Wonder Woman debuted in All-Star Comics #8 in December 1941. The issue cost 10 cents, but increased prices haven’t been the only changes the first lady of superheroes has seen in more than 70 years of fighting the forces of evil.
Like other pop-culture icons, Wonder Woman evolved, often reflecting the shifting customs and priorities of the times. She has had a continual presence in a number of different venues such as comic books, live action television, cartoons, toys, clothing and movies, including a role in the upcoming feature film Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice.
Other female superheroes soon followed in Wonder Woman’s high heels: Batgirl, Supergirl, She Hulk and Spider Woman, just to name a few. Each has had her successes and failures, but all of them have been part of an ongoing controversy since first appearing in the pages of DC and Marvel. As attractive, strong women, are we to think of these characters as positive role models for young girls or as scantily clad sex symbols fueling young boys’ fantasies of women? A recent dust up over Spider Woman’s supposed overly attractive derriere on one cover demonstrated the controversy is alive and well.
Wonder Woman continues to be the most popular super heroine ever, but that doesn’t mean you know everything you should about her.
10. Sports Athlete
Wonder Woman is well-known as a crime fighter with impressive fighting and adept in the use of lassos and swords. But it turns out she’s also quite the athlete, playing baseball, tennis and ice hockey in her down time.
When you’re a legendary Amazonian goddess, you have a great many talents to draw on and Wonder Woman seems to have made the most of them. What’s a few sports here and there when you’ve taken down scores of super villains? Her super strength, speed and agility give her all the tools she needs to be a world class athlete. And if that isn’t enough, Wonder Woman apparently anticipated the exercise craze and opened a chain of fitness clubs to promote fitness and exercise to us mortals.
9. Alter Egos and Incarnations
Wonder Woman is actually Princess Diana of Themyscira. She and her fellow Amazonians were isolated from mankind on Paradise Island until an American pilot named Steve Trevor crash landed and upset the balance of their idyllic world.
As Wonder Woman, she helped America fight the Axis Powers in World War II, but the star spangled hero wasn’t Diana’s only comic incarnation. She also did business for a time as Diana Prince. This was part of a complicated storyline that forced her to deal with giving up her powers so she could stay in the Man’s World. She continued to confront evil as Diana Prince during a 24 issue run in the late 1960s until thankfully, the creators gave her back her powers and her costume.
8. TV Star
Lynda Carter played Wonder Woman on the popular television show titled after the superheroine from 1975 to 1979. For a whole generation of fans, she embodies the character the way Adam West embodies Batman for a certain segment of fans. Carter was so popular, the Mego toy company produced an action figure with packaging labeled “Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman.”
Unfortunately, a year before Carter’s show aired, ABC released a Wonder Woman television movie starring Cathy Lee Crosby. While she’s a stunning actress, she’s blonde in the movie and isn’t given much to work with.
7. Wonder Woman’s Unconventional Creator
The man who created Wonder Woman was a doctor named William Moulton Marston. He was an interesting figure with a complicated and unconventional history. Marston graduated from Harvard, earning a psychology degree, but he also had a degree in law as well as a Ph.D. He served with the the Army’s psychological division during World War I and wrote a historical novel about Julius Caesar.
He is credited with inventing the polygraph and the lie detector test, which makes Wonder Woman’s Lasso of Truth all the more interesting. His articles appeared frequently in newspapers and scholarly journals. In one article, he explained how he was drawn to comic books: “Comics speak, without qualm or sophistication, to the innermost ears of the wishful self.” However, he felt he needed to protect his reputation, using the pseudonym Charles Moulton to pen Wonder Woman.
6. Super Kinky
Revealing costume aside, most fans consider Wonder Woman to be a wholesome icon of patriotism and femininity. Apparently this isn’t the case, because pretty much from the the start, our buxom heroine has been embroiled in a controversy over bondage and sadism.
