Sunday, 20 October 2019

Wonder Woman #205 - the deadliest domino.

Wonder Woman #205, Target Wonder Woman, tied to a nuclear missile by her own lasso, flying over New York about to blow it up in a nuclear explosion, thanks to Dr Domino
It has occurred to me that, although I've reviewed Wonder Woman in the past, I've only done so for her Emma Peel phase and not her more typical, super-powered, eras.

Well, this is where that changes because right here's where I revisit one of the strangest comics I've ever read. It's a tale I've not encountered since the 1970s, so how will it stand up to modern day scrutiny?

Having regained her powers, last issue, Diana Prince has landed herself a job as some sort of tour guide at the United Nations where her ability to speak every language and dialect on Earth will serve her, and her employers, in good stead.

Sadly, despite her new job, she's not a happy woman. That's because heartthrob diplomat Morgan Tracy's too busy judging the Miss United Nations contest and admiring the charms of its contestants to notice a Plain Jane like Diana hanging around.

Happily, for her, that's when terrorists barge in and kidnap the object of her lustings, fleeing, with him, to a ship harboured outside American waters.

Wonder Woman #205, Morgan Tracy to the rescue

Not deterred by large bodies of water, our heroine swims out to the ship and starts to climb its anchor chain, only to be knocked out by a load of electricity.

Wonder Woman #205, Dr Domino

It turns out the ship belongs to a villain called Dr Domino who wants Tracy to give him the Bacteria Cloudburst Formula the diplomat bought from its now-dead creator. When Tracy refuses to comply, Domino reacts as anyone would in such a circumstance and ties the unconscious Wonder Woman to a nuclear missile and fires it at New York.

Wonder Woman #205, nuclear missile

Fortunately, the amazing amazon regains consciousness in time to divert the missile back towards Domino's ship, summons her own magic plane, grabs Tracy, and the pair fly away from the scene, as Domino and his henchmen are nuked into oblivion.

Wonder Woman #205, Dr Domino dies

Hooray! The day is saved!

Sadly, it doesn't do Diana Prince any good. Tracy still thinks she's deficient in the looks department and still has eyes only for more attractive women, leaving Diana to sob helplessly to herself.

Wonder Woman #205, Nubia triumphantBut that's not all the Amazon goodness we get this time out because we also receive a back-up strip which provides more of the mysterious Nubia than we got last issue.

After a brief meeting with Queen Hippolyta, Nubia returns to her home on The Floating Island, beats up some bloke who fancies his chances with her and then goes off to have a good old sob about not knowing who her parents are.

She fits all this in between handing out lectures about how war must be eliminated from the Earth, even though she and her tribe seem to worship Mars, the god of war.

I'd love to say this book's a masterpiece but it's one of the weirdest things I've ever read - and I've read Supergirl comics. Wonder Woman, who I'm sure is supposed to be a feminist and a battle-hardened warrior, spends all her time blubbing about men not finding her attractive. This doesn't make sense. She's Wonder Woman. She has the beauty of Aphrodite. Also, she's Wonder Woman. Why is she so desperate to please men?

On top of this, does the United Nations really hold its own beauty contests?

And what's going on with Morgan Tracy? He's clearly meant to be a good guy but has bought a menace called the Bacteria Cloudburst Formula off a scientist. It could be argued he did it to prevent the formula falling into the wrong hands except the comic doesn't argue it. It gives us no explanation at all as to why he did it, leaving us to just hope the object of Diana's affections isn't completely psycho.

Then there's the villain. He's a man dressed as a stage magician, with a giant domino where his head should be. I would assume he's merely wearing it over his real head but it's clear, when he turns sideways, that there's no room in there for a head. Therefore, he must literally have a giant domino for a head. Just how does a circumstance like that come about?

I've always assumed he was a revived Golden Age villain and that's why he's so ridiculous but, as far as I can make out, this is his first-ever appearance.

Research tells me it's also his last.

Wonder Woman #205, Diana Prince sobs
That actually quite saddens me. I do feel quite sorry for him now and hope that, one day, Dr Domino makes his return when we all least expect it.

