In 1941, the Justice Society of America saw their makeup change slightly with the introduction of two new characters onto the team. However, as wonderful as that is, it pales in comparison to what makes All-Star Comics #8 a classic comic. It is here that one of the most iconic female characters in the history of ANY medium was introduced to the world – Wonder Woman.
Join us in the Hypertime as we discuss All-Star Comics #8 and the creation of the Amazonian princess herself, Wonder Woman.
Below are the show notes!
William Moulton Marston (inventor of the lie detector test/polygraph) caught the eye of Max Gaines after an interview with Family Circle Magazine in October 1940. He mentioned the untapped potential of the comic book medium after studying everything from the art, to the layouts, to the writing. He was brought aboard National Periodicals and All-American Publications (later DC Comics) to be an educational consultant in hopes to put that potential to the test. Gaines had been criticized pretty widely for the content in the books “seen as sex-horror serials (and comics in general” and partially brought Marston on to create better books while also having Marston’s respectable name possibly attached.
Marston wanted to create a hero that would win the day with love instead of brawn. His wife Elizabeth however suggested it be a super woman. He proposed the idea to Gaines who gave it his approval and Marston created Suprema: The Wonder Woman in hopes to be an inspiration for the 40’s unconventional and liberated woman. The name Suprema would be dropped. He viewed her as the ideal individual to run society. Someone who was strong and powerful, but didn’t lack the things that made women strong such as love, compassion, and being peaceful. His intent was “to create a feminine character with all the strength of Superman plus all the allure of a good and beautiful woman.”
- Marston modeled Wonder Woman off of another woman who lived with him and his wife in a polyamourous relationship named Olive Byrne. Byrne was the biggest inspiration for Wonder Woman. Not only was the physical appearance taken from Byrne, but also the famous “Bracelets of Submission” modeled after the bracelets that she often wore.
- Both Olive and Elizabeth were involved in writing the character as well. Elizabeth for instance studied greek and would work in “Suffering sappho” as a catchphrase for Wonder Woman.
- Marston believed that bondage and submission was a “respectable and noble practice”, which is why he wrote that in as a weakness to Wonder Woman.
- To quote Marston: “The only hope for peace is to teach people who are full of pep and unbound force to enjoy being bound…only when the control of self by others is more pleasant than the unbound assertion of self in human relationships can we hope for a stable, peaceful society”
- The reason for the bounding as a weakness is often confused. To Marston, if it’s to be believed, was meant as a way to show not only his affinity to bondage, but also the suppression of women. Thus when she broke out of the bounds, it would show his support of women not being subjugated.
All-Star Comics #8 importance:
All-Star Comics #8 is notable for several reasons, but the biggest one is the introduction of Wonder Woman. Published on October 21, 1941 (cover date January, 1942), All-Star Comics #8 featured three stories:
“Two New Members Win Their Spurs”
“Hop Harrigan – “Sky Cutups”
“Introducing Wonder Woman”
Written by William Moulton Marston (pen name Charles Moulton) and illustrated by H.G. Peter, the 8-page story served as a test to see if the concept of Wonder Woman would peak interest. The issue succeeded in that regard, and led Wonder Woman to be the star of soon to be anthology – Sensation Comics. She did what no character before her had done – she received a solo book sooner than the other heroes (less than a year after ASC #8)
She had succeeded where no woman had before. She broke the boundaries of the sexual divide of gender in comic books proving a woman could be a compelling and great superhero just like the males that started it all.
Aside from that, it also saw two more characters joining the JSA, both of whom are still relevant today. Those two characters are Dr. Mid-Nite and Starman.
The issue starts with the introduction of it’s two new members, Dr. Mid-Nite and The Starman. They bring people up to speed saying that Green Lantern is now an honorary member like Superman, Batman, and the Flash and The Hourman will have a leave of absence. With these two members gone, this is the reason for Dr. Mid-Nite and Starman joining the ranks.
