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When We First Met – When Did Wonder Woman First Fly Her Invisible Jet?

Every week we spotlight the various characters, phrases, objects or events that eventually became notable parts of comic book lore. Not major stuff like “the first appearance of Superman,” but rather, “the first time someone said, ‘Avengers Assemble!’” or “the first appearance of Batman’s giant penny” or “the first appearance of Alfred Pennyworth” or “the first time Spider-Man’s face was shown half-Spidey/half-Peter.” Stuff like that. Here is an archive of all the When We First Met features so far! Check ‘em out!

Today we take a look at three notable Wonder Woman firsts! The first time she flew in her invisible jet, the debut of the Diana Prince secret identity and the first time Wonder Woman exclaimed, “Merciful Minerva!”

First up are two simple ones, as they debuted in the first issue of Wonder Woman’s ongoing monthly feature in Sensation Comics #1 (by William Moulton Marston and H.G. Peter).

First off, the issue opens with Wonder Woman flying her invisible plane (not yet a jet)…

Words cannot describe how much I love the fact that they do not bother to explain WHY Wonder Woman has an invisible plane. She just does. Deal with it, suckers!!

Commenter Basara makes a good point that it is originally a plane when it first debuts, not a jet.

Up through Wonder Woman #44, it still had a propeller (although it had traveled into the stratosphere, as noted by commenter Scott, in #26)…

The next issue, though, was a recap of Wonder Woman’s origin (as a female reporter came to Paradise Island to learn Wonder Woman’s story) and the plane has now become a jet…

Wonder Woman #99 (Ross Andru and Mike Esposito’s second issue as the artists on the title) debuted the new look for the invisible jet, the look the jet would have for years to come…


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Later that issue, Wonder Woman gained the most awesome secret identity ever…just something she grabbed off of some crying lady she ran into…

According to comic book logic, there are exact duplicates of most of us on every street corner in any large city.
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Reader Shurron F. asked when was the first time that Wonder Woman exclaimed, “Merciful Minerva!”

Well, early on, Wonder Woman just took her cues from Steve Trevor and the U.S. military…

but eventually her go-to phrase was “Great Aphrodite!”

However, “go-to” is a bit of a stretch as she used a LOT of different exclamations over the years.

One common early one was to make some reference to characters from mythology (who, of course, to Wonder Woman, are quite familiar and not just characters) (like “Atalanta’s Arrows!”). My favorite was…

But otherwise, she was ALL over the place. From football metaphors…

to awesomely bizarre bits like…

and..

and…

to going all Good Will Hunting on the Nazis…

In Wonder Woman #6, she says “Great Hera,” which soon became one of her top phrases…

But finally, in Comic Cavalcade #4, of all places, she says…

Yes, she THINKS it, but come on, that so counts.
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If YOU have a suggestion for a comic debut you’re curious about, feel free to drop me a line at bcronin@comicbookresources.com

43 Comments

Why on earth does Wonder Woman feel the need to hide an invisible plane in a deserted barn?

Keeps people from walking into said invisible plane. Also? Keeps from killing any innocent birds who might be flying past

Matthew Johnson

June 19, 2012 at 6:59 am

Everybody remember where we parked!

Matthew Johnson

June 19, 2012 at 7:00 am

Also: forget “Merciful Minerva,” when did she first say “Suffering Sappho”?

Commander Benson

June 19, 2012 at 9:16 am

Certainly, even by Golden-Age standards, how Wonder Woman adopted her everyday identity of Diana Prince is absurd. But, curiously enough, writer William Moulton Marston actually followed up on it, making it one of the rare Golden-Age efforts to instil continuity based on a previous story.

The Wonder Woman story in Sensation Comics # 9 (Sep., 1942) opens with Diana Prince having lunch with Army major Steve Trevor. A man named Dan White approaches their table, claiming Diana is his wife. White angrily accuses Diana of walking out on him and their baby. It’s a toss-up as to whose jaw drops the furthest at that news—Major Trevor’s or Diana’s. Trevor, however, recovers first and punches White in the mouth, driving him off.

No doubt startled by Trevor’s rare display of manliness, Diana takes a few seconds longer than usual to figure out that Dan White must be the fiancé, now husband, whom the real Diana Prince was going to join in South America.

The story then follows White back to an apartment in town where he finds his wife slaving over a hot stove and taking care of their baby. White confirms his credentials as a jerk by pushing his wife around and accusing her of stepping out on him.

Mrs. White—the real Diana Prince—also figures out what happened and goes to Military Intelligence headquarters to confront the girl who took her place. The real Diana wants her identity back. She explains that, while in South America, her husband, the jerk, invented a weapon that he felt would be useful in the war effort. So they returned to Washington, D.C.