So, Robert Kanigher's script is complete nonsense but what of the art?

Well it's by Don Heck and it's from the 1970s, so it should look terrible but it's actually perfectly acceptable. I don't know if it's the influence of Bob Oksner's inks but you can see hints of the more elegant artist Heck had been in the 1950s and early 1960s and - for once, in the 1970s - his figures don't look like they're falling apart.

It's not a comic I can recommend on the grounds of its merits but it is one that's worth reading just to experience the ludicrousness of it and for a view of how girls' comics used to be done, back in the old days, when breaking down in floods of tears was a super-heroine's main duty to the world.

39 comments:

dangermash said...

Doctor Domino is too far out even for the Adam West Batman TV series or for the first 20 issues of Daredevil. Just wow!

As for the odd shaped head, I think he's a foot shorter than he looks and is wearing a false head he's wearing on top of his real head.

Marvel has a way of eventually treating villains like this as losers and gaining some sympathy for the characters that way. There was the Legion Of Losers in a non-ASM Spider-Man conic with the spot, the kangaroo, the gibbon and others. There was a Stiltman story in ASM that was all about him regaining a sense of self worth after beating Spider-Man - I think he saved his life too. And I don't know whether it was in an Avengers comic but the death of the porcupine and the building of a statue of him in Avengers Mansion as an honoured for of t(e Avengers is supposed to be pretty good. And those that didn't get this treatment were bumped off by Scourge. If Doctor Domino was a Marvek character, I've no doubt that he'd have been brought back in style.

Killdumpster said...

Well, as the SJW's would say, the book was written by "misogynistic white men".

Also, there probably was a view that Wonder Woman's audience was primarily female, and as such, was packed with romance & heartbreak. My sisters never bought her book when they'd occasionally get comics, not even Archie or romance books. They'd either get Harvey stuff or horror.

I could probably count on one hand the amount of DC comics I've bought from 1967 to now (I was a complete Marvel zombie). Pennies were scarce, and I'd get a monster reprint book over a DC if that's all that was on the shelf.

Friends of mine had Wonder Woman's "Emma Peele-stage" issues. I read'em then, but I needed my costume fix.

As far as Dr. Domino's head, DC had a few weird looking villains in the 60's-70's.

My father bought me a Batman book when I was 4 or 5 where the villain was a big pencil! lol!!

Redartz said...

An odd book there. Starting with that cover; how did they get that image of Wonder Woman past the Comics Code Authority? I doubt that they would get away with that today...

Steve, you referred to WW as a warrior. I quite agree, and find her stories much more interesting when she's the confident, capable leader she obviously is. Chalk this up as another of those funky Weisinger era DC tales.

Doctor Domino; he only has six pips showing on his 'head'. Isn't a domino designed to have two sets of pips separated by a line, so as to enable the game play? Okay, maybe I'm overthinking things.

On the art- yes, Heck's 70's work was...hit and miss. You mentioned Bob Oksner's inks as a possible aid here. I love Oksner's work; you may be on to something...

Killdumpster said...

Don Heck is in the top 5 of my least favorite comics artists, but I will admit that his stuff looks better with heavy ink as in this WW issue.

dangermash said...

Top five least favourite comic artists? Now there's a challenge. I'm going to limit myself to silver age and early Bronze Age. Anything else can go fish. I though Don Heck would be in there, just for that Avengers issue with the two weddings but he's somehow escaped. George Bell almost made it onto the list as an inlet, but he also escaped. Here are the names I've come up with:
Alex Toth (X-Men 12 ☹️)
Joe Orlando (Daredevil 2-3 😩)
Al Hartley (Journey Into Mystery 90 🤮)
Dick Ayers (for the story telling in Thor and Human Torch rather than for artistic ability 🙄)

dangermash said...

though —> thought
inlet —> inker

Killdumpster said...

Dangermash-
I would also agree with eliminating many artists that may have had short issue runs, but my top 5 worst are guys that got ENTIRELY too much work. In no consequetive order:

Fr*** R*****s
("He Whom Should Not Be Named")

Don Heck
(WAY too long on Avengers, and anything else.)

