DC Comics Presents – 76


DC Comics Presents – 76

General Info

Issue No:
76
On Sale Date:
August 1984
Cover Date:
December 1984
Era:
Bronze Age
Story Title:
Living Clay...Killing Clay...

Creative Team

Cover Artist:
Eduardo Barreto
Writer:
Dan Mishkin, Gary Cohn
Penciller:
Eduardo Barreto
Inker:
Eduardo Barreto
Letterer:
Ben Oda
Colourist:
Gene D'Angelo
Editor:
Julius Schwartz

Characters

Main:
Wonder Woman (Diana Prince/Princess Diana)
Heroes:
N/A
Villains:
Christina Cade
Olympians:
Athena
Amazons:
N/A
Other:
Doctor Terhune, Harbinger (Lyla), Monitor
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Comments

In the last guest appearance by Diana in the title, Monitor and Harbinger watch events unseen in a foreshadowing of the “Crisis on Infinite Earths” event that would soon fundamentally change the DC Universe for good – and literally wipe the slate clean in the case of Wonder Woman.

Synopsis

Somewhere out in the open country several US Army Tanks are parked around an area of vegetation. Major Diana Prince and a scientist by the name of Dr. Terhune survey the scene and Diana tells him that she still finds it hard to believe all the vegetation had grown so quickly. He replies that she will be even more impressed in just a few moments because his plants have been imparted with resiliency and regenerative powers, allowing them to thrive in the harshest conditions. They can make deserts bloom and even be used to support vast space colonies someday which is why the Air Force is so interested in his project.

Diana thinks to herself that in truth the military are more interested in applying his gene splicing techniques on human beings to create a breed of super soldiers. However, she had made sure that she had been placed in charge of these tests to make certain that the Doctor’s noble dream prevails and not some overeager General’s. She then orders the tanks to open fire on the plants and a hail of gunfire rains down on the vegetation. When the smoke clears the charred remnants of the plants and trees is visible. But as they watch new shoots begin to appear and within a matter of minutes the plants and trees all grow back.

Suddenly though, there is a rumble and the ground starts to heave. Exploding out of a hole in the ground rises a huge worm like creature carrying gun pods on its back manned by helmeted men. As they open fire on the shocked and unprepared troops, Diana uses the opportunity to swiftly transform into Wonder Woman unseen.

As she races into action she sees four of the men grab Dr. Terhune and begin to manhandle him away. She unhooks her lasso and manages to snare one of them around the leg, tripping him up. Sensing confusion and pain in his mind she wonders what manner of creature he is but her thoughts are rapidly interrupted by a blast from the worm creature. Crying out in pain she lets go of her lasso and falls to the ground. She curses herself for paying too much attention on the poor pathetic creature she had captured and not enough on what was happening around her. As she gets to her feet a soldier encourages her on, saying that the worm beast is escaping with Terhune back into the ground, moving at a tremendous speed. She races down the tunnel left behind by the burrowing beast but finds its path difficult to follow as the contours of the tunnel keep shifting, as if the beast’s shape or consistency were constantly altering. She suddenly finds her boots sloshing through a slimy substance and kneels down to find the once hard tunnel floor now covered in clay. She sees that the way ahead is also blocked as if by pieces of the creatures themselves and her lasso lies useless on the floor. Unable to pursue her quarry further, she does have an idea where they might be headed…to the city of Metropolis!

At that moment in the city of Metropolis, Superman is confronting his own menace as a huge, tentacled creature begins to scale up the side of a skyscraper. He wonders what its interest is with this particular building and using his x-ray vision sees that the building is empty except for one woman. As the creature uses one of its tentacles to smash through a window to grab the female, Superman swoops down to deal with the menace. But he is struck by a blast from a tentacle mounted gun, feeling some kind of bio-electric energy course right through him. The effect only lasts an instant and he begins to use his fists to beat down on the beast.

Meanwhile inside the building, the woman watches the battle on a monitor screen. She thinks to herself that she should be grateful to Superman for saving her life but his involvement is the last thing she needs right now. She knows the Man of Steel would hardly approve of the way she has engaged the services of Dr. Terhune by kidnapping him.

Outside Superman hefts the beast into the air and carries it away, intending to keep it in his Fortress of Solitude in order to study it further and find out what it is. But before he gets very far the creature turns into a gooey mass of clay in his hands. He decides to return to Metropolis to get some answers from the woman in the building, who he feels was not merely an innocent victim. As he arrives though he is struck by another blast and finds himself between two flying monster-and-machine creations. Evading another blast though allows it to strike a statue on the top of a nearby building. It begins to plummet towards the street below and Superman zooms down to protect the bystanders on the street.

