Nubia Then and Now, I of II - Then
The Wonder Woman mythos, plagued as it has been by "take over, change everything"-itis, has a fair number of supporting cast members who no one has ever heard of. These are the little guys who get a name and a relationship to Diana like they're supposed to be important, but have maybe five minutes of panel time in a run or, perhaps, if they're lucky, a whole storyarc, and then are never heard from again. Many of them, admittedly, were ignored by subsequent writers for a reason; the Sphinx and Quinn and Officer Modini and Bobby Trevor aren't exactly compelling pillars of characterization and interest, and don't have much to recommend themselves for further use.
Some of those lost characters are really damn cool, though, and deserve to be unearthed, brushed off and given a second look and another spin through the canon. One such buried gem is the amazon Nu'bia.
We're actually going to start with the pre-Crisis incarnation, a character known as Nubia (no apostrophe), because it does have some bearing on where she ended up, and also because it's hilarious. So back we go to 1973, and the early Bronze Age of comics - an era widely characterized by, among other things, an increase in social awareness and relevance. Writers were starting to care about racism and sexism and class issues, to pay attention to how their characters came across and what messages they were sending. They were not, of course, very good at it, for the most part; we ended up with awkward gestures like token black roomates and painful "women's libber" guest characters, and the high points were stories like Lois in blackface and the deeply hamfisted Green Lantern/Green Arrow run.
Few of those awkward gestures, however, are more obvious and more clumsy than Nubia.
It is the end of the Mod Era; Diana is being reverted quite suddenly and violently to form, by dint of most of her supporting cast being randomly and violently shot, and herself suffering memory loss and staggering instinctively home to Paradise Island.
Cue standard re-telling of the origin of the Amazons, until -
The memories finish off with Diana leaving for Man's World, and then Polly and Di go outside to greet the cheering amazons who're overjoyed to have their princess back from dicking around in white with I Ching. But the revelry is interrupted!
I think that was meant to basically be an abbreviated version of the tournament Diana won to become Wonder Woman in the first place. I love how casually lethal it is, though. "Why didn't you kill me, weirdo? The hell is wrong with you? Oh well, let's hug." This is definitely a bullets 'n' bracelets culture, here. Which is gonna be especially hilarious in a minute.
First, though, we get to have our appetite whetted with a whole mysterious backup that follows an afternoon in the life of Nubia.
Seriously, this is so weird. "You are compelling to me and I favor you, even though you want to slice my daughter's head off!"
Incidentally, among the top ten reasons Perez is a saint is getting rid of that damn "all women are sisters who love each other!" business (despite subsequent failed attempts to bring it back).
Anyway, Nubia goes home to find two of her men dueling.
Okay, Nubia and Kenyah, I get, but what's "Goolah"?
Of course, she kicks his ass.
Oh, man, it's all so delightfully sexist and racist and overwrought, isn't it? Let's take a moment to contemplate all the ways in which this has been entirely random and made no sociological or anthropological sense whatsoever, and then move on to finally finding out just what the hell Nubia's deal actually is.
Yes, that's right. Nubia is Diana's secret black twin sister, stolen from her mother at birth by Mars the war god. I could not make this shit up if I tried.
Anyway, Mars' floating island, possibly ruled by and certainly inhabited by Nubia, attacks Paradise Island, and Diana flies home to help out. Naturally, she deals with the soldiers easily enough.
They fight a bit, and Diana realizes that Nubia is being hypnotized to Mars' will by a ring she's wearing.
I dare any of you to call that anything short of utterly fantastic.
Anyway, freeing Nubia pisses off Mars, who shows up and summons a dragon to fight them.
Yep, that love-filled culture of lethal competitive combat sure is an example of Aphrodite's power and tremendously superior to Mars' world of war.
So that's Nubia. That was issue #206, mind; volume 1 of WONDER WOMAN ran to 329 issues before the Crisis hit, and Nubia is in none of them past this. Not the best showing for the other daughter of the Queen, really.
She does, however, pop up again in an issue of SUPERGIRL, of all things. (I apologize for these scans, by the way, they're not mine and there wasn't much I could do to clean them.)
Kara, nine issues into her ten-issue first volume, is having problems with men, particularly her cheating slime of a boyfriend, and has flown off from the world in a huff, looking for a place where she can be free of them.
I love that Hippolyta refers to Nubia as "my other daughter," even though nobody even mentioned Diana out loud. That's cold, Polly. Though apparently being the queen's daughter isn't as big a deal as you might think after all, given the total out-of-the-blue promotion of Kara here.
STOP MIXING YOUR ROMAN AND GREEK DEITIES DAMMIT IT MAKES YOU SOUND SLOPPY AND INATTENTIVE AND A DOZEN KINDS OF NOT REMOTELY SERIOUS ABOUT YOUR WORLD-BUILDING AND IF YOU DON'T CARE THAN WHY SHOULD I, YOUR READER, CARE EITHER REALLY NOW FOLKS sorry I'm done, just had to get that out there.
Anyway, off Kara goes to have an adventure and learn that men aren't all bad and procure the root to save Nubia's life. Nubia's really completely trivial in this story, entirely a plot device; I must admit I'm actually posting this more for Kara the Amazon Princess than anything meaningful to poor Nubia.
See? Lying in bed is basically the full extent of her contribution to this story, and this is the last she was seen before the Crisis erased her existence entirely a decade later.
Well, except for this one page of Super Friends.
(Diana is brainwashed, here, and trying to take over Africa. She apparently stomps Nubia off-panel, since this is all we see of her. But really, given that first panel, is there anything that subsequent pages could actually add?)
And that, my friends, is pre-Crisis Nubia, Wonder Woman's brainwashed and long-lost black sister, and a perfectly stellar example of why the Perez reboot was the best thing to ever happen to Diana or her mythos. Post-Crisis is next, and you'll see what I mean.
Scans are from Wonder Woman v1 #204-206, Supergirl v1 #9, and Super Friends #25. I cannot believe Super Friends ran longer than Supergirl. There is no justice in the world.