On Wednesdays I look at various chapters in Wonder Woman’s history. Click here for previous installments.
It’s that time again. ’Tis the season to dig up another one of Wonder Woman’s very special Christmas stories from the 1940s, by Wonder Woman creators William Moulton Marston and H.G. Peter. This one’s from 1945’s Sensation Comics #38, reprinted in the hardbound Wonder Woman Archives vol. 5.
Sensation Comics #38, DC Comics, February 1945.
“Racketeers Kidnap Miss Santa Claus” starts the way a lot of these old Christmas stories do—with our hero running into a child who’s having a hard time and is starting to doubt in the benevolence and even the existence of our lord and savior, Santa Claus. Clearly Wonder Woman has to set this child back on the proper path as part of every hero’s duty to harvest souls for Santa.
This kid, Pete Allen, has had a hard time of it since his dad died and he and his mom and his sister have had to live with his Uncle Joe. His dad dying is rough and all, but the point is that now their stockings are empty, even though they’ve been good kids. What kind of crap is Santa trying to pull?
In her human guise of Diana Prince, Wonder Woman promises to get Santa on the case. Steve Trevor, her boss and romantic interest, says the kid lives in a bad neighborhood, so Diana had better not go there. Not once does Steve actually offer to help, though, because ultimately he doesn’t really give a crap.
Wonder Woman, on the other hand, really gets into the spirit of Christmas, making herself a “Miss Santa” suit that’s really just her usual WW costume with white fluff added around the edges, plus a red cape.
In a rare intrusion of real-world concerns into comic-book reality, it occurs to her that her invisible plane doesn’t have skis, so it may have trouble taking off in all the snow. So she tugs the plane onto the roof of an old barn with her brute strength and magic lasso, and them picks the plane up and throws it, climbing her way onto it with her lasso. So forget anything I just said about real-world concerns—she’s just showing off.
She alights on tenement roofs with her sack of gifts, and rather than slip down chimneys she straight-up jimmies locks and breaks in, which I’m sure won’t be a problem in a poor neighborhood like Pete’s. So it seems like her own damn fault when she gets clocked from behind as an intruder once she finally finds little Pete’s home.
Her assailant is Pete’s mother, Judith Allen, but she didn’t hit Wondy over the head because she thought she was a burglar. No, she actually thought it was someone she actually lives with—her own brother-in-law, who abuses her and the kids, and who had just broken all the toys she saved up all year to buy for her kids.
What’s weird is that Joe is clearly the archetype of an abusive husband and father—except that he’s not the husband and father. He’s Judith’s brother-in-law, her sister’s husband, except the sister isn’t there at all, and whatever happened to her is never addressed. Judith is a widow, but she doesn’t say she lives with her sister and the sister’s husband; she just says she lives with her sister’s husband. It’s all very strange. I guess Marston figured it would be too disturbing if this guy was the father of Judith’s kids.
In any case, there’s that same cycle of abuse. Joe has his good days when he tries to cozy up to Judith, and his bad days when he at least threatens to beat her and the kids. But she heroically stands up to him when he tries to beat her kids, and gets knocked around for it.
All Wondy wants to do is bring the kids some freaking presents, but when Joe comes home and catches her spreading the Christmas cheer, he pulls a gun on her. Hilariously, he doesn’t recognize her as Wonder Woman until after she shoots her and she deflects the bullets with her bracelets, even though she’s clearly wearing her costume the whole time.
Oh, and at this point Steve comes bumbling in, too. Not because he was suddenly concerned for that little poor kid; don’t be ridiculous. It’s just because he heard Wonder Woman was there playing Santa, and he has the hots for her. He instantly recognizes Joe as Joe the Gyp Bamko, wanted for hijacking army supplies. (I shouldn’t have to tell you that “gyp” and “gypped” are ethnic slurs that you should never, ever say, but I’ll tell you anyway because some people in the States are still oblivious to the Roma or “Gypsies” as real people who are routinely victimized.)
Well, as usual when Steve gets involved, this just escalates matters, and soon they’re having a shootout, through a closed door, in an apartment with children. At least Judith has the presence of mind to tell Steve to stop firing blindly into the room where her children are.
Joe, of course, takes the kids hostage in his “secret lair,” and Wondy wisely sends Steve out to go get her college sorority-girl friends as backup. I say “wisely” not because it wouldn’t make more sense to bring, say, some of their army buddies instead, seeing as how they’re in military intelligence, but because Steve’s just going to keep messing things up as long as he’s there.
When WW busts down the door, there’s Joe, but the kids are gone! What did he do with them? He’ll never tell—except of course he will, because the magic lasso can make him tell. There’s a hidden tunnel in the room that leads right to the treasury, which Joe and his goons are going to bust into tonight.
Of course this quickly turns into Wonder Woman being tied up with her own lasso, like it pretty much always did during this era. This time it’s because Joe and his goons will blow the kids up with dynamite if she doesn’t submit to being tied up, but you know, it’s always something. It’s not like she couldn’t easily overpower all the crooks, but that wouldn’t leave any excuse for her to get tied up.
The magic lasso makes her powerless to resist Joe’s commands, and he makes her break through the treasury vault for them. Just for fun, they use her as a beast of burden as well, piling up gold on her back to carry out to their truck.
Once they’ve taken their fill—only a fraction of the gold actually in there—they leave her tied up in the vault with the kids and the rest of the gold. But oh no! Its stacks no longer stable, it starts burying Wondy and the kids in a gold avalanche. But it’s a good thing Steve brought the Holliday Girls, because plump pal Etta Candy literally stumbles into the secret passage, her weight triggering the trap door.
They quickly free Wonder Woman, who rushes out and stops Joe and his gang, no problem. More importantly, she teaches Pete—and his little sister, who doesn’t say a word in the whole story—to believe in Santa again, even if it’s Miss Santa. In fact, she says Santa lives in people everywhere, including their parents, which seems like a pretty savvy way of putting it. Now, if the Allen family still has a place to live now that Joe’s heading off to jail, which is not at all clear, it just might be a happy ending.
Merry Christmas to all, and to all a ho-ho-hola!