Wonder Woman for Dummies

Wonder Woman for Dummies

She might be wearing a tiara and baring more skin than the average Kardashian, but Wonder Woman is far more than a beauty queen who happens to kick men’s ass. Her tiara for one, has special powers of its own that go way further than just sparkling gentle sparkles, and that is only the top of the iceberg. Take a dive: 

First things first: the beginnings. Wonder Woman premiered in 1942 in the midst of World War II and immediately took the comic world by storm with her golden lasso, above mentioned tiara and photogenic thighs. She was the first female “super” to join the DC Comics family, which was a risky move, but she quickly became a household name along the likes of Batman and Superman. In later years, this golden trio would collaborate more than once, but let’s stick to the early adventures of Diana Prince, formerly known as Princess Diana of Paradise Island.

The latter is an utopian society consisting merely of warrior women and its princess, Diana, had never even heard of the existence of men until one particularly handsome specimen dropped near-dead on the island: US Air Force pilot Steve Trevor. After his plane was gunned down, this chap had the distinct luck to literally crash at Diana’s feet and be rescued by the beautiful amazone, who decided to return him home and explore the so-called Men’s World he inhabited. After discovering the sorry state this world was in, World War II and all, she chose to stay and battle the axis forces alongside Steve, posing as a nurse or sometimes secretary by day. Her enemies consisted of colorful nazis and more exotic supervillains like The Cheetah and Eviless. Later on in the series, writers would add a Greek mythological dimension and introduce a bunch of gods, monsters and deities from ancient Greece –because one cannot battle nazis for over 50 years, that just wouldn’t make sense. Here are some things to remember about Wonder Woman: 


Wonder Woman’s starter kit? The golden lasso of truth, a tiara with telepathic ànd boomerang powers (super handy when loosing it), an invisible plane (private jet alert) and two almighty bronze cuffs that, once beaten against one another, could produce a supersonic sound able to tame even the fiercest of beasts. The rest of her garb was plucked straight from some Miss America bathing suit contest: barely there and heavily adorned with patriotic prints and colors. 

While this may not seem very female friendly, the costume was insisted on by the wife of Wonder Woman’s creator, William Marston, who argued it wouldn’t be practical at all to kick ass wearing a Greek tunic and sandals, as he had originally intended to dress her. In this light, you might say Diana Prince was an early trendsetter for all those fierce lycra and neon situations going on at the gym in the eighties… Same goes for her mini skirt, which was in fact a very floaty culotte, enabling her to kick and stretch those phenomenal glute muscles of hers across some Gestapo officer’s face. Funnily enough, the notoriously prude Comics Code Authority didn’t wince at Wonder Woman’s short shorts in the early years, instead focusing on her overly exposed back and forcing Marston to draw some extra square centimeters of American blue-colored fabric over it.

At some point in her year-long run, Wonder Woman would temporarily withdraw from being a superhero and instead open a mod clothing boutique –WTF?!- and spend her days in seventies inspired jumpsuits and other fashionable looks, but more on that later. Let’s also not forget to mention her epic sidekick and best friend Etta Candy’s look: a fierce, sugar loving, plus-size sorority girl whose almighty self esteem was perhaps her greatest superpower. Miss Candy wouldn’t hesitate to charge on a nazi concentration camp alongside her friend, armed with little more than a box of chocolate, nor to advocate her alternative view on female beauty standards. 


Wonder Woman on the other hand, from her incredible wasp waist to her abundant dark curls, did embody her era’s idea of the perfect woman. It should come as no surprise that the creator of the hyper sexy heroine was a man, but you’ll be baffled to learn that the same guy who made puritan women committees cringe all over the United Stated was, in fact,  also an ardent feminist: Diana Prince’s creator was psychologist and professor William Marston, the inventor of the lie detector, who grew convinced of the superiority of women as more honest and more apt to govern than their male counterparts. He even drove it as far as to state that men should be dominated by gentle and wise women -hence all the SM and dominatrix influences in his comics-  and that the only successful recipe for lasting peace would be to have them at top of society. Consequently, almost every early enemy of Wonder Woman would try to restrain her in chains, which she would of course manage to break as a metaphor for women breaking free of men. Which didn’t do well with most men either. So yes, this guy and his superlove for women crossed a lot of people… 

You couldn’t really blame him, however, given the fact he shared his life with not one, but two very strong-willed ladies: Marston and his wife Elizabeth were indeed conducting a polyamorous relationship with one of their former students, Olive Byrne, with whom they shared a very happy household and had numerous children. Even after Marston’s death in 1947, Elizabeth and Olive remained lovers until the latter’s own passing. Since an official marriage to Olive was impossible, the three of them wed during a romantic ceremony where she donned two bronze bracelets as an alternative to wedding bands, a particular choice of jewelry that would directly inspire Wonder Woman’s famous cuffs. 

Marston’s obsession with the female virtue of honesty also translated into the lasso of truth that made all of Wonder Woman’s nemesis crack under pressure and tell the truth. She turned out to be quite the brainwasher in fact: unlike famous colleagues  like Batman or Superman, whose ideas of teaching their foes a lesson was to gun them down or hang them by their ankles over the edge of a building, she enrolled hers to a merry spanking experience on so-called Reform Island, where they learned to behave and be nice and to always tell the truth and how to look hot in tights. And if they were lucky, they got invited to join a sexy wrestling match alongside Wonder Woman and her Amazon gal pals. Because that is what superior girls would do, according to Marston, who managed to further upset the Comics Code Authority with all his kinky antics. After his death, other scenarists took over and ruled out the overtly suggestive stuff. 


In fact, you might argue some Wonder Woman writers turned out to be way more dangerous to our heroine than the average iron-clad, whip wielding supervillain. Her strong character was toned down over the years, even going as far as to make her the secretary –yes, secretary!- of the Justice Society of America, which was the very first superhero squad in the comics universe. While she was a born leader and could easily squash other members such as Green Lantern and Flash, she was degraded to keeping numbers at some dusky desk while the boys were out having fun. 

During the sixties, she was even made to give up her supernatural powers in order to stay in Men’s World with boyfriend Steve Trevor –making him the alpha, while he had until then always held the slightly comical role of damsel in distress, hiding behind his extraordinary girlfriend. After loosing her powers, Diana trained as a martial art expert with some gourou named I-Ching and opened the above mentioned clothing store. Fighting crime was to happen in glamorous jumpsuits and the woman would most of her time be lovesick over Steve, or wondering what to wear next. 

Wonder Woman’s knight in shining armor eventually turned out to be feminist icon and journalist Gloria Steinem, who put her back ìn a bathing suit and òn the cover of the very first issue of her Ms. magazine, along with the tagline “Wonder Woman for president”. The stint was a big succes and the good people at DC Comics decided to re-start dressing and treating the superhero like the queen she really was. She even regained her superpowers and everything! To this day, and with a little help of Lynda Carter and Gal Gadot –the two actresses who successfully portrayed her on the silver screen-, this is how we know Wonder Woman. 

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