Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Top 20 Wonder Girl (Cassie Sandsmark) Covers

Cassandra "Cassie" Sandsmark is a character I respect, but don't care too much about. None of the Wonder Girls have ever been especially important to Wonder Woman, aside from the string of young Princess Diana tales that inspired their creation. Donna Troy hasn't been right since the Post-Crisis reboot demolished her origin, and I was already howling about how terrible John Byrne's run was even before he jettisoned the Kapatelis in favor of the carbon copy Sandsmarks.

In retrospect, I can kind of see how Cassie's really secret origin (she didn't even know it for years) would invalidate Vanessa as a potential Wonder Girl, but it took a while to shake the sense of her arbitrary inclusion. It didn't help that I was very protective of the Pérez/Messner-Loebs Diana at the time, and that Cassie never really became a proper supporting cast member. She was out the door, bound for Young Justice even before she had a real costume, still wearing that hideous black wig to hide her very boyish looks. It was through that book and the relaunched Teen Titans that Cassie came into her own. However, it was because she's benefited from the same segregated existence as Donna Troy enjoyed for two decades that encounters with Wonder Woman make me tense. Wonder Woman is a terrible matriarch, and her continuity has run roughshod over her "dynasty characters," while I've yet to find a Wonder Woman comic enhanced by Cassie's presence. Basically, they're too great tastes that taste funky together.

Still, Wonder Girl has blossomed in a team setting, has had some strong solo showcases, and I hope no one screws her up. In many ways, she's everything Wonder Woman could never be to the JLA, since she's always stuck being a feminist icon first and a character third or fourth after "merchandising machine."

Obligatory Mention:
Wonder Woman #105 (January, 1996)

The first appearance of Cassie Sandsmark, even if she does look like more of a "Chad" or "Chuckie." Gee, I guess that innocent bystander's presence on that cover wasn't so random after all.

20) Teen Titans #48 (August, 2007)

Stiff and boring, but prominence must be considered.

19) DC Special: The Return of Donna Troy #3 (October, 2005)

It kind of sucks when your predecessor in a role kicks your ass for no good reason, especially when they abandoned their legacy a decade before you were even born. No wonder Cassie ditched the riding boots and red costume.

18) Teen Titans #69 (May, 2009)

A hopeful cover, but you're looking at the team, not any individuals.

17) Adventure Comics #7 (April, 2010)

Oh noes, it zombie boyfriend! Still matters more than Donna Troy, though.

16) Adventure Comics #2 (November, 2009)

The variant cover to this one was also nice, but I like how the isolation is both romantic and indicative of Wonder Girl's cooling heart after suffering and healing from Conner's death.

15) Teen Titans Annual #1 (June, 2009)

Not much going on here, but it's an appealing team shot with a smiling Wonder Girl at the fore.

14) Teen Titans #73 (September, 2009)

Why yes, let's reference prisonsploitation movies with a sixteen year old super-heroine...?

13) Young Justice #4 (January, 1999)

Once again, the girls were late to the party on founding a youth team (although the Secret was instrumental in its motivation,) but this was Wonder Girl & Arrowette's induction.

12) Amazons Attack! #3 (August, 2007)

A striking image, but the bifurcation kind of puts baby in a corner. It's always tough to compete with Supergirl, but especially so in glorified street clothes.

11) Teen Titans #64 (December, 2008)

Brutal, but noticeable.

10) Teen Titans Annual #1 (May, 2006)

The one where Cassie gave it up to Superboy right before he died, but aside from the ick factor, the cover is crowded with dynastic centerpieces, and everyone looks like they're molded in plastic.

9) Wonder Girl #6 (April, 2008)

I think this was the first ever book titled "Wonder Girl," and certainly the longest lasting, but I've never heard anyone reference this story. The covers were all rather weak, but fighting Wonder Woman is always worthy consideration.

8) Wonder Woman #186 (December, 2002)

Not the biggest shot, but the company and quality of art makes the difference.

7) Wonder Woman #153 (February, 2000)

Nice cover, but despite logo-obscuring heights, Wonder Girl is still overshadowed by Diana's cleavage.

6) Teen Titans #3 (November, 2003)

A solid solo cover, marred by unrelated background figures and an ugly costume. This was during Cassie's awkward adjustment period from 'tween to teen, when she was trying to be Donna, and failing miserably.

