Wonder Woman ’77
I heard a lot of people recommend the digital-first nostalgia-fest Batman ’66 while it was running, but I haven’t heard anyone talk about the similar Wonder Woman ’77. Which is a shame because it also tells new stories using likenesses from the fondly remembered TV show version while reminding us how rich the portrayals were.
(I can say this authoritatively because I recently binged on season 2 of the TV show starring Lynda Carter. That’s the one where they move her from the 1940s to then-modern-day 1977, which this comic lovingly evokes.)
So far there have been 17 digital issues, each a 20-screen chapter priced at 99 cents. Many of them have been collected, although at odd price points, which may account for the lesser customer involvement with the series. (Don’t worry, I’ll get to the actual stories after the economics.)
For example, the first six came to print as Wonder Woman ’77 Special #1 (cover shown here by Nicola Scott), which can be bought digitally for $6.99 ($1 more than individual issues) or in print at $7.99 ($2 more than the chapters alone). Some of that extra cost might be attributed to the bonus material included.
After an article by noted fan Andy Mangels on the history of the Wonder Woman TV show, DC has repurposed its work product as a sketchbook. Different artists pitched for the project, and the art and costume designs they submitted are reprinted (although not in that context; they term them “samples” or “drawings to show … enthusiasm and commitment”). Plus, there’s a black-and-white version of the Phil Jimenez variant cover included.
There are two three-part stories in Wonder Woman ’77 Special #1. Both are written by Marc Andreyko; they’re illustrated by a combination of Drew Johnson, Matt Haley, Richard Ortiz, and Jason Badower. Both are wonderful time capsules.
“Disco Inferno” sends Diana Prince and Steve Trevor to Studio 52, “the hottest nightspot in New York City”, to protect a Soviet scientist. He’s recently defected, bringing his knowledge of nuclear fusion with him and living the 70s high life. Both Diana and Steve show up in their finest cleavage- or chest-hair-baring all-white outfits (in her case, evoking another comic-book era). It’s the perfect setting for a battle with the Silver Swan, given her vocal-based powers.
Unfortunately, changing artists through the chapters means a slight lack of visual consistency and, more damaging, occasional panels with unclear storytelling. Some chapters are glossy, with airbrushed-style likenesses, adding beautifully to the nostalgia; others are designed more traditionally, with less faithful images.
The second story, “Who Is Wonder Woman?”, is designed to allow for all kinds of memory-jogging cameos, from both TV and comics. An amnesiac Diana Prince encounters a blonde Wonder Woman (as portrayed in the original TV pilot by Cathy Lee Crosby), a Wonder Girl, Julia Kapatelis, and a gallery of rogues, some of whom I didn’t even recognize.
Wonder Woman ’77 Special #2 drops the bonus material in favor of an extra chapter, reprinting #7-13 of the digital issues. The three-part “The Cat Came Back” reintroduces a jealous professor who becomes the Cheetah in a museum setting, then a zoo. The story is nothing special, as any Wonder Woman fan will have seen similar before, but the images are lovely and imagination-inspiring.
The three-part “Celsia 451”, drawn by Cat Staggs, has a new villain with fire and ice powers taking revenge for a nuclear disaster and the careless business and government people who allowed it to happen. It’s very much in keeping with the tone of the show, although creating new content and characters. The special ends with the single-chapter “Wisdom of Solomon”… Grundy, that is. The art is by Jason Badower in this Halloween-themed tale.
These two comics will be collected in book format in June. The paperback can be ordered from your local comic shop with Diamond code MAR16 0277. Continuing the “every time we reprint, we ask for more money” theme of the series, the list price is $16.99 for two eight-dollar issues.
There will be another Special. #3 is due out April 6, reprinting the two-part “Claymates” (#14-15), where Diana takes on Clayface; the two-part “Orion the Hunter” (#16-17), where Diana visits Africa to stop ivory poachers; the two-part “Oceans” (#19-20), about Panama Canal negotiations; and “Reverend Mike Loves You” (#18), about a cult.
I mentioned above a comparison to the similar Batman project. My speculation on why there’s a difference is based around the mostly-male superhero fans of these past eras. The boys wanted to be Batman, or more likely, Robin, while they wanted to watch (and fantasize about) Wonder Woman. The girls who loved seeing a super heroine (even one best known for her breasts) quit reading comics, because those comics just weren’t there for them in the decades since this show first aired, so there isn’t the undercurrent of fondness among comic customers. Honestly, for that market, a book of color photos from the show would probably sell better than new stories.
Plus, for years, you couldn’t easily watch the Batman show, so you wouldn’t be reminded of how silly it all was. Wonder Woman has been easily available on DVD, so more people know that the show is only worth watching out of nostalgia, without the celebrity cameos that drove Batman.