Saturday, June 25, 2011

Ragnell's Guide to Golden Age Wonder Woman

They're doing a weekend-long 99 cent Wonder Woman sale on Comixology and the DC iPad app today, and they're offering a selection of Golden Age Wonder Woman stories. I am going to be totally upfront here, despite all their flaws I love this Wonder Woman run. It has the tone and creativity that I want from Wonder Woman again. More than anything I want them to re-establish the classic setup so that they have all of these things to play with.

Still, there's some flaws and people have limited funds so I'd like to offer this succinct shopping guide.

All-Star Comics #8
Introducing: Diana/Wonder Woman, Queen Hippolyta, Steve Trevor, Steve's gun
Featuring: The Story So Far

Recommendation: Buy it! It's the first appearance of Diana by her original creator, and it's the best place to find the original intentions for the series.

(ETA: It's free right now, don't pass it up.)

Sensation Comics #1
Diana's first few days on Man's World.
Introducing: Diana Prince, the Invisible Jet, Steve's exasperated modesty
Featuring: A lot of off-hand comments about how weird Man's World is.

Recommendation: Buy this! This is the other half of her origin story and still one of the best Wonder Woman stories ever written.

Sensation Comics #2
Diana meets her very first super-villain.
First appearances: Dr. Poison, Etta Candy and the Holliday Girls, Steve's uncanny ability to get in trouble even when he's asleep.
Featuring: Dancing! Breaking through doors! Steve giving orders and waving a gun around while being carried by Diana!

Racism: Maru falls under the dragon lady stereotype, but the art isn't as punch in the face horrifying as a lot of the other propaganda comics (including this one later on) of the era.

Recommendation: Buy. Give this one a shot.

Sensation Comics #3
Diana gets a job working for Gen Darnell at military intelligence.
Introducing: The Military Intelligence office environment, Lila and Eve Brown
Featuring: A glimpse at Pledge Week at Holliday College.

Recommendation: Consider it. I have a fondness for Steve in embarrassing situations, so I'd advise on this one.

Sensation Comics #4

Introducing: Paula Von Gunther, the Bondage weakness, and Col Darnell's crush on Diana Prince.
Featuring: The Fire Squad Feat, one of my favorite Wonder Woman moments.

Recommendation: Buy this.

Sensation Comics #5
Featuring: I only really remember this one because it's one of only two stories I've read from the whole of Vol 1 that involve a male friend of Steve's. (The other is the guy in O'Neil's run.) Every other friend of Steve's seems to be either a guy at work or a woman he knows through Wonder Woman.
It also has a couple great "Wonder Woman tells a bunch of men what to do and they listen" moments.

Recommendation: Consider it.

Sensation Comics #6
The Return of Baroness Von Gunther.
Introducing: The Lasso
Featuring: Weird Amazon Sports. It totally went over my heard the first few times I read this one, but this is where he really starts messing around with bondage jokes. We see an Amazon rodeo, and Baroness von Gunther is always pretty kinky, even as Wonder Woman villainesses go.

Recommendation: Consider it.

Sensation Comics #7
This is the Milk story.

Buy it.

Sensation Comics #8
Introducing: Steve's amazing ability to pick the absolute worst time to ask Diana Prince to dinner.
Featuring: "Great girdle of Aphrodite! Am I tired of being tied up!"

Racism: I've actually got two copies of this story, and that's where I first noticed the cleaning. There's a panel with two pretty bad black caricatures in my archives. The WW Chronicles has cleaned up the picture and the dialogue. I'm willing to bet it's been downplayed for the digital, and that this is actually why it's been taking them so long to release Golden Age Wonder Woman.

Recommendation: Consider it.

Sensation Comics #9
First Appearance: Dan White, the real Diana Prince's complete asshole of a husband
Featuring: Heavy-handed symbolism

Racism: One panel of a Japanese dude, and this artist never does a flattering portrayal of anyone who isn't white.

Recommendation: Consider it.

Wonder Woman #1
Introducing: There is seriously a large strawberry blonde wrestling Amazon named "Fatsis" who nearly takes out Mala. It is also her last appearance, I believe. (Funny how the tournament retellings always give us the most Amazon body diversity, Diana and Mala both tend to get opponents who are bigger than them. Elsewhere, the Amazons are often just a stock body shape.)
Featuring: Steve pronounced dead by a medical professional. It doesn't take.

This circus-based story is fairly unimpressive unless you like elephants.
Racism: Superstitious Indian (South Asian Indian) dudes as villains.

Introducing: Little boys dressed as cowboys that idolize WW, and half-page guest victim Captain Loyal (I wish they'd bring him back just for the name.)

First Appearance: Pepita the Matador, Etta's brother Mint
Racism: Stepin Fetchit porter character, Pepita's horrible accent, and a guy named Pancho who is both a Mexican and a black stereotype at once. Also, caricatures of Japanese soldiers. All of this in the art is downplayed in the edited Chronicles reprint.

Recommendation: Skip it if you're going to skip any of these. It's possible that they will only reprint the A and C story here. In that case, I'd say pick it up. But really, it's not so good as to bother with the B and D story unless you're making a study of the era's racism.

Wonder Woman #2
Wonder Woman goes to Mars!
Steve sort of dies and his soul gets stolen by Mars to be put to work creating war and strife on Earth. Aided by Aphrodite, Diana goes to Mars, rescues him, and faces his three generals over a set of 5 stories.
Introducing: The Citadel of the God of War on Mars, the Duke of Deception, the Lord of Conquest, the Earl of Greed and Marta (Lord Conquest's wife)
Featuring: Stolen souls, Hitler, Hirohito, Moussolini and the second time Steve Trevor has died in as many issues.

Racism: The fourth story, where she fights the Duke of Deception, includes a lot of Asian stereotypes and caricatures. I only have this in the Archives where nothing is changed, so they might alter them.

Recommandation: The first story alone is one of the best and most imaginative stories in WW history, but it's tough to recommend it for the fourth story. It's creative and amazing, so I would buy it based on plot alone, but I don't blame you if you skip it.

Wonder Woman #3
Featuring: Amazon religious festivals and the untold story of Baroness Paula von Gunther.

Racism: Two with men of color (a Japanese soldier and an African-American elevator operator) that will likely be edited for modern audience sensibilities.

Recommendation: Consider it.

Wonder Woman #4
Featuring: A disease that makes women lose their minds, Col Darnell's crush on Diana, male bondage, and Etta coming on to Steve.

Racism: The first story is about a Chinese girl who comes to the US to raise awareness of what the Japanese are doing to her people. Lots of stilting accents and Japanese caricatures.

Recommendation: Consider it

Wonder Woman #5
Introducing: Dr. Psycho!
Featuring: The first real and permanent death among the regular cast.

Recommendation: Buy it!

Wonder Woman #6
Introducing: Cheetah!
Featuring: the Hair Salon of Creative Restraint

Racism: Caricatured Japanese sailors in the second half of the beauty salon story.

Recommendation: Consider it. Grab it if you're a big Cheetah fan, I guess.

Wonder Woman #7
Queen Hippolyta uses the Magic Sphere to show Diana a future world where women run the US.
Introducing: The Future!

Recommendation: Consider it

(ETA: I made this based off the DC comics press release, and didn't realize most of the Sensation Comics issues are bundled together in groups of two. That's much better bang for your buck, because these are only a quarter of the length of the Wonder Woman story. I added links to the Comixology parts, but haven't had a chance to look at any of these and how they've been changed. Comment if there's something worth mentioning that I missed.)

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