Monday, May 31, 2010

Wonder Woman Gallery (1996): Dave Johnson



Saturday, May 29, 2010

The Top 5 Ares/Mars God of War Covers

The Amazing Amazon has been in conflict with the God of War from the start, but the "official," consistent threat of the modern Ares launched with the second Wonder Woman series in 1987. Ares was one of the three favorite villains used throughout that volume's near twenty year span, but has been largely absent in recent time, although his son got up to a good deal of wickedness over in Teen Titans. Surprisingly, his long term presence in the comics has never been reflected in covers, so I've combined Ares with the Pre-Crisis Mars, and will still barely squeeze out a top 5 list...

5) Wonder Woman #310 (December, 1983)

4) Wonder Woman #206 (July, 1973)

3) Wonder Woman #215 (January, 1975)

2) Wonder Woman #82 (January, 1994)

1) Wonder Woman #6 (July, 1987)

Check out more spotlight countdowns of great art from the past 75 years of DC Comics Covers at DC75: Top Character Covers of the Dodranscentennial

Friday, May 28, 2010

The Top 5 Circe Covers

Wonder Woman and Superman are similar in that they are both powerful, optimistic, and world renowned heroes with crap villains. Now, the Man of Steel's creators so revere the property, they keep bringing back Superman's garbage foes, no matter how stupid and useless, "revamping" them with layer after layer of additional dreck. Alternately, the Amazing Amazon's enlisted creators typically haven't cared enough to actually do any research or even read her comics, and instead try to "fix her" by reinventing the wheel. Essentially, Wonder Woman creative teams think they're going to set the world on fire by playing out the exact same tropes over and over again (destroy Paradise Island, replace Wonder Woman, introduce world-shakingly powerful new arch-villain, tie a new adversary to some dark secret of the Amazons, evil version of Diana, etc.) By extension, the Amazon Princess keeps fighting variations on the same villains, but each goes by a different name, and few reappear.

Circe was a minor Golden Age villain who appeared (sans continuity) in more Lois Lane comics than Wonder Woman ones. She was reintroduced in the waning years of Amazing Amazon's first series, and revised early into George Pérez Post-Crisis reboot of the character. Pérez's swan song from Wonder Woman and DC Comics as a whole for the better part of a decade was the bungled event book War of the Gods, which featured Circe as its villain. Although poorly received, the event seemed to embed Circe in the fan consciousness as a primary foe of Princess Diana, so that she's managed to thrive while each new creative teams' "arch-foe" is forgotten in turn.

Honorable Mention: Wonder Woman #313 (March, 1984)

Despite spending five years as cover artist on the book, Adam Hughes never drew more of Circe than her face. In fact, Circe has a history of slight to none in the cover appearance department. Here, the whole of Circe and her primary ability are clearly visible, all before her big splash in the Post-Crisis reboot.

5) Wonder Woman #4 (February, 2007)

Bondage, another new costume design, allusions to Circe's main tactic and a Wonder Woman foe empowered by stripping Diana of her signature weapon. This could have been a top contender, if not for the terrible coloring that mutes the impact of every other element.

4) War of the Gods #4 (December, 1991)

A busy cover during a massive crossover, but the figures your eyes register are the Amazon warrior and her taunting foe, the latter famed for turning her feminine whiles into her primary weapon.

3) Wonder Woman #7 (June, 2007)

Take a fairly stock Wonder Woman image and pervert it with Circe's presence. The result is a kinky and memorable cover.

2) Wonder Woman #89 (August, 1994)

Snapshot of the mid-90s: A two issue fill-in story with some of the worst art to ever appear in a Wonder Woman comic involves the return of Circe after the dismal War of the Gods. Previously a negligible presence, the "bad girl" speculator fad turned a poor redesign of Circe's costume into cause for a junk bond price hike of this suddenly desirable collector's item edition. Certainly contributed to, if not being directly responsible for Circe's elevation to the role of "the" Wonder Woman villain.

1) Wonder Woman #19 (August, 1988)

This was the story that introduced the Post-Crisis Circe, who would become Wonder Woman's primary foil for the next twenty-odd years. Also, we've got upfront bondage and sexual politics, so its a return to the Golden Age roots!

