Wonder Woman: Bondage and Feminism in the Marston/Peter Comics, 1941-1948

Wonder Woman: Bondage and Feminism in the Marston/Peter Comics, 1941-1948

Wonder Woman: Bondage and Feminism in the Marston/Peter Comics, 1941-1948

Wonder Woman: Bondage and Feminism in the Marston/Peter Comics, 1941-1948

Synopsis

William Marston was an unusual man--a psychologist, a soft-porn pulp novelist, more than a bit of a carny, and the (self-declared) inventor of the lie detector. He was also the creator of Wonder Woman, the comic that he used to express two of his greatest passions: feminism and women in bondage.

Comics expert Noah Berlatsky takes us on a wild ride through the Wonder Woman comics of the 1940s, vividly illustrating how Marston's many quirks and contradictions, along with the odd disproportionate composition created by illustrator Harry Peter, produced a comic that was radically ahead of its time in terms of its bold presentation of female power and sexuality. Himself a committed polyamorist, Marston created a universe that was friendly to queer sexualities and lifestyles, from kink to lesbianism to cross-dressing. Written with a deep affection for the fantastically pulpy elements of the early Wonder Woman comics, from invisible jets to giant multi-lunged space kangaroos, the book also reveals how the comic addressed serious, even taboo issues like rape and incest.

Wonder Woman: Bondage and Feminism in the Marston/Peter Comics 1941-1948 reveals how illustrator and writer came together to create a unique, visionary work of art, filled with bizarre ambition, revolutionary fervor, and love, far different from the action hero symbol of the feminist movement many of us recall from television.

Excerpt

Everybody knows about Wonder Woman, but not many people know about Wonder Woman.

Wonder Woman, of course, is the superhero. Most people are familiar with her from the 1970s television show, in which Lynda Carter put out her arms and spun herself into a big ball of light and a starspangled swimsuit. Others may have seen her in the Justice League Unlimited television series, on the MAC cosmetics line, or (much less likely) in her own comics. She occasionally gets referenced on television shows such as Bones (where wonder sleuth Temperance Brennan dresses up as Wonder Woman for Halloween) or The O.C. (where Summer dresses up as Wonder Woman to titillate her boyfriend).

Wonder Woman has not been very successful for a long time— certainly not as successful as Batman or Spider-Man or other comicbook properties with major motion-picture series to their name. Still, she remains reasonably visible, if not exactly necessary. Among the hordes of strong women heroes, from Buffy to Katniss Everdeen to Dora the Explorer, Wonder Woman is notable mostly for wearing a sillier costume and for having more improbable weaponry (a magic lasso? bullet-stopping bracelets? an invisible plane?) Sometimes she is a bad-ass warrior; sometimes she is an avatar of peace; sometimes she is a feminist icon (as when she appeared on the first cover of Ms. magazine in 1972); sometimes she is a fetish symbol (as in a June 2011 spread for Playboy Mexico). In general, though, she is what most popculture icons are—a placeholder for nostalgia and recognizability, whose image provokes strong emotions in some people and moderate . . .

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