Get Dressed Up and Messed Up


On Wednesdays I look at various chapters in Wonder Woman’s history. Click here for previous installments, including Greg Rucka’s run, the earliest 1940s comics, and the current “New 52” era.

Hint: Not who Heinberg thinks she is.

Wonder Woman: Who is Wonder Woman?, DC Comics, 2009.

By Sam Hurwitt

I’m taking a pause from my chronicling of Golden Age Wonder Woman stories for a little while, for a couple of reasons. You’d think all the zaniness of the 1940s William Moulton Marston stories might be a little much to take all at once, but that’s not really the case. I really do adore those stories, and two or three of those a week is just about right. No, reason number one is that the next couple of 1942 stories are holiday-themed, so I’d like to write about them at a more appropriate time of year. I would just skip over them and go straight to the stories that immediately follow them, but a very big change happens in one of the holiday issues that affects what happens in subsequent stories, so suffice it to say that I’ll get back to the early ’40s in a couple of months.

Another reason is that it was announced not too long ago that another Wonder Woman TV show is in the works for the CW network, which is potentially good news after David E. Kelley’s ill-conceived and failed pilot for NBC last year. This new show Amazon, would focus on a younger Diana who’s just starting out—and might not even be a costumed adventurer yet, if that network’s Arrow and its predecessor Smallville are any indication. It’s not even at the pilot stage yet, but the script is being written by Allan Heinberg, who’s written for shows such as Grey’s Anatomy and The O.C., but more importantly has actually written Wonder Woman in the past. It wasn’t a long stint nor a particularly well-received one, but it was the run that immediately followed Greg Rucka’s acclaimed tenure on the title, which I covered previously in this feature.

Sorry, sister. You had your chance.

I recently reread Infinite Crisis, Geoff Johns’s universe-shaking 2006 crossover series that apparently didn’t shake the universe quite enough, because it was followed close at heels by Final Crisis, Flashpoint and the New 52, all of which would remake the universe even more. As I had remembered, it was pretty much incomprehensible as a story unto itself, dependent on knowing what was going on in the dozens of tie-in issues in other series and miniseries going on at the time—and even then it didn’t really make sense—but it had a lot of gratuitous gore and killing off of neglected characters, which I guess must have appealed to somebody, even if it was just Johns.

Hey kids, comics!

I looked at it this time with Wonder Woman particularly in mind, because I know that this crossover brought about the untimely end of Rucka’s run on Wonder Woman and in fact the end of volume 2 of that title, which had started way back in 1987 after Crisis on Infinite Earths, the last time the character (and the universe) had been completely rebooted. It was always my sense that Wonder Woman killing Maxwell Lord near the end of Rucka’s arc was an editorially mandated thing, engineered to make all her super friends shun her as a cold-blooded killer, to make way for the return of the Diana Prince secret identity that this particular version of Wonder Woman never had. Ever since her rebirth in the ’80s she’d been Wonder Woman and Princess Diana full time.

Mommy, Daddies, please don’t fight!

Johns seemed to have this thing about Diana not understanding what it was like to be human and wanted to bring her down to earth, and that comes out a lot in Superman and Batman’s nagging about how they don’t even know who she is anymore.

I have to say, I’m with Mongul on this one. Enough with the emo bickering.

Honestly, Wonder Woman doesn’t even play much of a part in Infinite Crisis, which is about a few refugees from no-longer-existent other earths who were allowed to survive the original Crisis off in limbo somewhere bursting their way back into reality when they decide that the world has lost its way and become too dark. They want to change the earth back to a simpler, better one, like the ones they remember.  These survivors are the original Superman and Lois Lane of Earth-2—that is, the ones from the ‘30s and ‘40s—plus the insane Superboy of Earth-Prime, which was supposed to be our world, the one without superheroes, and Alexander Luthor of Earth-3, where all the familiar heroes were villains.

Great, now she’s even nagging herself.

I mention all this because one of the few things that happens to Wonder Woman in Infinite Crisis is that she meets the ghost of the original Golden Age Wonder Woman, from the former Earth-2, who drives home Johns’s thesis that our Diana has to get down to earth, in touch with humanity.

When shall we three meet again? In thunder, lightning, or in rain?

At the end of the series, for different reasons, Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman all decide to take a year off, which leads into the year-long weekly series 52 recounting what went on with everyone else during that period. In actual publishing time, however, Wonder Woman volume 3 came along four months later, with Heinberg ever so briefly at the helm.

