Monday, May 22, 2017

Tie-ins, Part XXV: Justice League of America #143

Some random Wonder Woman books, Part 2:
Wonder Woman battles Superman

Unfulfilling, poorly drawn and insulting

"A Tale of Two Satellites!"
Script – Steven Englehart
Pencils – Dick Dillin
Inks – Frank McLaughlin
Colors – Anthony Tollin
Editor – Julius Schwartz
Managing Editor – Joe Orlando
June 1977

Sadly the very same month that the Wonder Woman story I just gushed about was published, this turd of a JLA story featuring Wonder Woman debuted after having been cobbled together by one of my least favorite story writers.

I am NOT a fan of Steve Englehart. He may be a great guy, but I have seldom read an enjoyable story with his name on the title page. This one is no exception either.

It is a mess and features so many "nails on chalkboard" moments that it almost seems to step back and spit in the very eyes of Wonder Woman's more feminist creators. The book contains twice the number of pages as a regular comic of the day, so let's jump in before my time is up. We begin with Superman confronting Wonder Woman over how she appears on edge lately.

To which she flies off the handle and blames the other JLA'ers for ganging up on her. It's like she's on double-secret probation or something. Supes mansplains it as a "woman's lib thing," which suddenly has me actively hoping these two kick each other's teeth in for both being so childish. Instead…

Wonder Woman quits and teleports back to someplace that looks like New Jersey. While there she hears sounds of a clash and happens to spy Posion Ivy and Scarecrow leaving the scene of a bank robbery with a third guy in pursuit that she doesn't recognize. So she attacks…

…the guy she's never seen before, who happens to be Mark Shaw, Manhunter, now Mark Shaw, Privateer. We met Mark back when I reviewed the Suicide Squad issue featuring the Millennium crossover. How dumb is it that Wonder Woman just lets the known criminals walk away? Well, the "story" tries to explain that away in just a bit.

Then Wonder Woman does something VERY unlike herself. She blames herself and acts like she has no self-confidence. I don't like this. Not one bit. I'm used to a capable and strong Wonder Woman. This isn't like her.

The source of these frustrations start counting their ill-gotten loot and reminisce about how good they had it when they were in the Injustice Gang. After a few moments of back and forth, Ivy and Scarecrow decide to head for the old Injustice Gang satellite to hide out for a time.

While his enemies go to ground, Batman grills the two heroes Wonder Woman accused of being most on her case. Both Barry and Ollie appear to act the part of children caught with their hands in the cookie jar, blaming Diana for all the trouble because of her stuck-up attitude. It is embarrassing to see the heroes acting like this when the villains had two pages of working so well together. Feel like I am rooting for the wrong side.

I thought the league bickering like children didn't start until Giffen's run. Guess I don't know the old league.

So everyone splits up, but not in the usual "we have three things to guard at one time so everyone join a team so the writers don’t have that hard of a time balancing out what Aquaman will do" kind of split. No, this more of "I can't stand to look at any of you right now" kind of split.

Superman gets all mopey after everyone is gone, bending one of Batman's ears. 

Meanwhile, Wonder Woman is dining with Privateer when she suddenly gets all touchy…

I'm going to spoil it for you: mind control. She is supposed to be mind controlled in all this, however Englehart has done such a botch job on the writing that everyone appears to do things for no readily apparent reason. But yeah, she's literally not herself. We will find out who is doing it in just a few. But first she attacks Mark again.

Punches him off a building to be exact. That's not very nice. Shaw survives this without being injured, by the way. I know all of you were so worried about him.

And here is where we get the idea that Wonder Woman is under mental attack, as she zooms away, she has a fit and flies herself into a building.

She passes out in an alley way and wakes up with zombie eyes to wander off to a secret teleporter that ISN'T the JLA's.

Mark Shaw bumps into Batman while looking for the hidden JLA teleporter so he can report Wonder Woman's strange behavior. They team-up to find her after radioing a worried Superman.

The object of their search appears on the Injustice Gang's satellite, to the shock of Scarecrow and Ivy, who soon come to realize they were mind controlled too. Meet the villain of our piece, Construct II.

So basically a glowing pink hologram of a floating toaster. Think about how long we've had evil robots that live in our machines. This was 1977, folks. We didn't have "smart" anything back in 1977. Yet we still had the fear that our appliances would kill us.

Possibly the lamest villain ever, and he's a sequel, gets Wonder Woman to help plan how to take down the Justice League. Wonder Woman states that she'll take down Superman herself.

Briefly each group of heroes encounters a menace that gets their licks in and suddenly disappears. Green Lantern, Green Arrow, Flash, and Black Canery run afoul of Mirror Master, who tricks Green Lantern into knocking out Flash and Green Arrow into knocking out Green Lantern. Then "poof".

