Arguably the world’s most famous female superhero, Wonder Woman made her debut in 1941’s All-Star Comics #8, the creation of writer/psychologist William Moulton Marston and artist Harry G. Peter. The first depictions of the now-iconic heroine were heavily influenced by Marston’s wife, Elizabeth Holloway Marston, as well as Olive Byrne, with whom the couple lived and had an open relationship.
As far as origin stories go, Wonder Woman’s may not be as prominent in the popular consciousness as, say, those of Batman, Superman, or Spider-Man, but it certainly ranks as being among the most mythic: The most popular version has her formed from clay by the childless Amazon Queen Hippolyta and granted life by Zeus, king of the Greek Gods. Raised as Princess Diana of Themyscira, the rest of the origin involves the young royal’s youth on an island of Amazons, trained in physical, mental, and martial disciplines.
Eventually, following a series of challenges, Diana is appointed the Amazons’ ambassador of peace to the world, conferred with the title of Wonder Woman, and blessed with (among other powers) the abilities of flight, stamina, and super strength. Able to hold her own alongside the Justice League against the forces of evil, Diana emerges as one of the world’s greatest superheroes following her instruction to the world of Man in the 1940s.
With awareness of the character at an all-time high thanks to her first big budget solo movie hitting theaters this week, here’s our list of stuff you probably didn’t know about Wonder Woman:
8. She was Created to be the Perfect Woman
After reading an article on comic books’ possible positive effect on the youth, publisher Max Gaines tasked William Moulton Marston as an educational consultant for National Periodicals and All-American Publications, two of the companies that would eventually come to make up DC Comics. Marston, who was keen to create an unconventional superhero and encouraged by his wife to make her female, pitched his idea of a liberated woman who could lead, blessed with, “all the strength of Superman plus all the allure of a good and beautiful woman”
Clearly, the man knew what he liked.
7. She Almost had a Different Name
In the conceptual stage, Wonder Woman was “Suprema: The Wonder Woman.” Comparisons to a certain Man of Steel notwithstanding, it was editor Sheldon Mayer who convinced Marston to shorten his creation’s name.
6. Her Creator Helped Create the Lie Detector
Prior to consulting for publishers and creating his own superheroine, Marston was already famous for his work in helping develop the polygraph, better known as the lie detector machine. While most articles tend to credit Marston with inventing the whole thing (admittedly, it makes for great headlines), he only developed the blood pressure monitor that became a key component of the machine. At any rate, his involvement with the polygraph may or may not have influenced the creation of Wonder Woman’s magic lasso, which compels anyone touching it to speak the truth.
Speaking of a rope that makes people do things…
5. She is a Bondage Icon
In her early years, one of Wonder Woman’s weaknesses (her Kryptonite, as it were), was that she lost all of her power when she was tied up by a man. This led to a lot of scene scenes of the Amazon and her enemies being tied up, or otherwise restrained, whether by her lasso, or some other means. Now, we know what you’re thinking, but her creator defended the bondage as an allegory for feminism, depicting his character’s ability to escape from her captors without the help of a man.
Of course, it’s kind of hard to believe Marston’s objectivity, seeing as he was in an open relationship with two women and was himself an avowed fan of bondage, once writing of Wonder Woman’s target audience, “Give them an alluring woman stronger than themselves to submit to, and they’ll be proud to become her willing slaves!”
4. She Became a Super Spy in the ‘60s
In the sixties, even Diana wasn’t immune to the spy mania that engulfed popular culture in the wake of the James Bond films and TV shows like I Spy, The Man From UNCLE, etc, dominating the airwaves. The resulting storyline saw Diana give up her powers to remain in the world of men when her fellow Amazons decidedly to leave our plane of reality. Stripped of her superhuman abilities, Diana relies on her martial training as a globe hopping superspy clad in a skintight white outfit directly inspired by Emma Peel’s (Diana Rigg, Game of Thrones) on The Avengers (the British spy show, not the Marvel franchise). As strange as it was to see the Amazonian champion dealing in espionage-related adventures, the narrative shift lasted five whole years before returning her to super-powered glory.
3. She’s Had Three Failed TV Pilots
Aside from the 2011 attempt by Ally McBeal creator David E. Kelly (with Agents of SHIELD star Adrianne Palicki in the lead), there have been two other failed attempts to bring Wonder Woman to television. The first, in 1967, Who’s Afraid of Diana Prince?, was commissioned by producer William Dozier following his success with the Adam West Batman series. Pitched as a zany sitcom with Hippolyta as an overbearing mother, the show was never approved for production as a series.
In 1974, former pro tennis player Cathy Lee Crosby starred in a TV film meant to be the pilot for a new, serious take on the character. Doing away with pretty much everything the character was known for, the film had more in common with Diana’s secret agent incarnation, with none of the iconography we now take for granted.
The following year, Warner Brothers tried again, this time with a more faithful take, and Lynda Carter in the title role. With the initial season in the 1940s to match the comic book origin, audiences embraced this interpretation of Wonder Woman, and the subsequent series was a hit, running for three seasons.
For the last forty years, Carter has been the performer most associated with the role, and despite reportedly turning down a cameo in the new film, she is a firm supporter of current Wonder Woman Gal Gadot. In honor of Carter’s contribution to the live action DC Universe, she can currently be seen on TV’s Supergirl in a recurring role as the President of the United States.
2. She Kills When She has to
Her status as an agent of peace notwithstanding, Wonder Woman is a warrior through and through, lacking the compunction for killing displayed by the likes of Batman and Superman’s comic (and animated) incarnations – when pushed, she will kill. This isn’t to say she’s bloodthirsty, mind you, as her actions are tempered by the wisdom of the gods. One of the most controversial instances of Diana going to extreme measures occurred in 2005, when, faced with no other visible options, she snapped the neck of former ally Maxwell Lord.
1. She was the Secretary on her First Superteam
With much of Wonder Woman’s modern popularity coming from the brilliant Justice League cartoon and its follow up, Justice League Unlimited, as well as her live action appearance in Batman V Superman (leading up to this year’s Justice League film), it may shock some to know that Wonder Woman’s initial super team experience was anything but heroic. Indeed, her first role, with the Justice Society back in the 1940s, was as their secretary. And we don’t mean in a ceremonial, corporate start-up kind of way, we mean she was busy answering team mail and answering the phone while her male counterparts were out punching Nazis in the face.
My, how times have changed.
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