Wonder Woman had a rough time of it during the years 1964 – 1967: the New Look. Sales were clearly not what the company was hoping for, and some drastic changes were made, and then rapidly unmade. In the early part of this period the teenage version of the character, Wonder Girl, all but took over the series, while in later years there was an attempt to revive the Golden Age version of the hero. Wonder Woman’s classic enemies the Duke of Deception, Angle Man, the Cheetah, Dr Psycho, Giganta, and even Paula Von Gunther appeared, and were joined in Wonder Woman’s rogues gallery by the notorious Egg Fu. Wonder Woman also teamed up with Supergirl in an embarrassing outing in Brave and the Bold, but I'll be talking about that tale in my Supergirl entry.
The Duke of Deception was the only classic villain to appear during this era before the shift to the Golden Age tales, in a story that combined some of his earlier outing, which appeared in Wonder Woman 148. The Duke looks all green and Martian-y in this story. He has a complicated plan to capture Wonder Woman by giving her hallucinations, so that she can no longer tell if what she is seeing is real. The Duke had done this to her once in the past, and it works well now, just like it did then. Eventually she stops reacting to the things she sees, assuming them to be hallucinations. But Steve Trevor is not being given these visions, and can tell her what is really happening. There is a bit of a strange sequence, not part of the original tale, in which Wonder Woman gives Steve an hallucination, apparently just by force of will - it's there to set up the ending, but in the original tale, Wonder Woman was playing on the mental link the Duke had created between them. Once Wonder Woman has no idea what is real, the Duke finds it easy to kidnap her and bring her to Mars. The story then shifts to a reworking of his Martian Olympics tale, where Wonder Woman will die if she fails to win any event. The Duke keeps her caged up throughout, but she triumphs anyway. Then she gives the Duke an hallucination that she is no longer in her cage. When he opens it to make sure, she gets out and locks him in.
Egg Fu made his debut in a two part story that began in Wonder Woman 157. The story opens as Diana Prince torments herself. Steve Trevor practices wooing Wonder Woman by using Diana as a stand-in. Feels like a Shakespeare comedy. But then Asian agents try to kidnap Steve. They speak in a really insulting stereotypical way. But that ain't nothing compared to Egg-Fu, a giant evil egg who says "vely vely soon! Heee-ho!" as he plots the downfall of the "Amelicans." But I had to admit, Egg-Fu is so absurdly over the top in every way that I find I really enjoy him. Egg-Fu operates on Oolong Island, a location making its debut in this issue as well. Egg-Fu has a ray machine, which turns Steve Trevor into a human bomb, so Wonder Woman has to prevent Steve from destroying anything when Egg-Fu fires him at a US fleet. Wonder Woman and Steve Trevor appear to die in a big explosion, but Hippolyta uses an atomic ray machine to gather up their bits and bring them back to life. But now Wonder Woman is imbued with the same explosive energy as Steve, Oh, no!
The Egg-Fu story concludes in Wonder Woman 158, which sees a change in the logo design as the villain commands the cover. Wonder Woman and Steve Trevor do their best to not be destructive, now that both have been charged up as living bombs. But their sexual urges are more uncontrollable than usual. The energy charges they have cause them to give off little explosions, but also repel each other. The pair decide to use their explosive energy to destroy Egg-Fu, and return to Oolong Island. But the villain was expecting this, once he discovered that they were still alive, and has Chinese troops waiting to ambush them. And though Egg-Fu is not capable of movement, this issue shows off his deadly moustache, which functions much like arms, able to grab and fling around Wonder Woman and Steve. It's so completely ridiculous that it's the crowning touch for this character. Heee-Ho! A convenient chunk of anti-matter neutralizes the explosive energy in Wonder Woman and Steve Trevor, and then Wonder Woman is able to use her lasso to crack Egg-Fu open.
But these stories were almost the exception to the rule in the first years of this period, when Wonder Girl ruled the roost. Wonder Woman 147 devotes an entire issue to Wonder Girl's romantic dilemmas. Bird-Boy and Mer-Boy keep squabbling over which of them Wonder Girl should be dating, and head to Paradise Island to try to make her choose between them. But this is the day that Athena is testing Wonder Girl, a rite of passage to become a full Amazon youth. Athena is pretty harsh in this, turning rain drops into spears, and hurling giant boulders at the girl, but Wonder Girl prevails. After her triumph, Athena declares that she will grant one wish, and both of the boys speak up at once, asking for Wonder Girl to be transformed into their own species.
