1968; DC Comics (National Periodical
Publications; Robert Kanigher, editor (and writer); featuring "Steve Trevor-- Alias the
Patriiot!" as well as "Wonder Woman vs. the Air Devils!"
Review by Bill Henley
On the cover, Wonder Woman is engaged in what looks like a rather rough ball game with her fellow Amazons, shoving one of them down as she races forward with the glowing ball. Other Amazons are tumbling every which way behind her. "The Mighty Amazon Doesn't Know She Is Racing to Disaster in the Startling STEVE TREVOR ALIAS THE PATRIOT!"
The Superman series did a number of stories during the Golden and Silver Ages in which Lois Lane got super-powers and a costume of her own. Did Wonder Woman's non-powered love interest, Steve Trevor, ever get a chance to do super stuff while wearing long underwear? Yes, at least once, in this issue which appeared near the end of Robert Kanigher's long run as editor/writer on WW.
On the splash page, a gaudily costumed Steve Trevor is slugging a pair of bad guys while Wonder Woman watches from the sidelines. "Fate certainly handled me a bitter pill to swallow! I've lost all my Amazon powers-- while Steve has become a human dynamo called 'THE PATRIOT!"
Our story-- which I initially took to be an Andru-Esposito job, but which the GCD reveals is actually pencilled by Irv Novick, though Mike Esposito is still inker-- opens with an oddly Steve Ditko-esque scene in which a gang of anarchic hippies attack "Capital City's Museum of Modern Art", "Wreck 'em! We'll force 'em to exhibit OUR art!" "Who needs old masters! We hippies are in!" Wonder Woman leaps from her invisible robot plane to take on the gang, but they are unconcerned; "Remember the papers said she lost her super-powers! She can't stop us!" Even without her powers she initially has some success against the hippies, but then one of them with a handy blowtorch welds her Amazon bracelets together. "Hera help me! If they weld my bracelets together-- I won't even have normal strength!" But with WW helpless, a new figure appears on the scene, clad in a garish red and blue costume with an eagle-and-shield emblem. "Dig that male getup! Must be this bird's mate!" Indeed he is-- it's Steve Trevor, WW's longtime boyfriend, out of his normal military uniform. "Fun and games are over! Now let THE PATRIOT show you a swinging time!" As Super Steve knocks the baddies around, the hippie with the blowtorch aims its flame at his chest, but "The Patriot" is unfazed. He reaches out and pulls WW's welded bracelets apart; "Steve! You've become a wonder man!" The wonder man wonders why WW didn't finish off the gang before he arrived with her usual Amazon panache. "The world has turned upside down! Steve rescuing me!"
"One week before, on a visit to a robot factory" (apparently not one of Doc Magnus's) Steve is being manhandled, or robot-handled, by an out of control automaton and a fully powered Wonder Woman has to leap to his defense as usual. A nearby press photographer snaps a picture of WW in her latest moment of triumph-- and suddenly she falls into Steve's arms in a fit of weakness. "It worked perfectly-- just like the Angle Man said it would!", the phony photog secretly gloats. Returning to his boss to report success, the cameraman learns of Angle Man's further "angle"; he plans to dose Steve Trevor with "super-power pills". "We steal Wonder Woman's powers and then give super-powers to Trevor! Isn't that crazy?" No, says Angle Man; for once Wonder Woman finds herself powerless and Trevor super, she'll retire from crimefighting and marry Steve-- and then Steve's supply of pep pills will run out, and Capital City will be left without any super-powered defender.
Soon afterwards, while WW returns to Paradise Island to try to find the cause of her sudden weakness, Steve receives the bottle of pills in a package with a note promising him that they will give him "super-powers to match the male members of the Justice League" so that he can "join Wonder Woman in her fight against crime". Not quite as reckless about taking strange pills and potions as, say, Jimmy Olsen, Steve sends the pills to the "boys in the lab" for analysis, but getting a favorable verdict, he doses himself and finds that he can lift jeeps, smash through brick walls, bend steel bars, and run faster than anybody except the Flash. One faculty that is not improved, however, is Steve's fashion sense, as he dons the garish "Patriot" costume. Meanwhile, on Paradise Island, Queen Hyppolita and Amazon scientist Paula are unable to find the cause of Princess Diana's reversion to mere mortal strength. But she nonetheless refuses to give up her mission of "fighting crime in man's world". "I still have normal strength! And if Batgirl can fight crime, so can I!" Only if she fails as a non-super crimefighter will she "marry Steve and retire".