At a meeting of the Justice Society, everyone seems to be running into the same problem. All are mentioning their failure to stop crimes due to people going raving mad. Suddenly, and out of nowhere, Dr. Mid-Nite shows up and needs their help, and it seems to be about what’s behind everything going on. Instead of murder, criminals are using MADNESS as a weapon. So the story begins on what led him to the Justice Society.
While at work with his secretary Myra Mason, Dr. Mid-Nite (as Dr. McNider) hears a radio bulletin about a man named John Graw having escaped from Oakdale Sanitarium showing the symptoms the Justice Society have been seeing. Dr. Mid-Nite takes it upon himself (and his companion Hooty) to stop Graw before he does harm and immediately after hopping out of his office, Graw attacks him. However, using a trick that Dr. Mid-Nite “learned in college” (WHAT?!) he uses Graw’s momentum against him as he lays down and propels him overhead using his legs. As Graw attacks again Dr. Mid-Nite kicks him in the face using a tree limb as a bar allowing him the advantage to tie him up.
Using a blood test, Dr. Mid-Nite is able to connect the disease back to apes, so he goes to check on Professor Able who discovered the disease originally. The caretaker informs him that the Professor is in Africa but allows Dr. Mid-Nite to check the lab. He believes he finds a cure, and tests it out on an ape that’s caged in the lab. Everything seems to work fine, so he takes it back to Graw and cures him too. Graw informs him that his lawyer drugged him when an investigation was about to start with Graw coming clean about the corrupt political ring, so Dr. Mid-Nite visits this lawyer. He finds evidence (hypodermic needle and notes of political ring involvement) but hides when the lawyer and a political boss enter the room. They spill the beans about their involvement in Graw and meeting up with Professor Elba and Dr. Mid-Nite busts in the room surprising them with a blackout bomb using his ability to see in the darkness as a method to capture them both. Using some fear tactic, he gets them to write confessions. At that time, a shadowy Dr. Elba enters the room and knocks Dr. Mid-Nite out from behind. Thankfully, Hooty is able to get in the face of Elba before he can shoot Dr. Mid-Nite, but the wild shot spooks him into thinking the police will arrive, so he flees.
The next day we see Myra reading a paper mentioning that Graw is innocent and it’s all thanks to Dr. Mid-Nite, but Dr. McNider uses the excuse that not everything was wrapped up cleanly as a reason that Dr. Mid-Nite does not exist. Then we cut back to Dr. Mid-Nite at the Justice Society requesting assistance in finding Dr. Elba. They all agree to find this “menace to society” and each member goes back to the crime they originally were trying to solve before the madness took them over. So they each go back on their merry way to finish the case they were on with the help of the cure Dr. Mid-Nite supplied to each of them.
From here, we see each character getting a chance to finish their original case. Starting out is Dr. Fate who gives a cure to a man named Bill Ford. Ford mentions that someone named Goopy Gus Gluck abducted his wife Marge in an attempt to get him out of a bus franchise that’s making money. Dr. Fate looks into it and busts in on some of Goopy Gus Gluck’s men who give him the whereabouts of Marge Ford and tell Dr. Fate the plan about kidnapping Marge to have Bill sign off everything to Goopy Gus Gluck. They call him Bill Benson here though…not Bill Ford? He goes to the houseboat they are holding her at and begins giving them a wallop. Some of the dialogue here is fantastic as the men are even going along with his quips “Dr. Fate: A little quiet here please” “You got quiet all right! He’s Out like a light” says one of the crooks.
Dr. Fate rescues Marge and takes her back to Bill. He then goes after Goopy Gus Gluck who realizes Dr. Fate is on the case. Goopy Gus Gluck decides to wreck the bus to make it more trouble for Bill Benson (Ford?), so they devise a plan to make a bus stop so they can hijack it. When they do, Dr. Fate reveals himself to be the bus driver, and after some more quips, stops the men and decides to start wrecking Goopy Gus Gluck’s car. When Goopy Gus Gluck steps out of the car, Dr. Fate flings him over his shoulder headfirst into the bus. Should probably have killed him, but doesn’t. Dr. Fate takes Goopy Gus Gluck to jail ending his story as he proceeds to search for Professor Elba as well.