Wonder Girl, surprisingly, doesn't really seem to mind this. So Wonder Girl gets turned into a bird, and flies up to Bird-Boy city of cages in the clouds. But she finds the food they eat, worms and seeds, repulsive. Her super-strong wings also cause problems. Then Wonder Girl gets changed into a mermaid, but has similar eating issues when she meets Mer-Boy's family. And again, her super-powers do not blend well with her new tail. In the end, both boys recant their wishes, and Wonder Girl gets to become a human again.
I often skip over stories that are just dreams that the lead character is having, as they generally have no effect on the character's continuity. But the story in Wonder Woman 151 is so bizarre that I have to write about it. It's an Impossible story, so Wonder Woman, Wonder Girl, Wonder Tot and Hippolyta are all in it, but it features Wonder Girl, and a dream she has one night. So this is a dream in an Impossible story, about as far from continuity as it's possible to get. The dream has Wonder Girl living Wonder Woman's life, in a way. That's all really just an excuse to introduce a teenage Steve Trevor into the story, because Mer-Boy and Bird-Boy are not enough romantic interests. Steve shoots down an alien ship, and the Glop emerges from the wreckage. The Glop is pretty amorphous at first, but when it approaches a bunch of teens dancing in a park, one guy throws 100 rock albums into it.
That's pretty impressive, considering that he does it in one throw. The Glop absorbs the music, and takes on a weird, but joyous, expression, and begins to sing strange rhymes. Wonder Girl finds that the Glop is also attracted to her. Though the military are firing everything they can at the Glop, it just absorbs whatever touches it and takes it over. It fights back, but doesn't actually seem bothered by the attacks on it. With the help of Hippolyta, Wonder Girl gets sent into the distant past with the Glop, abandoning it there.
Wonder Girl’s logo overtakes that of her adult self in Wonder Woman 152, which features two tales of the Amazon teenager. The first story has Athena choose one Amazon to single handedly defend Paradise Island for a day. It's not quite clear what the point of this is, choosing only one, who is not allowed to seek help from anyone. If the chosen one fails, all the Amazons will permanently lose their powers. Athena sends lightning bolts to zap everyone who is not picked, so though we briefly see Wonder Woman, Wonder Tot and Hippolyta, it's Wonder Girl who gets the adventure. So Wonder Girl is left to wander the island alone, taking on various monsters that threaten it, also presumably sent by Athena. One is an icy monster, who freezes Mer-Boy. And another is a Medusa-bird, who turns Bird-Boy to stone. The climax has her fighting off an invasion lead by the Duke of Deception. Shes sees the Amazon fleet in the battle, and thinks that she failed her test, but they were just one of the Duke's illusions. Although the Duke is mentioned, and we see his fleet, he does not make an actual appearance in this story. Cause really, Athena is the villain here, isn't she?
I included the second story in the issue, although I don't much care for it. Wonder Girl bemoans not having a father, but then rescues a man at sea, who thinks she is his daughter, in his addled state. Wonder Girl is so desperate for a father that she goes along with this for a while, even getting Bird-Boy and Mer-Boy to play along. But eventually she finds the man's real child. The story ends with Wonder Girl and Hippolyta wondering if Diana's father will ever return from sea, backing up that this incarnation of Wonder Woman was not made of clay, but born from Hippolyta and some guy.
Wonder Girl faces one of her adult enemies in Wonder Woman 153. The Duke of Deception gave Medusa her hideous face, and the connected ability to turn people into stone, after she rejected him. He also made Dr. Jekyll's formula result in Mr. Hyde being hideous. No romance is explained in conjunction with that one, but we can read between the lines. So the Duke of Deception steals Wonder Girls' real face, and replaces it with a weird, twisted one. This freaks out both Mer-Boy and Bird-Boy, though to the credit of both of the young men, they both say, and act, like the change in her face means nothing to them.
