Male creators don’t often create authentic female characters. Here’s one occasion where they didn’t just do well – they knocked it out of the park.
Wonder Woman is literally, as the kids say, ‘iconic’.
She’s probably the most well-known female superhero of all time, and she’s a founding member of the Justice League. Her power levels easily compare to those of Superman, and her tactical abilities easily compare to those of Batman.
With one feature film under her belt and another one on the way, everybody’s favourite Amazonian princess has one heck of a history.
In fact, her real-world history is arguably crazier than her in-universe history.
History Of Wonder Woman: Real-World Origins
You’re probably wondering why that old-timey propaganda poster is heading up this section instead of a Wonder Woman picture.
Today, the poster is known as Rosie The Riveter, but it was actually titled We Can Do It.
The poster was produced during World War II to inspire female workers to volunteer for wartime service in factories, due to the fact that most able-bodied males were fighting in the war. Ammunition and vehicles don’t build themselves, so the government was calling on the female population to help with the war effort, as if worrying about your sons and husbands somehow wasn’t quite patriotic enough.
Before too long, the working woman became a symbol for feminism (for obvious reasons), and Rosie the Riveter was the symbol of the working woman: A woman that’s tough enough to do a man’s job and is yet still somehow traditionally feminine.
This is why the woman on the poster is now known as Rosie The Riveter, because she exemplified the tough brand of woman that society was finally celebrating.
I mention all of this because it’s important to understand that this is the world (i.e. Post-WWII Feminism) that Wonder Woman was born into and because there’s a lot of crossover between the phrase ‘Rosie the Riveter’ and the phrase ‘Wonder Woman’.
William Moulton Marston, Wonder Woman’s creator, was an American psychologist who lived a life that would probably still be considered untraditional to this day.
He lived in a successful polyamorous relationship with his wife Elizabeth and their partner Olive – note that Olive was their partner, not his mistress. Elizabeth was the breadwinner of the family, and Olive raised the children.
Marston, in many ways, owed a lot of his contributions to his wife – an idea I’m certain he’d agree with. Let’s take his invention of a certain blood pressure test for example.
Elizabeth noted that ‘…whenever she got mad or excited, her blood pressure seemed to climb’, which she felt implied a connection between blood pressure and emotional intensity. This gave Marston the idea to invent the systolic blood pressure test, which is still used in polygraph tests today.
In other words: Marston helped to create the modern lie detector due to observations made by his wife.
During his psychological career, Marston came to genuinely believe that women were superior to men in many areas, and was convinced that not only could they work faster and more accurately under certain conditions, but also that they were overall more honest.
Another creation by Marston, similarly influenced by his wife, was Wonder Woman.
Marston saw great educational potential in the fairly new (at the time) ‘comic book’ format and was quoted as such in a magazine interview. The interview was read by a comic book publisher, the fantastically-named Max Gaines.
Marston had an idea for a new type of superhero that would solve issues by using the power of love instead of violence. Elizabeth is quoted as saying ‘Fine, but make her a woman.’
Marston soon had the opportunity to pitch the idea to Max Gaines, who told Marston he’d be happy to support Marston’s new superheroine.
All that was left was her name. She was originally named ‘Suprema’, but this didn’t last: After their stints in the factories during WWII, many American women were being referred to as ‘Wonder Women’, so Marston – a staunch feminist himself – felt that was the perfect name for his new character.
And that’s how the polyamorous psychologist who co-created the lie detector invented Wonder Woman.
History Of Wonder Woman: In-Universe Origins
Please note: Comics are very weird and they keep getting rebooted all the time. These ‘facts’ could be changed by the time you’re reading this. For instance, Tim Drake, the third Batman-sidekick named Robin, wasn’t actually ever a Robin according to the canon of the DC Comics New52 reboot. Except, wait, now he was Robin because they changed their minds in a few random issues or whatever. Cool. And yes I’m going to copy-paste this every single time I do the origins of a comic book character, because it will literally be relevant every single time.
In the island city-state of Themyscira (sometimes known as Paradise Island), there lived a young princess named Diana. It was rumoured that Diana had been made from clay and brought to life by the gods for her mother, Queen Hippolyta. This may be because the Amazons who inhabited Themyscira lived under a matriarchy with a strict ‘no-male’ policy.
Eventually, a soldier named Steve Trevor crash-landed his plane on the island, and Diana won the right to return him to the world. She’d never left her homeland before, so the whole thing was very daunting to her. However, being raised as a princess and a warrior, she was more than capable of handling herself as a diplomat and as a soldier.
She goes by the name Diana Prince when she’s not saving lives and fighting for justice in her costumed persona as Wonder Woman.
Throughout the years she’s used a lot of different equipment, but she’s rarely seen without her bullet-proof bracers or her golden lasso of truth which makes people tell the truth.
Her Amazonian heritage means she has godlike strength and agility, and that she’s practically invulnerable to normal weapons. Similar to Marvel’s Wolverine, she also has enhanced senses. Depending on which era of her life we’re talking about, she may also have the power of flight.
She lost these powers in the ‘80s, at which time she relied on her martial arts knowledge to get by. She’s since regained her powers, and is often seen nowadays with a sword and shield – the mark of a true Amazon warrior.
Whether helping endangered citizens or attending diplomatic events, Diana is always the voice of reason, compassion, and justice.