Monday, November 02, 2015

Voted Off The Island

I'd heard good things about The Secret History Of Wonder Woman by Jill Lepore, but it wasn't at my local library.  What it did have was Wonder Woman Unbound by Tim Hanley, so I checked that out.

The superhero age started with Superman in the late 1930s, and among all those he-men was a lone woman who lives on to this day.  Wonder Woman was different from the start, and not just because of her chromosomes.  Most superheroes have origin stories where some tragedy sets them on the path--Batman's parents die, Superman's planet explodes.  Wonder Woman's story is one of triumph.  She lived with the Amazons on Paradise Island when Steve Trevor, a U.S. intelligence officer, crashes his plane there.  Diana Prince, aka Wonder Woman, nurses him back to health and then wins a competition to be chosen to go back to the Man's World with Trevor to fight crime (and Nazis).  Soon after, she's chosen to be the secretary at the Justice Society Of America.

The comic was created by William Moulton Marston, a psychologist who also invented the polygraph.  Marston wanted to create a female superhero because he thought woman were superior to men.  And Wonder Woman would show girls what their ideal could be.  She'd have the tender characteristics associated with women, but also superhero strength. She had numerous other powers , including bracelets that made her bulletproof and the lasso of truth (like a polygraph).  However, she'd lose her strength if a man could bind her bracelets.  This became a plot point--it seemed Marston was into bondage, and Wonder Woman has got to be the most tied-up superhero of all time.

The comic was ahead of its time. Ironically, as the women's liberation movement grew, Wonder Woman receded.  For a while, starting in the late 60s,  she gave up her powers.  She ran a boutique and started wearing mod clothes.  In general, while woman were advancing in society, she became more girlish.  Later, she also got married to Steve Trevor. On top of which, her origin story kept changing.

DC comics rebooted all their superheroes in the 1980s, trying to simplify what had become too complicated.   Wonder Woman got a little tougher--too tough, maybe, since she seemed more willing to kill.  In the past few years, she's been rebooted again.

Wonder Woman has become a symbol of powerful women, and she appears throughout our popular culture.  There was a Wonder Woman TV series in the 1970s, and many people still have the image of Lynda Carter in their head when they think of the character.  There's never been a major WW film, even in an era when Ant-Man gets his story told...until now.  Gal Gadot will play Wonder Woman in the upcoming Batman v. Superman movie, after which she will star in her own eponymous film.  After that, she'll play an important part in the Justice League films, which Warner Brothers hopes will become its own Avengers.  If it doesn't, I guess she goes back to the Island.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

There was a pre-Lynda Carter Wonder Woman TV movie in 1974 with Cathy Lee Crosby ( which was hippy-dippy touchy-feely enough with WW as a super-powerless but crafty career girl to bestill my preteen heart.

6:32 AM, November 02, 2015  
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