My last blog entry focused on Wonder Woman’s first appearances in the pages of All-Star and Sensation Comics. There were a number of topics I discussed, most focused on the main character of the series, Wonder Woman. I want to pause for a moment and address one character I purposely left out of my original entry: the quintessential sidekick, Etta Candy.
Etta’s first appearance was beside Wonder Woman in Sensation Comics #2. I admit, when she first popped up I was concerned.
Etta was the chubby, chocolate loving girl who would serve as the polar opposite to Wonder Woman’s powerful, beguiling character. That seemed like the most obvious angle, but one I was not looking forward to reading. The shy, timid, unattractive sidekick schtick has been beaten to death at this point, and I was in no rush to read about its earlier incarnations.
Rather quickly, however, I began to see that I was entirely wrong in my perception (a prevailing pattern in my reading of Wonder Woman comics, it seems). Yes, Etta is the sweets-loving gal who often serves a comedic purpose in the story, but she is also so much more than that. She is brave, confident, and hands down my favorite sidekick so far (though I admit her status as “sidekick” is more informal than others’).
From her first appearance, Etta is jumping in and helping Wonder Woman achieve victory. Rather than stand on the sidelines, Etta throws herself into the fray, making decisions and taking action simply for the sake of doing what’s right.
While Wonder Woman is busy fighting her own battle, Etta leads her troupe of girls, The Holliday girls from a nearby college, into their own fight. Rather than idly standing by and waiting for Wonder Woman to give her direction, Etta calls the shots in an effort to help any way she can.
That’s not to say her weight and her love of sweets doesn’t come into play in the comics. After quite literally diving into battle, as seen above, we see Etta relenting that all of her candy has gotten waterlogged.
Had Etta been a mere spectator in this scene, the humor would feel much more cruel. As it is, it only further develops Etta’s personality. Yes, she’s eating candy, but she’s doing so after kicking some serious ass. I’d say she earned a treat.
Even more impressive about the character is that yes, her weight is sometimes the subject of unkind comments and jokes, but as it turns out Etta truly doesn’t care:
The girl makes a valid point. Etta brushes off Diana’s comments, showing an extremely foreward-thinking, independent mindset, especially for the 1940’s. Compared to Diana, who spends quite a few panels mooning over Steve Trevor, Etta is a breath of fresh air. She doesn’t live and die by whether or not she has any prospects. She’s focused on her own happiness.
Perhaps my favorite Etta Candy moment so far is how the above conversation progresses. Diana implies that Etta, as she currently looks, wouldn’t be considered pretty by men. Etta’s response is perhaps my favorite thing ever:
Etta is confident and sassy and I absolutely love her. Here is a character whose sole purpose could have very easily been to show girls what NOT to aspire to. “Girls, do you want to be fat and frumpy with no boys interested in you like Etta, or would you rather be beautiful and brave and admired by all men like Wonder Woman?” Given the times, it seems very likely that her portrayal could have gone down this road. I was so happy to find that instead, Etta is a great supporting character, with a much more developed personality than say, Batman‘s Robin. She is a distinct character with a voice all her own, and she serves as a great role model for girls who might feel aiming to be like Wonder Woman is a bit unrealistic.
Above all else, what drew me most to this character is that Etta is brave. She accompanies Wonder Woman on more than one dangerous adventure, and often ends up in the clutches of one evil mastermind or another.
Being held up by a group of masked gunmen, Wonder Woman has nothing to fear. Even if they fire, her bracelets will deflect the bullets. Etta has no such protection, yet here she is not only completely unafraid, but actually suggesting that she and Wonder Woman fight the criminals! Etta may not not have super powers, but her unflinching bravery makes her a hero in her own right.
Strength, skill, bravery, and an indomitable spirit: Etta personifies a real-life hero, not needing the extra powers or equipment to be great in her own way. Her sense of humor merely makes her more engaging and likable. And yes, sure, she has a certain weakness for candy, but so what? Even Superman has a weakness.
I was eager to learn if Etta was a predominant character throughout the Wonder Woman series or if she would eventually fade away. After doing a bit of research, it seems she falls somewhere in the middle. Though she pops up now and again in various storylines, it seems she loses much of the confidence and bravery she shows in these initial appearances. This saddens me, as I think she has the potential to be a truly interesting and relatable character. Etta could even hold her own with her own comic, tied in tangentially to Wonder Woman but focused on her individual adventures and exploits. Her character, at least this earliest incarnation, is that strong.
Discovering a side character with such strong character development, especially this early on in my reading, leaves me desperate to read more. I know there are plenty of main characters and heroes for me to read about; that goes without saying. I find myself now excited to keep an eye out for other Etta Candy’s, characters who may only serve a supporting role but who nevertheless enrich the overall story and make it worth reading again and again.
Here’s hoping there are plenty of them ahead of me.