers, becoming a mod, Emma Peel type heroine, dispatching villains with Judo and Karate rather than her bracelets and golden lasso. After a few years, and a very public denunciation by Gloria Steinem, the experiment was deemed a failure and WW was returned to her original, star spangled self.
I’m not sure why there were issues of this comic in the house during my childhood. I don’t recall buying them myself, but I have vivid memories of seeing some of the issues of that run back in the actual time of their publication. I think it may have been my initial exposure to the character, so I have a soft spot in my heart for it.
Recently, DC collected this run in trade paperback and I snapped them up, eager for a nostalgia fix, I guess. I’m by no means a completist, but these I did want to revisit and have on my bookshelf. The art by Mike Sekowsky and Dick Giordano, and then by Giordano alone, is as vivid and dynamic as I remember, and the issues i remember are exactly as I remember them.
This period in WW’s history is pretty widely derided and I can see why, but, in revisiting it, I think there is merit there. Despite some unfortunate sexist tropes of the time (a revolving door of almost love interests, the horribly racist portrayal of Diana’s mentor I Ching) There are many times when this human Diana kicks major ass. No longer are her abilities granted by the gods, they are the product of her own hard work and discipline. The strength of character she possesses shines even more brightly, because she is vulnerable to the same weapons that any human is. And she’s tough as nails. In one issue, she is only too ready to use physical force on the female minion of the villain to prevent many deaths in the next in a series of artificial earthquakes. It is her male co-star who is squeamish and Diana is having none of it. She is ready to do what must be done to save lives.
I suppose I’m also looking at these issues in a new light due to the changes in my own life. This version of Diana could easily be looked at as a person dealing with a disability in the most active, determined way possible. She has found a way to turn the grievous loss of her powers and the man into a new life of courage and service. Her life has change completely, but she goes on.
In the end, I can see how the creators might have felt like they were making Diana a stronger, more vital character by removing her super powers. I can also see Gloria Steinem’s point and the reasons for returning her to her former stature.
The following era, with Diana performing a series of labours a la Hercules to justify her return to the Justice League, is the first era I recall actually going to buy for myself (And I really wish those would be reprinted and released) The pre-powerless era WW is pretty insipid when I look back at it. She spends far too much time simpering over Steve Trevor. But that short interlude of life as an ordinary human, and the Justice League trials that followed are the roots of the strong, confident WW that we have today.
And I will always have a soft spot in my heart for the groovy, globe trotting, high kicking, clad in white Diana Prince.