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Top 5 Artemis Covers

When I started this Wonder Woman blog, the most common reaction from folks who visit my other blogs was along the lines of "Really? Why? I don't like Wonder Woman." Artemis was sort of the mouthpiece for this perspective, as new readers were ushered into the Amazing Amazon's comic in the mid-90s during DC's event fever. Artemis existed to point out Princess Diana's weak areas, briefly take her place with a take-no-prisoners attitude, piss off all her super-hero friends, and die in order to prove how great Diana really is. Very typical DC m.o., except that while John Byrne boosted sales with his once reliable 50,000 old fans, he drove off all the hip kids that had come on specifically for Artemis and the revamped Circe. Not only did Byrne's faithful stray over the course of his run, but the bottom really dropped out after he left. In the meantime, Artemis was swiftly resurrected, then promptly neutered, becoming a stalwart background player.

I never had much love for Artemis, but whether as a spoiler or a supporting player, I appreciate her role in the Wonder Woman cannon. I also really enjoy the fact that she served as the most recent Wonder Girl's teacher. Wonder Woman is among the worst mentors to her kid "sidekicks" this side of Brat Pack, and given Cassie Sandsmark is the most volatile of the Wonder Girls, I like to think Artemis is still getting her digs in from the sidelines. If she can't openly mock a DC icon (perish the thought,) maybe she can at least corrupt her standard bearers...

5) Wonder Woman #124 (August, 1997)

Visually, the last hurrah of Artemis as an antagonist before it wouldn't play anymore.

4) Wonder Woman: The Contest (1995)

A quick trade paperback to bridge the gap between the single issues' low print runs and the new demand for Mike Deodato Jr. bad girl art. This was also from the days when they still bothered with original covers and the occasional foreword. I thought for sure at least one Brian Bolland cover would make this list, but Artemis just wasn't really his speed.

3) Wonder Woman #142 (March, 1999)

If you needed an image to signify the shift of Artemis from catty adversary to hard ass supporting cast member, this would be the one to go to.

2) Wonder Woman #93 (January, 1995)

The debut of Fly Girl Princess Diana and Extreme Wonder Woman Artemis! Taste the '90s, and note the burning sensation in your throat! That's mono, bitches!

1) Artemis: Requiem #1 (June, 1996)

The first issue of the only Artemis solo project to date. I suspect that after co-creator William Messner-Loebs was dumped from Wonder Woman to make way for John Byrne, this was his consolation prize. Artemis was too tough for hell, and fought her way out.She was also too tough to switch to the more easily trademarked "Requiem" as a terrible Chromium Age handle.

Check out more spotlight countdowns of great art from the past 75 years of DC Comics Covers at DC75: Top Character Covers of the Dodranscentennial

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Huntress' Top 10 Covers

Last year, Brian Cronin at CBR's Comics Should Be Good came up with his list of The Most Iconic Covers for thirty different characters. Some I felt were stronger than others, and took enough exception to his list for the Martian Manhunter that I compiled an extension. Meanwhile, DC is revving up for a year's worth of 75th Anniversary variant covers, which I commented on at length at my new Wonder Woman blog. However, it wasn't until Anj at Supergirl Comic Box Commentary offered his choices for a potential Supergirl 75th Anniversary Variant Cover that it occurred to me I'd like to throw my hat into the ring in a fairly big way. Since performing this feat with Wonder Woman herself will take an eternity, I decided to start out with another featured heroine with a far smaller catalog and an even more narrow selection of decent covers.

10) Birds of Prey #59 (October, 2003)

When you think of the Huntress-infused incarnation of the BoP, this image will likely come to mind. A shame Huntress looks more like a prostitute than a vigilante in that get-up.

9) Nightwing and Huntress #4 (August, 1998)

Remember the days when Robin was like a young uncle to Helena Wayne? Those days were forever lost when the decidedly more predatory Helena Bertinelli seduced Dick Grayson, and the chill that followed is on display here.

