Tales from the Calendar: Wonder Woman 2

Each month I'll be writing about the comic behind the cover featured that month in the 2018 Vintage DC Comics Calendar from Asgard Press. Note: sometimes life just gets in the way of keeping a schedule, and for me, that meant going largely missing from The Fifth World over the past month.  However, I am back and raring to catch up.  As such, let's go back in time and revisit the month of April. The April entry is Wonder Woman #2, cover date September, 1942 with a cover by Harry G. Peter.

HG Peter started his career as a newspaper artist before shifting to comics in 1941.  He helped create Wonder Woman, bringing the Amazon princess described by William Moulton Marston to life with his drawing skills, in fact designing her classic costume.  However, he would not get the credit he deserved, with the character always introduced as "Wonder Woman by Charles Moulton".  A fellow supporter of suffragism and women's rights, Peter, like Moulton, expressed support for the modern woman both directly and through his art.  His tenure on Wonder Woman lasted until 1958, when he stepped aside for another classic DC artist, Ross Andru.  Peter, who was in his late 70s by that time, died not long after.

The history books primarily regard 1942, as you might expect, through the lens of World War II.  As Wonder Woman #2 hit the stands, the Battle of Milne Bay raged in New Guinea.  American bombs first started dropping on occupied France.  Brazil, which took its sweet time choosing a side, finally declared war on Germany and Italy.  In Poland, the first of several uprisings in a Jewish ghetto broke out.  And in Amsterdam, a little girl named Anne Frank finished her second month of hiding from the Nazis, something they'd continue to successfully do for twenty-three more months, a staggering duration that still was not long enough.

Wonder Woman #2 was unlike most comic books of the time.  It had the same creative team (Marston and Peter) throughout.  What's more, it told a single book-length tale, though the story was broken up into four parts, each with its own introductory page.  The issue details Mars (also known as Ares, as he's typically called in Wonder Woman today) trying to thwart Diana's support of America's war effort, because for some reason the god of war was focused specifically on aiding just one side.  The first chapter details the war god's first attempt to stop Wonder Woman, while the next three chapters each introduce one of Mars' aides.
That's got to hurt.
The first plot by Mars sees the war god try to entrap Diana by preying on her love for Steve Trevor, as he remembers that Amazons, "like all women, are fools over men!"  He sends his aide-de-camp, General Destruction off to find Trevor, which the General efficiently accomplishes.  Sadly for Mars, Destruction seems to disappear after that, which is too bad, since all the rest of Mars' aides are either fairly incompetent or not the most loyal.  Ready to do anything to rescue Steve, Diana gets the help of Aphrodite to put herself into a death-like state so that her astral form could join the prisoner-slaves that Mars would make of the dead of war.  Despite being far more powerful than any of the other prisoners, no one thinks to point Wonder Woman out to Mars, so he's completely surprised when she shows up at a tournament thrown for his entertainment.  He has her brought to his palace just in time to set up some classic Marston/Peter bondage.  She escapes and finds Steve Trevor, bringing them both back to the land of the living.

Mars, of course, was one of Wonder Woman's first villains and would continue to be a part of her mythos to this day.  He's changed form appreciably over the years, particularly with redesigns by George Perez and later by Cliff Chiang.  He also had the honor of being the main villain for the Wonder Woman movie, though I don't know of too many people who were happy with how his scenes played out.

Mars, having been thwarted by Diana once, of course pawns off future plotting to his lieutenants.  First up is the Earl of Greed, who promptly forgets his mission and goes to Germany to influence Adolf Hitler (who we get to see munch on a rug) to approve a plan to rob the US Treasury.  However, Diana and Steve Trevor happen to be in Berlin spying on Hitler, so they uncover the plot (and discover that Steve has gained the power to see astral forms, something I don't think has ever been brought back in any of his subsequent appearances).  The Nazis escape them, and Wonder Woman loses all leads until her friend Etta Candy lets her know that her college has been embezzled to the point of closure (this being a comic book, of course the two plots are related, with the college being closed to allow for the Nazis to move the stolen gold through it).  She agrees to participate in a baseball game behind the newly crowned world champions and team of women from the college.  Hijinks ensue, the plot is ruined, the culprits (minus the Earl, who flees) are captured, and the college is saved.

