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  1. #91
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    This is a pretty important issue in the Wonder Woman canon in that it introduces her signature weapon...the Magic Lasso. What was interesting to see is that the lasso originally had much greater power than just forcing someone to tell the truth. Whoever was bound with it, had to obey Diana's commands! If she commanded you to tell the truth, you had to tell the truth. If she commanded you to stay on Paradise Island and not follow her back to Man's World (Mala) you had to stay on Paradise Island. I'm not sure if the lasso still has this power today. I think it's just been reduced to a glowing polygraph. I could be wrong, but the last few years it's always been referred to as the "Lasso of Truth."

    And the Baroness is back for her second appearance! This time she gets carted off to WW's "special prison." Um, what/where is that???

  2. #92
    Astonishing Member kjn's Avatar
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    I'm not sure I'd say that the lasso was more powerful then than it is now, but it certainly has changed in character. Here it pretty clearly ties into Marston's ideas of bondage, especially as it is Aphrodite who endows the Magic Lasso with its powers, and it was Aphrodite who gifted the Magic Girdle (which it was made from) to the Amazons. It's also not made clear if the lasso works in the hands of everyone, or only in Diana's hands.

    Some good overviews and articles I've found on it:

    * When Did Wonder Woman's Lasso Become a Weapon of TRUTH?
    * Wonder Woman: The 15 Craziest Things She Has Done With The Lasso Of Truth
    * How Wonder Woman’s Lasso Lost Its Kinky Power

    Especially the last article by Noah Berlatsky is quite thought-provoking, though I don't agree with some of its premises or assertions.

    Still, there’s some irony in the fact that the Lasso of Truth was deployed specifically to erase the truth of Wonder Woman’s odd, embarrassing, kinky past.
    «Speaking generally, it is because of the desire of the tragic poets for the marvellous that so varied and inconsistent an account of Medea has been given out» (Diodorus Siculus, The Library of History [4.56.1])

  3. #93
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    The lasso works the same in everyone's hands. Other people have used it. Not only that but the lasso is also part what lead to the lie detector test

  4. #94
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    The way Aphrodite and Athena talks has also changed between these issues. In All-Star Comics 8 they spoke like this:

    Aphrodite: Hippolyte, we have come to give you warning. Danger again threatens the entire world. The gods have decreed that this American Army officer crash on Paradise Island. You must deliver him back to America—to help fight the forces of hate and oppression.

    Athena: Yes, Hippolyte, American liberty and freedom must be preserved! You must send with him your strongest and wisest Amazon—the finest of your Wonder Women!—For America, the last citadel of democracy, and of equal rights for women, needs your help!
    So a bit formal, but basically what could be expected from any speech made in a 1940s setting. But in this issue they go all-out in archaisms:

    Aphrodite: They daughter has proved herself worthy of our aid!

    Athena: Summon Diana to Paradise Island—we shall bestow upon her a great gift!
    And later on:

    Aphrodite: Having proved thyself bound by love and wisdom, we give thee power to control others! Whomsoever thy Magic Lasso binds must obey thee!
    «Speaking generally, it is because of the desire of the tragic poets for the marvellous that so varied and inconsistent an account of Medea has been given out» (Diodorus Siculus, The Library of History [4.56.1])

  5. #95
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    I'm curious. Hippoltya has the gridle of Hippoltya. Which might have also being Aphrodite's gridle. We know it makes the Amazons unbeatable. If the gridle's power is brought back what should the Amazons be able to do? Should the be harder to kill?

  6. #96
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    Having created Paula von Gunther, Marston sets out to milk the character for all that she was worth in "The Milk Swindle" from Sensation Comics #7! Feel free to post your own thoughts and theories on this story! Next Saturday, 16 March, we will go on to Sensation Comics #8 and "Department Store Perfidy".

    Diana Prince has gone missing, and Colonel Darnell and Major Trevor are tearing up Washington DC in order to find her. They discover that Paula von Gunther was executed last week. After this introduction, we get a flashback to what Diana has been up to.

    Diana meets a poor woman whose son had died because of undernourishment, caused by rising milk prices. She learns the International Milk Co. has pushed up the prices, and goes to investigate after helping the woman and her daughter. After getting past the "bumptious blonde" guarding the president's office, she (and we) get a short primer on supply-side rackets, where the International Milk Co. buys up the entire supply of a product in order to artificially raise prices and dumps the unsold product. In practice, they are operating at a loss and depend on outside financing (in this case Paula von Gunther, as we find out later) in order to corner a market.

