All-Star Comics #8
November 14, 2011
Atop the Fourth Wall returns with a double feature starting off Secret Origins Month! Secret Origins Month 2011 begins with the origin story of Wonder Woman, wherein she wears ridiculous clothes, doesn't know her own history, and falls in love with the first guy she's ever met.
(Open on Linkara, not wearing his coat, as he sits on his futon and scanning Pollo, who has a different body than before. He looks up with a start and realizes he's on camera)
Linkara: Oh! Hello, people, and welcome to Atop the Fourth Wall, where bad comics burn. Sorry I couldn't be here last week, but after all the stuff we went through a couple of weeks ago, we here at Atop the Fourth Wall decided it was time to take a little break. As such, it gave me some time to work on some new projects.
Pollo: Hey, Linkara, is it done yet?
Linkara: (annoyed) No, Pollo, for the ninth time, it is not ready yet! (calmer) One of those new projects is (holds up Pollo) a new body for Pollo. Poor little guy's been pushing for one for months now, and hey, it looks like we might actually have a chance to make it happen. (holds up index finger) Oh, but you don't care about that, do you? For you see, it's that time again. Welcome back, my friends, to "Secret Origins Month"!
("Secret Origins Month" title is shown)
Linkara: Yes, Secret Origins Month was a huge hit last year, (turns on scanner, which makes a buzzing sound over Pollo) so I'm bringing it back to look at the first stories of more classic heroes. Last year was a bit of a sausage fest, so let's start things off with the origins of Wonder Woman.
(A shot of Wonder Woman is shown)
Linkara (v/o): I already did a brief look at Wonder Woman's origins back in the prologue video of "Amazons Attack" way back in 2009, but let's look at some more of the details.
(A montage of shots follows of Wonder Woman's original creator, Dr. William Moulton Marston, and his professional and personal life)
Linkara (v/o): Wonder Woman's creator was William Moulton Marston, a psychologist and writer who wrote a paper about systolic blood pressure that helped contribute to the creation of a polygraph machine, AKA the lie detector. Marston was involved in a polyamorous relationship with his wife, Elizabeth, and another woman, Olive Byrne, and supposedly, both contributed to the creation of Wonder Woman with ideas, and Elizabeth herself telling him that the hero he wanted to create should be a woman.
(Another shot of Moulton is shown)
Linkara (v/o): Marston had some... unconventional ideas about women. I wouldn't exactly call him a feminist, considering, in many areas, he believed that women were naturally inclined to just be better than men at, such as honesty and compassion. He also believed that stronger women in society would lead to an ideal state of "submission to loving authority", with sometimes contradictory statements about women being naturally submissive, but then turning it around and saying men need women stronger than themselves to submit to.
(Shots of the early Wonder Woman are shown now)
Linkara (v/o): This, in turn, contributed to a lot of Wonder Woman's early appearances as written by Marston to feature bondage and the Amazon way of life and tying people up. However, while there's a lot of head-scratching and awkwardness considering his views on gender, he had a lot of good ideas, too. He thought there was a lack of strong female characters for young girls to look up to. In particular, in 1943, he said...
(Cut to a shot of the following text, which Linkara reads...)
Linkara (v/o): "Not even girls want to be girls so long as our feminine archetypes lack force, strength, and power. Not wanting to be girls, they don't want to be tender, submissive, peace-loving, as good women are." Now, one might think those sentences are completely contradictory, but he follows that with...
(Cut to a shot of another bit of text...)
Linkara (v/o): "Women's strong qualities have become despised because of their weakness." Essentially, he seemed to be saying that, yeah, while good women are predisposed towards being submissive and peace-loving, they need to also be strong and powerful. In other words, they need to be well-rounded, and you can't just have strength without compassion or tenderness without aggression, too.
(Cut to a clip of Camelot)
King Arthur (Richard Harris): Violence is not strength, and compassion is not weakness!
(Cut to more shots of Wonder Woman, including one of her standing next to Batman and Superman)
Linkara (v/o): Unfortunately, Marston died in 1947 from cancer and never got to see just how big an impact Wonder Woman made on pop culture and comics, DC in particular treating her as part of the trinity of main characters of the DCU, alongside Superman and Batman. The character has certainly evolved a lot over the years, but I still maintain that her roots in being the most compassionate person on Earth, along with her role as the Spirit of Truth, goes to show a rather optimistic view of humanity, that the truth of our nature is kindness and decency, backed up with determination, strength and will.
Linkara: Buuut that won't stop me from embracing snark and sarcasm as we start things off for this year's Secret Origins Month. As such, let's dig into "All-Star Comics #8".
