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“Forget the Old” – Reading Wonder Woman #178

This 1968 revamp of Wonder Woman is advertised with what now, fifty years later, appears to be a direct taunt to their readership: “Forget the old… the NEW Wonder Woman is here!” Of course, the comics industry had learned time and time again that folks don’t want to forget the old. For better or worse, superhero comics are powered by pure, unleaded nostalgia – reboots always get that spike of interest, but that interest doesn’t last in these days, and they didn’t lead to lasting changes back then, either. I mean, we kinda know that, though, judging by the fact that Wonder Woman doesn’t still look like someone wearing a hippie Halloween costume. Folks want their heroes to look and act like their heroes, and that’s not going to change.

You yankin’ my chain?

Wonder Woman #178 was written by Denny O’Neil, penciled by Mike Sekowsky, and inked by Dick Giordano. No coloring or lettering credits to be found. Their vision leads Wonder Woman to embrace the style of the times in a very… intense manner. Wonder Woman, in order to help clear Steve Trevor’s name, integrates with the hip young crowd of the time to get some information. Now, I wasn’t… you know, alive during the 60s, but even now, all of the dialogue that the characters are speaking feels less period piece and more of a parody. Almost every single word spoken by the characters is slang. I’m of the belief that art should be of the time it’s created, and that worrying too much about being timeless can make a story lifeless – but I think there’s a big difference between embracing the modern culture and this. It reads almost as if it’s in a different language… and the part of me that isn’t completely baffled as to how this happened in a Wonder Woman book kind of enjoyed the weirdness of it.

And that’s where I am with this book – if you’re going to have a good time while revisiting this era of Wonder Woman, all you can do is embrace the weird. It’s bizarre in every way. Wonder Woman has zero agency here, thinks only about Steve’s well-being, blames herself for everything, and her end goal seems to be to keep her relationship going. Steve, however, flirts with every woman he crosses paths with and doesn’t even hide it from Wonder Woman. It’s not even addressed in the story as a weird thing that he’s talking about going on dates with other women (or, at least who he thinks is another woman… superhero stuff, roll with it) while his arm is around Wondy. In this issue, he’s accused of murder, and Wonder Woman has to seek out some random young girl he was hanging out with in order to clear his name. It’s strange, and then it gets even stranger when it’s revealed that someone who is a close friend of Steve’s actually killed the guy everyone thinks Steve killed. I’m thinking this guy’s motivation is that he was drawn SUPER evil, so he decided to just go with it. He looks like Jack Nicholson wearing the Joker’s wardrobe, so this guy never even had a chance to be good.

I think if there’s one thing that we can take from this, it’s a lesson that DC has actually already learned with their fantastic Rebirth initiative. Legends aren’t broken. Don’t fix ‘em.

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Welcoming the Future, Treasuring the Past.