20 Reasons to Suspect Wonder Woman Had the Worst Luck When It Came to Amassing a Decent Rogues’ Gallery
1. Mouse Man
Let’s be honest: despite her status as the most famous female superhero on the planet, Wonder Woman has the worst luck when it comes to attracting truly great villains. Whether it’s because of her gender, or her creator’s notions of how a proper heroine should act, or that the majority of her writers just never seemed to give a damn, the sad fact is her books have yet to produce a villain with the cultural impact of, say, a Lex Luthor or a Joker. And where do I get the gall to suggest her writers were ever less than diligent in their duties? I give you Mouse Man, terrorizing ankles and electrical outlets since 1963. Permanently reduced to a height of about six inches through chemical experiments, Mouse Man used his small size and his ability to control mice and other vermin and stage elaborate crimes. So let’s review. He’s a six-inch-tall man. Wearing a mouse costume. Ordering other mice around. And somehow he’s considered a legitimate threat to someone who can go toe-to-toe with Superman—who, it must be said, was never forced to deal with crap villains like this, and he once fought a space cowboy on a robot horse.
2. Baroness Paula von Gunther
Debuting during the Second World War and sporting the Stars and Stripes, it’s no surprise that Wonder Woman, like most other heroes of the time, spent a lot of her early years fighting German and Japanese nogoodniks. And among the numerous Axis scientists she encountered, von Gunther is probably the most well-known (and one of only two comic-book villains to score an appearance on the Wonder Woman show in the ’70s). Alas, her effectiveness as an arch-villain is mitigated by the fact she eventually reformed and became one of Wondy’s staunchest allies — a fate no doubt dictated by creator William Moulton Marston’s belief in emphasizing rehabilitation. Just as well, as some of the Baroness’s schemes tilted toward the daffy, like the time she schemed to inflate the price of milk in America, thus producing a generation of calcium-deprived citizens that would be ripe for conquest in a decade or two. Um, sure.
3. Blue Snowman
Another contestant for the role of Wonder Woman’s Mad Scientist Arch-Nemesis is Byrna Brilyant, a.k.a. the Blue Snowman. First appearing in 1946, this small-town schoolteacher and scientist disguised herself as a man and used a telescopic snow ray to create and reverse blizzards. Actually, there was a lot of this going on in the early Wonder Woman stories, with women disguising themselves as men before going out and wreaking havoc in one way or another. You wouldn’t think a woman with the ability to change weather patterns would have an issue with expressing her feminine side, but apparently so. In any event, it’s hard to take a villain seriously when it takes only a shovel and a set of tire chains to defeat her.
4. American Adolph
Captain America gets the Red Skull, a surprisingly durable super-villain who has come back many times over the decades to threaten freedom and democracy. Wonder Woman gets American Adolph, a villain first introduced in 1943… and hardly ever mentioned since. Inspired by the example of Adolf Hitler (duh), American Adolph pens his own prison manifesto (“My War Against Society”), detailing his plot to organize a massive criminal nation-within-the-nation. Master of disguise, superb athlete, cunning planner, charismatic leader… Adolph was all of these, and yet somehow also much less.
Yet another in a series of Wonder Woman opponents who hid underneath a man’s wardrobe, Hypnota was a stage magician who was accidentally shot in the head during a rehearsal for her show. Treating the gunshot wound with an experimental surgery technique saved her life, but it also gave her the ability to use “blue electric rays of dominance” emanating from her “mid-brain.” From elsewhere on the web: “Using this new power for crime, she enslaved her sister, the weak-willed Serva, and used her as a pawn while selling hypnotized captives to the Saturn slave traders.” Wait… what?
6. The Fireworks Man
Also known as The Human Fireworks, this sparkling personality (ha!) teamed up with Angle Man and Mouse Man to eliminate Wonder Woman in WW #141. His shtick: the ability to turn himself into “a giant whirling exploding pinwheel,” which has fewer practical applications than you might think. He tried to drag our heroine into outer space (where, natch, his combustible powers would be useless), but he was destroyed by a falling meteor—which you have to admit is pretty rotten luck, even for someone dumb enough to think teaming up with the likes of Mouse Man would somehow boost his street cred.
