Tag Archives: plaything

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.