    Diana is captured via a remote-controlled trapdoor, after which we have caught up with the opening page. She is tied up and dumped into a milk truck, and left to drown in the tank filled with milk. After exchanging her clothes for those of Wonder Woman, she breaks the tank causing the local cats to pursue the truck. Using the lasso, she learns from them that a dead woman is running the milk racket, and phones Steve Trevor to tell him that. Steve Trevor uses a lie detector to interrogate the prison doctor, and learns that Paula von Gunther's corpse had been given to some of her confidantes after the execution.

    Wonder Woman organises a big parade against the International Milk Co., assisted by the Holliday College Band and a song (probably to the tune of John Brown's Body). Here she acts as a social activist and grassroots organiser. She receives a message that she identifies as being from Paula von Gunther by seeing the marks on the messenger's wrists. Wonder Woman lets herself be captured for the second time and is tied up and chained. After confronting De Gyppo again she sends a mental radiogram to Etta Candy with instructions, but the Holliday girls gets trapped in the milk plant, while Wonder Woman is chained to a tank train car.

    Paula von Gunther finally appears, and tells that she was restored to life by her slaves via an electrical machine that she had invented, and the milk racket was to cause America's children to be weakened and dwarfed so Germany could conquer America easily.

    We get our first real comics death trap: the tank car—full of milk and with Diana strapped to the front—will roll downhill into a case of high explosives, blowing Wonder Woman "into a thousand pieces". Once rolling, Diana decides to "stop this nonsense", breaks her chains, and stops the tank car with a handy tree. Then she goes back to the milk plant where Steve Trevor's men and the newly freed Holliday Girls are fighting Paula von Gunther and De Gyppo's men.

    Compelled by the lasso, Paula von Gunther signs a full confession, but at least this time the press celebrates Wonder Woman and not Steve Trevor. But Diana Prince notes that she is absent from the public narrative. The issue ends with a paean to children and milk.

    We get our first black characters (as far as I can tell) with this issue: one is mrs Lansing's butler (no speaking part), the other is a driver for the International Milk Co. who complains about the milk dumping. Also, earlier villains had mostly been German (with the exception of Doctor Poison), but here they seem more Italian, starting with the name of the company president Alphonso De Gyppo. Of course, they are still in cahoots with Paula von Gunther.

    I also thought we got something which I would call negative continuity here. At the end of SC #6 Diana intended to put von Gunther and von Lochner in a prison of her own choosing, intending to reform them. But here it opens with von Gunther being executed in the state prison.

    The use of the International Milk Co. and its business techniques being harmful to ordinary people is interesting. At the start, De Gyppo is set up as motivated simply by greed, i.e. one of the driving forces behind capitalism, and thus Marston sets out to critique capitalism and point out one way that the free market can become the unfree market. That's something I'm used to from several comic books of my youth, but they were written in the 1970s in Sweden, not the 1940s in the USA! However, the initial critique is then undercut by the revelation that Paula von Gunther was behind it all with a plan of making America weak and ripe for conquest. Instead of being about a flaw that lies at the core of the twin system of capitalism and free markets, it becomes a story about the ways the free market can be exploited. The moral becomes cautionary instead of revolutionary. But it still contrasts with the American jingoism that can be found in the introductory legends on the splash pages: here freedom—in the form of the free market—becomes something that can be abused.

    Granted, I'm extrapolating a lot here, but the mere fact that I can do this reading of an American superhero comic from 1942, well, I find that just wonderful. Though I should maybe not be surprised: McCarthyism was still many years away, and the USA had already had a long history with antitrust laws at this time.

    Characters introduced: Nurse Byrnes, Mrs Lansing

    Concepts introduced: "Jumping sassafras", Diana as social activist and organiser, revivification machine, comic-book death traps, lasso used to force truth, evil capitalist
    Last edited by kjn; 03-09-2019 at 04:16 AM.
    «Speaking generally, it is because of the desire of the tragic poets for the marvellous that so varied and inconsistent an account of Medea has been given out» (Diodorus Siculus, The Library of History [4.56.1])

  7. #97
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    Paula von Gunther is a fascinating character. These comics establish her as Austrian, yet unlike so many of the German agents in the stories, she doesn’t have that ridiculous accent that’s supposed to represent how Germans speak English. I’ve always wondered about her back story. How did she get to be a baroness, was she married to a baron or the daughter of a baron who had died in World War I?

    The subject of children suffering from a lack of healthy milk led me to do a bit of research on children’s milk programs in the United States.

    Prior to 1917, when pasteurization was made mandatory, many children contracted diseases from milk.

