Saturday, June 22, 2019
She's a legitimate Wonder!
I'm working hard on my nonfiction Wonder Woman book, and have just spent over three weeks sweating my way through a chapter about Donna Troy. You know: Wonder Woman's younger sister, Wonder Girl, Troia, Troy, whoever. The journey has left me a half-bottle of aspirin shier than before.
What's the prob, you might ask, you non-Donna fan, you. Well, Donna -- who didn't have a civilian name back then and just went by "Wonder Girl" -- first appeared in an era that held Impossible Stories. These began when Wonder Woman's mother, Queen Hippolyta, had some free time and spliced together home movies of her only daughter at different ages: adult, teen, and kindergarten-aged. We got a couple adventures of these "Impossible Tales" before the staff became lazy about labelling them as such. This might possibly have tied into the fact that they seemed to be popular, appearing more and more often until they were the norm. The majority had zero mention of "Impossible" whatever. Some had a line here and there. Some had that line completely contradicted, as when Diana would introduce a story about herself as a teenager, but that story included both her adult self and the teenaged Wonder Girl at the same time.
Perhaps some of the staff were on overprescribed meds.
By WW issue #123 Wonder Girl was consistently (or as consistent as it got during Wondie's Silver Age) treated as a separate person from Diana. She had glorious adventures and stupid adventures. It was the Silver Age! Wonder Girl became such a reader favorite that she took over two covers of the magazine so it was now "Wonder Woman presents WONDER GIRL."
I hopped onto the Wondie wagon during this era, not knowing anything that had come before, other than that WW was a member of the Justice League. Wonder Girl and Wonder Tot were her sisters; these stories said so.
In 1965, issue #158, editor/writer Kanigher (whose dislike for Wondie was well known) broke the fourth wall and announced that all having to do with the Wonder Family was being shelved, except that he was keeping Queen Hippolyta, Diana, and Steve Trevor (i.e., sales were falling and there had to be a concept change to attract new readers, just as the Wonder Family had been).
Apparently he didn't realize that Brave and Bold #60, which had appeared earlier that year, starred Wonder Girl as part of DC's Fab Four, the Teen Titans. WG would continue with them from then on.
Most comic book historians say (without solid explanation) that B&B #60 was WG's first appearance, and credit the character to that issue's Bob Haney and Bruno Premiani. But this character had been lifted whole -- 100% -- from the Wonder Woman book. Saying that WG was a creation of Haney & Premiani would be like saying the original Captain Marvel was created by O'Neil and Beck instead of Parker and Beck at Fawcett because they had produced the first DC book with Cap. It was the same name, but the character was 100% lifted from the Fawcett run and plunked into DC. O'Neil had no hand in creating Captain Marvel.
Thus we CANNOT say that B&B was Donna's first appearance. The character was created by Kanigher, Andru & Esposito. If you claim that WG was, up to that point, an illegitimate, "Impossible" character, then so was the one who appeared in the early Titans stories. SHE WAS THE SAME CHARACTER. We must cast all those funky TT tales as illegitimate because of her presence.
Then when WAS Donna's first appearance? Was it Teen Titans #22 at the dawn of the Bronze Age when we got another (yes, there was one before this, but it is forgettable) origin for her and she received a civilian name? This story told us that of everyone on Earth, Donna was the ONLY person Amazon Training had never worked on (AT works on everyone!) and that she received her powers via a science fiction ("legitimate") device, the Purple Ray. Years later would come a story in which Donna was saved because her power came not from some sci fi device, but from Amazon Training. Which was correct? Which character was legitimate?
The next origin assured us that it was DIANA who was Donna's guardian, not the queen. Thus Donna was no longer Diana's sister, though stories forgot that a lot. We got a garbled, overwrought story that piled up parent after parent in Donna's past until everything was confused. Was this Donna's first appearance?
The next origin invoked the Titan-gods and made Donna a "Titan seed," or adoptive child who would be one of the next generation of gods. Was this the true Donna's first appearance? Must we throw out all Titan adventures before this because their Donna was an "illegitimate" character? Must we toss the concept of Donna and Diana being, at some point, sisters?
The two didn't become sisters again until the John Byrne origin in 1998, in which Donna became just a magical clone of Diana and subjected to the tortures Byrne loved to perpetrate on his female characters. This Donna was Diana's twin, but she was never Hippolyta's daughter, as they kept Donna's true nature secret from the queen.
So fans foolishly seeking absolute consistency (ha!) with Donna cite B&B #60. Some think so just because someone else assured them this was true. By this time there are enough internet citations stating this starting point as fact, though I haven't seen a good explanation how the chroniclers have arrived at this conclusion.
For others, I suspect it's because the B&B comic also held male comics characters not associated with Wonder Woman. The other Titans were male, and so often that quality is required for some people to deem something, well, legitimate. That's my theory about why military hero Steve Trevor played an important role in early WW stories: to supply legitimacy to the female lead so that young boys would feel they could read the book without getting cooties. In this Wonder Girl case Wonder Woman and her family's adventures were given short shrift because... girls. Fluff. They were unimportant without some male imbuing his seal of patriarchal approval to things. Enter the male Titans; legitimate!
If fans respect the Wondie mythos, they also respect the value of good and even great stories within that mythos. The Wonder Family had some of those, and many starred Wonder Girl. The "Impossible Tale" label was put on only a few of these stories, and other one-line explanations that appeared here and there almost never made sense. What made sense was that this was the legitimate, mid-Silver Age Wonder mythos: a family composed of mother and three daughters.
You may toss lettercol and "Who's Who" explanations in the mix, but these occur OUTSIDE the mythos. Intention doesn't matter; it's what appears on the actual comics page that counts.
Wonder Woman #123 (July 1961) is the first appearance of Wonder Girl, aka Donna Troy. Her creators were Robert Kanigher and the art team of Andru & Esposito.