8) Wonder Woman #271 (September, 1980)

The debut of Huntress as Wonder Woman's ongoing back-up feature, and two swell covers for the price of one!

7) Superman/Batman #27 (July, 2006)

A much-needed shout-out to another Earth-2 dynamic duo gone astray. Huntress just isn't this person anymore, but its worth remembering when...

6) Detective Comics #652 (October, 1992)

After a couple of years in limbo, Huntress was reintroduced through this eye-seizing cover by a young Travis Charest.

5) The Huntress #1 (April, 1989)

Our heroine's first and only ongoing solo book starts here, with an alright cover that will be played over in variations throughout the short-lived series.

4) Batman: Streets of Gotham #6 (January, 2010)

Simply badass.

3) Birds of Prey #69 (September, 2004)

Raw sexuality and bad, anti-authoritarian attitude. This one image perfectly sums up Gail Simone's excellent take on the heroine.

2) Detective Comics #653 (November, 1992)

The anatomy is dubious and the crosshatching so very nineties, but Huntress is pushing Batman aside and grinning her "I got this" grin." Yes, ma'am!

1) DC Super Stars #17 (December, 1977)

Let's see-- first major cover appearance... origin story... cool image tossing Green Arrow and the Legion on the backburner... Yeah, this is a winner.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

2010 Justice Society of America #41 variant cover by George Pérez

Click To Enlarge

This is a fledgling blog, so we're only on our first of what will be a great many George Pérez-related posts, not counting the cover images by Pérez I've already used.

Frank Harry's 1943 cover to All-Star Comics #16 has been referenced many times, most memorably by Neal Adams in the '70s, and most recently by Pérez as part of DC's 75th Anniversary variant cover series. I figure Marvel Comics did their level best to preemptively steal DC's thunder with their bogus 70th anniversary painted variants. Instead, they gave DC all the ammunition they needed. Marvel's single figures by middle rung painters against a white background can't help but look cheap and rushed against DC's fully realized recreations by the best artists in the industry. I'd only consider Walt Simonson's Detective Comics #69 homage and Eduardo Risso Superman #233 lift to be interesting failures, but the above and Mike Mignola's take on Detective Comics #168 are outstanding, while Lee Bermejo's stunning interpretation of Legion of Super-Heroes #294 makes my naughty bits tingle. I complain a lot about modern DC editorial, but when they get something this right, how can you not applaud?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

2007 Huntress/The Question: Conquest '52 Fan Video

I discovered Patti Page's 1952 hit "Conquest" in my father's CD collection in 2006, and wanted to share it online, but I couldn't find an actual video. The line about "the huntress" ate at the comic geek in me, so I finally caved and decided to make my first fan video(s.) I've spoken at length about digging the Huntress, and I've liked the Question since the Denny O'Neil series. I thought it was great when the Justice League Unlimited cartoon made them a couple, and that's the focus of the initial video. This was my second edit, and the original was much different (far better timed overall, but lacking pizazz.) This was a real learning experience for me in working with old programs in new ways, so if these go over, I'd like to someday try making more (and better, and please God faster!)

In collecting video for my first edit, I had so many great scenes left over, I decided to make a more action-packed cut employing the White Stripes' new cover of "Conquest." This one featured Black Canary extensively, as well as Wonder Woman, Vixen and Hawkgirl. Unfortunately, Warner Brothers Music took exception to my promoting Warner Brothers owned comic book characters, and YouTube removed the video. Maybe I'll dig up my old file someday and post the pure video.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: This is a non-profit fan production that is in no way intended to infringe on the various copyright holders for video, characters, and music. Please don't hurt me Warner Brothers/DC Comics!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Sensational Comics for August, 2010

Every month on most of my other blogs, I extract solicitation information for upcoming comics and merchandise to showcase in a single post. I'll be handling this blog differently, in part because I don't really collect new Wonder Woman comics anymore. I'll go ahead and spotlight all the advance featured books here, with critical commentary, and save individual pieces of merchandise for their own separate posts.

