Showcase Presents Wonder Woman Vol. 4

Showcase Presents Wonder Woman Vol. 4

First Published: December 2011

Contents: Wonder Woman #157 (October 1965) to #177 (August 1968)

Key Creator Credits: Robert Kanigher, Ross Andru, Mike Esposito, and Irv Novick

Key First Appearances: Egg Fu, Doctor Psycho

Story Continues From: Showcase Presents Wonder Woman Vol. 3

Overview: Merciful Minerva! Wonder Woman finally faces off against the one foe she cannot stop. The mightiest foe of all time – the dreaded, all powerful DC Comics Editor. Because the pen is truly mightier than the sword. Welcome to Showcase Presents Wonder Woman Vol. 4.

The volume starts off with an Egg Fu story that covers all of issue #157 and part of the #158. But what drives this collection is the second story in issue #158. The crew of the Wonder Woman title (Robert Kanigher, Ross Andru, and Mike Esposito) makes cameos as DC decides to streamline Diana’s supporting cast. Many of the supporting characters, such as Wonder Tot, Mer-Boy, Birdman, the Glop, and others, are cast off into limbo. Wonder Woman, Steve Trevor, and Hippolyta survive, and the editors promise that beginning with the next issue, Wonder Woman would return to her Golden Age beginnings.   

True to their word, beginning with Wonder Woman #159, we see a retelling of the origins of the Amazons, and how Diana came to be created. We see the challenge of the Amazons, which would determine who would leave the island to go live in Man’s World. We see Col. Steve Trevor crash near Paradise Island, and how Diana nursed him to health before returning him to the United States, where she took over the identity and life of Lt. Diana Prince, a nurse in the army.

Firmly establishing herself as a hero, Wonder Woman battles the familiar foes such as the Cheetah, Doctor Psycho, and Angle Man – why wasn’t Angle Man sent to limbo?!?!? Towards the end of this volume, less emphasis is made that these are Golden Age stories, but rather they are set in the Silver Age proper. For example, the final issue in this volume, #177, features a team-up between Wonder Woman and Supergirl. That issue teases us with a promise of Wonder Woman going in a new direction in the next issue, but that is a story best saved for a future volume, we hope!

Why should these stories be Showcased?: So, of the four Showcase Presents Wonder Woman volumes to date, this is probably the most readable of the bunch. That said, it’s still not a very good collection of stories. Once the DC Editorial hits the giant cosmic reset button in issue #158, the stories become simpler without the convoluted character histories. The stories focus on Wonder Woman and Steve Trevor, with the occasional visit to Paradise Island to see her mother. The caption boxes tell us that these are Golden Age stories being told in the current (Silver) age. We get to see more familiar villains, such as Cheetah, Giganta, and yes, Egg Fu.  Diana Prince’s military rank fluctuates from issue to issue between lieutenant and captain, with the occasional issue where she is still a military nurse. Towards the end of this volume, once Ross Andru leaves the book, the stories start to feel more like Silver Age stories, current with other books of that era. I cannot wholeheartedly recommend this book. But if you feel the need to possess one of these Wonder Woman collections, this is the one you should own.

Footnotes: Among the characters wiped away in the reset in issue #158 is Wonder Girl, the teenage version of our title character. However, Wonder Girl still continued to be an active and key member of the Teen Titans. For more on that complicated character, please see my review of Showcase Presents Teen Titans Vol. 1,

If you like this volume, try: the Wonder Woman TV series from the 1970s. For so many people, this version of Wonder Woman was their first encounter and remains the best representation (to date) of everyone’s favorite Amazon. Starring Linda Carter and Lyle Waggoner, the series ran for three seasons. The first season was set in the World War II era of the 1940s, following the earliest adventures of Wonder Woman. For the second and third season, the series was reset to place the characters into the 1970s. (Trying to set a TV show thirty years in the past was getting expensive for this type of show!) Carter’s take on Wonder Woman remains legendary but don’t expect riveting television here. The shows remain campy and are full of plot holes. You don’t have to own these – check out the series on Netflix or some other platform, or check the ME-TV programming guide. It’s worth seeing at least once.

Showcase Presents Wonder Woman Vol. 3

Showcase Presents Wonder Woman Vol. 3

First Published: December 2009

Contents: Wonder Woman #138 (May 1963) to #156 (August 1965)

Key Creator Credits: Robert Kanigher, Ross Andru, and Mike Esposito

Story Continues In: Showcase Presents Wonder Woman Vol. 2

Story Continues In: Showcase Presents Wonder Woman Vol. 4

Overview: Beautiful as Aphrodite, Wise as Athena, Swift as Mercury, and Strong as Hercules, Wonder Woman continues her journey as an ambassador of peace to the “Man’s World”.  

