Wonder Woman w/o Powers Pt. 41: The Past & the Future
Wonder Woman #203 ended with a cliffhanger, and the creative team at the time, including writer Samuel L. Delany and editor Denny O’Neil, were never able to resolve it. With #204, writer/editor Rober Kanigher had Diana regain her powers in a story that also tweaked her origin.
In Back Issue #17, O’Neil says that he doesn’t recall why the change was made:
I was not consulted, nor would I have expected to be. There was no reason for anybody to talk to me about that. It was an experiment, and I think at the time we realized it was an experiment. Whether or not Ms. Steinem had anything to do with that or whether she was brought in because they thought it was time to revert back to an earlier inception of the character, I don’t know.
What does Gloria Steinem have to do with it? At the time, she was leading the women’s liberation movement of the 70s and founded Ms. magazine, which featured Wonder Woman on the cover of its debut issue in July, 1972 (see below.) Delany relays a story in which he thinks was the real reason for the return of Diana’s powers:
Apparently, Gloria Steinem, who was then the editor of Ms., was taking a tour through the DC offices one day, and they were proudly showing her Wonder Woman. She didn’t read the story, she just looked at some of the artwork, and the first thing she saw was that Wonder Woman was no longer in her American flag and bikini briefs. And she said, ‘What’s happened to Wonder Woman? You’ve taken away all of her super-powers. Don’t you realize how important this is to the young women of America?’ Unfortunately, she wasn’t paying any attention to the storyline at all. It was just in terms of the image. So I think probably the Powers That Be were kind of intriguingly dubious about my storyline. They were probably not terribly happy where it was going. So suddenly they say, ‘Ah! Gloria Steinem herself has spoken!’ So the word came down from The Powers That Be that by the next issue, Wonder Woman had to be put back into her American flag bra and her magic bracelets. Well, there was no way you could continue my story arc. It wouldn’t have worked at all. So I just said, ‘Okay, I bow out, guys, there’s nothing I can do with it.’ And I wasn’t particularly interested in carrying it beyond that.”
Dick Giordano, artist for #203, explains another reason for the change:
My guess would be that sales of the the de-powered version had more to do with its demise then any pressure brought by Ms. Steinem. Carmine [Infantino] would not have changed his mind because of statements made outside the editorial or business offices of DC. Besides, the Teen Titans got their costumes and powers back at about the same time, without pressure from Steinem.
Kanigher returned to Wonder Woman for the first time since 1968, when he left due to an illness. He had been the writer/editor of the title since 1948. However, he remained onboard for only eight issues. Julius Schwartz became editor at the end of summer 1973 and assigned Martin Pasko to write it. Schwartz told Pasko:
I’ve [Schwartz] just been handed the book and I don’t think I know what I want to do with it yet. I don’t know anything about Wonder Woman so your assignment is to read everything we have in the library on Wonder Woman and get a sense of the character for me, and I [Pasko] said okay, and I spent the next month being immersed in the inside of William Moulton Marston’s rather strange brain.
In the Ms. #1 article, Wonder Woman Revisited, co-editor Joanne Edgar writes about reading Wonder Woman as a child and, when trading comics with friends, it always took three Wonder Woman’s to get one Superman. However, she notes that while Superman never existed, Amazon princesses did.
Wonder Woman captured the Amazonian spirit of strength and self-sufficiency, but added the peacefulness and revulsion toward killing that have culturally distinguished women from men.
Edgar writes of Wonder Woman’s strengths and weaknesses:
Though Wonder Woman in battle reigned supreme, Wonder Woman in love, as if lassoed back into conventionality, became the simpering romantic maiden, willing to relinquish her Amazonian birthright to follow a man.
When Wonder Woman creator William Moulton Marston died in 1947…
The new writers didn't understand her spirit, however, and she lost some of her original feminist orientation. Her superhuman strength remained, but her violence increased. Rather than proving her superiority over men, she became more and more submissive. In 1968, she relinquished her superhuman Amazon powers along with her bracelets, her golden magic lasso, and her invisible plane. She became a human being. Diana Prince, clad now in boutique pant suits and tunics, acquired conventional emotions, vulnerability to men, the wisdom of an adviser (a man, of course, named I Ching), and the skills of karate, kung fu, and jiujitsu. In other words, she became a female James Bond, but without his sexual exploits. The double standard applied even to her.
Wonder Woman lost her powers again for a couple issues in the second volume of the series, issue #189 (April, 2003.) Here, she woke up in a grave with no memory of her identity, clad in an outfit reminiscent of her late 60s/early 70s adventures:
She even uses the same moves:
When a young woman names Becca Doherty recognizes her and offers her refuge, she suggests Diana gives her trademark spin a try:
Trevor, who, indeed? This isn’t Steve Trevor. In the early 2000’s, Diana was dating a human rights advocate named Trevor Barnes.
Diana thinks she’s being pursued, so suggests a radical change in her appearance:
As Themyscarian Ambassador to the World at Large, Diana has residual memories of her office and locates her portal to Paradise Island, where she apologizes to her mother at her tomb:
It’s a complicated story with a lot of subplots, but her powers (and memories) apparently returned, she continues the six-issue arc, The Game of the Gods, as Wonder Woman with the only thing missing being her hair.
Interestingly, Wonder Woman #188, the final issue for writer Phil Jiminez, closes with this beautiful two-page spread. In it, as we see representations of various versions of the Amazon princess, there stands in the middle a familiar figure in white… Diana Prince without powers. Love her or hate her, she lived in the comics for just over four years and has not been forgotten.
Title: Wonder Woman Vol. 2
Issue #: 189
Cover Date: April, 2003
On Sale Date: Feb. 26, 2003
Writer: Walter Simonson
Penciller: Jerry Ordway
Inker: P. Craig Russell
Editor: Ivan Cohen