Cyber Naughty


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

In Soviet Russia, skis lodge in you!

Wonder Woman #181, DC Comics, April 1969.

In last week’s Wonder Wednesday, I started looking back at what I think of as the Emma Peel era of Wonder Woman, when she suddenly gave up her powers and costume, started dressing in mod fashions, and learned karate from an old blind Chinese guy named I Ching. Seriously.

In the last issue, Steve Trevor died, shot for the second time in two issues by agents of Doctor Cyber. Amazingly enough for such a nonevent of a death, we’re not going to find out in an issue or two that he made it somehow. Nope, he’s really dead, and aside from an initial lust for vengeance, Diana seems to be pretty much over it right away. That seems to be because artist/plotter Mike Sekowsky and scripter Denny O’Neil (who’s only sticking around for this one more issue before leaving Sekowky to do the whole thing himself) just wanted Wonder Woman’s boyfriend of 28 years out of the picture as quickly as possible so they could introduce Diana’s all-new supporting cast.

Indeed, Diana doesn’t give Steve a second thought in this next issue. That’s because Doctor Cyber has captured Tim Trench, the hardboiled detective she just met in the last issue. Forget Steve; she has to save Tim!

Fortunately, Diana and Ching have captured one of Cyber’s goons, who are all beautiful women for whatever reason (as is Doctor Cyber herself). Unfortunately, the goon is hypnotically conditioned to be unable to betray her boss. Fortunately, Ching knows some hypnosis himself as part of his mysterious Eastern bag of tricks.

Oh, snap! Guess he told her!

While Ching works his magic, Diana goes to meet an old Irish bombmaker of her acquaintance. The implication is that this sweet old man used to be an IRA bomber or something, and Diana and Steve got him a parole. (Diana doesn’t even bat an eye at the mention of her boyfriend who was just murdered.) Now he’s apparently Diana’s personal Q, providing her explosive earrings and other superspy gizmos of his own design. And yeah, although Diana has apparently known him for years, we’ve never seen this guy before.

Oh yeah, now I just make deadly weapons for fun. I’m over the whole killing people thing.

Speaking of Q, it’s astonishing to me that On Her Majesty’s Secret Service came out in late 1969, not early that year (starring everyone’s favorite James Bond, George Lazenby), because as soon as I saw the ski poles on the cover I thought of it. The skis were prominently featured on the poster, however—along with Diana Rigg, who seems to be the primary inspiration for this particular version of Wonder Woman—so I suppose its possible that DC saw that and decided to jump on the bandwagon early. Not that skis are some esoteric item or anything.

Far out! Lazenby’s here to STAY!

In any case, there’s definitely a Bond vibe going on in this issue. Dr. Cyber is based in an underwater supervillain fortress (shades of Thunderball) accessible by high-tech underwater cars. There she tells Tim Trench all about her fiendish master plan to… dare I say it?… rule the world! In the meantime, they seem to be having a grand old time, having cocktails and pleasant conversation even as Dr. Cyber tells Trench she will, of course, have to kill him. There are fiendish deathtraps, a lot of kinda-sorta-witty banter, big fight scenes, beautiful babes, gadgets, gunfire and explosions. All the stuff you expect from a Bond flick.

At least she’s nice about it.

There’s some cringeworthy stuff in here too, even aside from I Ching’s whole stereotype of the mysterious, elderly, aphorism-spouting martial arts master. There’s also some unfortunate sexist stuff, too. I mean, check out how Tim escapes captivity.

But Cyber just called her Betty… Ah well, Betty, Val, what’s the difference?

Oh, and Diana apparently did rent that place she was looking at a couple issues ago, and she opened a boutique there called—get this—Mod-ly Modern. This is the first we’ve heard of it, but to be fair she’s been busy.

Where’d she get all that crazy gear?

Having freed Tim, who Diana starts mooning over in a way even she finds a little unseemly, they track Cyber to the European country of Bjorland, where they visit a ski hotel in a friendly village that turns out to entirely populated by Cyber’s agents. Creepy! And Cyber tries to buy Tim off with a shower of jewels. But will be succumb?

That certainly sounds like a good argument for not looking up.

Wonder Woman #182, DC Comics, June 1969.

So is Tim Trench a good guy or a bad guy?  All we know is he seems to be looking out for number one, skipping out on his companions and grabbing some of Cyber’s riches for himself without actively switching sides. Oh, that scamp!

I just have to say it: Dr. Cyber is kind of a lousy villain at least so far. The only thing she’s really got going for her is that half the world seems to be secretly working for her, and that for whatever reason most of her agents are beautiful women. But her fiendish plans are laughably ill-defined. Step one: Get lots and lots of money. Step two: Take over the world! And Ching’s claim that Dr. Cyber is half man, half machine seems to have been forgotten. At least there’s been no sign of her being at all cybernetic so far. All she does is loot and have people killed, and alternately threaten to kill our heroes and ask them to join her. Sure, one of the people she had killed was Steve Trevor, which is pretty significant—or at least should be pretty significant—but that just makes his death all the more ignominious.

Oh no, not birds! Her only weakness! Besides snowmobiles, I mean.

So when they seem to have caught Cyber, how does she fend them off? With women warriors on snowmobiles, and by siccing trained falcons on Diana and Ching. Birds and snowmobiles?  Really? The sad thing is that Diana talks like she doesn’t think they can possibly survive being attacked by a flock of freaking birds. I know she’s lost her powers and all, but that’s not the Diana I know.

Spoiler warning: Diana doesn’t get pecked to death by birds. She does, however, meet Reggie Hyde-Whyte, a strangely attractive, charming and very rich young Englishman. Unfortunately, we know from the moment she meets him that he’s yet another agent of Dr. Cyber, so it’s not going to be much of a surprise when he inevitably turns on her. But in the meantime, I did mention he’s rich, right?  You know what that means: Shopping spree!

Any excuse for a fashion show! Her mooning over high society is kind of embarrassing, tho.

And, what’s more, Diana immediately falls for him. “I’ve never felt this way before,” she thinks, making with the smooches. I’d just like to remind you that her long-term boyfriend was murdered, like, yesterday.

Man, Diana, rebound much?

Sekowsky’s weird habit of drawing different people with the same face continues, leading to a confusing moment where one of Dr. Cyber’s nameless agents who looks almost exactly like Cyber herself takes Diana to Cyber’s lair (for what seems like the zillionth time they’ve been captured by her in this story arc so far).

She’s every woman.

The story’s kind of meandering, a lot of following clues and Cyber’s agents coming out of the woodwork, and after a while it gets a little tedious. I’m about ready for this Dr. Cyber thing to start winding down.

And it does … sort of. Cyber makes her getaway, like always, but at least we move on to something else for the next couple of issues. That may seem a little odd considering how Ching is after her to save the world and maybe avenge his entire monastery (though he downplays the whole vengeance thing) and Diana at least supposedly still has it in for her for killing Steve. But for the moment, well, things come up.

I think we’ve all wanted to tell him that for a while now.

Also, not for nothing, but man, Diana cries a lot. I mean, a lot. She’s always sobbing about something or another in this run. Maybe it’s just that she doesn’t know what to do with all these emotions from being human all of a sudden, but she needs to chill the heck out.

Next week: Man, those Amazons just can’t stay away!

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