What can one say about the Diana Prince era?It was the late Sixties. The world was changing in front of our faces on the TV news every night. DC Comics saw how outdated some of their concepts were and instituted major mid-course changes in many of their books:
The Teen Titans renounced their powers because they'd failed to save the life of a modern-day saint. The Metal Men became human. Superman lost his vulnerability to kryptonite, he became a TV reporter as Clark Kent, and his powers were cut by a third by the mysterious Sand Creature (in whose story Diana Prince played a substantial part). Robin went to college and began a solo career. Supergirl finally graduated college and started a career far from her cousin. Didn't Flash get married back about then? Jimmy Olsen became involved in Kirby's new Fourth World characters. Lois Lane got a new hairdo. (Ah well, you can't have everything.)
All these changes signalled the transition from the Silver to the Bronze Age.
But to my mind, Wonder Woman's new direction was the most needed, the most outrageous and certainly the most successful.
This was the series that showed us that Wonder Woman is the most versatile super-hero on the stands. She'd just come from (finally!) standard superhero stories to land knee-deep in action-adventure Emma Peel/James Bond situations. She faced opponents from the realms of faerie, from the streets, from mythology, from everyday life, from sword-and-sorcery fantasy -- with a tad of gothic horror thrown into the mix. And she still kept a firm hold on the superheroic world. Has there EVER been another comics character to do the same? None come to my mind.
Interestingly enough, the outfits she wore most often were classic looks and not op-art Sixties stuff. The white jacket outfit was quite informal, a tough, kick-back look, and the white turtleneck ensemble was more feminine, certainly a flattering look for Diana. Both were quite sensible as well, something you really don't see comic book heroines wear. (And yes, there was a simple white dress she wore a lot, but it was ugly and seemed to be used so much just because it was easy enough to put in a couple of brush strokes and voila -- an ugly dress.)
Diana's series had executed a 180 without sacrificing history. The Amazons went away, but they were close enough for Diana to reach. Her mother still played a part in her life but now she didn't overshadow it.
It was this period that cemented me to the character. Mike Sekowsky so infused his vision of Diana with power and style, dignity and strength that it was infectious. He showed Diana Prince to be a symbol of Modern Womanhood without preaching. He used example, the best form of education. Sure, he ran out of plots towards the end of the line, but for the while when his enthusiasm and imagination ran undimmed, it was heady stuff. He may not have been the world's best comics writer, but his stories and dialogue came from the gut.
(Here's a nice bio of Sekowsky.)
DC actually took the change and respected it, guesting Diana Prince in Supergirl (Adventure), Lois Lane, Superman, Brave and Bold, Justice League, World's Finest, and God help us, Jerry Lewis. Ah, remember when DC would promote someone besides just the Big Two?
Many comic fans deride the character of I Ching -- not because of the Oriental martial arts master stereotyping (which was only a half-hearted stereotype at the time), but because of his name. An acquaintance of mine came up with the theory that "Ching" was a codename left from his time spent in some capacity as liaison with US military troops during whatever war you wanted to pick, and that his true name was Shang Shen Chi, which meant something like "Teacher from the High Hill." Thus he could have a daughter named Lu Shan.
If Diana Prince could run around sometimes using the ridiculous moniker "Wonder Woman," then Lu Shu-Shang could certainly call himself "I Ching" if that's what he'd gotten comfortable with. In that age of hippies and change, we were used to people having strange names that they'd just adopted out of nowhere. Such names made a personal statement, though many sound embarrassing today.
You had to be there.
So where did the concept for this new Di Prince come from? Most assuredly she was inspired by The Avengers' Mrs. Peel, who was wildly popular, but also by Modesty Blaise, star of a UK spy/adventure comic strip. Sekowsky had prefaced his Di Prince run by coming up with a Modesty/Peel knock-off for Gold Key Comics called "Jet Dream." Looking very much like the future Di Prince, Jet premiered in The Man from U.N.C.L.E. comic #7, July, 1966, and eventually won a single-issue solo title. Wet... I mean, Jet, ran an operation with an all-female staff she referred to as the "Petticoat Brigade" (this may have been a one-time use), composed of former "Hollywood stunt girls [bitten by] the big time espionage bug."
I can tell you, it was a GREAT time to be a kid! But enough of all this; let's get on to the issues...
Wonder Woman, Diana Prince, I Ching, et al are all trademarked and/or copyrighted by DC Comics, Inc. Buy their comics.