Wednesday, March 12, 2008

What Dreams May Come...

The Wonder Wednesday festivities return this week, as we take a look at issue #300 of Wonder Woman, volume one, from February 1983 (just a few months before I graduated from high school, for those who are keeping track...).

And what a celebration this issue is, kicking off in fine style with a fantastic, wrap-around cover by Dick Giordano and George Perez.

Our wonder epic, by Roy and Danette Thomas, begins in a dark alley in Washington DC, at 3 a.m. Our heroine is facing off against a large, shadowy and shapeless creature, one which has been terrorizing her in dreams all week. But now it's taken physical form and Diana's fighting a loosing battle against the thing.

By the way, a host a wonderful artists provided their bit for this anniversary spectacular. The framing sequence is penciled by Gene Colon, the regular artist on the title at the time.

She's about to be hurled against a wall when a red and gold clad figure appears from the shadows and catches her, as the monster vanishes in the glow of a street lamp.

The mystery man is the Kirby version of the Sandman. He explains to Diana that during his duties of monitoring the Dream Dimension, he became aware of her nightmares and sleepwalking. He's very troubled that the creature of Diana's dreams is taking real form.

Diana is grateful to Sandman for his intervention, but a little non-plussed by the fawning comments he makes about her beauty. She admits that she's been feeling a lot of pressure about her job and from the man she loves. The Sandman suggests she should change the job..."or the man."

Diana points out its not really Sandman's business and they part company, as she dashes through the early morning streets of the nation's capitol, returning to the apartment she (as Lt. Diana Prince, USAF) shares with Etta Candy just before her roomie wakes up, but not soon enough to get the two of them to work on time.

Both Etta and D.P. are called into General Darnell's office, assuming they are to be berated for their lateness, but Diana is awarded a promotion to Major, with a promise that she may even be a colonel if the paperwork has gone through by the time she and Steve Trevor are to return from the upcoming Arms Talks she and Trevor are to attend in Mexico.

For Colonel Trevor's part, his ego seems to have been hurt by Di's promotion and when she calls him on thinking she got the promotion because she was a woman, he denies it, saying he's never really thought of her as a woman at all. (OMG!! Of all the stupid man things to say...) Naturally, she storms off.

But she realizes her recent lack of sleep from the nightmares has her on edge, and thinks Steve might not be deserving of the full anger she's feeling. She changes to Wonder Woman and summons the invisible jet, thinking to catch a cat-nap at 40,000 feet to restore her.

As her eyes close, the monster from her dreams reappears and attacks the jet. She begins defensive maneuvers to throw off the thing and swoops away, to return to the ground...only to discover that she's on a collision course with the Washington Monument. Believing she won't be able to get clear, she's surprised when a golden lasso catches the nose of her plane and lifts it above the monument...

...which is about when our Diana realizes she's broken the barrier between dimensions and found herself on Earth-Two, face to face with her parallel doppleganger, Wonder Woman. This segment of the story's art is capably handled by Ross Andru and Dick Giordano.

The two have met once before and are happy to catch up a little. But Diana is a little surprised by how the E2 Wonder Woman's life has turned out. She has long ago revealed her secret identity...and married her Steve Trevor.

"I know I once said I'd never marry him until all evil was vanquished from the world...but not even an Amazon can wait that long."

This other Steve Trevor insists this second (to him) Wonder Woman to stay for dinner before returning to her Earth. As they tour the Trevors' home, Diana meets her doppleganger's daughter, Lyta...who asks if this second Wonder Woman will stay to help her train, as she hopes to take over being Wonder Woman from her mother.

Diana does stay for dinner and her visit offers her some interesting perspective on her own life. She returns to Earth One in time to catch up with Steve at a twilight launching of a new nuclear submarine. Of course, there's a terrorist sniper to spoil the launch festivities, but she and Steve work together to make short work of the guy...and she carries Steve off to a nearby rooftop and says that if he still wants to marry her, she's ready.

He's flabbergasted, but thrilled...and even a little surprised that she wants to be married in just a few weeks, on Paradise Island. Even though we know this Wonder Woman never met Mindy Mayer, it's clear she has a hot publicist, as the next day, as the gang is headed to the talks in Mexico, Etta is reading a newspaper with the headline WEDDING BELLS FOR WONDER WOMAN!

