Wonder Woman and the Peaceful Use of Nuclear Power, Up for Auction

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Much has been said about the meaning behind the stories of Wonder Woman co-creators William Moulton Marston and H.G. Peter but a careful reading of their work can still lead to new insights. Sometimes, the smallest detail can change the meaning of a comic book story — such as the use of the phrase "denatured uranium" in the Wonder Woman story in Sensation Comics #69.  There's a copy of Sensation Comics #69 (DC, 1947) CGC FN- 5.5 Off-white to white pages available in today's 2021 June 20-21 Sunday & Monday Comic Books Weekly Select Auction #122125 session at Heritage Auctions.

Sensation Comics #69 featuring Wonder Woman (DC, 1947).
A flying wand powered by denatured uranium. Sensation Comics #69 featuring Wonder Woman (DC, 1947).

How does the seemingly unfamiliar scientific phrase "denatured uranium" make its way into a 1947 Wonder Woman story?  It's because the term wasn't so unfamiliar at that time.  According to Library of Congress Copyright records, this issue appeared on newsstands around mid-July 1947.  Denatured uranium was inserted into the public consciousness in newspaper stories of Spring 1946.  These stories were sparked by efforts to find ways to handle the unchecked proliferation of nuclear weapons in the post-WWII world.  In Spring 1946, the U.S. proposed plans for an international "Atomic Development Authority" to be "the sole producer of the world's fissionable materials and to lease them to nations for science and industry."

The plan as explained in media reports called for this central authority to "hold complete control of all the uranium and thorium in the world", eliminate all existing nuclear weapons, and prevent more from being produced.  The original report on this matter, whose contributors included Robert Oppenheimer, explains the concept of denaturing as follows, "U and plutonium can get denatured; such denatured materials do not readily lend themselves to the making of atomic explosives, but they can still be used with no essential loss of effectiveness for the peaceful applications of atomic energy."

In other words, the world's uranium supply was to be tightly controlled and converted into a safer form useful for powering peaceful applications. The primary author of the final version of the plan proposed to the United Nations that year, Bernard Baruch, quoted Abraham Lincoln when he called his plan "the last, best hope of Earth."

Given that the United States was the world's only nuclear power at the time, it should come as little surprise that the plan failed a UN vote on December 31, 1946 — with the Soviet Union effectively vetoing the proposal.  Of course, they then became the world's second nuclear power on August 29, 1949One of the scariest videos on Youtube is a concise illustration of what happened next.

But for a brief period throughout 1946, the world lived in hope that a nuclear arms race could be avoided by controlling the planet's uranium supply and converting it for use in more peaceful purposes. And so it was that a magician's flying wand with some remarkable abilities powered by denatured uranium became central to the plot of a Wonder Woman story in Sensation Comics #69 shortly afterward. There are 38 entries for Sensation Comics #69 on the CGC Census, with 26 entries above CGC 5.5. A fascinating reflection of its moment in world history via the pages of Wonder Woman's adventures, there's a Sensation Comics #69 (DC, 1947) CGC FN- 5.5 Off-white to white pages available in today's 2021 June 20-21 Sunday & Monday Comic Books Weekly Select Auction #122125 session at Heritage Auctions.

Sensation Comics #69 featuring Wonder Woman (DC, 1947).
Sensation Comics #69 featuring Wonder Woman (DC, 1947).

Sensation Comics #69 (DC, 1947) CGC FN- 5.5 Off-white to white pages. Wildcat story featuring the second appearance of the Huntress. Wonder Woman cover and art by H. G. Peter. Overstreet 2020 FN 6.0 value = $248. CGC census 6/21: 3 in 5.5, 28 higher.

View the certification for CGC Certification ID 3727543007 and purchase grader's notes if available.

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About Mark Seifert

Co-founder and Creative director of Bleeding Cool parent company Avatar Press. Bleeding Cool Managing Editor, tech and data wrangler. Machine Learning hobbyist. Vintage paper addict.
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