The unknown woman continues to watch Superman’s battle on her monitor screen, satisfied that her creations will keep the Man of Steel busy while she continues her work. As the Kryptonian dodges blast after blast an invisible plane suddenly streaks into view, with its mistress standing on a one of its wings, lasso in hand. She tells Superman that the creatures attacking him bear a striking similarity to the giant worm creature she had just encountered. Agreeing that teamwork is the order of the day, the Amazing Amazon lassos one of the flying beasts while the Man of Steel delivers a powerful punch to the other one. Once again, the creatures begin to melt into clay and Wonder Woman tells Superman that the worm beast had also done the same thing. Its remains had told her where to look for whoever had sent the creature – at the headquarters of CC Biotechnologies, which is the very building the unknown woman is located in.

As the two heroes smash their way into the office intent of getting some answers from the woman, Wonder Woman suddenly recognises her and cries out “Christina!”. Superman raises an eyebrow and asks if the Amazon actually knows this woman. She replies that she and Christina had been friends..once. Wonder Woman turns to Christina and says that she has changed since they last met. She then demands to know what she has done with Dr. Terhune but Christina simply responds that Diana does not scare her – not her Amazon strength or her moralising. She has power of her own now and demonstrates it by summoning a mass of clay from nowhere. The gooey mass begins to climb up and around the two heroes. Superman flexes his muscles as the substance wraps around him, saying to Christina that her clay is about as dangerous as “being buried in a sandbox”. As he explodes out of his clay cocoon, Wonder Woman replies that on the contrary, in her case the clay can kill her! Christina explains to a puzzled Superman that unlike him, Diana was originally made of clay and granted life by the magic of Goddesses. Her affinity for the living clay prevents her from breaking free of it. If she so wishes it, Christina can command the clay the absorb her entirely making the Amazon Princess nothing more than a memory.

As several of her clay men enter the room, Superman tells her that she is monstrous to even consider such a thing, asking what sort of person she is? A struggling Wonder Woman explains that their foe is named Christine Cade and once upon a time she and Diana were like sisters. Diana was only a child back then and had had no contact with Man’s World. Christina had been the only survivor of a shipwreck and had been washed ashore on Paradise Island. Now an orphan, Christina had lived with the Amazons, learning their ways and she and Diana had become fast friends. They had both shared an aptitude for science and spent many hours with Paul, the chief Amazon scientist. But the thrill of discovery meant different things to each of them. One day Christina had rushed to tell Diana of an amazing new discovery but before she could explain the Goddess Athena had appeared before them. Athena had told Christina that what she had just learned how to do was never meant for mortals to tamper with and that she should forsake her experiments and promise never to renew them again. Christina had meekly promised not to but the next day she had left Paradise Island by stealing one of the boats and had never been seen again.

Hearing Wonder Woman’s explanation of how they had first met, Christina continues the story. She had returned to civilisation and had entered the field of biotechnology at its very beginnings. Her Amazon scientific training gave her an edge that she had utilised to make a fortune. She used it to found CC Biotechnologies, allowing her to devote herself fully to working with living clay – the results of which the two heroes had just witnessed. Wonder Woman tells her she has perverted the gift of life and made the creatures her possessions, giving them nothing but lives of hopeless pain. Had Christina learned nothing about moral values during her time with the Amazons? Christina replies that she has learned that power means nothing if you fail to use it. Her living weapons will revolutionise warfare and any nation that wants them will have to come to her. Wonder Woman then asks what she needs Dr. Terhune for? Christina responds that her process is still unstable and that the clay can only remain animated for a short time. Terhune’s own experiments might hold the key to solving that problem, making her creations indestructible!

Superman then says that he has heard enough and smashing one of the nearby clay men, adds that her creatures are far from indestructible yet and nothing is going to stop him foiling her mad scheme. A confident Christina responds that while her creatures may lack staying power, they more than make up for that in sheer numbers. She then adds that he will not be able to expect any help from Wonder Woman either. As Superman lays into the mass of clay men, he tells her that she has underestimated him if she thinks that a few extra monsters will slow him down. As he fights the clay men, Wonder Woman finds herself almost completely enveloped in clay, but even so her thoughts are only for the clay men, whom she tells Superman are not monsters but suffering victims and that he should try not to hurt them anymore. But her pleading words are suddenly turned into an agonised cry as she is completely enveloped in clay.

