Welcome to Comic Book Legends Revealed! This is the six hundred and thirtieth week where we examine comic book legends and whether they are true or false.
Just like the last few months, one legend today, one tomorrow and one Sunday.
Wonder Woman had an arc that was going to involve Wonder Woman defending an abortion clinic before the whole thing was abruptly canceled.
In the late 1960s, Mike Sekowsky (initially under Jack Miller as editor, but then Miller just gave way to Sekowsky editing himself) decided to dramatically change Wonder Woman’s title, taking away her powers and costume and making her simply Diana Prince…
The series was bi-monthly, so this lasted a few years despite only lasting roughly 25 issues. Eventually, Sekowsky was removed from the series, which involved Diana and her mentor, I-Ching, going on various adventures…
Dorothy Woolfolk took over briefly as editor. Denny O’Neil, who had scripted Sekowsky’s original issues, then took over as the editor and after a few issues written by him he decided to make the book more of an actively feminist series (Sekowksy’s original intent was driven by a desire to do a more feminist take on Wonder Woman, but through the eyes of a dude in his late 40s in 1968, so the comics did not always match Sekowsky’s ostensible original vision> I mean, right around the time of the Stonewall Riots, Wonder Woman clearly fights a group of angry lesbians. Stuff like that.). The first issue of this new direction was Wonder Woman #203 (which came out at the end of 1972), by science fiction author Samuel Delany (who O’Neill had specifically hired because he was known for writing women well in his work) and artist Dick Giordano…
The issue involves Wonder Woman helping to take down a department store that is unfair to its female employees. It involves a weird line by Wonder Woman who says that she doesn’t even LIKE women, but she comes around…
They end up closing down the store, but the issue ends with a cliffhanger when other employees don’t appreciate losing their jobs…
Anyhow, around this same time, Gloria Steinem was just debuting Ms. magazine and she had Wonder Woman on her first cover…
She also did a book about Wonder Woman around this time that reprinted classic Wonder Woman comic book stories.
Steinem did not like the then-current direction of the Wonder Woman title because she did not like that Wonder Woman had lost her powers and her costume. She kept asking DC (both DC Comics and Ms. were under the Warner Bros. umbrella) to take her back to her original look.
At the same time, though, Delany’s issue was the first part of a six-part arc that was set to end with a confrontation at a female-run abortion clinic that Wonder Woman would help defend.
The awesome Wonder Woman expert, Andy Mangels, wrote to me to note that while both Delany and Steinem have given Steinem credit (or, in the case of Delany, I presume he would term it “blame”) for giving DC a pretext to abruptly end Delany’s run on the book and “give in” to Steinem (I believe Robert Kanigher or another old school DC executive even called Steinem to tell her that they were giving her what she wanted) and just go back to basics, we really don’t know for sure whether Steinem ever actually had an influence on the run ending. Steinem says someone told her that she was, but it could be something as simple as declining sales (the sales on the book WERE slowly declining during this period). O’Neill and Giordano believe that the run was cancelled for purely sales reasons and O’Neill recalls never hearing anyone mention Steinem at all at the time.
In any event, recalling this time period, Delany later wrote:
[T]here was this nostalgia surge to take her back to her fifties incarnation. D.C. used a chance comment Gloria Steinem dropped while being shown through the National offices to throw out all of Wonder Woman’s concerns for women’s real, social problems. Instead of a believable woman, working with other women, fighting corrupt department store moguls and crusading for food cooperatives against supermarket monopolies — as she’d been doing in my scripts — she got back all her super powers … and went off to battle the Green Meanies from Mars who were Threatening the Earth’s Very Survival. …
I wasn’t interested in that. So I pulled out.
Wonder Woman #204 brought back classic Wonder Woman writer Robert Kanigher to abruptly end the non-costumed period…
It’s fascinating to think that a feminist icon like Steinem is taking credit (whether deserved or not) for helping to end what would have been one of the most progressive Wonder Woman storylines ever!
Thanks to Andy Mangels for the clarification regarding whether Steinem really had ANY real role in the end of this run.
Check out some legends from Legends Revealed:
Check back Saturday for part 2 of this week’s legends!
And remember, if you have a legend that you’re curious about, drop me a line at either firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com!
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