Wonder Woman
1:10 Variant cover by ALEX GARNER
J. Michael Straczynski’s epic Wonder Woman tale continues! In this issue, Diana takes the battle for her heritage to the enemy and discovers that the war may be over before it’s even begun! And she’s on the losing side…
Retailers please note: This issue will ship with two covers. See the Previews Order Form for more information.
On sale AUGUST 25 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US

So last issue, Paradise Island was destroyed. Again. I've lost track of how many times that's happened in the current continuity, much less over the past seventy years. It just makes the Amazons look like they can't defend themselves, and basically shames all women everywhere. Meanwhile, Diana's in the underdog role. Again. Plus, Superman gets rising star Shane Davis, and Wonder Woman gets Don Kramer. You know, the fill-in guy they get when Jim Calafiore or Scott McDaniel have steady work. Has anyone ever assigned Kramer a book on purpose before? This new direction is full of lose.

Written by PAUL DINI
Art and cover by ALEX ROSS
Between 1998 and 2003, Paul Dini, the Emmy Award-winning producer of Batman Beyond and The New Batman/Superman Adventures, joined forces with superstar illustrator Alex Ross (KINGDOM COME) to create six original graphic novels starring The World’s Greatest Super-Heroes:
Now, all six of these classic works are back in a new trade paperback that includes developmental art and more.
On sale SEPTEMBER 15 • 8.125”x11” • 400 pg FC, $29.99 US

Alex Ross' Wonder Woman creeps me out. She looks like a tranny with really obvious contacts.

Painted cover art from the best-selling comics series Blackest Night is here and perfect for framing! Twelve prints painted by Rodolfo Migliari – including two collaborations with Ivan Reis and one with Dave Gibbons – printed on high-quality 4-color matte paper stock, collected in a 4-color folder and shrink-wrapped together. All 12 prints measure approximately 8” x 10” and are ready for instant framing.
The following prints are included in this set:
On sale January 26, 2011 * Portfolio* $29.99 US
As I said, I'll mostly avoid merchandise, but this is a set of prints with art from variant covers. The whole premise bores me too much to bother with later.

The covers from DC Comics' best-selling Blackest Night mini-series feature on this set of 7 magnets, with characters such as Hal Jordan, Barry Allen, Wonder Woman, Star Sapphire, Lex Luthor, and Sinestro in their Lantern Corps guises.

Scheduled to Ship - July-28-2010
$29.99 US
Do you need any one of these, much less all seven?

DC COMICS Blackest Night 50Pc Keychain Asst
Which Lantern are you? Are you a Green Lantern with the strength of will? Are you a Red Lantern with the power of rage, a Blue Lantern with the inspiration of hope? Are you a Black Lantern who brings death, or a White Lantern who bestows life? The Lantern Corps of the DC Universe took center stage in the blockbuster Blackest Night series, and now you can carry your keys on a keychain that features the logo and a description of the power of your Lantern Corps of choice.
Estimated to ship in Jul-2010
Like Wonder Woman, I figure I'd end up in the Star Sapphires, because I'm all about the love. Um, I do get to keep my penis, right?

Wonder Girl (Cassie Sandsmark)
Co-feature written by REX OGLE
Cover by JOE PRADO
Co-feature art by TED NAIFEH
1:25 “DC Anniversary” Variant Cover by MICHAEL ALLRED
“The Hunt for Raven” continues! The Titans have found their friend, but will the Wyld be able to let her go? More important, is Raven still their teammate — or has she become something greater than ever?
Plus, The COVEN OF THREE have found their answers, but restoring their world may not be a shared goal. How far will they go for ultimate power?
Retailers please note: This issue will ship with two covers. Please see the Previews Order Form for more information.
On sale AUGUST 25 • 40 pg, FC, $3.99 US
Is she going to start screwing Superboy, because I don't want to have to cover that book?

Art and cover by ART BALTAZAR
Join all the super-people for a super birthday party at the Fortress of Solitude! This issue is going to be super…unless you count the room full of Brainiacs! Let’s hope the Brainiacs don’t ruin the party.
On sale AUGUST 18 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US

Art and cover by ART BALTAZAR
Wayne Manor is overrun in this title collecting issues #19-25 of the Eisner Award-winning series! There are penguins in the tub and bunnies everywhere – they’ve even driven the bats out of the Batcave! Also includes a story co-written by Geoff Johns that hints at the events of BLACKEST NIGHT!
On sale SEPTEMBER 1 • 160 pg, FC, $12.99 US
I'm confident there will be no screwing here.

