Every Monday until Wonder Woman Unbound: The Curious History of the World’s Most Famous Heroine comes out this April, we’re taking a look at a comic panel that captures a key moment in Wonder Woman’s history and highlights an important point from each chapter.
By the late 1960s, Wonder Woman’s sales numbers had shrunk considerably and DC decided to make a big change. After two decades of writing the book, Robert Kanigher was replaced by writer Denny O’Neil and artist Mike Sekowsky. DC wanted to appeal to female readers and give them a heroine they could identify with, and a big part of this was updating Diana’s look.
In this page from O’Neil and Sekowsky’s first issue, Wonder Woman #178 in September 1968, Diana traded her dowdy military uniform and uptight bun for colourful mod fashions and long, flowing hair:
Diana had to infiltrate a “hippie club” to help save Steve Trevor, but she ended up loving the clothes so much that they became a staple of her wardrobe from then on. She ended up wearing mod fashions a lot, because she certainly wasn’t wearing her Wonder Woman uniform anymore.
As part of their plan to make Diana more identifiable, O’Neil and Sekowsky took away her superpowers and turned her into an ordinary, human woman. She gave up her costume, her lasso, and her invisible jet in favour of opening up a clothing boutique and learning kung fu. It was an oddly timed choice; women’s lib was beginning to take off just as DC stripped their most famous heroine of her superpowers. This change wasn’t helped by the book’s main plotline: After Steve was killed by the evil Dr. Cyber, an often hysterical Diana travelled the globe to avenge his death, fighting (and even killing) her way through anyone who stood in her way. The book was a far cry from the great power tempered with love that characterized Wonder Woman’s earlier incarnations.
To read more, you’ll have to wait until Wonder Woman Unbound comes out this April! Be sure to come back next Monday, when we’ll talk about the fickle Diana Prince, and also check out the eighth installment of my Wonder Woman interview series this Wednesday; we’ll be talking with Molly McIsaac!