These stories cover a two-year period in the mid-1960s. Wonder Woman faces a variety of threats, such as the Duke of Deception’s attempts to take over Earth from his base on Mars; the Academy of Arch-Villains competing to take down the Amazon princess; or the mysterious Fisher-Birdmen from another dimension.

The highlight in this volume has to be the first story from Wonder Woman #144, titled “Revolt of Wonder Woman”. Our star has been pushed so much lately that she is running on exhaustion. Between protecting Paradise Island from an attack of flaming characters, saving Mer-Man yet again,  keeping a crashing airplane aloft, and other challenges, Wonder Woman is at her physical breaking point, and just walks away from everything in a catatonic state. She breaks out of her stupor long enough to rescue a blind girl by the name of Mary Jane. Not knowing who rescued her, Mary Jane befriends Diana based on her kindness. Mary Jane gets the chance to even the score when her acute hearing picks up a rattle snake in their path, and she steers Diana away. Finally, the two women are caught in a lightning storm. Diana protects Mary Jane with her bracelets, but the lightning flashes burned away the blindness from Mary Jane’s eyes. The two vow to remain friends, yet we never see Mary Jane again.

Why should these stories be Showcased?: You know, I really do try to remain positive about these reviews. There is no need for me to dump all over stories published before I was born. That said, I do not think that these stories should be in a Showcase Presents. The stories are poorly written and very repetitive. A lot of the stories just involve Steve Trevor, Mer-Man, and/or Bird-Man trying to win the hand of Wonder Woman in marriage. They even extend those stories back to Wonder Girl, with a teenage Steve Trevor (still in the military!), Mer-Boy, and/or Bird-Boy competing for Wonder Girl’s affection. When she does fight a villain, they tend to fall into the lame end of the spectrum: Mouse-Man, Multiple Man, Angle Man — see a pattern here? When people argue that female characters are used poorly, it is these issues that are given as examples. Even if you are a Wonder Woman fan, this does not need to be on your bookshelf.

(Full disclosure time here! I read Showcase Presents Wonder Woman Vol. 3 sometime back in 2014 and wrote this review shortly after finishing it. This post has been sitting in my queue waiting for it to come up in the rough order-of-release schedule that I try to follow. Reviewing this post prior to publication, I was concerned that my comments may have been too harsh when writing the review immediately after I finished the book. So I pulled the book off the shelf this past weekend and flipped back through it again. And my position still stands – bad stories, bad premises, bad representation. This is not the Wonder Woman book we should be reading!)

Footnotes: Please see my review of Showcase Presents Teen Titans Vol. 1, where I try to make sense of how Wonder Woman, Wonder Girl, and Wonder Tot can all appear in one story together.

If you like this volume, try: Wonder Woman: Spirit of Truth, by Paul Dini and Alex Ross from 2002. In 1999, Dini and Ross started collaborating to release a series of treasury-size original special featuring one of the key characters of the DC Universe. This gave us Superman: Peace on Earth in 1999, Batman: War on Crime in 2000, and Shazam!: Power of Hope in 2001. Wonder Woman’s turn came the following year. In this story, Wonder Woman finds that her appearance, while appropriate for Paradise Island, does not work in the real world. Blazing into a scene with the armored one-piece suit, her beauty, and her heritage keeps her at arm’s length from the rest of humanity. At the suggestion of Clark Kent, Diana disguises herself in other costumes and identities, so she can travel the world and see how the world really is. Dini has proved time and time again that he is an outstanding comic writer, and in particular, a brilliant writer of female characters. Ross’ painted artwork shines brighter with this oversized format. The four specials were collected by DC in 2005 in a hardcover title The World’s Greatest Super-Heroes. Please check out this or any of the other Dini/Ross collaborations.

Showcase Presents Wonder Woman Vol. 2

Showcase Presents Wonder Woman Vol. 2

First Published: October 2008

Contents: Wonder Woman #118 (November 1960) to #137 (April 1963)

Key Creator Credits: Robert Kanigher, Ross Andru, and Mike Esposito

Key First Appearances: Wonder Tot

Story Continues In: Showcase Presents Wonder Woman Vol. 1

Story Continues In: Showcase Presents Wonder Woman Vol. 3

Overview: Since the late 1930s/early 1940s, DC Comics (in all of its various forms and names) has kept three characters in continuous publication – Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman. Now, telling stories about just one character for 75 years can be a challenge. Every comic can’t be a five-star masterpiece each and every month. There may be some issues, or stretches of issues, where the run of the character is a little rough. Think about how often Kryptonite turned up on Earth to stop Superman. And Batman had stretches where he was patrolling space to keep Earth safe. So it should come as no surprise that Wonder Woman encountered some rough stretches of storytelling. Guess what, DC is showcasing some of those issues in this second Wonder Woman collection.

