Wednesday, March 25, 2015

It's a Mod, Mod, Mod Wondie!

In the past two months I’ve seen numerous articles (even a film!) about Wonder Woman that disparaged her Mod Era either in passing or at length.

Obviously, the authors didn’t know what they were talking about.

Wonder Woman’s “Mod Era” in which she gave up her powers and functioned as an extremely skilled and human being, began in issue #178 (first volume), Sept-Oct. 1968, and ended in issue #204, Jan-Feb. 1973. According to primary editor/writer/artist Mike Sekowsky, "We are not kicking a winner... -- the Old Wonder Woman was a loser -- she was a loser for so long the book was going to be dropped as a matter of fact. The sales figures on the new Wonder Woman now make her a winner…."

Wondie had been hit hard not only by the death in 1947 of her creator, William Moulton Marston, but by Frederick Wertham’s Seduction of the Innocent, in which Wondie was accused not only of being a lesbian but being into BDSM—and attempting to preach those ideas to the kids who read her books.

Well, yeah, but she also had a boyfriend who was often by her side in her adventures and a significant proportion of that bondage was there so she could break free of it not only physically but metaphorically. Still, National Periodical Pubs./DC Comics had to make some tweaks on the Wonder mythos so that parents could be assured their children could read the books without “harm.” (Cue the “Spartacus” auditorium scene of In and Out.)

So Wondie became kind of obsessed with Steve, who in turn became rather controlling and scary. Wondie couldn’t go after villains directly anymore—that would be unfeminine—so she dared them that she couldn’t accomplish incredible feats. Invariably she did, so the villains then dutifully trotted off to jail to fulfill their half of the bargain.

To fill out the books, then-writer Robert Kanigher concocted the “Impossible Tales,” stories in which different-aged versions of Wondie teamed up for “family” adventures. As that series went on, the “Impossible Tales” label was often left off introductions, or the introductions made no sense at all, so that the Wonder Family: Wonder Woman, her mother (“Wonder Queen;” how regal she was!), her sister Wonder Girl (I adored her!), and toddler little sister Wonder Tot (squee!), were all a real family. (Some of us readers came from dysfunctional families and loved when we were exposed to stories of families that actually loved each other.) When DC decided to cash in on the teenaged craze, Wonder Girl signed up for the very first adventure of  the Teen Titans.

But even if WG’s popularity was such that she took over the cover for two issues (with her logo being the prominent one), that era too ran out of steam, and Kanigher introduced the “Return to the Golden Age.” He subsequently APOLOGIZED (!!!) in a lettercol for subjecting his readers to this ghastly era.

After that DC suddenly realized that Wonder Woman was an actual superhero, and gave her superhero-type stories of a Silver Age kind of feel. She teamed up with Supergirl twice and both times had to suffer through a romance-driven plot because you know: they’re chicks. Chicks are only good for romance stories. (How I wish the Supergirl writers could have read a few issues of the new Ms. Marvel to see just what a female teen superhero can do! Let’s throw in PAD’s run of Supergirl as well.)

So this is where we were when sales bottomed out on the book.

And this is what Mike Sekowsky (and some others) gave us:

After the Mod Era, we got a handful of issues with the intriguing Nubia (who was never seen again [save one issue of Super Friends] for decades), and then Kanigher once more gave us a kinda-sorta Return to the Golden Age, this time with incredibly sloppy art featuring lots of buxom women and stories teaching kids that men were evil, while women (especially women who didn't admit men to their ranks) were good. The stories may have had slightly modern settings, but they were the same old dreck he’d shoveled at us before.

Then by some miracle (Kanigher was gone!), Wondie rejoined the Bronze Age with the Twelve Labors storyline, a semi-solid set of superheroic tales. After that, it was all standard super-stuff for her. But if it hadn’t been for the Mod Era, she wouldn’t have been still a DC character. Her series would have been cancelled, and rights would have reverted to the Marston family.

And I would never have fallen in love with the concept of Wonder Woman. It was this panel that cemented it all for me:

Not just one character, but WOMEN, plural, women with few if any powers, standing up to Ares and his army! They were all strong-willed; they were all beyond competent. They trusted and followed Diana. I’d never seen ANYTHING like this in my life!

So tell me again how the Mod Era sucked. Let’s step outside, shall we?

Want to know more about the Mod Era? Of course I have an index! It’s here. You can waste a lot of time reading it.

CONTEST!!! Yay, it’s another contest, with $200 gift cards available to be won. Go here to enter. The contest runs until April 5th. Good luck!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

A Little March Tease!

