Hefty Hannah & Toots Malone

Hefty Hannah, Toots Malone, and Mimi are three women who appear in a short Wonder Woman story from Sensation Comics #29, by the regular team of William Moulton Marston and Harry G. Peter, with a May 1944 cover date. In this 13 page story Steve Trevor takes Diana Prince on a date that she as Wonder Woman urged Steve to do. Trevor picks the Bandit Club because he suspects it’s a front for Mimi Mendez’s Zoot Suit* Gang and also because it’s “fashionable and gay”. While there she overhears a conversation between another couple which leads her to intervene on behalf of a man who is desperate because of a gambling debt owed to club owner Mimi Mendez. When confronted by Wonder Woman Mimi threatens to go public and create a number of scanfals by revealing secrets so Diana decides to tie her up and take her to Reform Island for rehabilitation by Mala.

Even the best plan can go awry and this one is no different or Marston wouldn’t have much of a story. Unknown to Wonder Woman, Mimi escapes her bonds and jumps to safety on Reform Island. Mimi stows away aboard Mala’s Swan plane scant seconds before Mala decides to use it to look for the delayed princess. Mimi knocks Mala unconscious and tosses her out of the plane and into the ocean. Being an Amazon, Mala swims to New York City where she has some whacky hijinks that lead to her being arrested and put in jail because it’s Man’s World.

Mala finds herself sharing a jail cell with two women named Hafty Hannah and Toots Malone. I stopped the moment I saw them while looking through The Golden Age Wonder Woman Omnibus volume 2 because they instantly evoked images of women in prison movies, a genre which debuted in 1933 with Ladies They Talk About, and the perennial stereotypes of butch and lipstick lesbians. Hannah displays butch dom stereotypes with a larger body size, harsh features, matronly hair style, and several tattoos while Toots is denoted by her delicate frame, long hair, and her flowery dress. It should also be noted that women smoking in public whether in reality or through media depiction was still a somewhat new social phenomenon which often had rebellious and undesireable connotations. The two women take advantage of the situation when they discover Mala wants to locate Wonder Woman and they persuade Mala to use her Amazon strength and skills to bust them out of jail. They take her right to the Bandits Club and Mimi. This is the end of their appearance. Mimi gives a Mickey Finn Mala to drink because she sees the Amazon as a tool with which to lure and capture Wonder Woman. More hijinks ensue for Mala after she recovers from being drugged. It will come as no surprise that Mimi fails in her efforts.

Hannah and Toots’ appearance consists of eight panels. The only other member of the Zoot Suit Gang that is seen in the story is a zoot suit henchman whom Mimi orders around.

* Zoot suits were a popular fashion among the Latino American and African American communities during the late 1930s and 1940s. In early June of 1943 racist white soldiers and sailors organized attacks on young boys and men in Los Angeles’ Mexican American community. At the time the riots were justified as an attempt to clean up crime in Los Angeles. It seems that Marston and Peter are trading in racially biased ideas by using a Latina to head a criminal gang whose name signals animus towards Mexican Americans as well as and African Americans. Please read this Daily Kos article on the Zoot Suit Riots.

Sensation Comics #29 is the only appearance for these characters.

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September 14, 2017
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