RETRO REVIEW: Wonder Woman # 178

This week, it’s time for another comic book retro review featuring D C Comics!  So I’ve dug back to 1968 and pulled out an issue of Wonder Woman.  And that comic is Wonder Woman # 178, cover dated October 1968!   It’s an important issue, as it marked a big change in the character, or at least the beginning of that change.  Though the change only lasted four years, it still was a very notable time to be collecting this comic book run.  And why is that, you might ask?  Well, as you can see by the cover blurb, “Forget the Old … The New Wonder Woman is Here!”

Wonder Woman # 178

Wonder Woman # 178 Oct. 1968

Quite a striking cover, eh?  It’s pencilled by Mike Sekowsky and inked by Dick Giordano.  Wish I knew who was responsible for the great colors, but sadly, I don’t!  Sekowsky had made his mark in the comic industry with his work in the 1960’s on D C Comic’s Justice League of America comic book.  But both the company, and he, was ready for a change, and so he moved over to tackle Wonder Woman, and a breath of fresh air was introduced by Sekowsky, Giordano and the writer of the comic, Dennis (Denny) O’Neil.  All three were new creators on this series ans they obviously were tasked to bring about a change in direction.  And what a change it was!

The story in issue number 178 is entitled; “Wonder Woman’s Rival” and by the end of the issue, you’ll know exactly who that rival is, though throughout the reader is left to wonder about that title and how it fits the story.  The story opens with Steve Trevor, long time boyfriend/male love interest of Wonder Woman, being arrested for murder!  It seems that a man, Alex Block, who Steve had earlier argued with had been murdered and Steve was arrested by the police for that crime!

Wow, all that on only the first page!  And the second page jumps forward to his trial, only to have page three begin a long flashback to before his arrest, where Steve and Wonder Woman are hosting a party.  Alex Block comes on to Wonder Woman and Steve socks him one!  After the party Wonder Woman leaves on a mission and Steve drops by a mod club, called the Tangerine Trolley.  He has a drink with a blonde wearing a cat-face ring, but she leaves abruptly and Steve drives home.  He never got the girl’s name and now she hasn’t come forward to provide him his needed alibi for the time of the murder.

At Steve’s trial, Wonder Woman is called to testify and admits that the last thing Steve said to her, was that, “Alex was a rat, who didn’t deserve to live.”  And with that testimony, the jury find Steve Trevor  … guilty!  Wonder Woman, in her guise of Diana Prince decides that since Wonder Woman has sent “her beloved to his death”, that it’s only fair that Diana Prince that must try and save him!

And how is she going to do that?  By going undercover, that’s how!  She decides that she needs to infiltrate the Tangerine Trolley, and to do so, she must put aside her military garb and dress as a mod, if she’s to fit it with the hippie crowd that frequents the TT.  Page ten is given over to her make-over and when it’s complete, she exclaims; ” Wow! I’m gorgeous! I should have done this ages ago!”

She attends the club that night and is hit on by every guy there, but eventually meets Buck, who knows of the girl with the cat-face ring.  He takes her to a local cemetery where a bunch of young people are partying.  Buck starts to tell Diana about the girl and the ring, but the group is set upon by “The Stompers” a local motorcycle gang!  They swoop in on their cycles, grabbing up girls, forcing Diana to switch to her Wonder Woman togs and protect the kids/teenagers.  In one page Wonder Woman defeats the motorcycle gang and switches back to Diana Prince, where she finds that Buck has been killed!

It appears that the attack was a diversion, so that Buck could be prevented from giving away the secrets he knew to Diana!  Before the attack, Buck did tell Diana that the girl had fallen on hard times and had to pawn the cat-face ring.  Diana decides she’ll pursue the ring in an attempt to locate the unknown girl.

After making the rounds of pawn shops, Diana finds the ring and secures the name and address of it’s owner.  She returns home to find Alex Block’s partner, Roger Seely.  But he isn’t the friend she takes him to be, as when she leaves to visit the girl, he quickly makes a mysterious phone call.

Diana and Seely go and meet the girl who agrees to come in and provide the necessary alibi for Steve Trevor.  But on the way back, Seely shows his true colors by drawing a gun and forcing Diana to drive off a cliff!  In mid air, Seely transfer to a small plane, and Diana manages to switch to Wonder Woman once again and saves the car and the girl in it.

She then takes on the plane by flying after it.  Though, as far as I know, she never had the power of flight!  Didn’t she have an invisible plane to fly in?  I little “Bullets and Bracelets” later she brings down the plane and takes Seely into the D.A. and with the girl’s testimony and Seely’s confession, she gets Steve Trevor released.

And the last page has Steve praising Diana Prince, so much so, that Wonder Woman becomes jealous of her self!  It’s the whole Lois loving Superman but not Clark Kent in reverse.  So she decides in the very last panel that, Wonder Woman must change!  But that will have to wait til next issue!

All in all, a pretty decent tale that provides the motivation for the changes that took place in Wonder Woman’s Diana Prince identity this issue and sets up the changes to be made to her Wonder Woman identity next issue, as well.  Personally, I never was a big Wonder Woman fan, but this run by O’Neil and Sekowsky I really got into and must give it high marks!  I really like the fact that they set Wonder Woman up to be more like Diana Rigg‘s Mrs. Peel character in the British television show, The Avengers!  Allowing her to wear modern fashions, which were greatly needed within D C Comics at the time!  It was an attempt to turn a very staid and stale book into something comic book fans, both boys and girls, would want to pick up every two months!  I know it worked on me!

About Greg Turner

Greg Turner (@gregturner16) is Back to the Past’s archivist and an auctioneer. He writes the columns “Fabulous Finds” and “Retro Reviews” on alternating weeks for the website and spins classic 45′s each week for Vinyl Tuesdays.

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