Friday, June 24, 2016

The Man Who Hated Wonder Woman

Early on, I realized that Robert Kanigher hated Wonder Woman, the character he wrote and edited for 22 years.
Many stories were written with a randomness that suggested contempt, the plots taking illogical left turns — people gliding on air currents, dinosaurs and giant birds showing up for no reason. That was nothing like the loving care Kanigher lavished on his DC war comics.
In fact, as author Jill Lepore noted, Kanigher sneeringly referred to her as “…the grotesque, inhuman original Wonder Woman.”
He may well have resented the assignment. Thanks to clever contract negotiation by William Moulton Marston, Wonder Woman’s creator, DC was forced to continually publish the character or lose the rights.
And Kanigher’s distaste for the Golden Age Wonder Woman, with its overripe art by H.G. Peter, wasn’t entirely unfounded. Marston’s admirable promotion of peace and equal rights was, after all, delivered with an admixture of S&M fetishism about the glories of “loving submission.”
“It’s a really big transition time for comics anyway because after the Second World War — this is sort of like what happens to the Cold War in spy films — superheroes have no one left to fight,” Lepore told National Public Radio. “Wonder Woman carries on, though. And Kanigher reimagines her in the 1950s as a kind of daffy, besotted, lovestruck girl, who — all she wants to do is marry Steve Trevor, who’s the guy she’s rescued, which … brings her to the United States in the first place.”
Nevertheless, every dozen issues or so, Kanigher managed to turn out a decent story, always enhanced by the strong art of Ross Andru. And one of them was The Proving of Wonder Woman in Wonder Woman 131 (July 1962). The tale had underworld ghosts, Jove hurling thunderbolts, a trident-wielding Neptune and a gigantic, green, three-headed dog. What more, really, could a kid ask?
Funny how often, from her origin on, Wonder Woman would be required to prove herself in some test or other. That was in part merely a story angle made possible by the fact that other Amazons were available to replace her, I suppose. But she’s one superhero who always had to keep resubmitting her application.

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