Sal Buscema
(I know some of you guys like him, but the repetitive poses & facial expressions wore me out).

Don Perlin
(Always unhappy when I'd open a book with his name in the credits.)

Dick Ayers
(You and I are in agreement in that case.)

dangermash said...

Obviously I agree with number one on your list, KD. That's why I only felt the need to give four names.

Re Don Heck, he also had two or three terrible issues on Thor in that strange period when X-Men came out, Kirby had to drop Thor to do X-Men, Heck had to cover on Thor, Heck didn't have time for Iron Man, Ditko covered on Iron Man and Doctor Strange took a break for a couple of months.

Oh, and there were Avengers 9-11 when Kirby stopped doing layouts and it was all down to Heck. As well as the artwork being poor, the storytelling was Dick Ayers / DC Comics standard.

Anonymous said...

Great review Steve - its almost like Supergirl Sunday was back again.

Wonder Woman #205 is an odd mix - the Dr Domino stuff, something of a throwback to an earlier style of superhero comic, is at odds with the Nubia storyline which seems like an attempt at "relevance". But relevant in a different to Samuel Delany's new direction begun - and ended - in #203, which turned out to be the last white jumpsuit issue.

DC decided to go back to the classic superheroic WW but otherwise obviously didn't have much of a clue what to do with the character, and just handed the comic to old pros like Robert Kanigher and Heck.
Or, to put it another way, its a comic by misogynistic white men (not sure why Kd bothered with the quote marks).

Having said that, I do like Dr Domino - he's just such a bizarre nonsensical character - and the cover.

-sean

Anonymous said...

*That should be "relevant in a different way..." above. Duh.

-sean

Anonymous said...

Don't entirely go with you and Redartz on WW as a warrior Steve.
That idea of an Amazon - the Xena archetype - does seem to be the general take on WW these days and it is preferable to the approach here, but I'd rather see a modern version of the original Marston character.

Btw, I think Vince Coletta inked the Nubia part of that issue. For all his faults, Coletta was good at this kind of thing - see Art Saaf's Supergirl - and probably enhanced Heck's work too.

-sean

Anonymous said...

Coletta knew how to draw pretty women. Coincidentally, he was apparently in the pornography business as a sideline. When he wasn't erasing Kirby's background pencils 'cause it took to ink 'em, that is.
And that Marston, he was definitely what we used to call "a bit of an odd duck."
A lotta bondage stuff with that guy. Yeesh.

M.P.

dangermash said...

Best not check out today's Peerless Power Of Comics (The Fangs Of The Racist), KD. Looks like Defenders 22 was to Sal Buscema trapezium mouths was what ASM #103 was to Gil Kane nostril shots.

Steve W. said...

Sean, I must confess that, when I was writing this review, I was suddenly struck by an urge to launch, "Wonder Woman Wednesday," as a feature.

Then I thought better of it.

Killdumpster said...

WW Wednesday would be alright, if the subject drifted to the leggy glory of Linda Carter.

Killdumpster said...

While WW #205 has a great cover, there's so much earlier great WW bondage art. That was always the extent of my enthusiasm for Wonder Woman. That and the female villain catfights.

I'm a borderline perv, and proud of it.

Always thought that the Cheetah ought to be in a bikini, like Tigra.

Killdumpster said...

MP-
Was Coletta the guy that Kirby said he didn't want as an inker anymore?

I read a story about Kirby wasn't happy about his articulated backgrounds being wiped out. He did say he didn't want the guy to lose his job.

KILLDUMPSTER said...

Sean-
I put misogynist white men in quotes because that's a favorite term SJWs use to label virtually all straight white males, especially if you are older and don't wear a man-bunn.

Anonymous said...

Nothing personal Kd, but thats just complete nonsense.

-sean

Killdumpster said...

Sean-
Go with what you know, oh my brother.

Anonymous said...

The very same, K.D.
Jack was drawing all these elaborate backgrounds and Coletta wasn't inking 'em!
That said, I think that Coletta was a good inker otherwise.
I don't think his style was a very good fit for Kirby's anyway. I can't really put my finger on it. He did good stuff elsewhere, though.