Wonder Girl (Donna Troy)
Written by LEN WEIN
1:25 Variant cover by JOE KUBERT

The DC Universe moves forward and evolves when a new generation of heroes inspired and mentored by the Silver Age’s greatest come together to fight the good fight. Robin, Kid Flash, Speedy, Wonder Girl and Aqualad – the Teen Titans hit the scene! At the same time, heroic humans without powers reunite to remember Sgt. Rock in a story by Joe Kubert!
Retailers please note: This issue will ship with two covers. Please see the Previews Order Form for more information.
On sale AUGUST 18 • 4 of 10 • 40 pg, FC, $3.99 US
How sad is it when the biggest thrill of this first month of solicitations is a Silver Age Wonder Girl drawn by Dave Gibbons? I don't even like that period of Titans enough to feel nostalgia.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

2008-10 Wonder Woman & Spider-Man versus the Hulk by Gilbert Monsanto

Click To Enlarge

Besides just wanting to have a place for myself to talk about Wonder Woman and related characters, I started this blog so that the heroine could have a more text heavy and prolific blog than Amazon Princess. A regular haunt of mine, AP usually only added one or two image posts a week, but they've gone nuts lately with a slew of posts, two involving Bayan Knights artist Gilbert Monsanto. Check the Art Adams influence in his recent art here and here. Anyway, I strolled through his Deviant Art Gallery and CAF pages for more, and found enough material for several additional posts, but this one interested me most.

Recalling 1997's DC/Marvel: Unlimited Access mini-series, we see Princess Diana and Peter Parker re-teamed, this time against the Incredible Hulk. Monsanto also pitted the Amazing Amazon against Ms. Marvel in his MARVEL vs DC spread complete.

I added a date range because the artist seems to have penciled this art around 2008, but only just recently inked it for sale on eBay. The image is 11" x 17" on artboard.

As an aside, I couldn't find the Martian Manhunter in any of these pieces, which makes me sad. I'm guessing with dated references to characters like the friggin' Micronauts, Monsanto is from the generation that was disinterested in J'Onn J'Onzz, or found him in some way illegitimate as a major player.

Friday, May 14, 2010

The Hunted became The Huntress

I can't say for certain exactly when I made Helena Wayne's acquaintance, but I do know she left an immediate, lasting impression. I'd been reading comics long enough to know who the major players were, but I hadn't quite wrapped my brain around confusing concepts like the DC Multiverse. I figured the All-Star Squadron were closer to their modern conception as the heroes of World War Two, rather than being from an alternate Earth with a continuity separate from that of the DC Comics I usually read. To have some unfamiliar heroine show up alongside them with the bona fide of being Batman's daughter kind of shook my world view, especially in light of a confusing timetable. It doesn't matter whether my first exposure was a mediocre Solomon Grundy story or a battle with a creepy ninja chick, this Huntress was a mysterious figure with a great name, a cool look, and an intriguing background that I wanted to read more about. Unfortunately, DC Comics didn't get very good newsstand distribution when I was a kid, and the ones featuring the Huntress were even harder to come by. Instead, Huntress was often a focal character of interest amidst a bunch of unknowns in random house ads, group shots, and giveaways like DC Sampler. That last one was an especially curious treasure, when the closest I came to a comic shop was flea market booths. I didn't know what an Ultra-Humanite was or why that black kid had feathers instead of hair, but whoever was drawing the Huntress amidst those weirdos was good. Beyond that, my only Huntress source was the occasional Wonder Woman back up found second hand or in a three-pack.

