Tentacle Tuesday: More Golden Age Wonder Woman Wonders!

I’m always happy to revisit Wonder Woman in her glorious young days of being depicted by H. G. Peter, whose expressive, dynamic art I just can’t get enough of. The stories are none too shabby, either! In my earlier post, Tentacle Tuesday: H.G. Peter and Wonder Woman lend a hand, I overlooked a few choice cuts. Well, having spent a few delightful hours going through WW stories originally published in Wonder Woman, Sensation Comics or Comic Cavalcade, it is my pleasure to remedy my previous oversight, and I can possibly even claim that these two posts are a pretty definitive list of Wonder Woman’s tentacular entanglements.

Do you have a few hours to waste – pardon – dedicate to research, too? Here you can read the entirety of DC’s Wonder Woman: Golden Age multiple-volume omnibus. Personally I think the graphic designers responsible overamped the contrast when they cleaned up the images, and much prefer reading these stories in their original colour… but nothing beats having all of this stuff on one website for convenience.

All stories are written by William Moulton Marston with art by Harry G. Peter.

Demon of the Depths, printed in Wonder Woman no. 7 (winter 1943):

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The Adventure of the Octopus Plant!, printed in Sensation Comics no.  41  (May 1945):

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This is not strictly tentacle-related, but I would also like to share a few choice panels that I’ve stumbled upon while looking for tentacles. Gorgeously weird, they remind us just how strange, inventive and subversive Wonder Woman was in her glory days of yore!

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Etta is my favourite character, and this is a great showcase for her sense of humour! Sensation Comics no. 5 (May 1942)
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This is apparently a standard Amazonian ceremony – the girls dress as deer, are hunted and captured, and then cooked and consumed. Wonder Woman no. 3 (February-March 1943)
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I had to use at least one scene of bondage, right? I was mostly amused by the quip about French girls. Wonder Woman no. 6 (Fall 1943).
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Sensation Comics no.  41  (May 1945)

And voilà! But don’t fret, we will see Wonder Woman in the tender embrace of an octopus again… this time in the 60s, Robert Kanigher and all.

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Wonder Woman versus the Saboteurs, printed in Sensation Comics no. 5 (May 1942)

~ ds

Don’t Let a Mysogynist Plan Your Wedding: Robert Kanigher and Wonder Woman’s Utterly Unsuitable Suitors

Poor Wonder Woman has gone through quite a few transformations during her lifetime. You can read about her kinky-yet-feminist beginnings elsewhere (for an interesting article about how this character was created, read The Surprising Origin Story of Wonder Woman at the Smithsonian; or take a gander at Wonder Woman, the sexualized superhero for a great discussion of how a character can be objectified or empowered by being portrayed in a sexy way) – today I’m concentrating on some goofy Silver Age covers from DC’s long-running Wonder Woman series.

My interest is twofold. On the positive side, I like the team that worked on WW covers in these days – Ross Andru on pencils and Mike Esposito inking. (All covers in this post are by them.) On a more sour note, I have a whole boneyard to pick with writer Robert Kanigher, whose scripts I generally like… as long as they don’t involve women. Who had the bright idea of choosing a hardened misogynist as writer of a major female superhero? (Purely a rhetorical question, I assure you.) Kanigher took over the scripting with Wonder Woman no. 98 (May 1958), “revamping” (as Wiki gracefully puts it) the character, giving her a new origin story and a new cast. It’s not that I object to the idea in principle, but this so-called revamping involved continually trying to marry the intrepid Amazon off to some schmuck, sticking her into stories that don’t make a lick of sense, making her burst into tears randomly – Like a Real Woman does – and forcing her to make Sophie’s choices between the lives of boyfriends and family, on random shuffle.

So here’s a gallery of covers I like and cover stories I don’t.

Wonder Woman #125
Wonder Woman no. 125 (October 1961).

Well, Mer-Man clearly doesn’t have a leg to stand on in this competition. Come to think of it, neither does Amœba-Man. How are these two even standing? And how would either of these consummate the marriage?

