In her remarkable career, Princess Diana of the Amazons of Paradise Island had dealt with many amazing situations in both her identity as the costumed heroine Wonder Woman and as Diana Prince Trevor. However, having an amorous house guest was a new experience for her. She smiled ruefully as she carried a plate to the table in the Georgetown home she shared with her husband, Steve Trevor.
Beef stew. Steve’s favorite dish, and one I learned to prepare after our marriage, she mused. I hope Zha-Vam will like it, too. He certainly has a healthy appetite.
At that moment, a rugged, bearded man entered and smiled broadly. “Ah, a heavenly aroma! I am certain to savor each morsel!” he said as he sat down in a heavy chair. “Curse me for a senseless dolt! I have wrongly usurped your good man’s place at the head of the table!” he then said as he started to get up.
“No, stay put,” said Diana. “Steve would not mind.” She sat down and nodded in approval as her guest helped himself to the food. “I am pleased to see you like it. When I first started cooking, Steve used to joke that my rolls were only good for playing bullets and bracelets. He used to say they could bounce off my bracelets without crumbling!” she said with a laugh.
“Why, any man would be thrilled to dine with one as lovely as you!” said Zha-Vam. “The company alone makes a meal a delight worthy of the happy Ethiopians themselves!”
“Contrary to myth, the people of that troubled nation do not live in the easy pleasure offered by the Olympians,” said Diana. “Hunger and disease trouble that nation.”
Zha-Vam frowned. “Such sorrows should be dealt with. Perhaps, when we accomplish the six labors set upon us by the usurping Titans, they will free the captive Olympians, and we may turn our powers to humanitarian purposes!”
Diana knew he referred to the present crisis on Mount Olympus. Hera, Aphrodite, Zeus, Hermes, and all of the other fabled Olympians had been trapped by their angry predecessors, the Titans. These same Titans had offered Wonder Woman a chance to win the freedom of the Olympians whom she and her Amazon sisters worshipped. “We shall awaken our errant children if you perform six labors of our choosing,” Cronus had said.
This offer was the best Wonder Woman could get from the powerful beings who had chaffed in long eons of imprisonment themselves until the spiteful Iris had freed them. The actual conquest of Olympus had occurred while Wonder Woman was locked in a contest with Zha-Vam to determine if she would be allowed to continue on in her role as champion of the Olympians, or if the red-haired hero from Earth-One’s universe should replace her. Their battle had been fought to a near-draw before it was abruptly ended.
Now she had invited him to stay in the guest room of her house until the two of them could achieve the labors and win the freedom of the Olympians. She had not realized at the time that his romantic attachment to her would be harder to handle than a simple brawl.
Steve is on a vital mission, and I’ve come to respect his need to serve his nation, she mused. I’d do the same if I were needed. I’m over any petty concerns on that matter. Some of my male friends in the JSA have helped me to see that Steve had a reasonable need to use his own talents and powers on behalf of his nation. I wonder if his presence would discourage my amorous friend, or if Zha-Vam would view Steve as a rival to challenge. Each time he does or says something heroic or noble, I forget that beneath his outward aura of comradeship, he seems to be in love with me!
The odd couple had spent a quiet week since their abrupt dismissal from Olympus. They still had no idea when they would be called upon to perform the first labor.
Then a news alert on the TV heralded the start of the first labor.
“Alarming events in Cape Town have become our major story,” said the worried newswoman. “As remarkable as it sounds, every man, woman, and child in Cape Town, South Africa, has been transformed into various species of gorilla, ape, or monkey!”
“Great Hera!” said Diana. “That situation means the stew can wait. I fear I know exactly who is behind this little plot, and I am determined to stop her monkey business!”
“Princess, I have vowed not to use my ability to read your mind,” said Zha-Vam. “Thus I implore you to tell me clearly who the witch is behind such Circean magic!”
Wonder Woman slipped off her dress to reveal her colorful costume and placed a tiara on her brow. “I’ll tell you on the way to this so-called ‘gorilla city’!” she said.
As they flew across the world in her invisible plane, Zha-Vam shook his head in wonder. “By the hoary beard of regal Zeus!” he said. “I am amazed at your tale. A beast — a gorilla, no less — transformed into a human woman is behind this madness!”