By the mid-80s, I'd outgrown most of the DC titles I could get my hands on. The only issue of Crisis On Infinite Earths I read in process was the seventh, so I was very aware of the passing of Supergirl, but missed the unremarkable death of the Huntress a few issues later. What I took from the series was that DC had killed off its sillier characters, that only one version of a given hero would continue to exist, and that their icons would now be handled in the contemporary Marvel manner. The hottest creators in comics were given essentially a blank slate with DC's biggest heroes, so I was all over that. No one bothered with the Huntress until 1989, when a revised version of the character was launched in her own series. I believe by that point I'd learned the old Huntress had been the Earth-2 Catwoman's daughter, but it wasn't the "real" version, which made the heroine seem irrelevant. Further, with Batman as your father, where do you go? It would seem to unfairly and unfavorably compare the character, her cast, and her stories to the entire Batman mythos. When I read the new origin of the rechristened Helena Bertinelli, which cast her as the sole survival of a mob family massacre who trained from childhood for revenge, I felt at least the Batman baggage was lifted. The backstory seemed derivative though, and the series failed to hold my interest, so Huntress went back to being a nostalgia character I read only in guest appearances.

After her series was canceled, the Huntress went unemployed for several years, until writer Chuck Dixon began using her in his Batman Family books. Jim Lee clone Travis Charest drew some eye-catching covers with the heroine, but as with her solo series, the interiors left a lot to be desired. Thanks in part to her lack of a costume material, I noticed the Huntress' uniform had been tweaked repeatedly over the years. It never had a particularly strong design, but so long as essential elements like the cape, the purple coloring, the long loose hair, and most especially the crossbow remained in place, the rest didn't matter especially much. In fact, it made a lot more sense to have a variety of costumes at the Huntress' disposal, and helped balance out the ridiculousness of an urban vigilante wielding a medieval weapon. I also recognized there had to be something more to my interest in the Huntress than fond childhood memories. The character projected confidence, mystique and attitude that DC heroines desperately needed.

Unfortunately, Dixon took it upon himself to saddle the Huntress with a pretty serious psychosis. Rather than considering the character as an independent entity, Dixon used her tendency toward unnecessary force to demonstrate the acceptable limits within the Batman Family, and how her willingness to induce serious bodily injury exempted her from inclusion. Further, it was teased that she might occasionally indulge in homicide off-panel, casting her as at best an anti-heroine and at worst a ticking time bomb. Next came a troubling spotlight mini-series whose script aped Frank Miller's Elekta: Assassin and whose art imitated Frank Miller's Sin City, neither to appealing effect. This characterization held up throughout the '90s, seeing Grant Morrison include Huntress in his JLA as an undesirable Batman substitute, whom the Dark Knight would himself "fire" from the team after a year.

This is not to say that Chuck Dixon's influence was entirely negative. Over the course of the 1990s, the Huntress overtly embraced her ethnic and religious identities as an Italian Catholic, giving a real world depth to the character often considered taboo for bigger names. The Huntress incorporated a large crucifix into her wardrobe, and began covering up all that once vulnerable flesh in her most practical and dignified costume. An intriguing dichotomy developed within the character, contrasting her faith and role as a school teacher with her violent actions. Artists also tended to draw the character with a lean musculature, making her visibly more formidable. Also, it was during these years that I went back and read more of her earlier solo stories and adventures as a member of Infinity Inc. While I thought it a shame to trade Helena Wayne's more lucrative law degree, social consciousness, and access to power for an emotionally damaged substitute teacher, Helena Bertinelli had a lot more personality and complexity.

A real turning point came with the arrival of Devin Grayson as a writer for the Batman books. Grayson embraced the character, and rejected the more unsavory elements of Dixon's characterization, much to his chagrin. DC has a tendency toward treating their non-white and female characters delicately, often pigeonholing them in sanitized roles. As a woman herself, Grayson gifted Helena with dimensions denied her for decades. In a co-starring mini-series, Huntress and Nightwing's relationship shifted from the chaste fraternity of the Pre-Crisis years to uncomfortable sex buddies. Rather than being simply an untrusted rogue element, the Huntress was allowed to mock and otherwise criticize the Batman Family from the outside in. Perhaps in reaction to this, the Huntress was pushed out of her ghetto position in Gotham of the previous decade toward the greater DC Universe from which she was truly spawned as a member of the Justice Society of America. This would be no return to abandoned form, however, as Huntress bypassed that austere group to become part of the girl power cliche Birds of Pray.

