I remember Staton's work on E-Man and Green Lantern as being rounded--one of the things I liked about his forms. But maybe on Huntress he was trying out a new approach to form. Always good when artists stretch themselves.
I think DC used Delbo because he was able to meet the deadlines. The late 70s were a time when the company was squeezing every nickel, cutting back as much as they could--to the point of printing their comics on cheap plastic plates, which meant that inkers had to ink with heavier lines, because the thin lines would either not print or would come out as squiggly lines. I recall Vince Colletta was the art director during much of that period, which meant he had final say on which artists got which books--and when he was worried about meeting deadlines (because comics late to the printer would have been another extra cost they couldn't afford), Colletta gave himself the work, because he knew he could get it done fast. Things started to change by the early 80s (I believe Colletta was no longer art director by then), but we still saw certain reliable artists getting jobs when fan favourite artists were in short supply and couldn't meet all the deadlines. As we would see on Justice League, Wonder Woman, Action Comics, Superman Family, and others.
I like Staton, but even though he's a pretty tight penciller, he's very dependent on his inkers--they have to be willing to go along with the style, and I don't know how many were willing to go "cartoony." I was never a fan of Mitchell or DeCarlo, even though I guess they were okay--and certainly better than what Colletta was doing--but they seemed to overpower pencillers. Bob Smith worked well with Staton, as did Bruce Patterson.
"It's just lines on paper, folks!"
So he basically wrote one arc before easing himself off the book. Just the kind of stability the series needed.
I think Thomas "found religion" with Wonder Woman afterward. In Alter-Ego he shows a lot more appreciation for the character and I think that comes partly from doing research on Marston's WW for All-Star Squadron (given Golden Age Wonder Woman affords a lot of story ideas he could play with in that series), not to mention Lyta Trevor...
Wonder Woman #294
story by Roy Thomas and Marv Wolfman, art by Gene Colan and Frank McLaughlin
backup by Paul Levitz, Joe Staton and Jerry Ordway
Synopsis: Wonder Woman stops a truck from crashing and is boggled that the driver crashed because he was playing a video game while driving. She heads home and is surprised by a surprise birthday party, with all of her extremely limited supporting cast there. Meanwhile, a giant moron called Blockbuster, who is a refugee from some Batman storyline, gets pissed off when his video game breaks and he storms off into the night to crush things. I sense a plot developing.
At the party, General Darnell gives Diana the same video game everyone else has been playing for a birthday present. At that moment, a news bulletin comes in that Blockbuster is smashing up a military base. Everyone rushes back to the Pentagon except Diana, who turns into Wonder Woman and flies to the base. She whallops Blockbuster for a bit befor ehis foster family shows up and gives him a new version of the video game. He calms down.
Wonder Woman returns to the Pentagon, certain something bizarre is going on. After cuddling with Steve, she leaves... and he picks up a video game, his eyes glazing over...
Backup Story: Huntress races against time to save Alfred, who only has hours ot live or something. He and the D.A. guy have both been captured by thugs hired by that useless loser the Crimelord. Huntress frees them both and takes down the crooks, only Alfred has already been poisoned and will die at midnight. OH NO!!!
Notes: This is a pretty straightforward issue. Thomas' plot does it's job: Entertain with some superhero fisticuffs while setting up a bigger arc for the next issue. Done and done. The whole video game thing has been done to death, of cours,e but it certainly hadn't been done to death when this came out in 1982. It must have seemed pretty cutting edge for the time, when home consoles and handheld games were just becoming mainstream.
Blockbuster is a pretty boring villain for Wonder Woman, but I am interested to see where this goes. It's a little funny that General Darnell is at Diana's birthday party and everything. Honestly, he's been after her for over 20 issues now and that subplot has gone exactly nowhere. But since she only has literally four supporting cast members - Darnell, Steve, Etta and Hippolyta -- who else is going to be at the party? Oh, her landlord shows up too, because apparently all is easily forgiven over that thing where he sold them to be eaten by Satan. Also, randomly, he drops the price back down again so they don't need a new roommate any more, making the whole price-increase-to-get-a-new-roommate-who-happens-to-be-a-supervillain-sent-by-Mars thing is even more blatantly a bogus plot manipulation that is had already seemed. C'mon, Roy, I expect a little better.
