Wonder Man #1
Issue(s): Wonder Man #1
The theme and marketing of the book is very much what we would today call "brodude" and in 1991 would have been represented by the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Bill and Ted, and Pauly Shore. You can see that in the phrases that are put in the direct market corner boxes on the covers. This issue's pharse is "Cool Calm Collectible" which isn't so bad, but next issue it's "Babes Beefcake & Bromo" and then "Teens Tans & Trouble" and so on. Definitely it's a lighthearted book with a satirical take on Hollywood. And that's... certainly a direction you can go in with Wonder Man, and i guess fits with his encounters with Abomination and Arkon in West Coast Avengers. I guess the other main thing you can do is what Steve Englehart did with the Vision and Scarlet Witch book and examine Wonder Man's relationship with the Vision and bring back the Grim Reaper yet again and all of that. So i'm glad we're going in a different direction, but at the same time it's hard for me to accept. I've enjoyed the lighthearted aspects of Wonder Man's character in the past - his relationship with the Beast and when he got stuck acting as caveman on a kid's television show - but placing him primarily in a humorous setting seems odd to me. Wonder Man has mainly been a staid, serious character. And seeing him repeatedly get flustered by the excesses of Hollywood just makes me wonder why he bothers.
And the satire affects other characters as well. So issue #1 is all about Goliath, who is jealous of Wonder Man. That makes sense; Erik Josten in his first appearance as Power Man was in fact a copy of Wonder Man, created by the same technology. But that doesn't mean that nowadays Goliath should become obsessed with wanting Wonder Man's life as an actor.
Goliath is defeated by Wonder Man going in his mouth.
In the meantime, we learn that Goliath was sent by Wonder Man's agent, Neal Saroyan, in order to increase publicity for Simon.
In a different sort of book Neal would be arrested for being indirectly responsible for Goliath's rampage and all the property damage he caused, or at least Wonder Man would have fired him. But here, Wonder Man just gets frustrated and runs off to deal with the next crisis, while Neal thinks up the next zany scheme to promote his client.
The theme of the book, repeated twice, is that LA makes people crazy.
Plenty of beefcake in this book.
Also a fair amount of risque talk, like Wonder Man calling his current girlfriend Ginger Beach a "casting couch throw pillow" to make Goliath think that he's not interested in her.
I don't like that Jeff Johnson seems to have de-aged Wonder Man 10 years, but despite him being a newcomer he does fine here, and is definitely not part of the proto-Image crowd. I find the tone of the book to be really off-putting, but that's not a failing on Gerard Jones' part; it's just a choice about the series that i don't really like.
Ginger Beach will later become the Crazy Eight character Snap, and we also meet Gloria Angel, Wonder Man's neighbor, who will become Glamour Girl.
Quality Rating: C
Chronological Placement Considerations: N/A
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (5): showErik Josten, Glamour Girl (Gloria Angel), Megan McCambridge, Neal Saroyan, Snap (Ginger Beach), Wonder Man
Why is Wonder Man asking how Erik survived his last defeat? His last appearance was in Web of Spider-Man 64-65 and he was clearly just knocked out in that story, not seriously injured.
Posted by: Michael | October 28, 2015 7:50 AM
"Goliath is defeated by Wonder Man going in his mouth". I thought this was kid-friendly site...oh, wait, sorry, my bad. :)
Posted by: JSfan | October 28, 2015 8:26 AM
Shouldn't Goliath's eyes be yellow, like Wonder Man's are red?
Posted by: Bill | October 28, 2015 3:53 PM
This book couldnt have launched at a worse time. AWC was bleeding readers in 1990 after DeFalco drove off Byrne and gave the book to Thomas-on-autopilot. And the east coasters were adrift in Nicieza fill-ins.
Instead of expanding the line, they should exercised some quality control and recruited some talent for the core books.
Posted by: Bob | October 28, 2015 7:28 PM
I enjoyed this run for the first 8 or so issues. The art is pleasing to me and the humorous tone was different.A cut above many of the other books at the time.
Posted by: Grom | October 28, 2015 7:50 PM
Gerard Jones did an independent comic called "Trouble With Girls" that was really right in-line with the character of Wonder Man - or at least, compatible with the same tropes. "Trouble..." featured brawny dude beefcake, "adult" themes and a fair amount of nudity, and Hollywood settings. It seems like the pitch was "Hey can you do Trouble With Girls, but in-continuity?"
Posted by: cullen | October 28, 2015 10:22 PM
As far as mainstream super-hero works goes, Gerard Jones was much more known for Green Lantern, particularly Green Lantern Mosaic.
He also wrote a book called "The Comic Book Heroes," which was apparently part industry history, part Hollywood Babylon.
Posted by: Red Comet | October 29, 2015 12:17 AM
Art doesn't look too bad here, but Simon looks way too young...
