Tannenbaum Squad


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.

Who’s the star of the comic in this picture? You might be surprised.

Sensation Comics #14, DC Comics, February 1943.

Sensation Comics #14 was an unusual Wonder Woman tale in that the entire story is told from the point of view of another character. And—there’s no way to break this to you gently—that narrator is a Christmas tree.  “My real name is Abies Balsamea but my friends call me Fir Balsam,” the tree tells us. “I grew up on top of Lonely Mountain all alone. Trees love to murmur and whisper together. But I had no companions until I met Wonder Woman who understands tree language.” Of course she does.

One day Steve Trevor and Diana Prince come onto the mountain near the Canadian border, looking for a Nazi hideout that might be designed for helping enemies sneak over the border. At first the tree doesn’t think much of Diana. “I thought Diana was a dull-looking girl but she changed her clothes and suddenly I realized she was beautiful!” it says.  Who knew trees were so superficial?  Once the tree realizes that plain-Jane Diana is actually the glamorous Wonder Woman, she lets her in on a secret—that there’s a coded message hidden in the hollow of her exposed roots. Seeing as how she speaks all languages ever, Wondy makes short work of the code, and sure enough it’s a message in German saying to meet in some cave.

Cryptography is fun!

Like any good Christmas story, this one’s full of heartbreak. While Wonder Woman goes zooming off on skis to look for the bad guys, two little children show up at the tree, lost in a snowstorm and freezing to death. The tree cleverly dislodges the Diana Prince clothing that Wondy had stashed in its blankets, and while the kids bundle up and warm themselves with a fire, they conveniently tell each other the story of how they got there.

That middle panel is a little disturbing.

Teddy and Babs are the children of the Carters—not the singing group but a simple farming family that was torn apart last Christmas when a German hired hand with the totally unsuspicious name of Carl Natz put the moves on the mom, Nan. Her husband, Jeb, a crusty old mountain man, burst in and found Nan in Carl’s arms (never mind that she was struggling to fend him off) and beat Carl up and threw Nan out, forbidding the kids to even mention her name.  It’s the best Christmas ever! The kids got lost sneaking out in the snow to try to give their mom her Christmas presents, and now they’ll have to die for it. If the cold doesn’t kill them, the Nazis will. And honestly, not to get too disturbing or anything, their father seems worrisomely unhinged too.

Aaaand, sure enough, the Nazis from Canada soon find the kids and take them prisoner, first demanding their message and then some provisions. On the food run they find Jeb and take him prisoner too—or rather take him and Babs to a cliff and pushes them off.

But wait, it’s Wonder Woman to the rescue!  On skis! A connoisseur of such things (in addition to human attractiveness), the tree gives Wondy high marks on her ski-jump catch.

Meanwhile Natz has found Nan and tied her up, making it look to Jeb like their clinched in an embrace. Jeb gets so hopping mad that he jumps straight into a ravine after them.  Fortunately Wondy thinks fast and lassos him, swinging him around to the other side.

Jeb really needs to think about anger management.

It wouldn’t be a William Moulton Marston comic if things didn’t get kinky, so Wondy has Jeb tie her to the tree so that the Nazis will find her and take her to wherever they’ve taken Teddy. Sure enough, a leering officer called, I shit you not, Fritz Krieg finds her and brings her back to his lair, pulling her on a leash while his men make lascivious catcalls. Fritz binds her to a door while she makes flirtatious small talk and leaves her there, and sure enough, it’s the door behind which they’re keeping Teddy. The Nazis have run away, hearing that Steve Trevor is on the way “mit dose fighting girls.” That would be Etta Candy and her sorority sisters, whom we didn’t even know were tagging along on this intelligence mission, but it’s not too surprising because they always come to the rescue.

Stop spanking me? Wow. Just wow.

But you know who doesn’t always save the day? A freaking Christmas tree. While Wondy frees Teddy and leaves Nan chained up for her husband to find her and hopefully repent his foolish jealousy rather than killing her in blind rage, the Nazis blow up the mountaintop, triggering an avalanche and sending the disoriented tree flying toward Steve and the girls. Wondy catches the tree, of course, and it to fend off the avalanche while sorority girls on skis lasso the Nazis. And best of all, the tree now gets to live right by the Carters’ house and won’t be lonely anymore.  Only her top gets chopped off to give them a new Christmas tree. Oh, and Jeb didn’t kill Nan, at least not today, so it’s a happy ending all around.

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