William Moulton Marston was an educational consultant in 1940 for Detective Comics, Inc.(now better known as DC Comics). Marston saw that the DC line filled with images of super men such as Green Lantern, Batman, and their flagship character Superman. Seeing all these male heroes, Marston was left wondering why there was not a female hero.
Max Gaines, then head of DC Comics, was intrigued by the concept and told Marston that he could create a female comic book hero - a Wonder Woman. Marston did that, using a pen name that combined his own middle name with the middle name of Gaines: Charles Moulton
Marston was the creator of the systolic blood-pressure test, which lead to the creation of the polygraph (lie detector). Because of his discovery, Marston was convinced that women were more honest and reliable than men and could work faster and more accurately. During his life time, Marston championed the causes of women.
In a 1943 issue of The American Scholar, Marston said:
In December 1941, Marston's 'good and beautiful woman' made her debut in All Star Comics #8. Following this exposure in what was the second largest selling comic in DC's line, Wonder Woman appeared in her own berth in Sensation Comics #1(January 1942), and six months later in her own self-titled book(Summer 1942).
In its January 1942 issue, Wonder Woman was the star feature in Sensation Comics[?], and cover dated Summer of 1942 was her own title, making Wonder Woman the first super-heroine to have her own comic book. Until his passing in 1947, Dr. Marston wrote all of Wonder Woman's appearances, and laid the foundations for the character that would last for the next forty years. Artist H.G. Peter[?] drew the book, giving it a simplistic but identifiable "female" style that contrasted with other super-hero comic books of the day.
Armed with her bulletproof bracelets, magic lasso, and her Amazonian training, Wonder Woman (whose "real" name was Princess Diana) was the archetype of the perfect woman from the mind of her creator, Dr. Marston. She was beautiful, intelligent, strong, but still possessed a soft side. At that time, her powers came from "Amazon Concentration," not as a gift from the gods.
Wonder Woman's "magic lasso" was supposedly forged from the Magic Girdle of Aphrodite, which Queen Hippolyta (Wonder Woman's mother) was bequeathed by the Goddess. To make the lasso, the god Hephastateus[?] had borrowed the Olympian belt, removed links from it, and forged the magic lasso from it. It was unbreakable, infinitely stretchable, and could make all who are encircled in it tell the truth.
Wonder Woman was aided by the Holliday Girls (lead by the Reubenesque, sweets-addicted Etta Candy[?]), who were a sorority that would help Wonder Woman in a time of emergency, or vice versa. Etta was the only member of the Holliday Girls who stood out, with her less than svelte body and propensity of saying 'Woo-woo' all the time. Amazingly enough, Etta was the only other character than Steve and Diana herself who has managed to exist for the full run of the title.
Along with this were heavy images of men putting women into bondage, which could be seen on the covers of Sensation Comics and Wonder Woman from 1942 to 1947. This subtle, yet identifiable, sexual undertone or subtext[?] to the book has been noted by comic book historians, who have debated whether it was an outlet for Dr. Marston's own sexual fantasies; or whether it was meant (unconsciously or otherwise) to appeal to the sexuality of young readers in general.
During this same early period, Wonder Woman joined the Justice Society of America as its first female member. The Justice Society was the first super-team, featured in All Star Comics, and times being what they were, Wonder Woman, who was the strongest among them, was the secretary of the JSA.
From her inception, Wonder Woman was not out to just stop criminals, but to reform them. On a small island off Paradise Island was Transformation Island, a rehabilitation complex created by the Amazons to house and reform criminals. A large concept in his concept of Wonder Woman was one of "loving submission." In loving submission, one would be kind to others and be willing and open to surrendering to them out of agape.
In 1947, William Moulton Marston died, leaving Wonder Woman to be written by Robert Kanigher[?]. While H.G. Peter still illustrated the stories, the book lost a bit of its former luster, with Wonder Woman becoming less of a feminist and more of an American heroine. H.G. Peter remained on the title until #97, from different reports either dying while completing it, or directly after. Both Peter and Marston are missed and remembered by devotees of the Golden Age of comic books for their unique and memorable work.
In later stories, her abilities expanded. Her earrings gave her air to breathe in outer space, her "Invisible Plane" (originally propeller-powered, but soon adapted into a jet plane) was given an origin, and her tiara was found to be an unbreakable boomerang. These inventions and modifications were made after William Moulton Marston's death.
However, these revisions to Wonder Woman didn't damage her as much as the accusations of one man.
In 1954, Dr. Frederic Wertham wrote his now-infamous book Seduction of the Innocent[?], which expounded on his anti-comic book views, and is seen by many comic book historians as the death of the Golden Age, and the beginning of the Comics Code Authority. The comic book industry voluntarily censored itself and accepted guidelines seen as more acceptable for the times. In the era of the Code, Wonder Woman was fully neutered. She no longer spoke out as a feminist and was left to moon over Steve Trevor, and as time wore into the Silver Age, she also fell for Merman and Birdman.
