Comics / DC Comics History

DC Comics History: Wonder Woman (1960 - 1964: the Silver Age)


By Deejay Dayton
May 26, 2017 - 11:27

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Wonder Woman, during the period 1960 – 1964: the Silver Age, got very bizarre. More focus was given to Wonder Girl than to the adult version of the character by Robert Kanigher, Ross Andru and Mike Esposito. An infant version, Wonder Tot, was introduced during this time, and Wonder Woman would wind up teaming up with these younger versions of herself in Impossible Stories.

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In Wonder Woman 113 it's Wonder Girl's birthday.  It's hosted by her mother, Hippolyta, on Paradise Island.  At first I was surprised that Mer-Boy was not invited, but I guess he counts as a man, and would not be able to attend.  Still, they could have held it on the beach. Wonder Girl gets Hippolyta to tell her stories about crazy and stupid things that happened at her earlier birthdays. 

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This leads to a flashback of Diana when she was two years old, and though the term is not used, this story can be counted as the debut of Wonder Tot. And that's about the only reason I included it.  It's just a loose framework for wild stuff that messes up Diana's birthdays.  A giant bird steals her cake at this one, and she only manages to retrieve a small piece.

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The Wonder Girl’s romantic problems with Mer-Boy formed the basis of a lot of stories. In Wonder Woman 115 Mer-Boy is determined to invite Wonder Girl to a party, but has exceptionally bad timing.  At least in this tale it's her studies that he is getting in the way of, rather than her clothes shopping. Wonder Girl also finds it extremely embarrassing when Mer-Boy sends a school of flying fish to invite her to the party. 

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But you get the strong feeling that Hippolyta and the other Amazons find it endearing. Mer-Boy even comes to Wonder Girl's aid against a sea monster, and she finally relents, and agrees to go out with him again.

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In Wonder Woman 116 Mer-Boy acts up to gain Wonder Girl's attentions.  Hippolyta never lets Wonder Girl forget that she must spend her life training to become Wonder Woman, which kind of makes Hippolyta a super-hero version of a stage mother. But, on the opposite side, Hippolyta also makes it clear that it is Wonder Girl's fault, simply by existing, that Mer-Boy acts the way he does, and that no matter how weird or awful he is, Wonder Girl should be gentle and kind with him.  This is one terrible mother. So Wonder Girl agrees to go on a date with Mer-Boy. 

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They go to an underwater dance, where he tries to make Wonder Girl jealous by dancing with a mermaid.  This succeeds, all too well.  Wonder Girl storms out, and when Mer-Boy follows, they have a big fight. Mer-Boy decides to make up by risking his life to get a sea spider's necklace.  Wonder Girl finds out, and comes to check on him, needing to rescue both him and herself by the climax of the story.  They end all happily romantic, but by the time we see them again, are right back to the beginning.

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Mer-Boy gets a rival in Wonder Woman 144. Bird-Boy has fallen for the Amazon teen, and invites her out on a date.  Wonder Girl agrees, forgetting that she already has a date with Mer-Boy.

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So the rest of the story plays out the rivalry between the two, competing for Wonder Girl's affections.  And, in typical Wonder Girl fashion, she has no idea which useless, constantly needing to be rescued, male she prefers.

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Wonder Tot makes her official bow in Wonder Woman 122. The villain of the story is the Sinister Seer from Saturn, whose plot to conquer the Earth involves sending a satellite with a Wonder Woman doll in it, which expands to giant size when the satellite is opened. Wonder Woman and Steve Trevor play right into the villain's hands, retrieving and opening the satellite.  Wonder Woman then has to spend the story fighting against a giant version of herself, as per the image on the cover. There is a fair bit of creativity in the issue, with the fight scenes, although I can't say this is a story I really love.

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The Seer has an age-clock, which he uses on Wonder Woman, reducing her to being Wonder Girl, who then has to face the giant version of herself. As the real Wonder Woman (then Wonder Girl) keeps beating the giant version, the Seer captures her again, and with the age-clock, transforms her to Wonder Tot. So it's as Wonder Tot that Diana finishes off the robot.  Then she reverses the age-clock, turns back into Wonder Woman, and takes out the Seer.