Posted by: Piotr W | October 29, 2015 3:53 PM
Gerard Jones is probably best known for his "Sidney Mellon" columns in Amazing Heroes, which were ostensibly written by an extremely ignorant and short-sighted Marvel fan who worshipped Chris Claremont and Frank Miller as gods due to their "graphic literature". A surprisingly large amount of people actually thought "Sidney" was real and would write in to argue with him.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | October 31, 2015 12:39 AM
This is not how you do a Wonder Man solo title. The acting/stuntman angle is perhaps one of the least appealing things about Wonder Man, done basically because nobody knew what to do with him. Only Stern seemed to write him well.
Wonder Man's whole thing is him being one of the most powerful people alive. In terms of power, he is almost like Superman - at least a peer to Thor. Unlike the other characters that powerful, he is a human being though - not a god nor an alien. That is what should be explored which means finding or creating villains that can be true menaces.
And I hate what is done to Golaith here. Goliath had been rescued from obscurity and made a major threat. Someone who could pound Hercules to near death. Who could take on the entire West Coast Avengers on his own and be a credible threat, and if teamed with other villains could even defeat them. Becoming Wonder Man's punching bag is not how you deal with a villain of this caliber.
Posted by: Chris | October 31, 2015 2:19 PM
Chris, this is better than his last appearance in Web of Spider-Man, where Peter knocked him out by TRIPPING him.
Posted by: Michael | October 31, 2015 2:47 PM
The main issue with Wonder Man is that it's hard to explain his motivations and conflicts if you take him away from the Vision-Scarlet Witch-Grim Reaper stuff, but that he's also the most conventional part of those other relationships.
He's also got terrible generic powers: just plain super-strength and invulnerability, without the frisson of say, Hercules's braggadocious godhood, the Hulk's multiple personalities and rage issues, or the Thing's lament at his lost humanity. And the West Coast Avengers title was a long string of him getting over his personality problems, so he doesn't have inner conflicts like his 1970s-era "fear of death" or his mid-1980s egotism.
Giving him better villains would help, yes, but who Wonder Man is and what his supporting cast would be like seem like the bigger questions. What makes a plot specifically a Wonder Man plot, a story that couldn't be told about any other superstrong hero? What makes a character a good character for Wonder Man to bounce off of? It's there that this book falls flat, thanks to answering both questions with "LA sure is a crazy place! Hollywood, amirite?"
Posted by: Omar Karindu | October 13, 2017 6:29 AM
Omar, you are definitely right, and distinguishing Wonder Man from the other heavies is an essential task for a solo title. But I think it's easy. Wondy, despite being a transformed ionic being, is still an ordinary person. He isn't a monster like Hulk or Thing. He isn't a god like Thor or Hercules. Or a potential enemy like Namor. Or an alien like Gladiator or Champion. At least in the eyes of the Marvel public, he's a human being. At this point, he doesn't even have a secret identity. That aspect could be played up. There is no reason to play up Hollywood, just treat him as someone the public views as a glamorous, "celebrity" hero like the FF used to be portrayed. Someone the public trusts to stand up against the more monstrous villains and a worthy member of the Avengers. That would be a different dynamic than most Marvel comics, and the lack of Asgard would distinguish him from Thor. Keep him grounded as a people's champion.
I think a lot of the post-Crisis Superman could be used as a template especially the newer elements Byrne used shorn of Kryptonian influences. Give him a mastermind villain like the businessman Lex Luthor (and this could be an existing character, Marvel has enough of them). Find some powerful villains whose powers aren't just being strong and hitting things. Find some groups of villains who'd be more powerful than most single heroes, but not quite strong enough to take on an entire group of Avengers.
Posted by: Chris | October 13, 2017 3:58 PM
Basically my idea is that Simon isn't at Superman status in the Marvel Universe (in terms of trust, exposure, and respect), but the book would explore Simon gradually becoming such a hero not just in the US but around the world. Show him earning that status, accepting that responsibility, and the public seeing him pay those dues.
Instead of Superman playing in his mythos of the Fortress of Solitude, the Bottle City of Kandor, his possible Kryptonian relatives, and negative legacy of Krypton (Brainiac, Phantom Zone criminals), you start creating Wondy's own mythos and supporting cast planted firmly as humanity's champion living with his own people. Give him a LA mansion or penthouse. Give him an entourage. Give him a celebrity TV interviewer as a supporting cast member. Build nemesis of "Zemo's Legacy" and how he is the only good thing to come out of that. Explore him being a superhero 24/7 in a way not even the FF can. Tell the kind of stories people want to do with Superman, but can't because of the baggage of 50+ years of Supe's own mythos (and his own huge power inflation).
Posted by: Chris | October 13, 2017 4:11 PM
This was my first exposure to Wonder Man and remains one of my favorite series (at least before it got inexplicably dark). Yes, that's mostly due to nostalgia but I still really love the fun tone and Johnson's art. I always was disappointed he didn't get to do more.
Posted by: joshua corum | February 22, 2018 8:46 PM
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