The problem is White has been unable to find anyone interested in purchasing his invention, he hasn’t got a job, and they’re broke. Diana figures if she can have her identity back, she can take over the pretend Diana’s job as secretary to Colonel Darnell and bring some money home.

The real Diana lays in on thick—”I can’t let my baby starve!” and that sort of thing—and basically guilts Wonder Woman into agreeing to giving the real Diana her identity back. Apparently, being a colonel’s secretary isn’t that demanding because all it takes to complete the switch-over is for W.W. to tell the real Diana “a few things about the job and then I’ll get out!”

As we find out, somebody is interested in Dan White’s invention—Axis spies! Of course, the Amazing Amazon intervenes, rescuing both the real Diana and Dan the Jerk. The U.S. government realises that there must be something to Dan’s invention, if the Japanese tried so hard to get their hands on it. So Uncle Sam buys it.

Now that their bank account is healthy, the real Diana Prince decides that she doesn’t need that ol’ civil-service job, anymore. She goes back to being Mrs. Dan the Jerk and Wonder Woman goes back to being the pretend Diana Prince.

“One common early one was to make some reference to the gods (like “Atalanta’s Arrows!”)”

Sorry to burst your bubble, Brian, but Atalanta wasn’t a goddess.

And that invisible “jet” is a prop plane in that appearance.

I wonder when it actually makes the transition from prop to jet? It had to either be late in the war, or after, as there was a lot of “jet aircraft will never be a useful weapon” crap during the war in the US & British governments & militaries, until the Me-262 started flying and the V-1s (which used a pulse jet engine) started dropping on England.

Sorry to burst your bubble, Brian, but Atalanta wasn’t a goddess.

Sorry, I just meant characters from mythology, not actual gods (as she mentions Hercules, as well).

Great Odin’s Ravin!

By the Beard of Zeus!

Sweet Lincoln’s mullet!

Uncle Jonathan’s corn-cob pipe!

Antony and Cleopatra!

“Suffering Sappho” is a fun story. when Wertham was on his campaign against comics he specifically cited Wonder Woman as having ‘dangerous’ lesbian undertones. Marston loathed Wertham and his campaign, so as a thorn in Wertham’s side he had Wonder Woman begin exclaiming “Suffering Sappho!”.

I long for the day when she exclaims “Quivering Quim!”

Interesting–aside from “Great Hera!” the Wonder Woman catchphrase I remember the most is “Sufferin’ Sappho!” I’d forgotten all about the Minerva one.

In Wonder Woman vol. 1 #26, Wonder Woman needs to travel into space to investigate reports of abuses by the Golden Women of the Red Planet. To make the journey possible, Baroness Paula von Gunther installs a “stratosphere just attachment” to the robot plane, making it capable of jet-powered flight.

Excellent point, Scott.

Commander Benson

June 19, 2012 at 2:33 pm

Mr. Cronin, you beat me to the punch. While I was doing the research to determine when Wonder Woman’s invisible robot plane became a jet, you did the heavy lifting and posted the straight gouge. (I was only able to narrow it down to the approximate year, into which your more precise answer falls.)

As to the question of when the invisible ship began to take on the lines of a jet (rather than just being a clunky old plane without a propeller), I can only hazard a guess.

In “The Origin of the Amazon Plane”, from Wonder Woman # 80 (Feb., 1956), the ship still has the appearance of an ordinary plane without a prop. So I’m betting that it didn’t take on the streamlined appearance of an actual jet until Wonder Woman # 98 (May, 1958)—which was the first issue drawn by Ross Andru and Mike Esposito, who took over the series following the death of Harry G. Peter.

Ha! Talk about our timing being on the same page! I was JUST in the middle of editing the piece to add the first appearance of the new look jet in Wonder Woman #99 as you were making your essentially correct guess in the comments (off by just a single issue)! Like you, I figured it had to be when Andru/Esposito took over, and it was!

I’m pretty sure that panel where she says “Great Hera” is actually from Wonder Woman #6, where the Cheetah tries to drown her in all that wheat.

I love it when, in the The Pro, the WW analogue says “Sappho’s Lips!”

You are correct, Sean. It was a typo.

WW #45 was the first appearance of the propellor-less plane, and it was also the first time Wonder Woman’s origin was told without reference to World War II. This seems to be the issue where Kanigher takes over fully as editor-writer, and her commemorated with a somewhat new direction for Wonder Woman, just as he did at #98 with the new art team.

Excellent observation, Sean.