M.P.

Killdumpster said...

I'm a fan of Vince, MP.

Both sides of that story might need looked at. While I can understand Kirby was miffed about his backgrounds being marginalized, Coletta might have done it to keep up with his workload.

Jack Kirby was a artistic genius, but but he also pumped out pages at machine level.

Stories have been told that he could pump out pages over 20+ a day, with covers. That man had serious work ethic going on.

Perhaps he couldn't understand that other folks may not have had the same zeal. Plus all that labor for ambiance gone to waste.

Killdumpster said...

Now that I think about it, the artists of superhero comics in the 60's into the seventies left very few panels without some kind of background. Usually that was kept for dramatic affect, Ditko's Spidey-sense lines for example.

George Perez, and also Jim Starlin among others, would break up a scene with a artistic backdrop. I don't know if it was because of not wanting to draw more buildings, landscapes, etc, but they were asthectic and worked. Better than having multiple panels in a row blank with no reference to where the story is happening. Sal Buscema was notorious for that.

On topic, Perez did a very good Wonder Woman.

Anonymous said...

K.D., I think you're right about Kirby not understanding artists who weren't Kirby! His art was always personal. Through it he portrayed different facets of himself, sometimes in conflict with one another.
Scott Free and Himon, or the Reject and Karkas, were, I think, his older self confronting his younger self.

Or vice versa!

On another note, John Buscema HATED drawing buildings, and said so.
I don't blame him. I don't know how guys like Perez did it.

M.P.

M.P.

Anonymous said...

I somehow signed off twice there.
That's rather embarrassing!

M.P. (the Earth-One M.P., I think. But how can I ever really be sure? Damn that Schrodinger and his cat.)

Anonymous said...

Don't worry about it M.P., I do that sometimes too (no doubt that'll put your mind at ease:)

Thats right about Coletta doing good work elsewhere, and while I agree he wasn't a good fit for Kirby generally, I actually liked his inks on Thor (skiving on backgrounds aside). He added a texture to the pencils that gave them a somewhat olde world feel which suited the material, but would have been out of place on the FF where Joe Sinnott's hi-tech polish was much more appropriate (and in fact Coletta did balls up the couple of issues he worked on).

But erasing the pencils was inexcusable.
So what if artists couldn't work as fast as Kirby? If you don't have the time, don't take on the work - Sinnott, Mike Royer and the others didn't cut corners on Kirby's stuff like that, so why should anyone else?
(As it happens, Coletta did actually have a Kirby-level capacity for work, and had a reputation for it - I recall Shooter in a Bullpen Bulletins editorial once promising a short interview with an artist who'd been around since the early days of the comic biz and had more pages credited to him than anyone else, who turned out to be Vince Colleta)

-sean (the Earth-Prime one and only)

Killdumpster said...

Always happy to learn new things about favorite legends. When I'd see Vince Coletta's name in the credits I knew it would be a good book, though I agree with you on the unacceptably of minimalizing the artwork for expediancy, Sean.

As you said, Joe Sinnott,etc didn't slack on their inking.

I can't remember how often the "dreaded deadline doom" showed it's face in the 60's-early 70's. I know it happened often on the mid to late seventies, though.

Killdumpster said...

It was bad during that time period. That's when I had subscriptions, be in the middle of a story & get a reprint.

Redartz said...

Interesting discussion of Vince Coletta. Was never a big fan, but actually thought he inked Kirby fairly well (especially on Thor, as noted above). Just a doggone crime, though, about those backgrounds.

KD- yeah, the Dreaded Deadline Doom seemed as much a part of Bronze age Marvel as Marvel Value Stamps. It seemed the Avengers, in particular, was vulnerable to that unfortunate fate.

-Redartz (not sure what Earth I'm from, but it's probably the Bizarro World)

Steve W. said...

I agree with the comments about Colletta being a good inker for romance comics. I also think he was generally the best inker for George Tuska and Don Heck, thanks to his inks' softening effect of their styles, and he was definitely the right inker for Kirby on Thor. On the downside, his inks really didn't work over Kirby's on the Fantastic Four.

