On Wednesdays I look at various chapters in Wonder Woman’s history. Click here for previous installments.
The Twelve Labors of Wonder Woman continue, as she earns her way back into Justice League membership by having various Leaguers monitor her adventures and judge whether or not she’s worthy to return. Last issue Black Canary was on Wonder Woman monitoring duty, and this time it’s her boyfriend Green Arrow’s turn.
Wonder Woman #217, DC Comics, May 1975.
This one’s another giant-size issue with reprints in the back, although it’s just a 60-pager, unlike the last couple of hundred-page giants. I don’t really know what the logic was behind these occasional giant-size issues that popped up at irregular intervals, but this would be the last of them in this series for quite some time.
In “The Day Time Broke Loose,” written by Elliot S! Maggin and drawn by the definitive JLA artist Dick Dillin, Green Arrow is freaking the hell out like he’s having trouble coming down off a bad acid trip. And in a way, that’s just what’s happening. He’s been hallucinating like crazy, and is afraid he’s losing his mind.
To be fair, though, everybody’s been hallucinating like crazy, at least where GA just came back from. He’d been following Wonder Woman in her Diana Prince identity, at her workplace, the United Nations. I love the idea that Green Arrow can go “undercover” in his secret identity of Oliver Queen and not even Wonder Woman will notice he’s there. I mean, he’s got pretty freaking distinctive facial hair. Really, the idea that GA has a secret identity at all requires way more suspension of disbelief than Clark Kent or Diana Prince’s glasses being an adequate disguise.
But who does Ollie Queen see when he gets to the UN? Green Arrow, chatting up Diana Prince! Obviously this is a bit confusing to Ollie, because he’s Green Arrow. But it’s confusing to Diana as well, because GA’s trying to convince her to turn into her costumed identity of…Supergirl?!
Sure, Diana doesn’t fall for this act and is sure that’s not the real Green Arrow, but that’s just part one of someone’s plot to make her lose her mind. The real Green Arrow comes out an elevator to find himself in a medieval castle, fighting what appear to be castle guards but are really other people who believe themselves to be in the Old West, or on a pirate ship, or in Ancient Rome. Everyone’s off on their own private trip, man! But it’s a bad one, and people are getting hurt.
Wonder Woman strolls into this madhouse, seeing only what’s really going on—diplomats and other UN workers brawling among themselves. And with the ol’ wisdom of Athena, she figures out not just what’s going on, but also who must be behind it—the Duke of Deception! Never mind that she hasn’t heard from the guy since way back in the Silver Age; Wondy knows what’s up.
The Duke of Deception is an old henchman of Mars, God of War, who first faced off against the amazing Amazon in the early 1940s. He returned as a recurring villain (with green skin all of a sudden) in the late 1950s and early 1960s but hadn’t been seen for about 10 years at this point, not since he was unceremoniously ushered out along with a whole bunch of members of the Silver Age supporting cast such as Mer-Boy, Bird-Boy, Angle Man and the Glop, all of whom were “fired” by writer-editor Robert Kanigher when he decided to take the series in a retro Golden Age direction for a while. The Duke later ceased to exist after the Crisis on Infinite Earths reboot of the 1980s, replaced by Ares’s children Deimos and Phobos, with a more solid basis in Greek myth.
Anyway, Wonder Woman is seemingly unaffected by this plague of hallucinations, though she can view what people around her are seeing with yet another novel use of that “mental radio” she’s had for decades but used to only use for long-distance distress calls. But when she actually faces off against the Duke, he’s surrounded by illusory monsters.
Wondy has trouble distinguishing the real Duke from his many illusions, as well as which threats he sets against her are real and which are phantasms. At one point he makes her think he’s chained her, but she figures out that can’t possibly be the case when she realizes she still has her powers, which she’d lose if a man chained her wrists together. One major quibble I have is that at one point he binds her to a bed of nails, and she says she has to distribute her weight evenly “the way Indian fakirs do.” But it doesn’t take skill to do that. Lying down on a bed of nails just plain doesn’t hurt if you’re lying flat across it. Heck, even I’ve done that—in my high school physics class, in fact.