(AT4W opening titles are shown; title card has "Lovefool" by The Cardigans playing in the background. Cut to a shot of the comic's cover)
Linkara (v/o): And like last year, let me preface this review by reminding people that I know it's completely unfair to judge those older comics by today's standards and writing styles. When we look at stuff from the '30s and '40s, of course it isn't going to hold up as well. This is all in good fun. For this episode, I'm not really sure I should talk about the cover, since it has nothing to do with Wonder Woman.
(Cut to a shot of a cover of "Sensation Comics", showing Wonder Woman on the cover)
Linkara (v/o): Some people have mistakenly believed that Wondy's first appearance was in "Sensational Comics #1"...
(Editor's note: "CORRECTION: Sensation Comics")
Linkara (v/o): ...since that's her first cover appearance.
(Cut back to the cover of "All-Star Comics #8")
Linkara (v/o): However, this issue is actually her first appearance altogether, so that's what we're looking at. "All-Star Comics" was the home of the Justice Society of America at the time, and most of the book is about them. But we're gonna skip that part of the book, although, humorously enough on the cover...
Text: Two new members win their spurs in this new, book-length adventure of the Justice Society of America!!!
Linkara: And neither one of them is female! They just bring cooties to the group.
Linkara (v/o): However, Wondy did eventually join the JSA – as their secretary. Ah, progress.
(Open to the Wonder Woman story in the comic)
Linkara (v/o): So, about 60 pages in, we see Wondy's debut, nine-page story. And in the early days, Wondy's bullet-deflecting bracelets really were bracelet-sized, she wore culotte shorts, and her feet were positively minuscule. I guess we found Rob Liefeld's inspiration for drawing tiny feet.
Narrator: At last, in a world torn by the hatreds and wars of men, appears a woman to whom the problems and feats of men are merely child's play...
Linkara: (as narrator) She can make war a thousand times better than any man!
Narrator: A woman whose identity is known to none...
Linkara: That's an outright lie, since there's an entire island who knows who she is.
Narrator: With a hundred times the agility and strength of our best male athletes and strongest wrestlers...
(Cut to Hulk Hogan (played by Noah Antwiler))
Hulk Hogan: Well, let me tell you something, Wonder Woman! You may claim to have as many times the strength of any wrestlers! Well, let's see you prove it in the ring, sister! You're gonna need all that strength (shows off his muscles) when these 24-inch pythons tie you up with your own lasso in Wrestlemania, dude!
(Cut back to the comic)
Narrator: As lovely as Aphrodite–as wise as Athena–with the speed of Mercury and the strength of Hercules–she is known only as WONDER WOMAN, but who she is, or whence she came, nobody knows!
Linkara: (as narrator) Except for I, the narrator, who knows all and sees all, especially when you're showering!
Linkara (v/o): The story begins with a plane that's run out of fuel over an island somewhere in the ocean. It crashes, and two Amazons quickly locate it.
First Amazonian: Look, Princess, a strange plane!
Linkara: (confused) As opposed to the regular planes you have on your isolated island still operating with the technology of Ancient Greece? (shrugs)
Linkara (v/o): They go to see if anyone is hurt and find a man.
Second Amazonian: A MAN! A MAN ON PARADISE ISLAND!
(With a smug expression on his face, Linkara raises his index finger, and a sexy, funky tune is heard briefly; he nods to the music)
Second Amazonian: Quick! Let's get him to the hospital.
Linkara (v/o): (narrator voice) E.R.: Paradise Island. (normal) The woman, who is actually Diana herself, carries the man to their hospital. The doctor determines that he has a concussion and won't know anything about him for a few days. The queen, our old crazy pal, Hippolyta*, shows up to take charge of the situation. Searching his jacket, they discover identification on him, and naturally, they can read English. His name is Captain Steve Trevor, from the U.S. Army's Intelligence Service. Hippolyta orders them to make sure he gets well, but to keep his eyes covered and have his plane repaired, since he has to leave as soon as he's well, and they can't risk him finding anything out about the island. However, Diana has taken to the man and spends all her time at his side. The doctor decides to see Hippolyta about this.
- NOTE: Hippolyta is actually spelled "Hippolyte", as Linkara points out moments later, but in the interest of what Linkara says, the script will continue to refer to her as "Hippolyta".
Hippolyta: What has happened that you disturb me at this hour?
Linkara: (as Hippolyta, dismissively) How dare you interrupt me while I'm dressing like Madonna!
Linkara (v/o): The doctor tells Hippolyta about how Diana's spending so much time with the unconscious Steve Trevor.
Hippolyta: So she's in love! I was afraid of that! You are quite right, doctor. I shall take steps immediately.
