A Princess on Mars


He was a rugitarian.

On Wednesdays I look at various chapters in Wonder Woman’s history. Click here for previous installments, including Greg Rucka’s run and the current “New 52” era. We’re now looking at the earliest Wonder Woman stories by Wonder Woman creator William Moulton Marston and artist H.G. Peter, as collected in the paperback Wonder Woman Chronicles Vol. 2 or the hardcover Wonder Woman Archives Vol. 2.

By Sam Hurwitt

Looks like he was Roman too close to the edge.

Wonder Woman #2, DC Comics, Fall 1942.

Running side-by-side with her monthly adventures in Sensation Comics, the second then-quarterly issue of Wonder Woman’s own magazine took a clever approach, offering four different adventures that are all set in motion by the first one. Essentially, Wonder Woman pisses off Mars, god of war, and he sends his three lieutenants after her in three parallel stories. There at 52 pages of story in this single issue, so there’s lots to talk about.

As was established in the first issue of Wonder Woman, the Amazons’ patron deity Aphrodite is locked in an eternal struggle with Mars, her forces of women and love pitted against his of men and war. You know, men are from Mars, women are from Venus. Never mind that WW creator William Moulton Marston used the Greek name for one deity and the Roman name for the other. We also learned previously that in World War II, Aphrodite backs America and democracy while Mars is behind the Axis and tyranny, because victory for America would mean an end to war (cough). In this issue we find out just how direct his involvement with those earthly forces is.

It opens with Mars sitting at a desk made out of tank parts, thundering over briefs showing that Nazi and Japanese spies are being thwarted by none other than Wonder Woman.  Up to this point we’ve only seeing Mars plotting against the Amazons in general, mostly in flashback, but now he starts going after Wonder Woman directly. Because, he says, “Amazons, like all women, are fools over men,” Mars decides to go after WW through the man she loves, and lures Steve Trevor into his clutches through sealed orders from the high command. Though she can’t stop him from doing his duty, Wonder Woman gives him some tablets that contain the Purple Healing Ray she invented to save his life in the first place. Now available in convenient pill form!

I don’t know why I love Etta’s psychic fingers, but I do.

Wondy checks in with her fun-loving pal Etta Candy via mental radio to see if there’s any news from Steve, but she hasn’t heard anything. There seems to have been a great technological advance in mental radio since last we saw it, as Etta apparently no longer has to be plugged into a physical machine to receive Wondy’s telepathic messages or to reply in kind. Wonder Woman prays to Aphrodite for guidance, and the goddess tells her that yep, Mars has taken Steve prisoner because he hates our freedom. “Your defense of America and democracy has incensed him!” he says. Diana swears she’ll go after him, but is told that “no mortal can enter Mars’s domain except as a shackled prisoner.” Undeterred, Diana says that’s just what she’ll do. “I’m not afraid of chains!” she says, which is an understatement if I’ve ever heard one. But wait! Aphrodite says Mars only takes spirits of the dead (what this might mean for Steve goes undiscussed) and gives Diana a potion that will put her in a deep sleep that looks like death. Just like in Romeo and Juliet! And we know that always ends well.

Etta seems way too happy about how dead Diana looks.

So Wondy takes the potion, leaving her sleeping body with Etta. She immediately gets herself caught and added to a chain gang of slaves traveling to Mars on a convict ship that looks like an old-fashioned wooden sailing ship, except it flies through outer space, with blue skies and scattered clouds all the way. Just to reiterate: Greco-Roman gods living on other planets with 20th-century earth conveniences, and interplanetary flight that looks identical to sailing the seas at home. Because, you know, why not? The slaves are sorted into two categories: the weak have to work in war factories on Mars, while the strong are trained and given new bodies to wage war in Earth. Although Wonder Woman is in costume and not disguised at all, flaunting her super strength, and even though Mars must be expecting her, she says she’s Etta Candy and no one suspects that she’s up to anything. Even Mars doesn’t recognize her when he watches the tournament set up to find the strongest slaves. Here we meet his three commanders: Lord Conquest, the Earl of Greed and the Duke of Deception (not to be confused with the Duke of Doubt).  We’ll be seeing a lot more of them in this issue.

What does a god … need with a starship?

As usual, Wonder Woman makes short work of her competitors in the tournament, although with a weird spanking interlude along the way (“The paddle descends and Wonder Woman is reminded of childhood days and her mother’s strong right arm!”). Mars catches on that she’s Wonder Woman only because of her battle cry, “For Aphrodite and the Amazons!” (Again, she’s really not putting much effort into keeping a low profile.)

That is one thin excuse for the chains in the mouth.

