Jun 4, 2011

A little look at 1940s Wonder Woman

So lately I've been reading my friend Andrew Hobart's copy of Wonder Woman Chronicles #1. It reprints Wondie's Golden Age stories from her very first appearance onwards.

I'll be perfectly honest, I'm not a fan of Wonder Woman. This has definitely coloured my reading of these old... ahhh... classics. I'm far, far, too aware of... well... the fact that Wonder Woman is a bondage fantasy. I can't help but speculate on what it must have been like to read these stories as a kid in the 1940s, completely oblivious to the cliches and visuals of bondage. Fetish inducing probably.

At least according to some doctors.

So 1940s Wonder Woman's biggest problem is that  her entire schtick is being a gender-reversed male hero, rather than just, y'know... being a female super hero. If you remove the bondage trappings (hahah, pun), that's all you're left with. Superman in drag. Her love interest is the same 'always get into trouble, but be too pathetic to get out' idiot that all the male super heroes have to deal with. Her secret identity is there solely because Superman has a secret identity. It makes the whole thing feel very shallow, but maybe that's what comics needed at the time to even HAVE a female super hero? Maybe...

If there's one bright spot to these early Wonder Woman comics it's her, ahhh... comedy sidekick, Etta Candy. Etta is a big fat girl who, along with her fraternity at Holiday College, helps Wonder Woman out on a regular basis. You can't help but be delighted by Etta. She's fun, energetic, and despite the one-note aspect of the fat jokes (haha, she likes to eat a candy!), she comes off as a more three dimensional character than is perhaps expected.

Etta's not just 'the fat one', she's actually a woman. She's as feminine as any of the other women in the comic, and is all too willing to express her desires and needs when she's... y'know... sitting on a Nazi's face.

The big downside to these early Wonder Woman adventures (and I think to this character in general) is her secret identity. She only has one because, well, that was the cliche of the time. You had to have a secret identity if you were a super hero! But it makes no freaking sense. She's not even GOT a civilian life, why the hell does she need a civilian identity? Even worse, it forces her into the position of being really weak and pathetic half the time. While that might be played for humour in Superman, here it just comes across as, well, weak and pathetic.

Her secret identity is so pointless and so much of a bad cliche that she literally BUYS it from the real Dianna Prince. No, I'm serious, check this out:

The modern Wonder Woman is not something I'm that familiar with, but would I recommend reading any of the 1940s stuff? Maaaaaybe. If you've never read any "Golden Age" super hero comics before it might be an interesting place to start. If you want to laugh at the really, really obvious bondage stuff, then sure you'll find a hell of a lot to laugh at. If you're looking for pure entertainment on the other hand? I can't help thinking that you're better off reading some old Phantom comics.

--Andrew S.
(Dianna Palmer is way, way, more badass than Dianna Prince.)

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