So how does Wonder Woman finally free herself of the Duke of Deception’s illusory psych-outs? By psyching him out, of course—by berating him, making him feel small and unconfident, until his illusions dissipate. Victory by ball-busting!
Although when we first saw the Duke in this story he indicated that this was his plot to make Wonder Woman doubt her sanity, at the end he confesses that he wanted to drive the UN mad to plunge the world into war, all to impress his old master, Mars.
That returns us to Green Arrow and his frenzied state, unsure of whether anything he’s retelling actually happened. It turns out he’s telling the whole story to Batman (who’s just walking around the JLA satellite without his cowl, all casual-like). Weirdly, Batman had hypnotized GA to perceive a regular photograph of Wonder Woman facing the Duke in the UN hallway was her being attacked by illusory archers, like he thought he’d seen before. But, Batman reasons, if GA was still under the Duke’s spell, Bats couldn’t have hypnotized him, and he wouldn’t have been able to fool the lie detector he was hooked up to. Bats also does something I love, which is the ridiculously awkward thing of calling Ollie “Oliver (Green Arrow) Queen”; it used to happen in comics all the time, but seriously, who talks like that?
The story ends with a shout-out to William Marston, creator of both Wonder Woman and the lie detector. As it happens, I was just at a play this weekend about Marston and his creations, so rereading this story was well timed.
The first of the backup features is a two-page explanation of just who the heck the Duke of Deception is, with summaries of some of his past encounters with Wonder Woman. But it’s limited to his Golden Age appearances and his old look, with art by H.G. Peter. Among the tepid responses to the Aquaman issue in the letters page is a long letter from Carol A. Strickland, a frequent correspondent to such columns who now hosts her own obsessive Wonder Woman fan site (and Hera knows we appreciate obsessive WW fans here).
The first of the actual reprinted stories in this issue is “Return of Diana Prince” from 1942’s Sensation Comics #9, which I’ve already written about in the past.
The other reprint is “Fun House of Time” from 1958’s Wonder Woman #101, by writer Kanigher and artist Ross Andru.
In this one, Wonder Woman and Steve Trevor get invited by a gentlemen named Ty M. Master to a charity fun house opening. Now, when you’re Wonder Woman and you get invited to a charity event by a guy named Ty M. Master, you’d better dress for dinosaur fighting. Because Ty M. Master is, of course, the villainous Time Master.
Don’t worry if you’ve never heard of this guy. No one has, as he didn’t exactly become a recurring member of Wondy’s rogues’ gallery.
When Steve and WW get to the fun house, they find themselves in a hall of mirrors, each one actually a door. They walk through one, and whaddaya know, there they are in the time of the dinosaurs. Don’t say I didn’t try to warn them.
My favorite thing in this story, and in this entire comic, is the fact that when Steve tries to shoot one of the dinosaurs, his gun won’t work because guns haven’t been invented yet. Mind you, he still has the gun; it just won’t work, because of science!
Once WW defeats a pterodactyl, she and Steve get transported back to the hall of mirrors, where the Time Master explains to them that every time they defeat whatever lies behind a door, they’ll wind up back here, and to get out they’ll have to find him behind one of the doors. He also has to explain that the name Ty M. Master was just something he made up, because they’re a little slow on the uptake.
They stumble through a few more doors, and in one of them Wonder Woman has to pull Christopher Columbus’s ship the Santa Maria back on course to America. So not only did Wonder Woman build the Great Wall of China, but she was also responsible for Columbus “discovering” America.
Then Wonder Woman has to stop some flying saucer invasion in the future., which of course she does. Finally she decides to stop opening doors at all and just vibrate through them at super-speed until she finds the Time Master. This is something the Flash did all the time, and Superman too on occasion, but Wonder Woman didn’t usually vibrate through things like that. But for a story’s sake, she can do whatever the heck Kanigher needs her to.
Writer E. Nelson Bridwell, who was always a bit of a continuity wonk, eventually brought the Time Master back in 1979’s Super Friends #17, where he indicated that the Time Master was actually none other than frequent Legion of Super-Heroes foe the Time Trapper (who, admittedly, wore a similar purple hood). As a TV tie-in, the Super Friends comic was never quite in mainstream DC continuity itself, but it’s an interesting footnote.