I recently joined the Scifi Romance Group on Facebook (they spell "Sci Fi" differently than I do) and today is a day to advertise our books via blog posts. So here I present a tease of Applesauce and Moonbeams, which isn't Sci Fi Romance but rather Sci Fi with Romantic Elements. Yes, there's a difference. Ah, categorization!

Let's set the stage: Our Hero has been in a battle that ended on the Lunar Express, a shuttle going from Earth to Luna. Unfortunately (actually fortunately, or I'd have no plot), he lost that battle and has collapsed into one of the passenger sleep pods. I'll let Pippin take it from here...

How odd. Pippin had expected to wake up brimming with unbounded zest, free from the crushing gravity that had been Earth for the past six weeks. She should be home: back on Luna.

This trip had left the rest of her life hanging and her nerves shattered. They had already been stretched thin as a plastic sheet. During the past six weeks that plastic had been pulled and distorted, finally snapping into shreds by a lack of time and more gravity than a human body was ever meant to bear.

What she needed was a long vacation. What she faced was the most important deadline of her life.

Now at last she could pick up where she’d left and get on with everything. She’d have to do so at a dead run; her schedule was squeezed unbearably tight. Instead, she found she literally couldn’t move. Was some fear of failure immobilizing her? Or worse: artist’s block?

I should have refused to go to Earth, she reminded herself as she put up faint struggle to open her eyes. She thought she’d left Earth behind four years ago. But poor Jonathan. He couldn’t have lasted much longer without Terran help. And of course, poor old Aunt Evie anxiously waited for him at home.

Evie certainly couldn’t have survived the trip, so Pippin had put her dream on hold for six weeks. Forty-two irreplaceable days. She’d accompanied Jonathan throughout his ordeal, and had now brought him back home. She hoped he appreciated her sacrifice. She knew Aunt Evie didn’t.

Her time was her own again, but time now ran oddly. It was dark. Oh yeah, she had her eyes closed, but there didn’t seem to be any light on the other side of her lids. Open, open, open, her mind commanded, but her mistreated body groaned, Five more minutes.

She still felt heavy, though maybe half or a third as bad as the horror Mama Terra had been. Not only heavy but a tad claustrophobic. She squeegeed the sleep-slime in her mouth with her teeth, trying to taste what the problem was as her senses slowly awoke. Ew, got some hair in her mouth. She spat it out.

It was really quiet in here. Funny odor; guess that was the plastic sleep suit they made her wear, with its plumbing and sensors and everything. It really smelled icky. More than ripe; kind of rotten, like when they brought in a big batch of manure from the Luna C waste facility to receive its final rounds of sterilization. That couldn’t be her, could it? Ew, ew. Never!

She must be still in the sleep pod. Cocooned to withstand the hard acceleration that powered the Express, it fed her enough drugs to keep her unaware of the day-and-a-half ride. The faint sounds she made as she squirmed echoed back to her, reminding her of how tiny it was.

People weren’t supposed to wake up in their pods, were they? Had something catastrophic happened? She started throwing off the drug effects at that thought. Was there something wrong with the ship, that the sleepers had been awakened prematurely so they could deal manually with the emergency—or at least say their final prayers?

Meteoroid collision? Crew decompression? Was no one left at the controls?

Maybe some glitch had cut off her nutrients or, God help her, her air, and some keen animal instinct had snapped herself alert so she could jump up and—

Not bloody likely, with this weight pinning her down.

Funny, it didn’t extend to her arms or hands. Her left foot also seemed to be free of it. Still, it was... well, something. An object of some kind, a smushing load, a—

“Wooo-AAAAHHH!” she shrieked. “Dead body! Dead body!”

She scrabbled her free fingers, searching for some kind of help button to alert the staff. There must be a help button. And a staff that was awake. Please, God, a— “HAAAAAALLP!” She ended it in a pure, unadulterated screech guaranteed to penetrate six inches of solid steel if need be.

Suddenly it occurred to her that her screams might use up all available oxygen.

Oxygen or zombie initiation? “YAAAAAAAAHHHHHH! EEEEEEEEE!”

Excited voices penetrated from the other side of the pod. She shrieked as loudly as she could: “Dead! BODIEEE! Lemme out! Lemme OUUUUT!!!”

For the first time in her life, Pippin Applegate fainted.

Hope you liked that! You can find out more about this book here, including buy links. (It's $3.99 for e-book.) (And darn it, even though it looked perfect the other week, I see I have to nudge the type on that webpage just a tad once again. It never ends, does it? Siiigh.) And remember, if you sign up for my VERY infrequent newsletter at the top right side of this blog, you will get a FREE e-copy of Touch of Danger, vol. 1 in the "Three Worlds" series!