Who’s got two bracelets and isn’t in this issue?

Wonder Woman #1, DC Comics, August 2006.

The opening is kind of clever, with slim close-ups of Wonder Woman’s tiara, lasso, bracelets, bustier, and eyes. “I was born of magic…a child of the Amazons…the champion of the gods,” the narration boxes say. Hey, Wonder Woman’s back!


But it’s only when we turn the page to the next two-page spread that we see that it’s not Diana at all—it’s Donna Troy, the new Wonder Woman! Terry Dodson’s art is terribly attractive, but his Donna looks exactly like his Diana, so if she wasn’t telling us she’s someone else we’d never know it. Her costume is different, however—more reminiscent of ancient Greek armor, with her own distinctive star earrings as a hint to her identity.

Speaking of identity, that’s always been a problem for Donna Troy, whose history seems like it’s been rewritten a zillion times. She was created accidentally by Bob Haney when he launched the original Teen Titans in 1965, because he teamed her up with kid sidekicks Robin, Kid Flash, and Aqualad without realizing that Wonder Girl was not Wonder Woman’s sidekick but Diana herself as a teenager, as depicted in many issues of Robert Kanigher’s Silver Age stint on Wonder Woman.

I’m telling you, the time is ripe for a major Wonder Tot revival.

A little confusion on that point was understandable, because Kanigher had written a number of “Impossible Tales” showing adult Wonder Woman teaming up with her teenage self Wonder Girl and even her toddler self Wonder Tot. Haney just saw those and naturally assumed Wonder Girl was a separate sidekick and drafted her for his teen gang.

Way to reinforce the patriarchy there, mom.

And from that point on she was a separate character. Donna Troy was finally given a proper origin of her own by Marv Wolfman and Gil Kane in 1969 (Teen Titans #22), showing that she was a nameless human orphan rescued by Wonder Woman and raised on Paradise Island, given powers like Wonder Woman’s by the surprisingly versatile Purple Healing Ray.

There were a number of tweaks to that origin over the years, but then John Byrne discarded it entirely in his 1990s run on Wonder Woman, turning Donna into a magical duplicate of Diana created by a sorceress as a playmate but then promptly kidnapped by the villainous Dark Angel and cursed to relive a troubled life over and over and… you know what? There’s no damn way I can explain this so that it actually makes sense, because it doesn’t. She was conveniently reinvented in Infinite Crisis as the sum of all Donna Troys that ever were in the multiverse, which if anything makes her origin even more confusing, but at least means that we don’t need to make sense of the whole Dark Angel thing anymore. I hope.

One nice thing about Heinberg’s brief summary is that it makes it clear that Wonder Girl modeled herself after Wonder Woman. That seems obvious enough, but when volume 2 started in 1987 after the universe was remade in Crisis on Infinite Earths, a decision was made to have Wonder Woman be the new hero in town while others had been in the business for many years. One of those veteran heroes was Wonder Girl, whose whole history with the Teen Titans had still happened more or less uninterrupted, which meant that for all intents and purposes Wonder Woman could have been her inexperienced sidekick, if they really hung out much back then. Which they didn’t. One of the changes made in Infinite Crisis that’s mentioned only in passing is that Wonder Woman is a founding member of the Justice League again, just like she was before the original Crisis but hadn’t been for the last 20 years of comics, which at least makes the timeline make a little bit more sense. Hell of a way to get there, though, and sadly in another five years it would all be thrown out again anyway. But I digress.

Thanks, Exposition Lad!

Now Donna is Wonder Woman—or trying to be, anyway. Nobody seems to take her seriously in the role yet. She comes to deal with a hostage situation at a Themyscira (Paradise Island) exhibit at some museum, only to be told the terrorists will only talk with Wonder Woman…the real one. Seemingly in charge of the police presence is Sarge Steel, an old Charlton Comics spy character from the ’60s that DC bought in 1983 along with better-known heroes like Blue Beetle, Captain Atom, and the Question. He tells her that the terrorists want Diana to “be held accountable for her crimes”—meaning the killing of Max Lord to free Superman from his eeeevil mind control—and they’ve taken Deputy Secretary of Defense Steve Trevor hostage.