Head of a woman, body of a shark. You really need anything more than that? Fine. Debuted in Comic Cavalcade #21 (06/47). Leader of a pack of “flying mermaid” hybrids. Created during unauthorized experiments by Paula von Gunther’s daughter, Gerta. Once seized Queen Hippolyta’s magic girdle. Later sold real estate in the greater Phoenix area under the pseudonym “Penny Finklestein.” One of these statements isn’t true.
8. Termite Queen
The central threat of Wonder Woman #58 (03/53) is the leader of a swarm of vicious sentient mutant termites out to destroy the human world. I’m not sure why, but it probably had something to do with us keeping the best wood for ourselves. Whatever her reason, it’s hard to tremble when faced with a force that could be foiled by the Orkin man.
9. Time Master
Using the alias Ty M. Master, Time Master (WW #101, 10/58) created an amusement park fun house with mirrored doors that led to different time periods, as part of an evil scheme to destroy Wonder Woman. Sure, because what other possible commercial use could there be for an amusement park funhouse that’s capable of sending people into other time periods? I can’t decide if this guy needed a good therapist or a marketing consultant.
10. Professor Menace
First appeared: Wonder Woman #111 (01/60). He’s an evil scientist who created a super-strong robot duplicate of Wonder Woman. You were expecting anything else from a guy who calls himself “Professor Menace”? Unless there’s a sequel to Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog in the works, I doubt we’ll be hearing from this one any time soon.
The “master of the Mirror World,” he draws Wonder Woman into his dimension and pits her against mirror duplicates of herself as a test of his powers in preparation for an invasion of Earth. Take out the “invasion of Earth” bit, and you pretty much have a line-by-line rip-off of the Mirror Master, a classic Flash foe introduced just three years prior to this pale reflection’s 1962 debut. So, no. Nice try, but no.
12. Egg Fu
Ah, dear sweet Egg Fu. Product of jingoistic anti-Communist propaganda? Check. Embarrassingly dated and racist “oh so solly” speech pattern, even for 1965? Check. Prehensile mustache capable of lassoing an unsuspecting foe? Check and mate. Created, to his eternal shame, by Robert Kanigher, Egg Fu was an egg-shaped Chinese agent whose scheme to use Wonder Woman’s boy toy as a human bomb left him with… well, egg on his face. Perhaps second only to MODOK in the Demented Ovoid Characters sweepstakes, Egg Fu has actually found a second life in more modern times, thanks to comic writers and fans who still can’t get over how truly nutty the Silver Age was.
13. Crimson Centipede
Another bizarre Kanigher creation, the green-skinned Crimson Centipede (WW #169, 03/67) was presented as an emissary of Mars, the God of War, who had a few issues with all the “love and peace” hippie crap that Wonder Woman was spreading in Man’s World. Possessing the awesome power of 16 pairs of arms and legs, his plan to serve his master had something to do with funding criminal activities that would cause political unrest and counter Wonder Woman’s message of peace. It may seem like a needlessly complicated plan for someone who could just pummel Wonder Woman for hours on end, but there’s no point in questioning any of this. Mars is a god and you’re not; just accept he works in mysterious ways and carry on.
14. Paper Man
A few lists back, I remarked on the absurdity of a villain made entirely of paper presented as a credible threat. Still not convinced? The Paper Man (WW #165, 10/66) was a chemical worker making a special batch of paper for military intelligence (ooh, secret paper!) when he fell into a vat and was transformed (as one tends to be) into a sentient piece of paper. He then used his newfound “power” to manipulate his shape, becoming a paper airplane, a ball of paper, and other equally useless objects. And here’s the kicker: he did all this in order to steal gifts for the object of his obsession, Diana Prince (not knowing she was actually Wonder Woman in her secret-identity). The best part? He meets his end when, while trying to escape as a kite, a puff of breath from Wonder Woman sends him flying into a newspaper plant, where he’s probably pulped and pounded into the following day’s birdcage liner.
