Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Wonder Woman in Sensation Comics #1 (January, 1942)

Like the crash of thunder from the sky comes Wonder Woman, to save the world from the hatreds of men in a man-made world! ...Who is Wonder Woman? Why does she fight for America? To find the answer, let us go back... to that mysterious Amazon isle called Paradise Island!

Having won the right to return the yet unconscious and bedridden Captain Trevor back to his home country to complete his mission, the Amazon maiden named Diana flew across the ocean in her silent transparent plane. Trevor briefly stirred, and saw Diana as a beautiful angel smiling at him. Diana was already smitten, and the compliment was well received. Landing in Washington D.C., Diana hid her transparent plane in a barn, then swiftly carried Steve Trevor on foot to Walter Reed Hospital. Diana informed the staff the the Captain was with Army Intelligence, then fled the scene.

"Now what do I do with my time? Hm-m! Mother told me so much about styles of American women that I'm dying to see them!" Diana began window shopping, but was called a "brazen thing" and a "hussy" with "no clothes on" by a pair of old maids. A male onlooker chided, "Ha! Sour grapes sister, dont you wish you looked like that!" He wasn't the only man taking in the view, as Diana attracted a lot of attention from both genders.

Suddenly, screams and gunshots filled the air as robbers raced from a hold-up. Diana leapt across a street to stand between the bandits and their car. When the hoods began firing on her, the Amazon deflected all their shots with her swift bracelets. "It's fun to be playing 'Bullets and Bracelets' again!" Diana continued the games, playing "catch." Diana's hand clamped around the wrist of a burly thug like a steel vice, disarming him before flinging him at his partners like a sack of potatoes. The police arrived, and although Diana didn't quite know what a "hold-up" was, her foot on the mound of thieves suggested she was aware her right had made might. The coppers had questions, but "Some other time, when I'm on the 'Quiz Kids' program!" Clearly, the Amazons were not so isolated that they couldn't be taught sarcasm through the Magic Sphere.

An opportunist chased Diana down in his car as she again raced from the scene. 35-- 60-- even 80 miles per hour wasn't enough to quite keep up, but Diana was finally convinced to stop by a shouted business proposition. "My name is Al Kale! I book acts for theaters! Now I don't know what your racket is and I don't care. All I know is that those speedy legs of yours, or that 'bullet' trick could net a fortune!" Diana realized that she would need money, and she still had "to kill time till Steve recovers," so she agreed with a handshake.

"Bullets and Bracelets" was a hit with audiences, selling out the Bijou Theatre. The entertainment press dubbed "Wonder Woman" a smash, at least according to the "Daily Blade*." Kale wanted to carry on, but once the papers reported that Captain Trevor had finally recovered from his "brain concussion," Diana lost interest. Unable to hold her without a contract, Kale tried to steal all the show's earnings for himself. Diana caught on quick, jumping from a fifth story window to catch and hold Kale's car by the bumper. Wonder Woman left Kale dangling from a telephone pole while she reclaimed her share of the loot.

The next day, Diana found a nurse crying on the steps outside the hospital. "...Today my fiance just got a job in South America, but he can't send for me because his salary is too small." Diana was sympathetic, but couldn't help but notice how much she resembled the nurse with her glasses off. Diana offered to buy the nurse's credentials and identity in exchange for money enough to start her new life in South America. That way, both could stay with the men they loved, and "No harm done, for I'm a trained nurse, too..." In an amazing coincidence, the nurse was named Diana Prince, "and you'd better remember that last name-- because it'll be yours from now on."

Steve was still calling out for his "beautiful angel" in his sleep as the disguised Diana tended to him. Steve liked Nurse Prince well enough, but he had things to do, and snuck out of the hospital. The doctor blamed the nurse for allowing Trevor to escape, as "over-exertion" might kill the captain.

Nurse Diana Prince managed to deduce Trevor's whereabouts from a newspaper article about a threat to bomb Camp Merrick with a new poison gas, and uncovered her transparent plane. "Inside the barn, the girl transforms herself from drab Diana Prince to the exciting Amazon maiden... WONDER WOMAN!" It felt "grand" to be herself again.

