Robert Kirkman’s Secret History of Comics 102: The Truth About Wonder Woman
Wonder Woman is one of the most recognizable super heroes on the planet. One third of DC’s trinity of heroes that includes Superman and Batman, Wonder Woman has graced comic book pages for over 75 years. Her immense popularity and her place as the preeminent female super hero paved the way for the character’s adaptation into Hollywood, first with a TV show starring Linda Carter and now (and finally) on the silver screen with Gal Gadot. Trailblazer, hero, feminist icon – all of those help to describe the phenomenon that is Wonder Woman. There is however, more to the Amazon princess than the heroic feats, magic lasso and invisible plane. Robert Kirkman’s Secret History of Comics 102: The Truth About Wonder Woman reveals the secrets behind the character including some that are just too crazy to believe.
Created by progressive psychologist William Moulton Marsten, Wonder Woman was ahead of her time. Reflecting the feminist ideals held by Marsten and his wife Elizabeth the character was created to stand beside the likes of Superman and Batman. Marsten envisioned a world run by women, were their worldview and a society built on equality would make for a more peaceful and just environment for all. Marsten’s forward-thinking approach to life wasn’t just confined to the adventures he wrote for the Amazon princess.
His unusual marital and sexual predilections regarding bondage and submission played a large role in the eventual creation of the character. Marsten, who invented the lie detector test, fell in love with one of his students Olive Byrne. She eventually became his teaching assistant eventually joined the Marsten’s in an open marriage. Being the 1920’s Marsten, Byrne and Elizabeth’s relationship was unconventional and as their family grew their web of lies expanded to cover up the truth.
When word that Marsten is having an affair with his teaching assistant he’s pushed out of teaching. To make ends meet he turns to writing and with the boom in comics during the war decides to try his hand in the genre. Encouraged by his wife Elizabeth to make his hero a female, Marsten introduces Wonder Woman to the world in 1941. Wonder Woman was a comic born through Marsten, Elizabeth and Olive’s collaboration and feminist ideals. The comic was extremely popular at one point selling 5 million copies. However with the over abundance of bondage, Wonder Woman earned its fair share of critics.
With Marsten’s death, Wonder Woman changed to reflect the times and the gender politics of previous stories disappeared. These changes irked Elizabeth and Olive and they shared their protests with DC but to no avail. As a result Wonder Woman sales fell sharply and didn’t recover for years. With the rise of feminism in the 70’s however came the character’s return featuring some of Marsten’s original ideals. Wonder Woman’s rebirth in the 70’s led to the character’s hugely successful small screen run from 1975-1979. Wonder Woman had regained her place as a pop culture icon but it wasn’t until director Patty Jenkins and Gal Gadot joined forces for 2017’s Wonder Woman that the character was featured in her own major motion picture.
The Truth About Wonder Woman is a fascinating look at the true origins of one of the most important characters in pop culture. It’s no accident that Wonder Woman’s birth and rebirth paved the way for future feminist icons like Ellen Ripley, Katniss Everdeen, Sarah Connor, Leia Organa and Hermione Granger. Given the character’s salacious roots and the unconventional circumstances surrounding her co-creator’s personal lives it’s amazing Wonder Woman even exists. The world however, is a much better place thanks to the contributions of Marsten, Holloway and Byrne.