5) Wonder Woman #158 (July, 2000)

This cover kind of skeeves me out, because half a year earlier Adam Hughes portrayed a grinning prepubescent, and here he insists on working pokies into the shirt of a thirteen year old. Still, the get-up was a massive improvement, Hughes otherwise interpreted it well, and nothing says a girl is growing up like sparking her bracelets against the Amazing Amazon.

4) Teen Titans #75 (September, 2009)

Wonder Girl leading the charge of a team for which she was the only remaining founder, and essentially its heart and soul. What's great about Cassie is that despite being the "Wonder Woman" of the junior JLA, she was always her own distinct self. She was allowed to grow from a very literal girl to teenager in a progressive, believable manner. Further, from her parentage to the source of her powers to her training under Artemis, Cassie has the foundation to exist entirely independent of Wonder Woman, as well as Young Justice/the Teen Titans. Donna was created as a flashback to Diana as a teen, has cycled through one nonsensically convoluted back story after another, and has never worked outside the framework of "senior chickie of the Titans." A cover like this reminds that while this team book is Cassie's primary showcase, it is not the whole of her being, or else she couldn't have become such a prominent presence. Plus, for a team that started out as a boy's club, look at the equality on display here.

3) Teen Titans #75 #35 (June, 2006)

The debut of casual dress Wonder Girl, a.k.a. "The Day She Stopped Trying." You've got to give it to her for having a complete different fashion sense from the rest of the Wonder Women, and at least she hasn't descended into sweatpants yet.

2) Wonder Woman #113 (September, 1996)

The debut of the modern age Wonder Girl was... fourteen years ago? God, I'm getting old. Anyway, Cassie started out as a goofy, geeky fangirl essentially cosplaying with whatever she had lying around. She's asexual at this point, if not flat out androgynous, but you can already see her first steps of transformation toward both woman and wonderhood. I really did not care for Byrne's Wonder Girl, but I have to congratulate him on an initiative that others developed into someone really worthwhile.

1) Young Justice #47 (September, 2002)

Cassie as an out front leader, a role she's clearly more comfortable in than Donna, and one she'd again assume in the Teen Titans. This is probably my favorite stage of Wonder Girl, because despite the red jeans, she's clearly out of both Donna and Diana's shadows. She's old enough to display developing femininity, but still a tomboy that accurately reflects the "girl" part of her name.


Luke said...

Basically, they're too great tastes that taste funky together."

Perhaps therein lies the solution.

Most heroes are mentors/surrogate fathers to their sidekicks. They help guide and mold them as young men -- some of whom need it more than others. It speaks to the late-50s/Silver Age origins of most of these character and the "retrosexual" nature of their masculinity. A (surrogate) father's job is to make sure his boy makes the journey to manhood. Barry Allen is the ultimate example of this, I mean, seriously, but same goes with Batman, Green Arrow, and Aquaman.

Diana is (or rather, should be) completely divorced from that. She is not here to rear a girl into a woman. The girl must make that trip on her own, as befits an Amazonian. Man's World offers no such safety nets for the daughters of the gods, and it's sink or swim. Perhaps Cassie and Diana's personality friction can be traced to this "tough love." As you say, Diana is no matriarch -- she's not rearing a daughter, she is supporting a sister.

The way I would handle it -- you know, in some strange Bizarro World where I am writing Wonder Woman -- would be that Diana would want to offer sisterly camraderie but nothing so personal as friendship. Keep her at arm's length because of the hoary old "can't get too close" cliche, which I think works better in this scenario as they ostensibly are two "Amazons," right?

I dunno, I am shooting from the hip here, but there might be something to this.

Anyways, I like cover #5 quite a bit. If she was wearing her current costume I might have put that at the top. #s 6 and 3 are quite nifty as well.

Diabolu Frank said...

Luke-- copy, paste, lightly edit, and you've got a day's posting at the Comic Book Bunker!

I read some of the Diana Wonder Girl stories a month back, and I think you nailed it. Diana is this really uptight, nose to the grindstone, Hermione Granger type. Hippolyta and the other Amazons task or criticize her on occasion, but mostly they just step back and let her self-actualize. Diana gets into all kinds of dangerous situations, usually because Mer-Boy fouled things up, and it's entirely up to Diana to sort things out.

I used to think that emotionally distance between Diana and the girls related to her ice princess/only child issues, but you made me realize it's probably more about Amazon culture. Both Donna and Cassie are just Dancing With Amazons, pretending to assimilate, but really just western dilettantes. No wonder Cassie and pseudoamazon Kara Zor-El pair off so nicely!