Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Top 20 Wonder Woman Covers of the 1950s

Hera, fifties Wonder Woman covers were boring. Not only were they rendered in a flat, frigid style, but they were terribly repetitive. Wonder Woman battles a twin Wonder Woman. Wonder Woman struggles against an invisible something. Wonder Woman and an invisible twin Wonder Woman struggle. Wonder Woman's secret identity broadcast. Wonder Woman in a medium shot lassoing something in the distance. Wonder Woman in a medium shot deflecting something coming from a distance. Wonder Woman versus a large animal. Wonder Woman shrunk or fighting a giant version of something. (Shrunken?) Wonder Woman in a medium shot lassoing (a giant?) (animal?) (twin?) something in the distance. Wonder Woman in the foreground fleeing and explosion/fireball in the background. Any of the previous, but in an especially hostile environment (midair/underwater/outer space.) I think that Bob Kanigher had a menu in his office where he'd pick one item (or less) from three prefab columns to form a cover. Wonder Woman also seemed to be an early adopter of the "homage" cover, because when she liked a layout, it would surely be revisited...

20) Wonder Woman #104 (February, 1959)

Tenuous. Emotive expression.

19) Wonder Woman #96 (February, 1958)

Echoing themes we'll see further up the chart.

18) Sensation Comics #106 (November-December, 1951)

The muted colors may deceive and blunt the depth, but this image is jam packed with cool details and scope.

17) Wonder Woman #39 (January-February, 1950)

I like how busy Princess Diana looks. There's all this stuff going down and she's running all over town to sort it out.

16) All-Star Comics #57 (February-March, 1951)

A group shot with a prominent Wonder Woman from the rare perspective of coming out of a sewer manhole in Paris.

15) Wonder Woman #53 (May-June, 1952)

Strapped to a polygraph? How meta!

14) Sensation Comics #99 (September, 1950)

Bernard Sachs brings the big alien spiked fist down on a crowd of bystanders with only the Amazon Wonder acting in their defense. A bit awkward, but effective, and I suspect this inspired all of those bland "giant attack" imitators that followed.

13) Wonder Woman #62 (November-December, 1953)

This "perpetrator's POV" perspective would remain popular in the years to come, as would Wonder Woman seen in triplicate, which we do again here. Heck, it's even another Novick cover to later be swiped by Andru.

12) Sensation Comics #97 (March, 1950)

A sweet, romantic, enduring piece.

11) Wonder Woman #77 (October, 1955)

I love the perspective on this one, and the severity of Diana's face under trying circumstances. She looks like she's been swimming all night. The mild pink skyline doesn't hurt.

10) Wonder Woman #42 (July-August, 1950)

This is a nifty, propulsive piece, especially when you factor in that this sort of automotive defying of gravity wasn't as common at the time as it would become from-- what-- the '70s or so on (especially on bad TV action series.) I guess this Novick cover sold, because he self-swiped two years later.

9) Wonder Woman #45 (January-February, 1951)

A thoroughly okay cover concept that for some reason got revisited numerous times, the first within the same decade.

8) Wonder Woman #50 (November-December, 1951)

This one is very exciting, with Diana in a strong pose, bullets flying, missile launching, etc. etc.

7) Wonder Woman #99 (July, 1958)

Great Balls of Fire were a real issue for the Amazing Amazon on Silver Age covers. This was one of the more dynamic space age age examples.

6) Wonder Woman #80 (February, 1956)

It may seem a bit sexist, but a dehumanizing mask with a built-in bomb strapped to your face about to explode would make anyone piddle.

5) Wonder Woman #106 (May, 1959)

Charm bracelets are so girly, and it totally works in context, especially as a manifestation of relationship anxiety.

4) Wonder Woman #49 (September-October, 1951)

I love how all-around kickass this cover is. Diana just tossed that woman over her shoulder and dodged explosions while running with her back to lemon yellow sunshine. Fierce! I like the unusually tight framing of the figures, as well.

3) Wonder Woman #88 (February, 1957)

That red and black background is seriously ominous, and you totally want a peek in the box for yourself, don't you Pandora? Quality rendering by Irv Novick.

2) Wonder Woman #95 (January, 1958)

The loving manner in which Diana cradles Steve's head-- against an atomic bomb(!)-- makes this one very memorable. So does the perspective, the fuschia background, and the artistry of Ross Andru.

1) Wonder Woman #108 (August, 1959)

This fantastic Ross Andru piece resounds with McCarthyism, and was used on one of the Showcase Presents collections for obvious reasons. I suspect it may have inspired droves a similarly themed covers, perhaps most famously, Uncanny X-Men #141.

Honorable Mentions:


karl said...

Just fabulous...I adore all these covers, hokey as they might indeed be. I have every WW comic in my possession [bar one] and for me no other character's covers symbolizes the curious, kooky nature that is meant to draw ones attention. They are usually variations upon the same theme [bondage, wracked with indecision, giants, etc] and thats the thrill of it. Many of these covers are almost B-movie era in ther rendition, and all the better for it too!
Superb entry! With my collection safely locked away I loved seeing these covers again.

Diabolu Frank said...

I agree that the quirky pop psychology melodrama was part of Wonder Woman's draw, until they made her Greek Supergirl in the 1980s. I wish that she could go back to being weird.

IamWonderWoman said...

I like these older Wonder Woman covers. Seems like she was more feminine looking in those days. Some of the newer artwork makes her look a little too manly.

Diabolu Frank said...

I don't mind a well muscled and empowered Wonder Woman who kicks butt. I just wish that those aspects didn't overwhelm the presentation of a character who was once motivated by a message of peace and understanding. Whatever William Marston's hang-ups, he didn't wave bloodied metal phallic symbols at his audience at every opportunity. That's a whole different kind of dishearteningly messed up.