The backup story gets a major jolt of energy from the arrival of inker Jerry Ordway, who dramatically improves the art. On the other hand, the fact that the D.A. -- who previously left the series to do soul searching -- just happened to be visiting Alfred for advice when he was snatched by the goons is a little bit of a stretch. Had this D.A. guy appeared before this back-up series?; because he is getting an awful lot of face time for someone I do not give even one crap about.
The cover is signed by Gil Kane, which is amazing because I don't think I've ever seen a kane cover that looks less like Kane than this. The Blockbuster figure looks a little Kane-ish, but that's it. One of the worst Kane covers I have seen, both in terms of composition and line work. i don't know how much to blame Frank Giacoia for this, but I expect way, way better from Kane.
My Grade: Main story gets a B-, a lot of setup and mindless punching. backup story gets a B-, elevated from another C by Ordway's inks.
Last edited by Scott Harris; 11-09-2012 at 10:15 PM.
one thing I failed to note earlier about the Thomas era: The new Wonder Woman logo is light years better than the boring one they had been using since the beginning of the 12 Labors. I know that was a re-working of Wonder Woman's 50's logo, but I don't like the original either.
This new one isn't my favorite Wonder Woman logo -- I like both the I-Ching and the original Golden Age logos better -- but it's a very nice logo and certainly a step up.
Re Blockbuster: Thomas must've had a soft spot for the old New Look Batman villains (shows he was still reading the Schwartz titles when he came over to the Marvelous competition in the mid-60s), as he also did a Batman story where he brought back some of the forgotten rogues from that era.
Wonder Woman #295
story by Roy Thomas and Dan Mishkin, art by Gene Colan and Frank McLaughlin
backup by Paul Levtiz, Joe Staton and Jerry Ordway
Synopsis: Wonder Woman is at a mall when there is a panic and stampede by psycho fans trying to buy the new "Commander Video" video game -- the same game form last issue. Someone pulls a gun, then a walkway collapses, but Wonder Woman saves everyone. Now she's really sure something is going down.
That something is being directed by a prison inmate with a giant glass bowl for a skull. Inside that bowl is a bunch of gears forming a mechanical brain. This guy? He's called General by his minions... General Electric. No joke.
Turns out he made the first Commander Video game in the prion workshop. It has a secret level that can only be reached by expert players and very smart people. But when they play it, their minds become controlled by the game and by General Electric. As a result, he controls the entire prison and is extending his control throughout the country via his video game consoles. And he does not want Wonder Woman screwing up his plans.
Diana, on the other hand, wants to screw up his plans, so she rushes back to the Pentagon, where she discovers the General Darnell has fallen under the sway of the Commander Video game. She tries to free him, but he pulls a gun, sounds an alarm and the next thing you know, the whole army is after Wonder Woman. She tries to fight them without hurting anyone, but gets taken down by a missile and the army captures her... To Be Continued!!
Backup Story: Huntress beats some info out of the crooks, then, after a talk with Harry the boring D.A. dipweed, she gets out her chemistry set and somehow figures out an antidote to the msytery poison right on the spot. Alfred is saved and Harry tells Helena he loves her. The End!
My Notes: Okay, so when I saw the name of this villain was General Electric I just about did a spit take, but then he goes over his origin and he's apparently a character from the 70's Sandman. Which make perfect sense, because he has Joe Simon's fingerprints all over him. So he gets a pass, as does anything from Joe Simon.
I like the basic plot here, it's solid and an interesting use of the video game mind control motif. The story does feel a bit slight because there are two long set pieces that take up most of the book -- the rescue at the mall and then an extended fight with the army. Colan's art is so fluid and expressive that it has the effect of almost making your eye glide right past the action in these sequences, making for a very quick -- and kind of unsatisfying -- read. For me, anyway.
General Darnell actually doing something as part of a plot is nice, even if it is just being a mind controlled lackey.
