Sunday, March 23, 2008

Larry Eischen - 1950s/1960s

sgLarry Eischen - I'm constantly amazed at DC's attempts to make Wonder Woman an equal partner with Batman and Superman. I've never thought of her as very popular, always way back in sales, close to cancellation several times, reworked and rebooted more often than any of the other DC stable.

But back in the late 50s, early 60s I would buy her comic regularly. By the mid-50s, Wonder Woman was well beyond her bondage stage. By the time I began reading her adventures, Ross Andru was illustrating them. I didn't know his name but his Diana was beautiful. And he would always throw in a dinosaur every few months. Andru's dinosaurs also graced another favorite--Star-Spangled War Stories' "War That Time Forgot".

Adding to the Silver Age silliness of the usual title were Wonder Baby and Wonder Girl--Diana's younger selves in their own adventures (DC figured Superbaby and Superboy caught on, so what the hell--let's try it with Wonder Woman). Now, it was clearly stated that these were the same character as Wonder Woman--just at different stages in her life.

Wonder Baby's favorite sidekick was a genie. Wonder Girl had 2 boyfriends--a merboy and a bird boy. But it got weirder. At some point, it was decided to have stories featuring all three Diana characters co-existing in a grand adventure. So there were Wonder Woman, her baby self and her teen self battling Andru dinosaurs and other threats. Kind of an Amazon Holy Trinity for this young Catholic boy.

This is the source of all of DC's problems defining Wonder Girl over the years--is she Diana? Is she her sister? Is she Donna Troy? Last I heard, they were still trying to sort it all out and make continuity sense of it.

One of the problems with Wonder Woman at the time was a lack of suitable villains. I can only remember two recurring villains--Angle Man, a cheap hood with a quick mind and Mouse Man, who was a guy who dressed just like you would think. Definitely not in the same league as Luthor or Joker. Thankfully, Ross Andru could draw a mean science fiction story, so in addition to dinosaurs you got a lot of giant aliens.

For a young boy in Chicago, Wonder Woman straddled the line between superheroes and 'girl's books'. No guy would be caught dead with a girl's book. Katy Keene, Millie the Model, Patsy & Hedy, and all of the romance books were girl's books.

Another borderline girls book was Lois Lane. I would buy it occasionally, but too often it was just a "gotta marry Superman" plot. ost of us couldn't figure out why Superman bothered with her. The most powerful man in the world and the only girl (girls if you throw in Lana) he can find has the distinguishing trait of being a monstrous pain in the ass. Yeah, there's the ingredients for the perfect romance.

But I digress--I don't remember any crossovers, but I would loved to have seen Superman joining Diana to battle some Andru dinosaurs. In the mid-sixties, Princess Diana became non-powered Diana Prince, an Emma Peel clone and I kind of lost interest. By this time, I was bummed about Batman's new look and de-powering Diana didn't help my attitude towards DC. That's when I started drifting more and more to Marvel.


Anonymous said...

Fun memories, Larry - thanks!

I didn't dip as deep as W.W.; but I -and most of my friends - did stoop to L.L., and to that twerp J.O., basically seeing their books as "another Superman comic!"

Happy Easter,
-Craig W.

Grears said...

By the time I came around, I was able to buy WW because it guest starred the JLA... and I could check out Lois Lane and Supergirl because they were in SUPERMAN Family. Timing is everything.

IT did seem that every three years, WW would get a makeover... Taking over from Larry's timeline, we went from Diana Peel WW, to Golden Age WW redux, to JLA Trial WW, to WW II WW (how is that for symmetry), to generic modern WW, to Roy Thomas new chest emblem WW, to the Crisis... Which takes us the Perez reboot- the Classical WW, into the long legged Image-inspired WW, into the Byrne super-hero WW, and so on...

Thanks goodness for the great covers that she has had the last ten years...


Anonymous said...

I loved Jimmy and a 'transformation' issue was always a special treat-Turtle Boy Jimmy, Elastic Lad, Wolfman Jimmy, Porcupine Jimmy-all classics. I've tried to reread Lois Lane stories of the time and am just amazed at the constant belittling of women (marriage minded tricksters who can't keep a secret) and the cruel 'lessons' & hoaxes that Superman would always use as revenge on Lois for her snooping. That attitude makes them more dated than Jimmy Olsen or other Superman stories of the time.