On Wednesdays I look at various chapters in Wonder Woman’s history. Click here for previous installments.
World’s Finest #250, DC Comics, May 1978.
So this is how committed DC was to keeping Wonder Woman’s stories stuck in the 1940s to match the first season of the Lynda Carter Wonder Woman TV show: When World’s Finest celebrated its 250th issue by having all the characters with ongoing sections of the anthology series team up (or almost all of them—the Creeper kept to himself in the back pages, with an origin story by Steve Ditko): Superman, Batman, Black Canary, Green Arrow and Wonder Woman!
But wait, isn’t that just a Justice League adventure? Don’t those heroes team up all the time? Well, yes and no. You see, in this story Superman, Batman, Black Canary and Green Arrow didn’t meet up with their usual Justice League teammate, Wonder Woman. They hook up with the Wonder Woman of Earth-2 in a time-travel story set in her World War II glory days.
The splash page crows, “For the first time in history–Superman, the Batman, Green Arrow and the Black Canary join forces with the New Original Wonder Woman in the cataclysmic epic that could only appear here–in the star-studded pages of the 250th issue of … World’s Finest Comics.”
Now, it’s not technically true that this is the first team-up of the Justice Society’s Wonder Woman and the Justice League’s Superman, Batman, Black Canary and Green Arrow. That happened in 1969’s Justice League of America #74 and again in JLA #82-83, 100-101, et al. In fact, some combination of those people met up every year in JLA/JSA team-ups, but I’m only mentioning a few instances when all of the above heroes were present. But those weren’t time-travel stories. That was the Earth-2 Wonder Woman not as she was in the 1940s, but a slightly older version in the 1960s or 1970s. This is “the New Original Wonder Woman” of the TV show, frozen in time in World War II.
In “The Reality War,” written by Gerry Conway and drawn by George Tuska, Batman and Superman have just returned from a trip to outer space, because they’re best friends and go everywhere together. (This has nothing to do with their adventure in the last issue—it’s just something they were doing in between.) But no sooner do they get back than Nazi Panzers and U-Boats start attacking in present day Gotham and Metropolis. And there’s some glowing man-shaped figure, the Ravager of Time, who keeps popping up right by these temporal anomalies.
Amusingly enough, the U-Boat shows up just as Superman is mentally ranting about how much he hates the oil industry. This is actually a callback to a previous Conway story from Superman #307, in which Supes is so angry about pollution that he tries to destroy all supertankers. In fact, he goes so nuts with his fear that Earth will destroy itself just like Krypton that Supergirl tries to convince him that Krypton never existed, just so he’ll chill the fuck out. Anyway, turns out he still hates those tankers.
It turns out that time is wayyyy more screwed up that Supes and Bats could have imagined. While they’re standing around trying to figure out what the hell’s going on, Alfred asks Bruce Wayne why he’s wearing that weird costume. He’s never heard of Batman, or the rest of the Justice League for that matter.
And there’s a good reason for that. They visit Barry Allen, the Flash, to find he’s just Barry Allen, police scientist. They go to Paradise Island, and find Diana there among the Amazons, whom she’s never left to become Wonder Woman. But Diana, being awesome and open-minded, believes their cockamamie story that there’s something wrong with time.
In fact, due to their super-science, the Amazons know there’s something wrong with time. As Queen Hippolyte explains, time is broken, and there are four people at the center of the problem. The glowing Ravager of Time, who seems to have originated in the year 1942; Wonder Woman, “a woman who is—and is not—my daughter, Diana”; and “these two unfamiliar people calling themselves Green Arrow and Black Canary.” What’s worse, GA and BC are now unfamiliar even to Superman and Batman, so you know time’s all messed up. Somehow what’s happened is all those four people’s fault, so Supes and Bats have to go back to 1942, figure out what the heck those people did and stop them from doing it.
What they did is more convoluted than anyone could have imagined—anyone except Gerry Conway, I guess. You see, Black Canary’s originally from Earth-2, and she thinks one of the reasons why she’s been fighting so much with her boyfriend, Green Arrow, is that she has some unresolved issues back home that she needs to work through, particularly around the death of her husband right before she moved to Earth-1. So naturally, Arrow decides to take her back to Earth-2, which should be easy-breezy due to transporter technology in the JLA Satellite. Trouble is, when they get there Hawkman tells them that the transmitter machine they use for interdimensional travel is broken, due to something that happened in another Gerry Conway story in Superman Family #186-187 (a team-up between the Supermen of Earths 1 and 2).
