Superman Vs. Wonder Woman

Superman Vs. Wonder Woman coverSuperman Vs. Wonder Woman: by Gerry Conway, Jose-Luis Garcia-Lopez, Dan Adkins, Gaspar Saladino, Jerry Serpe

If DC learned one thing from publishing those treasury-sized edition crossovers with Marvel Comics, it's that superhero infighting sells. This trope has been pretty much played-out now that Superman gets to beat on some wayward colleague (Or go rogue himself) seemingly every five minutes. But I find it interesting that back in the 1970s, his first tabloid format "in-universe" sparring partner was Wonder Woman, followed by heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali. Back then DC had already built-up Superman as their paragon of masculinity. But the 70s were also a time of for the publisher, so the content of these comics may, on some level, reflect contemporary efforts to appear more "relevant" to a larger audience. But whatever their motives, Superman Vs. Wonder Woman isn't remembered as fondly as Superman Vs. The Amazing Spider-Man.

The all-so-important topic this comic book touches on is nuclear weapons proliferation. This issue is grafted into a setting, when Wonder Woman and Superman learn separately of the to develop atomic weapons. The nuclear arms race did begin in the 40s when the Allies and the Nazis were both trying to master atomic power. But the story is being written with the benefit of 70s hindsight. WW in particular acts like she actually understands atomic theory, which makes the Man of Steel look kind of a doofus in comparison. Supes and WW firmly hold different positions. So like all people in a democratic country who just happen to disagree, they try to settle their disagrement with fisticuffs.

I'm a little unclear about what, if any, position the original versions of these characters held about the atomic bomb, or if their respective creators were even allowed to express anything other than a conventional flag waving, pro-America stance. But this version of Wonder Woman doesn't like it one bit. I joked about the tactless behavior of the Gargareans in Rise of the Olympian. But here's WW acting no better. She goes on a rampage in downtown Chicago trying to destroy a top secret nuclear reactor. Superman intervenes, and gets tossed into Lake Michigan for his troubles. Well now he's pissed. So he reacts like any typical angry male and shows the super-powered, irrational, emotionally unstable, angry feminist bimbo who's boss.

Superman Vs. Wonder Woman: Superman gets mad
And what about WW's code of using loving submission? What about ending the fight in two seconds using the magic lasso, or with any other divine gifts? Screw that, the readers want a fight. WW puts on an impressive display of She Fu: She throws Superman around like a rag doll, while giving him a simultaneous purple nurple. Rickson Gracie's got nothing on her.

Superman Vs. Wonder Woman: Wonder Woman throws Superman
Superman's excuse for getting beaten so badly is that he's holding back because they're in a populated area. He suggests taking the fight to the Moon, where he can survive indefinitely while WW has to wear one of those silly fishbowl helmets to breathe. Way to play fair. Once they arrive, they spot the radioactive ruins of an ancient civilization. WW naturally wants to use this to make her case about the dangers of nuclear power. But Superman isn't even listening, and tackles her from behind:

Superman Vs. Wonder Woman: Superman sucker punches Wonder Woman
He really is a dick (And WW's motion blur is kind of risqué). The fight is cut short when the government uses a fancy light show to get their attention. The two are then directed to chase after the actual villains of the story, but only after they've already stolen the key components of a nuclear device. There's not a whole lot to say about them. They're straight from central casting: is a Nazi with several Superman-like abilities. But he can only use them one at a time. Sumo is a stereotypical Samurai warrior type. It's interesting (And not in a good way) that after more than thirty years, the Western template for Japanese super-humans hasn't changed.

Superman Vs. Wonder Woman: Baron Blitzkrieg meets Sumo
Superman and WW catch-up to the bad guys somewhere in the Pacific, but have a difficult time stopping them, partly due to fatigue caused by their previous duel. Of course they do eventually defeat the Aryan and Japanese supermen. What did you expect, the Axis powers winning the war? But Superman accidentally sets off an uncontrolled nuclear reaction with his x-ray vision (dumbass), presumably killing Blitzkrieg and Sumo.

Back at Washington, Superman makes promise to WW that he will never use the atomic bomb on another nation. But WW finally realizes that she can't stop the march of technology, or future leaders from ordering the use of nuclear weapons. The rest, as they say, is history.