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Wonder Woman (1942) - #39
DC Comics

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Whitney Ellsworth
Robert 'Bob' Kanigher

Cover Artist(s):
Irwin Hasen
Bernard Sachs

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Cover Date: Jan/Feb 1950
Cover Price: US $ 0.10

Issue Tagline: None.

Format: Color; Standard Comic Issue; 40 pages

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As this issue marks one of the earliest changes to the Wonder Woman character design, it seems an appropriate place to muse on the difficulties of telling the various Wonder Women apart.

Click your heels together three times . . .
In this issue, Wonder Woman takes on a slightly new costume. Here, for the first time, Wonder Woman is depicted as wearing sandals, not boots.

This design change was an unfortunate introduction, from the perspective of modern scholars wishing to visually distinguish the Earth-1 and Earth-2 Wonder Women. Although action figures and many retrospective looks at Earth-2 often depict the Wonder Woman of Earth-2 as wearing sandals, in fact it was not unique to any particular Earth. Both the Golden and Silver Age Wonder Women wore both sandals and red boots for significant periods of time.

The truth is that she was consistently depicted as having worn sandals from this issue all the way until issue #157 in October of 1965. No in-story reason was really given for either the switch to sandals or away from them.

However, what appears to have happened is this. Issue #156 was the first of many Wonder Woman issues where there was a deliberate attempt to tell a story of the "Golden Age" Wonder Woman. The cover and interior artistic style was evocative of Harry G. Peter/Irv Novick. Perhaps in deliberately trying to mimic earlier artists, Andru and Esposito realized that "their" Wonder Woman looked too similar to her Golden Age counterpart. So the next issue, Wonder Woman suddenly had red boots.

The problem in making this switch was that, although it successfully delineated the Wonder Women appearing in back-to-back issues, it confused the character historically. Now, the mid-late Silver Age Wonder Woman had the same costume as the early Golden Age Wonder Woman. It's perhaps unsurprising that DC would end the decade of the 1960s by ditching the Wonder Woman "outfit" altogether from 1968-1973.

It wasn't until Wonder Woman returned from behind the shadow of Diana Prince in issue #204 that the truly "iconic" Earth-1 Wonder Woman character design emerged. As she regained her super-powers, the Earth-1 Wonder Woman also got higher-cut "bottoms" and a tiara that generally was tucked into, rather than residing on top of, a mane of straight, flowing, black hair.

Ironically, DC would allow the confusion between the Earth-2 and Earth-1 Wonder Women continue even further in the late 1970s. At issue #228, the series went along with the then-current TV series and switched back to telling World War II stories with a dramatic Wonder Women of Earth-1 and Earth-2 team-up. And in this issue, the two characters looked exactly alike.

Beginning with issue 229, the title featured exclusively Wonder Woman of Earth-2. And with this issue, the boots would enter their final definitionóthis time taking on the look that they had been given by the producers of the television show. From then until the title ended in 1986, Wonder Woman would be depicted as having red boots trimmed in white. (These boots were very similar to, but not exactly the same as, the ones seen in very early issues of Sensation and Wonder Woman, before Wonder Woman switched to sandals.) And that would be all well and good, except that the Earth-2 Wonder Woman took over the series for only a year.

When the Earth-1 Wonder Woman fully resumed the title at issue #244, she looked exactly the same as the Earth-2 Wonder Woman that had been headlining the title for the past year. In fact, it is the May 1978 issue that illustrates the problem of Wonder Woman precisely. This story, "The Five-Sided Square", revolves around a 1945 team-up between the Earth-1 and Earth-2 Wonder Women. They look exactly alike.

So, in truth, there really wasn't a particular character design to the pre-Crisis Wonder Women. It is only post-Crisis retrospective uses of Wonder Woman of Earth-2 (and some pre-Crisis uses outside of her own title) that have tried to visually distinguish between the two. It's much more accurate to say that there is a single character design for Wonder Woman of Earth-1 and Wonder Woman of Earth-2 which can be associated with particular publication dates. Put simply, there's a way Wonder Woman, regardless of her Earth, was drawn in 1945, another way she appeared in 1950, a "look" she had in 1979, and so on.

The damn skirt
An interesting corollary to this discussion revolves around the skirt that has occasionally cropped up on Wonder Woman character designs. Generally, Wonder Woman in a blue skirt with white stars has been used to indicate "Wonder Woman of Earth-2". (Or, in post-Crisis stories, Hippolyta, Wonder Woman of the 1940s and 1950s.)

Ironically, the skirt may have been revived for the first time since Sensation Comics #2, in the pages of the All-Star Comics revival of the 1970s which was contemporaneous with the re-introduction of Wonder Woman of Earth-2 to this title.

However, as far as can be determined, no Wonder Woman ever wore a skirt in the pages of Wonder Woman. It only existed in the origin tale as seen in the pages of Sensation and All Star. It didn't even appear in the re-telling of part 1 of the origin which was in Wonder Woman #1. The skirt's widest use came well after the Golden Age ended, typically used where the image of two Wonder Women needed to be juxtaposed against each other without explanatory text. It makes for a nice, easy distinguishing characteristicóbut it has little basis in the actual history of any pre-Crisis Wonder Woman.

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