The cover story is Wonder Woman — Battle Prize, a good example of the “marrying Wonder Woman off” theme. “Ages of Heroes, Eras of Men” (by Julian C. Chambliss) explains that sort of thing is designed to « affirm [the super heroines’] proper femininity by regularly demonstrating their heterosexuality“. Now he’s right and all, but for that purpose one could easily come up with something more appealing than a romance with an amoeba, a unicellular organism that reproduces mostly by fission. Stay away from pseudopods and fishy scales, Wonder Woman.

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Wonder Woman no. 143 (January 1964).

The Terror Trees (old Bob clearly liked alliteration) are trees that can move and attack, found on a “sinister, uncharted island”. For some reason there’s a Sun Sword (another alliteration) stuck in one of them, which Wonder Woman must retrieve to defeat some nasty alien invaders. At some point, a tree attempts to crush her, leading to an epic scene in which she whirls her head around, using her tiara (made of “amazonium… hardest metal known…”) like a “circular saw” and slicing her way out of the “ruthless tree”. I’m not even going to summarize the rest of this nonsense, but suffice it to say, the story ends – as it always does – on a happy note. Who’s the lizard on the cover, you may ask? No fucking idea, he’s not part of the plot.

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Wonder Woman no. 145 (April 1964).

The Phantom Sea-Beast is just such a tangled mess of claptrap that I don’t even know how to summarize it. It also involves some romance between Mer-Mite and Wonder Tot (in which the former tries to trick the latter into marriage), which is a good representation of what Kanigher seems to think as a Jolly Good Time. Bald zoo-keepers! A fight with a T-Rex! Go read Carol A. Strickland’s review of it, from which I shall quote a paragraph:

« Wonder Tot had just gotten out of the whale. As Wonder Tot surfs alone back to Paradise, she sees her family diving off a cliff and goes to meet them. They practice acrobatic stunts. Not only is Diana surfing in heels, as she is wont to do, but Wonder Girl conveniently wears a Wonder Woman tiara as she has never worn (she’ll need it later in the story). The queen’s pointy crown does not impale her daughter’s head. And even more oddly, gravity does not affect Hippolyta’s skirt. What can I say? It’s just a dream.»

Wonder Woman #151
Wonder Woman no. 151 (January 1965).

In “Wonder Girl vs the Teenage Monster!“, the Glop, a blob-like alien, swallows 100 rock’n’roll records and proceeds to serenade Wonder Girl with regurgitated lyrics, coming up with gems like  “Glop… glop… I’m not a mop! I want my pearl – wonder girl!” And by the way, it was all a dream (a convenient cop-out that Kanigher resorts to far too often): Wonder Girl fell asleep while looking through a photo album with Wonder Woman’s “boyfriends” and mourning her own romantic troubles. We hear you loud and clear, Sir Kanigher: women’s pretty little heads can only think of men and all manner of frilly, sweet things, even if the woman in question possesses great power and even greater intelligence.

That being said, this is probably my favourite cover of the lot. I just melt when presented with a blob of goo!

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Wonder Woman no. 155 (July 1965).

Groan. Here we go again with this ridiculous obsession of marrying Wonder Woman off. After Wonder Woman is hounded by her usual three beaus who practically threaten her with matrimony (including the awesome line, uttered by Steve Trevor, “When are you going to marry me! Better hurry! Before you’re an old maid!“), she encounters Monster Prince, who, as it turns out later in the story, is handsome when he does good, and ugly when he does evil.

A sample of the romantic dialogue that leads to the altar for these two lovebirds:

Monster Prince: « Stop pretending I’m an ordinary man! You almost sacrificed yourself like a driver taking pity on a dog on the road — and risking her life to avoid hitting him!»

WW:  « Only a man who thinks like a giant — could have defied a whole army of Amazons as you did before! You raged like a storm! You were magnificent! Anyone who married you — would be lucky! »

And that’s it, they’re betrothed! Except that the Prince ditches her at the altar, claiming that he doesn’t want a beautiful girl to sacrifice her life to a monster like him. Err…?? More nonsense follows. It becomes painfully evident that Wonder Woman is attracted to bipolar assholes who make her feel inadequate. It reminds us once again that according to you-know-who, women are emotional weaklings who need an overbearing male hand to tell them what to do (or where to get off). Brr. Read the full synopsis, if you dare, over here.

