Looking back now, those live-action superhero shows of the 70s were all fairly terrible, but those opening themes were magnificent. Every one of them.
So why Wonder Woman and why now? Because her movie is opening this weekend, and even though I have no love for the DC movies under their current executive leadership (and when I say “no love,” I literally mean NO love at all, as I fundamentally disagree with them on pretty much every creative issue), I want to see this one do well. Wonder Woman is one of the most iconic characters in comics and a much beloved figure from my childhood, so I hope they do her some justice in this film, her solo debut on the big screen.
In all honesty, Wonder Woman was not a comic I bought on the regular as a kid. I loved her on the Super Friends and in her own live-action TV show, but her comic was very hit or miss for me. There was one brief period, however, when I did get into the strip.
It started in the spring of ’81. My parents dropped me off with the grandparents while they went to Atlantic City for the weekend. They left me with a few dollars to entertain myself while Grandma gave me a few dollars of her own as well. Nearly all this money was spent at a convenience store a few blocks away from Grandma & Grandpa’s house named Hubbard’s Cupboard. And 90% of the money I spent there went toward comic books—one of which was Wonder Woman #281 (July 1981).
I was drawn in by more than just Wonder Woman here. I had gotten into Jack Kirby’s Demon the summer before, so his presence on the cover and in the story intrigued me, and the Huntress backup with the Golden Age Joker also looked interesting. As it turned out, the lead Wonder Woman story (written by Gerry Conway with art by Jose Delbo and Dave Hunt) was a pretty good one.
Picking up where Wonder Woman #280 left off (an issue I’d track down some time later in back-issue bins), Etrigan the Demon is leading Wonder Woman through some hell-like dimension to save Etta Candy from a demonic entity named Baal-Satyr. Having gotten heavily into Dungeons & Dragons earlier that same year, I really dug the premise. Though they manage to rescue Etta, the story ends with our heroes trapped in this nether-dimension.
A month later I saw Wonder Woman #282 (Aug. 1981) at the U.S. #1 Flea Market and had to snatch it up. Not only did I want to see how the heroes got back home after the previous issue, the beautiful cover (by Rich Buckler and Dick Giordano) featured Wonder Woman and the Demon fighting a minotaur (which again roused my then-D&D-soaked imagination). And that minotaur battle did not disappoint—it was an action-packed slugfest that was actually rather violent.
A little context, here: The minotaur was Oscar Pound, a wheelchair-bound corporate executive who made a deal with Klarion the Witch-Boy (archenemy of the Demon) to get back the use of his legs. Little did he know that the deal would turn him into a mythical monster.
This issue marked the end of the Demon storyline, a perfect jumping-off point for an irregular Wonder Woman reader like me, yet with each passing month, I just kept on picking up new issues as they came out; from the Demon storyline right into the Red Dragon storyline, running through WW #285 (Nov. 1981). Issue #283 had a great cover by George Pérez and Dick Giordano, kicking off the aforementioned Red Dragon storyline , while the Joker story in the Huntress backup concluded. RD was an Asian terrorist/saboteur with a martial arts gimmick, in addition to a few other tricks. The cover to the next issue, again by Pérez and Giordano, was even better than the previous one.
Wonder Woman #285 then wrapped it all up with a sweet fight to the finish between WW and Red Dragon. My only disappointment here was that RD didn’t use the nunchuks he was shown wielding on the cover (as gorgeously rendered by Ross Andru and Giordano).
Every issue in this run was produced by the Conway/Delbo/Hunt team and I really enjoyed their work. Conway kept the action turned up and gave Wonder Woman some compelling new adversaries to battle. (Wonder Woman’s greatest weakness as a character, imo, was her lack of great antagonists. Red Dragon and Klarion/the minotaur were some fine additions; I only wish they could have become recurring villains.) Delbo and Hunt did a fine job on the art as well, with crisp lines and smooth storytelling. A good run if you can find it—better hurry though, as I’ve got a hunch the price of these back issues is going to skyrocket after this weekend.