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September 29, 2006


John Phelan

I wrote a paper on Wonder Woman for a seminar on Hedonism in American Culture. Marston is actually on record saying that all men really need is a strong woman to dominate them (and he lived in a functionally polygamous relationship - his wife and his mistress and their children all lived together - with his wife's permission).

The amount of spanking that went on in those early tales was very odd. Some people have argued that bondage figured into many early comic hero tales - but the plain fact is, none had as much as Wonder Woman - and I can't recall Superman, Batman or Captain Marvel having paddling fetishes like the cast of ealy Wonder Woman.

I think many of the problems you state here still occu in comics - since most of the creators are still male, when they try to tackle feminist issues they often come off slightly odd. It's better than it was a few decades ago - but my wife's biggest complaint about comics is that so few series have women that actually seem to be people - too often they are hyper-sexualized or else they are meant to be portrayed as tougher than the men.

Mark Engblom

Yeah, Marston sounded like a pretty screwed-up guy...and his stories certainly reflected that. In fact, I've yet to get through ANY Golden Age Wonder Woman story, finding the experience just too bizarre, nonsensical and new-agey. For those who love those old tales, like Gloria Steinem, I get the sense they're "watching an entirely different channel" than I am when I read Marston's fetishistic fever dreams.

As for the portrayal of women characters now, it has gotten better since the early days, or at the very least more *subtle*. Social relevance was the new toy back in the late 60's and early 70's, and was used with all the subtlety of a child's giant wiffle bat. On the other hand, the *visual* depiction of women characters has actually taken a downslide, in my opinion. The crass eroticization of so many female characters now extends down to teenaged characters (like the new Supergirl), with the sense that there's never enough midriff or cleavage to show off. I realize the companies are catering primarily to teen and twenty-something horndogs, but at some point you'd think some of these depictions would trigger the "nah...we don't need to go there" switch in an editor's mind.


Thank you, thank you, thank you for writing this. I knew that Gloria Steinem had a hand in bringing back the traditional costume, but I could never find the quotes.

I actually quite liked the I-Ching years, but I do agree that there's something special about that costume. And, it's not because it's skimpy (you know...gay and all). I agree with what Steinem says about the outfit.

But, I love the way you ended up showing the endless bondage covers that followed. That was quite a hoot! (Did I just say "hoot?")

PS - "Male Chauvanist Pig" must have been big back when the Asgardians were gods, huh?

Mark Engblom

Glad you liked it, Loren. The Steinem quote is one of my favorite ironic statements, since so much of the "New Look" Wonder Woman was done to cater to like-minded modern women. It was great that one of the most high profile feminists preferred the garish old costume....bracelets and all!

Hey, and that's okay if you say "hoot" around here. We skew a little on the nostalgic side here at Comic Coverage.


another issue to add to the list

adventure comics

starring supergirl

issue 417

march 1972

"all men are but slaves"

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