Wonder Man is a comic book made by Will Eisner in 1939 for Fox Comics, the comic book subsidiary of Fox Features Syndicate, under his Eisner & Iger company, as part of The Golden Age of Comic Books. It appeared for first time in a then new comic book magazine called Wonder Comics and since Issue no.3 changed to Wonderworld Comics, publication that lasted 30 issues. If well it was a 64-pages magazine, the main character was Wonder Man as can be seen in the cover, with a 14-page story. Here, Eisner signed as "Willies", being in charge of drawing and script.
The story is about Fred Carson, a timid radio engineer and inventor that travelled to Tibet where their monks gave a Power Ring that makes its carrier a kind of... superman, in exchange to use these powers for the good of humanity. Fred, disguised as "Wonder Man", has invulnerability to bullets, can leap travelling large distances, can move fast enough to catch bombs in mid-flight and enough power to throw them back with his bare hands, jumps high buildings and even has such great lungs to shout a crowd since the tallest part of a building. If this story sounds a lot like Superman to you, you're not wrong. And, obviously, DC Comics thought the same thing.
Eisner was commissioned by Fox Publications to, as he would later describe in court: "create another Superman" after the original became a sensation. Eisner's creation "Wonder Man" appeared for only one issue before DC caught wind of it. What would happen next was the first ever lawsuit over comic book copyrights in the history of the industry. Eisner refused to perjure himself and testified against Fox, costing his company a large contract (or so he said, court records found decades later say otherwise.). Soon afterwards, in 1939, Eisner was approached by a newspaper syndicate to create a comic book supplement for them. What would come about as a result was The Spirit.
Even when Eisner confessed this idea was born earlier than Superman, this publication came first (a year before, to be exact), and DC finally had the last word of it. The complete story about this lawsuit against Wonder Man can be read in one of Eisner's graphic novels: 1986's The Dreamer, a kind of autobiography of his origins, in which Eisner refered to this lawsuit changing some names, but the story is almost the same. Or at least, his part of the story. Wonder Man became a famous One-Hit Wonder in the Golden Age and a kind of Pop Culture Urban Legend in comic book history.
The Other Wiki dedicated a complete article about Wonder Man here. Also, the comic book was already scanned and uploaded to internet, can be read here.
Of course don't be confused with the Marvel superhero of the same name and much less with a famous woman that isn't his counterpart.
Wonder Man and its publication provide examples of:
- Aborted Arc: This is obvious for Wonder Man's story being cancelled after the first issue.
- Antiquated Linguistics: The comic book in general uses various terms unused today in comparision even with other released comic books in the same time.
- Armored Villains, Unarmored Heroes: General Atilla's army with a lot of guns, Wonder Man only with his bare hands. And he defeated them all.
- Asshole Victim/Butt-Monkey: Reggie Berold, being humilliated by Atilla and later by Wonder Man, all for being a coward and a jerk.
- Big Bad: General Attilla, dictator of Tatonia.
- Brought to You by the Letter "W"
- The Casanova: Reggie Berold, implied with the snarker comment of Fred about him.Glad to meet you. You are the "Playboy" Berold, aren't you?
- Chest Insignia: A yellow W with a yellow circle in a red costume.
- The Chosen One: Fred Carson became this for Tibetan monks who wanted someone that make justice in the world for their Power Ring.
- Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: After the cancellation of this character and the lawsuit by DC Comics, Wonder Man became a kind of Pop Culture Urban Legend for comic book industry, even having his name taken by another comic book character decades later.
- Clark Kenting: Fred Carson to Wonder Man.
- Clothes Make the Wonder Man
- Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Fred Carson, the alter-ego of Wonder Man.
- Daddy's Girl: Brenda Hastings, the spoiled brat daughter of Carson's boss, Donald Hastings.
- Damsel in Distress: Brenda Hastings.
- Distressed Dude: Reggie Berold.
- Determinator: After seeing what General Atilla made to his hometown Tatonia, Fred/Wonder Man won't rest until his dictatorship and provoked war comes to an end.I think it's about time someone stopped this horror!
- Dressed in Layers: Below all of his clothes, there's a red spandex to be used with the Power Ring.
- Genius Bruiser: Fred was already an inventor, so having a Power Ring is a plus for him.
- Good Old Fisticuffs: The way Wonder Man solves problems against Atilla's dictatorship.
- I Have Many Names: Here Will Eisner signed this comic book as "Willies".
- In Name Only: Nothing to do with the Marvel character nor Wonder Woman, by the way.
- Jerkass: Reggie Berold, Brenda's boyfriend.
- Karma Houdini: General Attila gets off scot-free for killing refugees and starving his people, with his only punishment being a scar on his face from Wonder Man.
- Loves My Alter Ego: Brenda falls in love with Wonder Man, without knowing her chaperone was her loved superhero.
- Love Triangle: Brenda felt in love for Wonder Man, who was Fred Carson in disguise. This could be easily a Two-Person Love Triangle if Reggie wasn't present.
- Mask of Power: Wonder Man uses a black one, subverted in the cover which doesn't use it.
- No Fourth Wall: At the end of the story, Wonder Man himself tells children how to buy their own Power Ring at the end of the book.
- The Only One: The Power Ring given to Carson is unique in the world.
- Protagonist Title
- Roaring Rampage of Rescue: A radio mechanic busts up a tinpot dictatorship to save his boss's daughter.
- Red Is Heroic: This color reigns in this superhero mixed with yellow.
- Ring of Power: The main power source was his ring given by Tibetan monks.
- Secret Identity: As all superheroes of the Golden Age.
- Shout-Out: General Atilla's name seems to be based on Attila the Hun. Not to mention Wonder Man himself is for many the obvious Captain Ersatz of Superman.
- The Sociopath: General Attilla, a ruthless tinpot dictator whose response to his people starving is to take more food and massacre anybody who protests, including Red Cross personnel. When Wonder Man helps the people topple him, he simply decides that he's gonna start another war to take power again.
- Stock Superhero Day Jobs: Scientist.
- Superheroes Wear Tights: A red one.
- Superman Substitute: Probably might be the very first, debuting just thirteen months after Superman.
- Underwear of Power: A yellow one over the red suit.