Pyramid Power

WONDER WEDNESDAY

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

So we’re still in the period of the late 1970s when Wonder Woman comics shifted to a World War II setting (on Earth-2) to match the time period of the first season of the Lynda Carter TV series. This time we have a two-parter featuring the sensational character find of 1977/1943: Osira!

That pose is just anatomically disturbing.

That pose is just anatomically disturbing.

Wonder Woman #231, DC Comics, May 1977.

This story, “This War Has Been Cancelled” is credited to regular WW writer Martin Pasko based on a story by Alan Brennert, a writer who’d soon go on to write a number of episodes of the Wonder Woman TV series, as well as Buck Rogers in the 25th Century and the new Twilight Zone and Outer Limits. The art was handled by Bob Brown, veteran artist of series such as Detective Comics, Challengers of the Unknown and Superboy, who’d just signed on as the new regular Wonder Woman penciller, but he only drew this one issue before dying of leukemia at age 61.

The villain of the piece is Osira, and you can probably guess from the name that she’s from ancient Egypt. And like anyone who’s anyone from ancient Egypt, she starts the story off as a mummy. World War II soldiers fighting a tank battle in Egypt run across a pyramid where there really shouldn’t be any. One of the tanks accidentally blows a hole in the pyramid, and the pyramid in turn blows both tanks up!  And a few months later, the air seeping in from the hole in the wall wakes up one of the mummies inside. You know, the usual.

That Steve Trevor, man. He’s going places.

That Steve Trevor, man. He’s going places.

And of course Osira’s a white chick with a cute bob hairstyle.  And she’s not just from a pyramid, but she also has pyramid powers! She flies around in a transparent energy pyramid, and can trap other people in similar pyramid-shaped force fields.

Man, somebody woke up on the wrong side of the crypt.

Man, somebody woke up on the wrong side of the crypt.

And Osira apparently wasn’t just laid to rest but deliberately trapped there by her enemies, and she’s on some self-appointed peace-keeping mission that was interrupted 3,000 years ago. Also, there’s an ancient bust in that pyramid that looks an awful lot like Steve Trevor. Foreshadowing!

Wonder Woman gets involved when a pyramid lands on top of the Capitol Dome in Washington, turning wartime senators into peaceniks calling for an immediate end to hostilities with the Axis powers because it’s all been one big misunderstanding. Of course it’s the pyramid making them talk all crazy, bringing peace to the earth by any means necessary.

That’s hippie talk, sir.

That’s hippie talk, sir.

And it’s not just in the USA. Hitler’s apparently also been bit by the peace bug, and battling warships and other engines of destruction are just being disintegrated all over the world. And of course Wonder Woman figures out with the ol’ wisdom of Athena that if pyramid-shaped force fields are involved, she’ll have to go to Egypt to stop all this peace. Because, you know, free will.

All she is saying is give war a chance.

All she is saying is give war a chance.

There she finds German and British fighter planes attacking her—together! Because they’re now under the thrall of Osira, of course, so now they’re warring for peace. And of course, having destroyed the pyramid she was imprisoned in, Osira has set up shop in another pyramid, adopting it as a temple in which she’s to be worshipped. Instead, Wonder Woman goes in to kick Orisa’s ass.

The ass-kicking may take a while, though, because Orisa’s got an impenetrable force field, energy bolt attacks, and another pyramid-shaped force field in which she imprisons Wonder Woman so she can tell her whole story.

She’s not just from ancient Egypt; she’s also from outer space! Another dimension, in fact. A fleet of starships left her world 9,000 years ago, but they were separated by a meteor storm that sent some of the ships off into other dimensions. Osira and her husband, Hefnakhti, landed in Egypt, where they were worshipped as gods.

What’s interesting here is that the original leader of their fleet, Aten, was sent elsewhere, to an alternate Earth, where he met the superhero Isis, in Isis #5, a comic that DC would put out a couple months later. The Isis series wasn’t set on any of DC’s established alternate earths but was based on the Filmation live-action TV show The Secrets of Isis, which I always thought of as being as kind of like Wonder Woman but way more boring. Because it was a Saturday morning show rather than a prime time adventure, Isis never really fought crime with her superpowers but taught kids about ladder safety instead. Anyway, it’s a weird tie-in, because the two comics are in totally different continuities.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Isis, but her TV adventures were pretty lame.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Isis, but her TV adventures were pretty lame.

