Lassoing vintage Wonder Woman collectibles
Much has changed since Wonder Woman first appeared on the scene in 1941, and yet, some things haven’t changed or have circled back to what once was. The character was revolutionary when she first appeared in the pages of Sensation Comics, and remains relevant today; perhaps more relevant than ever before, given the response to the Wonder Woman film.
The response from a broad audience composed of those eagerly awaiting Wonder Woman’s original story to be told on the big screen, and those who may not have realized the need or possibility of a modern-day heroine with steadfast strength, substance of character and a message of hope.
That may seem like a tall order or a rose-colored view of what some may refer to as just another comic book movie. However, it’s more than that. Wonder Woman is and has always has been more than what is expected. She was among the earliest comic book super heroines, and at 76 years and still going strong, is immersed in what may be one of her finest hours. She is the inspiration of a mindset.
To be up front, these sentiments are easy for me to share, because I am a proud participant of Wonder Woman fandom, having spent years for her emergence on the big screen. It’s been an opportunity to witness the modern telling of the story of Princess Diana of Themyscira, daughter of Hippolyte, Queen of the Amazons. In addition, it’s given global attention to the message of being appreciative and eager to experience whatever the future brings, while also practicing utmost reverence for those who came before and set forth a path.
In terms of being someone who paved the way as a comic book action figure heroine, there is no comparison to Wonder Woman, states both Jerry Stephan, comic grader/Consignment director at Heritage Auctions, and Maggie Thompson, pioneer (with her late husband Don) of comic book fandom and co-founder of Comics Buyer’s Guide (now defunct), and currently the author of the Maggie’s World blog for Comic-Con International: San Diego.
“She has no peers. Many (heroines) have come and gone,” Stephan says. “Some have hung around as supporting characters; (and) only one — Spider-Girl — reached 100 issues (about 8 1/2 years). Wonder Woman has been in print nonstop for 75 years.”
Although super heroine skills, traits and story lines varied, the arrival of Wonder Woman in the world of comic books laid the groundwork for others, Thompson explains. This includes characters such as Mary Marvel, Supergirl, Batgirl, Hawkgirl, Black Canary, Phantom Lady and Moon Girl. However, none of these characters possessed the staying power and ability to evolve with the times quite like Wonder Woman.
When William Moulton Marston created the character of Wonder Woman most comic books were developed by men. In an attempt to draw more girls into reading comic books the initial belief during the 1930s and 1940s was to appeal to the potential female audience’s likely interest in fashions and hairstyles, Thompson explains. The development of a character not focused entirely on those assumptions, and one that was instead “an action adventure super heroine” was deliberate on Marston’s part.
“The character accomplished everything Marston set out to do,” Thompson adds.
With that being said, to paraphrase Thompson, the character did those things set forth by Marston, but the early presentation of Wonder Woman and regular situations in which she was depicted were not all about Amazonian paradise, bracelets that deflected bullets or magic lassos that could draw the truth out of villainous liars. Marston, whose personal life was the subject of much speculation, attracted criticism for story lines sometimes seen as perverse, with grotesque illustrations, extensive violence and an unfamiliar presentation of the female role in all of this.
An article titled Of (Super) Human Bondage by Juanita Coulson, that appeared in The Comic-Book Book, published in 1973, recalled Coulson’s take on the arrival of action figure heroines, showcasing, but not limited to Wonder Woman. As a baby of the Depression Era, Coulson writes that she, like many of her friends, “cut my first permanent teeth on comic heroes like Batman and Superman.”
Then came Wonder Woman.
“Until that time women in comic books had either been spear carriers for the superheroes, or that abomination, ‘girl friends.’ These were fragile creatures whose raison d’etre were screaming, fainting, being captured, and being rescued; all very embarrassing to read, if one were a girl. Being a kid was tough enough; at least one expected some solace from one’s dream world. The costumed wonder (you, in clever plastic disguise) could bend metal, outrace a pursuit plane, and toss enemies around like paper dolls.
“Imagining oneself in her place was a pleasant respite from the tedium of spelling exams, cleaning up one’s room, and taking a skinned knee without bawling. But even in my most wishful thinking, I couldn’t envision myself as Batman or Captain America: I’d had the misfortune to be born a girl. But Wonder Woman! Didn’t I just dream of growing up to be an Amazon! Yeah!”