Captain Trevor reported to his commanding officer, and patrols were set up to look out for the bomber, but Steve knew that wouldn't be enough. Captain Trevor took to the air, and was confronted by a flying fort his plane's guns couldn't even dent. Trevor's only recourse was to crash his plane into the bomber, which did the trick, but his ripped parachute seemed likely to spell his end. However, Wonder Woman was also on the scene, and setting her "robot control pilot," managed to catch Trevor in midair while dangling from a ladder. Steve was pleased to be reacquainted with his beautiful angel, or as Diana put it, "A guardian angel is more like it!"

An enemy pilot parachuted to safety, but caught the Amazon's eye, so Diana had Steve fly her toward the foe. The pilot tried firing on her, but bracelets and a sock to the jaw settled any argument. The pilot was fatally wounded during the crash, but declared more bombers would succeed where he failed. Trevor expected as much, having once found the enemy's secret base, which had been moved during his convalescence. "Good thing I anticipated this and had mother look up this secret base in the Magic Sphere before I left Paradise Island!"

The pair landed at a secret island base, then ambushed a guard patrol. Wonder Woman then burst through a wooden door, and tossed about half of it at the first soldier to get in her way. Steve passed Diana a gas mask, then fired on a canister of poison. The enemy was dying in numbers, but their leader tried to take the heroes with them to the great beyond through an explosion. Wonder Woman easily got clear, but Steve was buried under debris, and had to be saved yet again. "Are you hurt, Steve? Why didn't you jump like I did?"
"Jump like you? What am I-- a kangaroo?"

Trevor's leg was broken, so back to the hospital he went. Both the doctor and the general congratulated Trevor's magnificent work, but he insisted a beautiful angel was responsible... "Wonder Woman!" Nurse Prince questioned Steve about his "delirious" talk, but Trevor was adamant in his admiration for Wonder Woman. Prince tried to point out that Trevor was in her care now, but Steve let her down semi-gently, as no regular woman could hold a candle to this new flame. "So I'm my own rival, eh? That's funny... if mother could only see me now... as a very feminine woman... a nurse, no less, in a world full of men, and in love too- with myself for a rival!"

And so ends the
first full episode of
Wonder Woman
Diana Prince,
Army Nurse!

Follow her exciting adventures as she bests the world's most villainous men at their own game every month in

My best guess at the local paper's name was the "Daily Blade," but the calligraphy on the second word was pretty rough, so I'm open to other interpretations. Might as well have been the Daily Bugle, because I found it amazing how this spectacular tale seemed more like Spider-Man origin that how most people recall Wonder Woman's. I loved revisiting this story, because it really puts the lie to the "naive" take on the character. Diana is an educated woman who drops pop culture references and recognizes the need for scratch on her mission to Man's World (while waiting to indulge in missionary with her worldly man.) Maybe the reason no one can sell Wonder Woman is because they don't bother to go back to the one era where she had a wide comic book audience and realize she's been mischaracterized for sixty years. Unlike most Golden Age heroes, Diana has yet to escape the shadow of Doctor Frederick Wertham to return to Doctor William Moulton Marston's original interpretation.

By the way, now that the two-part origin is complete, did you note the absence of an essential element? While creators have tried to bury the Invisible Plane since the mid-80s, even though it's prominent from the first full story, Wonder Woman won't begin using a lasso until Sensation Comics #6! Occasionally dubbed "Wonder Woman Arrives in Man's World," this untitled story was by William Moulton Marston and Harry G. Peter. This issue of Sensation Comics also featured the origins of Wildcat and Mr. Terrific.

Golden Age Day


Luke said...

Huh! Sounds like a fun story! Never read any of these Golden Age Wonder Woman tales, and considering the cost of those hardcovers it might be a while, but sounds pretty enjoyable to me.

Diabolu Frank said...

Weird, wild stuff. So much more fun than the contemporary DC/National norm.