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    Posted on Apr 18, 2015

    8 Things You Won't Believe About Wonder Woman's Origins

    Everyone's favorite Amazon princess has been keeping a couple of kinky secrets.

    1. Wonder Woman's first appearance happened the same month as the attack on Pearl Harbor.


    Wonder Woman, decked out in red, white and blue, debuted in All-Star Comics No. 8 in December 1941, the same month that the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor prompted American involvement in World War II. All-Star Comics was an anthology title, published by DC Comics, which featured adventures from the most popular superheroes of the day - Wonder Woman appeared as a sneak peek insert in the back of this issue.

    (Even though the issue is dated December 1941, the issue didn't necessarily appear on newsstands that month. It has been common practice for publishers to postdate their comic books by a couple of months to extend their shelf lives.)

    2. Wonder Woman's creator, William Moulton Marston, was a Harvard-trained psychologist who kind of invented the lie detector...which would later become Wonder Woman's golden lasso.

    Panel from Wonder Woman No. 1 / Via

    Even though he graduated from Harvard with a law degree in 1918, Marston also spent his university years working with German psychologist Hugo Münsterberg on his work on lie detection. Marston hypothesized that lying might be connected to heightened blood pressure, so he developed the systolic blood pressure test, which is regarded as the forerunner to the lie detector, in 1917. (Although if you ask Marston - who loved to toot his own horn - he invented the lie detector, not its predecessor.)

    His work with lie detection found its way into the Wonder Woman comics through the superheroine's "magic lasso," later known as the Lasso of Truth, which makes anyone captured with it tell the truth.

    3. Marston was involved in the Supreme Court case Frye v. United States , which established the Frye standard.


    Like Forrest Gump, Marston often found himself in the middle of significant events of the 20th century, one of which being the landmark Supreme Court case Frye v. United States in 1923. Marston used his systolic blood pressure test on James Frye, a confessed murderer who recanted his confession, and believed that he was telling the truth. (See photo; Marston is second of the right, administering the test.) The Supreme Court, however, ruled against Frye and threw out Marston's results. This case established the Frye standard, a legal test determining the admissibility of scientific evidence. The court opined that it must be "sufficiently established to have gained general acceptance.” (In other words, they thought Marston was a crank.)

    4. Marston was also polyamorous, living with both his wife/childhood sweetheart and his mistress/former student.


    Probably the worst kept secret among comic book aficionados, but scandalous nonetheless - Marston married his childhood sweetheart, the brilliant, headstrong Elizabeth Holloway, in 1915. In 1926, Marston brought into the household his former student (he was a professor), Olive Bryne. The three lived together "with love making for all," Holloway recalled. Marston fathered two children by each women. (See the whole happy Marston clan above - Marston is seated, Holloway is at the far right, and Bryne is third from the right in white.) The exact relationship between Bryne and Holloway is unclear, but they were very close (they named their children after each other), and when Marston died in 1947, Bryne and Holloway continued to live together for decades.

    The two women were Marston's muses while designing Wonder Woman. The superheroine got Holloway's badass attitude (she was pretty much the main breadwinner of the Marston clan/she got three degrees without her father's financial support in the early twentieth century) and Bryne's looks (tall, thin, black hair - Bryne also constantly wore a bracelet on each wrist that became Marston's inspiration for Wonder Woman's bullet-deflecting bracelets.)

    5. He was fascinated by dominant/submissive relationships and bondage, and he incorporated that into his comic book.


    Marston's other psychological work resulted in the DISC theory, a method of behavioral assessment that is still in use today. DISC stands for the four categories of human interaction: Dominance, Influence, Submission and Compliance. Basically, Marston believes that in a relationship, one person is naturally more likely to either be active (dominant/influential), the other passive (submissive/compliant), which can be good or bad. In a bad situation, the active person forcibly dominates the passive person into complying. In a good situation, the active person lovingly influences the passive person into willingly submitting.

    His fascination with the power dynamics of human relationships parlayed into an interest in bondage or "love binding," as he called it, which, if you ever read the WWII-era Wonder Woman comics, is completely obvious. Seventy-some-odd years before 50 Shades of Grey, Wonder Woman was getting tied up in ew and inventive ways at least once every issue. Marston didn't see bondage as necessarily sexual; he believed that bondage was a way to teach people how fun it could be to obey authority. Unwilling bondage by bad guys = bad, Wonder Woman doesn't put up with that. Consensual bondage by her fellow Amazons = fun!

    6. Wonder Woman represented Marston's belief in female supremacy.


    Marston was an avid female supremacist - that is, he thought that women were more well-suited to rule the world. On November 10, 1937, Marston hosted a press conference at which he proclaimed that the United States would become a matriarchy in the future. “The next 100 years will see the beginning of an American matriarchy – a nation of Amazons in the psychological rather than physical sense,” he said.

    Ironically, however, his belief in female supremacy was rooted in traditionally feminine stereotypes. Women were, of course, naturally more nurturing and more loving, which would make them better leaders than men. They also could sexually lull men into obeying their authority. Verbatim quote from Marston: "Give them an alluring woman stronger than themselves to submit to, and they'll be proud to become her willing slaves!" Wonder Woman, who was both powerful and feminine, embodied Marston's progressive/regressive beliefs.

    7. Wonder Woman has many ties to first-wave feminism and the suffrage movement.

    Lou Rogers (left) and http://H.G. Peter (right)

    Let's play a little game of Six Degrees of Separation: The aunt of Marston's live-in mistress, Olive Bryne, was none other than Margaret Sanger, the famous birth control advocate who also had ties to feminist/suffragist group, the Greenwich Village Heterodites.

    Imagery of Amazons and of breaking out of chains, found repeatedly in Marston's Wonder Woman comics, were also common among early 20th century feminist and suffragist literature. (See cartoons above by suffragist cartoonist Lou Rogers in Judge Magazine in 1912 and original Wonder Woman artist H.G. Peters in 1943.) Another "small world" story? In the early 1900s, Peter worked at Judge Magazine with Lou Rogers, creating art for its suffrage page, "The Modern Woman."

    8. Wonder Woman was originally the secretary of the Justice Society.

    Panel from All-Star Comics No. 13 / Via

    Wonder Woman joined the Justice Society in All-Star Comics No. 13 (October 1942), in which she impressed the male members so much that they offered her the position of secretary. She stays behind while the men save the world. “Unfortunately as secretary and honorary member I have to remain behind,” she tells her teammates in one issue before they leave for a mission in Europe. “But I’ll be with you in spirit!”

    Written by Gardner Fox, Wonder Woman's boring adventures with the Justice Society are a far cry from Marston's vision for her. It was actually, in a way, Marston's fault. After her initial appearance in the Justice Society, refused to let anyone else write her stories, and since he was too busy writing her stories for the Wonder Woman comics and Sensation Comics, no one could do anything more interesting with Wonder Woman in the Justice Society than have her answer the phones.

    Aren't you glad you got to know Wonder Woman a little better?


    She sure is.

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