The Duke of Deception advises Mars not to let on that he knows who she is and let her make her attempt to rescue Steve.  There’s a bit more kinky stuff—Wondy biting down on her chains so as better to overhear something through a metal wall, a conversation with a slave girl who can’t conceive that Steve could be anything but Wonder Woman’s master—but Mars’s plan to let Diana try to rescue Steve backfires when, well, she easily rescues Steve and takes him home in a stolen ship. Not one to take such affronts lying down, he sends his lieutenants one by one to capture her.

Man, Mars really puts up with a lot of sass from his lieutenants.

Just to make things more amusing, each of these demigods has one of the primary leaders of the Axis as his pawn. First up is the Earl of Greed, and his early vassal is none other than Adolf Hitler! Hitler is amusingly (and insightfully) depicted as a raving paranoid lunatic who literally chews the rug in his office when no one’s around. The only time he makes any halfway competent decisions is when he’s following the secret orders of Greed.

Somewhere someone’s made a YouTube clip of this Hitler rant with that footage from Downfall.

Steve and Wonder Woman go on a covert mission inside Germany (that invisible plane of her comes in handy), where they spy on Hitler meeting with the Gestapo. For whatever reason, both of them can easily see Greed’s “astral body” hovering behind Hitler and giving him orders, even though no one else can see him. Greed has Hitler approve a plan to raid the US treasury and steal all the gold.

No sooner do Steve and Wonder Woman get back to the States than Etta turns up saying that her college is going to be shut down. The college’s funds have disappeared and the treasurer has gone missing. Wonder Woman goes to talk to the school president, Dr. Deacon, who says the college needs $50,000 by tomorrow to stay open. It just happens to be the World Series, the Pups vs. the Sockems, so Wondy comes up with a scheme to have the Pups play a benefit game against the Holliday College women’s team right after they win the series. She convinces Pups owner Mr. Dough (there are those all-too-appropriate names again) to let the team play if she’ll win the game for them.  So Wonder Woman wins the World Series for the Pups (which isn’t anything like cheating, honest), and off they go to play the women as promised.

Yeah, pretty sure that’s cheating. Good thing it’s just the World Series.

Furious about being thwarted, Greed has his hidden accomplice, the as-yet-unknown Holliday College embezzler, replace the baseball with a bomb while Wondy’s at bat in the benefit game. Now, there’s a pretty obvious suspect for who that accomplice is, and in these early Marston stories the mystery saboteur is usually exactly who you think it is. Anyway, it takes a lot more than an explosion to take out Wonder Woman, but she’s dazed and taken to the college infirmary, from which she’s immediately kidnapped and taken to the US Treasury vault, where she’s encased in a solid block of melted gold to be taken to Mars. Can she possibly break out of that? Well, yeah, obviously, especially if Steve’s in danger, which he always is.

And now we enter the “Wonder Woman encased in weird things” stage.

She breaks out, breaks up the Nazi plot, unmasks the embezzler (who’s exactly who we thought it would be) and saves Holliday College, while the army blows the Earl of Greed’s interplanetary cruiser out of the air. (Apparently astral bodies don’t always work the same way they’re shown to work in Sensation Comics #11, where people could travel from planet to planet just by wishing it. These astral bodies need ships to get to Mars.) Not bad for a day’s work.

Next opponent: the Duke of Deception! His ship destroyed, the Earl of Greed has to slink away home on a prison ship, and tries to hide from Mars among the prisoners, but to no avail. Mars sends him off to prison and drafts Deception for the next round. Deception consults his secretarial pool of slaves drafting up propaganda and schemes, sending his slave Scribla (love those names) to collect any plans already in the works for kidnapping Wonder Woman. I love that his “lie factory” looks like an office right out of How to Succeed in Business Without Even Trying.

I love the Lie Factory so damn much.

Deception also keeps a rack of disguises, or phantasms, of living people, including Hitler, Mussolini and Wonder Woman, that he can animate with his “astral body.” He speeds off to Earth in his space torpedo—which looks a little less like a boat and more like an old-timey sci-fi spaceship this time. Meanwhile, freed of Greed’s influence, Hitler decides to loosen up his control of Nazi-occupied countries. Man, we never learned this stuff in school!

Like all Germans, Hitler needs sausages and a fancy beer stein at hand at all times.

Deception conspires to have Wonder Woman framed for knifing a Hawaiian dancer at an event where Wondy’s selling war bonds, but it doesn’t take.  A lawyer that someone arranged for her gives Wondy her lasso back and offers her coffee, but the coffee is drugged, the lasso is fake, and the Hawaiian dancer is there, not even dead! The dead body was one of Deception’s phantasms, and the dancer Naha has Wondy all tied up in her own lasso, which makes her obey all Naha’s commands. Amusingly, Naha gives Wondy an overcoat with fake hands so no one can tell her own hands are tied behind her back.

See, most people don’t go the extra mile to bring fake hands for their abductees.

