Oh my Greek Gods, I’ve FINALLY read through the list! I had no idea it was the norm for Golden Age comics to be over 40 or even 50 pages. That takes a minute to get through. To get through the first couple of easy questions - yes, I enjoyed these stories and no I haven’t read them before.
Now for some more details. I think the origin as told in All Star Comics is probably the weakest of the three. Not that it is bad, it provides moments and story beats that have since become iconic. It just feels like it is really exposition heavy, even by this era’s standards. Sensation Comics was better and is the first major example from this list that shows how unintentionally silly Golden Age stories can be. What I mean is they had a very “let’s get from point A to point B in any way possible” mindset which can lead to bizarre interactions and hilarious scenes. In Sensation Comics #1, Wonder Woman gets her Diana Prince alter ego by technically committing identity fraud, purchasing it from the real Diana Prince. That just feels weird but also funny.
Of course, you have the first 14 issues of the first Wonder Woman volume. There are moments, through visuals and dialogue, that do unfortunately remind me this was from the 1940s. Got a few moments of someone saying something jarringly sexist in the blink of an eye. I also remember one panel where there was a black person speaking in a very…um, uncomfortable way. But I don’t want to give these moments too much attention. It happened, we know it’s bad, let’s just not let it get in the way and move on as best as we can.
Aside from those moments, there are some things in these comics that did legit impress me. The biggest being the story development of the Baroness, Paula. Starting off on the Nazi side but then being reformed by the Amazons and even becoming them was the most complex arc from this set of comics that I wasn’t expecting. Credit where it’s due. I was amused by the debut of Psycho and the first Cheetah. While I think the Cheetah’s motivations were kinda weak and half baked, the confrontations between her and Wonder Woman were fun. There were some stories told in these comics that, if they were brought back and revamped today, still wouldn’t quite feel like Wonder Woman stories. I think Shamrock Land would fit in better with the Shazam family’s adventures. But a big part of why I feel that is because it has been decades since these stories and we have a firm feeling of who Wonder Woman and what kind of stories we want to see from her.
The only other major critique I can give regarding these issues is I don’t think Charles Moulton fully understood Greek Mythology and the Pantheon. Small things like calling one god by their Greek name and another by their Roman name I can let slide. But then you have Aphrodite as the only patron for the Amazons which is a weird choice. Yes, Amazons are beautiful. But a lot of the skills and abilities the Amazons are shown to have logically shouldn’t come from the goddess of love and beauty. Then you have Ares called Mars which as I said isn’t a big deal to call him by his Roman name. But he is LITERALLY living on Mars with a bunch of his generals and slaves and they apparently have spaceships. It is a WEIRD interpretation. And I did notice that the gods barely have anything to do with WW stories during this era. I’m not sure why exactly that was the case, because if you read Greek mythology then you know these gods would regularly get involved in the mortal world to varying extents. It does feel like something is missing from these early issues because of it, some sense of gravitas and weight.
Overall, I do enjoy these comics. Not perfect from my perspective. But nothing so bad that we should ignore them. We do so a lot of traits and characters that will go on to have such important roles in current WW stories.