|Duke of Deception|
|First appearance||Wonder Woman #2 (Fall 1942)|
|Created by||William Moulton Marston (script)|
Harry G. Peter (art)
Thomas Byde (The Legend of Wonder Woman)
The Duke of Deception is a fictional character appearing in DC Comics publications and related media. Based on Dolos, the Greek mythological deity of deceit and lies, he is a longstanding recurring adversary of the superhero Wonder Woman. Introduced as a treacherous operative of the war god Mars/Ares in 1942’s Wonder Woman #2, the Duke would rise to become one of Wonder Woman's most persistent foes, appearing regularly in her adventures throughout the Golden, Silver and Bronze Age of Comics. His portrayal evolved into that of a figure autonomous from Ares, frequently confronting Wonder Woman and her allies as an independent antagonist with his own aims of conquest, as well as a background shrouded in mystery. For the greater part of his publication history, his specific identity was never established, nor was his precise position within DC Comics’ Greek mythological pantheon. The 2020 feature film Wonder Woman 1984 suggested that the Duke had a specific mythological antecedent, Dolos. In 2022's Wonder Woman #788, writers Michael W. Conrad and Becky Cloonan confirm this; the Duke identifies himself by name as Dolos, as does Wonder Woman, suggesting unchronicled previous interactions in DC's Rebirth-era continuity.
The Duke of Deception first appeared in 1942’s Wonder Woman #2, written by Wonder Woman creator William Moulton Marston and illustrated by Harry G. Peter. Marston was a psychologist who conceived many of Wonder Woman’s early foes as allegories for psychological motifs. As such, the Duke of Deception represented the exploitative power of duplicity, particularly as it relates to misogyny and patriarchal control.
Main article: Golden Age of Comic Books
More than most comic book characters, the Duke’s visual design has varied widely since his creation. He has sported a series of looks so disparate that, from decade to decade, he barely resembles the same character. Peter drew him as a diminutive, wizened, near-toothless figure in an oversized gladiator helmet. Clad in Greco-Roman armor, the Duke’s original bent, hook-nosed countenance was both eerie and absurd. In this guise, he regularly plagued Wonder Woman and her allies in Wonder Woman, Comic Cavalcade and Sensation Comics stories throughout the 1940s and 1950s. Though in his earliest stories, his uniform was consistently pale blue with bronze filagree, the Duke would widen his color scheme considerably in subsequent appearances, showing up in versions of his helmeted armor ranging from gray and crimson, to yellow and green, to mahogany and ochre.
Main article: Silver Age of Comic Books
By 1960, his look took a sharp sci-fi turn, giving him both a larger, sturdier stature as well as an outer-space get-up. Without much narrative explanation, he was also given Martian-green skin, although in this look's debut, the character's costume was green, while his skin tone was rendered as yellow. Usually outfitted in vermillion tights, cowl, collared cape, boots and gloves, the Silver Age Duke bore little outward resemblance to his gnarled Golden Age antecedent, other than continuing to sport a prominently aquiline nose. However, this Silver Age version now had a full set of teeth, and with his interstellar garb, struck the figure of a quintessential space-age supervillain.
Main article: Bronze Age of Comic Books
By 1975, the Duke’s design was again altered. Gone was the alien-green skin of the Silver Age. Starting in Wonder Woman #217, with art by Dick Dillin and Vince Colletta, the Bronze Age Duke appears as a middle-aged white man in a dark tuxedo. Still hook-nosed, he was given Mephistophelian facial features, including two-toned hair that swept upward at the temples, creating the effect of devil horns. Wonder Woman #217 includes a two-page pullout reusing frames from several of the Duke of Deception’s Golden Age appearances, all featuring art by Harry G. Peter. Written as if narrated by the Duke himself, the pullout divulges the villain's early clashes with Wonder Woman, establishing an Earth-1 origin story paralleling that of the Golden Age Duke of Earth-2. Despite differences in their outward appearances, the wizened Duke in the pullout is established as the same figure as the tuxedoed Duke in the issue’s lead story.
Several years later in 1978’s Wonder Woman #239-240, writer Gerry Conway provides a subtle retcon of the Golden Age Duke of Deception's origin. In a story taking place on Earth-2 in 1942, the Duke is shown to be a handsome darkhaired demigod in indigo armor. By the end of the tale, as punishment for fumbling a planned plot against Wonder Woman, the war god Mars transforms the Duke into the familiar crooked, toothless figure depicted in his earliest Golden Age comic book appearances.
