Princess Diana of Paradise Island was changing a diaper for her young son Troy. She smiled as she tended to the baby. “Growing up with my sister Amazons on Paradise Island, I dreamed of one day being a mother, but somehow those girlish fantasies lacked the realities of the job,” she said, smiling. “Those make-believe infants never needed changing!”
Etta Candy Darnell laughed and said, “Face it, Di, the real thing is better than a dream, even with dirty diapers and four A.M. feedings.”
Diana nodded eagerly as she gently placed her son in his crib in their Georgetown house. “Etta, speaking of children, how is your Holly?” she asked. “Is she still at college?”
Etta, now a demure and serious-looking matron, said, “That girl of mine alternates between wanting to teach at the academy we run and becoming the next Cyndi Lauper. She is singing at a club outside the city.”
“Holly has a lovely voice,” said Diana. “Truly the Muses smiled upon her birth. Lyta and Hector are also doing well. Lyta sends her love to Holly. She regrets that they have not been together socially in such a long time.”
Etta nodded. “Why, those gals were inseparable as kids. Kind of like you and I in the ’40s!”
Diana laughed and said, “At least they didn’t meet to battle terrible foes like the Cheetah and Solo! We were always involved in one crisis after another in those old days.”
“Well, one good thing about a comfortable middle age,” said Etta, “is that nothing too exciting usually happens.”
At that moment, thunder roared and shook the house as lightning flashed outside the window. “Hera help us, that was close! It struck the tree in the yard!” said Diana as she jumped up and shed her dress to reveal the colorful costume of Wonder Woman.
“Di, you don’t need to wrestle down a storm!” laughed Etta.
“Nay, mortal, but she doth require her battle raiment to face the challenge of the gods!” said a stentorian voice.
“Zeus!” cried Diana as she saw a huge figure looming over her.
It was indeed Zeus, the king of the Olympians. He frowned, and thunder rolled as if in sync with his displeasure. “Princess Diana, we are displeased,” he said. “Our names live on only in stories and… ‘pop songs’ by impudent mortals with names like Bananarama!”
Etta whistled low. “Who figured Zeus for a top-forty fan?” she mumbled to herself.
“Great Zeus, I have tried to carry the ideals represented by the Olympian goddesses into man’s world,” said Wonder Woman. “In truth, I feel I have been successful, to a degree.”
“Aye, ’tis true you champion the female Olympians, but what of the rest of us?” said Zeus. “Are the names of Apollo, Hermes, and that of Zeus himself to vanish into childhood legends? I commend you for what you have done and who you are, Amazon, but I feel if we are to survive, then we need a champion who shall be aggressive in proclaiming our will and our way! You are entirely too given over to Aphrodite’s milk-white words of peace and love!”
Diana, who had dropped to one knee, said, “But surely those sentiments embody all that is best about the Olympians. How could you ask for a more noble ideal to represent than love?”
“Noble, but also feminine,” said Zeus. “Thus I have called for a contest. You shall match yourself against another would-be champion, and the winner shall continue to represent us in this mortal realm!”
“You mean Di’s job is on the line?” gasped Etta.
Zeus frowned. “Mortal, you have stated the situation well, if colloquially. Diana of the Amazons must triumph or surrender her role as Wonder Woman ever more!”
Wonder Woman rose and said, “I will accept this challenge, but I ask again — why is this necessary?”
“Yeah,” said Etta. “Wonder Woman’s saved the whole universe before, and more than once! She’s pulled your fat out of the fire, too!”
Diana placed a calming hand on her fiery friend’s shoulder. “Etta, take care of Troy until I return,” she said.
“Your past service was and is valued, yet as times change, so do our needs,” said Zeus. “Thus some of us have suggested the need for a contest.”
Diana frowned. “Some… meaning my old enemies like Mars, Hades, and their minions, no doubt!”
“We had best be gone!” said Zeus. “The games await!”
In a flash of lightning, they were gone.
Etta bent over little Troy and shook her head. “He’s awake but not crying. He’s his mother’s son, all right. He’s as brave as she is!”
Wonder Wonder’s mind raced even as her body was transported through dimensions, and she tried to understand the meaning of this new challenge.
I can understand that my old foes would seek to rob me of my role in order to make their own plans succeed, but why would Aphrodite, Athena, and the rest allow it? she thought. I can only assume that the old gender issues that have ever haunted the Olympians rest beneath this new ploy. Zeus, for all his basic fairness, would tend to accept the idea that a male hero should represent them all. Some chauvinistic ideas have never died out, especially among a culture as ancient as that of the Olympians.
She saw the mists part to reveal the towering white columns of Olympus. She drew in a sudden breath and marveled still at the glory of her culture’s sacred places. She had witnessed much and had seen such realms before, but the thrill and awe still moved her caring heart.