    During the Great Depression, with prices in freefall, dairy farmers couldn’t make enough money from selling their milk. Farmers protested until, in 1937, the U.S. federal government responded by passing the Agricultural Marketing Agreement Act which was intended to reduce disorderly marketing conditions, improve price stability in fluid milk markets, and ensure a sufficient quantity of pure and wholesome milk. However prices continued to fall and dairy farmers took action by establishing the Dairy Farmers Union and going on strike.

    In 1940, the first federal milk program for schools in the United States was established with a pilot program in the low income areas of Chicago. After that the scheme was expanded to other cities and schools nationally. This program bought excess milk from producers to give to children in schools. They paid a nominal fee (a penny a pint) or if they had no money then it was free.

    Senator Al Gore, Sr. served on the senate committee that arranged funding for this program. Although, in actual fact some of that funding was not going to the Children’s Milk Fund at all, but rather to the Manhattan Project.

    Gore’s account of this secret mission is given on this Children’s Milk Fund page:
    “In 1940 I was a young congressman from Tennessee, serving on several committees that
    arranged funding for public services and works. One of these was the Children’s Milk Fund. This fund
    subsidized milk production and provided excess milk, free, to the nation’s public schools. One day,
    Speaker Sam Rayburn called me into his office. ‘Albert,’ he said, ‘I want you to hide a couple hundred
    million dollars in the federal budget.’

    “No questions asked, I left Speaker Rayburn’s office and immediately started putting away two
    million dollars here and five million dollars there. I could do so because, at that time, there
    were lots of opportunities. For example, there was a spike in funding for the Children’s Milk
    Fund and for highway programs, and there were more dam construction projects than we had
    water to fill them. I was able to hide lots of this ‘excess’ money. I never stopped to ask how this
    money was going to be used. . .”

    The senator went on to say that he (and his colleagues) had eventually hidden over 2 billion dollars. He
    subsequently confirmed this was the money used to build and operate Hanford and the Oak Ridge and
    Los Alamos laboratories. In other words, this was the money that funded the Manhattan Project!

  8. #98
    Astonishing Member kjn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Kelly View Post
    Paula von Gunther is a fascinating character. These comics establish her as Austrian, yet unlike so many of the German agents in the stories, she doesn’t have that ridiculous accent that’s supposed to represent how Germans speak English. I’ve always wondered about her back story. How did she get to be a baroness, was she married to a baron or the daughter of a baron who had died in World War I?
    Why did you think of her as Austrian? I didn't find any specific reference. The clothing she wears here is also used in Bavaria, as far as I know, if that's what you're thinking of.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Kelly View Post
    The subject of children suffering from a lack of healthy milk led me to do a bit of research on children’s milk programs in the United States.
    Yeah, the rise of the milk distribution is a quite interesting piece of industrialisation history, as it demanded sterile and cold chains on a massive scale of a perishable foodstuff. The association of milk with healthy children is quite strong here in Sweden as well, and I could see it in Ireland as well when I was there.
    «Speaking generally, it is because of the desire of the tragic poets for the marvellous that so varied and inconsistent an account of Medea has been given out» (Diodorus Siculus, The Library of History [4.56.1])

  9. #99
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    Quote Originally Posted by kjn View Post
    Why did you think of her as Austrian? I didn't find any specific reference. The clothing she wears here is also used in Bavaria, as far as I know, if that's what you're thinking of.
    In SENSATION COMICS No. 4, on page 7 of the Wonder Woman story, Colonel Darnell says to Diana Prince, about Baroness von Gunther, “She is an Austrian royalist who fled Vienna after the Nazis took over.”

  10. #100
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    Thanks!

    Though in some ways, that expression makes little sense. Austria never held a real royalist movement in the interwar era, as far as I can tell, and there was apparently rather widespread popular support for the Anschluss in Austria. The example of the von Trapp family (which Marston might have been familiar with) was rather the exception. In fact, Georg von Trapp was a baron (though I believe non-hereditary), and his wife Maria thus a baroness. I wouldn't be surprised if Marston got the title from them.
    «Speaking generally, it is because of the desire of the tragic poets for the marvellous that so varied and inconsistent an account of Medea has been given out» (Diodorus Siculus, The Library of History [4.56.1])

  11. #101
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    Well, for my Austrian friends, I have to say the Anschluss was not popular with everyone. There was a large Jewish population that suffered as the result. The Vienna Circle had many intellectuals of Jewish background. Stefan Zweig fled Europe and committed suicide over what had happened to his native land.