The Duke of Deception made his final Bronze Age appearance a year later in 1979's Wonder Woman #254, in a story taking place on Earth-1. Though ostensibly the same Earth-1 figure as the tuxedoed Duke from the early-70s, without explanation he is here presented as identical in appearance to the scrawny Golden Age Earth-2 Duke from the end of Wonder Woman #240. Both Wonder Woman #240 and #254 were illustrated by José Delbo.
Main article: Who's Who in the DC Universe
Between March 1985 and April 1987, DC Comics published Who's Who in the DC Universe, an encyclopedia-style limited series cataloguing the company’s characters. The entry for the Duke of Deception featured in issue #7 (September 1985) is somewhat anomalous for Who's Who in that it offers a visual representation of the character that had never actually appeared in a DC Comics publication. Instead, it blends various disparate designs from the Duke's then-43-year history into a single composite likeness, mixing elements from several of his Golden and Bronze Age looks. In an illustration by José Delbo and inker Bob Smith, the Duke is presented with the body of the Mephistophelian middle-aged man who debuted in Wonder Woman #217. However, he is outfitted in a better-fitting version of the Greco-Roman armor designed by Harry G. Peter way back in Wonder Woman #2, and the armor is not pale blue but indigo, like that worn by the handsome Earth-2 Duke in Wonder Woman #239-240. Although the accompanying text states that he is 5'11", he is neither the statuesque, box-jawed Duke, nor the shriveled Duke of the Golden Age.
Main article: Modern Age of Comic Books
After DC Comics rebooted its continuity in 1985 (in a publication event known as the Crisis on Infinite Earths), Wonder Woman, her supporting characters and many of her foes were re-imagined and reintroduced. The Duke of Deception, though initially absent in this revised set of storylines, would ultimately make a handful of appearances, both in DC's continuity (such as Wonder Woman Annual (vol. 3) #1), and out of it (such as Scooby-Doo Team-Up #9-10, in which Wonder Woman works with Scooby-Doo and his friends). In these outings, the Duke's look has closely resembled his 1985 Who's Who composite.
In 2016, a new version of the Duke of Deception was introduced in DC Comics' successful The Legend of Wonder Woman, an Eisner Award-nominated ongoing digital series retelling Wonder Woman's origin in an alternate continuity. A champion of Ares and Hades, the Duke of Deception is presented as the first major adversary Wonder Woman faces after leaving her home on the island of Themyscira. Once again a handsome figure in Greco-Roman armor (this time with flaming red hair), the new Duke is a master of necromancy, as well as a master of deceit.
Little is known about the true history of the Duke of Deception. He appears to be a minor deity in the Greek pantheon, possibly Dolos, the god of trickery and lies. He is drafted by Mars to battle Wonder Woman. He uses his powers to spread falsehoods to provoke humanity into conflict and war.
The Duke of Deception, along with the Count of Conquest and the Earl of Greed, two other enemies of Wonder Woman, was a main lieutenant of the god Mars.
The Duke of Deception sends his astral form to inspire military and government leaders with duplicitous thoughts that could lead to war. His contributions to World War II include "persuad[ing] ... the Rising Sun (Japan) to make peace talk at Washington while they struck with deadly venom at Pearl Harbor" and "show[ing] the addled Adolf Hitler how to cultivate Russia's friendship until the hour arrived to attack".
On the war god's interplanetary base on the planet Mars, the Duke of Deception operates the Lie Factory, which uses slaves, spirits from different planets such as Earth and Saturn that inhabit bodies, to craft deceptions for a variety of stratagems. Other slaves are used for gladiator conflicts. When Wonder Woman's astral form traveled to Mars to rescue Steve Trevor, the Duke of Deception recognized her and revealed her identity to Mars after she won in the arena. He gave advice to Mars to pretend not to know who she was to trap her. However, Wonder Woman was able to rescue Steve, overcome Mars and his soldiers, and escape to Earth. The Duke of Deception was the second of Mars' lieutenants sent to capture Wonder Woman, refusing at first as he said his servants were writing propaganda for the Nazis and Japanese and he could not capture Wonder Woman without their help. Wonder Woman was captured by an agent of his, Naha, with her magic lasso after being given a fake lasso. She was taken onto a ship, where she was left bound hand and foot, along with being gagged and blindfolded with plaster. Wonder Woman was able to escape with the help of Etta Candy, who she telepathically contacted. The Duke of Deception tried to convince Hirohito to cause more war in Hawaii by disguising himself as a General, but Wonder Woman foiled his plan to cause further war with the help of Etta Candy and sent his phantom form fleeing back to Mars in the form of a slave girl. He was then imprisoned by Mars, his imprisonment causing Hirohito to speak truthfully to the Italian Ambassador. The Duke of Deception was released when Wonder Woman was brought back in chains by the Count of Conquest. The Duke of Deception enlists the aid of the women-hating Doctor Psycho after finding women are being used in the War Effort, hoping to continue the practice of inequality. After repeated failures, Mars strips him of his mighty appearance, leaving him a weak, toothless man. He was imprisoned with the female slaves, but convinced them to rebel and briefly ruled Mars, imprisoning the god Mars. He took over the Moon and was able to drug the goddess Diana, but was defeated by Wonder Woman.