Diana nodded grimly. “It is true. Giganta and I are old enemies. When last I fought the woman with a gorilla’s powers and instincts, she was her old bad self. However, an ally of mine named Jade told me that, since that time, she and Red Robin stopped her from doing exactly what she has done today: namely turn humans in South Africa into animals. In fact, Jade said Giganta fell victim to her own ray beam and was turned into a very demure, petite woman. That transformation left her in a mortified and docile state. (*) I wager that has changed!”
[(*) Editor’s note: See Infinity Inc: Times Past, 1985: The Wonder Years.]
Zha-Vam touched her hand and said, “Diana, your world is full of miracles and magic. How I relish this time with you. I truly live when in your company!”
Wonder Woman withdrew her hand and smiled sadly. “Zha-Vam, I am married. No matter what spell the Olympians placed upon us when they stranded us in that paradise of their creation, we cannot be more than friends. Stop torturing yourself with the idea that we can ever be more!”
Zha-Vam brooded silently as the plane landed outside Cape Town.
The colorful pair entered the large city, and Diana frowned in concern. “Notice the deserted cars outside the city?” said Wonder Woman. “The neighboring authorities entered here and were captured and turned to apes, too. I see signs of a struggle!”
“Aye!” said Zha-Vam. “The keen eyes of Argus enable me to detect such faint marks!”
They made their way deeper into the city, and an eerie quiet surrounded them. “Odd, no animal noises or activity may be found,” said Zha-Vam.
“That is not so odd,” said Wonder Woman. “I suspect Giganta is holding these poor transformed people someplace. She is no twisted humanitarian. She wants them to serve her needs, too!”
They entered the large capitol building and were suddenly attacked by a legion of beasts. “We’ve found their lair!” Wonder Woman said with a wry grin as she moved gracefully to dodge and defy a hoard of gorillas. Zha-Vam agreed readily and drew upon the power his Olympian creators had given him to hold back many of the creatures.
“Zha-Vam, restrain yourself,” cried Wonder Woman. “They are victims, not villains! Any injury we do to them while they are beasts may carry over when they are cured, and, by Hera, I mean to cure them!”
Wonder Woman whipped out her golden lasso and snagged an ornately carved decoration high above the main hallway in which they fought the creatures. She swung toward the roof and reached the far side of the hall. She landed and retrieved the magic lasso even as Zha-Vam flew to meet her. “Follow my lead,” she said, and when she kicked out suddenly at a column to the left, Zha-Vam smashed the matching one on the right. A crash echoed as the decorations and part of the roof itself crumbled behind them.
“What now?” he asked.
“Well, while the rubble keeps the others back, we find Giganta,” said Diana.
Zha-Vam nodded warmly. “Aye! As clever as Athena, as lovely as Aphrodite…”
“Save me from that tired, clichéd litany!” snarled a tall, powerful woman who stood before them. She wore a brief animal skin, and her bare legs and arms rippled with muscle. Her long mane of red-gold hair framed features that were movie-star lovely, although twisted with a savage expression of malice and animal cunning.
“Giganta! I see you are your old bad self again!” said Diana.
Giganta snorted in disdain. “Hah! You would have enjoyed seeing me trapped in that weak, dainty body! Well, you missed your chance, Amazon! One of your enemies cured me. She said she was a goddess of strife. Apparently, you made her mad with one of your crusades!”
Wonder Woman nodded. “Iris again. This may well be our first labor!”
“Now stand back!” said Zha-Vam. “I shall subdue this beast-woman with the speed of swift Hermes himself!”
“Wait! You can’t just–!” began Wonder Woman as her impulsive ally charged into battle.
He dashed forward, only to cry out in pain as a yellow energy-ray struck him before he could touch the cocky Giganta. He gasped in shock as his mighty form became that of a hairy red gorilla.
“Hera help me!” cried Wonder Woman. “He has fallen victim to her ray!”
Giganta laughed a harsh, guttural laugh. “Your boyfriend is mine now! See, once I give them glorious new bodies, they give me their blind obedience! I’m gonna make this a veritable gorilla city before I’m done! No, better still, I shall turn this world into a planet of the apes! I’ll make you one next!”