|Gal Gadot’s tweet for the start of filming 21 Nov. 2015.|
Princess Diana of Themyscira. Diana Prince. Wonder Woman. First appearing in All Star Comics #8 during December of 1941, the Amazon princess turns seventy-five this year.
Originally written by William Moulton Marston (a.k.a. Charles Moulton), an American psychologist and writer with a rather interesting personal life, who was hired as an educational consultant for National Periodicals and All-American Publications–two of the companies that merged with Detective Comics to form what we now know as DC Comics—is the longest running comic series with a woman as it’s main character. And yes, you read that right, Marston was an educational consultant. He believed that the educational possibilities with comics were unmet in the first part of the last century and he wanted to create a character that would teach young women that they could be both strong and feminine.
In a 1943 issue of The American Scholar, Marston wrote: “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.” In other words, she was created to be a modern, thinking woman who was the equal of any man, good or bad, that she would meet. And, in this geek’s humble opinion, Marston did a bang up job of it. Not only is she the best fighter in the DC universe–I can argue that in great depth if you really want me to–but she has also been consistently complex, modern, and relevant throughout her many incarnations, not something that can be claimed by many things that have been published every month for seventy-five years (with the exception of four months back in the mid-1980s).
In the early 1940s, comics were dominated by men like Superman, Captain America, Green Lantern, and Batman. While I love those characters for various reasons, I will forever be grateful that Marston, his wife (Elizabeth), and their partner in polyamory (Olive Byrne) created Wonder Woman. William, Elizabeth, and Olive lived together in a partnership that saw all three of them influencing the development of the Amazon princess, who they initially named “Suprema.” After renaming her “Wonder Woman,” they saw her debut in several different books and, eventually, in her own when Wonder Woman #1 came out in June of 1942. William devoted the last six years of his life to writing Wonder Woman and died of cancer in 1947. Olive and Elizabeth, who lived together until Olive passed in 1985, also got to see their creation in multiple animated versions, a tv movie, a straight-to-DVD movie, a television series, and in many different toy forms. Unfortunately, Elizabeth died in 1993, at the age of one hundred, so none of the original creators will see the first-ever feature film, which comes out next year. However, those of us who have been impacted by the woman they created, will get to see her on the silver screen on 2 June 2017.
Dr. Marston, who contributed significantly to the creation of the first polygraph, was convinced that women were more honest than men and could work more efficiently than their male counterparts in certain situations. (Lasso of Truth and Golden Girdle of Gaea, anybody?) At one point he went so far as to claim that Wonder Woman was propaganda for a new type of woman. I would argue that she did, in fact, become the basis for a modern version of the Female Warrior archetype. As an Amazon, she is based on one of the original versions (the Amazons of Greek mythology) and then modernized for a World War II society where women were leaving the home to work and gender roles were changing. She is the form that much-beloved characters like Buffy, Xena, Lara Croft, Sarah Connor, Katniss Everdeen, and Tris are based on: the liberated female warrior.
In 2006, Joss Whedon, creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, was famously asked, “So, why do you write these strong female characters?” He replied, “Because you’re still asking me that question.” George Stroumboulopoulos asked G.R.R. Martin, author of A Song of Ice and Fire (a.k.a. Game of Thrones) something similar on his show when he said, “There’s one thing that’s interesting about your books. I noticed that you write women really well and really different. Where does that come from?” Martin’s simple answer: “You know…I’ve always considered women to be people.” It’s seventy-five years after the creation of Wonder Woman and some people–men primarily, but not solely–still seem genuinely shocked that a strong female character can have agency, a heart, a brain, and an ability to kick butt. As someone who grew up reading Wonder Woman every month, it’s surprising to me that anyone could think they can’t exist. The fact that these questions are being asked still points to why I believe the treatment of Wonder Woman in the upcoming movie is important.
I’m not going to lie, I got choked up when I saw the trailer for the first time. Yes, readers-mine, I am that much of a geek. I did a happy dance. I talked to my mother, who is not into superheroes at all, and she was thrilled for me. I talked to my father, who has always been into superheroes and has inspired all of his children to love them to one degree or another, and he was happy that it appears executives are finally treating Diana and female fans with the respect they deserve. You can watch the trailer below.
|Lynda Carter’s costume (1970s) vs. Gal Gadot’s costume (2016)|