Atom gives the serum to the man he has tied up and learned of a man with a jewel heist of sorts. It flashes back to him at a jewelry store (the Atom as Al Pratt works there) where he tries to sell a jewel (jool?). When Al brings it to his managers attention, the manager has Al go get a copy because the man is suspicious looking and must have stolen the gem.
Afterwards, the mans “lawyer” comes in and is suing for $50,000 or settle for $1000 in cash. Al thinks something fishy is going on, so he changes into The Atom and meets with them at the office where his manager is providing the check to the lawyer. As soon as the manager leaves, they speak out loud how their racket is doing this very thing repeatedly (and succeeding), but on the chance someone would buy their jewel, they would just “change their mind”. Atom joins the party and teaches them a lesson (man he’s small in one panel…). As Atom takes the jewel thief out, the lawyer shoots a blow dart at the man causing him to go crazy with the madness disease. Atom wonders what is going with the man, so he ties him up before he visits the Justice Society.
Now that the story is in present time, the man tells Atom he gets the jewels from a mansion in Fall City. Atom goes there and busts in and immediately takes on the crooks there. More great dialogue. Atom calls the police and have them show up. He leaves to find Elba and says “So long and keep ‘em flying”. Is this some sort of Justice Society catchphrase?
Sandman is next and cures the people he has tied up. The man remembers the plan of taking pictures of well-known men and selling them at high prices back to them. The flashback is to the political convention this all took place in, which also included Wesley Dodds – the Sandman. It’s there that Wesley Dodds hears about men taking pictures of these rich people, and then not wanting to be seen as poor, is willing to buy the photos at high prices ($50). Dodds doesn’t like this, so he gathers his Sandman gear and goes to the photographers place.
Sandman busts in through the window as he overhears the photographer saying that the senator who said they were racketeers needs to be paid a visit. As Sandman knocks out the goons, the photographer splits to warn O’Hoolihy about Sandman. O’Hoolihy gives the photographer the disease made by Professor Elba. He catches up to Sandman and his partner Dian who leave the car but the men inside. With this chance, the photographer loads the men up on Elbas serum resulting in Sandman needing to restrain them. Now that Sandman knows what happened, the men tell Sandman where O’Hoolihy’s office is and Sandman gets there in time to stop them both. Police arrive and one of them also say “keep ‘em flying”.
We see Starman flying back to a home where a young boy and a tied up man are sitting. He administers the cure to the man to get details on where a trunk of money came from. It flashes back to where the boy discovered the home and the money, but as he runs out of the home to tell his pop, he almost gets hit by a car driven by Ted Knight (Starman). A quick dodge and he’s able to sweep the boy up and pull him into the car where he drives the boy to his house. The boy explains what he saw, and Ted tells the boy to go upstairs so a friend can see him before changing into Starman and doing just that.
They fly back to the house and see some crooks with the money and Starman butts in with some amazing quips. Starman grabs one man who now has the disease which flashes back to the present day. The man spills the beans about forgery documents on a governor who paid money to have it disappear. Starman goes to their hideout and takes the rest of them out then delivers them to the police. He delivers the money back to the governor before going back to find Elba.
Hawkman gets the deets on the man he has tied up here. Another case of blackmail dealing with the president of a trust company, Preston Nevel. Pay them money and it all goes away…yada yada yada. Nevel decides to kill himself instead of putting his family in this position so he drives up an old deserted road where Hawkman sees him drive off a cliff and saves him.