Christina activates a control panel, telling the Amazon that she is now merely living clay which is hers to command. She orders Wonder Woman to attack Superman and destroy him! The Amazon Princess responds by unleashing a powerful bio-energy blast at the Man of Steel which sends him reeling. She follows up with a punishing punch that sends him crashing through the outside wall. Wonder Woman follows by diving through the hole in the wall and the two of them grapple with each other while plummeting towards the street below. Superman knows he has to put a stop to this quickly while keeping away from her bio-blasts. He knows he must find a way to contain her so that she does not injure any innocent bystanders or herself.

As the two heroes smash down onto the pavement together, Superman gets to his feet, trying to reason with Wonder Woman to get hold of herself. No matter what Christina may say, she is not mere clay – no more than mortal man is only flesh and bone. Her soul is still her own! Wonder Woman’s response comes in the shape of another bio-blast that sends the Man of Steel flying back into a wall. She smashes him in the face and the force of her blow battering him into the wall weakens the structure of a nearby pedestrian walkway above them. As Wonder Woman advances on him again he sees an opportunity to turn the danger into his advantage by digging the Amazon’s true spirit out of the clay that surrounds her. He shoves her aside and manages to grab her magic lasso which has remained free of the clay. He uses the golden rope to lasso Wonder Woman and orders her to look up at the crumbling walkway. He tells her that the innocents on the walkway are in danger because of her. She is a heroine and she does not take lives – she saves them!

At first her actions seem as violent and mindless as before as she yanks the lasso out of his hands. But then he sees that it is just the reawakening of a fighting Amazon spirit – the spirit that has made this female fury the pride of Paradise Island and earned her the name “Wonder Woman”!. She thanks Superman for giving her the jolt she needed to return to her senses and leaps up into the air, trailing a slimy mass of clay behind her as it falls from her body. Using the lasso she ensnares the end of the collapsing walkway, holding it aloft while Superman grabs the people trapped on it.

Once everyone is safe, the two heroes return to the Bio-Technologies HQ just as Christina and her clay men are trying to load the captured Dr. Terhune onto a flying creature. Superman swoops down and gathers the Doctor in his arms, taking him out of harms way. A furious Christina orders her clay men to attack and the two heroes battle their way through the hordes. As the last few fall, Wonder Woman confronts Christina and the two women grapple with each other. The Amazon Princess tells her that it is over but her foe has one last card to play. Before their eyes the woman begins to transform into a powerful man beast. Christina tells a horrified Wonder Woman that she had used the formula that had given life to clay…on herself. The Amazon Princess replies that, in Christina’s own words, the process is unstable and that her creations are impermanent. Why has she taken such a risk? Christina explains that the limitations of her formula were not clear back when she had first taken the drug and so she had unwittingly signed her own death warrant. Being human she was more durable than her constructs but the clay nature began slowly taking over. Her time grew short and Dr. Terhune and his discoveries were her last hope – a hope that has now been shattered.

With that she hits Wonder Woman with a powerful upper cut, flooring the Amazon. As Christina advances she tells Wonder Woman that since she is sure it is pleasing to Diana to know that she has utterly destroyed her former friend, she will now gladly do the same for her! As the Amazon Princess tries to protests that she does not wish Christina any harm her opponent lunges at her throat, pinning her to the ground.

Superman, who is mopping up the last few clay men, sees her predicament and says that he will be with her in a few seconds more. But she tells him that will not be necessary and using her legs for leverage throws Christina across the room. As her foe advances once more, Wonder Woman tells her that she never wished Christina’s death. If she had ever understood the Amazon way she would surely know that. Christina dives at the Amazon Princess who catches her in mid flight and hefts her over her head. Christine sails through the air and slams into the chest of the waiting Superman. He then grabs Christina from behind, saying that it appears the fight is gone out of her now. Perhaps they can find a way to reverse the process somehow? But as he speaks their foe begins to drip clay and as Christina pitifully cries “H..help me” she begins to dissolve into a pile of lifeless clay. A sorrowful Wonder Woman tells her dying friend that help is all she ever wanted to do and that Christina only had to ask. But a few moments later Christina is no more and Superman consoles the Amazon Princess.

A short while later Wonder Woman is taking Dr. Terhune home in her robot plane, escorted by Superman. The Doctor asks her how does science and knowledge become so easily perverted? She replies that it is only easy when people of good will fail to recognise the danger. Knowledge is power and though it is madness, some seek power as its own reward. It is up to everyone to stop them before they irreparably damage this world and, like Christina Cade, destroy themselves as well.