The Superman vs Batman: Dawn of Justice movie out this week features Wonder Woman’s big screen debut. The Amazing Amazon has been around since 1941 and has a complex and varied history.There’s a lot of things you might not know about her, from her time in the service industry to her time as a goddess. So if you want to brush up on your Wondy history, here’s the place to do it. If you have any favorite Wonder Woman facts to add, be sure to chime in on it in the comments!
Her creator, William Moulton Marston, was an interesting fellow
It’s not exactly obscure knowledge that Wonder Woman’s creator, William Moulton Marston, was considered eccentric for his time, but many are surprised just how many unique things there are about him. Marston was a psychologist and he, in collaboration with his wife Elizabeth, created the systolic blood pressure test, which is a big component of the modern lie detector.
Marston was also, unsurprisingly, a feminist, though his brand of feminism was fairly unique (and in many ways, fairly limited- it’s apparent he was racist, for instance). He believed women were inherently purer and more honest than men and would rule the world someday.
He was also very into bondage, which appears as a theme in early Wonder Woman comics again and again. Its particular apparent with the early version of Wonder Woman’s lasso, which compelled people to obey her.
Bondage was not simply a fetish to Marston, but a political idealogy. He believed the “submissiveness” and “tenderness” he considered inherent to women should be practiced by all. He believed allowing the “enjoying being bound” and “giving control of [yourself] to others" would lead to a more peaceful society. He often believed that it was women who should be the dominant ones though, stating that men should want to submit to an alluring woman who is stronger than them.
He was passionate about Wonder Woman being a positive influence on young girls, stating “Not even girls want to be girls so long as our feminine archetype lacks force, strength, and power (…)The obvious remedy is to create a feminine character with all the strength of Superman plus all the allure of a good and beautiful woman."
Two Amazing Women Were Instrumental in Wonder Woman's Creation
However, we would have never gotten Wonder Woman if it weren’t for two very important women in Marston’s life. The first is Elizabeth Holloway Marston, his wife, who was responsible for Wonder Woman being, well, a woman. Reportedly, Marston told Elizabeth he wanted to create a hero who triumphed with love rather than force, and she replied “fine, but make it a woman”, pointing out that there were very few female superheroes.
Olive Byrne was another woman important to Diana’s creation. Olive lived with Elizabeth and William and was in a relationship with both of them. Marston modeled Wondy’s bullet-deflecting bracelets after the ones Olive wore.
Both of these women were amazing even outside their contribution to Wonder Woman. Elizabeth was a career woman during a time where this was very much frowned upon and financially supported both William and Olive. And this was by no means an easy feat- she was rejected from Harvard Law on the basis of her gender, so she went to Boston University instead. Her father refused to support her, wanting her to stay in the kitchen, so she paid her own way. She was by all accounts even brainier than her husband, finishing the bar exam well before him and also being the one to suggest the connection between anxiety and raised blood pressure to him.
She was a lawyer, psychologist, editor, professor and chief executive with three degrees. Elizabeth asked to be Wonder Woman’s editor after Marston died, but despite her high editorial qualifications and intimate knowledge of the character, DC rejected her. She sent the editor they chose instead, Robert Kanigher, all the information she had on the character. He ignored her too.
Olive agreed to take care of the kids so Elizabeth could work, and supported her faithfully in all her pursuits. They lived together for the rest of their lives.
These women were not the only ones instrumental to Diana’s creation- Marjorie Huntley, another lover of Marston’s, often helped him. Marston’s assistant, Joyce Hummel Murchison, co-wrote stories with him and later wrote the stories herself when Marston’s health was failing. Alice Marble wrote the “Wonder Women of History” backup that ran in the comic and Dorothy Woolfolk was the comic’s assistant editor (and the first female editor at DC Comics). You can find out more about women’s contributions to WW’s creation here.
At her debut, Wonder Woman wore culottes
Many think that Wonder Woman’s earliest outfit was a knee-length skirt, but they’re wrong! When Wonder Woman debuted, she wore culottes, an article of clothing that hangs like a skirt but are actually loose short pants. This garment was commonly worn by women in the 40’s when they wanted to do active work, like riding horses or athletics. As the comic went on, the culottes changed to bike shorts and then eventually shrank to the briefs she wears today. I kind of prefer the culottes honestly.
Wonder Woman told Steve Trevor she'd only tie the knot when she achieved world peace.
Steve Trevor, Wonder Woman’s early love interest, was always pretty pushy about marriage, while Diana was pretty uninterested. One time he gave himself super strength because he thought it would make Wonder Woman marry him, only to find out the opposite was true- Diana told him she’s NEVER marry a man as strong as her or stronger than her because that would just be weird. (Which proves Marston would think of Superman x Wonder Woman as a notp. I’m just saying.) Steve saw no point in having super strength after discovering this.
Diana’s typical response to Steve begging to get married? “Not until I’ve ended all evil.” Talk about a brush off!
In the 70's, Wonder Woman was depowered and then repowered by Gloria Steinem
Wonder Woman #178 had Diana lose her powers when the Amazons disappeared from our dimension. In addition to this, her love interest, Steve Trevor, was killed. So a powerless Wonder Woman learned martial arts from a stereotypical Blind Asian Martial Artist (it’s sort of weird she needed to, considering she’s a trained warrior) and took to doing secret agent style missions as a generic martial arts lady. Also she cried a lot.