Linkara: (as Hippolyta) She's in love?! SUPPRESS IT! SUPPRESS IT IMMEDIATELY!!
Linkara (v/o): Oh, and in this story, Hippolyta is spelled "Hippolyte". Which is more accurate to the original Amazon legend? (scoffs) Don't know, don't care! This one already got stuff wrong by calling Heracles "Hercules". Then again, I'm not really all that up on my Greek mythology anyway, and I don't much care.
Diana: Mother – I don't understand – I must see him! I must know who he is, how he got here! And why must he leave? I-I love him!
Linkara: (as Diana, folding his hands together) I love the man I've never spoken a word to at all. (normal) Seriously, this sounds like something out of a crappy romantic comedy. (poster of While You Were Sleeping pops up)
Hippolyta: I was afraid, daughter, that the time would some day [sic] arrive that I would have to satisfy your curiosity. Come– I will tell you everything!
Linkara: (confused) So... what, did the Amazons never tell her their history, or why they're isolated from men and their entire lives? How did Diana even know what the hell a man was if she was never told anything about this? Or was the extent of the info given just...
(Cut to a clip of Zardoz)
Zardoz: The Penis is evil!
(Back to the comic again)
Narrator: And this is the startling story unfolded by Hippolyte, Queen of the Amazons, to the princess, her daughter!
Linkara (v/o): And they proceed to give us a page and a half of the story of the Amazons, told like this was a book, as opposed to doing it in comic panels. I know in 1942, they hadn't exactly worked out all the kinks in sequential storytelling, but did they really need to treat this like a prose story in a magazine? Anyway, the story talks about how Hercules tried to invade the Amazons, but they managed to fight off Hercules with the aid of a (dramatically to emphasize the following being in uppercase letters) "MAGIC GIRDLE"!
Hippolyta: (narrating) But Hercules, by deceit and trickery, managed to secure my MAGIC GIRDLE– and soon we Amazons were taken in slavery. And Aphrodite, angry at me for succumbing to the wiles of men, would do naught to help us!
Linkara: (as Hippolyta) In retrospect, it was kind of a dick move by Aphrodite, but hey, that's the Greek gods for you.
Hippolyta: (narrating) Finally our submission to men became unbearable–we could stand it no longer...
Linkara: (as Hippolyta) Yeah, for the first few years, the slavery was just kind of a bummer, but then we just couldn't stand it anymore.
(Cut to a clip of an episode of Futurama, showing Fry and Leela having been enslaved)
Fry: (to Leela) You know what else stinks about being a slave? The hours.
(Cut back to the comic)
Linkara (v/o): Hippolyta appealed to Aphrodite for help again, and this time, she did, helping them recapture the MAGIC GIRDLE, and the Amazons escaped captivity. However, in return for her help, Aphrodite made the Amazons swear off the world of men and create a world of their own and must forever wear the bracelets fashioned by their captors as a reminder of what had happened to them. They discovered Paradise Island and were gifted with immortality on the island, with no illness, hatred or wars. Aphrodite granted them this gift only so long as they continued to stay separated from the world of men, and it's why Steve has to leave. Okay, that's well and good, nice mythology and whatnot, but here's where we start getting goofy: apparently, Athena wanted in on this deal and granted the Amazons a "Magic Sphere" that allows them to know what happens in the outside world and even sometimes forecast the future. One, that's not a sphere, that's a wheel or disc. Two, if you're supposed to be cut off from the outside world, why would you have this? Three, Hippolyta says that it's allowed them to create advanced technology far ahead of the outside world. Okay, what the hell?! She says they have flying machines, too! Are you saying that after thousands of years, no one has tried to start a revolt to leave the island or stolen flying machines to escape, after being in the same area for all that time? And if they have, wouldn't this have broken their covenant with Aphrodite? Also, where is this advanced technology you speak of? The best we see of technology in this place is that the "magic sphere" has been inserted into equipment used in Frankenstein's laboratory. I will forgive, however, that the magic sphere has words and years engraved on it that would limit what you would see, since it's magic and all and probably changes on its own.
Linkara: Also known as, it's magic, we don't have to explain it.
