Adoptive Amazon, part 1 (Introducing Cassie)
* Credit to JRhode and arrlaari for the series title.
With the Bat-boys gone, the traditional position of Titan Leadership has been left open in both current teams of Titans, and on both teams, the resident Wonder has stepped up to the plate.
Now, this certainly makes sense for Donna, who's well-respected by her teammates, has a history of command with the amazons and the Darkstars, and is generally a competent, charismatic person with a high emotional IQ, all good traits for the job. But what about Cassie? If you've been reading TEEN TITANS since she joined the title, you could be excused for thinking that a pet rock would do a better job. Up until very recently, she's been a flat, lifeless superpowered Mean Girl with no real purpose or interest in life outside of chasing boys with status and cutting down everyone else. Even since McKeever had her reject Ares' influence and reinvent herself, she's been becoming tolerant and competent only slowly, and is still mostly a non-entity on the team.
But it was not always so! There was a time when she genuinely deserved to wear the double-double, when she was a Wonder Girl in truth and quite a likable character. Let us wander back, then, to those Halcyon days, and meet the girl who earned her symbol as few heroes do.
For the origin of the second Wonder Girl, we wander back to WONDER WOMAN #105, five issues into John Byrne's tenure on the title. Diana has just moved to Gateway City, and needs a day job, so her old buddy Julia Kapatelis gets her an appointment with a local museum curator named Helena Sandsmark.
Such a teenager. Though it's worth noting she's actually being quite calm and rational during the argument, offering decent arguments to support her position, and that her response *to* the argument isn't to get petulant or sneak out, it's to try to prove herself by doing something mature and helpful.
Hands up who saw that coming.
So the giant ancient attack robot starts trashing the museum, and Cassie runs off-panel while Diana tries to wrangle the thing, which she recognizes from legend.
Diana tries a bunch of stuff, including dropping a building on the thing, to no real success, while Cassie has a brainstorm and lures the statue toward the docks.
The statue sinks into the mud at the bottom of the bay, helped somewhat by Diana, making appropriate use of that bathing suit of hers for once.
So there's our first look at Cassie: she's levelheaded, she rolls with the punches (or the unexpected giant robots, same difference), she can think quickly under pressure and, while she's prone to the usual mess-ups and inattention of adolescence, she acknowledges her mistakes and does her best to correct or make up for them.
Gee, it's almost like Byrne's got plans for her, isn't it?
Also, she hero-worships Diana a bit, but really who wouldn't.
Over the next few issues, Cassie appears here and there like any supporting cast member, and gets caught up in the periphery of a few of Diana's adventures. She doesn't contribute much, which is about what you'd expect from a powerless teenager without much knowledge of the cape world, but she does conk Etrigan upside the head with a vase at one point. The general gist of it is stuff like this:
She doesn't actually manage to help Diana there, ending up basically a spectator, but what's important is that it's her automatic impulse to do so, and that she's practical and persuasive with her mom. She's got a very good argument here, and she delivers it very reasonably and with perfect friendliness. Impressive enough that she's conscious of that kind of concern at all; to be able to so easily recognize and deal with it and so intelligently convey the idea is amazing. Mark of a good leader, among other things.
Anyway, after enough of this sort of rather amazonian behavior from Cassie, Diana decides it's cool if Cassie tries out the Sandals of Hermes. Byrne never tells us whose idea this was, but smart money says Cassie.
They indulge in some more empty chatter about Jason (Cassie knows he's Etrigan and so disapproves of her mom dating him, but can't actually say anything about it because of the spell), but the real payoff for this scene doesn't come until a few issues later, when Diana ends up fighting a losing battle against a VR clone of Doomsday.
Ha! Lookout, Doomsday!
Or not. Hee. Cassie's enthusiasm and courage sometimes outpace her common sense.
Once she staggers back to her feet, though, and figures out what the Gauntlet actually *does*, she heads back into the fray with slightly less exuberance and a bit more focus. This, mind you, despite how hard she just got punched.