Taking WW onto a yacht, Naha binds her further, taping her mouth and eyes shut. That doesn’t stop Wondy from sending a mental radio message to Etta Candy. It does, however, keep her from seeing. Her facial muscles are strong enough to break open the tape, but her “feminine vanity” won’t permit her to rip her eyelashes by tearing the tape off her eyes.  Sigh.  I guess her iconic anti-sexism only goes so far. Still bound in her unbreakable lasso, Diana opens a porthole with her teeth and worms her way out into the water. The Hawaiian woman is also a champion swimmer (of course she is) and pursues WW, but Etta and her sorority sisters show up in a speedboat in the nick of time (as usual) to save the day. Wondy takes her kidnapper over her knee and gives her a spanking. Etta has taught her well.

How many fetishes can you count on this page? Answer: All of them.

After the enhanced interrogation, Naha shows Wonder Woman where Deception’s phantasms are kept, and Wondy takes the double of herself for her own use, having Naha show her how to animate it. Hearing that Steve’s on a mission to Hawaii, she zooms off in her invisible plane with Etta and Naha in tow. She gives Etta the seeming-death potion that Aphrodite gave her in the first story and has Etta drink it so her astral body can animate the Wonder Woman phantasm. She leaves Naha to watch over Etta’s sleeping body, somehow thinking that she can be trusted now. That must have been some spanking! Etta goes to pose as Wondy in public—essentially as bait (complaining only about the lack of candy involved, as usual)—so the real WW can operate in the shadows.

The part of Wonder Woman should be played by Etta Candy all the time.

But wait! Where are the world leaders I promised you? Well, Deception has Japan’s Emperor Hirohito in his power, disguising himself as a high-ranking general. Amusingly, the emperor doesn’t believe a word this general says until he has outside proof, but eventually Deception convinces him to attack Hawaii, because the Americans are expecting saboteurs from within, not a full-scale assault.

The Japanese take the bait and capture Wonder Etta, and the real WW follows them to their hideout and stealthily captures one of them. She makes him reveal the plot to Steve with her magic lasso, and American planes head off and defeat the attacking Japanese forces. But Etta’s still in Japanese custody, so WW goes off to change places with her before Deception gets there, disguised as portly General Hammi (sigh). She knocks Deception right out of the phantasm body he’s occupying and then destroys his space torpedo to boot.

Deception tries the same ruse that Greed did—hiding from his boss Mars among the convicts on his disgraced trip back to the planet Mars—but he at least gives it a better shot, occupying a phantasm of a female prisoner to do it. Still, it doesn’t work, and Mars tosses him in the dungeon with Greed for his failure. This looks like a job for Lord Conquest!

Conquest consults a woman slave about which Axis power would be best at capturing a woman, and she says the Italians because they’re so dreamy. Fair enough! Off he goes to manipulate Mussolini, telling Il Duce to send his handsomest man and his brawniest strongman after Wonder Woman. This comes just as Hirohito is making it known that Japan will help Italy shake off Germany’s domination if Mussolini will just get rid of Wonder Woman.

I like that Roman gods on the planet Mars just have normal phones.

So Mussolini sends the aptly named Count Crafti and Mammotha (guess which is the handsome one and which is the strong one) to America, posing as Spaniards. Crafti tries to seduce Wondy while Mammotha becomes a boxer known for his uncanny strength, an irresistible challenge for the competitive Wonder Woman, who is after all a bit of a showoff. She to fight Mammotha if the winnings go to the USO and Red Cross, and of course knocks him out easy breezy.

But of course it’s a trap, and Wondy gets electrocuted, stuffed into a punching bag, and shackled with chains welded to her bracelets, the only thing that makes her lose her strength. All this and Steve’s captured too! Conquest successfully transports them to Mars where his peers failed, and they’re kept prisoners on Mars. Who can rescue them now?

Etta Candy, of course!  You might think a spunky, candy and spanking obsessed sorority girl making her way to Mars is a bit of a stretch, but you see, Wonder Woman gave her all the instructions to get there the same way WW did in the first story: potion, astral body, convict ship, etc. So Etta gets there and somehow makes her way to Wonder Woman, having brought acid along to eat through their chains.

Having busted out of prison and freed Steve, Wonder Woman has a brief battle with Mars himself, managing to defeat the god of war long enough to escape. (Not too shabby considering that’s his territory.) But gods are immortal by definition. so it’s not over by a long shot.

Hey, anybody here from Midland? Then you’re a tightwad piece of crap.

Heck, the comic isn’t even over!  There’s a weird little two-page epilogue that’s basically just there to say “Buy war bonds!” She goes to the city of Midland, where people aren’t buying like Americans are elsewhere, to shame them into doing their part of the war effort, having a soldier tell his story of survival due to a supply shipment when he needed it most.  All this, and somehow not once in the whole story does anyone say, “Keep ‘em flying!” Clearly they need to do better too, just like Midland. Shameful, shoddy, unpatriotic Midland.

About author

No comments yet.

Be first to leave your comment!




Your comment:

Add your comment