Wonder Woman w/o Powers Pt. 25: Wonder Woman #199
Some days you know it will be bad… some of these chill, rainy winter days you can feel the subtle tingle of danger in the wind, hear promises of death in the rain… So it is with Diana Prince as she hurries along a Manhattan avenue, for suddenly she is staring at the round black mouth of murder – and listening to the command of a hoarse masculine voice… She is the wonder woman… and she may not live to see another sunrise!
After a proper beatdown by Diana, we learn that there’s more to this man than meets the eye.
Double takes Diana to a night club to meet the owner, Fellows Dill, “the so-called king of beautiful women.” He explains what’s happening:
Due to his reputation, Diana is reluctant to help Dill. However, when he promises that her fee will be enough to fund an operation that will allow the blind I-Ching to see again, she agrees to help him. She then trains in a specially equipped gym for 16 hours a day, seven days a week.
At last she deems herself ready, does this wonder woman!
On a private railway journey with Jonny Double…
The intruders render Diana and Jonny unconscious by filling the space with a foul-smelling gas. They awaken to find themselves in some kind of tribunal with a masked and caped man that wants to punish them for Dill’s sins. Double makes the villain an offer: he’ll deliver Dill to him in exchange for their lives.
The bad guy refuses the terms exactly, but releases Double to find Dill while keeping Diana in chains. When three days pass with no word from Double, Diana has to think fast…
As she is sneaks through the cavern, Diana notices that Double has returned, but without Dill. She then pulls one of the oldest stunts in the book by dressing in the guard’s cloak, then seizing the opportunity to help free Double.
They escape into a woodland, then emerge into a “snow-carpeted clearing.” Diana reminds Double that although they escaped, the big task still has to be done…
Just as Diana begins shivering in Double’s arms, possibly for reasons other than her simply being cold, a shot rings through the night and Double is shot.
As Jonny clutches his side, hot blood trickling between his fingers, Diana watches a figure emerge into the moonlight – the figure of Fellows Dill, his pale face twisted into a mask of madness!
Wonder Woman #199 has a great cover by Jeffrey Catherine Jones; however, it (and the cover for #200) shows Diana in bondage. It seems to contradict everything the editors have been telling us about her (see below.) Yes, it makes us wonder how she's going to get out of her predicament, but I think it perpetuates the idea that she's weak. Previous covers have shown her in danger, but not simply lying submissive. Maybe it's that look on her face?
This is the first time I remember seeing story and art credits on the title page. I don’t know if this was something new line-wide at the time, or if it was instituted here due to the change in the creative team. With O’Neil on script, the story feels more hard-boiled or noir-ish. This is not only from the opening dialogue, but also from exchanges like this between Diana and Jonny Double (not to mention the name, “Jonny Double”):
Mister Double… you’re the most callous man I’ve ever met! Doesn’t an innocent victim’s death mean anything to you? Yeah, Prince… it means something! –Only in my business, you don’t let it show.
O’Neil also seems to be sweeping Diana’s history, and previous role as super heroine, under the rug. This is most clearly evident in his references to “the” wonder woman and “this” wonder woman, using plain words rather than proper nouns.
With Heck doing the pencils, there are some subtle changes in Diana’s appearance. He draws her, and other women, with eyebrows that are more arched. The style is not significantly different from that of Mike Sekowsky, who drew nearly every Wonder Woman without powers story prior to this one; however, when placed side by side, I prefer Sekowsky. Giordano’s inks help maintain some consistency between pencillers.
We almost got through an issue without Diana falling in love. At least it comes on the last page. However, the blurb for the next issue indicates there may be more developments on the romance front:
Coming Next: Diana battles her most hated enemy… for the lives of the two men she loves.
The Wonder Woman’s Write-In letters column brings the promised full-page letter from the new editor, Denny O’Neil. After a leading paragraph describing the action that’s going to come in future issues, he writes that the guide for these adventures…
…will be the sweetest, prettiest lady ever to pulverize a concrete block with a single, casual karate swipe. Her name – you’ve guessed – is Diana Prince – Di to her friends. She’s a wonder, that woman.
O’Neil then explains that since he’s “the guy whose job it is to chronicle Di’s deeds," he’s been investigating her history. What follows is four paragraphs of, not meaningful legacy information, but superficial speculation about her personal habits. It launches with:
Up front, she’s beautiful.
So, that’s her fundamental characteristic; she’s beautiful. In the next to last paragraph, he finally references her Amazon heritage and comics history, but it’s framed by Steve Trevor…
…she wonders if his memory must deny her ever loving another mortal. She wants to love, she wants it desperately.
While the sentiment explains some of her behavior, even from when Sekowsky was writing Wonder Woman, it doesn’t excuse it. And, since there are only a few more issues of Wonder Woman without powers, O’Neil stating it so clearly seems like the beginning of the end.
Title: Wonder Woman
Issue #: 199
Cover Date: Mar./Apr. 1972
On Sale Date: Jan. 4, 1972
Writer: Denny O'Neil
Penciller: Don Heck
Inker: Dick Giordano
Editor: Denny O'Neil