So she goes in alone, stealthily marching right through the front door, and indulges in some long flashbacks about her whole life and why the heck she’s filling in for Diana. Convenient!

And of course she finds Steve, who of course is not alone. I guess Donna forgot to ask anything about who the heck the terrorists actually are, but she’s soon attacked by the Cheetah.  Or, well, a cheetah. There doesn’t appear to be anything human about it—certainly not the head—but Donna is convinced that it’s Barbara Minerva anyway, just further mutated somehow. But it turns out Minerva is there, fully human looking, and just controlling the cheetahs. They are at least especially big, bulky cheetahs, and Donna seems to think that they’re even faster and stronger than Minerva was as the Cheetah. We’ll just have to take her word for that—or not, because she doesn’t appear to be all that well acquainted with her sister’s old foe. Donna also lets Cheetah just take her magic lasso without a fight, because she’s terrible at her job.

Cheetah is also wearing some bizarre pants with a cheetah pattern on the inside of her thighs, I guess to show that she’s still the Cheetah.  Interestingly, Giganta’s current jumpsuit has a leopard-print pattern on the inside of her collar, not to show that she and Cheetah are BFFs, but just as a callback to when she used to wear a Flintstones-like leopardskin bikini.


And hey, Giganta’s there too!  It’s like old home week for Wondy baddies. While Donna’s kinda-sorta fighting Giganta, or gearing up to anyway, Minerva snares her in the magic lasso and orders her to drop her sword. “The lasso compels you,” she says. Donna informs her that it doesn’t work that way and that all it does is make her tell the truth—which is true, but it’s interesting to note that it used to be exactly the opposite. The Pre-Crisis lasso did compel people to do whatever they were told, including speaking the truth if that’s what they were told to do, but if they were told to lie they’d have to do that too. This version of the lasso does seem to have some extra powers that we didn’t even know about, however, because once Donna gets hold of it she snares it around Giganta’s legs, and it’s suddenly much, much longer than it was mere moments ago, to allow her to do that. I’m inclined to think that this is just a bit of, um, stretching the truth on Dodson’s part for visual effect.

That’s a whole lot of lasso.

Well, not to spoil everything, but then someone else shows up—it’s suddenly old home week—and Donna is captured by the bad guys. Steve, however, has gotten away. And it turns out he’s not Steve at all!  No, it’s Nemesis, alias Tom Tresser, a master of disguise who’s been kicking around the back pages of the DC Universe since 1980, and who’s somehow made himself look like an almost identical but older blond guy this time. Boy, he’s good.  And he’s working for Sarge Steel, who partners him up with…Diana Prince!

Watch out, she’s got pouches!

Diana was last seen going off to try to get in touch with humanity. Apparently that meant going undercover as badass secret agent Diana Prince, behind the impenetrable disguise of a pair of glasses, putting her hair back, and a fake name that’s almost exactly like her real name, Princess Diana. This, of course, is the secret identity that the pre-Crisis version of Wonder Woman kept up from her birth in 1941 to her “death” in 1986, but the post-Crisis version never had a secret identity till now.

Hiyaa! Feng shui chop!

And just for extra retro appeal, she’s dressed in a white catsuit reminiscent of the pre-Crisis Wonder Woman’s late ‘60s stint as an Emma Peel-type martial artist with no superpowers.

Talk to the hand!

Wonder Woman #2, DC Comics, September 2006.

This issue opens with a flashback. With Wonder Girl Cassie Sandsmark at her side, Donna is seen battling a trio of old Wonder Woman villains: Doctor Poison, the revamped version of an old baddie from the 1940s; a new version of Doctor Cyber, a pre-Crisis villain who popped up periodically from the late 1960s through the ’80s (this version had showed up elsewhere a few years earlier but hadn’t fought Wondy before); and Osira, a one-shot villain from the 1970s whom we haven’t seen post-Crisis before. It’s another old-school calback, which is amusing as far as it goes—which is to say, for two pages. Both Donna and the villains make a big deal about how she doesn’t kill, unlike her sister, because they’re not going to be giving that one a rest anytime soon.

I dunno why people don’t use Osira. She’s awesome.

We pull away and see that Diana is watching the fight from a distance through binoculars, checking up on her girls. She’s wearing a black catsuit to stick to the shadows and talking to Batman, who’s also skulking because that’s what he does. They make the obligatory expository dialogue about how she killed Maxwell Lord, blah blah blah, and how she’s trying to figure out who she is when she’s not the princess or the superhero.