So, what if the original Diana Prince ever returns from South America? Wouldn’t it create a bit of a mess, as there are two people with the same name, social security number, etc? Did Woncer Woman just presume Prince will stay in South America for the rest of her life?

Also, are we to just assume that WW is so similar to the original Diana Prince that none of her co-workers, or patients, or other people who know her won’t notice the difference? What if they want to talk about some personal aspects of Prince’s life that WW doesn’t know about? Are these issues ever dealt with in the comic?

Tuomas had some concerns that will be addressed in a future column (just in case Tuomas was wondering where his comment went). ;)

Interesting that no one asked why she needs the plane at all.

Originally, WW was a glider riding the winds; she wasn’t self-propelled. Much more recently, she’s been able to fly. I think that’s a shame. Jumping and gliding limited her power and made for more situations of peril.

I’m amazed to find out that the secret identity trick was (almost) the same used in the ’70s TV show. I thought it was pretty lame when I saw it first, still it was faithful to the original!

Matty Macomber

June 20, 2012 at 7:07 am

I haven’t seen the New 52 Wonder Woman fly on her own power yet, so the regular use of the robot plane might have come back.

However, even if she can fly, it doesn’t negate the usefulness of the plane. IIRC, it was addressed jokingly in the comics where someone basically notes that while most people can walk, we still have cars to get to places faster and to transport more stuff… much more considerate to carry an injured steve trevor back to America in a climate controlled plane than carrying him in her arms thousands of miles!

interesting for always wondered what issue she said Merciful Minerva given all the other phrases she said over the years. plus interesting that the invisible jet changed too. for knew that she got the Diana prince i.d from her very first issue.

I take it that Tuomas made the same questions relating to continuity and Super Friends that I want to do?

Something that I have always been confused about: is Wonder Woman’s plane really invisible, or is it just made out of some sort of transparent substance like plastic? Did any of the stories ever give a definite answer to that question? I mean, in the first appearance which is cited by Brian, it’s described as a “silent transparent plane.” But most often in later years it is described as “invisible.” Is that supposed to be literal or figurative?

Comic-Reader Lad

June 20, 2012 at 12:44 pm

Here’s some other Wonder Woman questions that might be fun to track down the answers to:

(1) When did Hippolyta first become blonde? I’m guessing it was her first appearance during Ross Andru’s run. Also, when did she go from “Hippolyte” to “Hippolyta”?

(2) When was Wonder Woman first shown gliding on air currents? I don’t remember any Harry Peter story where she did this.

(3) Like Ben Herman above suggested, it might be interesting to find out when WW’s plane was truly first described as invisible rather than transparent. If they do bring it back in the comics, they should have two modes: transparent and fully invisible. When invisible, Diana and any passengers would also be invisible.

(4) When did WW first use the lasso to compel someone to tell the truth? When introduced, it had the more general power to command anyone to do anything. It was the Lynda Carter TV show that limited the power to truth-telling, and the comics followed suit only after the George Perez reboot.

Commander Benson

June 20, 2012 at 9:13 pm

I sat down to tackle at least the first two of your questions, C-R Lad, thinking it wouldn’t be that difficult. Boy, was that an underestimation!

My usual process for such things is to, first, see what answers the on-line resources provide, then go to my own copies of the magazines to confirm. Unfortunately, I was never a Wonder Woman collector, so I had to trust whatever I found on line. When that happens, I check multiple sites, to see if they corroborate each other. With that technique, I got two answers out of three.

The Amazing Amazon was first shown displaying the ability to glide on wind currents in the tale “The Human Charm Bracelet”, from Wonder Woman # 106 (May, 1959).

As for the good Queen Hippolyta/e, as you surmised, she went blonde after Andru and Esposito took over the art chores. Her locks turned golden in “The Million Dollar Penny”, from Wonder Woman # 98 (May, 1958).

As for when the spelling of her name changed, that’s the part that made me want to hurl my computer out the window.

Most sites simply stated that the spelling of her name changed from Hippolyte to Hippolyta “sometime in the ’60′s.” A couple more sites got a bit more specific, but only in passing, by standard editorial notations; rather than making specific reference to the spelling change. And unfortunately, neither of those sites were consistent.

The best I can do with any kind of reliability is state that the spelling shift occurred sometime between Wonder Woman # 80 (Feb., 1956) and Wonder Woman # 93 (Oct., 1957). My best guess within that envelope, based on what I found, is that she became “Hippolyta” in “Journey Into the Blue”, from Wonder Woman # 83 (Jul., 1956).

And it’s quite possible that, during this period, the spelling of her name switched back and forth before finally settling on “Hippolyta”.