Nevel tells Hawkman of the blackmail attempt as Shiera (Hawkgirl) flies in. They both decide to help and fly off to get the men (another “Keep ‘em flying” comment by Hawkgirl). Although Hawkgirl is the second to leave, she is the first to arrive where they spot her ahead of time. They use their lightning thrower to shoot her out of the sky and also foreshadow how one of the men is terrified to be killed by electricity. The other man admits to being crushed to death.
Both men go outside and see Hawkman coming with trained hawks. One man says they need to use the lightning machine again, but the other man doesn’t want that to happen since he’s scared of lightning. So he runs inside and locks the door leaving the other man outside where Hawkman attacks him. Hawkman busts in carrying the man over his shoulder, and from a trap door where Hawkman can’t see him, injects the virus into the unconscious man who goes crazy as Hawkman flies off with him. A binding and return to the present day later, we see Hawkman untie him and fly to find Shiera warning the man not to try and escape. He tries to anyways, dislodging stones on the way which lead to larger rocks falling down from the cliff and killing him – the death he feared the most.
Hawkman finds Shiera alive (thank god for her Nnth metal belt that protected her with an aura) and then he flies off to take care of the other man. That man has a rifle, but is soon to be attacked by some talking hawks who drop a log on his head causing him to lose his rifle. As he scrambles to grab it, he touches not only the metal part of the rifle but also a live wire from the lightning thrower machine. Electrocution – his worst fear. A fire has spread that destroys all of the fake documents. Hawkman tells Shiera he must find Professor Elba.
Spectre is looking for a man named Louie Scaloni who was left in a hospital ward, but is no longer there. He shifts into Jim Corrigan and finds out that he was transferred to his sister at a certain location per “Boss Williams” instructions. It’s of course a vacant house, so he goes to visit “Boss Williams”. He busts into the house (looks like he’s choking the woman here as he enters). As Corrigan confronts Boss WIlliams, he is hit from behind and pretends to be knocked out. As Corrigan “awakens” Boss Williams warns him about all of the police and judges that crossed his path prior. Then he shows him Scaloni who has gone mad from the disease. Boss Williams then injects Corrigan with the same disease, but as he does so, the Spectre escapes without being seen leaving Corrigans body lifeless.
The Spectre administers the cure to Scaloni who then flies him out into the universe and leaves him an an asteroid where he will be safe (a bit much Spectre…). Spectre returns and surprises the men there pulling Boss Williams through the bars into the cell and then enters Corrigans body again who takes out the remaining goons. Corrigan goes back to the police station and is told Scaloni needs to give the lowdown on Boss Williams, (another keep ‘em flying reference), so Spectre goes to retrieve Scaloni and forces him to confess. After a confession, Spectre goes to grab Boss Williams who has killed himself in the cell.
Sky Cutups – A Hop Harrigan Story
A quick break away from the greater mystery. Hop reads about a daredevil called Super Duper Man to his friend Tank and how he’s supposedly greater than superheroes. This Super Duper Man will put on a show later. Hop decides to go, but Tank has other engagements. At the show, superheroes such as Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, Flash, and Dr. Mid-Nite are there to see the stunts as well.
The plane carrying Super Duper Man is flying overhead and Hop realizes that it’s Tank’s airplane and that Super Duper Man is Tank himself. The first stunt is him power diving in the plane. As he flies high up and then proceeds straight down, he thinks of being popular. That might not happen though as when he goes to pull up, the stick is stuck and he can’t go anywhere but down. Superman realizes what’s happening and leaps in to save the day.
The next stunt was him leaping out of a plane and not pulling the parachute until 200 feet from the ground. Similar problem. After the leap, he pulls the chute with no problem, but he’s being directed to a lake. He couldn’t miss it, and when he lands in the water, so does the parachute. The weight of the chute carries him down into the water, but he is then saved by The Flash.
The last stunt is him leaping out of a plane and having wings. Reminds me of an old Wyle E Coyote cartoon. One of the wings malfunction and he then has Hawkman join him. Hawkman sits there while Tank readjusts the wing and fixes it, and both Tank and Hawkman fly down to the ground.
