We’re kicking off Wonder Woman Week here at Major Spoilers, and what better way to open our festivities than with a look at her first full-length starring role?  Your Major Spoilers (retro) review of Sensation Comics #1 awaits!

SensationComics1CoverSENSATION COMICS #1
Writer: William Moulton Marston
Penciler: Harry G. Peter
Inker: Harry G. Peter
Editor: Sheldon Mayer
Publisher: DC Comics
Cover Price: 10 Cents
Current Near-Mint Pricing: $70,000.00

Previously in Sensation Comics:  Originally called “Suprema”, Wonder Woman was created by psychologist William Moulton Marston, whose initial idea was simply for a superhero who triumphed not by muscle or superior weapons, but with the power of love.  On the advice of his wife, he turned that concept into a female superhero (though not the first, as some might have you believe) and made her the type of woman that he believed that young girls would want to grow up to be.  In her first appearance, as a backup tale in All-Star Comics #8, pilot Steve Trevor crash-landed on Paradise Island, and Princess Diana (against the wishes of her mother, Queen Hippolyta) won the right to return with him to man’s world as an ambassador.  This issue picks up shortly thereafter, with Diana returning Captain Trevor to “man’s world” in her signature invisible plane…


Why is Diana in such a hurry to leave?  It seems her mother informed her of the amazing styles and clothing that could be found in man’s world, and she wants to go “window shopping.”  It’s a very Forties thing to have written, but for some reason, I find myself liking the scene as it plays out, with Wonder Woman attracting scorn from a group of older women for her state of undress, while the men of Washington DC leer.  As with any superhero, though, she attracts nothing but trouble wherever she goes, and quickly stumbles upon a robbery in progress.  Without hesitation, Wonder Woman wades into a hail of gunfire to confront the thieves…


Gleefully ignoring the questions of the police, our princess races off at super-speed, outpacing man and beast alike, only to find herself trailed by a man with an interesting offer…


Golden Age comic art is a mixed bag at best, ranging from incoherent scribbles to the exquisite linework of Lou Fine at Quality Comics (image-search his name sometime), but something about H.G. Peter’s work always feels perfectly suited to a character who is supposed to be powerful, graceful, alien and beautiful.  The gazelle-like strides in panel five could be seen as ridiculous, but somehow Peter’s art makes the whole thing work for me.  As for our hero, she realizes she needs money to survive in this brave new world, and agrees to do her signature “bullets and bracelets” act on the Vaudeville stage.  It’s unfortunate when her promoter eventually tries to swindle her and split with her dough…

Unfortunate for HIM.


With her financial situation accounted for, Wonder Woman returns to check in on Steve Trevor, only to find a woman in tears on the hospital steps.  Her name?  Diana Prince!


Even in this first appearance, we see glimpses of the compassion that would become Wonder Woman’s stock-in-trade, as she immediately acts to help the devastated young nurse (while, of course, helping herself as well, thanks to the power of Golden Age contrivance.  If you think *this* coincidence is amazing, though, ask me about the origins of Black Condor some time.)  In her new role as Nurse Diana Prince, Wonder Woman is the first to discover that Steve Trevor has gone missing from the hospital, setting out to take down a mysterious bomber targeting Washington, even though his wounds haven’t fully healed.  Luckily for the headstrong Captain, his guardian angel has super-strength and a plane of her own…


I’m not a pilot, but I’m fairly certain that “RAM IT!” is a poor tactical decision.  Wonder Woman captures the mystery bomber as well, and tracks his flight back to the island headquarters where his evil leader plots doom.  Or, to be more accurately, “plotted” doom, as Wonder Woman smashes her way in, beats the spies senseless, and causes their secret base to EXPLODE, killing them all…


And, of course, befitting the most significant female superhero, Wonder Woman quickly enters into a “love triangle” plot evocative of Clark Kent/Lois Lane/Superman, the most significant MALE hero of the age.  Marston’s goal was to create a feminine archetypical character, someone who was a powerful as she was feminine, and while this issue has a couple of wobbly moments plot-wise, its gender politics are remarkably forward-thinking for 1942.  (Of course, Marston also believed that women would eventually come to rule the world, and had no fear in saying so.)  As Retro Review regulars know, though, when we get to a Golden Age comic, there’s almost ALWAYS more going on than just the lead feature.  This book came so early in DC’s history that’s it’s not merely the first appearance of Wonder Woman, but also of half a dozen other characters major and minor, such as The Black Pirate…


Fans of James Robinson’s Starman should remember him as the ghostly buccaneer that haunted Opal City, but in his Golden Age adventurers, he was an actual 16th-Century pirate captain.  Another DC stalwart, albeit one who was never quite as prominent as his gimmick might have made him, also appears in this issue, with the first appearance of Terry Sloan as Mr. Terrific!


I was interested to find this first adventure of “The Human Dynamo Who Is Stumped By Nothing” (perhaps the most awkward appellation ever, it’s certainly no “Dark Knight” or “Scarlet Speedster”) signed by both writer and artist on the title page.  In the “Minor Characters” column comes a character who was doomed not by his concept or insufficient creativity, but by the changing of the lexicon over the past 75 years…


Keith Everet, now named “The Grim Ghost” is still a little-used member of DC’s stable of heroes today (or, at least he was, pre-New 52), as are our next heroes, the classic “buncha kids” super-squad…


Of all the characters in this issue, though, I find it funny that Little Boy Blue and the Blue Boys got their own edgy 90s reboot, featuring skateboards, electronic walkie-talkies and such.  Imagine how much fun they’d be revamped for the information age?  There is also one other character who makes his first bow in this issue, this one a little more prevalent in recent years.  One of the first Golden Age heroes to make a full-scale return (thanks to Bob Haney’s complete defiance of continuity), he became the Batman-equivalent of the revived JSA for many years.  Faithful Spoilerites, I give you the debut of Wildcat!


I’m actually quite impressed with this comic, especially due to its Golden Age origins, as it features some remarkably sophisticated story-telling, a star who is female, and some top-notch art as well.  As our first full view of the magic of Wonder Woman, Sensation Comics #1 holds up quite well, and delivers some laughs, some adventure, and a template that would eventually lead to the most important female superhero of any age, earning 3.5 out of 5 stars overall.

Stick around for lots more of the Amazing Amazon as Wonder Woman Week continues at Major Spoilers!



A true historical document, but one that remains surprisingly fresh and enjoyable...

User Rating: 4 ( 1 votes)

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Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture! And a nice red uniform.

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