I spent twenty years trying to like the Black Canary, but despite her being a nice enough character appearing in solid stories, there's something essential missing from her to my taste. I read Chuck Dixon's work on the character off and on, but it took the arrival of the Huntress and another female writer, Gail Simone, to really turn me on to BoP. Once again, the Huntress was an agitator, but given sarcastic humor, legitimate sensuality and a recognition of her own questionable judgment that made the character sing. Simone continued this interpretation into animation, as the tough, sexy, charismatic Huntress appeared on Justice League Unlimited. There were some rough patches along the way, like a fairly terrible Birds of Prey television series, but I feel like the Huntress has finally begun living up to the potential and appeal I've always seen in the character. To contrast against Black Canary, I've suffered through a lot of bad choices made with the Huntress, but I could never be completely dissuaded from being her fan.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

2009 Rittenhouse Justice League of America Archives Sketch Cards by Tom Valente

Click To Expand and Enlarge

Tom Valente is a commercial artist who has done work for places like Cracked, and who I've featured a number of times on my Martian Manhunter blog. For Rittenhouse Archives' Silver Age JLofA trading card set, Valente covered all the old school names on the team amidst the hundreds of original art chase cards he provided. Valente ran a sketch card post offering scans of his favorites, offering one or two images for most of the heroes. Only the true titans had four cards devoted to them, including Batman, Superman and... Wonder Woman! Check them all out!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Wonder Woman: Who is Wonder Woman? TPB

It seems like a good idea on paper: Return most of the iconic elements from classic Wonder Woman stories excised by George Perez in his 1987 revision of the character and relaunch her book for a new audience. Three simultaneous generations of Wonder Women, extensive rogues gallery, blind diminutive Asian mentor I-Ching, the Diana Prince secret identity, spinning transformations, invisible jet, and even some powerless globe-trotting adventures in white leather. You've got a well-liked television writer who'd successfully transitioned into comics at Marvel, and an artist whose popular work took cues from a fan favorite Wonder Woman cover artist. What could go wrong?

For starters, a five issue story taking a year and a half to tell, requiring other talents to continue the series, while the conclusion was served in an extant annual. Terry and Rachael Dodson's art was attractive, but for a book that very badly wanted to emulate Jim Lee's popular story arc "Batman: Hush," it was not quite enough to put it over when the story proved weaker than Jeph Loeb's on "Batman: Hush." A good deal of the first issue was spent explaining that Princess Diana had become a wanted murderess who had fled from her duties and people. This is how you want to introduce new readers to the most famous super-heroine of all, and worse, mention it as an afterthought, without offering resolution nor redemption?

Donna Troy, the former Wonder Girl, had appointed herself the new Wonder Woman in Diana's absence. Never mind what a train wreck Donna's back story is, or how she's never had much of a connection to Wonder Woman beyond her name and powers. It takes Troy's defeat and capture to bring the real Wonder Woman out of hiding, which only reinforces Troy's b-list status, while making Diana Prince look no less the shiftless sort. There's even one of those vaguely misogynistic moments where a phallic object impales the heroine, for a bit of metaphoric rape. The whole legacy angle fairly reeks of other heroes' books, leftovers from the Superman or Batman Families foisted on Wonder Woman without regard for the ill fit.

Steve Trevor, little used since the late '80s and far from relevant, makes a cameo appearance as a hostage. The Diana Prince identity is actually created by Batman and gifted to Wonder Woman, making her new origin dependent on the Dark Knight, and undercutting any drive or resourcefulness on her part. Nemesis, star of a back-up series from 1970s Batman comics, is transformed into Diana Prince's new partner and love interest. So again, what was Steve Trevor doing here, other than to remind readers that we're meant to find Batman's cast-offs more interesting than anything from Wonder Woman's cannon? By the way, Diana Prince's new boss is Sarge Steel, an old Charlton Comics character that never amounted to much, but now gets to lord it over an Amazon Princess.

