Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Wonder Woman in “The Time Traveler of Terror!” (August, 1960)

In a vast library at Military Intelligence, Col. Steve Trevor showed Lt. Diana Prince a book of disasters, including the sinking of Atlantis, the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in Pompeii, the 1871 Chicago Fire, and the 1889 Johnstown Flood. Each picture happened to feature a devious onlooker—a lean man with a disproportionally large bald head, prominent apple cheeks, goatee, and arched eyebrows. The often underestimated Trevor shows his brilliance here, as this will be totally relevant to the story, and not just a convenient narrative device to prepare readers for the book’s second-half adventure. It just so happens Steve has to leave “Di” to meet with Wonder Woman, who can’t quite put her finger on something fishy about the pictures, unintentionally shaming military “intelligence.”

The Amazing Amazon and Col. Trevor flew in her transparent robot plane, wherein he fake proposed and she claimed she’d be glad to, “When I’m no longer needed to combat evil!” Ladies, use that line the next time you’re faced with an aggravating suitor at the club. Anyway, the pair were off to a vital experimental base to view preparation for the launch of the world’s largest space exploratory rocket yet. The figures below the plane were quite small, but I’m fairly certain Capt. Adam and Sgt. Gunner were down there somewhere.

Wonder Woman was introduced to the famous scientist Prof. Andro, who she still couldn’t place as the man in all those disaster pictures, because this book ain’t called Detective Comics. The Camera Fluent Amazon snapped Andro’s picture, flew back with Steve to Military Intelligence, developed the picture of the creepiest smile in recorded human history, revisited the library, and wasted a whole afternoon comparing the picture of Andro’s creepy smile to those in the book. Wonder Woman even bragged about her photographic memory while doing so, which eventually prompted Steve to pretend he was amused by the coincidence after the first comparison, but ready to head back to the launching grounds. The genius Steve humored and patronized Wonder Woman through each unnecessary example of what he already knew, since he showed Lt. Prince (whose double identity he obviously also knew, because she’s just Wonder Woman with clothing) the book in the first place. Steve even let Diana slowly, painfully deduce Prof. Andro was a time traveling terrorist, which was blatant from his creepiest smile in recorded human history, before getting frustrated and telling her outright that anyone with such advanced technology could also be behind the disasters, not to mention the ability to trim their goatee and eyebrows so malevolently.

Wonder Woman and Steve Trevor flew back to present “their” findings to Gen. Darnell, who dismissed them and was about to schedule drug testing when Prof. Andro showed up, positively challenging the general to dig up dirt on him instead. Andro pissed clean, as Darnell explained to the stupids that the professor could never have set foot on the base in the first place without a rigorous background check. Wonder Woman was all “duh, of course futureboy could fake credentials” while Steve cursed their powerlessness and erectile dysfunction (where applicable.)

Not content, Prof. Andro showed up with such a diabolically gleeful expression it made me poo myself a little bit, telepathically admitting his guilt while freezing them in place. “You can’t touch me! My super-will prevents you! Just as it enables me to travel through time or space by Mentotravel! Or cause volcanoes, earthquakes, fire or flood by Mentoforce! HA HA!” Prof. Andro released the duo so they could fully appreciate the horror he was about to rain down on the Earth through the rocket. Best Wonder Woman villain ever? So far as I can tell!

Wonder Woman and Steve couldn’t directly confront Andro due to his potency, but fate caused the site’s official photographer to fall ill. Gen. Darnell knew the Amazing Amazon was an expert photog, and with the help of a device from her plane, this was just the opportunity Diana needed! A Flashlight Paralysis Ray emitted during the camera strobe froze everyone in place, except a crystal being from another world sprang out of Andro’s body! As the rocket flew into the sky and Wonder Woman followed by catapulting “on an updraft,” the flying being taunted that the S-Time Bomb planted on the rocket would create the “greatest catastrophe since time began!”

Through the lightning and rain, the Amazing Amazon tried to lasso the villain, but his willpower caused it to fall away. Wonder Woman stripped off her tiara made of the hardest metal known, amazonium, and flung it to no effect. Then came her bracelets—then ahhhhh—her shoes—and—and—oh wait, my fantasy kicked in there, but she did look kinda bare without her weapons. Nothing was working, so Wonder Woman flew around the rocket with the creature in pursuit until she lured him into shattering contact with lightning.

The rocket flew on, as Wonder Woman fretted about its potentially detonating in Earth atmosphere, but it thankfully made it into space before exploding. Thankfully, I said, as Wonder Woman just kinda floated and watched. Steve Trevor declared, “You did it again, Angel—saved the Earth! With the guidance of my Machiavellian manipulation, of course!” Meanwhile, off to the side, Captain Adam was shaking off that camera flash, and was all like, “But the rocket--? Why couldn’t she have saved the rocket? Where were my atomic powers when I needed them most?” Or maybe Adam blew up on that rocket, which might explain his quantum leaping, with the S-Time Bomb and all. I can’t keep all this retroactive continuity straight.

“The Time Traveler of Terror!” by Robert Kanigher, Ross Andru & Mike Esposito was the second story in Wonder Woman #116 (August, 1960.)

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karl said...

I have all the Showcase editions of vintage WWs, plus the Amazon Princess hardcover which came out several months ago, and this story fits the mood of that time perfectly. Silly monsters, myths that don't hold up to scrutiny [well, its the early Silver Age, we can dream its authentic!] and Steve Trevor acting the sex pest over Wonder Woman. Honestly, the stunts he pulls back then to try and get her to marry him [and give up being a hero, so he dosent feel so much a failure presumably]. If the modern day Trevor acted like this, hed be accused of sexual harassment, the nuiscance he was.
On the plus side, this was a fun story, as most WW were of that era, with a quick ending that makes little sense but still feels satisfying.

Diabolu Frank said...

I'd love to run more stories from this period, but my reading material is the black and white Showcases, so I don't even have proper reference for my crumby, gaudy coloring jobs. This synopsis has been sitting in a queue since 2011 for that reason, but I finally got annoyed enough with the time wasted to push it out, even with the shoddy scans at hand.

Stories like these were clearly the reason why George Perez cast Steve Trevor out in the mid-80s, and he continued to do penance in limbo for decades thereafter. I'm happy to see a stronger, more sympathetic version of the guy trying to make good while reclaiming his place in the DC Universe. These days, I prefer reading Trevor comics over Diana ones.