    Reading Vienna's DER BLATT, when I researched the Seicherl und Struppi comic strip, I found that there was a shift in the politics from the mid-30s to the end of that newspaper in the early 40s--where there was strong opposition to the Nazi movement and then a gradual acceptance that a Nazi takeover was imminent, to then being silent on it all for fear of the paper being shut down (my conjecture).

    Like Zweig, Billy Wilder was nostalgic for the old Austrian Empire of his youth, before WW I. He even made THE EMPEROR WALTZ in 1947 (part of it filmed in Canada's Jasper National Park, standing in for the Tyrolian Alps) to indulge his romance for the old homeland.

    So I can envision that there were some Austrians--especially those of the aristocracy--who would long for the restoration of the empire to its former glory. And between the world wars, that would have been a viable hope.

  12. #102
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    Yeah, I don't doubt that there were plenty of Austrians who were opposed to the Anschluss. At the same time, it seems there were a strong minority support for a union (whatever) with Germany already in the 1918–1920 period, as the Austro-Hungarian empire dissolved. You likely had people who went from being pro-German to being anti-Nazi—it was something you could see in both Sweden and Finland, so I wouldn't be surprised to see it in Austria as well. But from what I can tell, the Anschluss had strong support from a sizable minority of Austrians, and the majority at least were not actively opposed to it.

    In any case, Austrian politics in the Interwar era looks more than a little bit messy, and it reminds me a lot of the situation in Spain during the same period.
    «Speaking generally, it is because of the desire of the tragic poets for the marvellous that so varied and inconsistent an account of Medea has been given out» (Diodorus Siculus, The Library of History [4.56.1])

  13. #103
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    If the previous story raised social and equality issues, ”Department Store Perfidy” from Sensation Comics #8 more than doubles down on it! Feel free to post your own thoughts and theories on this story! Next Saturday, 23 March, we will go on to Sensation Comics #9 and ”The Return of Diana Prince”.

    Diana’s co-worker Beth tells the sad tale of her friends Helen and Molly, working at the Bullfinch department stores, making eleven dollars a week (note: the minimum wage for 1941 in the USA appears to have been 30 cents an hour, or 12 dollars for 40 hours, likely leaving them below the federal minimum wage at the time). Overwork and poor pay led to malnutrition, and when Helen stole vitamins for her friend she was caught and sent to prison at the insistence of the store management. When Helen was let out from prison and visited Molly at work, Molly was fired as well.

    Helen tried to commit suicide, but was stopped from doing so by Beth and Molly.

    The story is clearly taking the side of the working girls: it is told entirely from their perspective, and portrays Helen’s theft as an act of desperation to help her friend.

    Diana's new catchphrase: ’”Can’t” is a word I do not understand!’ It clearly fits into one specific scene in the movie, and should surely be uttered more often by her.

    Steve and Diana go out on a date after Diana’s encounters with the store manager—mr. Googins—and the striking girls. Diana asks him to bring her to the 400 Club, where she can find Gloria Bullfinch, the owner. She also meets her fiancé, prince Guigi Del Slimo. Marston sure isn’t subtle with the names here. At least Guigi is impeccably dressed in white tie, unlike Steve's rather plain dinner jacket.

    As Steve and Diana leave the restaurant, some armed men try to kidnap Diana, but the attempt is foiled by Steve’s fists. Steve goes in pursuit, but is ambushed and knocked unconscious. Meanwhile Diana goes home and switches to her role as Wonder Woman, where she kidnaps Gloria Bullfinch and brings them to the Holliday girls. They want to initiate her, but Diana calls it ”a serious experiment in reforming human character”. Then she instructs the Holliday girls to quit school and apply for jobs at the Bullfinch store—i.e. being scabs—together with the newly hypnotised Gloria Bullfinch. I think Diana’s heart is in the right place, but she still could do with some more knowledge of the early unions and mass movements. Note also that Diana is guilty of kidnapping here—are you taking notes, Pinsir?

    Diana further interrupts the studies of the Holliday girls by asking them to act as nightwatchgirls, as she learns that Helen wants to burglar the store. Then she starts to miss Steve, and goes to investigate where she suspects he is held. She races up the stairs of the hotel so fast she can’t be recognised, passing two black employees of the Trefair hotel. Peter’s way of drawing black people looks extremely stereotypical.

    Some misunderstandings later, Diana is knocked unconscious (apparently she does have a specific vulnerable spot, much like Achilles), tied up, and stuck in a trunk. She stays tied up in the hope of finding Steve. We get to hear Etta Candy use ”woo-woo” again, establishing it as a signature phrase. Diana also compliments the villains on their splendid job of tying her up, before she is tossed into the vault, where she breaks her ropes and comments that she is tired of being tied up.