Batman helps resolve this by straight-up assigning her an identity, complete with a name, a hairstyle, the glasses, and a job. He hands her an ID card for Diana Prince, Department of Metahuman Affairs, with her picture wearing the glasses—a photo she obviously didn’t pose for, because she knows nothing about it. So let me get this straight: Diana doesn’t even get to come up with her own secret identity? It’s something that Batman and Superman thought up for her?  That’s pretty darned offensive, actually, that she wasn’t even consulted about what her whole new life would be, and it makes it especially troublesome that “Diana Prince” was later presented as her cosmically recognized “real” name later on in Blackest Night: Wonder Woman.

It’s a cute moment as long as you don’t give it any thought.

The Department of Metahuman Affairs is  Sarge Steel’s outfit, which is some government agency to monitor and laise with superpowered types. And now Diana’s working there and dealing with the obligatory macho “I work alone” nonsense from Nemesis. She briefs Tom and Steel about Donna being captured “by three metahuman criminals with whom the previous Wonder Woman had a long, combative history.” Diana is actually wrong about her own history with Giganta, who was a recurring Wonder Woman villain before the Crisis, and especially in the Super Friends cartoon, but whom Diana has hardly met post-Crisis. Nemesis mansplains to her a bit about how out of date her info on the villains is and how they’re bigger and badder than ever before, and they talk about how to find the real Wonder Woman.

To complete the retro homage, Tom shows a satellite photo of Wonder Woman training with the “Eastern mystic” I Ching—the same guy who trained the pre-Crisis Wondy in the martial arts during her Emma Peel period. And there she is in the photo, in a white jumpsuit very much like the one Diana Prince is wearing right now, and none of the ace secret agents in the room seem to see a resemblance. After all, Wonder Woman’s hair is down, and she wears no glasses.

Ever cocky, Nemesis goes off to find Wonder Woman all by himself, while Diana is sent to warn Cassie that she may be next. On the way, Diana takes off her glasses and lets down her hair so that Cassie can recognize her. I know that we’re just supposed to suspend our disbelief about the Clark Kent Effect, but it really does make everyone around her seem like idiots. I mean, tell me they’re at least magic glasses or something.

Glad to see Diana, Cassie throws a tantrum about her disappearing in the first place and storms off. Then Giganta attacks!  Wearing Donna as a necklace!

I do really love Giganta and her unique ability to accessorize.

Robin is there, and Nemesis just happens to be nearby, and Cassie didn’t get so far after all, because she jumps into the fray. Diana is trying to deal with the situation without becoming Wonder Woman, because she’s done with that for now. But uh-oh, Doctor Psycho is there too, messing with everyone’s heads. And Cheetah, whose human look is seemingly dependent on not being sufficiently pissed off to go all Cat People again. Or something—it’s hard to tell what’s real when Doctor Psycho’s around.

It’s notable that after making such a big deal about Cheetah being human again in the last issue, she abruptly turns back into a cat-person in the middle of battle here and stays that way for the rest of this arc. We never find out what that whole thing was about. For all the talk about the villains being somehow enhanced in this storyline, Cheetah is way less formidable than usual, easily taken out unless you’re as inept as Donna apparently is.

Cassie has no patience for this glasses and bun nonsense.

Things get bad enough that Diana ducks into an alley and starts spinning around, with a sparkle effect starting to form around her, which is the way Lynda Carter used to change into Wonder Woman in the 1970s TV series, but has never been part of the comics till now.

All the world is waiting for you!

But someone stops her with some macho nonsense about it being man’s work. It’s Hercules! Diana exclaims his name in the logo of his short-lived DC comic of the 1970s, which had him cavorting in a postapocalyptic wasteland.

Man, I want my name to be pronounced as a logo!

He’s previously showed up in Wonder Woman under his Greek name Heracles, a bearded sonofabitch who raped Diana’s mom, but he’s since repented, and now he shows up clean-shaven and looking remarkably reminiscent of his old series.

Hercules Hercules Hercules!

Man, Heinberg must really love 1970s DC Comics.  And I get that. I mean, so do I.

All this and we haven’t even gotten to the real villain yet!  But that’s enough for this week. Have a spooktacular and safe Halloween, and we’ll see you next Wednesday!

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