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Wonder Woman

An early appearance of Wonder Woman
An early appearance of Wonder Woman

Wonder Woman is a DC Comics superhero. Created by William Moulton Marston, she first appeared in All Star Comics #8 (1941). She was the first female superhero and is still probably the most famous.

In most of her incarnations, Wonder Woman is Princess Diana of the Amazon warrior tribe of Greek mythology. The Amazon ambassador to the larger world, she possesses several gifts from the Greek Gods, including a magical lasso and bullet proof bracelets and uses her abilities on a quest for good. She is also a member of the all-star Justice League.

Marston designed Wonder Woman as a distinctly feminist character and many subsequent writers, especially those of the 1980s and afterwards, have written her as such.

Outside the comic book community, she is known for a popular, although often campy, television adaptation which starred Lynda Carter and aired from 1975 until 1979. She has also been featured on the all-star animated series Super Friends in the 1970s and 80s and The Justice League in the 2000s.


Her origin and her creator

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 was 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 led 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:

"Not even girls want to be girls so long as our feminine archetype lacks force, strength, and power. Not wanting to be girls, they don't want to be tender, submissive, peace-loving as good women are. Women's strong qualities have become despised because of their weakness. 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."

Early days

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 Hephaestus 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 obey the commands of the wielder, most notably to tell the truth.

Wonder Woman was aided by the Holliday Girls (led by the Rubenesque, 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 Trevor 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 Censored page, 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. More recent biographies of Marston indicate that he was an avid practitioner of bondage in his private life. This certainly lends credance to the theory that the sexual undertones in early Wonder Woman comics were not accidental.

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.

After Marston

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, her tiara was found to be an unbreakable boomerang, and her bracelets allowed her to communicate with paradise island. These inventions and modifications were made after William Moulton Marston's death.

Dr. Wertham

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 Censored page, 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. Along with the revisions mentioned above, Wonder Woman's origin was revamped, with her powers being derived from a combination of the Greek and Roman deities.

In the 1960s, regular scripter Robert Kanigher saddled Wonder Woman with some of the baggage that had worked for Superman under the editorship of Mort Weisinger. As with Superboy, Wonder Woman's "untold" career as the teenage Wonder Girl was chronicled. Then followed Wonder Tot, in which the infant Amazon princess in her star-spangled jumper cavorted with one Mr. Genie. The next step for Kanigher was to team all three ages of Wonder Woman in what were labeled "Impossible Tales," with her mother, Hippolyta joining in the adventures as "Wonder Queen." Only the artwork of Ross Andru makes the stories of this era worth reading.

The "Wonder Family" might have slipped unnoticed into comics limbo, but for the advent of the Teen Titans. Writer Bob Haney had been scripting stories teaming various DC superheroes in the comic "The Brave and the Bold." In issue #54, he had teamed the teenage sidekicks Robin, Kid Flash and Speedy (the protege to Green Arrow). Haney brought back the team in issue #59, giving them the "Teen Titans" name and adding Wonder Girl. No explanation was offered to how Wonder Woman's teenage self was appearing in current times. Some years later, an origin was provided in which Wonder Girl was revealed to be 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.

Trying out different styles

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. 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.

This "de-powering" lasted for two years, with Wonder Woman being restored to her powers and costume in the early 70's. Part of the credit for the revival of Wonder Woman as a superhero was due to a campaign in which feminist Gloria Steinem had a hand. The 1972 first issue of Steinem's Ms. Magazine featured Wonder Woman in her 1940s costume on the cover, and contained an essay in appreciation of the character.

Wonder Woman fought a series of "epic" battles through the 1970s and 1980s, until she was finally killed during the Crisis on Infinite Earths in 1986.



Post-Crisis, Wonder Woman was rebooted in 1987. Writer/artist George Pérez crafted the new series, and comic book fans and critics consider his 60-issue run one of the highlights of Wonder Woman's history. Pérez gave her a pro-woman personality, and his extensive research into Greek mythology added a new depth and verisimilitude to Wonder Woman's world than in her previous incarnation. (Walt Simonson had taken a similar approach in revising Marvel Comics' Thor a few years earlier.)

In her new incarnation, Wonder Woman was Diana, a princess and an emissary from Paradise Island to man's world. She did not keep her identity a secret, and she was not at first a "superheroine". Indeed, her character was that of a babe in the woods, innocent and without guile. Diana spoke only classical Greek and had to learn English when she arrived in America, rather than knowing the language intuitively. Nonetheless, Diana was trained as a warrior and had no compunction against using deadly force when called for.

Through Pérez's tenure on the book, Diana dealt with war, injustice, inequality, death, and the Olympian Gods.

The supporting characters of the comic were altered as well. For instance, Steve Trevor was changed into an Air Force officer considerably older than Diana's apparent age, thus sidestepping the traditional romance between the two. Instead, Trevor became involved with Etta Candy, who herself became a mature military officer of good standing and a large realistic physique. Diana's enemy The Cheetah became a woman who could become a powerful and ferocious feline-humanoid creature who could believably challenge Diana in combat.

