We’re just a few weeks away from watching Gal Gadot take center stage as Wonder Woman in the Amazonian Warrior’s first solo, live-action major motion picture! I expect she’ll be great in the part.
But I also expect Lynda Carter will forever embody Wonder Woman in most people’s minds.
Carter – a singer (from age five), actor, and former Miss World USA (1972) – won the role, over 2,000 other hopefuls, of comic books’ first major female superhero in 1976. The Adventures of Wonder Woman ran on ABC for a single season of 13 episodes, set during World War II. The show then flew to CBS to become The New Adventures of Wonder Woman for two seasons; these stories were set in the 1970s. But whether fighting Nazis or a telepathic disco dancer, Princess Diana from Paradise Island could be counted on to “get us out from under,” as the series’ irresistible theme song sang.
Since Wonder Woman spun off the air in 1979, Carter has enjoyed a long and successful career. She’s even played other superhero characters including two DC Comics TV characters: metahuman Moira Sullivan in a 2007 episode of Smallville, and, currently, the incognito extraterrestrial U.S. president on Supergirl. But Carter still has great affection and appreciation for the character who made her famous.
“There is some visceral identity that people have with the character… [T]hey went into their backyards and they pretended to be her,” she told Fox News Magazine last fall. “We share that goddess within, maybe, and I enjoy hearing those stories.”
During the ’70s, the Mego Corporation immortalized a wide range of celebrities and TV characters as 8-to-12-inch high dolls, including Cher, Diana Ross, Suzanne Somers, the casts of Charlie’s Angels and The Waltons (quite the contrast), and heroes and villains from Star Trek. Dolls based on The Adventures of Wonder Woman made a natural addition to the line.
Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman
A full foot high, this 1976 doll’s face evokes the powerful and lovely visage of Lynda Carter and is framed by a generous amount of black, silky, rooted saran hair. The doll wears a part-painted, part-soft goods uniform with plastic boots, bracelets, and lasso. (When re-released in 1978, the doll wore a cloth one-piece outfit.)
Kids could also dress the doll in a Navy Yeoman First Class uniform, the apparel Wonder Woman wore in her secret identity as Diana Prince, WAVES secretary to Major Steve Trevor, during the series’ first season. The costume is a fitting reminder of the real-life wonder women whose wartime service to the nation planted seeds for the women’s movement that flourished as the Amazing Amazon’s live-action TV adventures aired.
Mego Queen Hippolyte Doll
Three different actors played Hippolyte, Queen of the Amazons and Wonder Woman’s mother, over the course of the series: Cloris Leachman (who can currently be seen in American Gods) in the pilot; Carolyn Jones, more famous as The Addams Family‘s Morticia, in three episodes (“The Feminum Mystique” and “Wonder Woman in Hollywood”); and distinguished stage performer Beatrice Straight in two (“The Return of Wonder Woman”—the series’ second-season reboot story— and “The Bermuda Triangle Crisis”).
Mego’s Hippolyte doll doesn’t especially resemble any of these performers, but the figure’s regal bearing is unmistakable. The ruler of Paradise Island is garbed in a full-length white polyester gown, trimmed in green satin to match its flowing cape.
Mego Nubia Doll
In DC Comics’ 1970s continuity, Queen Hippolyte formed two babies from clay, one was Diana and the other was Nubia. They’re both brought to life by the gods, but Ares abducts baby Nubia and raises her as his weapon of destruction. Nubia initially challenged her sister’s right to the “Wonder Woman” title, but ultimately became Diana’s ally.
So, contemporary Wonder Woman readers might have found Mego’s packaging description of Nubia as “the heartless arch mistress of evil” confusing!
The doll, dressed in body armor, with sword and shield accessories, looks like the character introduced in Wonder Woman #204, except for the white streak in her long, rooted black saran hair (almost a decade before the X-Men’s Rogue would sport a similar look). But a “mistress of evil”?
Perhaps that copy hints at how the TV series would have portrayed Nubia had she appeared on it. Teresa Graves – a Laugh-In regular who became the first African-American actress to star in her own one-hour dramatic TV series, Get Christie Love! – was under consideration to play Nubia, but the series’ jump to CBS scuttled those plans, for whatever reason.
The Nubia doll is significant because, as comics blogger Diabolu Frank observes, it was “the only opponent created for that set” and “the only ‘African’ DC character to appear in the well-loved Mego line.”
Mego Steve Trevor Doll
The U.S. Army major whose live Wonder Woman saves is arguably the least interesting of Mego’s dolls from the Lynda Carter series. His light uniform doesn’t match what actor Lyle Waggoner wore during the first season and lacks any Army insignia apart from the disproportionately large vinyl cap.
And the doll’s face doesn’t resemble Waggoner’s that closely. To my eyes, the doll looks a little more like Dick Van Dyke! But I suspect many kids of the ’70s still enjoyed having a Steve Trevor figure for Wonder Woman to rescue from all sorts of danger, just as she did on TV.
Previously: Wonder Woman collectibles from the 1960s
Which of Mego’s 1970s Wonder Woman dolls is your favorite, and why? Let us know in the comments section below!