The Wonder Women
Writer: Don Freeman
Artist: Stephen Dowling and John Allard
Published: 21st September 1948 – 8th February 1949 (G87 – G225)
Number of Episodes: 120
Being the last to bale out from their sabotaged aircraft, Garth is separated from Lumiere, Dawn and Karen. Whilst they land in the mountains, Garth’s parachute lands him in the next valley – the realm of the fabled Amazon women – a region they had been warned to avoid. He encounters an abjectly timid man, Fidelius. He speaks in Greek, a language which Freeman had been careful to have Garth learn in the previous story. Fedelius warns him that if any of his women overlords find Garth, he is as good as dead. Before Garth can hide, he is found by two mounted Amazonian warriors, Thalassia and Antiope, who fight over who shall kill him first. Thalassia kills her opponent, only to find that Garth has found concealment.
She rides back to the city, to warn that Garth’s advent may be the prelude to an invasion.
Fidelius counsels Garth to discard his western clothes and dress in the slain woman’s garments after they bury her, so that he might slip into the city unnoticed. He hopes that his enlightened mistress, The Lady Delia (Thalassia’s sister), may be willing to help Garth escape.
Garth learns that the Amazons raid neighbouring states to find men as husbands – but as soon as they become fathers, their wives kill them. And no woman may marry until she has slain a man. The only men allowed to live are those perceived as weak and unsuitable for breeding; these types are taken as servants to the women.
Garth then witnesses a strange public gathering in the city’s market square. Queen Hippolyta is about to carry out the long-delayed execution of her own infant son, Nemo, to prove to the assembled women that she is fit to continue serving as their warrior Queen. Garth intervenes, wresting a dagger from her hand. He is promptly accused by Thalassia as being the male spy who had murdered Antiope. Garth counter claims that it was Thalassia who killed Antiope in jealous rivalry, before subduing and spanking her. This public humiliation cements her enmity towards Garth.
The uneasy Queen Hippolyta, thankful for the interruption, declares that Garth is to be imprisoned at her palace, pending a formal trial, and that her son’s execution will be postponed “in view of this serious matter.”
The story then quickly develops in a complex – but beautifully clear and concise – manner, as Garth learns more palace secrets. Hippolyta had not executed her husband Laertes, as prescribed by law. She substituted the body of a slave to make the deception. Laertes (in disguise) is employed in the royal stables, and at night occupies a permanently locked room adjacent to Nemo’s sleeping chamber. At night he slips into Nemo’s room to lovingly gaze at his sleeping child.
Garth, with great cunning, manages to train the oppressed male servants into a fighting force able to form into a phalanx using shields, and effect to a bloodless coup, overthrowing the women’s rule. He also overcomes a bid by Thalassia to overthrow her ruler, but it is the formerly timid Fidelius who accidently kills Thassalia. He is so overcome that he flees into the mountains. The ruthless, oppressive Amazonian way of life is transformed as men and women are declared equals, and Laertes is installed as King alongside Queen Hippolyta, ruling jointly, with Nemo nominated as successor.
The story abounds with satire and light humour, whilst still being action-packed and occasionally dark. In a clever piece of plotting, Garth learns from Fidelius – who eventually recovers himself and returns from the mountains – that he had met Lumiere, Karen and Dawn, who had an encampment in the mountains. But they had fallen under the sway of a sadistic white hunter, who was on safari with a party of natives. Fidelius observes darkly that the hunter’s tent is hung with the skins and heads of wild beasts, and of men too – !
Synopsis by Philip Harbottle
In a feature encompassing the entire history of the much-loved strip, Garth writer Philip Harbottle pays tribute to artist and editor John Allard, who worked at the Mirror for over 50 years, outlining his huge contribution to Garth‘s enduring success
Strip dates given are those of their original appearance in the British newspaper the Daily Mirror, first compiled by Geoffrey Wren and Ann Holmes and updated by Ant Jones and Philip Harbottle
Garth © REACH/ Daily Mirror