The History of Wonder Woman
by Carl Rich.
With her great strength, invisible plane, bullet-deflecting bracelets and star-studded style like no other, she’s Wonder Woman — known to her close friends as Diana. The unconventional Dr. William Moulton Marston originally created her as “psychological propaganda for the new type of woman who should rule the world,” and Wonder Woman has done just that… whether battling evil fascists or ensnaring villains with her magic lasso.
For those who are not well educated about comic book lore: Wonder Woman is a warrior princess of the Amazons (based on the Amazons of Greek mythology) and was created by Marston, an American, as a “distinctly feminist role model whose mission was to bring the Amazon ideals of love, peace, and sexual equality to a world torn by the hatred of men.” Known in her homeland as Diana of Themyscira, her powers include superhuman strength, flight (even though the original Wonder Woman did not have this ability), super-speed, super-stamina, and super-agility. She is highly proficient in hand-to-hand combat and in the art of tactical warfare. She also possesses animal-like cunning skills and a natural rapport with animals, which has been presented as an actual ability to communicate with the animal kingdom. She uses her Lasso of Truth, which forces those bound by it to tell the truth, a pair of indestructible bracelets, a tiara which serves as a projectile, and, in some stories, an invisible airplane.
Created during World War II, the character was initially depicted fighting the Axis military forces, as well as an assortment of supervillains. Her greatest enemy was then,and has often been since, the god of war, known as Ares in Greece and Mars in Rome. In later decades, some writers maintained the World War II setting, with many of its themes and story arcs, while others updated the series to reflect the present day. Wonder Woman has also regularly appeared in comic books featuring the superhero teams Justice Society (from 1941) and Justice League (from 1960). Arguably the most popular and iconic female superhero in comics, Wonder Woman is also considered a feminist icon. She was named the 20th greatest comic book character by Empire magazine. She was ranked sixth in Comics Buyer’s Guide’s “100 Sexiest Women in Comics” list.
Marston was a Harvard-trained psychologist with a law degree and a Ph.D. and assumed a pseudonym to begin writing comic books. The medium was new at the time, considered childish by many, not held in high regard and hardly the thing you would have expected from a man with his reputation. He wrote his own scripts, created the entire character and concept, and ultimately made a lot of money from his venture.
Wonder Woman’s lasso forced people to tell the truth. Marston himself was fascinated with the detection of deception and in 1917, published a paper in The Journal of Experimental Psychology called “Systolic Blood Pressure Symptoms of Deception.” Marston believed that a person’s blood pressure would go up if they were lying. He developed a crude working apparatus while still at Harvard and has since been closely associated with the equipment we now refer to as a lie detector test. In 1938, Marston picked up extra cash by lending his name and photo for an advertisement in Life magazine using a polygraph to demonstrate the emotional responses of unshaven men to Gillette Blue Blades.
In February of 1941, Marston submitted his first script for what he then called, “Suprema, the Wonder Woman.” Nobody knows who later changed the name, but Wonder Woman made her debut in issue #8 of All American’s All Star Comics (December 1941-January 1942). All Star Comics had already introduced the Justice Society of America. Wonder Woman’s debut was also a flag-waving propaganda story timed (coincidentally) with the attack on Pearl Harbor. Americans needed a woman dressed up in an American flag and like Captain America, gave hope to comic book readers that nothing is so dark that a little bravery could not fight back.
The difference between a superhero and a masked vigilante has been classified wonderfully in Watchmen, but very few are truly superheroes. Superman and Wonder Woman, for example, truly have super powers and must disguise themselves as human beings in order to blend into society. Others like Batman and The Green Hornet are masked vigilantes. No super powers, just futuristic weaponry to battle the forces of evil. Wonder Woman paid Diana Price, an earthling, to switch placed with her. Both women found the arrangement perfect because they were then able to continue their tasks without the bothersome situation. As Wonder Woman (Princess Diana) told Diana Price, “by taking your place I can see the man I love and you can marry the man you love. No harm done, for I’m a trained nurse, too. Just a little money and a substitution.”
By the summer of 1942, Wonder Woman was a success. Only a few months after her debut, a new Wonder Woman comic book was launched, making the Amazon one of a handful of characters strong enough to carry an entire publication. Most comic characters shared the funny pages simply as a means of adding filler for potentially new characters.
As a psychologist, Marston knew what he was doing when he drafted the Wonder Woman comics. Almost every Wonder Woman story featured numerous images of women in bondage, captured and tied up. Marston claimed this helped cut down on violence, but he certainly knew this was sexually stimulating to many of the readers. Magic lassos subdued criminals, lovely ladies as servants were featured and villains all wanted a hand to Wonder Woman for more than just her strength. In Sensation Comics #19, Wonder Woman discovered that without her bracelets, she could wreck havoc with no control over her own strength. The yellow panel description even read, “Wonder Woman, in an orgy of unleashed power, smashes cabins into kindling wood.”