Wonder Woman took many changes through the mid-fifties and throughout the 1960s. H.G. Peter, the original artist on Wonder Woman died completing issue #97, taking the original feel of the book away.
Wonder Woman's origin was revamped, with her powers being derived from a combination of the Greek and Roman deities. Wonder Woman's earrings provided her with air when she traveled in outer space, her Invisible Plane metamorphosed into an Invisible Jet, and her bracelets could send and receive messages from Paradise Island.
During this time, Wonder Woman also received a protege: Wonder Girl[?]. Wonder Girl was Donna Troy, an orphan that Wonder Woman saved from a burning building. By using the Purple Ray, which Wonder Woman had created, Donna received the powers of an Amazon, and with an ersatz version of Wonder Woman's costume, became Wonder Girl.
At the end of the 1960s, Wonder Woman surrendered her powers to remain in "Man's World" rather than accompany her fellow Amazons into another dimension so they could "restore their magick."
Diana Prince, now no longer Wonder Woman, had a new mentor: I Ching. The comic book took on the appearance of the TV show Kung Fu, with Diana taking the role of "Grasshopper." She was "mod," as was the fashion of the time and ran a boutique. This lasted for two years, with Wonder Woman being restored to her powers and costume in the early 70's.
In the midst of this "de-powering" story line, Steve Trevor was killed by Wonder Woman's then arch-nemesis, Dr. Cyber. Steve was resurrected, killed, then later resurrected again as Steve Howard.
Post-Crisis, Wonder Woman started over in 1987 with new numbering, a new look, and a new writer. George Perez[?], best known for his work on New Teen Titans[?] and the Crisis on Infinite Earths series itself, took on the task of writing and illustrating the new Wonder Woman. Comic book fans and critics consider Perez's 60-issue run on the book one of the highlights of Wonder Woman's entire history. Perez gave her an outstanding, pro-woman personality that contrasted with the typical "radical feminist" persona usually given to female characters. In addition, his extensive research into Greek Mythology showed with the various gods and other figures being depicted with as much fidelity to the original lore as the DC Comics Universe could allow. (Marvel Comics used much the same approach years later with its Thor character.)
Perez returned Wonder Woman to her basics. Wonder Woman was not really "Wonder Woman" but Diana, her birth name (which she never kept secret). She was not a "super-heroine," but an emissary of peace from a mythological land. She was a babe in the woods, completely without guile, and innocent at first: Diana had to learn English when she came to America for the first time. In her previous incarnations, Wonder Woman knew English when she came to America, even though they only spoke classical Greek on Paradise Island. At the same time, Diana was trained as a warrior and as such, she has no compunction against using deadly force when called for.
Through Perez's tenure on the book, Wonder Woman became a rich character with a fully fleshed out internal existence as well as her star spangled appearance. Princess Diana dealt with war, injustice, inequality, death, and of course the Olympian Gods.
The classic supporting characters of the comic were altered as well. For instance, Steve Trevor was changed into an Air Force officer who is old enough to be Diana's father, thus precluding the likelihood of the cliched romance subplot. That role fell to Etta Candy who became a mature military officer of good standing and a large realistic physique. This upgrade applied to Diana's non-mythological supervillain enemies as well with the best example being the Cheetah. That character was changed from simply a crook in a cheetah pelt coloured costume with sharp fingernails into a woman who could become a powerful and ferocious were-cheetah creature who could believably challenge Diana in combat.
After Perez left the series, other writers and artists tried to follow in his footsteps, with varying degrees of success. John Byrne, who had previously re-created Superman with much hype in 1986, took on Wonder Woman and tried an alleged "back to the basics" approach that comic book fans considered insulting. Several of Byrne's story-lines have been re-published by DC Comics as graphic novels, but Perez's stories have not yet been republished as of 2002.
Wonder Woman was adapted to a live-action TV series (1976-1979), starring Lynda Carter[?] as Wonder Woman, Lyle Waggoner[?] as Steve Trevor and Debra Winger as Wonder Girl. The TV series originally featured Wonder Woman as a World War II heroine, fighting Nazi spies and saboteurs in America. This version lasted for 14 episodes including the pilot movie on ABC. CBS took the series for the best two seasons where the setting was moved to the modern-day era. Previously, there was a TV movie made in 1974, starring Cathy Lee Crosby[?] which had ber as a blonde non-superpowered amazon.
Wonder Woman was also a supporting character in the various incarnations of the Super Friends animated series that aired on Saturday mornings throughout the 1970s and 1980s. As of 2003 she has not yet starred in her own cartoon series, though she remains an important character in Warner Bros.' animated Justice League series, which currently airs on Cartoon Network.