The Itsy-Bitsy, Teeny-Weenie Wonder Woman
A few months back, I wrote a Cover to Cover column about giant superheroes, so naturally I had to follow it up with one on tiny superheroes, right?
Right…but while researching the topic, a strange pattern began to emerge that made it clear I needed to narrow my focus.
In addition to the superheroes that used shrinking as part of their M.O. (like the Atom, Ant-Man, or the original tiny hero Doll Man), just about everyone else has been shrunk to a teeny-tiny size at one time or another. However, when it came to getting small on a comic book cover, Wonder Woman far surpassed them all.
The first tiny Wonder Woman cover I could find was Sensation Comics #55 (1946), where a diminutive Diana faces the threat of the “Bughumans”.
In Wonder Woman #31 (1948), a scientist created a bacteria-shrinking Reduso-Liquid to help humanity. However, her creepy boyfriend Roy tried to sell it to war profiteers…and somewhere along the way used it to shrink Wonder Woman!
As the first of the infamous “tweezer covers”, Wonder Woman #79 (1956) finds Diana being lowered into “The Amazon Flea Circus”, as perplexed fleas look on.
A scant six issues later in Wonder Woman #85 (1956), she’s become “The Woman in the Bottle”, and once again (literally) in the hands of a giant unseen male.
Overlapping with another recurring Wonder Woman cover theme (Wonder Woman doubles), the cover of issue #90 (1957) features a tiny Diana facing an equally amazed super-sized version of herself on “The Planet of Giants”.
The very next issue, Wonder Woman found herself imprisoned by the esoteric threat of “The Eagle Who Caged People”…despite the rather large, easy-to-escape gaps between the bars.
A variation on the “tiny Wonder Woman” theme was a cover that essentially created the same effect by featuring a regular-sized Wonder Woman battling a giant.
One of these covers was Wonder Woman #100 (1958), as Wonder Woman and her twin from Dimension X (another double-cover in case you're keeping track) are about to be squished by a weirdly leering Forest Giant (wearing what appears to be an early version of the leg warmers so popular during the 80's).
In Wonder Woman #106 (1959), Diana and Steve Trevor are captured by an alien giant who then fashions them into charms for his girlfriend’s bracelet!
Wonder Girl (Diana as a teenager, not Donna Troy) must confront the mischievous inhabitants of Giant Land after they toss firecrackers (!) onto Paradise Island through a dimensional rift…which later devolved into an attempted…er…“deflowering” here on the cover of Wonder Woman #109 (1959).
This time, the entire Wonder Woman family gets to be tiny and helpless in Wonder Woman #142 (1963). In one of her routinely freakadelic Silver Age stories, Wonder Woman, two magically generated versions of herself at different ages and her mother Hippolyta…okay, wait.
Let me pause here for a sec to let you get your head around that concept.
Okay, where were we? Oh yeah…while hunting for insects, the Wonder Woman Family enters a strange world where they encounter giant “mirage versions” of themselves wearing kabuki makeup. Of course…hasn’t that happened to all of us at one time or another?
Back to traditional shrinking again in Justice League of America #18 (1963), Wonder Woman and the rest of her rapidly shrinking teammates struggle mightily (and ironically) to get the attention of The Atom, the JLA’s resident shrinkmeister.
After a long drought of Mini Wonder Woman covers, along came Wonder Woman #210 (1974), which reprinted the Creepy Roy and the Reduso-Liquid story from Wonder Woman #31 (which I “covered” earlier). Oh, and for those keeping track, this was the second of the infamous pair of tweezer covers.
The final and creepiest cover of the entire lot has to be Wonder Woman #217 (1975), where we see the Duke of Deception inappropriately touching the tiny Amazon as she’s submerged in…well, let’s just say it’s what Green Arrow called it (“soup”) and move along, shall we?
So…what was the deal with all those tiny Wonder Woman covers?
Here’s something to consider: Within the vast catalog of strange superhero transformations, few of those transformation types are as psychologically-loaded as shrinking in size, and perhaps some male comic book creators of the past (whether consciously or sub-consciously) were resisting the idea of women growing in societal stature and influence, in this case by depicting a tiny, helpless Wonder Woman on so many of her covers. Yeah, I’m probably overreaching here…but when you combine the Tiny Wonder Woman covers with the staggering number of covers showing her tied-up or restrained, maybe I’m onto something after all.
Whatever the case, despite her title serving as an incubator for male creators' evolving (yet always clumsy) attitudes toward women, Wonder Woman has somehow endured as a symbol of feminine power and possibility. Whether big or small in size, tied or untied, she continues to overcome the psychological hang-ups of “Patriarch’s World”.