|Baroness Paula von Gunther|
Baroness Paula von Gunther in JLA #8 (1997), art by Oscar Jimenez
|First appearance||Sensation Comics #4 (April 1942)|
|Created by||William Moulton Marston, Harry G. Peter|
|Abilities||Brilliant strategist and scientist; Amazon training|
Created by William Moulton Marston as an adversary for his comic book heroine Wonder Woman in Sensation Comics #4, the Baroness would become the Amazing Amazon's first recurring enemy. Though in her earliest appearances she was a cold-blooded Nazi spy and saboteur, the Baroness would reform into Wonder Woman's ally (albeit one who occasionally lapsed into villainy), appearing in Wonder Woman stories throughout the Golden, Silver and Bronze Age of Comics. In the late 1990s, the Baroness was returned to her roots as a villainous Nazi mastermind, re-imagined by Wonder Woman writer/artist John Byrne as a devotee of the occult who placed her mystical knowledge at the service of the Third Reich.
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A member of the noble class in pre-Republican Germany with the rank of Baroness, Paula von Gunther first appeared as a foe of Wonder Woman. She battled the Amazon numerous times as an agent of the Gestapo. She murdered many individuals, kept a small group of women as personal slaves, tortured them routinely, was for a time the leader of all Gestapo operations in the United States, in her first appearance forced American female citizens into becoming Nazi spies at a spy school using drugs and hypnotism on some of them, attempted to kidnap a Colonel using an invisible ray on a ship while impersonating a high-society lady enabling a U-Boat to capture the people, stole Wonder Woman's lasso while she was in prison and tried to steal secrets from security officers after her previous attempts of hypnotism failed. She succeeded in capturing Wonder Woman with it and bound her hand and foot to a wooden pole using it. However Wonder Woman got of the pole and broke open a cage freeing a young boy. He untied her hands, but Gunther returned and stopped Wonder Woman by pointing a gun at her back. However Freddy lassoed Gunther, and Wonder Woman defeated her plan. She once tried to monopolize America's milk supply and charge high prices for it so that its people would have weak bones and fall before the stronger-boned Nazis after buying all the milk of a company for five years with seven million dollars. She discovered Wonder Woman's weakness in her first appearance, that if her bracelets were chained by a man she became as weak as an ordinary woman. While monopolizing milk, her men lassoed Wonder Woman and bound her hand and foot with chains. She was bound to a railway truck, but freed herself.[volume & issue needed]
Von Gunther was finally captured and revealed that she had worked for the Nazis because they held her daughter Gerta captive. Von Gunther reformed and pledged her loyalty to Wonder Woman after Gerta was rescued. Von Gunther even put her own life in peril to save Wonder Woman from a burning munitions plant, suffering third-degree burns and a horribly scarred face.[volume & issue needed]
Von Gunther went to trial, but Wonder Woman acted as her defense and got her off. Murder charges had to be thrown out on double jeopardy, because Paula had previously been tried, convicted... and executed for that crime in the electric chair, but her henchmen had revived her with an electrical machine she had invented after the Doctor gave her body to them(Sensation Comics #7). Von Gunther later escaped by tying up a guard and stealing her uniform, but was later recaptured by Wonder Woman. While in custody, Von Gunther risked her own life to stop a bomb from going off inside a munitions factory, and was burned as a result. Wonder Woman dramatically revealed Paula's scarred face to the jury, which was moved by Paula's heroic self-sacrifice and acquitted her of the remaining espionage and sabotage charges. (Wonder Woman (vol. 1) #3.)
Paula returned to Paradise Island with her former slave girls and her daughter to live and undergo Amazon training. Queen Hippolyte moulded fine features on Paula's face, which the goddess Aphrodite blessed and magically converted into Paula's new face.[volume & issue needed] Paula became the Amazons' chief scientist, spending part of her time on Paradise Island and part aiding Wonder Woman from a hidden underground laboratory beneath Holliday College. Her daughter Gerta also was a scientific savant, although her experiments sometimes led to accidents that needed Wonder Woman's help to fix. Gerta's enlarging ray, for example, was instrumental in helping Wonder Woman and Steve Trevor return to human size after escaping Atomia's atom world, but also accidentally unleashed the menace of the Bughumans. At one point her devices revived Wonder Woman, and another time the Justice Society of America.[volume & issue needed]
Her Earth-1 counterpart differed only slightly, as Baroness Paula von Gunta. The Earth-1 von Gunta appeared in Wonder Woman (vol. I) #163 and 168, before presumably following a similar path as the Earth-2 Paula and moving to Paradise Island to become an adopted Amazon and chief scientist.[volume & issue needed]
The Earth-1 Paula was asked to replace Hippolyta as Amazon queen during a coup d'état, which was abruptly ended when the goddess Kore appeared to enlist the Amazons in a battle against the Anti-Monitor during the Crisis on Infinite Earths.[volume & issue needed]
Following the events of the Crisis on Infinite Earths, it was revealed that the Baroness fought Hippolyta during the time-traveling queen's World War II adventures as Wonder Woman.[volume & issue needed]
This Von Gunther was a mistress of the occult and became the human host for the evil wandering spirit, Dark Angel. Dark Angel became a dedicated foe of Hippolyta and was inadvertently responsible for the origin of Wonder Girl (Donna Troy).[volume & issue needed]
Donna Troy was able to defeat Dark Angel, and at some point Dark Angel separated herself from von Gunther. The Baroness was last seen living among the Amazons.[volume & issue needed]
Pre-Crisis, Paula von Gunther had (after receiving training) standard Amazon powers, such as superhuman strength capable of breaking chains and leaping great heights, speed and stamina enough to deflect bullets and other projectiles from her Amazon Bracelets. She was also a skilled hand-to-hand combatant.[volume & issue needed]
Post-Crisis, von Gunther was empowered when possessed by Dark Angel, who had vast powers and was able to perform a variety of feats including mind control, altering her size, teleportation and altering the time stream.[volume & issue needed]
In the original graphic novel Wonder Woman: The Blue Amazon, Paula von Gunther appears as a member of the Savanti, a trio of scientists who led humanity to live on Mars.
Baroness von Gunther appears as a Nazi commander in the DC Comics Bombshells universe.
Baroness von Gunther appears as a minor antagonist in The Legend of Wonder Woman series. She mentions that she battled Wonder Woman on several occasions, and is allied with the Nazi party until Wonder Woman saves her daughter, Gerta.