Remember, Wonder Woman arrived in 1941, a time when World War II was underway and the U.S. was mere months away from entering the conflict, following the attack on Pearl Harbor. For many in my generation (babies in the 1970s), that is a time unknown except through history books and photos, and words shared by family and friends who lived it. Although it was a long time ago, for those may also have lived it, memories are longer lasting and run deep. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons Wonder Woman is garnering so much admiration and interest in 2017, the message set forth all those years ago by Marston and illustrated by Henry G. Peters of “love being good and peace being better than war,” still holds true for many. In the film, Wonder Woman (aka Diana Prince) discovers more about the many manifestations of this philosophy, which she learned while living on Themyscira. When faced with incidents during the film that put that philosophy in jeopardy, Wonder Woman gains a greater awareness of the complexity of evil and the unfathomable power of love and goodness.
According to Maggie Thompson, whose love of comic books dates to her childhood, the new Wonder Woman film is impressive on a few different levels.
“I went to the film ready for whatever—and was impressed by the devices employed to fix the idiocies and revamp the origin and the character’s history to appeal to today’s audiences, and to me.”
She adds that the film “accomplished the fantastic job of walking the tightrope” of telling the story, while not being out of date.
From the casting, which was “great,” to the director (Patty Jenkins) who “blew it out of the water,” the film produced many positives.
Stephan echoes those sentiments, speaking to the impact on the collecting market, as a result of Wonder Woman’s popularity.
“When movies are announced, interest in first appearances always puts upward pressure on the price. Many level off or decline slightly after the movie’s release but some hits like Iron Man keep the price rising,” he states. “We’ve seen the price of Wonder Woman’s first appearance triple in recent years and the movie is successful, so we see no reason for the value to retreat.
“On the collectibles front, DC has been promoting her pretty aggressively since her 1987 reboot, and I’m sure I’m sure they will be creating more statues and story collections than ever before.”
Stephan’s observations regarding Wonder Woman memorabilia is reflected in prices realized at auction in recent years.
A Wonder Woman #1 (DC, 1942) graded CGC VF-7.5 realized $95,600 during Heritage Auctions’ May 18-20, 2017 Comics, Comic Art & Animation Art Auction. As the lot description states, the comic has sold for more than the price listed in the Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide. In fact, the 2016 Overstreet guide lists Wonder Woman #1 CGC VF 8.0 with a value of $35,000.
Although comic books remain a significant focus for many collectors with an appreciation for Wonder Woman, there are other items to be had and appreciated. Case in point, the 1967 Wonder Woman board game from Hasbro, which realized $2,153 during Hake’s Americana & Collectibles’ March 17, 2017 auction. The game, which was still factory sealed, was one of a series of three featuring members of the Justice League. According to the auction catalog description, the game, which was in excellent condition, includes a game board with playing spaces in the shape of the letter “W”, and within the board are scenes of Justice League members fighting various foes—with Wonder Woman at the center. A sticker with the original retail price (97 cents) also appears on the front cover of the box.
I realize to some Wonder Woman is neither fascinating nor an example of someone to emulate. However, I do believe what is applicable in all of this is the message the character puts forth and the mindset she embodies. Whether you are seven or 75, the desire to believe in good, fight for what matters, and hope for peace may manifest in many ways, but at the core it’s universal.
Although there is a lot more that can be said, and has been said about Wonder Woman, one of the best statements I’ve come across can be found in the foreword by George Pérez for the book Wonder Woman: Amazon • Hero • Icon, written by Robert Greenberger.
Pérez took over writing and artistic duties of DC Comics’ Wonder Woman series in 1987, following DC’s continuity reboot. He writes:
“To her fans, Wonder Woman has become more than a character. She is the sum of many parts. She is an Amazon, a super heroine, an ambassador, a spy, and a warrior. An avatar of truth, champion of the gods, and an emissary of peace. A loving daughter, trusted friend, steadfast protector and formidable foe. She is Diana, Princess of Themyscira. Wonder Woman. Icon.”
Seems to me there’s an opportunity for all of us to embrace a little of what makes Princess Diana, Wonder Woman.
By ANTOINETTE RAHN
Antoinette Rahn is Content Manager and Online Editor of Antique Trader.
Our thanks for Antique Trader for sharing this article with us.