Villains Cheetah and Giganta are given redesigned costumes so similar and bland that they could be confused with one another. Circe's new look is terribly generic, her only memorable visual manifesting when she changes into a lavender variation on the Wonder Woman costume. Dr. Poison, Silver Swan, and more appear as punching bags for a few panels here and there. The resolution involves an army of heroes coming to the Amazing Amazon's aid, insuring both victory and no additional credit being extended to our very needy heroine.

There's much seeming ado about "Who is Wonder Woman," but upon closer inspection, it all amounts to nothing. The plot meanders near endlessly, before fumbling toward a stopping point, but considerably less than an ending. Writer Allan Heinberg wastes Wonder Woman, his artists, and his opportunity. If he hasn't already, be sure not to let him waste your time, as well.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

I Could Never Be Your Wonder Woman

Above is the first Wonder Woman comic I ever owned, May 1980's #267, which came out of a grocery store three pack. I hadn't bought the discounted set for the Amazing Amazon, but the art was good, Princess Diana acquitted herself well in battle, and I enjoyed being introduced to her rather random guest star, Animal Man. I was already familiar with Wonder Woman before my memory centers had developed enough for me to remember a point of introduction. Whether it was the Super Friends cartoon, her live action TV outings, my Mego Pocket Figures toy, guest-appearances... I have fonder and clearer early recollections of the heroine than virtually any other super-hero or  recognized deity you could name.

I read the occasional Wonder Woman comic after that, often motivated by The Huntress back-ups, but nothing regular until the eighth issue of the George Pérez relaunch. I liked that quite a bit, but I was still buying my comics off the newsstand, and her distribution was poor. Once I started frequenting comic shops, I tried to start with the book again, but by then the art and writing had taken a serious nosedive. There was the War of the Gods crossover, but no one on Earth liked that, so I spent my money on Infinity Gauntlet instead.

Finally, driven by event fever and hints Wonder Woman was getting her turn, I tried the series again in 1993. I adored William Messner-Loebs' take on the character as a humanistic warrior with a sense of humor, just as concerned about getting a friend's child support checks flowing as she was battling misogynistic alien overlords. This led me to buying back issues, and I came to especially appreciate Mike Sekowsky's unusual 1960s take on Diana Prince as a depowered globe-trotting martial arts heroine. Again, this wasn't haughty royalty or a standard super-heroine, but a defender of those cast off and left vulnerable by a judgmental patriarchal society. It was a damned sight better than Wonder Woman fretting over Steve Trevor's romantic attentions and being emotionally battered by her fellow Amazons on a monthly basis, held up as some twisted interpretation of a "role model."

Over the following years, I purchased an entire set of Wonder Woman Volume Two, along with virtually every significant appearance of the character through into the aughts. For a number of years, Wonder Woman was my #1 favorite super-hero, bar none. However, it was an abusive relationship, as the Amazon Princess went from one terrible scripting stint to another, each creative team change lifting then dashing my hopes while still emptying my pockets. This lasted until Wonder Woman Volume Three, which I quit after the first long delayed storyline ended in 2007.

Back in the '90s, I switched my primary fan interest to the Martian Manhunter, whose history I've made a scholarly pursuit of online for about half of the last decade. I used to spend a lot of time on the DC Message Boards, and came to realize that not only wasn't my Wonder Woman being published, but that her fan base was so diverse, and so favored specific divergent takes on the character, there was no central interpretation for us all to rally around. Meanwhile, I still have plenty of boxes of Wonder Woman comics and memorabilia, some of which I like, and a great many more that could please get out of my house. I've long wanted to start a Wonder Woman blog to look through these books before showing them the door, but have just never had the time. I still don't, but that needn't stop me.

I'll offer posts here as often as I can, and hope for the patience of any readers who happen to turn up. This will not be your average Wonder Woman blog. I'm not female, I'm straight, I don't see Diana as a sex object, and I prefer the weird, off-brand takes on Diana Prince over the typical camp/earnestness that draws in many others. Hopefully we'll all have fun, and please, feel free to argue. There's a New Wonder Woman every few years, but I figure there's something at her core we can all enjoy, and true Amazons should be resolute when sparring over the details...