From Wonder Woman #185 (11/69), the trio known as THEM! was an all-girl gang of New York hippies with members named—oh, how I kid you not—Top Hat, Moose Momma and Pinto. They came to Wonder Woman’s attention when they tried to terrorize a girl named Cathy Perkins, who turned to Wonder Woman for help. Oh, and they also had a penchant for dressing like men and forcing their victims to wear dog collars. This is what it’s come to, folks: while Superman was fending off alien armadas and Batman was matching wits with criminal masterminds, Wonder Woman was reduced to fighting three normal-powered thugs apparently designed by the American Family Association to scare kids away from hippiedom, lesbianism or possibly both.
This Amazon astronomer was eventually driven mad when her bracelets (the symbols of oppression that all Amazons must wear) were destroyed, causing her to become obsessed with the invisibility cloak around Paradise Island that she felt was interfering with her instruments. So of course, if she wanted to see her precious constellations she had no other choice but to lead a violent coup. You heard right: a power-mad astronomer. As if that’s something we’re ever likely to see. No, Stephen Hawking doesn’t count.
Did you think that Wonder Woman’s woeful roster of super-villains would confine themselves only to the pages of her own magazine? Oh, sweet Jesus in heaven, no. This rather shameful tale appeared in DC’s The Brave and the Bold, which at this particular moment was having a merry time presenting generic superhero team-up stories. In this issue, Supergirl, Wonder Woman, and their two gentlemen friends find themselves on the island hideout of Multi-Face, a criminal mastermind who escaped from prison and, thanks to an accident during the breakout, somehow gained the power to shape his features at will. The story involves ridiculously contrived reasons for Supergirl and Wonder Woman to hide their superheroing from their suitors, but in the end it boils down to Multi-Face folding like a cheap deck chair before his master plan could commence. Overly dramatic, easily subdued, severely lacking in organizational skills, a complexion like a used piece of grape Hubba Bubba—I don’t think we’re seeing his face on a Burger King glass anytime soon.
18. Inversion, the Inside-Out Man
So, let’s say you’re a scientist trying to invent a working teleporter, and one day you decide to test it on yourself. But something happens and you’re horribly disfigured, with your internal organs now on the outside of your body. Do you (a) curse your God in the few remaining seconds your incredibly painful form has left to live; (b) smack yourself for being an idiot and not having the good sense to test the goddamned thing on a hamster first before trying it yourself; or (c) become a super-villain and try to force Wonder Woman to help you inflict the same fate on the rest of the world? If you guessed (C), congratulations! You are now officially pathetic.
19. Doctor Cyber
The closest that Wonder Woman has ever come to having a genuine arch-nemesis is probably when the Cheetah came on the scene. But Doctor Cyber is another contender for the title; having first appeared during Wonder Woman’s de-powered days as a martial-arts expert, this head of an international crime syndicate made several appearances over the years, certainly far more than the likes of the Crimson Centipede. Her face was horribly burned during an early battle, and she vowed revenge for her ruined beauty. But instead of plotting to do the same to Wonder Woman, she instead obsessed about having Wonder Woman’s face removed and surgically grafted on her own. Sometimes, those Women’s Studies graduate theses just write themselves, don’t they?
20. The Gaucho
I really can’t improve on the Wikipedia entry dedicated to this goober, so here goes: “One of five perfect assassins controlled by a mysterious entity called The Prime Planner. He is a villain originated from the wild Pampas of South America and dressed in a costume reminiscent of the South American Gauchos. He is equipped with a flying silver robot horse, an electrified lasso, projectiles, and bolas which consist of three balls attached to a long rope, that he throws to his victims.” But I think the line that really sells him as a character is the caption on this cover: “Even with all her powers, Wonder Woman is no match for the Gaucho — A REAL MAN!” (slap to forehead) Oh, so THAT’S what it takes to defeat Wonder Woman! Silly us, sending all these women in drag and freaks of nature to take her down when all we needed was a real man to get muy macho. Well, thank goodness we had a hombre like him to set us straight and show us how to handle an uppity heroine. Sheesh.