The Marston/Peter Wonder Woman #24 was mediocre enough that it’s taken me more than 6 months to pick up number 25. And…yeah.
Witness Harry Peter phoning it in. Wonder Woman sitting looking at mug shots, oblivious to the baddies behind…Marston didn’t approve that shit. In the first place, it’s boring. Wonder Woman doesn’t just sit there; she chases villains across bizarre cosmic bridges or battles Brobdinagian pirates. And, in addition, it makes WW look like a fool; the villains are tricking her.
Of course, Marston probably didn’t approve the cover; he was dead by the time this went to print. Peter’s doing the best he can…and the best he can includes drawing some delightfully expressive collar bones and some lovely black and white artwork on those mug shots. But it doesn’t include figuring out something to draw that would be fun and heroic and an inspiration to little girls and boys who wanted to be little girls everywhere. Figuring that out was, I suspect, Marston’s job. And no one else at DC, apparently, was up for it.
When I talked about issue 24 (and some of the earlier issues as well) I speculated that the stories weren’t by Marston (some possibilities include DC editor Sheldon Mayer and Marston’s assistant Joyce Murchinson.) I have some doubts about these as well. The second story especially…
is all about a mischievous little orphan boy named Teasy with a heart of gold and oh will he ever find a mother to call his own? Marston cared about mothers, of course, but he really didn’t care about orphan boys on the entirely reasonable grounds that they were not girls. It’s true that WW does get tied up by an evil villainess, which I’m sure Marston would have appreciated. But I’m convinced he would have found whole pages devoted to Teasy’s big adventure as tedious as I did (albeit perhaps for slightly different reasons.)
The other two stories seem like they might be Marston. The third features WW and the Holiday girls fighting a purple goddess who uses purple gas to control others’ wills.
Which…okay, that’s kinky. But the story as a whole doesn’t fit together; the first panels reference a backstory that we don’t get to see, as if part of the story has been left out. Moreover, at the end, the likable but not very effective indigenous male ruler…is still in charge. If this was by Marston, he must have been feeling awfully ill if he didn’t have it in him to establish a matriarchy at the story’s conclusion.
The first story is the one that is closest to having the old pizzazz:
Yeah, you’ve got that right. That’s evil alien corn. Peter is thoroughly enjoying himself drawing both the cartoon corn men and the cornfields with all those lovely undulating ears. Plus…sky kangas chasing balloons!
And there’s also some great gratuitous mother/daughter bonding:
WW wearing that giant obtrusive hat, then kissing her mother and handing over said hat as Hippolyta blesses her daughter in the name of the uber-matriarch — it’s just a nice encapsulation of Marston’s ideas about why women should rule. Power and love aren’t in competition. Instead, love is power — the point of the crown is not to wear it and rule, but to take it off and submit with a kiss.
Also…check out Hippolyta’s shoulders. That’s one tough mother!
Despite moments like those, and despite the fun of fighting corn (with a giant corn harvester, naturally), the story still feels slight, though. The evil corn is fun, but it’s never really integrated into Marston’s obsessions the way the seal men were (for example.) The corn appears to be male (not to mention phallic) but there’s no contrasting female corn to be liberated. WW’s victory, then, ends up just being a vicotry; there’s no particular feminist message to it. Nor, despite the occasional inadvertent hilarious blooper:
are Marston’s fetishes much on display. Oh, sure, the Holiday girls get tied up…but as Marston scripts go, that barely registers. This isn’t a fever dream; it’s a cartoon goof. It’s funny and weird, but no more so than, say, a good classic Flash or Plastic Man story. And good Flash and Plastic Man stories are fine in their way, but I expect more from Marston/Peter.
So we’ve got three more now. If 26 and 27 are similar to this one I may combine them…or maybe even combine them with 28 for a final post? The issue by issue thing just seems more and more superfluous. Marston’s creative oversight is clearly gone at this point. Without him at the helm, as six decades and innumerable creators have demonstrated, WW just isn’t all that interesting