The very first adventure hero in the very first DC comic was a woman.
The first comic book ever published by DC Comics (as National Allied Publications) was New Fun #1 (1935), featuring a lead female named “Sandra of the Secret Service.”
Sandra held the lead feature in New Fun for her entire 35-issue run (1935-1938) — making her not only DC’s first female adventure hero, but DC’s first adventure hero, PERIOD.
Image source: “Sandra of the Secret Service” in New Fun #1 (1935) by Charles Flanders, reprinted in Bingo Comics #1 (1945)
—Patsy Walker #13 (1947)
SPOOPYDAMES set to stun! Halloween-themed now through Oct. 31!
Yesterday marked the 100th anniversary of the debut of a 20th century masterpiece: George Herriman's enduring Krazy Kat strip (though she’d been around as a character for a couple of years prior). We’re celebrating by offering all of our available softcover Krazy & Ignatz Sunday strip collections for 20% off for the next 100 hours! That means the sale ends at 6 PM PST on Friday, October 18.
—All-Star Comics #13 (1942) by Gardner Fox & Jack Burnley
Let’s talk about the time Wonder Woman joined the Justice Society — only to be sidelined as their secretary, who chronicled their adventures but rarely participated in them. Is that sexist or what?!
Well, yes and no.
First of all, consider the format of All-Star Comics, where the JSA originated. It wasn’t really a team book. The JSA would meet together in the beginning and then quickly split up to pursue individual but loosely related cases — each chapter featuring an individual hero, usually drawn by a different artist.
Second of all, consider that Wonder Woman’s creators, William Moulton Marston and H.G. Peter, were already producing Wonder Woman solo features for three other titles.
According to Tim Haney, “When another author wrote Wonder Woman in one of her first Justice Society appearances, Marston was fairly irate. He demanded to rewrite the story and wanted complete control of the character after that, which he was given. But seeing as he and H.G. Peter were busy producing Wonder Woman stories for Wonder Woman, Sensation Comics, AND Comic Cavalcade, it ended up that All-Star Comics fell by the wayside. […] Usually Wonder Woman just appeared in the first few pages, had a line or two, and then stayed behind while the rest of the team went off to fight the bad guys.”
In other words: “Wonder Woman was relegated to the background because Marston wanted to be the only one to write her. Ironically, the demands of Wonder Woman’s feminist creator led to Wonder Woman taking a very unfeminist role” with the JSA.
Third of all, why secretary? To this I can only point out that Marston himself had already made her a secretary to the Army in her secret identity as Diana Prince — it was 1940s America, after all.
But I would also point out that Marston frequently sent Wonder Woman to fantastical places were women were queens, warriors, scientists, evil villains and benevolent rulers — once she even went to the future where Wonder Woman herself was president of the United States. There was no lack of female role models in Marston’s Wonder Woman stories, and that’s pretty goddamn progressive feminism for the 1940s if you ask me.
After Marston died in 1947, Wonder Woman took a more active role in the JSA, but even that didn’t last long — All-Star Comics was canceled in 1951.
Wonder Woman was the only character whose solo series survived.
Now, as to why this secretary nonsense continued in the 1960s when Wonder Woman joined the JLA? I mean come on, Snapper Carr is just SITTING THERE and you’re making freakin’ Wonder Woman take notes?! Ugh, sexism plain and simple.
Wonder Woman frees the oppressed.
—Sensation Comics #23 (1943) by William Moulton Marston & H.G. Peter
Coming in November, a new volume in our in-depth TCJ Library series, The Comics Journal Library Vol. 8: The EC Artists (Part 1)! In these pages you’ll get the inside scoop on one of the most revered and influential comics publishers of all time, EC Comics, straight from the horses’ mouths, plus insight on their careers before and after.
In these 22 downloadable pages you’ll see the Table of Contents (spoiler alert: feature-length interviews with Will Elder, Bill Gaines, Al Feldstein, Johnny Craig, Frank Frazetta, Joe Kubert, Harvey Kurtzman, George Evans, Al Jaffee, and John Severin) and read Ted White’s introduction and the first third or so of the Will Elder interview, which covers his pre-EC career, with illustrations in color and black & white.
Don’t miss out on this must-have volume — pre-order today.
A Few Interesting Facts About the Marstons:
William Moulton Marston, creator and writer of the DC’s Wonder Woman, was an avid feminist who used his wife, Elizabeth Holloway Marston, and lover/partner (who was engaged in a polyamorous relationship with Marston and his wife), Olive Byrne, as inspiration for the famous Amazonian comic book character.
Marston often cited these two women as the source of great influence in his writings.
Upon his death in 1947, Marston’s wife financially supported all four of his children (two of which were Byrne’s), and Byrne herself until her death in 1980s, by continuing her research in psychology and working as a lecturer at several universities.
Martston and Elizabeth are well-known for their involvement in the study and development of the systolic blood-pressure test, which was a method employed to detect deception (the polygraph). From this psychological work, Marston had been convinced that women were more honest and reliable than men and could work faster and more accurately. This later inspired him to create the ‘Lasso of Truth’, one of Wonder Woman’s main crime-fighting weapons.
