As we often did around holidays (here, Easter 1967), my family and I made the trek from Manhattan to my maternal grandparents’ idyllic abode in Rockaway Beach, Queens. Okay, so it was late March and not exactly beach weather; despite the absence of sun, sea and sand there was another reason why this particular excursion was so memorable–one word, two syllables: comics.
Now, many grandparents like to spoil their grandkids rotten and we kids were the willing recipients of forbidden treats such as candy, soda, doughnuts (hey, this was the 1960s after all, the only thing we knew about carbs and high fructose corn syrup was that they tasted good!) Not only that, but my generous grandmas on both sides would buy each of us a comic or coloring book from said candy store. My sibs grabbed coloring books. You know what I wanted.
So on this late March date, I scanned the store’s racks and two covers stood out:
Many comic book publishers felt that a great cover was the best way to reel in a prospective buyer (hey, this is true even today). Capture the eye and the kid will buy. Let’s take DC: Superman editor Mort Weisinger used to insist that his covers contain a question, the answer to which could only be discovered by buying the comic. Some DC editors had the cover created first and then instructed the writers to build a story around the cover. Also, the story goes that after sales spiked for a DC comic that featured a gorilla on the cover, editors including Jack Schiff and Julius Schwartz began to feature –you guessed it–gorillas on the cover. This particular topic has been covered extensively online and in print, so let’s just take a look at these covers, from a handful of DCs from mid-late 1967:
So which comic did I end up buying, Adventure #356 or Wonder Woman #170? Well, the title to this entry should give you a clue–but if that’s not enough, let’s just say my introduction to the Legion would have to wait.
Yes, I succumbed to gorillamania and chose Wonder Woman! But talk about deceptive advertising–the gorilla story wasn’t even in the lead story! The lead story had Wonder Woman was being led astray by a criminal who’d somehow adopted her beloved Steve Trevor’s face. She couldn’t battle the Steve doppelganger so she was prepared to give up her crime fighting identity. Talk about schmaltz, WW proved that even an amazing amazon–like the rest of us mere mortals–could lose her head over a blond bimbo.
The second story was the gorilla story. In this tale, WW is coveted by a group of alien gorillas, so much so that they turn her into one of them.
Every WW story was prefaced with text that described our Amazon as being “wise as Athena,beautiful as Aphrodite, stronger than Hercules, and swifter than Mercury.” I loved Greek and Roman mythology but purist that I was (or anal, take your pick), I was bothered by the sloppy pairing of Greek (Athena and Aphrodite) and Roman (Herc and Merc) nomenclature. Well, in #170 editor Robert Kanigher devoted the letter column to a single, lengthy letter in which the letter writer held up Wonder Woman (and a few other DC comics such as Aquaman) as examples of ”Neo-Mythology”, and praising WW creator Charles Moulton (pen name of William Moulton Marston) and DC editor George Kashdan’s work in this regard. In his response Kanigher wrote “The creator (Moulton) of Wonder Woman created his own idea of a wonder woman, utilizing both Greek and Roman myths and expressions; that’s why you get a mixture of names and oaths.” Okay, sounds logical. Also, Kanigher added “From time to time, I shall print in its entirety any letter from a Wonder Woman fan which would interest other readers.” Well, that’s certainly a relief!
And you know, I never got around to buying Adventure #356 until many years later when I bought it as a back issue. Only it didn’t cost twelve cents!