Monday, September 26, 2005

The Other Amazons

One of the advantages of becoming Marionette Twoblogs is that I can do things like this. Last week I wrote an essay for Dance of the Puppets and when I got to the final sentence I saw a whole different angle I could take on it, and so rewrote it from the start.

Only on the internet could you get to publish two contradictory versions of the same article.

Wonder Woman first appeared in 1942. By 1957 you'd think they might have heard of her over at Action Comics. And yet Action #235 features a story in which Lois Lane is shipwrecked on a desert island populated entirely by hot babes (well, about half a dozen) claiming to be Amazons. "Goodness!" Exclaims Lois, "They look like the legendary Amazons!"
It's not clear on what Lois is basing this observation, since her only experience of Amazons is likely to be brunettes in patriotic bustiers and star spangled panties. If I saw a fair skinned blonde in a white mini-dress on a beach and speaking perfect english I'd probably ask where the barbecue was. Even if she was carrying a spear.

Superman shows up as usual to bail Lois out of trouble but the Amazon queen Elsha takes a fancy to him and declares that as he is a male who has set foot on the island he has broken amazon law and must be sold as a slave. Superman smugly goes along with this for a laugh, believing that no chains can hold him, but he has quite forgotten that this is the Silver Age, where kryptonite can turn up anywhere, and guess what his chains are made of?

And yet the kryptonite fails to affect Supes, so he allows events to unfold while he tries to work out what is preventing the kryptonite from hurting him. The Amazon queen auctions him off in a cunning plan to get him all to herself, since she has more money than the other three Amazons, and she can always embezzle the royal treasury since (one assumes) any profits from the sale would go right back there. But she has reckoned without Lois' practiced cunning where Superman is involved, and makes the mistake of allowing her to bid with funds that she doesn't actually have access to at that point.

Changing tack, Elsha decides to end centuries of slavery by declaring emancipation, which would be a momentous change in any society that actually had more than one slave. This means that another entirely contradictory ancient Amazon law comes in to play where any male caught trespassing will be married off to the first woman who can give him a task he cannot perform.
You might be forgiven for thinking that Elsha is making this up as she goes along.

Anyhow, various of the women present enter into the spirit of things and send Supes off to do errands, though it's interesting to note that once again neither of the other Amazons get a look in. Elsha gives him the seemingly impossible task of making her a commoner, which on the surface of it seems a bit of a stumper, but if you are going to pose an insoluble problem to someone with godlike powers, it's generally a bad plan to have the answer written on your hat.

And yet Elsha gets the last laugh because once Supes has solved the problem by cremating her crown it becomes apparent that it was this that was counteracting the effects of the kryptonite, and Supes is so pissed that it never occurs to him to ask if there was any more where that came from.

And that's the last we hear of the alternative Amazons. Superman never bothers to mention to his fellow Justice League member that he's found a lost offshoot of her race camped out on a desert island. He's probably too embarrassed about the damage he has done to another culture in pursuit of personal interests.

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Blogger T. said...

Was there a Justice League at this point? Did Superman and Wonder Woman ever cross over yet? I think at this point there wasn't really a cohesive DC Universe yet, right? I thought the different editors treated each line like it's own self-contained universe apart from the World's Finest book?

Anyhoo, good stuff!

9/26/2005 08:49:00 AM  
Anonymous David C said...

Yeah, I think the different editorial stables pretty much operated independently until around the time the JLA was created - and even to a large extent after that, as the Superman and Batman editors were very territorial.

I remember a story about Julius Schwarz talking to his publisher, who asked him "So how come you don't have Superman and Batman participating more in the JLA?" Schwarz said Mort Weisinger (Superman editor) and I forget who the Batman editor was wouldn't let him, and the publisher got mad and basically told Schwarz he'd tell those two SOBs who *really* owns Superman and Batman....

But, yeah, continuity wasn't a big concern. Another prominent example is that Superman's Atlantis (home of Lori Lemaris) is quite different from Aquaman's. Until eventually they reconciled the two as being offshoots of the same common origin (anybody know when exactly they did this? I know Peter David's "Atlantis Chronicles" spelled it all out in detail, but that wasn't the first time, was it?)

9/26/2005 10:46:00 AM  
Anonymous Iron Lungfish said...

I think I've changed my mind since the first version of this post. Elsha isn't a fraud, but she's definitely no amazon, either - she's just a crazy person. Her "fellow amazons" are either incredibly suggestible fellow inmates escaped from the asylum with her during transit, or doctors and nurses from her hospital posing as amazons as part of an extended unorthodox therapy session.

As far as the crown goes, if Superman had kept it, it just would've turned out to be made of some other type of kryptonite, the effects of which are only cancelled out by regular Kryptonite. Absolutely everything is made of kryptonite in the Silver Age. I believe Lois herself was revealed to be a solid chunk of Plaid Kryptonite in one of the later issues of "Superman Family"; the radiation she emits renders Clark completely unrecognizable despite his lame disguise.

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