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Wonder Woman 126 features the very best Wonder Tot story, the one where the humour all plays exactly right. The story begins as Wonder Tot comes back to the palace.  Hippolyta asks where she has been, and what she has been doing, and gets the typical "out," and "nothing" answers.  But further questioning, after she spots Wonder Tot's golden apple, elicits the child's tale. The golden apple was retrieved from an island with trees full of them, guarded by a dragon, who Wonder Tot faced without a shred of fear. The girl then found a chest on the beach, and, opening it, discovered Mr. Genie. 

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While at first the genie tries to seal Wonder Tot in the chest, they eventually become friends of a sort, and Mr. Genie winds up having to fulfil her wishes. Wonder Tot wants a star as a hair clip, and so Mr. Genie takes her into space.  They deal with alien ships and a meteor shower, but she gets her hair clip. What makes the story work so well is that Wonder Tot remains completely cheery and content throughout it. 

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The end plays much as the beginning, with Hippolyta questioning Wonder Tot about her day, the following day, but now not so sure she wants the full story. Sadly, the next Wonder Tot story, in issue 130, plays all the same notes again, even to the “out” and “nothing” answers, but doesn’t work nearly as well.

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The whole Wonder Family appear in Wonder Woman 132. The story deals with a couple and their baby, puzzling over where the babysitter disappeared to, and why there is a giant crater on the beach.  The baby is the only witness, and so Wonder Woman contacts her mother to have a time ray used on her.  Wonder Girl only gets a brief cameo as the ray de-ages Wonder Woman into Wonder Tot, who can converse with the infant.

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The time ray breaks down, and while Hippolytya oversees repairs, Wonder Tot learns of an alien craft that abducted the babysitter.  She finds and frees the girl, as well as taking out the aliens, who assume she is a midget, before getting turned back into Wonder Woman.
Now let’s look at some of the stories dealing with the adult Wonder Woman.

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The story in Wonder Woman 131 sees the heroine in an annual challenge to prove her right to be the Amazon hero.  But in this version, it's not the other Amazons that she has to compete against, rather, she must face the gods themselves.  Her first challenge pits her against Jove (Jupiter), and his hurled lightning bolts. The most interesting of the three has Hippolyta toss a golden apple down a bottomless pit, the entrance to the realm of Pluto. 

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Wonder Woman has to deal with Cerberus, who tries to bring the apple to his master, which will wake him.  Wonder Woman doesn't fare too well against the three headed dog herself, but does retrieve the apple before it touches Pluto's hand. Then there is a visually dynamic, underwater battle with Neptune.

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Etta Candy had been quietly phased out of the Wonder Woman series in the early 50s, but a new version gets introduced in Wonder Woman 117. Etta is no longer quite as short and fat as before, but still with her candy obsession.  She is joined by three new Holliday Girls, Tina Toy, who likes toys, Thelma Tall, who is tall, and Nita Little, who is short.  This just kind of makes everything worse. Wonder Woman tells the girls a couple of stories about cases she has had, both involving weird creatures who tried to capture her.

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After this, Tina's toy spaceship grows, revealing itself to be an actual alien craft, which tries to capture all of them.  Sadly, Wonder Woman defeats it, and we will be subjected to Etta and the new Holliday Girls again.

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Mer-Boy enters the life of the adult Wonder Woman in issue 118. The story opens with Wonder Woman coming to the aid of Steve Trevor, after he gets shot while driving through the city.  The men who do this are not the main villains of the tale, it just re-introduces the standard pattern of Wonder Woman always saving Steve, and his devotion to her. Later, while he is flying a mission, he spots Wonder Woman on an island with Mer-Boy, now grown up.  In this story, Mer-Boy uses the name Manno, instead of either Ronno or Renno.  Perhaps the mer-people alter their names as they grow?  At any rate, Steve becomes jealous. His jealousy makes him sloppy, and he winds up crashing. 

