If you’ve ever read some of the original issues of Wonder Woman, either the actual issues or the reprints, you might be aware that tennis star Alice Marble was an associate editor on the series in the early 1940s. While moving from championship tennis to comic books might seem like an odd transition, Marble was a big fan of the character and wanted to be involved because “Wonder Woman marks the first time that daring, strength and ingenuity have been featured as womanly qualities.” And she wasn’t the only sports star who enjoyed Wonder Woman!!
The inside cover of Sensation Comics #1 featured the following letter from former boxing heavyweight champion, Gene Tunney:
“Charley” was M.C. Gaines, the president of Wonder Woman’s parent company, All-American Comics. Tunney was the World Heavyweight Champion from 1926 to 1928, and defeated famed boxer Jack Dempsey twice to win and keep that title.
So can you guess whose letter got printed in Sensation Comics #2? None other than Jack Dempsey:
Dempsey had been World Heavyweight Champion from 1919 to 1926, and maybe he wanted to one up Tunney in the funny books for taking his title. “Dear Charley” wasn’t enough for Dempsey. He had to up the familiarity with “My dear Charley”. I wonder if Tunney and Dempsey had a rivalry going on long after their fight? Tunney’s title defense fight against Dempsey is known as the Long Count Fight, and is one of the most famous boxing matches of all time. Maybe the loss stung Dempsey for the rest of his life, and he spent his time scouring the news for info on what Tunney was up to so he could swoop in and try to outdo him. This is pure speculation, of course, and maybe Gaines just had some boxing connections and reached out to both of them. But it’s more fun to think that 15 years later Dempsey was still so sore about losing that he couldn’t let Tunney send in a congratulatory letter to a comic book without having to do the same.
Regardless of the motivations, those were two HUGE endorsements for Wonder Woman!! And they kept coming. In Wonder Woman #1, there was this lovely letter from Helen Wainwright Stelling, an Olympic medalist in swimming and diving:
So I guess everyone ended a letter with “best wishes” in the 1940s. That’s kind of fun.
Stelling was another big sports endorsement for Wonder Woman. Between the tennis Grand Slam champion, two heavyweight champions, and an Olympic medalist, that’s a lot of impressive sports hardware!! So the next time someone sees you reading Wonder Woman and calls you a nerd, tell them that Jack Dempsey read Wonder Woman too and then knock them out with a solid right hook. Or beat them with a tennis racket. Or explain to them who Jack Dempsey is, because they probably won’t know.