    Another new expression from Diana as she rescues Steve: ”I’ll have you out in the shake of a Kanga’s tail!” She snuffs out the bomb that was stuck inside the safe with Steve. Wonder Woman then finds most everyone involved in this comic apprehended by the police, and quickly exposes the leader of the villains as Guigi Del Slimo himself. Gloria Bullfinch is released from her hypnosis, and gives her employees better pay and working conditions.

    The approach to better working conditions reminds me a little of the theme from Joe Hill’s song Ta-ra-ra Boom De-ay. But like in the previous issue Marston shies away from doing any critique of capitalism as such: the social issues it causes can be helped by organisation, but the solution in-story means educating the capitalists to become kinder and more humane.

    The reformation of Gloria Bullfinch calls back to how the Holliday girls managed to reform Eve back in SC #3, but there that was not something intended by Diana. I also note that neither Helen nor Molly were given the chance to join the Holliday girls, and thus gain an education or start some sort of upward social mobility. I’m not sure what that says about Marston’s social prejudices or thoughts.

    Another interesting thing here is that every previous story has dealt with enemy agents, infiltrators, and spy rings, from Germany, Italy, and Japan. Here we get an entirely domestic threat with no real connection to foreign powers. Sure, Del Slimo is coded Italian, and his goons gets some mafioso traits, but they are no foreign conspiracies or involvement here—just plain greed.

    Characters introduced: Helen, Molly, Gloria Bullfinch, Guigi Del Slimo

    Concepts introduced: "Woo-Woo" returns as Etta’s signature phrase, ”great girdle of Aphrodite”, ”the shake of a Kanga’s tail”, hypnosis via lasso, Diana setting out to reform a bad guy (or in this case gal)
    «Speaking generally, it is because of the desire of the tragic poets for the marvellous that so varied and inconsistent an account of Medea has been given out» (Diodorus Siculus, The Library of History [4.56.1])

  14. #104
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    On SENSATION COMICS No. 8 (August 1942): I like the cover art, with the symbolic representation of the story inside--showing Wonder Woman as puppet master over our other players.

    And I was settling in for a good socially relevant story, where Wonder Woman provides an instructive lesson; however, midway I got thrown off by some of the developments. The racist stereotype in one panel didn’t help--and, while this kind of ugly representation was the norm at the time, it feels worse coming in the middle of a story that’s supposed to make us have greater sympathy for our brothers and sisters.

    There was no need to make Wonder Woman weak for the sake of the plot, since she could have just faked it. At the outset, it seems like Diana has a good plan, but then it appears she hasn’t thought it all through and she’s winging it.

    That racist panel aside, H.G. Peter’s mastery of the comic book art form is top notch.

  15. #105
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Kelly View Post
    And I was settling in for a good socially relevant story, where Wonder Woman provides an instructive lesson; however, midway I got thrown off by some of the developments. The racist stereotype in one panel didn’t help--and, while this kind of ugly representation was the norm at the time, it feels worse coming in the middle of a story that’s supposed to make us have greater sympathy for our brothers and sisters.

    There was no need to make Wonder Woman weak for the sake of the plot, since she could have just faked it. At the outset, it seems like Diana has a good plan, but then it appears she hasn’t thought it all through and she’s winging it.
    I was thinking of commenting a bit on the whole tying-Diana-up next week, especially on the way that Diana herself thinks on it: makes jokes, comments on how well it's done, breaks free whenever she wants to, and so on. There has been nothing sexual or overt about it, but I think it still clearly reflects Marston's thoughts on bondage as fun.

    As for the racism, it's tricky, and I know too little about Marston and Peters, but I wouldn't be surprised if they were the type of people who Martin Luther King later came to denounce as the white moderate. I don't think they were particularly racist towards black people for their time, but at the same time Marston seems to have strong if atypical thoughts on leadership and authority, and I'm not sure how black people fit into that (poorly, I imagine, but I have little to base that conjecture on). The goal is to improve the situation for the Bullfinch girls or poor American children; it is not to move them out of their position entirely or change the social contract. So Marston (via Wonder Woman) clearly was sympathetic to the striking girls, and he doesn't depict the black people as bad people, but he also doesn't question their subservience in the social order.
    «Speaking generally, it is because of the desire of the tragic poets for the marvellous that so varied and inconsistent an account of Medea has been given out» (Diodorus Siculus, The Library of History [4.56.1])

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