Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Professor Marston and the Wonder Women


Even by the somewhat iffy standards of comic book art in the 1940s and into the ‘50s, I recall that Wonder Woman was easily the worst-drawn comic I ever looked at. The eagle on her breastplate was all mushy. Scenes of her arrival in her “invisible” airplane at the Amazon Island, whatever the hell it was called, were sometimes so incompetent that I just had to laugh. The Wonder Woman you see today, with the toned thighs and inflated boobs and angry snarl is the result of several makeovers.

Her origin is surprising, at least to me. I’d never heard of Professor William Marston, a psychologist who worked on inventing the “lie detector” (something that has never existed, anywhere) and was quite the liberal when it came to behavioral studies. So liberal, in fact, that he lived with two women, his legal wife Elizabeth, and Olive Byrne, and fathered children with both of them. They call it a “polyamorous” relationship these days. This was frowned on by Harvard and Radcliffe, and the Marstons are fired.

Marston and the women were what I’d have to call early feminists. Wonder Woman was created specifically to have a powerful role model for women, though the origin of her famous outfit seems a bit odd to me. It was from a lingerie shop in New York that specialized in fetish clothing. Tight corsets, leather, 7-inch heels, stuff like that. And of course Wonder Woman is the only Avenger (or whatever; if’s she’s not an Avenger, don’t bother to correct me) who shows a lot of skin. This is an okay movie, alas, better than the recent overblown superheroine blockbuster about her.