Now that Lucy Davis has joined the Wonder Woman movie as Etta Candy, we need to take a moment to acknowledge Wonder Woman’s most amazing sidekick. Because the Golden Age Etta Candy is one of the most incredible female characters in comics.
Created by William Moulton Marston only an issue after Wonder Woman’s debut, Etta Candy appeared like she should be the heroine’s comic relief. She was a goofy cartoon character who loved candy (carrying it everywhere), and she shouted strange catchphrases like “Woo woo!” and “For the love of chocolate!” But if you thought for a second that Etta was merely a joke character, she would have quickly corrected you, probably by punching you in the face.
Because the original Etta Candy didn’t give a good goddamn what anyone thought about her, including you. She loved herself, curves and all, and she didn’t need anyone’s validation for… well, anything. Etta Candy was certainly silly—her family’s names are Hard, Sugar and Mint—but that didn’t stop her from fighting alongside Wonder Woman, often fighting Nazis on her own, and all without any superpowers. Etta Candy was a Normal Woman. And not only was she as badass as her superpowered best friend, in many ways she was even more wonderful.
This sounds crazy but its true. Diana, Princess of the Amazons and most powerful woman on Earth and universally regarded as attractive, did not have Etta Candy’s confidence in herself. When she left Amazon Island to follow World War II pilot Steve Trevor, Wonder Woman disguised herself as a nurse because she didn’t quite have the courage to confess her feelings.
Etta Candy did not have this problem. If there was a guy she liked, she told him. If a guy said something disrespectful to her, she punched him. And if a guy didn’t find her attractive, that was his loss. Even Wonder Woman tried to body-shame Etta one time—out of concern—and here’s how that turned out:
Wonder Woman is forced to bring up the idea of wartime rationing to get Etta to even consider losing some weight, because she’s not going to stop doing what she loves for some stupid man.
Actually, I should be more specific: She led an unofficial sorority named the Holliday Girls—which also doubled as a commando unit, when Nazis needed to have their asses kicked. (They were also a band, and once played against the winners of the World Series, and would have won if it hadn’t been interrupted by Nazis, but whatever.) The group was formed in Sensation Comics #2, when Wonder Woman wanted help battling the Nazi scientist Dr. Poison, so Diana had Etta recruit “a hundred pretty girls brave enough to capture dangerous men!”
Sometimes they used their feminine charms to capture those dangerous men. Sometimes they just kicked their asses. Like their leader Etta, the Holliday Girls were quite versatile.
A school of infuriated mermaids indeed.
Imagine if Superman got captured as much as Lois Lane, and Lois had to keep rescuing the Man of Steel. That’s basically what happened during Etta Candy’s glorious Golden Age reign. Sometimes she led the Holliday Girls to save Wonder Woman, such as in their very first appearance, when she was captured by the Dr. Poison. Etta also led the Girls into outer space (still in Sensation Comics #2) when the god Mars took Wonder Woman and Steve as prisoner and brought them to the planet Mars (where he lives, natch). This meant Etta Candy had to make her way to another planet on her own recognizance. She did.
Look at this panel, which shows Wonder Woman and Etta Candy surrounded by armed men. Only one of these women has magic bracelets that deflects bullets. And yet it’s the other woman who is ready to brawl. But Etta also believes the two women can win against the odds, and she has no doubt in her mind. Why would she ever doubt her own prowess since…
Yeah. She did that. In 1943's Wonder Woman #3, she rescued all the kids in the concentration camp as well as Wonder Woman, because that’s just how Etta does.
In the shockingly jam-packed Sensation Comics #2, Etta, through a process so comic book-y it doesn’t bear repeated, took control of a Wonder Woman phantasm. She let herself be kidnapped to distract a bunch of Japanese spies, so that the real Wonder Woman could kick their butts. When the fight is over, Etta can’t wait to get back to her original, non-superpowered body.
This happened in 1942. Just saying.
Even when she was on her own, Etta didn’t need to rely on Diana’s superpowers to help save the day. In 1943's Wonder Woman #5, Etta tried to celebrate her birthday with an all-candy 16-course meal with the Holliday girls at a hotel, but got a toothache. Diana helpfully directed her to a dentist staying at the hotel, but in the process of trying to find him, she came across an armed robbery (look, it was a busy hotel, okay?). Despite being in agonizing pain from her toothache, Etta stopped the crooks—and when it was revealed their robbery was actually a scam to commit insurance fraud with the victim, she beat them up again.
Throughout it all, all she lamented was that she just wanted to find a dentist and be on her way. That’s some serious gumption.
Even though Etta didn’t need a man’s approval or even a man, that doesn’t mean she didn’t like them. She liked candy more, obviously, but as we mentioned above she wasn’t shy about it when she liked someone. She was even going to get married to a Hungarian price named Hylo Goulash in Sensation Comics #16 when, during the ceremony, she discovered he was actually a Nazi in disguise. It went as you might expect: with Etta punching her fiancé in the face for being an asshole.
Etta wasn’t ashamed, Etta wasn’t heartbroken, and she didn’t shed a single tear. If you disrespect Etta Candy, you’re getting a punch in the face. If you’re a secret Nazi and you disrespect Etta Candy, you’re getting punched extra hard.
When she wasn’t busy either rescuing Wonder Woman, or doing an important mission for her with the Holliday girls, Etta could just as easily be found ready to save Diana from mortal danger. Like in Sensation Comics #26, where Etta leapt in front of a bullet intended for a very unaware Wonder Woman. Let’s make this clear: Etta Candy, normal human being, leapt in front of a superhuman woman with bullet deflecting gauntlets to save her from being shot. Because that’s just how Etta rolls.
Plus, apparently boxes of candy have some really good bullet-deflecting properties.
Etta’s feats of bravery, her prowess in combat and her constant saving of their princess led the Amazons to officially accept her as one of them—making her a member of a tiny group that includes Supergirl, Starfire and Wonder Girl. I like to think it was the time she put a bunch of Nazis under a table and danced on it, rendering them totally helpless, that finally convinced the Amazons she was worthy.
Alas, after William Moulton Martson died in 1949, new writer Robert Kanigher almost completely removed Etta from Wonder Woman’s life, and when she did show up, she was suddenly insecure, self-conscious, and ashamed of her body. This complete change of her character and personality has unfortunately stuck—she even had a “very special episode” where she fainted because of an eating dirorder—although occasionally these new versions of Etta have been portrayed as military officers, Steve Trevor’s love interest, and in the New 52, Steve Trevor’s secretary. Given the military outfit that Lucy Davis has been spotted wearing in the Wonder Woman movie set pics, it doesn’t appear that she’s a shrinking violet, so that’s good.
Now, if Etta can still beat up bad guys more effectively than Steve Trevor, that would be even better.
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