Tag Archives: Olive Byrne

Looking Like Wonder Woman

So you’ve no doubt heard the criticism that Gal Gadot doesn’t look like Wonder Woman. Okay, let’s get something out in the open before going any further. As a general rule, the DC cinematic universe has made some questionable choices as to the visual appearance of its characters. Many of them strike me as a cross between oversized plastic toys and clothing models despite the enlistment of some good actors to play them.  Marvel Studios, on the other hand, knows their product as well as their demographic, and they usually get their visuals right. Let me add that these are my impressions as a viewer and that I don’t mean to be critical in a negative way. I just think DC can do better than they’ve done so far.


Having said this, I don’t think Gal Gadot is a bad choice to play Wonder Woman. She has been criticized as being a former model with too delicate an appearance, but she was in the Israeli military. During her term of service, she completed a rigorous course of physical training, evidently in impressive fashion. On that count, let’s not be too quick to judge on the basis of appearance. Let’s see how the movie turns out.

So, in response to the statement that Gal Gadot doesn’t look like Wonder Woman, I must ask an obvious question. What does Wonder Woman look like? I’m trying to limit my pictures to faces as much as I can. Here’s her original conception (enlarged from the first cover, even) by H. G. Peter:


Her likeness was allegedly based on that of Olive Byrne, the mistress of Wonder Woman creator William Molton Marston…


… but she could just as easily be said to resemble Jane Russell (top) or Rosalind Russell (bottom), who were actresses from that era.


If you look at enough panels of the original issues, I think you will notice that Wonder Woman’s physique was far less muscular than in modern portrayals.

Here’s a panel by George Perez…


… one by Adam Hughes…


… and one , if your mind is not sufficiently stretched by now, by Darwyn Cooke:

Does Linda Carter look like Wonder Woman, or (perhaps more appropriately) do we think of Wonder Woman as looking like Linda Carter?

Wonder Woman Complete Series DVD UK Box Set Lynda Carter (Pictures by dvdbash.wordpress.com)

Was Alex Ross thus influenced? Well, yes. He admitted as much, but even he has portrayed this character with slight variations.

Artist: Alex Ross (Credit: DC Comics)
Artist: Alex Ross (Credit: DC Comics)

So does Gal Gadot look like Wonder Woman? Well, I’m beginning to think that  Wonder Woman doesn’t look like Wonder Woman. Provided this more recent actress is given a decent script, I’m willing to leave a little room for creative adaptation.


Graphic Mythology: Wonder Woman (cont.)

Earlier and later.
Earlier and later.

Wonder Woman is the brainchild of William Moulton Marston and was first drawn by H. G. Peter. Marston, also credited by some with inventing the polygraph, was an educational consultant for one of the companies that eventually merged to form DC Comics. Following a suggestion from his wife, Elizabeth Marston, he created one of the earliest and perhaps the most prominent of female superheroes. It is possible that his character’s personality was based on that of his wife and that her appearance was based on that of Olive Byrne, a third member of their household and a participant in their polyamorous relationship. Both Elizabeth and Olive bore children sired by William though this information was kept from the public.

William Marston (front and center), Elizabeth Marston (front right), Olive Byrne (back right), and various of the trio's offspring.
William Marston (front and center), Elizabeth Marston (front right), Olive Byrne (back right), and various of the trio’s offspring.

“Wonder Woman is psychological propaganda for the new type of woman who should, I believe, rule the world.” – William Marston

Given his domestic situation and what some have described as a favorable view toward games of bondage and submission (which crept its way into early issues), I would have to say that the above quote makes a questionable claim.



The above images are tame by current standards but still problematic. Incidentally, Wonder Woman’s image was cleaned up after Marston died in 1947, and sales dropped noticeably, which says a lot about popular culture then as well as now. I personally don’t like the image of the empowered (or super-powered) plaything, and I question the validity of feminist heroes as written and drawn by men for a male audience. This is a swindling form of feminism at best.

I know I’m late to the party. Numerous books and articles have already been written about this subject in reference to this particular character. Next week, however,  I will discuss this topic further.