A Tribute to the of

Ready for the final 80th birthday celebration, readers? It’s our Amazon Princess’ time in the spotlight as the one and only Wonder Woman turns 80!

Now you would think that it wouldn’t be particularly difficult to settle on a story to review, considering the decades of material available, but let’s face it, Silver Age fans, some of them were utter crap. For a long time, it seemed like they just didn’t know what to do with her. Not that there haven’t been many, many great tales, but there seem to be a lot of lousy ones in there, too. While H.G. Peter deserves plenty of credit for all that he contributed to the character, even co-creating her, in fact, I sometimes can’t quite get into his particular style of artwork, at least for very long.

I enjoyed Ross Andru and Mike Esposito’s version very much, but some of Bob Kanigher’s scripts just left me cold. Wonder Tot? Egg Fu? Say what? And of course, let us not forget the New Wonder Woman sans uniform and powers. Not especially my cup of tea, either.

So, I finally thought it might be interesting to check out issue #177 from July/August of 1968 with an on-sale date of May 2nd of that year. Jack Miller served as editor, Carmine Infantino laid out that Irv Novick rendered cover, which was lettered by Gaspar Saladino and “Wonder Woman and Supergirl vs. the Planetary Conqueror!” was scripted by none other than Bill Finger with Win Mortimer and Jack Abel handling interior art. Let’s see what happens when the two premiere superheroines of the DC universe meet.

Speaking of universes, the story begins on some distant planets, where Klamos, described as a greedy, almighty alien, along with his accompanying army, is bringing planet after planet under his tyrannical rule. Further, this mysterious Klamos has a henchman named Grok. As in I grok Spock?

Anyway, the diminutive sidekick seems to serve as something of a herald to Klamos, demanding that the inhabitants of the planet Cronta bow before the mighty Klamos. One of the assembly, however, remains unbowed and so Klamos then lifts his visor and much like Cyclops, blasts the resistor to Kingdom Come.

So, after fully instilling fear into the world’s population, Klamos assumes a throne and decides what he needs now is a queen. His criteria should sound familiar. She must be both beautiful and powerful. The most beautiful and powerful in any world. He then dispatches his minions to find this co-ruler.

Naturally, one of the ships arrives at Earth and on their monitor screens they see Wonder Woman in action. The obvious problem is, how can they capture someone with her abilities. As they ponder the situation, they then see another impressive female in action, Kara Zor-El, better known as Supergirl.

Somehow, they are able to read Supergirl’s thoughts, revealing her reliance on the yellow sun for her powers, so they decide it’s an Achilles Heel that can be exploited, but they remain impressed with the Amazing Amazon, so it is decided that perhaps they can capture both and let Klamos decide who is the more worthy to share his throne.

Time now for action and the aliens use a spectrum beam to temporarily turn Sol from yellow to red, leaving Supergirl vulnerable. They reel in the Girl of Steel with a force field and Part I closes.

Part II, “The Captive Queens!” shifts the focus to Wonder Woman, who is diving down from the skies to rescue a peddler who is pushing a cart directly into the path of an oncoming train. To show his appreciation, the old man offers her some costume jewelry from his cart, but it is soon revealed it is one of the aliens in disguise and the faux Pearl bracelets affix themselves to the famed bracelets of our heroine, effectively turning into handcuffs. Just can’t get away from the bondage thing, eh?

In the next panel, both Wonder Woman and Supergirl are being brought up to the alien spaceship where they are placed into clear glass enclosures. Soon, they are being transported to another galaxy and find themselves queued up with females from many different worlds in an arena that would make a Roman emperor proud. Klamos addresses them, explaining that on the morrow, they will engage in combat for the privilege of earning the right to be his queen.

Later in their cell, Supergirl and Wonder Woman brainstorm with Diana stating simply that they don’t have to play and their powers are such that they cannot be forced. She reasons that if they play ‘possum, they’ll just be sent home.

Next morning in the arena, the females are divided into two teams and instructed to do battle after the starting gun. The fracas begins and our heroines follow Plan A, just doing a duck and cover routine. Despite all that, when the fog of war lifts, the two women left standing are none other than Supergirl and Wonder Woman. Klamos states that they will now fight to the finish. The women adamantly refuse and Grok says that they will proceed or both will die. While Supergirl tells them to try and make them, Wonder Woman muses that Grok keeps his hands hidden and wonders what that might mean.

Just then, to emphasize his point, Klamos uses a hand-held device that knocks the ladies for a loop. He then shows a display screen that shows an armada of his ships strategically orbiting the Earth and that if they continue to refuse his demand to fight to the death, he will signal them to destroy their home planet.

The next morning, they are summoned from their cell and Diana’s thoughts again show that she’s been putting her gray matter to work: “We’ve got one chance—if my suspicions are correct, we might be able to save ourselves—and Earth!

Then it’s on to Part III and “A Fight to the Death!” Back at the arena, the super-powered women square off and it’s nip and tuck until Supergirl, using the ol’ airplane spin, right out of a wrasslin’ match, appears to put Wonder Woman down for the count.

As Klamos and Grok pause to see if that is the case, the Amazing Amazon abruptly rises and tosses Grok to Supergirl, who tears the sleeve from his arm, revealing a control panel on his wrist. She swiftly begins to push the buttons and Klamos goes up in an explosion. Wonder Woman elaborates: “My hunch was right! Klamos was nothing but a robot—created by Grok to rule the galaxy for him!” Grok then angrily admits that he is Klamos, but due to his stature and appearance, he needed a surrogate leader that would be acceptable that he could secretly manipulate with his device.

The heroines then present the dwarfish creature to the conquered and tell them that they are free. Grok/Klamos then turns the tables when he says he’s been beaten for now, but he can return in other forms and may just conquer the earth. He then vanishes dramatically in a ball of energy.

That final panel instructs the readers to “Turn the page for the real end!” Revealed on that full page following is a behind view of Diana Prince with the following text: “Can you believe you’re looking at Diana Prince? In the next issue she’ll turn around—and you won’t believe your eyes!! But the most startling change is yet to come—Yes, the really big change is coming to Wonder Woman!” [See Sage #412]

That was the less than subtle teaser for the aforementioned unpowered Diana Prince series, one of the more dramatic shifts in the Wonder Woman mythos. The jury is still out as to whether it was a good idea or not, but there were some interesting stories produced during that timeframe, a couple of which we’ve reviewed here at the Silver Lantern.

This one wasn’t bad, though the storyline itself was less than inspired. Maybe Bill Finger’s talents were better suited to some of his co-creations like the Alan Scott Green Lantern, Wildcat and that Batman character. So, I’ll give this one a middle of the road 5 rating as the super-powered Wonder Woman left the stage for a while. At least she came back in full force later and has been a strong presence ever since.

May Diana Prince, our Wonder Woman, continue to be a force for good for many more decades to come!

Do join us again on the 15th of December for the final review of 2021! Until then, feel free to drop a line any time with your thoughts. Any emails will be promptly answered when received at: professor_the@hotmail.com.

Until then…

Long live the Silver Age!

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