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A big octopus goes after him, and he gets rescued by Manno.  The two men talk, and Manno tells Steve of his long romance with Diana, since they were Mer-Boy and Wonder Girl. This allows for a big flashback scene, which includes the first kiss between Wonder Girl and Mer-Boy. Then Wonder Woman shows up, and both men demand to know which of them she cares for more.  It's like Lois Lane and Lana Lang.  Steve gets to save Manno from a giant bird, so they are even when it comes to saving each other.  But then both wind up dangling from a cliff.  Rather than save one and let the other die, Wonder Woman uses some Superman-like super-breath to rescue them both, while letting them think that it was a fortunate updraft. In many ways, this could not be more like a Superman story.

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Steve Trevor and Manno and their battle over Wonder Woman takes centre stage in issue 125. While Manno sings of his love for Wonder Woman, and makes all the other Amazons cry, Steve Trevor jumps onto the wing of her invisible plane to try to win her affections. The two men challenge each other to see who would be the better match for her. 

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Manno wins the underwater fight, of course, while Steve is the victor on land. But then a knight on a flying horse shows up, and whisks Wonder Woman away.  He seems all dashing and romantic, but one can quickly tell that there is something more than a romantic spell that he is casting on her. Steve and Manno are both suspicious when she abruptly agrees to fly off with him in his spaceship, and they grab her invisible plane and follow. 

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The knight is really an amoebic, shape-changing alien, who wanted to capture Wonder Woman before his people began their invasion of Earth. Steve and Manno really have no way of knowing this, but still use Wonder Woman's plane to take out the invading army, crashing into the ship carrying her to finish it off. This causes the invisible plane to plummet back to Earth and crash in the ocean.  Wonder Woman has no problem falling back to the planet on her own, and rescues both of the men, who immediately start up their argument again.

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Wonder Woman 132 deals with the feud between Steve Trevor and Manno for Wonder Woman, and once again Diana turns to her mother for advice. In the story Hippolytya relates to her daughter, we discover that there was a soldier she loved, Theno, who vanished at sea. Hercules was one of Hippolyta's suitors, the most aggressive of the lot.  Hippolyta seems to have no romantic interest in Hercules in this tale.

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Inspired by Athena, Hippolyta herself puts on the armour of the missing Theno, and defeats Hercules in a duel, which ensures that Hippolyta will not be forced to marry the demigod. Exactly how that is supposed to help Diana deal with Steve and Manno is not explained.

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Wonder Woman 128 gives a new origin for the invisible plane. The story begins as Wonder Woman is freaked out by receiving messages from both Wonder Girl and Wonder Tot, asking how she acquired her invisible plane.  Heading back home to Paradise Island, she learns that Hippolyta recorded the messages when she was a child.  But why doesn't Wonder Woman recall this?  Yes, Wonder Tot is very young, but Wonder Girl is a teen.  You'd think she would have remembered asking her future self this question.  I believe that this story is first indication of Hippolyta mind-wiping her daughter, something she will be guilty of a few times in later tales. Anyway, onto the story as it's told. 

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Wonder Woman relates how Athena promised her a gift, and sent her to find a flying steed.  Manno gets in the way of this, still acting much like he did as Mer-Boy, trying to draw Diana's attention while she is busy with other things.  But she does manage to find Pegasus, even though an evil pterodactyl causes problems. Athena transforms Pegasus into Wonder Woman's plane.  This will never be referenced again, and it's not a very good idea in the first place.  Much more entertaining to see her slide an iceberg into a volcano to get it.

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Wonder Woman reaches a breaking point in issue 144, pretty much having a nervous breakdown. The story begins with her completely withdrawn, paying no attention at all to crimes and disasters, and then jumps back to recount how this situation came about. The incessant demands placed on her, and an overly busy period of crime just wear her down.  Manno, who is always really needy, doesn't help the situation either.  Needing to have some time for herself, Wonder Woman just cracks.