Aquaman is ice skating with Atom (on his shoulder) when Cronos freezes them both in their tracks. He straps Ray Palmer to a clock with a razor-sharp second hand designed to cut the frozen Atom to shreds but before that can happen, he vanishes too.

Hawkman and Hawkgirl encounter the Tattooed Man motoring across the lake on a boat. He attacks them with one of his tattoos and then disappears as well.

Batman and Mark Shaw follow the tracer Wonder Woman discarded to the building containing the transporter to the Injustice Gang's satellite. Suddenly Shaw pushes Batman to the ground as lasers start going off. One quick batarang later, they are both safe. Batman is troubled because, even with prep time, OMG! He almost got shot by lasers.

Shaw has the special power of "hearing switches." *sigh* Okay, let's leave this one alone for now. Oh! And Batman says no to calling in the Justice League.

While all this is occurring, the bout we were promised on the cover begins to unfold. Mind controlled Wonder Woman arrives at the JLA satellite. She makes nice with Supes first…

…then tries to lasso him, but he scoots out from under her magic rope.

Then the punchfest begins…

…which is less thrilling than anticpated…

…and abruptly ends when Wonder Woman threatens innocent lives if Superman doesn't comply with her wishes. Also Wonder Woman apparently likes boxing. Who knew?

With Superman helpless against her magic lasso, Wonder Woman contacts Construct II who tells her…

…but Superman can see that she is straining to break the mind control.

Meanwhile the other Leaguers finally start working together (just like the only other female in the group mentioned they should) and they come to the correct conclusion that the Injustice Gang has reformed. Wonder Woman is fighting for control, but not out yet. Her Lasso compels Superman to make a call that will lead the rest of the League to their doom.

The League is smarter than that. Tipped off because Superman says "our last meeting" casually, they use Green Lantern's ring to head for the Injustice Gang's base. No, that doesn't really make sense. I'm not writing this story folks, I'm just doing the review. Yes, I know Englehart doesn't always have understandable character motivations. Anyway…

The Injustice Gang lies in ambush for the Leaguers arrival.


You'd think these guys would get sucked out into space and die…but nope! And the League has them on the run until Scarecrow uses his fear gas. Luckily Flash reflects it back on the Injustice Gang.

And Construct II can't handle the fears of its mind controlled minions bounced back at it, so it blows up. Or something. 

Oh and Superman and Wonder Woman make up, in the most chauvinistic way possible.

So the Julius Schwartz cover fooled me into thinking this would be great. Sadly this was horrid, with odd dialogue, tonal shifts, illogic, poorly drawn panels, and most of all - unlikeable heroes. Even when they weren't mind controlled. AMAZING to me that this came out the same month as Wonder Woman #232. I guess with every gem you find, there has to be an equal number of rocks?

Let's hope not, for Wonder Woman's sake.

Tie-ins, Part XXV: Wonder Woman #232

Some random Wonder Woman books, Part 1:
Wonder Woman Battles the Justice Society

My very first Wonder Woman comic

"A Duel of Gods"
Story – Alan Brennert
Script – Martin Pasko
Pencils – Mike Nasser
Inks – Vinnie Colletta
Colors – Liz Berube
Story Editor – Denny O'Neil
Managing Editor – Joe Orlando
June 1977

This is my first brush with Wonder Woman in comic book form. I purchased this off the magazine rack at the tender age of 10 or so, during the height of her popular TV show. The book also introduced me to the Justice Society, as they factored into the story too. This was a two-parter and back then I had that prior issue as well. Sadly, it's gone missing over the years as I loved this storyline very much.

I'll cover bits of Wonder Woman history as I go along, or at least what I know of it. The character was created by a psychologist and writer by the name of William Moulton Marston and originally draw by artist Harry G. Peter. William was an avowed feminist, who lived in an extended relationship with his wife Elizabeth Holloway Marston and their lover Olive Byrne. Both women are credited with influencing Wonder Woman's character, however her physical appearance was supposedly influenced by Olive.

I can only use a few stills to conjure up what William's run on Wonder Woman must have been like. However I believed it must have owed a bit to his theories on women's strength deriving from their ability to love and nurture, fulfillment of sexualized desires by light bondage play and a reversal of the feminine archetype as being physically weak. What I boil that all down to is Wonder Woman would get tied up frequently, but she would get herself out of those jams. I can only assume, having no issues older than the one in my hands, that she triumphed over evil in many of her tales, not by application of force alone, but by her inner strength and compassion.

And I get all of those cues from the issue you see before you.

This issue wastes NO time in getting started, with Wonder Woman in the height of World War II. She's already trapped in a pyramid of force by a female in sexy Egyptian getup. The sexy "I Dream of Genie" extra has superpowers that have stopped World War II through mind control. Meet Osira, everyone.

Steve Trevor also appears mind-controlled by Osira to just stand around and watch as the two tussle. Tell me this doesn't sound a bit… kinky?