In the backup story, again, I have to ask about this D.A. guy. We have seen Harry and Helena have two extended conversations, once about her secret i.d. and now about Alfred, but I still just have a hard time buying their relationship for the same reason I have a hard time buying a lot of comic book relationships. We get told a lot about how they have feelings for each other but we never get shown any reasons why they have these feelings. Steve and diana are the worst offenders, but helena and Harry aren't a lot better. Okay so he loves her maybe she loves him. Why? Without scenes establishing their characters and the reason why they are attracted to each other, it's just arbitrary. I realize this is me as an adult speaking and a lot of comic books are and were written for younger audiences, but I would like to see these kind of things actually shown to the reader. They do a little bit here, maybe even more than usual, but I still just don't buy this romance.
Also, the cover for this issue is even worse than last issue. the design is okay, except General Electric just looks stupid, which kind of undermines the whole thing considering most of the cover is his gigantic head. Buckler art is fine, but they should have rethought the whole concept of this cover.
In the lettercolumn, someone writes in about reviving Sensation Comics, and the new assistant answering the letters is like, that's a great idea! We'll send that up the chain of command and see what they think! *FACEPALM* obviously, this Tam O'Shanter guy or whoever he is hasn't been reading the lettercolumn for long.
My Grade: main story gets another B-, the plot is fine, but Colan's sweeping action just makes it all feel very slight. The backup gets a C+, even Ordway's inks can't save this one from random romance and even more random chemistry expertise.
Last edited by Scott Harris; 11-09-2012 at 10:15 PM.
Wonder Woman #296
story by Roy Thomas and Dan Mishkin, art by Gene Colan and Frank McLaughlin
backup: story by Paul Levtiz and Joe Cavalieri, art by Joe Staton and Jerry Ordway
Synopsis: Wonder Woman has been captured by General Electric's mind-controlled army guys. They bind her in a chair -- because apparently every single person in the world knows all of Wonder Woman's weaknesses -- and force her to play the Commander Video game in order to brainwash her. She struggles to retain her willpower.
Meanwhile, Steve and Etta figure out something is cockeyed and leave the Pentagon to follow Diana's trail. They bluff their way into the prison, but Etta is caught by General Electric. His ultimatum to Wonder Woman: either give in and play the game, or Etta dies.
Naturally, she plays the game, but she turns out to be really good at it. She reaches the secret level, only her willpower is so strong that she overpowers Commander Video and resists the brainwashing. General Electric decides he will just have to destroy the game, which will kill her since she is still interfaced with it, but Steve shows up and blasts him with a fire hose. This knocks him into a generator, which explodes and apparently kills him. GE: We bring good things... TO DEATH!
Freed from their mind control, everyone reverts to normal. The End!
Backup story: Helena stops some thugs on the subway, then returns to her law firm. Meanwhile, the D.A. almost accidentally reveals her secret identity and then has another panic attack about it because frankly, this guy just is not cut out for this stuff. Later Huntress clobbers some drug runners and then sets all their drugs and loot on fire. During this, for some reason, she has a letter from the D.A.'s office that she also burns and frankly I have no idea what the hell that is about. I am assuming it gets explained next issue.
Notes: The Commander Video story comes to a somewhat expected but still okay ending. Wonder Woman's willpower being too much for the game to overcome is probably the ending I would have guessed for this arc. Nobody seemed to care much at all when Steve killed the bad guy at the end, which is a little surprising, but desperate times, I guess. overall, not a bad story arc. It had a decent premise that was fresh for its time and was executed competently if not with much excitement.
The art in the backup story is particularly good this time, Ordway's influence has been a great thing. I still am not a fan of the D.A. he does seem like a realistic character, but he also seems, as I said, wildly mismatched with Helena. or with the Huntress, even more. They do seem to be going somewhere with this, but then again, this subplot about the D.A. not being comfortable with her alter-ego has been going on for like a dozen issues or more now and hasn't actually gone anyway. At the end, Helena seems to think she has some great new idea on how she can do more as Huntress, but the whole letter burning thing was so random and cryptic I can't imagine what it is. I hope they do something with this relationship with the D.A. soon, though, it is getting tedious.