After Pérez left the series, other writers and artists tried to follow in his footsteps, with varying degrees of success. William Messner-Loebs wrote the character respectfully, but the artwork portrayed the Amazon in skimpy outfits and sexualized poses, which drew criticism from feminists, but seemed to help sales. John Byrne later tried a "back to the basics" approach with mixed results, including a period with Diana's mother Hippolyta as Wonder Woman. Phil Jimenez produced a run which was likened in some ways to Pérez's, particularly since Jimenez' art bears a striking resemblance to his.

Television series

The first attempt to translate Wonder Woman to the small screen was in 1967, when the success of the Batman television show led to a flurry of copycat series. Greenway Productions , the company behind the Batman show, produced a four-and-a-half-minute Wonder Woman test reel starring Ellie Wood Walker as Diana Prince, Linda Harrison as Diana's Wonder Woman alter ego and Hope Summers as her mother. As with Batman, the reel took a comic slant on the character. This pilot episode was never broadcast.

Wonder Woman's first broadcast appearance is as a guest in a Brady Kids cartoon in 1972, entitled "Beware of Gifts Bearing Greeks". (Her sister, Wonder Girl, had already appeared on television in a series of Teen Titans cartoon shorts, part of the Batman/Superman Hour cartoon show.) This was quickly followed by the heroine's inclusion in the long running Superfriends cartoon series.

Her second live-action outing was a TV movie made in 1974, starring Cathy Lee Crosby as a blonde non-superpowered Amazon. This version owed little to the Wonder Woman comic book character current at the time of screening, being closer indeed to the I Ching period abandoned by the comic book some years before.

Though not successful at the first attempt, network interest was such that within a year another pilot was in production. Scripting duties were given to Stanley Ralph Ross , who'd worked on the original pilot reel, but this time he was instructed to be more faithful to the comic book and create a subtle 'high comedy'. The new TV series ran from (1976-1979), and starred Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman/Diana Prince and Lyle Waggoner as Steve Trevor. The series originally featured Wonder Woman as a World War II heroine, fighting Nazi spies and saboteurs in America. The only significant departure from the comic was the introduction of a twirling transformation, to change dowdy Diana Prince into her super-heroic counterpart. The first season lasted for 14 episodes including the pilot movie on ABC - the later episodes being used to fill in for the Bionic Woman television show, after production had to be suspended while its star, Lindsay Wagner, recovered from a car accident. Notably, two stories (one of them a two parter) introduced Debra Winger as Wonder Girl, in possibly her first on-screen role.

Reportedly frustrated with ABC's lack of commitment to the show (despite strong ratings) Warner Bros. offered Wonder Woman to CBS, who took the series on the condition that the setting be switched to the modern day. The series was also nudged away from sophisticated humour, towards a more conventional action/adventure take. In this version Diana Prince became an agent of the Inter-Agency Defense Command (IADC - kind of like the CIA, but without all the shadowy cloak and dagger stuff) where she fought criminals and the odd space invasion. At CBS the show ran for two more seasons, still gathering a strong audience. In 1979 however, the CBS network felt it desperately needed to strengthen its sitcom offerings, and Wonder Woman was suspended from the schedules, but never actually formally canceled.

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 2004 she has not yet starred in her own cartoon series, though she remains an important character in the animated Justice League series, which currently airs on Cartoon Network.

During the 1990s, there were many rumors of a possible Wonder Woman feature film, but, to date, nothing has come of it. There are many who feel Lynda Carter's portrayal has made it impossible for anyone suitable to be found to inherit the role (much as studios until recently had spent several years without success searching for a new actor to succeed Christopher Reeve as Superman). The first season of the TV series was released on DVD in North America during the summer of 2004, with release of the second season scheduled for March 1 2005; the third and final set is expected to follow in the fall.


Season 1 (1975-1976) - ABC

  1. The New Original Wonder Woman (November 7, 1975) - two-hour telefilm
  2. "Wonder Woman Meets Baroness Von Gunther" (April 21, 1976)
  3. "Fausta: The Nazi Wonder Woman" (April 28, 1976)

The first "season" consisted of three specials.

The New Original Wonder Woman: During World War II, a pilot, Major Steve Trevor, ejects during an air battle over the Bermuda Triangle, home of Paradise Island. The island houses Amazons, beautiful, ageless women with great strength, agility, and intelligence. Amazon princess Diana (Lynda Carter) rescues Trevor, and wins a contest to return him to America, where she will remain to help the Allied forces. Her costume is designed to feature American emblems in the hope that she will be accepted in her new home, and her golden belt will be her source of strength and power. She retains her bracelets, which deflect bullets, and also receives a golden lasso, which is indestructible, and forces people to obey and tell the truth when bound. Diana is now known as "Wonder Woman," and flies to D.C. in an invisible plane. After dropping Trevor off at Walter Reed Hospital, the heroine stumbles upon a bank robbery, which she stops. A promoter who sees her in action invites her to take her Bullets and Bracelets act on the road as a theatrical attraction. Diana is hesitant, but she needs money in this society, so she agrees.