Before we can turn the page, Wonder Woman has passed out from lack of air, and her limp body is carted off by two slaves. Osira starts monologuing to mind numbed Steve, beginning with showing off that she has the Justice Society members on ice as well.

Her evil plan? Kill them all…sometime soon. Really. Her henchmen (who were German soldiers before they got mind controlled last issue) make the mistake of leaving Wonder Woman's golden lasso with her.

As soon as they are out of sight, Diana ties one end off to the jailhouse window bars. She then twists the ever-lengthening rope around her waist and makes like a top (for those under 14 in the audience, "a Beyblade") to dig a tunnel under the dirt floor.

Notice how many of those elements Williams would research seem to be in play in this story so far: mind control, imprisonment, this odd kind of "self-bondage" here and WW's been knocked unconscious once already. The subtext is only weird if you think about it in terms of putting any male hero in her place with this story and doing the same things to them.

Is this a patriarchal "women in refrigerators" kind of story or is this part of Marston's enlightened feminism? I can't tell you. I can say that even 12 year old me enjoyed the story as a story, leaving commentary or titillation to the side.

Okay, maybe just a bit of titillation.

Meanwhile, Osira is recounting her origin. She originally came from the stars centuries ago, landing in ancient Egypt. That's right. She's an illegal alien.

This Anankh you speak of? Did he have a decidedly orange complexion with a "yuge" yellow comb-over? Just wondering.

As Osira finishes bringing everyone up to speed on how she got here, Wonder Woman has caught up to the two brainwashed guards.

I can state that certainly seems she's strong enough of a woman for this to count as a feminist comic. I'd like it a bunch more if she was just fighting to free the world from Osira's grip without the added plot of fighting for her boyfriend Steve's freedom as well.

Alas, Steve is a necessary component of the plot, however. And I like this plot quite a bit, so go with it for a moment.

Osira loves her dead mate. Steve looks like dead mate. So she brings back his dead spirit to take over Steve's body. 


…Wonder Woman isn't having any of that. It is on, Girlfriend! Also appears Osira's energy is ebbing. Wonder Woman keeps the pressure on and has another trick up her sleeve.

Sadly that looks to have gotten the JSA killed. Looks can be deceiving, however.

NOW it is REALLY ON! Wonder Woman vs the bulk of the Justice Society. Yup! I remember why I loved this comic so as a kid. And I didn't really know who the JSA was at the time.

Wonder Woman's first act is to bring the house down on everyone in a bid to slow down her adversaries so she can escape with Steve.

And sadly this version of Wonder Woman couldn't fly without her invisible jet. Here she is forced to user her lasso that is "infinitely elastic" (whatever that means) to scoot her way on over to Giza.

That's far enough for Sandman and Johnny Thunder to be left behind, but Starman drags the Atom and Mr. Terrific to her almost immediately. Ring that bell, because here goes JSA verses Wonder Woman, round one.

Mr. Terrific is out for the count.

Atom tries to take WW out from behind with a lame-butt suckerpunch and is himself done in by a thrown tiara. Also his poor widdle ego has to be bruised. Wonder Woman called Al "small."

Sandman has his gas dispursed and his gun taken away then smashed under Wonder Woman's boot heel. Seems no one on this team is posing a challenge.

And then Starman drops the friggin' SPHINX on Diana.

And she survives. And looks to be coming out ahead. So much so that late arrival Johnny Thunder is having an argument with his genie Yz about helping Starman before he gets taken down. Luckily Yz isn't mind controlled and can freely interpret Johnny's wish however he chooses.

Way to go. And that's how Wonder Woman downs the JSA. 
There still exists one more battle to face. Osira shows up with her power at full strength and Wonder Woman starts using logic to take her down. What if Osira falters for even an instant in her control over humanity? What then?

While she passionately makes the case for Osira to let the conflict run its course…

…she sneaks a hand over to Starman's gravity-rod and zaps the crap out of Osira. And here is where the book really differs from so many other superhero tales. Wonder Woman knows Osira's motives aren't necessarily evil. She has good intentions but is going about things in all the wrong ways.

As such she tries to get Osira to see the error of her ways and is completely successful. Geeze, that's no way to create a rogue's gallery. No recidivism if all your foes turn into law abiding citizens or, in this case, join with their departed in the journey toward alien heaven.

Sadly this ending does leave some loose ends…

I love Starman in this. LOVE that line. Yeah, you broke it-you bought it, buddy. I wonder how long it took him to piece it all back together.

Wonder Woman can't seem to help rubbing it into Steve's nose a bit that men started the war.

And Steve fires right back at her. However, if it truly is this Wonder Woman's war, in the end everyone will come out friends.

So a re-read of this only heightened my love for it. Such a good story. Wish I had more from that era if they were all of this quality. Art was clean and inventive. Highest recommend. If only I had saved more of my pennies back then for Wonder Woman.