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But she finds and befriends a young blind girl, who has no idea that Diana is Wonder Woman.  When the girl tries to save Diana from a snake, the Amazon is moved, and her faith in human nature restored. A good set-up, but too quick a resolution.  Wonder Woman would go through a similar, but bigger, break with the world in 1980.

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This was not a great period for Wonder Woman’s villains. The Angle Man appeared in four stories, and she would gain one new villain along the way.
The Angle Man makes his first official Earth-1 appearance in Wonder Woman 115. The Earth-1 Angle Man dresses up a bit more than his earlier counterpart, but feels like much the same character.  As before, he has a host of gang members working for him.  In this story, Angle Man has invented Animox, a computer able to bring inanimate objects to life, and control them.

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Angle Man uses the machine on a number of wooden figureheads from ships, sending them to attack Wonder Woman as she accompanies Steve Trevor on an undersea mission.  Although Wonder Woman is able to fight against the animated objects, she is not able to destroy Animox itself. So she simply reprograms it, and uses it against Angle Man.  She doesn't actually realize Angle Man is the villain behind the situation until she has already defeated him.  And though this is the first time we meet the Earth-1 version of the character, Wonder Woman already knows him.

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The Angle Man story in Wonder Woman 128 bears a slight resemblance to one of the Earth-2 version’s attacks on Wonder Woman. Angle Man is still raking in the bucks from other criminals to finance his schemes against Wonder Woman.  This story gives him the dark glasses and cigarette holder that will become his defining attributes for the next few years. He tricks Wonder Woman into putting her feet in cement at a ceremony, much as the earlier one did on Earth-2. 

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But this time, the block solidifies around Wonder Woman's feet, leaving her stuck in it. She is able to remove the block from the surrounding pavement, but can't get it off her feet.  The plane proves helpful at getting her around, but it's not until a convenient lightning bolt (sent by Zeus, I am sure) blasts the cement apart that she is able to capture Angle Man.

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Wonder Woman's romance with Steve Trevor is at the core of Wonder Woman 130, which also has Angle Man, and some curious background on Hippolyta. Wonder Woman is dismayed at the way Steve Trevor adores her Amazon self, while taking Diana Prince for granted.  Hippolyta tells her daughter about her similar relationship with Hercules. 

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This story reveals a long romance between Hippolyta and Hercules, as well as the bizarre fact that Hippolyta spent her days living under a secret identity as a lowly Amazon soldier.  Ummm, why?  She was their queen. But she wanted Hercules to respond to her as a woman, not just a queen, and he only had eyes for Hippolyta in her queenliness.  So Hippolyta used some "mirage mirrors" to make herself look hideous.  Hercules was freaked out, and then tried to date her in her soldier identity. You can tell this is going to be Wonder Woman's plan of attack, when Steve brushes her off again as Diana Prince. 

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One almost feels sorry for Angle Man, trying to get his scheme to rob an amusement park in amidst all the rest of this. Wonder Woman uses the mirage mirrors to create two hugely distorted versions of herself, which do repulse Steve.  They also make her fight with Angle Man more visually dynamic.

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The end of the story is the real kicker. Freaked out by shape changing Wonder Woman, Steve Trevor tries to ask Diana Prince out, but she is already heading out with Superman.

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Wonder Woman 141 creates a sort of Academy Awards for criminals. It's hard not to think of the Oscars when the challenge is made that whoever defeats Wonder Woman will win a solid gold trophy of roughly the same size and shape as that award. Angle Man is the first to make his attempt.  Last seen about a year earlier in the pages of Justice League of America, Angle Man does not participate in a prison break, and uses this to convince Wonder Woman that he should be let out on parole.  But he needs a job to get parole, and Wonder Woman winds up agreeing to be in a movie with him, so that he can be released.

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In their first scene, Angle Man gets his hands on her lasso and binds her, trying to kill her underwater.  But this all goes wrong when a swordfish and octopus attack, and Angle Man needs Wonder Woman to rescue him. The second enemy out of the gate is Fireworks Man, who looks really cool, but is given no explanation at all.