Each brings her to his realm, but in both cases other bird- or mer-people laugh at Wonder Girl. Even when she returns to Paradise Island, she gets laughed at by Wonder Woman, Wonder Tot and Hippolyta, who all think she is wearing a mask. This sends her on the rampage seen in the cover image. Fleeing Paradise Island, Wonder Girl comes across the Duke of Deception's fleet, and sees her real face in his ship. The Duke had planned to kidnap Wonder Girl and use her in his invasion plans, but she is so angry by this point that she takes on him and his entire army, and wins.
Beauty and the Beast gets the Wonder Woman treatment in issue 155, the last of Kanigher, Andru and Esposito's Impossible stories. The story opens with the wedding, and then delves into flashbacks to show how this came about. Bird-Boy makes his only appearance as an adult in this tale, but he, Steve Trevor and Manno all manage to piss off Wonder Woman with their masculine ways. The story also introduces the notion that Wonder Woman had gills implanted by Amazon scientists, so that she could exist under water. A horrible monster man then lands, complete with castle and rocky island, just off the shores of Paradise Island. He is not only hideous, but also mean, untrusting and abusive. This draws Wonder Woman passionately to him, and she devotes an awful lot of time and energy trying to make him happy. Finally, to prove that she cares about more than just his looks, she agrees to marry him.
But he flees from the ceremony, unwilling to make her wed him. Wonder Woman follows, and when she almost falls off a cliff, he moves to rescue her, and becomes handsome. But this fades quickly, as he becomes cruel and nasty again. Had there not been major changes in store for the Wonder Woman series, I am certain we would have seen this guy again. I'm glad we didn't. In the end, Wonder Woman is still far more interested in him than in the men who treat her somewhat decently.
Kanigher, Andru and Esposito all appear in the back-up story, which breaks the fourth wall to announce big changes to the comic. Kanigher summons Wonder Girl, Wonder Tot, Hippolyta, Steve Trevor, Mer-Boy, Bird-Boy and the adult counterparts, and even the Glop to his office to give them all the bad news. Wonder Woman is busy, dealing first with the Duke of Deception, who fears the changes that Kanigher will be making. Angle Man also has a small role, trying to figure out Kanigher's angle on things. In the end, Kanigher drops all of the supporting cast, except for Hippolyta and Steve Trevor, and sends Andru and Esposito off to work on the new Golden Age Wonder Woman stories, which will begin in the following issue. I love their obeisance. While clearly the driving force behind this was poor sales, another factor was that a completely different, but visually identical, Wonder Girl was about to join the new Teen Titans group. This is the final appearance for Wonder Tot, Mer-Boy and Bird-Boy, as well as the Glop.
There had already been a sort of tease of the concept in Wonder Woman 156, which retells a mediocre tale from late in Sensation Comics. Andru and Esposito do a creditable job of duplicating the look of Harry Peter's art. Wonder Woman discovers that comics are becoming collectables (still a new and uncommon idea in the 60s), and heads to a story that sells old comics. There, the dealer puts her under a spell that causes her to experience the events in the Brain Pirates story, although the tale is quite different from the original. In this one, the Brain Pirate is from Dimension X, instead of the Moon, but it's still a pretty lame outing anyway. Steve Trevor, and Etta Candy and the Holliday Girls all appear looking much like they did in the Golden Age. And Hippolyta is rendered with dark hair, as she was until 1958. I don't really care for this story at all, and it has the added drawback of being more or less "just a dream." But it must have proved popular, as this version of the Golden Age Wonder Woman wound up taking over the book.
The Golden Age Wonder Woman (or the Wonder Woman of Earth-2) took over the series with issue 159, in an attempt to bring back the “good old days.” They have a mixed success with this issue, which has two linked stories in it. The lead tale re-tells the origin of Wonder Woman, and brings back many elements dropped in the Earth-1 version. The creation of the Amazons is spurred by a disagreement between Aphrodite and Mars, and the entire Amazon race, in this version, is formed from clay statues. It's Mars who sends Hercules to defeat the Amazons, but Hippolyta bests him in combat. Hercules then seduces her and steals her girdle, enslaving the Amazons. Hippolyta prays to Aphrodite for freedom and vengeance, but in this version she must get Hercules himself to sever her bonds, albeit unintentionally, before they can fight back against the Greeks.