Tank gets a $50,000 prize for his stunts, although he doesn’t feel like he deserves it, and puts an end to his Super Duper Man days.
Back to the main story. We see Johnny trying to solve his case all by himself. Thunderbolt offers to help, but Johnny sends him on his way as he climbs a pole and goes into an open window to bring the fake contractor Oscar K. Doodle, back to his senses. Johnny being Johnny apparently jumps (slides?) too far into the room and crashes into the wall where the crooks are. Johnny throws a punch only hurting his hand in the process before he gets taken out in a weird attack that…pulls his legs out in a 180 degree manner?
The crooks toss Johnny into the same room with mad Oscar K. Doodle, but as Doodle moves in, Johnny sticks up the needle which cures Doodle when it sticks into his hand. Johnny has a weird way of getting Doodle to cooperate “First I gotta get your confession so I can throw you and the rest of the crooks in jail”. So they escape (more like walk out?) and go to a restaurant for some burgers while Johnny gets his confession. Seems that Doodle isn’t really a bad guy, which disappoints Johnny as Johnny was hoping he captured a real crook. Another “Keep ‘Em Flying” reference as Johnny goes to the police to get assistance in rounding up the gang. Funny scene as Johnny drives by with the police in front of his love interest Daisy who just assumes he’s finally been arrested.
As the crooks are mixing up a fake batch of concrete, the police bound in and arrest them. Other crooks are in the process of selling this bad concrete leaving the buildings built with it on shaky terms. As the police arrive there, the crooks go on top of one of said buildings to shoot at them, but the building is too wobbly and partially collapses causing the men to be unable to move buried by some of the rubble.
Johnny decides to take on the boss himself before the police arrive, only to be knocked down again and rolled under a table as the police arrive and take the crooks away. That’s when Elba enters the room and knocks out Johnny again when he comes to. After waking up again, he realizes it’s Elba and accidentally says “Say You” when speaking with a Thunderbolt requesting to help. He then inadvertently wishes for the members of the Justice Society to arrive, which Thunderbolt does (except for Dr. Mid-Nite – who wasn’t a full blown member yet). Lights go out and the heroes apparently can’t enter a dark room, so another wish is used to bring Dr. Mid-Nite so he can go into the dark room as he can see in the dark. Dr. Mid-Nite recognizes Professor Able in the dark room wondering how he was captured. But SURPRISE, Able IS Elba. It’s the same name…BACKWARDS! Elba accidentally stabs himself with his disease in the dark room and then falls out a window to his death as him and Dr. Mid-Nite face off in the dark room.
The last panel is the Justice Society members praising Dr. Mid-Nite and Starman for their work and make Hooty their official mascot.
Introducing Wonder Woman
This story is essentially Wonder Woman’s origin as most of us know it – pretty identical to the movie. We see a plane arrive at an island where two women (the princess and her friend Mala) discover it. SHOCK!! There’s a man inside. Unseen on Paradise Island. The Princess carries him to their doctor and Queen Hippolyte shows up as well. They learn the man is named Steven Trevor, and is a member of the US Army Intelligence Service. They plan on healing him up and sending him on his way, but keeping his eyes blinded so he can’t discover where he is or who’s helping him.
The Princess takes a real liking to him keeping watch over him for hours upon hours on end. This alarms the doctor who reports to Hippolyte about her daughter’s strange behavior. Hippolyte realizes she’s in love. Hippolyte calls upon her daughter to tell her the origins of the Amazons and the Princess confirms she is in love with this unconscious man who she just met. It involves the Amazons being the strongest nation in the world and being tested by Hercules and his men. Hippolyte defeated Hercules in one-on-one combat (thanks to her Magic Girdle given by Aphrodite). Hercules however steals the girdle and puts the Amazons into slavery, which angers Aphrodite that the women would become succumbed to the men.