Robert Kanigher is a solid comic book writer. But I don’t know that he ever had a proper understanding of how Wonder Woman should be written. Pardon the pun, but Wonder Woman gets manhandled in the 20 issues collected in this volume. We get a lot of repetitive stories, like Wonder Woman having to choose between Mer-Man and Steve Trevor. (Seriously, one of those guys smells like a fish? Why is this even a decision for her?) The hardest stories to take involve Wonder Woman, Queen Hippolyta, Wonder Girl, and Wonder Tot (and yes, three of those women are one and the same) teaming up in some adventure that only their family can handle.

Why should these stories be Showcased?: You know, I have to believe that the classic humorist Will Rogers would have nothing to say about these comics. I cannot recommend these, as much as I want to. Maybe if you are a Ross Andru fan, then, by all means, get this collection. But there are many other collections that showcase Andru’s work. Even trying to read these from the perspective of the early 1960s, they don’t work. The stories are sexist and misogynistic. I want my daughter to read Wonder Woman comics, but I don’t want her to read these issues. Unless you are a completist like myself, I wouldn’t recommend having this volume as part of your collections.

Footnotes: Please see my review of Showcase Presents Teen Titans Vol. 1, where I try to make sense of how Wonder Woman, Wonder Girl, and Wonder Tot can all appear in one story together.

If you like this volume, try: the Wonder Woman run by Phil Jimenez from issue #164 (January 2001) to issue #188 (March 2003). This was a perfect match pairing the writer/artist with the Amazon princess. Jimenez draws incredibly detailed characters, in particular women, and the running joke in the industry is that he must be related to prior Wonder Woman writer/artist George Pérez. What makes these 25 issues (plus some Secret Files issues) stand out is Jimenez’ intelligent and complex stories. His initial story arc, Gods of Gotham, teamed up Wonder Woman (and her proteges) with Batman (and his family). While some of the stories have been collected in trade paperbacks, many of the stories can only be found in the original issues. This run is well worth the back-issue bin dive to find them.

Showcase Presents Wonder Woman Vol. 1

Showcase Presents Wonder Woman Vol. 1

First Published: August 2007

Contents: Wonder Woman #98 (May 1958) to #117 (October 1960)

Key Creator Credits: Robert Kanigher, Ross Andru, and Mike Esposito

Key First Appearances: Wonder Woman/Diana Prince, Hippolyta, Steve Trevor (see Footnotes)

Story Continues In: Showcase Presents Wonder Woman Vol. 2

Overview: Meet Wonder Woman – beautiful as Aphrodite, wise as Athena, as strong as Hercules, and as swift as Hermes. Sent to “Man’s World”, the Amazon princess disguises herself as Lt. Diana Prince of Military Intelligence, where she often finds out about global menaces needing her help. Add in Col. Steve Trevor, who is oblivious of Diana Prince’s dual identity. He proposes to Wonder Woman every chance he gets, only to be rejected every time. Wonder Woman cannot give her heart to one man while there is still a need for her services.

The stories in this volume are one-and-done stories, with little to no continuity between issues. She fights aliens from space; giant undersea creatures; and robot duplicates of herself. Some stories focus on Diana’s adventures when she was a child, conveniently known as Wonder Girl back then. Later stories will add in Wonder Tot as well, creating all kinds of headaches when Bob Haney decides to add Wonder Girl to the Teen Titans – see Showcase Presents Teen Titans Vol. 1 for the issues with Wonder Girl.

Why should these stories be Showcased?: Along with Superman and Batman, Wonder Woman completes the DC Comics “Trinity” of characters. These are legacy characters that have been around since the birth of comic books. So, as a legacy character, the adventures of Wonder Woman deserve to be showcased. However, like other books from DC Comics in this era, the stories do not hold up well. The creators associated with this book are all comic legends in their own right, but this collection is not their best work. Get this book if you are a die-hard Wonder Woman fan only.

Footnotes: Wonder Woman #98 is considered the start of the Silver Age Wonder Woman. All stories that appeared up to Wonder Woman #97, primarily drawn by Harry G. Peter, is considered to be the Golden Age Wonder Woman. However, some villains (Angle Man) carried over from the Golden Age to the Silver Age without the “reboot.”

If you like this volume, try: the George Pérez relaunch of Wonder Woman in 1987. Following the events in Crisis on Infinite Earths, the DC Universe was collapsed into one universe with a new history. After working on Wonder Girl for so many years in the pages of New Teen Titans, Pérez stepped up to provide the new definitive origin to Wonder Woman and the Amazons. Sent as an ambassador from Themyscira, Diana brings a message of peace to a violent world. One could make the suggestion that everything that came in the Golden Age and Silver Age should be forgotten, as this is the perfect starting point for anyone interested in Wonder Woman. The first two years of this relaunch have been collected in trade paperbacks between 2004 and 2006, so they might still be available to track down.