Pictured at the top:
From: Daniels, Les. 2000. Wonder Woman: The Complete History. San Francisco, CA: Chronicle Books. Photograph described as “A 1947 group portrait. Standing left to right. Byrne Marston, Moulton (Pete) Marston, Olive Byrne Richard. Seated left to right: Marjorie Wilkes, Olive Ann Marston. William Moulton Marston, Donn Marston, Elizabeth Holloway Marston”.
"A Birthday for Batman" from Star Spangled Comics #91 (April 1949)
Cover and splash page
It’s a metaphor.
Also, it’s Wonder Woman Weekend!
—Sensation Comics #26 (1944) by William Moulton Marston & H.G. Peter
Very strange, indeed…
—Superman #21 (1943) by Jerry Siegel & Peter Riss
spent part of my afternoon losing it over fantagraphics’ brilliant reprints of hal foster’s even more brilliant prince valiant comics. here are some examples from all around The Internet that illustrate just why I am so obsessed with this comic right now.
(I am very excited for this project that Adrian Teal is working on, and I’m hoping we can all rally behind him in support of this book. There are some wonderful benefits for supporting. Please consider helping this book come alive and showing appreciation for those keeping the 18th century alive. I asked him to explain the project, so I hope you enjoy! - Heather)
The Whig politician, Charles James Fox, is the 18th century in human form, to my way of thinking. Lauded for his ‘talent for friendship’, he was a fat, unshaven, scruffy womaniser, who was descended directly from the party animal King Charles II, and lived life on his own terms. He was a ‘man of sensibility’, who cried openly in Parliament when friends felt compelled to speak against him, and who married a courtesan in secret, devoting his declining years to tending their garden, and making her happy.
Fox was also an heroic drinker and compulsive gambler, infamous for all-night sessions. On one notorious occasion in 1772, he played Hazard non-stop from Tuesday through to Wednesday night, during which time he won, lost, and recovered £12,000, and finally lost £11,000. He paused briefly on Thursday to debate in the House of Commons, then returned to his club, drank until Friday morning, walked to Almack’s to gamble until 4pm, winning £6,000, then rode to Newmarket and blew £10,000 on the gee-gees. The Georgians – I think we can agree - make today’s celebs look like teetotal milksops.
My mission is to recapture some of the spirit of this gloriously dissipated, bawdy, and star-studded epoch, and I’m writing a crowd-funded book for Unbound called The GIN LANE GAZETTE. It will be a compendium of illustrated highlights from a fictional newspaper of the 1700s: a kind of scurrilous Georgian tabloid. It will contain some of the most sensational headlines and true stories of my chosen period (1750-1800), generated by many familiar figures from history. The presses are presided over by Mr. Nathaniel Crowquill, the editor and proprietor, whose premises are located in Hogarth’s chaotic Gin Lane, and who has devoted fifty years to rooting out scandal and oddities with which to titillate his readership. The rascally Mr. Isaac Jakes supplies merciless caricatures and engravings, which disport themselves across every page. Sports reports, obituaries, fashion news, courtesans of the month, and advertisements for bizarre Georgian goods and services will also feature in this exuberant assemblage of muck and fun. I want to give readers an authentic flavour of the debauchery, bravery, villainy, inventiveness, and eccentricity which characterize the 18th century. Virtual Georgian reality, in book form, is my aim.
Unbound has published works by Monty Python legend, Terry Jones, and a host of others, including Tibor Fischer and Kate Mosse, and I’m honoured to be joining their ranks. I have spent sixteen years producing cartoons for clients such as The Sunday Telegraph and History Today, and hope to combine my experience in journalistic caricature with my love of history in a unique and evocative way. I entreat you to read my pitch, watch my video, and pledge if you like what you see…
The Truth about 1935 is:
New Comics was the 2nd title for DC but it only contained original work. In fact the reason why New Fun and New Comics existed was because the guy in charge, Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson, couldn’t afford the reprint costs of famous nation-wide newspaper strips. Also New Comics evolved into Adventure Comics, not Detective Comics.
Now for this week’s 2 Truths and a Lie. The Year is 1936:
- During the Great Depression people were fascinated by J. Edger Hoover’s FBI. So much so that New Comics started featuring Hoover as a cracking FBI head and his ragtag group of rambunctious agents. Although the series mysteriously ended after only 3 issues, historians would site Hoover’s portrayal as the basis for Amanda Waller.
- Dr. Occult got an all too familiar look when he donned a blue costume with a red cape in More Fun Comics #15. He had super-strength and could fly. Even though Superman wouldn’t be born for 2 more years, it was clear that Siegel and Shuster had him on their minds.
- Detective Comics #1 was advertised in the #11 issue of New Comics as coming out in December 1936, however this wasn’t so. Delays would push it into the next year and because of that it lost the cross promotion that apparently was going to take place.
The landmark 20th volume of The Complete Peanuts by Charles M. Schulz is charging up on us like Snoopy going after Linus’s blanket, and we have the advance copies to prove it! You got Chuck there on the cover (designed, as always, by Seth), and who better to introduce the series of unfortunate events that tends to befall the gang than mysterious author Lemony Snicket? Each volume collects a full two years of strips, daily and Sunday, in crisp black & white with a handy and entertaining Index and a brief bio of Schulz in the back. This will also be available in a box set with Vol. 19 — the printer hasn’t sent our sample copies of that yet but we’ll show it to you when we get them. Pre-order now for delivery to you in October (subject to change) and check back here soon for more sneak peeks.