Killdumpster said...

Hmmm, his inks didn't work on Kirby's FF?

Now I got to dig around for an Essentials collection. In my muddied mind I don't know if i agree with you or not.

It would be good to reread those stories again, anyway.

dangermash said...

Looking at those FF issues they're OK. If I'd not seen the work of Stone and Sinnott on inks we wouldn't be having this conversation but Coletta does look down to Earth in comparison. Everything is so much more shiny with Sinnott in particular.

In the Thor strip, I'd marginally prefer Coletta but there's not much in it, and I imagine Sinnott could make Asgard look more like the scientific metropolis it is in the films. And if Coletta hadn't allowed Stan to spread him so thin and had time to ink Kirby without rubbing out background details, we'd have been marvelling about those Thor strips like they were Silver Surfer #4, Captain America #110 or Avengers #84.

And it has tow be said the the artwork in FF Annual #3 (the wedding) is several steps down from anything in the monthlies, even those with the same Kirby/Coletta team.

Killdumpster said...

As this is technically/unofficially Wonder Woman Wednesday, I have questions to ask, oh my brothers:

In live-action, who is your favorite Wonder Woman? Which one had the best legs? Who filled out their costumes the best? Which other actresses do you think could have played the part?

Tossing out the big three, in order of appearance:

1) Cathy Lee Crosby, height 5'8", first tv pilot for the character.
Poor girl didn't/couldn't make it her role. Having a full-body costume, script based on the "Emma Peele" concept", and being blonde just didn't work. Her modeling photos show that she had nice legs, but her facial features didn't scream "Diana".

2) Linda Carter, height 5'11", 3 season tv series.
Out of the 3, she was the tallest (add on those 4 inch heeled boots and she was Amazon level). I believe her legs might be the longest. The first traditional portrayal of the character. A former beauty queen. Beautiful face, eyes, and hair. Though the costume seemed ill-fitted, she sure filled it out. A lot of charm in her delivery.

3) Gale Gadot, 5'10", blockbuster film.
Excellent portrayal of a warrior. Very athlectic, maybe because of her stint in the Israeli army. Filled out the costume well, even though the design didn't present itself as overtly sexualized. Great acting with energy and sensitivity delivered when needed. Too bad the period wasn't WW II.

What say you, oh my brothers?

Killdumpster said...

Dangermash-
Agree there were panels in the FF wedding book that lacked definite inking, especially when they were packed with characters. The panel towards the end when the Torch was blasted by a group of villains had me double-checking as to who they were!

Killdumpster said...

I could barely make out my old pal the Beetle!

Killdumpster said...

If I remember correctly the Torch was blasted by the Mandarin, Unicorn, Electro, and maybe the Eel? The Beetle just stood there spouting & gloating.

Killdumpster said...

I woulve loved to see the full battle of Thor vs Super Skrull that happened in the beginning. Mostly all the other fights seemed to have a finish of sorts.

Killdumpster said...

At different points Mariah Carey & Sandra Bullock were considered for a Wonder Woman movie. Mariah can't act, but Sandra can, plus she had great legs.

dangermash said...

I've found that panel, KD. Probably the ugliest one in the whole comic. It"s Mandarin, Unicorn, Electro and the Melter (not the Eel) with the Beetle standing there gloating (did Kirby originally have him blasting and Coletta correct him?). And they're up against Iceman, with Cyclops coming to his rescue. The combination of an eye beam, electric discharge, melting beam, unicorn power beam and unspecified Madarin ring power apparently causes a shattering concussion/explosion with lots of smoke.

And the unfinished fight that frustrated me was Hawkeye vs Mr Hyde with Executioner vs Cap. The Enchantress is blocked off from Cap by the Executioner so makes a safe fall from the air towards Hawkeye, which Spider-Man snags with his webbing, Then it's off to the next scene. I can't help thinking Hawkeye, Cap and (if he hung around) Spider-Man took a huge off-screen pummelling.

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