Wonder Woman is one of the most recognizable characters from DC Comics, but she didn’t start out like that. She made her debut on the pages of Sensation Comics, which were published by All-American Comics. DC bought All-American in the mid-1940s and gave them ownership of the world’s most famous superhero.

But by the early 1960s, DC seems bored with Wonder Woman. Apparently there are only so many stories to tell about a super powerful woman from a mythical island full of female warriors and fantastic inventions before you have to start resorting to gadgets. Many covers from this period show the early adventures of Wonder Woman as a teenage Wonder Girl and a toddler wonder Tot. What you won’t see, however, is Wonder Woman or her various iterations that fight a lot of crime. Instead, they mostly focus on fighting vicious animals or evil versions of themselves. This is understandable for the younger ones who haven’t ventured into the male world, but you’d think Wonder Woman might find a real crook every now and then instead Spending all of her free time rescuing Steve Trevor from broken aircraft.

And then we got the most playful gimmick of all in Wonder Woman # 124.

Knowing what I do with Silver Age comics, I assumed the explanation would be some fabulous Amazon invention that allowed Wonder Woman’s younger self to travel into the future, or some natural calamity, the Wondy and somehow threw her mother back in time. The real explanation is disappointing pedestrians.

Three panels from the comic show Wonder Woman and her mother creating a portable projection machine and piecing together home videos.

At the request of the fans (whether real fans or fans in the universe are not clear) Wonder Woman and her mother take hours to combine an entire film with fictional team-ups between Wonder Woman and Wonder Girl, Wonder Tot and Queen Hippolyta, which they call absurdly “Wonder Queen”. (I like to imagine that everything on Paradise Island was renamed to promote the hometown hero.)

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And then they did it again. And again. And again. These stories, dubbed “impossible stories”, became more common over the next few years.

As off the wall as the Impossible Tales are, they somehow manage to get boring, at least if you read them all one after the other like I did. There is remarkably little variety between these stories. For example, they all seem to come from the same limited pool of plot elements, including …

Multiple specialist

The very first villain the Amazon Quartet faces is Multiple Man, a shapeshifter created during a nuclear explosion near Paradise Island. (You’d think Hippolyta was upset with men putting their island at risk with nuclear fallout, but no.)

A plaque with a spherical humanoid in the sky that is haunted by the Wonder family.  Queen Hippolyta says

You are now imagining Queen Hippolyta in a recording booth where HROO HROO HROO is taking place.

Multiple Man is basically unbeatable: every time the Amazons manage to melt, vaporize, dissolve, crush, or otherwise get rid of it, it will restore itself. Thankfully, it doesn’t really exist as it has never performed outside of those cobbled together home videos.

Pointless competitions

When not fighting Multiple Man, Wondy and Company usually enter a competition on Paradise Island. Sometimes the prize is the chance to be queen for a day. But in Wonder Woman # 138 they compete for a giant dragon.

Two panels show the Wonder family taking part in a competition for a giant kite.

In Wonder Woman # 142, they were looking for rare insects for the island museum. In a spirit of irony, they landed in a “mirage world” populated by chalk-white, giant versions of themselves that they viewed as insects to be captured and examined. The giants never say a single word. It’s actually pretty awful.

Guest stars

Since this whole filmmaking exercise started out as a favor for Wonder Woman fans, it’s strange to include actual (fictional) fans in the narrative. Twice, Wondy picked a young fan to hang out with and the other wonders on Paradise Island. Needless to say, things went wrong very quickly for little Alice and little Carol Sue.

Two panels show Wonder Tot at the bottom of a pit.  She throws up Carol who says

“Sputnik dog?” Does … does she mean Laika? Wow, that’s dark.

The Impossible Tales also featured recurring appearances by Wonder Women’s merman friend. Didn’t I mention Wonder Woman has a Merman boyfriend? His name is Mer-man. (It’s Manno, actually, but nobody seems to call him that.)

His younger selves, who also appear everywhere, are Mer-Boy and Mer-Mitbe. I don’t want to choose a toddler, and neither will I, just because I can’t decide whether to mockingly compare him to termites or marmite.

Hatred of marine life

I don’t know why, but the Impossible Tales always submerge our Amazons, and those Amazons always end up on the wrong side of the local fauna, usually a giant clam. Perhaps the writer once had a bad oyster.

Three panels show a giant clam racing into a swordfish and apparently tossed by Wonder Tot.

These panels are from Wonder Woman # 140 and show Wonder Tot saving her genius friend from a swordfish. Didn’t I mention that Wonder Tot has a ghost friend? His name is Mister Genie.

Eventually the Impossible Tales dropped the exhibition at the beginning of each issue about how it is an Amazon film production. In the last one, Wonder Woman # 145, they refer to Woman, Girl, and Tot as “sisters,” and I’m not sure if they meant it metaphorically or if anyone was starting to get confused about who all of these people were. Mistakes like this would lead to the endless nightmare that is the making story of Wonder Girl.

Despite what I’ve just said, I think I’m undercutting how bananas these comics are. There is a story where all the miracles except Wonder Woman have the same dream and everyone else gets mad at them for not knowing how their dream will end now. It’s bizarre, but not as bizarre as the fact that their dreams somehow affected some future people who capture the whole family and threaten to take them to a zoo if they don’t catch a dinosaur for them.

Eat your heart out, Patty Jenkins.