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He fights against Wonder Woman in an amusement park, and does a pretty good job of getting the best of her, able to mess with her vision, and being largely intangible.  A convenient meteor takes him out, and probably kills him, as we never see this character again.

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Then we get introduced to Mouse-Man, who is only a few inches tall.  He makes bold claims that he will be the one to defeat Wonder Woman, and shows a lot of ruthlessness, causing a terrible car accident for Steve Trevor. He forces Wonder Woman to agree to submit to him, to keep Steve safe, and brings her to the gathering of villains.  Once there, she literally brings the house down on all of them. Mouse-Man almost gets away with the trophy, but Wonder Woman grabs him, and sticks him in a bird cage.

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Mouse-Man returns in Wonder Woman 143. The villain shows off his ability to control mice in this story, and once again gets control of Wonder Woman's lasso.  It's kind of shocking that Mouse-Man is really her most competent enemy in these years. Wonder Woman has to obey Mouse-Man's commands.  We do learn that the villain was once a normal sized man, who experimented with chemically shrinking himself.

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Wonder Woman uses the shrinking formula on herself, so she can more effectively battle Mouse-Man, and shrink out of her lasso.  Some nice visuals, but even the added attributes do not win me over to the villain. 

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I also want to look at the villain who appears in Wonder Woman 113. Wonder Woman and Steve Trevor head to Egypt, where there are a lot more sphinxes than in our universe.   Wonder Woman is told she resembles an ancient queen, Mikra, and when she approaches the sphinxes they begin to come to life, thinking she is their leader come back for them.

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Coincidentally, an archaeological dig uncovers the tomb of Queen Mikra, who comes back to life and challenges Wonder Woman for control of the sphinxes.  Mikra has her beasts attack and entomb Wonder Woman. So Wonder Woman escapes and builds her own sphinx.  It's sphinx on sphinx battle action!  Wonder Woman's prevails, and poor old Mikra crumbles away into dust. Although quite a different character and story, I am sure this tale inspired the Osira two-parter in the 1970s.

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Just as Superman had his Imaginary Stories, Wonder Woman would get her Impossible Stories. But these would be much stranger. The genesis of this concept appears in Wonder Woman 124. It begins as Steve Trevor and Diana Prince explore recently discovered cave paintings, which seem to show Wonder Woman, Wonder Girl, Wonder Tot and Hippolyta working together to bring down a dinosaur. This is impossible in so very many ways, but Diana reflects on how it actually happened. The story then cuts over to Paradise Island, where Hippolyta is showing how she can splice together movies and pictures to make it look like Diana is interacting with herself at different ages.  Film editing apparently being one of her great skills, Hippolyta then puts together an entire movie, of the Wonder Family in action.

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The villain the women are facing is Multiple Man, a shape changer created by a nuclear explosion.  Multiple Man, despite not being real in any sense of the word, would return and become the major foe for the Wonder Family. Mer-Boy even gets in on the action as they face Multiple Man, with Wonder Tot teasing Wonder Girl about their relationship.  Each of the Wonders gets to face off and temporarily destroy Multiple Man, but he can keep reforming himself. Hippolyta turns him into a bracelet, which for some reason seems like a good idea to her.  But this allows Multiple Man to take control of Hippolyta's mind. Hippolyta flees into the distant past, rather than remove the bracelet, which also seems like a really good idea to her.  How did this woman become queen? 

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Anyway, the Wonders follow her, as Multiple Man had intended, and wind up fighting a dinosaur. That is supposed to explain how the cave painting came into existence.  Except that this was all a movie Hippolyta made.  So really, it doesn't explain anything at all, but that's just passed off as another "impossible" thing about the story!

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The story in Wonder Woman 129 begins as Hippolyta reveals how much mail she has received asking for another story of the Wonder Family.  Again she uses her exceptional video editing skills to put herself, Wonder Woman, Wonder Girl and Wonder Tot together in a tale. Multiple Man reforms himself, which is hardly beyond the realm of believability, in a story where Wonder Woman is already teaming up with two of herself. Steve Trevor gets a role in this one, as does Manno.  As deadly as Multiple Man is, the two men still find plenty of time to fight over Wonder Woman.  Hippolyta has little time for this nonsense.  makes you wonder why she added Steve into the mix then.

