During a Wizard World Comic Con at Madison, WI, this year I sat in on a panel about the history of Milwaukee independent comic books. The reason that this is even relevant is because it was also part of a discussion of early history of females in the comic book industry and sexism in comic books themselves. In this panel I learned (and later did my own research) the true history of Wonder Woman, her creator and the reasons for her original look and origins. I will be sharing what I have learned. In what I can only describe as being just as shocking as the book ’50 Shades of Grey’, this was not what I expected to find out!
Psychologist William Moulton Marston studied the science that discovered blood pressure readings in order to create the first foundations of a lie-detector machine. Marston also had focused his career on dominance and submission in his psychology studies. Marston declared that women would rule the world. He claimed that women would…
“develop as much ability for worldly success as they already have ability for love, they will clearly come to rule business and the nation and the world.”
Wonder Woman debuted in D. C. Comics in 1941 All-Star Comics #8
“to set up a standard among children and young people of strong, free, courageous womanhood; and to combat the idea that women are inferior to men, and to inspire girls to self-confidence and achievement in athletics, occupations and professions monopolized by men.” – Quote by Marston on Wonder Woman
To better understand the psychology of Wonder Woman’s creator himself, William Marston, here are some facts about his life:
– William Marston was at one time actually pretty famous for his invention of the lie detector machine and his many numerous interviews in magazine articles, he was even on TV commercials. The progressive thinker and innovator with the aid of his wife Elizabeth, who helped drive him to create a superhero that must be (in her words) “female”. Marston then rounded out his hero with being “intelligent” and as “powerful as a man”! The weird part is that he based the look (hair and silver bracelets) on his “live-in journalist” Olive.
– It had been revealed that even as Marston was loudly preaching such high support for woman’s rights. Even as Marston publicly declared he was with his wife of Elizabeth Holloway, it has widely been known that throughout this time of marriage with Elizabeth, Olive Byrne had been living WITH the Marston’s. It would appear the three had been having a polygamist relationship.
– Marston focused his psychology studies on dominance and submission which he pretty much made quite relevant into his Wonder Woman universe. With the background now known about the creators personal life, it does seem very peculiar how his research and work come up so often in the comic books in these categories: The “Lasso of Truth” was given to Wonder Woman, just like his beloveded invention. The way Wonder Woman and other characters in the series were almost ALWAYS being tied up, chained, gagged, dominated, imprisoned, and handcuffed. This clearly shows a fixation in Marston’s moral philosophy—that one must submit to truth to find freedom: the fact that Wonder Woman uses a golden lasso itself as an instrument of both domination and liberation. The extremely sexy outfit and look for the time was only allowed because it was depicted as a cartoon and not as a real woman. DC owners, editors and William obviously had no issues with her looks, even if it had nothing to do with amazons as known at that time and era.
– Marston had been reported to have troubles keeping any sort of real money or a job even with his qualifications. He was then very lucky to have married a successful editor and executive in Elizabeth Holloway. The other woman in Marston’s life, Olive Byrne, who was supposed to be Marston’s “journalist,” actually stayed home to raise all four of the children. Marston had a very weird way of showing female empowerment since he was living it up nice and cozy, job-free with two women under his roof.
– During the 30s, Marston was frequently featured in Family Circle Magazine. He was always interviewed by a young Olive Bryne. Olive was also a former student of Marston.
– Both women had two children by Marston. Elizabeth even named one of her very own daughter’s after Olive, as well as formally adopting Olive’s children.
– Olive, was not merely a reporter but his lover, he called her his “Wonder Woman” and said that her bracelets (silver ones that she seems to have worn always) were the inspiration for Wonder Woman’s bullet-deflecting cuffs.
– The bands, the ropes, the bondage in Marston’s comics, and his strong focus and emphasis on domination and submission, have led to many historians to rightfully speculate that the trio was HEAVILY involved in BDSM as well as polyamory.
-Even though Marston died in 1947 suddenly of cancer at an early age, both Elizabeth and Olive continued to live together to raise their children. Both woman stayed life partners until Olive’s death in the late 80s.
-So with all this knowledge on the creator and fixation on his psychological studies, it does in fact bring a whole new light and perspective on Wonder-Woman herself along with her rouges. The main villain in her life, Dr. Psycho, took to extreme delights in confining Wonder Woman with chains, ropes, and gags. Marston said this was a metaphor for the bonds of a sexist society. If you really look at it closely, it has now made many to suspect that the heavy use of bondages had very heavy sexual undertones.
Wonder Woman has gone on to become one of the world’s most famous household-name Pop icons that headlines DC comics with the Trinity of heroes that include herself, Batman and Superman. Wonder Woman has had her very own smash hit TV series with Lynda Carter as the lead-role. She has been in all forms of cartoons from the Super Friends, Justice League and JL Unlimited. Soon to be given her own feature film with actress Gal Gadot, first she will appear in Batman vs. Superman: Justice United, with the Justice League movie to soon follow. But it seems the overall masses of people just didn’t really know Wonder Woman’s true origins and history of creation. I do hope this brings up much discussion on where comic books come from and what the industry and consumers can do to bring more REAL women to comic books front lines.