But enough about Isis—this is Osira’s story. She and her husband were responsible for pretty much everything cool about ancient Egypt. They taught the natives how to irrigate the land and how to build the pyramids. All those nuts who said it had to be space aliens behind all the wonders of the ancient world? They were right! In fact, Osira and Hefnakhti taught the natives so much that a high priest decided the Egyptians would never learn to innovate for themselves unless the divine couple was deposed and imprisoned, and that’s just what the people did.

Oh, and by the way: Osira neglected to mention it before, but she’s taking Steve Trevor as her new mate and future king of Earth. Oh, and she’s already imprisoned the entire Justice Society of America in more of her transparent pyramids. This isn’t revealed until the last page, but it may not be a big surprise or anything, because it was on the cover too.

It looks like Diana’s back is still messed up from that pyramid.

It looks like Diana’s back is still messed up from that pyramid.

Wonder Woman #232, DC Comics, June 1977.

Mike Nasser steps in to draw this issue after Bob Brown’s untimely demise. Nasser is also responsible for the covers of both issues with the strangely swaybacked Wonder Woman on them.

Anyway, Wonder Woman’s still imprisoned in that weird energy pyramid, but apparently it only forms the walls of her cage, not the floor. So she winds herself in that magic lasso of hers and spins herself like a top at super-speed, boring a hole in the stone floor like a cartoon character.

Man, is there anything that lasso can’t do?

Man, is there anything that lasso can’t do?

Meanwhile, Steve’s under Osira’s control, and we learn (if we hadn’t guessed already) that he’s an exact duplicate of her husband. And what happened to old Hefnakhti, anyway? Well, we’re told that he used up more of his energy than Osira did in fighting back when they were imprisoned, and he didn’t have enough left to survive the 3,000 year nap between then and now.

When Wonder Woman shows up and starts actually making a dent in Osira’s defenses, she frees the JSA—but under her control—and orders them to attack. Oh noes! Wondy has to fight her friends!

Wonder Woman does yet another awesome thing with her lasso, casting it miles away (because it’s infinitely elastic in addition to being unbreakable) and lassoing the Sphinx to pull herself away quickly from her attacking comrades. But it doesn’t make much difference, because they’re right behind her. Oh, and Starman totally blows up the Sphinx to smithereens with his gravity rod. And what’s awesome is that means he’s totally going to have to put it back together again later.

Nice going there, Ted. The sound effect is pretty hilarious, too.

Nice going there, Ted. The sound effect is pretty hilarious, too.

One nice touch is that while the JSAers are under Osira’s control, Johnny Thunder’s magic genie Thunderbolt isn’t, and he thinks Johnny’s commands are crazy talk. He still has to obey them, but interprets them as narrowly as possible to sabotage the intended harm wherever possible.

Extradimensional genies totally rock.

Extradimensional genies totally rock.

In the end, of course, Wonder Woman manages to defeat her comrades and Osira, too. And she teaches Osira that it’s wrong to control people and force peace on them, because it can’t help but backfire in the end. So Osira gives up her body, and she and her dead husband go off to be together off in the ether somewhere. It’s a happy ending for all—well, except Starman, who has to rebuild the Sphinx now.

Osira seems like exactly the kind of character who would never be seen again, like so many Wonder Woman villains, but in fact she did pop up again nearly 30 years later, when writer Allan Heinberg included her in a mob scene of villains, many of whom had never been established to even exist as part of post-Crisis continuity before.

It’s always interesting to read the letters page after a big shift like throwing Wonder Woman back into World War II again. And, well, a lot of fans were pretty pissed off about it. A number of them said that at least the World’s Finest Wonder Woman stories could be set in the present on Earth-1, but the editor responds that it would be too confusing for new readers. I guess they didn’t think it was too confusing that the present-day Wonder Woman was still running around in Justice League of America and other team books, but never mind.

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