He eventually begins working independently from Mars, and continues to unsuccessfully battle Wonder Woman. In the late 1950s, he received a makeover with other members of the Wonder Woman cast. He now wore an orange and black costume and hood and, characteristic of a master of illusion, the color of his skin changed from white to yellow. He tries to attack the entire Solar System of Earth-1 after capturing Wonder Woman and Steve with a key that transforms into a spaceship which paralyzes them and leaves Earth. But Wonder Woman is able to escape using her bracelet to turn off the device and destroy all of his fleet which were massing at different planets. The Duke of Deception's own ship crashes into an Earth satellite, although he made numerous Silver Age reappearances.
The Duke of Deception's daughter, Lya, is a "mistress of lies" who attempts to double-cross her own father. She captured Wonder Woman and created a phantasm of her to steal Earth's atomic weapons. Wonder Woman escaped and captured Lya and her followers.
After the events of Crisis on Infinite Earths, this version of the Duke of Deception is erased from history.
A new version of the Duke of Deception reappears, with a caption box describing him as "The Duke of Deception, whose power of illusion made him the War God's most trusted disciple".
The Duke of Deception can create illusions and delusions in the minds of others, thereby driving them insane. In addition, he can envelop himself in an illusory image which changes his physical appearance. He has used this ability to disguise himself as Wonder Woman, Paula von Gunther, and Professor Dekon. He can also send his astral form invisibly to military and government leaders, inspiring them with thoughts of duplicity which they take to be their own.
The Duke of Deception has also made use of advanced technology in his plans to attack Earth and destroy Wonder Woman. He attempted to shrink a Martian invasion fleet into a small box from which they would emerge in enlarged form, and he used the shrinking technology again to shrink down Skyscraper City. He has also employed a solar death ray, a forcefield that sealed in Washington, D.C. and also was a portal for an interplanetary invasion fleet, a "brain-wave deceiver" that could scramble a victim's perception of fantasy and reality, and a "gigantic inter-stellar cannon" that was able to target Wonder Woman's invisible jet. He also claimed to have altered Wonder Girl's face with technology he had employed in the past on Medusa and Dr. Jekyll's Mr. Hyde persona, but he may have been lying.
The Duke of Deception appears in the Super Friends comic book series. Several other villains (including Riddler and Angle Man) unknowingly freed a magical automaton, which the Duke of Deception claimed would be his key to conquering the world. The villains, discovering the Duke of Deception's plan, allied themselves with the Super Friends and managed to defeat the automaton. Wonder Woman's lasso captured the Duke of Deception before he was able to escape.
In the digital-first crossover with the cast of Scooby-Doo, the Duke of Deception created illusions of various mythological creatures on Paradise Island, including a Minotaur, Harpies, Cyclopes, and the Hydra in attempt to lure Wonder Woman to seek Batman's aid, which would result in breaking Aphrodite's Law of not allowing men to set foot on the island. However, with the help of Scooby-Doo and his friends, Wonder Woman was able to discover his plot. Believing he had won, it was not until the Duke of Deception discovered that Shaggy Rogers had not actually touched his feet to the island that he realized Wonder Woman still had her powers and he was quickly defeated.
In the digital-first origin story The Legend of Wonder Woman, the Duke of Deception appears as Wonder Woman's primary antagonist.
The Duke of Deception is mentioned in Wonder Woman 1984. Also going by the names Dolos and Mendacius, the Duke of Deception is the deity responsible for empowering the Dreamstone, a magical object used throughout the film and absorbed into Maxwell Lord.