Please tell us more of Hitler's weird brain.
The Earl of Greed would appear again in Wonder Woman #5 and then would disappear until 1978, when he would appear briefly in DC Special #9, which focused on Wonder Woman.  He would not be seen again.

Next up is the Duke of Deception, who had better staying power than his brethren.  The Earl having failed him, Mars turns to the Duke to capture Wonder Woman.  The Duke sets a plot in motion using his lie factory (somehow presaging the political and news climate of today), populated by slaves who work all day to create fake news.  The Duke, who for reasons of his own brings a Wonder Woman body with him that he can wear when he wants, manages to frame Wonder Woman for murder, which sets her up to be captured by the Duke's agents, during which Diana is tied up and has her mouth and eyes taped shut.  She escapes of course, and thwarts the Duke, who is now disguised as a Japanese general, partly by putting Etta Candy's astral form in the extra Wonder Woman body.  No one can claim that these Wonder Woman stories weren't imaginative.

This is the backroom at Alex Jones's office, right?
The Duke would appear in several more stories than his fellow lieutenants, including a few stores from the 1970s.  He has not appeared since Wonder Woman's reboot after Crisis on Infinite Earths.

His two peers having failed, it's Lord Conquest's turn next, and just as the Earl of Greed roped Hitler into his plot and the Duke of Deception hovered around Hirohito, Lord Conquest manipulates Mussolini to his ends.  Il Duce recruits Mammotha, an eight foot tall giant, to help in his plot to capture Wonder Woman, and just for good measure, Lord Conquest takes over the giant's body.  Mammotha puts on a display of strength and goads Diana into fighting him.  She beats him, but it was all a ruse to lure her unsuspectingly into a trap, which she falls for and, of course, gets chained up.  She is brought to Mars to become a slave, but is rescued by... you guessed it, Etta Candy.  She and the other prisoners escape and she defeats Mars, burning down his palace.  Oddly, that does little to end the war.

It's just not a Marston WW story without a bit of bondage.
Lord Conquest appeared in the same issues as the Earl of Greed.  He's not been seen since 1978.

Wonder Woman #2 features one final bonus, a two page war bond ad that shows how buying war bonds helps keep warfighters healthy, warm, and ready to kill the enemy.

Nothing like having your patriotism served with a hint of racism.
I talked about William Moulton Marston back in November when I reviewed Professor Marston and the Wonder Women, so I'll forgo a deep biography.  Suffice to say the psychologist turned comic book writer led a spirited life that revolved around sexual revolution and polyamory while also finding time to invent an early form of the lie detector, define the DISC behavior assessment tool, and create the greatest super-heroine to ever hit the page.

Wonder Woman, of course, is one of DC's Big Three and has had several memorable runs by writers and artists over the years.  After Marston passed away, Robert Kanigher began a long run with the character, first with Peter and then with Ross Andru.  Mike Sekowsky came in and depowered her, and that era of the character would last long enough to produce four trade paperbacks worth of stories before the classic Wonder Woman costume and power set would return.  She continued publication under various writers and artists over the years but didn't really hit it big again until George Perez revamped and rebooted her in the 1980s.  Perez's run would be followed by memorable runs by William Messner-Loebs (with art for some of that time by Mike Deodato), John Byrne, Eric Luke, Phil Jimenez, Greg Rucka, Gail Simone, J. Michael Straczynski, and Brian Azzarello.  Her solo film is easily the best of the floundering DC Extended Universe.

That's it for April.  I'll be back in a few days with a look at Flash Comics #15.

JL Franke is a fan of both hard science fiction and hard fantasy.  He has been collecting comics for over 40 years and has been an on-and-off active member of online fandom for 25.  Those interested can find other writings at his personal blog, NerdlyManor.com.  When not geeking out, you may find him at a baseball park or cheering on his favorite college and pro football teams.  In his spare time, he is chief scientist for a research and development laboratory somewhere in the Washington, DC greater metropolitan area.
Tales from the Calendar: Wonder Woman 2 Tales from the Calendar: Wonder Woman 2 Reviewed by JL Franke on Tuesday, May 15, 2018 Rating: 5
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