It's Aphrodite as well who leads the Amazons to Paradise Island, and with the aid of Athena, brings Diana to life. Then Steve Trevor washes up. Back to the tournament, at which everyone performs masked. The kangas are back in this story as well. As in the original, Hippolyta does not want Diana to compete, but she does anyway. Wonder Woman gets all her goodies - the plane and the lasso - ignoring the stories in which she had to compete for those individually - and Diana becomes Wonder Woman, flying Steve Trevor back to the US.
The second story deals with that flight, and the men who shot Steve Trevor down. In the original, it was Japanese fighters who Diana fought on her way to the US, but this short tale makes them costumed foreign agents. It's really just an excuse for Wonder Woman to show off her powers, and to illustrate how even she is vulnerable to the effects of her lasso. Try as they might, this issue comes closest to recapturing the Golden Age of Wonder Woman. The issues that follow are largely just painful.
The first story in Wonder Woman 162 is largely a re-telling of the "real" Diana Prince, and how Wonder Woman adopted that secret identity. She drops Steve Trevor off at a hospital, and frets that he may not recall her, and can think of little other than wanting to be around him. Wonder Woman does a bit of crime fighting, and then comes across the nurse, Diana Prince, crying on a park bench because her fiancee is going to be leaving the country. This all plays out much as it did in the original, except that Wonder Woman does not actually give Diana Prince money in exchange for her identity. Then, in a sequence taken from an earlier story, Steve escapes from his hospital bed and goes out to steal a plane and fight the bad guys. Wonder Woman has to come to his rescue, and he does remember her - but has no interest at all in his new nurse, Diana Prince.
The the "real" Diana Prince returns in Wonder Woman 167. There was a return appearance of the "real" Diana Prince back in the Golden Age, but this story is quite different. Wonder Woman receives a letter from Diana, who tells him her boyfriend has gone missing, and she wants to come back and regain her old life. Not willing to give up her new life, Wonder Woman decides to travel to South America and find the missing man. Wonder Woman winds up getting captured by a hidden tribe, the same ones that have Diana's beau. Wonder Woman proves to the tribe that their gods are not real, by completing a series of dangerous challenges. While it lacks the abusive, wife-chaining husband of the original, I cannot actually say that I hugely prefer the racism of this variation.
Countess Draska Nishi who makes her return in Wonder Woman 161. Nishi had been a knock-off of Paula Von Gunther, who appeared in a couple of stories in the late 1940s. This tale gives her a cigarette containing sleeping gas, and a desire for complex revenge plots. Diana Prince is now working for military intelligence, unlike the previous issue. It's not a very good story, dealing with a movie about Cleopatra being cursed by a mummy. Wonder Woman and Steve Trevor wind up having to play Cleopatra and Mark Antony, and Nishi gets her hands on Wonder Woman's lasso.
Wonder Woman 162 contains a story called the Return of Minister Blizzard, but the tale itself is told as if this is the first meeting between him and Wonder Woman. Minister Blizzard bears a strong resemblance to Prime Minister Blizzard, a one shot villain from the late 1940s, but is a very different character, aside from the ice-related motif. This one is acting out of love for his queen Snowina, rather than against her. His weapon, which freezes things, also affects the mind, and he explains to Wonder Woman how he used it to make Snowina believe she was in love with him. Stupidly, he explains this all to Wonder Woman after using it to make her believe that her bracelets had been bonded together. Realizing that the gun's effects are hypnotic, and that she is not really chained up, she takes him down quickly.
Wonder Woman 166 infuriates me. Egg-Fu only appears in the last couple of pages of the first story, despite his role on the cover. Most of the story involves Wonder Woman and Steve Trevor searching for a missing US submarine, which they eventually find - along with the big bad egg. But Egg-Fu, a descendant of the earlier foe, smaller and seemingly more mobile, just gets to speechify a bit, and then Wonder Woman shatters him. He never even gets to grab her with his moustache! Lame.