Di is a little cool on the subject when Etta mentions it. Trevor overhears and thinks that it will probably be best for Diana Prince to get over him, now that he's marrying Wonder Woman, so she can find a nice guy and settled down. And then the radio message comes, advising them of a bomb hidden in the briefcase of top secret documents handcuffed to Diana's wrist.

She makes a show of being heroic, grabbing a parachute and leaping from the plane before anyone can stop her...and the bomb explodes, "killing" Diana Prince.

We get to see her funeral next and Wonder Woman even shows up to offer a few kind words. She's moved by just how upset her friends are at Diana's passing...but suggests to Steve that Diana wouldn't have wanted them to delay the wedding on her account.

After everyone's departed, the Sandman makes a return appearance. Diana's a little pissed that he knows from her dreams that she and D.P. were one in the same. He offers to tell her his own origins and how he came to live in the Dream Dimension, as a way of building trust. This segment, flashing back to the five issues of the Sandman's own title, are well-drawn by Keith Giffen and Larry Mahlstedt.

I won't recap his origin here, since it really does feel like a bit of a pause in the longer story...with no focus whatsover on Wonder Woman...but his back story is helpful for those of us who weren't at all familiar with the character. Essentially, he's trapped in the Dream Dimension and rides herd on the wild creatures who live there and inhabit our dreams.

And as it turns out, he's totally got a thing for Wonder Woman and even tells her that he loves her, and that if she would join him in the dream dimension, he would be totally happy. She brushes him off, saying that she feels gratitude for his help and sorrow for his situation...but not love. He leaves, but say's he'll be back when she needs him.

Now Diana travels to Paradise Island, where she is thrilled that the first wedding gifts have begun to arrive...but she quickly falls asleep, slumped in her mother's pillowed throne...and she dreams.

Here the art shifts to that of Jan Duursema and Tom Mandrake, as we see her familiar origin story play out: the crash of Trevor's plane, the rescue, her competition against her friend Mala, winning the tournament. And then, late in the night, Hippolyta prays to the goddesses, afraid for her daughter to be taken away from the magical protections of immortality of Paradise Island. And the gods show her the only way to keep Diana at home, which is to die.

Diana ascends to the throne, sending Mala in her stead to return the man she's already fallen in love with back to Man's World. Wonder Woman awakens, seeing the shadow-thing receding into the shadows of the Throne Room. She wakes her mother to talk about her dream problems...and Hippolyta suggests Diana might go look at the platform which is being constructed off shore, where the Wedding will take place.

She does, and then sits down on the beach, falling quickly into another uneasy slumber, as Dick Giordano takes the art reigns for this tale of "The Princess and the Sky Pirate", in which the man who crashes offshore of Paradise is a criminal named Trevor Stevens. Diana still falls for him and leaves the island with him when his flirting reminds the Queen of the silver-tongued Hercules. It isn't until they arrive in Man's World and Stevens kills a number of policemen that Diana realizes the error of her ways.

She wakes again, after yet another appearance by the Shadow Thing, and decides to hand deliver some wedding invitations to the Justice League satellite. Superman meets her there, congratulating her with a kiss, but gently chiding her that she'd not let him break the nuptial news story.

As Diana is about to re-enter Earth's atmosphere, she dozes off again, this time re-imagining her origin with Kal-El as the man who crash lands off the shores of Paradise. Rich Buckler does the pretty pictures here, as we see the story of a super marriage that can't last, it's two participants regularly torn away from one another to fight crime or rescue the world in some way or another.

(There is an amusing sequence on their honeymoon where Super husband and wife are stopping up a this ever really a good idea?...and some hot lava splashes on Diana and burns away her costume.)

Diana returns from slumberland to discover the invisible jet has automatically returned to Paradise Island...and she has a few minutes of consciousness to call Steve. He's a little bummed that the Arms Talks have gone poorly...and he admits he hasn't had a moment to think about the wedding.