“Diana, lest you feel slighted by mine harsh words, I say again that you are not a failure,” said Zeus. “But we seek to try a new champion, and the old must ever give way to the young.”
Diana smiled ruefully. A being eons old is calling me over the hill!
She thought of Steve Trevor. When her husband had been powered by Olympian magic as Odysseus, he still had no true reverence for these beings from out of myth. He would be angry and dare to argue in support of his wife. It was better that he was occupied in Washington and unaware, for now, of her newest test.
Diana saw a huge arena and noticed the seats were full of regal figures of both genders. Aphrodite cast a sorrowful look at her protégé, as did Athena, whose gray eyes flashed with anger. My goddesses support me as ever, she realized. It was not so long ago that I freed Aphrodite herself from a spell of madness. (*) I wager it was only some of the males who doubted my worth. I suppose I should be used to politics as usual after my years in D.C. and in the military as Diana Prince.
[(*) Editor’s note: See Wonder Woman: The Amazon Prince.]
“Diana, you shall face one literally made to combat you,” said Zeus. “He, too, was born of magical clay and carries the blessings and the powers of the Olympians. I give you your foe, and mayhap your successor, Zha-Vam!”
Thunder boomed, and a tall, muscular, huge man with long red hair and a beard stood before them. He wore a golden belt and a short tunic with sandals. His face was handsome, and he seemed confident, if not arrogant.
He strangely reminds me of the other-wordly hero Captain Marvel, she thought to herself. I once encountered him and the Marvel Family during World War II with the All-Star Squadron, and I later met them once more with my JSA allies and the Justice League of Earth-One. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Thunder Over London,” All-Star Squadron #36 (August, 1984), “Lightning in Berlin,” All-Star Squadron #37 (September, 1984), and “Crisis in Tomorrow,” Justice League of America #137 (December, 1976).]
Zha-Vam smiled. “A keen mind, as well as a comely body! I read your thoughts, and you are correct. My very name is taken from my patrons: Zeus, Hercules, Atlas, Vulcan, Apollo, and Mercury. ‘Tis much like the one you name, Marvel. I formed from clay by the Olympians of another world entire, and I fought that world’s Superman to a draw! Only trickery and the might of rival gods were able to defeat my might! (*) I was turned back into clay and only recently revived during the Crisis on Infinite Earths to battle for the gods, after which I found myself on this world, and I made my way to these gods so very much like those who had created me!”
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Zha-Vam the Invincible,” Action Comics #351 (June, 1967), “The Victory of Zha-Vam,” Action Comics #352 (July, 1967), and “The Battle of the Gods,” Action Comics #353 (August, 1967).]
“Great Hera!” said Wonder Woman. “He reads my thoughts! His powers extend beyond those associated with the Captain!”
“Princess Diana, I have no malice toward you,” said Zha-Vam. “I feel only respect for your deeds and wish to honor you by taking on your mantle as Olympian champion.”
He is sincere, she thought. I feel that much. Praise Hera, I’m not dealing with some pawn of the war god.
“You will wrestle, and the winner shall be the one who pins the other!” said Zeus.
My friend Johnny Thunder would make some quip about a cosmic pay-per-view, thought Diana. I miss his humor and good nature at times like this. I miss all my friends in the JSA. Will I no longer walk amongst them after this struggle?
Wonder Woman faced Zha-Vam like the heroine she was. She had triumphed in countless adventures over foes ranging from Nazi troops, petty thugs, and costumed super-villains, to aliens, demons, and magical beings. She came from a proud culture of women who embodied the best in scholarship, martial prowess, and artistic achievements, and she would not fail them. She was Wonder Woman, and she had never been defeated before.
Diana closed with Zha-Vam and gripped his arms. He was bigger then she was, yet her sheer strength was apparently at least equal to his own. She slipped one foot behind his left leg and twisted. Zha-Vam fell hard, and she was quickly on his back.
“You impress me, Princess, but do not assume that I am defeated quite yet!” he said as he suddenly spun around and pinned her arms in a mighty embrace. He stood and lifted her from the ground even as she kicked helplessly in the air.
Wonder Woman brought her head down and connected with his face. Zha-Vam gasped and lowered her enough for her to return one foot to the ground and gain new leverage. She strained and slipped free, and he staggered to one side.
“You are resourceful,” said Zha-Vam. “I am refraining from mind-reading during our bout. I feel that would be in bad taste.”
“I’m refraining from using my lasso or tiara as well,” said Wonder Woman. “Still, Zha-Vam, you remind me that one so full of his own self-worth can be tiresome at times!” She spun around and kicked him backward. He rose immediately and caught her foot. As she fell at his feet, she swept the other leg across and delivered a kick to his arm. He released her, and she rolled toward him with enough speed and strength to topple him to the ground.
“Now to finish this once and for all!” she vowed.