And so we are back where we started, with The Patriot leaping to the rescue of a not-so-wonderful Wonder Woman. But despite her lack of success at fighting crime without Amazon abilities, WW still refuses Steve's proposal of marriage; "I--I just can't, Steve! Not till I'm convinced I'm completely helpless!" Hearing Steve's story of how he became super, WW realizes there is a pattern-- an "angle"-- here somewhere, as Steve gains powers just when she loses hers. But it's not all bad. As Steve leaps towards WW's hovering robot plane with WW in his arms, she confesses, "I like this part of you being super, Steve! It makes me feel more like a woman being protected!"
But as Steve and WW search for the cause behind what has happened to them, Angle Man calculates his time has come, as "the Patriot" must have run out of pills by now. So now, Angle Man will take the super pills himself "and destroy both the Amazon and Trevor!" He'll have his chance right away, as the two of them burst through the door of his hideout. "Greetings, Angle Man, and thanks for the super-powers!" And not only is "The Patriot" still super, but Wonder Woman is back to her normal self. As Steve punches out thugs whose gunfire bounces off his chest, WW captures Angle Man in her magic lasso. "Angel, you've spoiled my fun!" "I've just set him up for you, Patriot! He's all yours!"
With the gang subdued, Steve starts to destroy the remaining super pills, but Wonder Woman suggests keeping them; "Those super powers will come in handy if we ever need the services of THE PATRIOT again!" But how did Wonder Woman regain her super-powers, and how did Steve keep his? Well, it seems that Angle Man simply miscalculated how long the effect of the pills on Steve would last. As for Wonder Woman, she *didn't* regain her real powers-- not yet. The super-strength with which she tossed Angle Man's gang around came from a power pill Steve shared with her. But now, Steve rips the film out of the "camera" with which Angle Man's phony photographer stole WW's Amazon powers-- and, with the film destroyed, her powers return to her. "Who would have believed that a device used to drain energy from bombs would steal super-powers from a Wonder Woman?" Angle Man has one last angle, claiming WW and the Patriot can't arrest him because it's not actually a crime to give someone super-powers, or even take them away. But Steve contradicts him; the "camera" he used on WW was a device stolen from military intelligence. With the villain defeated, the story ends with WW and Steve embracing; "I think a super Steve Trevor is something I've always needed in my life!" "Angel-- THE PATRIOT thinks you're the greatest!" (Lots of questions left unanswered here. Where did Angle Man get the super pills? Are they chemically related to Hourman's Miraclo, or maybe Underdog's super energy pills? If Angle Man invented the bills himself, couldn't he make a lot more money more or less honestly, by selling the pills to people who want super powers, than by using the pills in a convoluted crime scheme? And as far as Steve Trevor was concerned, if those pills were really safe and effective with no nasty side effects, wouldn't the really "patriotic" thing-- especially since Steve is a military officer himself-- have been to turn the pills back over to the "lab boys" to analyze and mass-produce so that America could have a whole army of super soldiers, rather than just one part-time long-underwear-clad super-Patriot?)
At this point DC was flailing around trying to find some way to keep the faltering WONDER WOMAN title viable, and apparently someone thought-- however briefly-- that making Wonder Woman and Steve Trevor super-powered partners might be it. The ending of the story suggests that it was intended to bring The Patriot back. But it didn't happen. Maybe DC Comics heard from Marvel Comics' lawyers about Marvel's Golden Age hero, the Patriot (who hadn't been seen for decades, but did appear in a reprint in MARVEL SUPER-HEROES around this time). Or maybe someone at DC decided that costume was just too blamed dorky looking. Anyway, Kanigher, Andru and Esposito ran out their string on WONDER WOMAN in the next two issues without The Patriot reappearing. And then, Denny O'Neil and Mike Sekowsky's "New Wonder Woman" series took away WW's Amazon powers again, more permanently this time-- but, instead of making Steve super, they killed him off.
Super pills or no, Steve was right back to his normal role as hostage in the other story in this issue, "Wonder Woman vs. the Air Devils!", also by Kanigher, Novick and Esposito. On the splash page, WW seizes a jet plane in the coils of her magic lasso causing it to wreck, but the evil mastermind of the tale gloats, from a vignette panel, "Wonder Woman thinks she's beating me, but little does she know that by WINNING, she's playing right into my hands!" As the story begins, we finally see that wild Amazon ball game that was featured on the cover. Princess Diana reaches the goal posts with the ball after knocking over all the other Amazons, and wins the game, but her reaction is to burst into tears in Queen Hyppolita's arms. it seems the game was only a distraction from her real troubles; "SOB-- it's my darling Steve-- his very LIFE is at stake-- and I have no RIGHT to save him--!" Once again, as in the first story, we flash back to how this all began, as Wonder Woman and Steve Trevor are present at the unveiling of statues of four famous crime fighters, Superman, Batman, the Flash, and Wonder Woman herself. (With WW''s comic floundering in sales, maybe Kanigher thought "guest shots" by these more popular heroes would help, even if it was only statues of them.) WW's own statue is made of gold, and Steve volunteers to guard it "for sentimental reasons". A different kind of sentiment animates a new villain, immodestly calling himself The King of Crime, who vows to destroy the four statues to prove that he is the one who ought to be honored rather than "that collection of COMIC CHARACTERS!" The King of Crime has his own island and a fleet of sleek jets manned by his "Air Devil "henchmen, and he hands them their orders, somewhat to their puzzlement; "His Majesty is sure going to a lot of trouble just to smash those statues! Wonder what's REALLY on his mind!"
