Published on June 8th, 2015 | by Steven Roman
Review: Wonder Woman ’77 Special #1
All the world is waiting for you
And the power you possess
In your satin tights
Fighting for your rights
And the old Red, White, and Bluuuuue!
Yes, I’m aware those are the lyrics from ABC’s The New, Original Wonder Woman series, from 1975, but those were the first words that popped into your mind when you saw what comic I’d be reviewing this time, weren’t they? Don’t deny it!
For those of you who might be unfamiliar with the background for Wonder Woman ’77, it boils down to this: The New Adventures of Wonder Woman was a live-action television series that ran from 1977 to 1979, and starred Lynda Carter, whose performance and beauty left such indelible marks on the character that, thirty-six years later, they have yet to be matched by any actress. As the first episode story goes, after a three-decade absence following the conclusion of World War II (thus making the 1940s-set The New, Original Wonder Woman this show’s “Season 1”), Wonder Woman returns to the United States, and as Diana Prince becomes an agent for the IADC: the Inter-Agency Defense Command, a sort of government espionage agency. Her partner is Steve Trevor Jr., son of Diana’s old Nazi-fighting sidekick—not to mention the spitting image of his (now deceased) old man, since both roles were played by the same actor, Lyle Waggoner.
Although it was cheaper to produce a series set in modern times than one set in the 1940s, moving it to the 1970s brought a whole lot of stupid to The New Adventures of Wonder Woman: pop-music stars, evil masseurs, a skateboarding WW, and an indestructible chimpanzee (yes, you read that correctly) are just a few of the cringe-worthy elements to be found in CBS’s two seasons. If it hadn’t been for Ms. Carter doing her best with what she was given, and looking incredible in WW’s iconic costume, there would have been little reason to tune in, because the writing was pretty bad.
So now that you know the setup, let’s move on to the subject of this review: Wonder Woman ’77 Special #1. Cue the Wonder Woman Season 2 opening!
Written by Marc Andreyko (Batwoman, Chastity), the special collects the first two story arcs of the digital-first comic series, as has been done with DC’s other retro-TV title, Batman ’66, which picks up from where the classic Adam West series left off.
The first tale, “Disco Inferno”—with art by Drew Johnson, Matt Haley, and Richard Ortiz—opens with Wonder Woman battling a strike team of Russian female roller-derby skaters out to kidnap Russian scientists who’ve defected to America, and leads to Diana and Steve going undercover at Studio 52, a none-too-subtle nod to New York’s famous (and infamous) Studio 54—right down to the open drug use (which, had this been a TV episode, would have never made it past CBS’s censors). In the light of mirrored disco balls and a giant decoration of the man in the moon snorting from a coke spoon (!), Wonder Woman encounters the singing trio Silver Swan and the Starlings—who, with siren-like efficiency, put Studio 52’s patrons under their control, so that more Russian agents can try to put the grab on one of their wayward, disco-loving scientists.
If you’re unfamiliar with the character, Silver Swan was created by Roy Thomas and Gene Colan during their memorable run on Wonder Woman in the 1980s. She was a former ballerina given powers by the war god Mars to destroy Wonder Woman. In WW ’77, however, she’s a sort of mixture of Marvel’s Dazzler, Donna Summer, and the eponymous lead singer of the Andrea True Connection (of “More, More, More” fame). Given the setting of this story, I think the disco-diva iteration works a lot better.
The second story—with art by Jason Badower, Matt Haley, and Richard Ortiz—asks the question “Who is Wonder Woman?” and, unfortunately, isn’t quite the interesting question you’d think, given its trope-heavy storyline. Diana Prince wakes up in the street after fainting. When a crime breaks out, Wonder Woman comes to the rescue—only it isn’t Diana, but (in an amusing twist) a blond-haired crimefighter obviously based on the version of Wonder Woman played by Cathy Lee Crosby in the terrible 1974 TV movie that preceded Lynda Carter’s far superior turn as the character. So, Diana isn’t Wonder Woman…but she knows she’s Wonder Woman. And then her mother Hippolyta and her sister Drusilla, who suddenly show up at her apartment, turn out to be actors. What in Hera’s name could be going on?!
If you guessed it’s all a psychological attack by longtime Wonder Woman enemy Dr. Psycho, mind-controlling misogynist extraordinaire, you wouldn’t be wrong. What hurts the story is that it’s the old “hero gets captured by villain, who plays mind games on him/her so that they question their sanity” trope; it’s been done a million times before, and this latest version doesn’t bring anything new to add. What had me scratching my head, though, is that, if this comic is working within the parameters of the TV show, how can Wonder Woman have an “off-camera” history with Dr. Psycho? Or Gargantua and Cheetah, who are also comic-only bad guys? It felt as though there was a huge chunk of story missing. The one-panel appearance by Fausta, the Nazi Wonder Woman, however, made perfect sense.
As for Andreyko’s collaborators, the art looks really good, but tends to blow hot and cold when it comes to the likenesses of Lynda Carter and Lyle Waggoner—Steve Trevor more often than not looks nothing like the actor and could just be “generic, dark-haired guy.” The best of the four artists is Badower, whose based-on-reference-photos reproduction of Carter in the first part of “Who is Wonder Woman?” is dead on. Unfortunately, just as with Johnson in “Disco Inferno,” he provides art for only the first chapter, and then leaves the balance to Haley (for chapter 2 of both stories), and then Haley and Ortiz (for chapter 3 of both stories). Why it required four artists to draw a couple of 30-page stories is as head-scratching a question as to how TV Wonder Woman could know who Dr. Psycho is.
Bottom line? Multiple artists and plot holes aside, this special should definitely appeal to fans of the show—you can’t not hear Diana/Wonder Woman’s lines being delivered in Carter’s voice—as well as comic book fans in search of a more fun-loving, simplified version of an iconic character unburdened by constant reboots. I haven’t seen any indication that there are future stories in the works—the digital-first serialization of “Who is Wonder Woman?” ended just this past April—but one can only hope to see Diana back in action soon, because…
You’re a wonder, Wonder Womaaaaan!
Wonder Woman ’77 Special #1
Written by Marc Andreyko
Art by Drew Johnson, Matt Haley, Jason Badower, and Richard Ortiz
Main cover art by Nicola Scott
Publisher: DC Comics
80 pages • full-color
Now on sale