Critics immediately pounced on scenes that showed her tied up by both male and female villains. These scenes supposedly created scandalous sexual tension. It’s doubtful to say that 10 year old boys and girls were aware of any sexual overtones. Dr. Marston insisted the “bondage scenes” were merely metaphors for womens’ struggle to free themselves from the conventions of a male dominated society.
There might also be a bit of sexism here since people don’t seem to question why Batman and Robin have been frequently tied up in the comics and on the live action television show.
5. She’s a Princess
All superheroes have an alter ego. Batman is really Bruce Wayne, Iron Man is really Tony Stark and Wonder Woman is really Princess Diana of Themyscira. She’s an Amazon who grew up on beautiful Paradise Island, untouched by the messy outside world dominated by men.
Princesses were not controversial characters in the 1940s, but today they can run up against the P.C. police. Disney’s bevy of beautiful princesses are increasingly targeted as symbols of privilege and Barbiesque stereotypes of beauty. From the start, Wonder Woman challenged the conventional notion of the delicate lady with a man by her side to protect her. But this didn’t mean she had no time for men; Wonder Woman dated Superman for a while before saving the world from General Zod and Doomsday got in the way.
4. Wonder Tech
Wonder Woman’s most familiar weapon is her Lasso of Truth, also known as the Lariat of Hestia. It was created by Hephaestus, the armorer of the gods, from the Golden Girdle of Gaea.
It’s not surprising Dr. Marston, the inventor of the lie detector test, would give his superhero a technology that forces people to speak the truth. Marston used the lasso to represent women’s ability to charm men and the accommodating effect it can have on them.
Wonder Woman has also gotten a lot of mileage out of her bullet proof bracelets as accessories and defensive weapons. Her tiara is more than a royal fashion statement; it doubles as a deadly throwing weapon. Over the years she’s also used a Golden helmet, and a sword sharp enough to cut electrons off an atom.
3. Politics of Being Wonder Woman
We can list her qualities: strong, truthful, kind, brave and last but not least – hot. She is a statuesque woman wearing skimpy shorts, high-heeled boots and an armored bustier.
Obviously, DC Comics has always known that its target demographic is teenage boys. While much has been made of the supposed dominatrix subtext, let’s not forget about Wonder Woman being a symbol of true feminism.
So is she an exploited sex symbol, victim of men’s whims or an empowered modern woman? Wonder Woman’s origins are inextricably linked to Women’s Rights Movement of the early 20th century. Dr. Marston was a strong supporter of Margaret Sanger, the controversial activist who believed in eugenics and founded Planned Parenthood.
2. The Not so Invisible Plane
The Invisible Plane has been source of frustration for many because readers can clearly see Wonder Woman sitting in the invisible cockpit. It turns out that is what’s called “crystal mode,” the less stealthy version. “Transparent mode” gives the plane and occupants complete invisibility.
Marston envisioned the plane as a stealthy comment on Depression Era society, which he believed forced women to confront the Man’s World indirectly. As society changed, Wonder Woman used the plane less – instead relying on her own ability to fly short distances riding air currents. The plane has been with her since the beginning, first as a propeller-driven craft stored in a barn outside Washington D.C; it evolved over the years into a sleek fighter jet complete with its own personality.
1. When Women Rule the World
Comic book fans continue to love Wonder Woman because she fights evil and looks good while doing it, but Dr. Marston had bigger plans for his groundbreaking heroine. According to her creator, Wonder Woman was conceived as an archetype of what the modern woman can and should be.
“Frankly, Wonder Woman is psychological propaganda for the new type of woman who, I believe, should rule the world.” We have to make allowances for his hyperbole, but clearly Dr. Marston was trying to use his Wonder Woman stories as a vehicle to influence young readers by opening them up to the idea of strong resourceful women taking their place alongside men.
Undoubtedly there have been monumental strides forward for women since the 1940s, with women making significant contributions to everything from politics to science. Certainly Wonder Woman’s challenge to the status quo deserves some of the credit.
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