Wonder Woman #169
Wonder Woman no. 169 (April 1967).

You know how sometimes a restaurant proclaims to have a dish so original that it’s only on offer at that particular joint? It sounds like hype, but occasionally the claim is actually accurate… because the recipe in question combines elements that clash so badly that no normal person would think of combining them. This “most unique villain ever created” is in that category: he’s a bloody stupid idea. He’s not terrifying, he’s silly… though I did develop a headache while trying to figure out how he got into that tight outfit with his 8 sets of arms and 7 sets of legs.

Joanna Sandsmark, who wrote a hilarious review of the Crimson Centipede (be sure to read it here!), remarks that « I am thoroughly convinced that the germ of the story came to Bob Kanigher when his wife had a run-in with a centipede. Somehow, he thought it would be a good idea to have Wonder Woman afraid of it, as his wife was. Apparently, he forgot that Diana was a superhero who had all kinds of powers. Lucky for him, she was female. Problem solved! » (I think I’m not the only one who has a low opinion of Kanigher’s female-depicting prowess.)

So there we have it. Is this bigoted balderdash worthy of a man who co-created Sergeant Rock, or Enemy Ace or the Unknown Soldier? Nope. What do these have in common? There’s no women in these series, or at least no recurring female characters. (Well, okay, the other commonality is Joe Kubert.) Metal Men could have been great… but the presence (and more significantly, characterization) of a female character, Platinum, kills it for me. There’s no doubt that Kanigher *could* wrote emotionally resonant stories with complex characters and excellent internal logic. In the case of the Wonder Woman series, he just chose not to, preferring instead to produce a lot of hooey with giant plot holes and pepper it with sad clichés. It’s a pity.

If you want to see Wonder Woman done right, visit Tentacle Tuesday: H.G. Peter and Wonder Woman Lend a Hand.

~ ds

Tentacle Tuesday Masters: Brian Bolland

« Or… uh, huh… with the severed neck of a dead ostrich… Yow! Tentacles! Long wriggly tentacles! Woo-WOO! »

Ah, Brian Bolland, the British artist that generally comes to mind when one mentions Judge Dredd. This was certainly *my* introduction to him, and my so-called initiation went over with a bang! (Which is to say, I fell in love with his art instantly. It took me a little longer to learn to appreciate Judge Dredd stories illustrated by other artists.) His crisp line adorns many, many comic titles, and I’m not going to enumerate all the pies he’s had his fingers in. I can, however, kill two birds with one stone by combining Wonder Woman Tentacle Tuesday part 2 (part 1 can be found here) with Bolland tentacles along other lines.

Actually, DC’s 1987 Wonder Woman series is a treasure trove of tentacles even without Mr. Bolland. However, some of these covers are frankly too ugly to feature here (I have high standards, in case you hadn’t noticed), while he can be relied on to always provide us with eye candy and an engaging composition.

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Wonder Woman no. 75 (June, 1993).

Bolland is reputedly fond of his work on Wonder Woman covers, marking that it was “one of the few occasions he actually sought work rather than being sought for work.”

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Wonder Woman no. 86 (May, 1994).

A bonus WW illustration as a special treat, albeit a follicular extension of the definition of a tentacle, I confess. Well, it *is* Movember.

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A pin-up published in Wonder Woman no. 120 (April, 1997): Wonder Woman vs Egg Fu!

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Moving on from the powerful, intrepid Wonder Woman to smaller crawfish, we have this maiden in an incredibly silly costume, which Bolland managed to somewhat redeem, mostly by hiding the stupid bow and differently-coloured boot on her left leg.

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Adventures of the Outsiders no. 45 (May 1987). Mechanical tentacles are all well and good, but it’s Duke of Oil‘s inane grin I like best.

