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Captain Comics: What's new with Wonder Woman?

Andrew A. Smith, Tribune News Service on

Published in Comic Books

Thursday, Oct. 21 was the very first Wonder Woman Day, as decreed by DC Comics. And all I can say is that it’s about time.

Thursday is an odd day for a “Day.” Comics arrive at comic shops on Tuesdays (DC Comics) and Wednesdays (everybody else), and Saturdays have a lot of foot traffic (so Free Comic Book Days are always scheduled on Saturdays). Those three days would be more of a natural “Day” than a Thursday.

But Oct. 21, 2021, is exactly 80 years from Oct. 21, 1941, when the Amazing Amazon made her first appearance. A nine-page preview depicting Wonder Woman’s origin was published in the back of “All-Star Comics” #8, cover dated December 1941-January 1942, but appearing on newsstands in October.

“All-Star” was an appropriate place for WW’s first appearance, because it starred the Justice Society of America. Wonder Woman joined that seminal superteam three issues later in 1942, as a “guest star during a national emergency” (this was the first issue written after Pearl Harbor), and as a member of the largely ceremonial “Justice Battalion,” basically just another name for the JSA during the war (but giving them an official U.S. Army designation, to excuse them all from enlisting).

She formally joined the team in the next issue, as “secretary.” Yes, secretary. Initially all she did was show up at the beginning and end and take notes, even though she was one of the most powerful characters in the book! That bit was eventually dropped, and the Amazing Amazon joined the JSA on its adventures. But as a sign of the times, retirement of the “secretary” label took an unconscionably long time.

Meanwhile, Wonder Woman was a smash hit with readers.

A month after “All-Star” #8, a new anthology named “Sensation Comics” launched with Wonder Woman as its lead — which would remain true for the bulk of the title’s existence. A few months after that, “Wonder Woman” #1 debuted — one of the few titles in the ‘40s dedicated to a single character, and one of the even fewer that has continued to this day. She gained a fourth platform when “Comic Cavalcade” premiered near the end of 1942, an anthology headlined by Diana, Flash and Green Lantern.

The Princess of Power has had her ups and downs since then, but she is undoubtedly the most famous female superhero on Earth. And she’s finally getting her due, as DC celebrates not just Wonder Woman Day, but essentially Wonder Woman Month, and if you squint at it just right, Wonder Woman Year.

On Wonder Woman Day proper, DC released three free comics, samplers which may still be available at your local comic shop. They include:

— A reprint of “Wonder Woman” #1 from 2016, which was the beginning of the story that revealed her demigod nature. The rest of the story is available in collections such as “Wonder Woman: Lies” and “Wonder Woman: Rebirth Deluxe Edition”;

— An excerpt of “Diana: Princess of the Amazons,” a middle school graphic novel from January about the young Diana learning to fit in on an island of adults; and

— An excerpt from “Tempest Tossed,” a YA graphic novel from July with a very modern version of Diana’s introduction to “Man’s World,” one without Steve Trevor. Joining the usual set of problems — war, patriarchy, crime — are issues such as immigration, refugee camps, gentrification, poverty, human trafficking and the prison system.

On the comics publishing front, DC scheduled seven Wonder Woman titles in October (though one will be delayed to November). They include:

— “Nubia and the Amazons” #1, a new series starring the Black Wonder Woman, now queen of Themyscira;

— “Wonder Girl” #4, starring the first nonwhite character of that name, a teenage Brazilian Amazon from, literally, the Amazon basin;

— “Wonder Woman” #780, written as a jumping-on point;

— “Wonder Woman 80th Anniversary 100-Page Super-Spectacular” #1, an anthology with stories set in different eras of the character’s eight decades;

 

— “Wonder Woman: Black and Gold” #5 (of 6), an anthology miniseries with stories colored only in black and gold;

— “Wonder Woman: The Adventures of Young Diana,” collecting a series of backup stories depicting an early coming-of-age adventure (against Circe!); and

— “Wonder Woman Historia: The Amazons” #1, an open-ended series of one-shots telling the history of the Amazons, beginning with the origin of Hippolyta.

Only four of these will be ongoing, one of which is the evergreen “Wonder Woman.” There are high hopes for “Wonder Girl,” written and drawn by the astonishingly talented Joelle Jones (“Lady Killer”), a character whose unconventional origin and infectious enthusiasm should be a springboard for a wealth of stories. “Nubia” is a long-awaited spotlight on a neglected member of the Wonder cast, and there isn’t anyone in the comics community who isn’t intrigued by “Historia” — a blank canvas on which anything can be written.

WW is also well represented in hardback collections.

“Wonder Woman: 80 Years of the Amazon Warrior” and “Wonder Woman: Through the Years” both collect special stories from the last eight decades, usually first appearances, origins or significant events. Somehow, the two books manage to cover many of the same important topics without duplication. (One book, for example, has the first appearance of the first Cheetah, while the other has her second appearance, both of which serve well as a primer for the character.)

The third book, a YA anthology, shifts focus from Wonder Women to trailblazing women IRL. Edited by New York Times bestselling author Laurie Halse Anderson, “Wonderful Women of the World” features profiles and portraits of 23 influential women, including Beyoncé, Serena Williams, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Greta Thunberg and Malala Yousafzai, all written and drawn by an all-star cast of creators.

Of course, the celebration isn’t restricted to just reading material. Out in the world:

— Wonder Woman was inducted into the Comic-Con Museum Character Hall of Fame in San Diego;

— A third Wonder Woman movie, with Patty Jenkins directing and Gal Gadot starring, was announced on Oct. 16 at DC’s online convention FanDome;

— A huge catalog of Wonder Woman animation, movie and TV releases is available on HBO Max;

— Gruppo 24 Ore is celebrating the anniversary through the exhibition “Wonder Woman: The Myth” hosted at Palazzo Morando, Milan; and

— A special FanDome segment showcased how different brands and designers from around the world were inspired by Themyscira’s iconic style, a lineup that includes Animale (Brazil), Camilla (Australia), Echelon (U.S.), EleVen (U.S.), La Redoute (France), Marina Hoermanseder (Germany), MGI (Indonesia), NA-KD (UK), Nivedita Saboo (India) and Zales (U.S.).

There’s plenty more, because as Jimmy Durante always said, everybody wants to get into the act. I don’t have room to list it all, but information on Wonder Woman on social media, in video games, in merchandise, in kids’ activities and more can be found at wonderwoman80.com.

She has certainly earned it. Despite our patriarchal world, Diana is one of only three characters to headline comics continuously since the ‘40s (Superman and Batman are the other two). Despite not being the first female superhero (that would be Sheena, arguably, or Fantomah), she has carried the banner longer and higher than any.

And as Lynda Carter and Gal Gadot have proven, she is just cool.

©2021 Tribune Content Agency, LLC
 

 

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