Their call is cut-off, or he hangs up, and she realizes she's not thought about much else besides the wedding...but she just can't stay awake.

This last dream sequence is handled, art-wise, by Keith Pollard, and we see the old story, but this time with a petulant, man-hating superior Wonder Woman returning Steve Trevor to Man's World. She makes short work of some criminals, but cuts off Steve's praise, saying he'll find she's an "avenging angel", if anything.

It's not long before she's selected Mount Rushmore as her headquarters--after she's made a few improvements--and only a short time later when Steve and some other officers try to stop her from getting the President to abandon his office in the White House to her. A game of bullets and bracelets goes wrong, and Trevor is killed, his dying words "how could I...have cared...for someone with so much...hatred inside her..." touching this cold-hearted Diana. She admits he was the only man she cared for...and now she's a fugitive for his murder.

She wakes up quickly from this one, and thank goodness, as the guests and the Groom are waiting for her on the Wedding Platform. As Diana arrives, in costume but with a white cape and pink roses in her hair, Trevor asks the reverend (what, gods-worshipping Diana will be married by a Christian preacher?!...oh the things we ignored in the early 80s...)if he may speak to the bride before they begin. The preacher harumphs that they are already late...and the ceremony begins.

Diana has said her "I Do", but Trevor says No instead, to gasps of shock and surprise. As the guests murmur to themselves, the bride and groom go off quietly to talk, unaware they are being watched from the Dream Dimension.

Steve admits that he has begun to realize what deep feelings he had for Diana Prince, now that she's died...and that until he's figured out how he could be in love with her, it doesn't feel right to marry Wonder Woman. Diana tries to tell him the truth, but realizes that her having kept the secret of D.P. for so long will only hurt him more...and he returns to Mans World.

Diana throws herself down onto the beach sand, her tears flowing even as she chides herself for acting like someone in a Rock Hudson-Doris Day film...and then the Sandman appears, trying to soothe her tears...and sprinkling some of his sleeping sand on her, as he carries her off to the Dream Dimension. As he shows her around, he tells her how happy they will be here...

...and then the Shadow Thing returns to attack one last time. Finally fed up, Wonder Woman attacks it full on, as Sandman warns that the Thing might have the power to kill her here. But she manages to lasso it, and commands it to explain why it torments her. The shadow-thing changes shape, becoming a dark silhouette of Wonder Woman herself...and confesses that it represents her fears, her self-loathing, "your Death wish"...but now that it stands revealed, it dissapates and the lasso drops to the ground.

The Sandman apologizes, saying that he knew all along the secret of the Shadow Thing. He hadn't told her in hopes she would seek comfort and protection in the Dream Dimension, to keep him from his loneliness...but he knows she loves Steve Trevor and counsels her to give her man time and wishes her well.

And here's Diana's (and Diana Prince's) happy ending:

All in all, this was a really terrific anniversary celebration and one I enjoyed re-reading as much as I enjoyed reading the first bunch of times when it came out.

While I've always been a huge fan of George Perez's WW reboot, there's a stilted business about the newly-arrived princess' careful speech which simply wasn't an issue in the early Eighties, when she'd been around for long enough that familiarity with Rock Hudson and Doris Day movies and comments like "bum a meal" didn't sound completely foreign coming out of her mouth. Actually, she took pretty quickly to Man's World when she arrived the first time back during WWII, as well. This Wonder Woman-as-immigrant thing is definitely a modern convention.

While this pre-Crisis Wonder Woman still had some antiquated ideas about men, at least she was comfortable enough in her adopted world to sound like she was a part of it...and not some strange visitor. I think this comfort in her own skin and her world is one of the things I like best about Gail Simone's take on the character.

Whew...thanks for joining me, if you've lasted all the way to the bottom of this recap. It's been fun to share with you!


Shelly said...

Nice post. I remember that issue with great fondness. And I agree about Gail's take on WW. I didn't read the George Perez era Wonder Woman, but I have read other versions since that didn't write Diana as comfortable in her skin as Gail is writing her, or some writers in the past.

Wonder Man said...

George and Phil really gave Diana some stuff to read about. I wish they would revisit Nubia as her sister.