Any hope that Wonder Woman 171 would be a good issue is dashed in the very first panel, as Diana Prince cowers on a chair, terrified of a mouse. Yup. This is followed by some silly covering-her-identity stuff with Steve Trevor, and a short visit with Mouse-Man, being held prisoner in a cage. Wonder Woman then heads off to Paradise Island to join her Hippolyta as the Amazons compete in some unusual games. One involves trying to jump through a giant keyhole. Then a giant fish-man comes and scoops up Wonder Woman, bringing her to his realm to keep in his aquarium. She gets free and fights her captor, as well as the other fish-men, making the most of her small size in comparison to theirs. Like mouse, get it? Yeah, ok, and then the second story has Mouse-Man escape from his cage, and organize a crime spree, simply to get at Wonder Woman's lasso again. Hate to say it, but Mouse-Man is the most impressive villain from this period. Wonder Woman has a hard time finding him, and he excels at sneaking up on her and grabbing that darn lasso, forcing her to do his bidding. The story ends as Wonder Woman uses a super-sneeze to blow Mouse-Man from his hiding place. This is the final appearance of the miniature villain.
The Cheetah gets the cover and lead story, of Wonder Woman 160, but there is very little of sultry schizophrenia that characterized this enemy in the past. Mention is made of Diana Prince being a nurse, so the tale is meant to be set very shortly after her arrival in the US. There is also an explanation that her powers derive from her ability to control her brain energy. Wonder Woman messes up the Cheetah's plans to rob the zoo, and in revenge she hypnotizes Steve Trevor into falling in love with her. With Steve as her captive slave, she forces Wonder Woman to remove her bracelets. This backfires badly on the villain, as Wonder Woman goes into a destructive rage. Steve manages to put the bracelets back onto her before she kills him. Ho hum.
The Cheetah story in issue 166 is no better. The villain gets more stage time, but the story really centres on Diana Prince, and how Steve Trevor only responds to her as Wonder Woman. Diana goes to a whole bunch of trouble to set up a costume ball as part of her plan to make Steve fall in love with her, but the Cheetah decides to rob the event. She has taken to dressing up her goons as chimps. So Diana doesn't get to romance Steve, he swoons for Wonder Woman instead, as she goes into action to take down the Cheetah. The Cheetah is really only there to scupper Diana's romantic plans. Terrible waste of the character.
Wonder Woman 161 brings back the Earth-2 version of the Angle Man, who is much like the Earth-1 version, except not as visually distinct. Nishi also makes an appearance in this story, rejecting Angle Man's romantic advances. Not that that has anything to do with the plot. Angle Man has developed a shrinking ray, and has his men capture Steve Trevor. He enters Steve's brain in order to learn military secrets, and Wonder Woman follows him. Angle Man tries to induce amnesia in Steve by shooting his brain cells, but Wonder Woman stops this.
Wonder Woman 164 opens with Steve Trevor in the hospital, and General Darnell getting all pissed off at the amount of time Wonder Woman is spending at his bedside. Considering that that is really none of his business, you know there is something deeper going on. After Steve gets out, he goes missing on his next mission, and is considered dead. At first Darnell blames Wonder Woman for Steve's death, but once he has convinced her of this, and made her miserable, he then begins consoling her. Eventually Darnell reveals that he is also in love with her, and they agree to marry. The wedding is not a very cheerful affair, what with Wonder Woman bawling her eyes out through it. General Darnell isn't enjoying it either, and calls the wedding off. The story does pick up a bit at this point, as Wonder Woman goes off and battles evil foreign agents underwater.
Wonder Woman then discovers that the Angle Man is the one behind all the villainous attacks, and that he had Steve shot down, and has held him captive for all this time. Angle Man forces Wonder Woman to turn over her lasso, and binds her with it. He makes Wonder Woman kiss him, which pisses Steve off, and also makes her attack various American military bases. Eventually Wonder Woman manages to free Steve and turn on Angle Man. He makes another attempt to kill them, but Wonder Woman saves Steve again and takes Angle Man down. Nothing is made of Darnell and his romantic travails, though, at the end of the story. Poor guy.
Dr Psycho gets a revival in Wonder Woman 160. It begins in a promising way, with Mars scheming against Aprhodite and Athena. As revealed towards the end of the story, Mars blocks the two goddesses from channelling their unique qualities into Wonder Woman, which is the source of her powers. Mars endows Dr. Psycho with the powers instead, and he uses them to humiliate Wonder Woman. While this Dr. Psycho maintains the classic hatred of women, there is nothing else of the original character that shows up in this story, and most of it is spent with Wonder Woman counselling Psycho, and trying to get him to open up and love again.
