Howdy! This page is part of a guide to comic books recommended for younger readers (along with some stuff their parents might like as well. This page covers the letter "W." Other books are linked to below.

So, come celebrate that groovy, geeky, magical medium that we all grew up on... and share that special sense of wonder with someone smaller and newer than you. By the way, this is a work in progress, and your recommendations are always welcome... )

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"Wonder Woman: Showcase Presents, v.1"
Written by Robert Kanigher, et. al.
Illustrated by Ross Andru, et. al.
(DC Comics, 2007)

Looking for a good, strong female superhero role model? Wonder Woman is sure to disappoint you if you're looking for something that a little kid can read... The older adventures from the 1940s have been reprinted in high-quality editions, but those episodes were crudely made, and more than a little boring, with WW battling cheap thugs and dull villains, and getting tied up all the time. I just don't think they stand up today, other than as historical curios. During the early '70s, political messages were experimented with, and Wonder Woman was recast as a Gloria Steinem-era feminist -- sort of: her powers were reduced and she was exiled to "man's world," and gradually worked her way back to super-duper status. After that, from the 1980s onward, the WW comics have become grittier and more hard-edged, and more graphic, both in the portrayal of violence and in the cartoonishly sexualized, fanboy artwork. She may be a feminist icon, but she's drawn like a porn star. The saving's grace comes in the late 1950s, when Wonder Woman enjoyed a brief golden era as just another plain-old superhero, having straightforward, goofy, sci-fi-influenced adventures, just like Superman and Batman and DC's other male heroes. This series collects those adventures, which is great except that the "Showcase" books are printed in black-and-white, on cheap newspaper stock, often with poor reproduction of the original line art. A lot of people like these books because they provide many of pages of reading for relatively little money, but I think they are a really crappy product and not worth owning. These are the Wonder Woman stories to shoot for, but not the books to buy. But when this stuff comes out in color, I'll definitely snap it up. (B)

"Wonder Woman: The Contest"
Written by Nina Jaffe
Illustrated by Ben Caldwell
(Harper, 2004)

Another alternative is this series of children's chapter books, which featured good, relatively nonviolent stories that reflect on the finer points of Amazon culture, and WW's nobler nature. It was the tone I was hoping to find more of in other WW books, and writer Nina Jaffe nails it here. That's the good news. The bad news is that this series never really got off the ground, and of the six volumes that came out, three told the exact same story, of her origin on Paradise Island and the gift of her magic lasso and bracelets from her mother, Queen Hippolyta. A fourth book (The Arrival) tells of Diana coming to America, in The Journey Begins, she fights to protect the humans against Ares, the God of War, and the sixth and final volume is an eco-adventure about the destruction of the rainforest. I think Jaffe had a good handle on the character, and these books are great introductions to the Wonder Woman character. Too bad they're totally out of print, and that there's so little to follow up with... (A retro-oriented four-issue miniseries by Trina Robbins, published in 1986 but never collected in book form, is also worth looking for...) Note to the publishers: new, longer Wonder Woman stories by Jaffe, Robbins or anyone else with a more kid-friendly perspective, would be greatly welcomed. (B)

"Wonder Woman: I Am Wonder Woman" (Harper, 2004)
"Wonder Woman: Amazon Princess" (Harper, 2004)
"Wonder Woman: The Arrival" (Harper, 2004)
"Wonder Woman: The Journey Begins" (Harper, 2004)
"Wonder Woman: The Rain Forest" (Harper, 2004)

"World's Finest Comics: DC Archives, v.1"
(DC Comics, 1999)

Starting in 1954, Batman and Superman (oh right, and Robin...) appeared in adventures together, usually with the goofy, lighthearted air that made the DC comics of the Eisenhower era so much fun. This first volume collects the first dozen or so of these crossovers, featuring DC's two biggest heavy-hitters, with Superman doing the heavy lifting while Batman gets all detective-y and investigative, and Robin trails crooks by jumping on the back bumper of their cars. They frequently trade powers (Batman can fly!) and work together to frustrate Lois Lane's efforts to discover Superman's secret identity. These early adventures still have some of the same lame villains and overall clunkiness of the 1940's comics, but generally they feel more modern, and much more fluid. The crossover formula did wonders to lighten the tone and pick up the pace for both heroes, and these comics, while not the top of my superhero list, are still pretty fun, and fine for little readers to check out as well. Recommended! (B)

"World's Finest Comics: DC Archives, v.2"
(DC Comics, 2002)


"World's Finest Comics: DC Archives, v.3"
(DC Comics, 2005)


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