I love Cassie's whole self-invention as Wonder Girl here because it proves not just that she's a hero, but that she's specifically a Wonder Family hero. Bats are all about making sense of tragedy - your parents are dead, your parents are criminals, your parents are dead criminals, some jackass shot you in the spine, and that will never, ever go away, so how do you cope? Supers are all about second chances - your world or universe is gone, you were created for a purpose that's wrong or over, but now you've found a new one. The Wonders, unfortunately, don't have a theme - Polly wanted redemption, Artemis wanted acceptance for her tribe, Donna escaped a tragedy and was psychically programmed to do the Titans' work. But Diana, from whom all the rest of them spring, is about doing good because you can. About saying "if I can help, I will, even though it doesn't affect me." It's not even about "great power, great responsibility" - it's about responsibility, period, whether you can juggle planets or can barely lift a pencil. And that's Cassie too. She's not at risk, she's not involved, she's a plain jane kid who nobody expects anything of, she's got no reason whatsoever to try to be a hero and nothing to gain by it... but people need help, and she suddenly has the ability to help them, so she does. It gives her a continuity with Diana and makes her very properly her heir in a way that a Wonder Girl (and the Wonder Family in general) very much needs.
Anyway, Diana shatters the fake Doomsday, and everyone goes home happy.
Except Helena, who thinks Diana is out of her damn mind.
Heh. No, you didn't train Vanessa, Di, and that's going to bite you in the butt pretty damn hard a couple runs up.
Hm. Yes. Forbid a stubborn fourteen-year-old from doing something she loves and thinks is important. That's going to go smashingly, I just know it.
Hee. You know, Cassie, I know you're new at this, but you're really not supposed to be happy about crime.
Oh, for those who don't know, that's Decay, who was the first bad guy Diana ever fought. She's pretty much what it says on the tin - the living spirit of decay and destruction, spawned from the heart of the dead Medusa. She's got a withering touch that can age an object to rust or a human to ash, plus that breath weapon that does the same thing at a distance. She's a bit of a glass canon - not super-hard to put down, but even if it only takes you a minute she'll do as much damage in that time as most tougher foes do in a week.
I love how sensible Cassie is. I mean obviously going out to fight crime untrained with stolen tools she doesn't understand isn't sensible, but she's fourteen and thinks she's invincible, so you've got to expect that kind of thing. The important bit is that once she's actually got a problem to deal with, she's thinking it through.
At any rate, a little more snooping and some searching and she catches up with Decay.
Cassie grabs at Decay, but of course her hand starts shriveling, so she lets go and drops her.
Heh heh. Holliday School for Young Ladies.
Tangent, but since Wondy rogues are not an infrequent topic of discussion around here, Decay is actually a really good one who should see more use. She can be very tricky to put down without hurting yourself, managing the massive collateral damage is its own challenge, and it makes sense that she keep coming back despite the danger and malevolence she represents, because she's a wandering spirit, and actually physically impossible to kill. Also, she's a creepy purple corpse-looking thing that barfs on stuff as her primary attack, and that's just fun. [/tangent]
Back home, Diana has just discovered Cassie's absence and the theft of the artifacts. Meanwhile Cassie herself is still playing around with Decay, who's managed to get the battery back.
Diana catches Cassie and then goes after Decay, who's getting noticeably weaker by this point. Just as an aside, I really like when Diana throws down in her civvies.
Y'know, I don't think that's actually a reprimand that Diana delivers there. She's an amazon, after all - "you took a great chance" is not necessarily a condemnation or criticism. It's not that Cassie shouldn't have done it, it's just that it's important Cassie be aware that she did (which she really isn't, but that's what training is for). At any rate, she advises Cassie not to tell her mom about what she's done, which is the point at which you realize that Cassie is in. Because goddess of Truth, here.
Still, she's firm on Cassie not using the Gauntlet or Sandals anymore, at least for the time being, and so Cassie slides back onto the sidelines, not able to much contribute, until some time later. All the important people in Diana's life are called to Olympus to testify in a hearing about the fate of the amazons, including of course Cassie. While the rest of them are all standing around yammering at each other like expositional chumps, Cassie... well, frankly, she proves she's a badass, is what she does.
By "fondest wish" he means "give her superpowers", pretty much the standard flying brick set (though the extent of her speed or invulnerability is never really defined, and seems far less than Diana's or even Donna's).
And that's how Cassandra Sandsmark became the second Wonder Girl.
Which, seriously, how can you not love that? She wanted to help Diana, she wanted to do good so badly that she walked up to the father of the gods and asked him to hit her with the super-mojo, just like that. That is the very definition of determination, right there.
Scans from WW #105-122.
Next time: Our new Wonder learns more about her powers, acquires a rogue, and survives a relatively literal trial-by-fire.