Face Off


On Wednesdays I look at various chapters in Wonder Woman’s history. Click here for previous installments.

Yeah, I think it’s pretty darned obvious who that is.

Yeah, I think it’s pretty darned obvious who that is.

Wonder Woman #221, DC Comics, January 1976.

Various Justice Leaguers are monitoring Wonder Woman’s adventures—her Twelve Labors, if you will—to judge whether she’s worthy of rejoining the League, and at the end of the last issue we found out that two heroes were watching Wondy have two completely different adventures at the same time! How could this possibly be? Well, we’ll get to that. First we have to hear Hawkman’s account of the feats of derring-do he witnessed, now that the Atom’s already filed his report of a simultaneous Amazon adventure.

As the cover indicates, “The Fiend with the Face of Glass!” features the return of an old Wonder Woman villain, one who happens to be a hideously scarred woman. Who it is shouldn’t be any big mystery to longtime readers, especially because she has exactly the same hairstyle that she had before her face was disfigured. It’s Dr. Cyber, a frequent foe from the then-recent “mod” era, when Diana Prince was a non-superpowered, karate-chopping fashion boutique owner. She blames Diana for what happened to her, and while we know her face was badly burned, we’ve never seen it till now.

But we don’t know about Cyber’s involvement at first—unless we were paying attention to the cover, that is. Rather than telling his story to the JLA, Hawkman shows it to them through a device from his home planet of Thanagar that displays memory images.  Show-off.

Diana was on assignment for the United Nations Crisis Bureau at a summit meeting at a Catskills resort. The Himalayan nation of Khimyo has developed a chemical weapon that changes people’s personalities, and Diana’s meeting with the country’s Princess Elaa to try to convince her to turn the formula over to the UN.

At first Diana doesn’t know why exactly they’re convening in the Catskills, but in fact Elaa’s there for another reason entirely: there’s a presentation for a revolutionary rejuvenating beauty treatment, and many famous aging beauties are secretly in attendance to learn more about it.

Well, that chart certainly seems medically sound.

Well, that chart certainly seems medically sound.

But of course it’s not on the level, even less than such things usually are. Weirdly enough, the beauty treatment is actually legit, but there are all kinds of shenanigans going on regardless. People are being kidnapped, Wonder Woman is lured into a death trap, and—you know, actually the story by Martin Pasko (with art by Curt Swan and Vince Colletta) makes hardly any sense at all.

See, I would have guessed the Kool-Aid Man, myself.

See, I would have guessed the Kool-Aid Man, myself.

Cyber has grabbed and killed the inventor of the beauty formula, cosmetician Gustav Renault, using him as bait to lure Wonder Woman into her trap. Before she killed him, she got the formula and put it into her data bank, but that machine was destroyed pretty early in the fight between Wonder Woman and her robot goons (who were also controlled by the same computer). Cyber really did want the formula for herself, to restore her beauty, but she apparently couldn’t get her villainous mind around the concept of keeping Renault alive and maybe getting the formula from him through normal channels. So now, because there apparently wasn’t even a sample physical dose available, just the concept, she’s totally screwed.

Meanwhile, she made Princess Elaa give her Khimyo’s psycho-chemical formula in exchange for the beauty treatment, but now that it’s lost Elaa’s out of luck. (Also because Cyber killed her.) Now, it’s maybe worth mentioning that Dr. Cyber spends most of this story wearing lifelike masks of beautiful women, so it seems like she’s come up with a pretty good solution to her problem, but apparently that’s not good enough. In fact we find out that this versatile mask of hers is made of glass, which is so ludicrous that it doesn’t even bear thinking about.

Mind you, this is the first we’ve ever even heard of this true love of hers.

Mind you, this is the first we’ve ever even heard of this true love of hers.

Cyber finally reveals herself, blaming Wonder Woman not just for her mangled face but also for losing the only man she ever loved, who was turned off by Cyber’s cruelty to Diana Prince. The funny thing is, we’ve never heard about this guy before, and we certainly didn’t see him in any of the stories where Cyber faced off against Diana; he seems to be totally made up in this issue. And you’d think if he was at all involved with Cyber he’d have known by then that cruelty and villainy is what she’s all about, and had been for a very long time before she ever met Diana Prince.

But that’s not the biggest problem with this story. Wonder Woman remembers Dr. Cyber perfectly well, but what started The Twelve Labors in the first place was Wondy realizing that she remembered absolutely nothing of the mod Diana Prince years—she didn’t even know that they’d happened. She didn’t remember that Steve Trevor was killed (by agents of Dr. Cyber), she didn’t remember her mentor I Ching, she didn’t remember giving up her powers or leaving the Justice League. That’s what made her so uncertain of herself that she felt she had to prove herself worthy of rejoining the JLA. And now it’s as if that memory loss never happened. She knows all about Dr. Cyber, when she shouldn’t know her at all.

Another baddie from Diana’s lost years is there too, Cyber’s sometime ally Doctor Moon, who’s best known for brain transplants but in this case has been brought in to transplant Wonder Woman’s face onto Dr. Cyber—all while Diana’s been altered by the psycho-chemical into murderous rage. Wondy breaks free, of course, leading to a ludicrous chase between Diana on a gurney on skis, chased by Cyber on a ski lift, armed with a ski-pole.

Well, that’s just silly.

Well, that’s just silly.

Diana snaps out of it in time to try to save Cyber from plummeting to her seeming doom, but not quite in time to succeed—but of course, every recent encounter with Dr. Cyber has ended with the villain seemingly dying, so I don’t buy it.

But hey, remember that thing about Wonder Woman being in two places at the same time? What’s that all about, anyway?  Well, Batman arrives just in time to tell us all about it—so tune in next time for the stunning conclusion* to The Twelve Labors, same Bat-time, same Bat-channel!

* Conclusion not actually guaranteed to be stunning.  

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