The weirdest part of this era was there was a comic where Wonder Woman had to have “women’s lib” explained to her. Let me just repeat that. Wonder Woman. Had to have. Women’s lib. Explained to her.
Gloria Steinem, prominent feminist and creator of Ms. Magazine, took umbrage when she heard DCs most powerful female hero no longer had superpowers and dedicated a whole issue of the magazine to old-school Wonder Woman in response. DC felt the pressure and gave Wonder Woman her powers and basic knowledge of feminism back.
Wonder Woman had a secret black twin sister
From Super Friends
There’s really no other way to put it. This fairly racist little story from the Kanigher era revealed that Wonder Woman’s mom, Hippolyta, actually made two babies out of clay….one out of “dark clay” and one out of “light clay” (that was Diana). Diana’s sister was named Nubia. But unfortunately, Ares, the God of War, kidnapped Nubia. Nubia became the leader of a Stereotypical Generically African Tribe, before meeting Diana then besting her in combat. Diana freed Nubia from Ares' mind control and all was well.
Nubia didn’t appear in many other stories, though she was reimagined in a modern comic as the as guardian of the gates of Tartarus at the River Styx who Diana befriends rather than Diana’s secret sister.
She had a made-for-TV movie in the 1970's...where she was blonde.
Wonder Woman got a TV movie in the 1974, but it was only very loosely based on the character we know from the comics. This blonde version of Wonder Woman played by Cathy Lee Crosby had no powers, wore a jumpsuit and sported a utility belt. This movie was intended to launch a TV show on ABC, but they opted to go for one more faithful to comics, and so the Lynda Carter show was born.
Diana briefly lost the Wonder Woman title to another woman
And the art was truly terrible.
In the 90’s, Diana was challenged for the title of Wonder Woman by a woman named Artemis. She lost for convoluted reasons, and also lost her right to be Wondy as a result. She wore a terrible replacement costume (basically a black bra and bike shorts) for a while until Artemis kicked the bucket. (Fortunately for Artemis, she was resurrected later and became Diana’s friend and a part of her supporting cast).
Wonder Woman worked at a fast food restaurant
Yeah. Wonder Woman lost the financial aid she received from the Justice League and was kicked out of her house for dumb reasons, so she worked at a restraunt called Taco Whiz to make ends meet. As weird as the story was, it showcased Diana’s humility and down-to-earth nature. She didn’t consider working at a fast food restraunt to be embarrassing in any way, did not in any way consider it beneath her and respected the job and took it very seriously, even being wracked with guilt when she was late to her shift.
She died and became the Goddess of Truth
In Wonder Woman (vol 2) #125, Diana is killed by the villain Neron. But her friends don’t have long to mourn because it was quickly revealed she’d ascended to Olympus and the gods have given her a new job as the Goddess of Truth. Hippolyta, her mother, takes her place as Wonder Woman. But Diana didn't really follow the “rules” of being a God, and kept intervening in mortal affairs, using her abilities to save her friends and other people. As a result, she is banished from Olympus and returns to the mortal plane.
She dated Rama (yes, the one from the Ramayana)
During the “Battle for the Godwave” storyline, Diana gained a love interest in the Hindu deity Rama- it was a pretty good romance, he was respectful (something usually sadly lacking in Diana’s love interests as writers tend to think any man dating a strong woman should feel threatened and be condescending) and they made good battle buddies.
Readers complained about the misuse of Hindu gods though, and there was a point there- imagine the uproar if Wonder Woman just started dating Jesus. So Rama went off and never returned. It’s a shame a similarly solid romantic interest wasn’t introduced though.
If she loses faith in her lasso of truth, the world falls apart
A Justice League story called “Golden Perfect” showed that Wonder Woman does not only compel people to tell the truth with her lasso, but has mastery over truth itself. In the story, Wonder Woman was faced with a situation where two disagreeing parties were said to be telling the truth by the lasso. Shaken already by the death of her mother, Wonder Woman lost faith in her mastery of truth.
This caused the line between truth and belief to disintegrate for the entire world, meaning belief became truth. The moon turned into green cheese, etc. It was only when Wonder Woman regained her faith that the world righted itself.
She had faster reflexes than Superman
An issue of Justice League revealed what should be obvious- thanks to her serious martial training and augmented speed, Wonder Woman probably has the fastest reflexes in the DC Universe- certainly faster than Superman’s, which even Batman attests to. After all, Superman doesn’t have her from-birth warrior training.
She's hinted to be bisexual
It shouldn’t be surprising that Wonder Woman is attracted to women, she’s had that element to her from the beginning. Two bisexual women were instrumental in her creation (Elizabeth was responsible for Diana’s gayest catchphrase: “Suffering Sappho!”) and Marston was NOT so subtle with his lesbian subtext.
Since the mid-80’s, it been confirmed that the majority of the Amazons on the island from which Wondy hails are into ladies. (The first confirmation was when a visiting priest asked how they got by without the menfolk and after saying a few pleasured themselves and a few chose celibacy, an Amazon went on to say that a lot of them emulated Sappho.)
Despite her origins, DC has yet to directly confirm Diana, like her sisters, is down for some lady lovin’, but there have been some very strong hints. The strongest were the above panels in Greg Rucka’s run, where she confirms that she sees having a girlfriend as a viable option.
Still, with so many DC characters coming out of the closet, I think it’s about time this longtime queer icon makes it official.
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