Dr. Psycho returns for another outing in issue 165. Dr. Psycho claims that he has reformed, but that's just to lure Wonder Woman in so that he can trap her in a new invention. He uses his new machine to split two new Wonder Women off from the original. One is aggressive and domineering, while the other is vain and shallow. The story is pretty shallow as well, and really just winds up seeing Wonder Woman fighting against herself.
In Wonder Woman 170 Dr Psycho gets plastic surgery to resemble Steve Trevor, after the actual one goes missing on a mission and is presumed dead. Steve gets presumed dead a lot during these years. Now looking like Trevor, Dr. Psycho goes about robbing and sabotaging, while Wonder Woman is so distraught, thinking that it's really Steve, that she can't do anything. General Darnell gets a small role in this tale as well. He doesn't try romancing Wonder Woman this time, although he still has a thing for her. Seeing how evil and disregarding of human life "Steve" has become, Diana Prince decides that she cannot hold back any longer, and begins to actively pursue him as Wonder Woman. The chase happens to take Wonder Woman and Dr. Psycho into a volcano, where the real Steve has been all along. He proves himself by trying to protect Wonder Woman from a bear, and she captures the fake Steve, learning that it's really Dr. Psycho.
Wonder Woman 163 is one of the most painful issues, bringing back two Golden Age villains, and pretty much ruining both of them. Giganta, who had made a couple of appearances in the 1940s, has her origin redone in the first tale. Dr. Psycho is made the driving force in the story, and given hypnotic abilities. He just happens to be visiting the zoo on a day that Wonder Woman and Steve Trevor are there as well. Giganta, the female gorilla, breaks out of her cage, madly in love with Steve. Also on the spot is Dr. Zool, who wants to experiment on Giganta. Zool and Psycho together transform Giganta into a human woman, whose defining characteristic is that she is still madly in love with Steve Trevor. That's good enough for Psycho, who sends Giganta out to get him. There are only a couple of pages in which Giganta and Wonder Woman actually face each other, and the climactic battle is over almost as soon as it began.
Even worse is the revival of Paula Von Gunther in the second story. With no Nazi connection, Paula is simply the leader of a gang, and they rob women who are getting their hair done. Oooh, such evil! Paula also has the hots for Steve Trevor, and her whole scheme involves luring him away from Wonder Woman. This entire story is so cartoony. Check out the way her gang (who call her PVG) react to her salon treatment. But Steve has no interest at all in Paula. So she puts in some hypnotic contact lenses and takes control of Wonder Woman, getting her to remove her own bracelets. It's the same mistake the Cheetah made, as Wonder Woman then goes on a murderous rampage. She throws a train at Paula, who manages to throw Diana's bracelets back onto her wrists with enough time to spare that Wonder Woman can catch the train before it makes impact. Just awful.
Dr Psycho, Giganta, and Paula Von Gunther all return in Wonder Woman 168, working for another villain, the Collector. He wants Wonder Woman's lasso, and hires the three villains to retrieve it. Giganta does not not display her passion for Steve Trevor in her segment, Dr. Psycho once again pretends to be reformed, but shows no hypnotic powers. Paula Von Gunther actually succeeds, by dressing as a old lady and pretending to be carrying a baby. But Wonder Woman still gets her lasso back and takes the Collector down.
The second story in issue 168 has a good idea in it, one which will appear again over the years. After making a big deal over how Steve Trevor crashing off Paradise Island was a one in a million thing, another flyer crashes, and Seena, another Amazon, rescues him and falls in love. Seena demands that she be allowed to challenge Wonder Woman, to become the Amazon emissary and accompany her man back to the US. Hippolyta is now once again shown with blonde hair. So have the stories switched to covering the Earth-1 Wonder Woman again? Who can tell? Who cares? Seena does win the right to leave Paradise Island, but in this story we see that the Amazons who are centuries old have their true age catch up to them once they leave the island. Every time in the years to come that an Amazon challenges Wonder Woman this way, they will win, but ultimately lose.
Wonder Woman continues in the next period, 1967 – 1969: It’s a Happening!
Wonder Woman: Wonder Woman 146 – 171 (May 1964 – July/Aug 67)
Brave and the Bold – 63 (Nov./Dec 63)