Green Arrow, being the impulsive type, refuses to listen to Hawkman and takes his lady friend through the transmitter anyway. And no sooner does he do that than both Hawkman and the Satellite disappear, as if they never existed. And maybe they didn’t. The Flash, the Atom, Green Lantern, Elongated Man, Wonder Woman—they all go back to who they would have been if they’d never become superheroes.
The malfunctioning transmitter takes them to Earth-2 all right, but it also takes them back in time to World War II, where a plummeting Black Canary and Green Arrow just happen to collide in mid-air with Wonder Woman’s invisible plane, sending them all ricocheting to 1942 Earth-1 instead. Got all that? Well, you’re one up on me, then.
Then, of course, Wonder Woman has to fight them, because clearly they must be Nazi agents of some kind. (Although she and Wonder Woman would later become fellow JSA members, Black Canary didn’t debut until 1947.) Of course, they clear up this misunderstanding pretty clearly. But having just happened to have literally run into each other and sent each other careening onto the wrong world at the wrong time, now they just happen to run into an American scientist who just happens to have been working on an experimental time machine of his own. Then he just happens to be shot right in front of them, and the only way to save his life, he says, is to use his machine to put him in temporal stasis.
You can see where this is going. The scientist becomes the Ravager of Time, going on some kind of silent rampage and people and things start disappearing all around him, just as much in 1942 as they are in 1978, with things popping up in one time that belong in another, and some people seemingly never existing at all. Wonder Woman’s the one who actually pushes the button on the scientist’s gizmo at his request, so you could say this is all her fault, even though it totally isn’t.
Nobody on Earth-1 knows who any of the heroes are, because they didn’t have superheroes until decades later, but that doesn’t seem to be a big deal. Everybody accepts their existence pretty readily, from FDR on down to regular joes in the street. They’re just happy to see someone who might be able to help.
It doesn’t get any less confusing from then on. Superman and Batman show up, and refreshingly, they don’t have to fight the others. Wonder Woman is all, “Hey, you’re Superman and Batman. Clearly not the Superman and Batman I know, but still.” Green Arrow is all, “Hey, guys, good to see you!” And they’re all, “Dude, we don’t even know you. But I guess it seems like we should, so yeah, ’sup.”
Oh, and there’s a villain, too, besides the Ravager of Time. There’s also a costumed Nazi named Agent Axis—not the woman who fought the Boy Commandos in the 1940s, but some strawberry blond dude with fluffy hair. He does make occasional disparaging references to his “predecessor,” so there’s at least a little nod to there having been another Agent Axis. But the references are all very vague, so I suppose it’s even possible that he’s talking about Marvel’s Agent Axis, who was introduced just one year earlier in 1977’s The Invaders Annual #1 (also set in the 1940s). That seems like something Conway would do.
Anyway, Agent Axis was behind the assassination attempt on the scientist, and now he’s trying to harness all this wacky time technology for the Nazis—if it’s even possible to get it under control in the first place, that is. Using their own technology, the Nazis find some way to capture the Ravager and are trying to figure out how to use him to their advantage, so it’s up to the heroes to sneak behind enemy lines and put a stop to it. Batman has the brilliant idea to just go ahead and get himself and GA captured to get into the inner sanctum (no, seriously, that’s his plan, although I guess it’s one that Wonder Woman herself has used on many occasions), while Wondy and Canary sneak in in disguise, cracking heads whenever they’re discovered. Superman, meanwhile, flies recon, because we don’t want to make it too conspicuous that he could just fix all this himself.
Even without latecomer Superman’s help, the others do a pretty good job of wrecking Agent Axis’s plans, so he figures “screw it, if we can’t rule the world I’ll just destroy it” and lets the Ravager go nuts. But it’s much, much worse this time, and time pretty much ceases to be, sending everybody into some crazy limbo.
Wonder Woman has a little internal monologue about never giving up hope, but doesn’t really have a part in saving the day this time. No, it’s up to Green Arrow and his archery skills, because the thingamabob has to be next to the thingamajig at just the right moment, and Superman or Wonder Woman can’t do it because, um, mumble mumble.
Anyway, that suddenly fixes everything, and everybody’s back where they should be, and everything that existed and then didn’t exist now exists again. And the Ravager is presumably destroyed, which is a shame because he was just some scientist guy till he and time went nuts. (This is the first and last we’d ever see of both him and Agent Axis.) And nobody remembers that it even happened, except Green Arrow and Black Canary because, um, mumble mumble.
The funny thing about this story making such a big deal about using the Earth-2, World War II Wonder Woman (and not even using her all that much) is that by the time the next issue came out, DC was back to using the 1970s Earth-1 Wonder Woman again. But that’s another story for another time.