As the years passed, the character of Wonder Woman developed. New editors and writers took the helm following the untimely death of her creator. Wonder Girl was introduced, a younger version of Wonder Woman. Wonder Tot was also introduced to the series, an even younger version for the smallest who enjoyed reading the comics. Merchandising became a hot topic. Wonder Woman became a member of the Justice League of America. Wonder Woman was once turned into a gorilla. She broke up red menace Egg Fu in November 1965. Even William Dozier tried his hand with a Wonder Woman television pilot, starring Ellie Wood Walker, following the success of Batman with Adam West.
In 1968, Wonder Woman received a revamped image and change of costume. The new Wonder Woman sported modern-day dress and was stripped of her super powers. She was more “hip” for the time. She combated many red Chinese agents. By the early 1970s, she went back to the old costume bearing the image of the American flag. She battled her sister, Nubia, to the death. Steve Trevor, her true love, was killed and later brought back to life. In the seventies, Wonder Woman began appearing on Hanna-Barbera Productions’ Super Friends, and again in 1977 in The All-New Superfriends Hour. Cathy Lee Crosby played a blonde version of Wonder Woman for a 1974 made-for-TV movie. In 1975, Lynda Carter took over the mantle and the live-action television series lasted three seasons. The first season took place in the 1940s and featured Wonder Woman battling Nazis. Roy Rogers put in an appearance. For the second season, the program left ABC and went to CBS and was modernized. In 1978, DC Comics featured a storyline titled “Superman vs. Wonder Woman.”
Newer versions of Wonder Woman have come and gone in print and comics. In August 2010 (issue #600), DC Comics replaced the character’s iconic stars-and-stripes singlet with a blue jacket (later discarded), red and gold top and dark pants, retaining only her tiara and lasso. The new costume raised controversy among fan boys and made headlines across the world.
In 2011, DC Comics relaunched its entire line of publications to attract a new generation of readers. In this new continuity, Wonder Woman wears a costume similar to her original costume. Also, her origin is significantly changed and she is no longer a clay figure brought to life by the magic of the gods. Instead, she is a demigoddess, the natural-born daughter of Hippolyta and Zeus.
A new television pilot was filmed in 2011. Adrianne Palicki starred as Diana Themyscira, a vigilante crime fighter in L.A. and successful corporate executive and a modern woman, trying to balance all of the elements of her extraordinary life. After reviewing the pilot, NBC opted not to buy the series.
Supporting cast included Elizabeth Hurley as the villain and Cary Elwes as Henry Detmer who handled Diana’s day-to-day operations of her company. Palicki was great in the role but the reinvention of the comic book heroine only verifies that the television networks still look for something new — yet old fashioned.
Perhaps Lynda Carter could come out of retirement? Last year she appeared on The View as a guest and she not only looked fabulous but gave all the ladies a chance to pretend they were turning into Wonder Woman by spinning around and around like she did on the TV series. All three seasons, by the way, are now available commercially on DVD and inexpensive (you can buy a complete season for less than $10 if you shop around).
Palicki appears to be interested in pop culture characters related to comic books. In the WB pilot Aquaman she played the evil Nadia, but the pilot was not picked up for series by the CW network, a result of The WB and UPN network merger, which occurred while the pilot was being filmed.
She also appeared as Kara/Lindsey Harrison in the season 3 finale of Smallville.
She was a series regular on the first three seasons of NBC’s much acclaimed Friday Night Lights, portraying the character of Tyra Collette.
Palicki also appeared as Judy Robinson in John Woo’s unsold pilot, The Robinsons: Lost in Space.
The 2011 unsold television pilot is considered the hottest bootleg on the market right now. A screener from the second-to-last rough cut is circulating and can be purchased at the Big Apple Comic Con and the San Diego Comic Con for varying prices from $10 to $25 and vendors told me this is the fastest and best-selling bootleg they have ever offered. Supposedly it’s a hot illegal download as well. Why the pilot did not sell I do not know. It’s not bad and Palicki played the role very well.
Our only hope is that Hollywood will soon admit that a motion-picture carrying Wonder Woman would be a box office sensation. Until then, we have the comics being reprinted by DC to enjoy reading.
Man of Steel 2013 movie
A few venues you might want to check out is the Wonder Woman museum at http://www.wonderwomanmuseum.com/
and The Wonder Woman Chronicles beginning with volume one which reprints all of her earliest issues in chronological order. You can order a copy at Amazon.com here: http://www.amazon.com/The-Wonder-Woman-Chronicles-Vol/dp/1401226442/ref=pd_sim_b_1