Linkara (v/o): At this point, I do need to apologize. Up until now, the scans have been from "The Wonder Woman Archives, Volume 1", with much more high-quality images. But for some reason, they shuffled around the story quite a bit. The original "All-Star Comics #8" now features the story of how Steve Trevor got to the island, whereas "The Archives" doesn't show this stuff. Since I'm supposed to be reviewing from "All-Star Comics #8", please forgive the quality of the scans for this next sequence of events. Diana and Hippolyta use the magic sphere to examine how Steve came to be on the island. Apparently, he discovered information on the leaders of a Nazi spy ring in America and wanted to deal with them personally. Naturally, he took absolutely no backup with him and just went into the middle of a forest to wait for them to show up along the road. He intercepted them as they discussed how they planned to have German planes fly into the stratosphere and bomb American airfields and training camps. Thus, they strike a blow against America's defenses while also keeping the planes out of identification range so it can't be construed as an act of war. Steve also mentions that the German planes are already in America in hiding, so one plot hole out of the way, though I'm pretty sure planes that could fly that high did not exist in the 1940s. Or even if they did, we'd still be able to identify them. Aviation historians, feel free to correct me on that one. Still, history is funny. Recall that in in last year's comics, Superman was working to keep America out of World War II in 1937, whereas here, in 1941, Nazis were already being used as villains in stories, even though it was probably written before America was in the war.
(Cut to a clip of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade)
Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford): Nazis. I hate these guys.
(Back to the comic again)
Linkara (v/o): Anyway, he intercepts the Nazis, one of whom is even wearing a monocle, and they manage to knock him unconscious. Yep, doing it personally really proved to be a good thing, Steve.
Nazi agent: He is that Captain Trevor who has been giving us so much trouble. It is a good thing that we have one of those American robot planes that we stole.
Linkara: Oh, yeah, I forgot about those robot planes we had in the 1940s.
Pollo: I have decided that I want my new body to be a plane. Please make it happen right away.
Linkara: (irritated) I have already built you (points out Pollo's new body for him) this body, AND YOU WILL LIKE IT!
Linkara (v/o): They put his body in the robot plane, without killing him first, as if you needed further proof that Nazism is stupid, and send the plane to hover over an airfield to make it look like it's the one attacking them. Yes, they'll be fooled by the plane that is clearly too small to drop half the bombs that are coming down on them. Brilliant strategy!
(Cut to a clip of Patton, showing the obligatory scene of the title character looking out through a pair of binoculars)
General Patton (George C. Scott): You magnificent bastard, I read your BOOK!
(Cut back to the comic)
Linkara (v/o): Still, the plan does seem to work until Steve wakes up and assumes control of the plane. The bomber retreats, unable to shoot down Steve's plane, but Steve equally unable to take down the bomber. He pursues anyway, chasing them out to sea, until his gas runs out and he crashes onto Paradise Island. With the magic viewing scope ending its tale, Diana states that they need to have Trevor brought back to America so he can finish his mission. How exactly is not clear, since the leaders of the spy ring no doubt went into hiding. Hippolyta tells Diana that getting him back is going to be tricky.
Hippolyta: Leave me alone, my daughter, I must consult with Aphrodite and Athena, our goddesses.
Linkara: (as Hippolyta) Since you've lived here your entire life, it was necessary for me to remind you that Athena and Aphrodite are our goddesses. (nods, then slaps his own head in frustration)
(Cut to shots of "Athena #1")
Linkara (v/o): Also, I doubt Athena is gonna be much help. She'll probably just end up naked in Greece and become bedridden because of an arm wound without speaking more than two sentences.
(Cut back to "All-Star Comics #8")
Linkara (v/o): Actually, the two goddesses dictate that with war threatening the entire world, that it was destiny that for Steve to crash on the island, and that America is the last citadel of democracy and equal rights for women!
Linkara: And elsewhere, dozens of women's rights activists in Great Britain and other democratic countries collectively (hovers his hand over his forehead) slapped their foreheads.
Linkara (v/o): Still, to be fair, this came out in December of 1941 and most likely written well before the attack on Pearl Harbor, so America hadn't entered into the war, and Great Britain had sustained a lot of damage, thanks to Nazi attacks. France was occupied territory, and, well, being an ignorant American, I don't know much about other countries across the world, so it's likely that America was one of the last democratic countries still in good shape. Anyway, the goddesses order Hippolyta to send the strongest and wisest Amazon as their representative and (dramatically) fight for freedom and liberty!
Linkara: You know, it's a pretty ringing endorsement when even the gods themselves want you to fight the Nazis! Why wasn't that on any recruitment posters?
Linkara (v/o): Hippolyta decides to hold a tournament to decide who among the Amazons should go, but refuses Diana's request to participate.
Hippolyta: The winner must take this man back to America and never return, and I couldn't bear to have you leave me forever!
Linkara: And... why can't the winner return? Considering this was the decree of the gods to begin with, they'll probably have no qualms with letting her come back.
