A Joye Hummel Wonder Woman
by Travis Hedge Coke
That Joye Hummel wrote Wonder Woman comics in the Nineteen Forties was buried, obscured, hidden and forgotten until recent years, with Hummel, now Joye Murchison Kelly, receiving due credit and the minimum of the celebration she deserves. Joye Hummel Wonder Woman is a trip. Some of the stories, it was publicly known were not likely to have been written by Dr Marston, the originator, along with his spouse, lover, and artist HG Peter, of the character and world. Those stories, however, were casually dismissed as therefore obviously inferior. Q, E, and D. It ain’t necessarily so.
Point of fact, it ain’t.
The Mystery of Iceberg Lake, in Sensation Comics #49, released November, 1945, is glorious! It leads a pack of fantastic support stories; a fun Little Boy Blue, a surreal Mr Terrific, the silly, Laff, Darn Ya, Laff!, and a speedy little Wildcat comic. Outside of Lady Danger, you are looking at my favorite lineup in Sensation. The buoyancy of 1940s Wonder Woman is fully on display, with a delightful sense of motion that is brought to lively life by Peter, but had to also inherently be in the script. This comic moves.
Wonder Woman, in her secret identity of Diana Prince, is going on a ski trip with everybody’s favorite Silver Age sorority, the Holliday Girls, when she is roped in by the military to contact Wonder Woman who needs to rescue some children… at the same locale as Diana was already headed to go skiing.
Every panel has motion, swinging, zipping movement. And, every panel has women. Every panel.
Oh, you say, this should be so common I shouldn’t mention it? Yeah, it’s not. Many comics then, twenty years after, even today, can forget that women exist until they are narratively required or there to add some sexing up. This is a different case. Women are present because there are women in the world. In life. In buildings, on the street, at ski resorts. Nor, do they all stretch and bend to appeal to some outside-their-world horny reader.
That Wonder Woman (and the Holliday Girls) stand upright, not bending, not shoving a hip painfully to the side, not butt-firsting it, is novel enough now, it’s depressing.
Wonder Woman on skis is awesome! But, she on-skis catches an entire log cabin, full of kidnapped children, and that it more than awesome. It does not make a ton of structural sense, but it looks so cool.
The Stan Josephs Mr Terrific story, The Tale of the Tattooed Eye, could be forgettable, but it is told in such a quick, questionless style and it features an incredibly memorable tattoo of an eye on a hypnotist’s hand, which keeps it in your mind. The tattoo is both specific and weirdly entrancing and defining. It would be at home in a David Lynch movie, a Rene Magritte painting. It’s the comic book version of Blue Velvet’s Man in the Yellow Jacket.
The Little Boy Blue, Phooey to Love, sees Boy Blue and the Blue Boys learn the important lessons of distrusting all girls and also men dressed like girls. Yeah… this one does not wash as great. But, the artwork is fantastic. Goofy, emotive. The baddie, a small bald man who dressed like a tween girl to flirt with boys and set them up for crimes, reminds me too much of the X-Men character, Cassandra Nova. and, fairly, by ending the story on the Blue Boys assaulting a random young girl on the chance she might also be a grown man in a dress and goldilocks wig trying to fool them, it is easy to read the story as one of dumb boys being dumb boys and move on to the next supplemental.
The second Laff, Darn Ya, Laff! is a simple gag: Guy is charging for looks through his telescope to see the stars. When someone tries to cheat, claiming they saw none and so they won’t pay, the purveyor tells them to try again, then whacks them good with a big hammer. Upshot: They saw stars.
Tale of a Tomcat, the Wildcat short, is another case of dress up, as a refined, obnoxious, self-styled intellectual decides he is both superior to the superhero (who saves him, thanklessly), and that it is purely the costume that makes a superhero. Donning one of his own, he falls several stories on top of our hero, gets thrown around, exhausted, and finally, gets a black eye. The story ends, exhorting us, “For fast and furious action follow the feline fighter in every issue of Sensation Comics!”
Wonder Woman is the undisputed star of Sensation, and her story is the one closest to contemporary modes of storytelling, the most enjoyable when read with modern day eyes. It is dashing fun. It has become tradition to play Steve Trevor as dashing, as a sort of Prince Charming, but Trevor at this time, is a Wonder Woman fanboy. That is his role, acknowledging how awesome Wonder Woman is. It is Diana who rushes in with the rescues, who strikes the handsome poses, who races, rushes, and thrills in rescues and fights, just as, in this issue, she leaps from a moving train to keep talking with Trevor, catches him with her magic lasso.
It is Wonder Woman’s comic, Wonder Woman’s world, and we are invited alongside as fanboys and Holliday Girls.