We get our cartooniest cover yet, this time from Ernie Colon. I think they were deliberately going for cartoony since Commander Video is on the cover, but it has him coming out of the game rather than Diana going into the game, which would better explain why she looks so cartoony. One thing I have noticed is that Colan only did two covers for the series before they started rotating through other cover artists. I find this odd. I can understand using other cover artists if there's a house guy (like Kane at marvel in '72) or a house guy for the title (as Andru was for a long time), or if the regular artist has trouble with deadlines. But they have no house cover artist at this point and Colan clearly can meet deadlines and has plenty of experience doing covers. So why the carousel of random cover artists? I am of the opinion that the art on the cover should reflect the art in the book. If they don't trust Colan's art to sell the comic, why do they trust it to satisfy people who read the comic? And this revolving door continues: the next three issues have covers by three different artists, none of whom are Colan.
My Grade: Main story gets yet another B-; decent but nothing special. The backup gets a B this time because the art was good and it seems like they might be going somewhere with all these subplots. We'll see, though.
Last edited by Scott Harris; 11-09-2012 at 10:14 PM.
Wonder Woman #297
Dan Mishkin, Gene Colan and Frank McLaughlin
backup: Joey Cavalieri, Joe Staton and Sal Trapani
Synposis: Wonder Woman frolics for a bit on Paradise Island, then her mother warns her some terrible danger is coming to destroy the Amazons. Meanwhile, a terrorist kills a guy, then his group sails around looking for a new headquarters in the Aegean. They find an island with a weird old man on it.
Back at the Pentagon, Steve tells Diana they are going to go do some jet training, since she's supposed to also be a pilot. So they fly around when suddenly, a warrior riding Pegasus shows up out of nowhere and starts hurling lightning bolts of Zeus around. Wonder Woman battles him, but one of the bolts hits Steve's plane. Then the warrior flies away. Diana goes to check if Steve is alright... except, he's missing! To be continued!
Backup story: Some thugs are demanding protection money and Charley, one of Helena's paralegals, overhears. meanwhile, Helena is hired to act as liaison between the D.A. and the police commissioner, but the D.A. doesn't like this because frankly, he's a useless douchebag. The thugs go to shake down some more people, but a new superhero shows up: Blackwing! And the thugs kick his ass in one panel. So Huntress jumps in to help and is shocked to see that Blackwing is her paralegal Charley. to be continued!
Notes: Dan Mishkin takes over as writer with this issue. he scripted the last two issues off of plots from Roy Thomas. His dialogue is a bit stiff for me, like the characters are declaiming things, but it's not terrible. Right off the bat he has Diana ditch the whole tired of the troubles of man's world thing that has been kind of dogging the series since before the soft reboot; she says she realizes that just means they need her more than ever and she's raring to go. Attagirl, Diana!
The cover is by Michael Kaluta, one of the great artists of the 70's, but it's far from his best effort. I expect a lot more from him. Why do I end up saying this so often? Can people just not draw cool Wonder Woman covers or something? Is there a curse?
The backup story is interesting. Charley had kind of been hinting a few issues earlier that he might be working on some secret project, and now we get the results. Blackwing is obviously a Batman-inspired design. This issue has actually gained some importance recently, as he at least seems to be the inspiration for the new character Batwing. I kind of liked his costume and I think the character may have potential. On the other hand, Sal Trapani takes over as inker this issue and the art goes right in the dumper. 180 degrees from Jerry Ordway's work. It's bad, you guys.
There's also a free Masters of the Universe comic contained in this issue but I did not read it for reasons that should be obvious.
My Grade: Main story gets a B, I am curious where it is going. Backup gets a B as well, the introduction of Blackwing was interesting even if the art sucked and the D.A. is useless.
I see that Joey Cavalieri is taking over the backups now. Another writer who is usually a kiss of doom for a strip (for me anyway).. Eagerly awaiting the next installment.
Life looks better in black and white.
I didn't really like Cavalieri on Huntress and started to lose interest in both features in the book. Another creative change some issues onward would eventually drive me away.