Meanwhile, Trevor's civilian secretary, Marsha (Stella Stevens), is revealed as a double agent for the Nazis. She seeks to continue to aid top spies in killing Trevor and opposing the new threat, Wonder Woman, although her first attempt -- arranging for an audience member to fire a machine gun at Wonder Woman during her stage show act -- backfires when the Amazon easily deflects the multiple bullets. Later, at the hospital, Diana disguises herself as a nurse in order to keep an eye on Steve (as in the early comics, where her alter-ego is a Lieutenant in the Army nursing corp). As spy activities increase, Trevor leaves the hospital and is captured, prompting his "nurse" to do an amazing slow spin in the hall where she slowly peels off uniform parts and replaces them with her Wonder Woman costume, before heading off to rescue him.

Wonder Woman defeats the villainess and the spies, breaking up the spy ring. A memorable cat fight sequence features hand to hand combat, slapping, kicking, and even a little slapstick, between Carter and Stevens. The fight was considered a milestone in TV action, and would later be used as a reference when planning similar fights on the soap opera Dynasty years later.

Season 2 (1976-1977) - ABC

  1. "Beauty on Parade" (October 13, 1976)
  2. "The Feminum Mystique, Part 1" (November 6, 1976)
  3. "The Feminum Mystique, Part 2" (November 8, 1976)
  4. "Wonder Woman vs. Gargantua!" (December 18, 1976)
  5. "The Pluto File" (December 25, 1976)
  6. "Last of the Two Dollar Bills" (January 8, 1977)
  7. "Judgement from Outer Space, Part 1" (January 15, 1977)
  8. "Judgement from Outer Space, Part 2" (January 17, 1977)
  9. "Formula 407" (January 22, 1977)
  10. "The Bushwackers" (January 29, 1977)
  11. "Wonder Woman in Hollywood" (February 16, 1977)

The first two seasons are generally considered to be a single set of episodes.

Season 3 (1977-1978) - CBS

  1. "The Return of Wonder Woman" (September 16, 1977)
  2. "Anschluss '77" (September 23, 1977)
  3. "The Man Who Could Move the World" (September 30, 1977)
  4. "The Bermuda Triangle Crisis" (October 7, 1977)
  5. "Knockout" (October 14, 1977)
  6. "The Pied Piper" (October 21, 1977)
  7. "The Queen and the Thief" (October 28, 1977)
  8. "I Do, I Do" (November 11, 1977)
  9. "The Man Who Made Volcanoes" (November 18, 1977)
  10. "Mind Stealers from Outer Space, Part 1" (December 2, 1977)
  11. "Mind Stealers from Outer Space, Part 2" (December 9, 1977)
  12. "The Deadly Toys" (December 30, 1977)
  13. "Light-Fingered Lady" (January 6, 1978)
  14. "Screaming Javelin" (January 20, 1978)
  15. "Diana's Disappearing Act" (February 3, 1978)
  16. "Death in Disguise" (February 10, 1978)
  17. "I.R.A.C. is Missing" (February 17, 1978)
  18. "Flight to Oblivion" (March 3, 1978)
  19. "Seance of Terror" (March 10, 1978)
  20. "The Man Who Wouldn't Tell" (March 31, 1978)
  21. "The Girl from Islandia" (April 7, 1978)
  22. "The Murderous Missile" (April 21, 1978)

Season 4 (1978-1979) - CBS

  1. "My Teenage Idol is Missing" (September 22, 1978)
  2. "Hot Wheels" (September 29, 1978)
  3. "The Deadly Sting" (October 6, 1978)
  4. "The Fine Art of Crime" (October 13, 1978)
  5. "Disco Devil" (October 20, 1978)
  6. "Formicida" (November 3, 1978)
  7. "Time Bomb" (November 10, 1978)
  8. "Skateboard Wiz" (November 24, 1978)
  9. "The Deadly Dolphin" (December 1, 1978)
  10. "Stolen Faces" (December 15, 1978)
  11. "Pot of Gold" (December 22, 1978)
  12. "Gault's Brain" (December 29, 1978)
  13. "Going, Going, Gone" (January 12, 1979)
  14. "Spaced Out" (January 26, 1979)
  15. "The Starships are Coming" (February 2, 1979)
  16. "Amazon Hot Wax" (February 16, 1979)
  17. "The Richest Man in the World" (February 19, 1979)
  18. "A Date with Doomsday" (March 10, 1979)
  19. "The Girl with a Gift for Disaster" (March 17, 1979)
  20. "The Boy Who Knew Her Secret, Part 1" (May 28, 1979)
  21. "The Boy Who Knew Her Secret, Part 2" (May 29, 1979)
  22. "The Man Who Could Not Die" (August 28, 1979)
  23. "Phantom of the Roller Coaster, Part 1" (September 4, 1979)
  24. "Phantom of the Roller Coaster, Part 2" (September 11, 1979)

The final three episodes technically aired at the very start of the 1979-1980 season but were produced at the close of the previous season, so they do not constitute an abbreviated fifth season.

Last updated: 02-08-2005 11:45:03
Last updated: 02-22-2005 16:15:51