The maiden’s name, by the way, is Looker (!), presumably because the team who created her (Jim Aparo and Mike W. Barr) couldn’t think of a better moniker for a woman who went from a mousy bank teller to a cocotte (oh, sorry, I meant “coquette”) with superpowers. Pardon me going off-topic, but I really must illustrate: here’s what her costume looks (oh, har har) like in its full frontal glory.

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Batman and the Outsiders no. 31 (March 1986), cover by Alan Davis.

 

 

And a last piece of balderdash:

« Her original costume was manufactured from a material unique to Abyssia; one way fabric, which was invisible from one side. This allowed her to keep her costume handy but not visible. She would turn the clothing out to make it visible. »

 

 

 

 

 

 

Moving on to classic Bolland with creepy-crawlies, fatal beauties and grotesque sub-humans, we have this delightful poster:

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An advert Mr. Bolland created for Forbidden Planet, « London’s Newest Science Fiction and Comics Book Shop! » in the early 80s. You can admire it (and other designs) in action, so to speak.

And a last madcap entry, amusingly full of non-sequiturs:

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A page from « Silver Sweater of the Spaceways », featuring Zirk, and published in Axel Pressbutton no. 1 (November, 1984), scripted by Steve Moore and illustrated by… well, you know.

~ ds

Tentacle Tuesday: H.G. Peter and Wonder Woman lend a hand

« Give men an alluring woman stronger than themselves to submit to and they’ll be proud to become her willing slaves. » (William Moulton Marston, co-creator of Wonder Woman)

We might all happily to submit to Princess Diana of Themyscira, but *she* occasionally has to submit to tentacles, although of course she always manages to fend them off. Might this be a metaphor for unnecessarily grabby male hands? I’m not here to psychoanalyze (that was Marston’s job!), just to celebrate Tentacle Tuesday. Lots of versions of Wonder Woman have grappled with tentacles… but no adventures are more entertaining than the ones depicted by the formidable Harry Peter!

Without further ado, today’s roster of tentacles – whether they’re attached to a Neptunian fish or sprout out of a mad doctor’s ectoplasm.

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Page from “The Tigeapes of Neptunia“, scripted by Joye Murchison (the first female writer of superhero comics) and drawn by Harry Peter, published in Wonder Woman no. 15 (Winter 1945). Read the issue here.
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Page from “The Drugged WAC”, scripted by Joye Murchison and drawn by Harry Peter, published in Wonder Woman no. 18 (July-August 1946). Read the issue here.

The following panels are from from “Three Secret Wishes!“, written by Robert Kanigher and drawn by Harry Peter. The story was published in Wonder Woman #81 (April 1956). The whole issue is fun, actually, largely thanks to the gorgeous art – read it here.

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In the varied arsenal of Wonder Woman’s bondage instruments, tentacles are definitely to be reckoned with.

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Sensation Comics no. 22 (October 1943). Cover by Harry Peter.

~ ds

Hallowe’en Countdown, Day 10

« Ever been to a maniac party held in a haunted house? Well, if you don’t frighten easily, you’re welcome to attend Etta Candy’s — but be careful or you’ll lose your scalp! »

Here’s a real hallowe’en corker from the Golden Age of comics, featuring the ageless Wonder Woman, presented here by her original creative team… with a twist. While the story is credited to Charles Moulton (the nom de plume of William Moulton Marston), it was ghost-written by his former student and collaborator Joye Hummel (1924-), the first woman to write Wonder Woman’s adventures. She is frequently credited for being the first woman to script superhero comics, but nope, that’s at least three years after Tarpe Mills gave the world her Miss Fury.

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This is Sensation Comics no. 57 (DC, September, 1946). Art by the sensational Harry G. Peter.
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Now you know what a Maniac Party is. The haunted house and the creepy cemetary (sic) are optional, but they sure do help set the properly demented mood.

Unfortunately, Joye appears to have been left out of the recently-released biopic Professor Marston and the Wonder Women. Too complicated? I guess a ménage à trois is plenty to handle already.

Check out the film’s trailer (well, one of them, at any rate.)

– RG