Being tired of the slavery, the Amazons rose up after another plea to Aphrodite. Hippolyte recovers the girdle and overthrows the men. They take a fleet of ships from the men and set off on the ocean where they discover Paradise Island. They set up their society there where the Magic Girdle grants them all eternal life and Paradise Island remains hidden from the rest of the world allowing them to be free from men. This is why Trevor must go.
Hippolyte then shows the princess a magic sphere given by Aphrodite that can show the world of men, the past, the future, etc. It is one of many super advanced tools that they have that gives them the advantage over other civilizations.
The sphere then shows them the history of Steven Trevor. Having stumbled upon a spy ring, he goes to an airfield to investigate them. Upon confronting them, they drive him into a tree knocking him unconscious. They decide to put Trevor in a robot controlled American plane and fly it over one the American Airdrome, but higher up, fly in a different plane and drop bombs on the Airdrome. That very thing happens, but in the middle of it, Trevor wakes up and takes control of the robot plane. He then chases the other plane far away at the request of one of bad guy Von Storm so their plan isn’t figured out. During the chase, the robot plane runs out of gas, and that’s when Trevor crashes into Paradise Island.
The princess agrees they need to fly him back so he can finish his mission, but she wants to do it herself, though the Queen won’t have that. Hippolyte must discuss this with Aphrodite and Athena. Both of whom hold America in VERY HIGH REGARD based on their comments. Hippolyte agrees and decides to hold a contest so the best Amazon will take Trevor home. However, she forbids her daughter from being in the tournament.
The tournament is held and with each contest, two participants come out victorious – Mala and a masked woman. The last contest is between the two of them – Bullets and Bracelets. Each participant will have bracelets to catch bullets fired at them by the other opponent. The masked woman is shot at first and catches each bullet with ease. When the roles reverse, Mala isn’t fast enough and is shot at the arm. The masked woman…or should i say PRINCESS…is declared the victor. Hippolyte gives her the name Diana after her godmother (the goddess of the moon) and gives her the costume for her trip to America – the red top with golden eagle and a blue skirt with white stars on it.
“And so Diana, the Wonder Woman, giving up her heritage, and her right to eternal life, leaves Paradise Island to take the man she loves back to America – The Land she learns to love and protect, and adopts as her own!”
- Both Marston and Wonder Woman would be mixed in controversy for years. For instance, almost immediately upon Sensation Comics #1 being released, the National Organization for Decent Literature put it on it’s blacklist for her not being “sufficiently dressed”. Marston obviously had controversy both with the binding of Wonder Woman and his relationship with Olive Byrne. A podcast focusing on Marston, and another on Wonder Woman could discuss these.
- For instance regarding the binding, while every superhero had some sort of character bound, Wonder Woman featured it 27% of the time in the books whereas others would only include it roughly 3%.
- Marston wanted Wonder Woman to be propaganda piece to further feminism:
- “Frankly, Wonder Woman is psychological propaganda for the new type of woman who, I believe, should rule the world”
- To try and lower the controversy on the book, Wonder Woman was added into other books. She was made the secretary of the JSA instead of a typical member, and Gardner Fox didn’t quite know how to write her the way that Marston intended. This is where some of the character discrepancies would come into play.
- Looking into what “Keep ‘Em Flying” meant – it was the official motto of the US Army Air Corps. It was used to encourage young men to volunteer for flight training. It also inspired aircraft factory workers during WW2.
Robert Kirkmans Secret History of Comics Season 1, Episode 2 https://youtu.be/KZsZdxkvwp0
SyFy – Wonder Woman Was My Grandmother: Interview with Christie Marston https://youtu.be/5qfmvuC6NyU
Secret Origin: The Story of DC Comics https://youtu.be/N1lSTjClKfs
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Also check us out on https://vgu.tv/ where we post show notes and our Twitter @VGU_TV. If you’re into video games, we also have a couple video game podcasts worth checking out in Players Club Podcast and WIN.
Intro and Outro Music: “RetroFuture Clean” by Kevin MacLeod
RetroFuture Clean Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
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