Soon, Wonder Woman is summoned by the mayor of Capital City who reveals that he has received a message from the King of Crime, daring him to stop the destruction of the Superman statue at 2 pm-- five minutes from now. As the sinister squadron of Air Devil planes arrives right on time, WW takes to her own invisible robot plane to capture them. She catches two of the jets inside her magic lasso, causing them to crash (hopefully no nasty debris will fall on innocent bystanders below) but another of the planes drops a large bomb toward the Superman statue. After a pause for a few ad pages, Wonder Woman seizes the falling bomb in her arms and plunges into the ground boring deep enough that when the bomb explodes the blast is harmlessly muffled by the earth, while WW escapes. The remaining Air Devils return to the King to report failure, but unlike most evil masterminds he is tolerant of his underlings' failure; "Don't take it to heart! There are other statues left to destroy!" And the next on his list is the Batman statue, which he promises to wreck at exactly 10 a.m. "the day after tomorrow". Once again he sends out a warning, and so Wonder Woman is again on hand when the Air Devils make their prompt appearance. Somehow, WW manages to leap into the air, seize the undercarriage of one of the jets in each hand (a feat which would seem to require the abilities of the Elongated Man as well as Wonder Woman) and force both planes to the ground. But once again another Air Devil succeeds in launching a deadly bomb at the Batman statue. Grabbing the bomb, this time WW hurls it straight upward where it explodes harmlessly. And so once again she has foiled the King of Crime's plot-- or has she?
For at that very moment, with Wonder Woman otherwise occupied, the King himself is busy using a plane and a pair of grappling arms to steal her own golden effigy from the city museum. And as a bonus, he gets her sweetheart, Steve Trevor (who evidently left his Patriot pills in his other suit) as a bonus. Returning to their island hideout, the King and his remaining Air Devils gloat over their victory. Their victory may be short-lived, as Wonder Woman trails the two remaining Air Devil jets back to the island. Or maybe not, for if WW makes a move against the King of Crime, he will set off "a bomb attached to your precious boyfriend!" Steve nobly urges, "Never mind me, darling! Clobber this crook!" but WW can't bear the thought of anything happening to Steve, and so she leaves the King of Crime unmolested on his island throne. And now we are back where we started, with WW telling her troubles to her mother on Paradise Island.
But then Diana and Hyppolita notice a previously predicted meteorite shower in the skies over Paradise Island, and this gives WW an idea how to decoy the King of Crime. Soon afterwards a meteorite hurtles toward the King's island, but after noting that its trajectory won't land it directly on top of his base, the King decides it is harmless. Not so, for as the meteorite smashes into the ground, Wonder Woman leaps from it, having hitched a ride on it to get close to the King without his being warned. He still threatens Steve Trevor with a bomb, but WW yanks the bomb control out of his hands with her magic lasso. "But I'm not finished yet!",. the King snarls. "Now you are!", WW replies as she fells him with a mighty sock. After the gang has been rounded up, WW and Steve steal away for a little private smooching, but an apparently shy Wonder Woman says, "Steve-- I've got the oddest feeling that someone is watching us!" "There's no one here but you and I-- and your statue! And statues don't tell!" It may not tell, but the golden statue appears in the final panel to be craning its neck to watch the two lovers and smiling.
The issue wraps up with a couple of house ads, one of them featuring issue #80 of another female DC star, LOIS LANE. On the cover, Lois seems to have finally gotten tired of her treatment by her alleged signifcant other, as she rips the "Girl Friend" part of the "Superman's Girl Friend, LOIS LANE" logo and hurls it to the ground. (Does this mean the next issue logo will read "Superman's Ex, LOIS LANE"?) "Get out of my magazine, Superman! I'm leaving Metropolis to start a new life-- one that doesn't include YOU!" Considering your penchant for getting into lethal trouble, Lois, a new life that doesn't include Supes may not last very long. I've seen this cover ad but never actually read the issue-- anyone want to review it? Anyway, Supes gets back at Lois in the accompanying house ad for SUPERMAN #203 on the cover of which a deadly beam from Superman's "S" emblem blasts Lois and Perry White. (Come on, Supes, you may be on the outs with Lois, but this seems a little drastic, and why take it out on poor Perry? Are you angry at him for chewing out Clark Kent all the time?)