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Today’s batch of tentacles all come from the heads and hands of one team: scripts by Robert Kanigher, pencils by Ross Andru and inks by Mike Esposito. I make no secret of my dislike for Kanigher scripts when there are women involved*, but the Andru & Esposito team deliver some very nice art to go with the dubious plotting. Besides, we are concentrating on tentacles… though I can’t promise an occasional plot-jab. 🙄
*My complaints about his scripts are two-fold: that his plots make precious little sense is one, but that sort of nonsense is often fun to read, as long as one doesn’t take it seriously. However, the barrage of misogyny, not so much. I go on about it in some length in Don’t Let a Mysogynist Plan Your Wedding: Robert Kanigher and Wonder Woman’s Utterly Unsuitable Suitors, but if you need an immediate example, here are some example of great art and scripting claptrap. I just chose a random, non-tentacle issue from that era… the following panels are from The Cave of Secret Creatures, published in Wonder Woman no. 116 (August 1960).
It’s too bad, because it’s really fun to spend some time with this underwater society of mer-teenagers hanging out, drinking seaweed sundaes, and gossiping.
Anyway, I promised you some tentacles, and by Jove (or by Hera!) I shall deliver. Between issue no. 112 and issue 126, Wonder Girl (occasionally her grown-up counterpart, Wonder Woman) has fought more octopuses than one can shake a stick at.
The reason for that is simple – the daft Mer-Boy (and the adult Mer-Man) is a frequent plot hinge of these stories, either harassing Wonder Girl for a kiss, quarrelling with her other (equally daft) suitors, or being in desperate need of rescuing when his imbecilic antics land him (yet again) in hot water. I guess that’s one thing I can say about the plotting – at least WG is not a damsel in distress… And I by far prefer him to Steve Trevor (the other suitor who often comes up in these things), whose behaviour is exemplified in, for instance, Wonder Woman no. 127 (January 1962) – he tricks Wonder Woman into agreeing to marry him by faking a serious wound, complains about the food she cooks for him, and then flies into a murderous rage when she takes off from their honeymoon to stop a nuclear missile. (Oh, and it was all a dream, by the way!)
As if to emphasize the retrograde nature of these comics, each issue we are treated to a “marriage around the world” page detailing strange customs. For example, from Wonder Woman no. 128 (February 1962):
O! give me back the days of Wonder Woman depicted by W. M. Moulton and H. G. Peter! *ahem* And now, tentacles.
In case you’re wondering what the Impossible Decision is, Wonder-Woman has to choose which of her suitors to save. Personally, I would let both of them plummet.
After Wonder Woman rescues the octopus from some bloodthirsty sharks, they become friends! Perhaps because for once, no suitor is involved.
I’ll end Part I on this positive note.
I’ve always felt that people who criticize the late 1960s mod revamp of Wonder Woman, transforming her into an Emma Peel-type non-powered adventurer, need to put the decision to radically alter the series into perspective. After TWENTY consecutive years of Robert Kanigher writing Wonder Woman, it was in serious danger of cancellation… and looking at stories like the ones you’ve spotlighted in your blog posts that’s NOT a surprise! Something, anything, need to be done, and fast, to save the title. You can argue that the “Diana Prince” direction was misguided, but Denny O’Neil, Mike Sekowsky & Dick Giordiano really were making an effort to save the series.
Hi there! I admit I don’t particularly like the mod revamp (and co-admin RG disagrees with me, so there’s no united front on this blog!), but I will willingly admit its superiority to the Kanigher run. You make a very good point – they were indeed making an effort, which is much better than plodding on with the same humdrum stuff.
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I didn’t read them so I can’t give much of an opinion on these stories but I will definitely seek a reprint out of love for Andru’s gorgeous art!