Hopefully, Mr. Cronin, or some other correspondent, has access to the actual issues and provide a more precise answer.

Hope this helps.

You nailed it, Commander Benson. “Journey Into the Blue” in #83 was, indeed, the change in the spelling (and once they changed it, it was Hippolyta for good).

Commander Benson

June 21, 2012 at 1:57 am

Heh!

I based that guess on the GCD’s listing of Hippolyte/a’s appearances in Wonder Woman, Sensation Comics, and Comics Cavalcade. The queen was annotated in each appearance as “Hippolyta”, but when I got to “Journey Into the Blue”, I noticed the editor had placed a “(sic)” next to her name.

I gambled that that editor, whomever he was, was as obsessive about proper diacritical and editorial annotation as I am.

Sometimes it pays to be a stickler.

Thanks for checking on that, sir.

Would love a part 2 article on recent appearances by the invisible jet! Has it appeared much since the 80′s crisis?? Heinberg or Simone’s run? the nu52 series? I’m sure it made an appearance in Morrison’s JLA…

By Simone’s run, the one plane had become a bunch of ultra-stealth vehicles built by Wayne Tech, of all places. Steve Trevor took an almost perverse pleasure in wrecking the last of them in #599 — or #45, however you want to look at it.

All that fuss about restoring her original numbering — and then a year later, the nu52 wipes it all out… what DC does with/to Diana can make you want to rip your hair out!

Kudos to both Brian Cronin and Commander Benson for their thorough research. Thanks, guys.

Here’s an unrelated one I would like to ask about for a future column, Brian. When did Peter Parker’s eyes go from blue to brown? I have been rereading all my Amazing Spider-Man comics, and the original time I read them it was all in recolored reprints, so his eyes were always recolored brown. This time I’m reading scans of the original Amazing Spider-Man books as they were originally colored, and I’m surprised to see Peter’s eyes blue as recently as Amazing Spider-Man #129, the issue I’m currently on. His eyes appeared as brown during the Roy Thomas Morbius issue with 6 arms but immediately went back to blue soon after. Also, does anyone know the reason for the change?

I just found an earlier instance of the spelling “Hippolyta” from WW #80. I’ll go backwards through my comics until I can find when the change happened.

As for riding air currents, it seems she was doing it before it was actually named, in the switchover to the Silver Age in issue of #98. Perhaps this was the issue where she “taught” herself, because to catch the falling Steve Trevor, she’s able to– well, you can see for yourself–

http://i174.photobucket.com/albums/w86/Saturunen/WonderWoman098cbz-Page15.jpg

If I recall correctly, later stories describe her riding air currents like an escalator, or “swimming” on air currents, until it became it became the standard “riding” or “floating.”

T:”Here’s an unrelated one I would like to ask about for a future column, Brian. When did Peter Parker’s eyes go from blue to brown? I have been rereading all my Amazing Spider-Man comics, and the original time I read them it was all in recolored reprints, so his eyes were always recolored brown. This time I’m reading scans of the original Amazing Spider-Man books as they were originally colored, and I’m surprised to see Peter’s eyes blue as recently as Amazing Spider-Man #129, the issue I’m currently on. His eyes appeared as brown during the Roy Thomas Morbius issue with 6 arms but immediately went back to blue soon after. Also, does anyone know the reason for the change?”

RE: the reason for the change,

If memory serves, didn’t Stan always refer to Peter in dialogue as having brown eyes?If so, I would assume that it was a case of the colorist matching the dialogue.

I remember a scene from the ’70s “Secret Society of Super-Villains” comic in which Superwoman (the evil Earth-3 version of Wonder Woman) was taken by surprise. Instead of “Merciful Minerva,” her exclamation was “Murdering Minerva!”

With help from the Fleisher Wonder Woman Encyclopedia, it seems the first instance of the “Hippolyta” spelling is in Wonder Woman #57, from 1953. I checked the actual comics, and saw that she was Hippolyte in #54, did not appear for two issues, and then was Hippolyta in #57, and from then on.

As for when she first exclaimed “Suffering Sappho,” I believe it was in WW #21, the story featuring the villainess Atomia. This was also one of the first Wonder Woman stories written by Robert Kanigher, and as he noted to Trina Robbins years later that the Amazons were “all lesbians,” I think the invention of this exclamation was his own private joke.

I’ve seen some golden age comics where Wonder Woman has the power to fly on updrafts (which just happened to be around every time she needed to fly). Between that and the plane it seems like they were willing to invent a great deal of absurdities to avoid giving her straight-up flight. Could it have been just to separate her from Superman?

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