Linkara (v/o): However, Diana decides to participate and enters while wearing a tiny domino mask. And since comic books follow the law of flimsy cognition, the tiny mask completely ensures that nobody, even her own mother, will recognize her. I also just noticed that most of the Amazons wear the exact same goofy, black bra and ballerina bottoms. Yes, freedom and liberty, but don't you dare think you can be independent of fashion trends on Paradise Island. As the tournament continues, Diana proceeds to win most of it, until it's down to her and a blonde woman in a test of "bullets and bracelets". Get this: they each have guns and shoot each other, with the goal being to deflect the bullets with their bracelets, with no protection for their heads or legs, just a bulletproof vest!
Linkara: Somehow, I don't think this Olympic sport is gonna catch on.
Linkara (v/o): Needless to say, Diana is fast enough to deflect every one of the bullets, and her opponent is wounded in the shoulder. Hippolyta tells the contestant to remove her mask, revealing... (dramatic sting; exaggeratedly) IT WAS HER DAUGHTER ALL ALONG!!!
Linkara: I think the truth is that while Paradise Island does possess superior technology, they're still lagging behind in terms of LensCrafters.
Hippolyta: Well, it's too late now! You've won and I'm proud of you!
Linkara: (as Hippolyta) Yes, even though I'm the queen and can totally overturn this, because, you know, queen and all, go ahead and never return! (normal) Wait a second, if they're fighting for democracy, why is Paradise Island a monarchy?
Linkara (v/o): And so, our story ends with Hippolyta giving her blessing.
Hippolyta: In America you'll indeed be a "Wonder Woman," for I have taught you well! And let yourself be known as Diana, after your godmother, the goddess of the moon!
Linkara: (confused) What the hell was her name before you gave her the new one?
Hippolyta: And here is a costume I have designed to be used by the winner, to wear in America.
Linkara: (as Hippolyta) Let it be drawn ever skimpier by artists until it is nothing more than a thong.
Narrator: And so Diana, the Wonder Woman, giving up her heritage, and her right to eternal life, leaves Paradise Island to take the man she loves back to America – the land she learns to love, and adopts as her own!
Linkara: (as narrator) Except for the millions of times that she comes back to Paradise Island, and even formally becomes its ambassador to the nation she adopts... that is invaded by her fellow Amazons, who attack using deadly bee weapons.
(Cut to the obligatory panel of Batman in "Amazons Attack #3", saying that classic line...)
Batman: Bees. My God.
(Cut back to "All-Star Comics #8")
Linkara (v/o): This is actually a pretty solid start. There's a lot of goofy, contrived dialogue, as was common in the Gold and Silver Age, but it is believable that someone like Diana, who's young and lived her entire life isolated on an island, would be tempted by a mysterious man and want to go with him on a life of adventure and fight against evil. Hell, that's the premise of the new Doctor Who series. There are lame bits and goofy art, but it could've been a lot worse. We don't see Diana's conception as clay, but that's not really necessary for her motivating factor as a character.
Linkara: Overall, good start to the Spirit of Truth, with the rest of her mythos being fleshed out over the proceeding seventy years. (gets up and leaves, taking Pollo with him)
(End credits roll, to "Lovefool" by The Cardigans)
For those about to ask, no, the Pollo featured here is NOT the winner of the Pollo Redesign Contest. The winner of that contest will be announced in the near-future, but with 300 entries and a lot of other stuff on my plate, I haven't been able to get to it.
Please be patient.
Other contests between the Amazons that we didn't get to see: -Stab at your opponents' fingers with a knife. -Bobbing for apples in acid. -Bracelets and Digestive Parasites.
(Stinger: Linkara walks up to the shelf where Mechakara's severed hand is lying, carrying Pollo with him)
Linkara: All right, that's enough for today. I will install the voice module tomorrow.
(Linkara sets Pollo down and pats his head before leaving. Suddenly, Mechakara's arm comes to life, shooting out small electrical impulses, one of which zaps Pollo, bringing him to life, his red eye glowing)
(Another stinger: Hulk Hogan is seen again)
Offscreen voice: (as Hogan looks around) What do you want now? You got another clothespin. Stop it.
Hulk Hogan: It's the Hulkadog, brother! The Hulkadog is causing trouble when the Hulkster's not watching her. All right, we'll do this again. We're gonna do it live! (growls as he flexes his muscles) Check these pythons out, brother! You're gonna like it! (grunts and growls some more as he flexes his muscles) Hulkamania! Dude! Brother! Brother dude! Brother brother dude! Wonder Woman dude! I'm gonna break you in half in WrestleMania! If you want a WWF title, brother, you gotta face me in a (?) street match, brother! Sister! Whatever! God, you got big boobs. I'm gonna go. (leaves)