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The three versions of Wonder Woman split up to hunt for Multiple Man, who has stolen Steve Trevor's plane.  The woman are joined by three versions of Mer-Boy, though these get explained as being Manno's brothers.  This is a bit confusing, as the middle brother is called Mer-Boy, and acts much like Manno did, as Mer-Boy, with Wonder Girl.  Wonder Tot gets partnered with Mer-Mite. Multiple Man gains and loses Steve's plane a few times.  He adopts an iceberg form, which traps all the assembled cast towards the climax of the tale.  Multiple Man turns himself into a volcano, but gets thrown into space by the Wonder Family.

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Multiple Man is back in Wonder Woman 135. Unlike previous Impossible stories, this one does not begin with any sort of editing together explanation, simply diving right in to having Wonder Woman, Wonder Girl and Wonder Tot alongside Hippolyta, still called Wonder Queen, as Multiple Man takes on an icy form to attack Paradise Island. The day of this attack happens to be a day when Wonder Woman has brought along one of her fans, Carol Anne, to visit the island. 

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Carol Anne winds up in deadly danger repeatedly, but never seems to mind. Multiple Man's variety of forms allows each of the Wonders, including Hippolyta, to get into the action, but the story never is anything less than bizarre. I love these stories.  They go beyond any ability to judge them.

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Wonder Woman 138 has one of the better, tidier Impossible stories.  As with the last one, there is no longer any explanation of how Wonder Woman, Wonder Girl and Wonder Tot can all be in the same story.  Hippolyta joins her daughter(s) on a quest to find a kite that she releases, which had helped forestall an alien invasion.  It's the way Amazons pass the time, being immortal and all. Wonder Tot does not find the kite, but does come across Mr. Genie, and has a brief adventure with him.

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Similarly, Wonder Girl gets distracted from her pursuit by Mer-Boy. Wonder Queen, er, Hippolyta gets some dramatic action scenes alongside an American jet pilot, who is not Steve Trevor.

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But they all wind up captured inside Multiple Man.  It's left to Wonder Woman to defeat him, and she uses the kite, which she has retrieved, to do so.

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The Impossible Story in Wonder Woman 140 brings Morpheus into the book. Diana Prince is pondering having dreams come true, when Morpheus shows up, in ghostly form.  He offers to show her what happens when wishes come true, and has her choose someone to have this happen to. Wonder Woman picks Mr. Genie, whose wish is that Wonder Tot would stick around and play with him forever.  This comes true, but Wonder Tot immediately undoes his turban, and he loses his powers for good.  So when all the bad things that generally occur in these stories start happening, he is powerless to defend himself.

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Mer-Boy is the second to have his wish fulfilled, which turns Wonder Girl into a mermaid.  But now that she is like all the other mermaids, the other mermen are all interested in her, and Mer-Boy has to compete for her attentions. Seeing that wishes tend to backfire on those who have them fulfilled, Wonder Woman's third choice is the Duke of Deception, who has not appeared in this book for a couple of years, but looks a bit more human now.  At least he doesn't have green skin.  His wish turns Wonder Woman into a living lightning bolt, as seen in the cover image.  Wonder Woman inadvertently destroys Paradise Island, and causes the deaths of her mother, as well as Wonder Girl and Wonder Tot. Yes, Wonder Woman kills herself at two earlier ages.  It's an Impossible story, after all.

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But this wish backfires on the Duke as well.  When he and his forces come to invade, Wonder Woman uses her destructive abilities to wipe all of them out, and herself as well. In the end, Diana agrees with Morpheus that dreams should not come true.

Wonder Woman continues in the next period, 1964 – 1967: the New Look.

Wonder Woman: Wonder Woman 112 – 145 (Feb 60 – April 64)

Next up – Lois Lane!

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Last Updated: December 31, 2019 - 20:28

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