A Tribute to the of
The stunning "Kingdom Come," an Elseworlds tale that came out a few years ago, featuring the tremendous artistic talents of Alex Ross was not only a great story (between that and the gentle encouragement of my old pal, the webmaster, my interest in the genre was handily rekindled) but it held some interesting symbolism as well. One of the chapters was titled "The Trinity" and the backdrop was a painting of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman. I thought about that one for awhile, wondering about the significance and while I'm still not sure I understand where the co-writers, Mark Waid and Alex Ross were going, it does occur to me that those are the three heroes who have endured the longest and who also share the distinction of having no break in continuity. Each character traversed the road from the Golden to Silver Ages intact and their legacy continues to the present.
Since Wonder Woman is now 60 years old as of this past November (and still looking great, I might add) it seems fitting to place her into the spotlight for this edition of the Silver Age Sage.
Like her peers, she's appeared in numerous media over the years including the Wonder Woman television series starring Lynda Carter that I remember watching in my youth. Before I forget to mention it, Alex Ross and Paul Dini have just published a tribute book honoring her that you might want to look for, too. Princess Diana, as she is also known, was also a founding member of the Justice League of America and the sole representative of her gender. While much ground was broken in the Silver Age storylines, by and large, it was still a man's world. Still, Diana was there to help balance things out just a little bit and other female heroes were to follow in her booted footsteps. Now, before I get the cart totally before the horse, let's quickly review her comic book history before jumping into the story I've chosen for this review. Wonder Woman first appeared in the old All Star Comics, issue number 8 from December/January of 1941/1942. According to the Overstreet Price Guide, that comic contained her origin story, which was continued in Sensation Comics #1 in January of 1942, (+ house ad) where she was the featured attraction. Diana obviously made an impression, because a few short months later, the Summer issue of Wonder Woman #1 hit the stands also in 1942, containing a more detailed origin. She's been with us ever since. With all this talk of origins, I've decided to review the Silver Age origin story of the Amazon Princess, which comes from Wonder Woman #105, published in April of 1959. "The Secret Origin of Wonder Woman!" was written by Robert Kanigher, who also served as Editor (though the splash page gives character creation credit to Charles Moulton, much like current Superman tales list Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster) with art by Ross Andru and Mike Esposito, who are probably better known as the artists who brought you the Metal Men.
This story is a little unique in that you never once see Wonder Woman as an adult or in her trademark patriotic costume of red, white and blue including star spangled trunks and none other than a gold American eagle on her, er, top. I sometimes thought she looked like she belonged on the top of a cake with Marvel Comics' Captain America. Oooo, sacrilege! Of course considering the period of time during which she was conceived, during the second World War and the ensuing patriotic storylines that DC and others were producing, it's only logical that she would help to embody the best of the good old U.S.A. despite the fact that she doesn't actually hail from these shores. Anyhow, this adventure takes place chronologically before she dons her uniform and begins her official career. Let's learn together the origin of her extraordinary abilities.
The story begins "centuries ago" in the royal chamber of Queen Hippolyta of the Amazons. To her royal surprise, she is visited by a golden caller. It is Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love and beauty, who has come to bequeath a gift to the baby princess in return for Hippolyta's many deeds of justice. She gives the baby all the beauty of goodness. No sooner is the gift bestowed than another gilt figure appears. This time Athena bestows all the wisdom of the planets. Next, none other than Mercury, wearing his winged helmet that looks remarkably like that of Jay Garrick, the Golden Age Flash. ;-) Somehow, he's able to pass on the gift of speed greater than he himself possesses. Similarly, the final visitor, the mighty Hercules grants the child strength that exceeds even his own. With a pedigree like that, could she be anything but a wonder? As the story of Diana's beginning continues, we learn that all the Amazon men have been wiped out in the wars. The Queen commands that a ship will be built to transport them away from the misery of the place. Later, to her great surprise, her daughter has undertaken the task and single-handedly constructs the vessel within one night. The next morning the Amazons set sail in their ship, bound for some remote island where they can live in obscurity and peace. Soon they encounter a massive whirlpool that threatens their destruction. Diana dives overboard and tows the boat out of the grip of the whirlpool. The next phenomena they face is a burning sea, just beyond two snow covered peaks jutting from the depths of the ocean. Diana again leaps into action, gathering snow from the mountain into a huge ball to extinguish the blazing waters. Once again, she saves her sister Amazons and the journey continues until the next obstacle appears, this time in the form of strange gases that cause the women to fall to the decks unconscious. The young princess alone is able to resist long enough to arrive at an island where they safely berth at last. They dub the place Paradise Island and declare it the new home of the Amazons. Shortly, Athena appears to them and explains that they have just passed through the mists of eternal youth. They shall remain as they are forever, so long as they do not depart from the island. Diana will continue to grow to full womanhood, but will also enjoy immortality from that point forward, so long as she remains within the boundaries of Paradise Island.
The young princess proves to be instrumental as they build their new home on the island, moving huge columns with her bare hands and aiding in a thousand ways. She also continues her own development, both physical and mental, becoming versed in every language ever spoken and all known sciences among other academic pursuits.
The final great feat she performs before the story closes is the removal and banishment of a threatening whale from the waters that surround their island home. Her sister Amazons cheer for the wonder girl and Queen Hippolyta, like every other proud mother through time, begins a scrapbook of her daughter's wondrous exploits as her career begins.
I must admit that outside her appearances in the Justice League I've not followed Wonder Woman very closely over the years. I know that in her purest form, she is a formidable warrior and is easily the equal of any of her fellow members of the Justice League. While this origin tale covered the basics, I confess I don't know where her indestructible Amazonium bracelets came from, nor her equally indestructible golden lasso or even the good old transparent robot plane that she used to roam around in for so long. I'm not even sure how she was able to successfully leave Paradise Island without sacrificing her immortality. Maybe she did lose it. I just don't know.
Despite all this ignorance, I must acknowledge her staying power as a character and leave us not forget her well-established presence in the comics world. I think I mentioned in my review of the first appearance of Supergirl that Wonder Woman is the best known female hero out there and after 60 years, she's certainly earned the respect. I, too, pledge my respect, Princess Diana and I christen your origin story with a rating of 9 as I wish you a happy 60th birthday.
As is my custom, I invite all my readers to write to me with questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org. Don't forget that the guest book is always available for new entries and comments here at the Silver Lantern. Be sure to join us again in about two weeks for the newest review of another sampling from the Silver Age. Thanks for your patronage.
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