Comics Herstory: Wonder Woman
Elizabeth Holloway Marston wasn’t a comic writer, artist, colorist, or editor, but her impact on the genre was great all the same. Marston was a psychologist married to William Moulton Marston, who was also a psychologist and the creator of Wonder Woman. Elizabeth, though not credited as an author in William’s work, shared many of his discoveries.
Elizabeth is largely uncredited in the creation of Wonder Woman, even though both she and Olive Byrne (a former graduate student of William’s who shared an extended relationship with both him and Elizabeth) served as inspiration for the character. Wonder Woman’s appearance was based on that of Olive Byrne, while the idea for her actual creation was Marston’s. Wonder Woman possesses traits of both women, including independence, intelligence, and confidence.
William called Wonder Woman psychological propaganda for the type of woman after whom others should model themselves. In a 1992 article, the New York Times gave Elizabeth Marston the title of “Wonder Woman’s Mom” for her role in the character’s creation. After her death in 1993, her son Peter said that he has memories of Marston demanding that William write a female hero because there were too many men. Upon hearing about his idea for a new comic, Marston famously told her husband, “Fine. But make her a woman.”
Wonder Woman first appeared in All Star Comics #8 in 1941, and was given her own series with Sensation Comics shortly after. Dorothy Woolfolk (DC’s first woman editor) also contributed to the establishment of Wonder Woman’s character, guiding William through writing Wonder Woman’s weaknesses in an appropriate way (meaning, generally, featuring as little bondage as possible).
Wonder Woman was introduced into newspapers in 1944, in a daily strip written by William. DC also put Joye Hummel on writing duties, hoping that her more innocent stories would tone down the glaring bondage themes present in William’s writing. The daily strip only lasted a year, and was recently released in a collected volume by IDW.
Throughout Wonder Woman’s seventy-plus year history, women have always played an essential part. Women were present in her creation with Elizabeth Moulton Marston and Olive Byrne and in the creation of her character and presence in comics with Dorothy Woolfolk. Women have also been essential in establishing her character and turning her into a household name, and keeping her a feminist icon throughout the years, beginning with Joye Hummel through, more recently, Gail Simone. Until recently, Wonder Woman was the only female superhero to have her own television show. Her legacy as one of the most popular superheroines of all time will continue with Gal Godot‘s portrayal in Batman v Superman and Wonder Woman in 2017.