Wonder Woman (Diana Prince) is a superheroine, a creation of William Moulton Marston. Her first appearance was in the #8 issue of All Star Comics published in December 1941. At that time, the DC Comics superhero domain was dominated by male characters such as Superman, Batman, and the Green Lantern, and William believed there was an opportunity to grab the female market with a female superhero or superheroine!
It was his wife Elizabeth who suggested that he create a female character in the superhero genre, and what would make Wonder Woman different from the already popular heroes is that she would succeed in triumphing over the forces of evil with love, rather than by the use of fists or firepower – at least in the early stories. Elizabeth’s suggestion of making a woman superhero became fact and Wonder Woman exists to this day.
The Creation of Wonder Woman
Marston was initially hired by publisher Max Gaines as educational consultant for National Periodicals and All-American Publications. Gaines was impressed by Marstonâs interview article published in Family Circle, in which he described the significant educational potential of comic books. Later, National Periodicals and All-American Publications merged to form DC Comics.
After listening Marston’s pitch for this new female superhero, Gaines gave Marston the go-ahead. Together with Elizabeth, he began fleshing out his idea, taking the approach of endowing Wonder Woman with the assets of two particular women in his life: his wife – an unconventional, liberal woman, and Olive Byrne, a family friend with the same attitude to life as her friend Elizabeth.
This was important, because the character would not have been believable had she conformed to the usual gender prejudices of the day, and it is partially because of this refusal to conform that made the character so popular with American women, and shortly after, women the world over.
Being a psychologist by profession, and also inventor of the polygraph, Marston was convinced that women were more honest and dependable than the opposite sex. He also believed them to be more efficient at work than men.
The Origins of Diana
Wonder Woman was originally presented as an Amazon champion. A U.S. Intelligence Officer, Steve Trevor, was involved in a plane crash somewhere in the interior of the Amazon basin. The Amazons entrusted Wonder Woman to return Trevor to his own world of man. Having done that, she was to remain in that world and become a crime fighter as well as stand against the evil deeds of the Nazis – the character was created before World War 2 ended.
In a later version, Wonder Womanâs origin was portrayed in a more mythological fashion. She was known as Diana, who received the bulk of her powers and abilities from Aphrodite. It was related that Aphrodite created Amazons to be superior to men and that Diana was the best among them. It was also told that Diana possessed the wisdom of Athena, the strength of Hercules and the speed of Mercury. More on this later.
Superpowers and Weapons
Depending upon who the writer was and on the needs of the storyline, the character of Wonder Woman occasionally changed as did the powers she possessed. Robert Kanigher was a writer who portrayed Wonder Woman during the latter years of the 1950s until the early part of 1960s. He depicted the character as having supreme strength in each part of her body.
Depicting her as Diana of Themyscira, he gave the superhero strength that was much greater than that of men. However, she had to take great care never to allow herself to be bound or chained by any man because that would remove her powers. This weakness was known as “Aphrodite’s law”.
The Justice League of America welcomed Wonder Woman as its first Female member. Shortly after her induction to the group, she became as popular as the male members. She was identified with special weapons, such as her bracelets and lasso of truth. The bracelets were both bulletproof and indestructible, while the lasso of truth could compel anyone to tell the truth.
Diana’s bracelets have their own story to tell. They are bulletproof, and were crafted from the remnants of the shield of Athena, known as the Aegis. The bracelets enable Wonder Woman to deflect bullets and other missiles with her forearms, and when she crashes her arms together the bracelets create an extremely powerful concussive force. In later stories, she was able to direct the lightning of Zeus through the bracelets and use that against her foes.
During 1966 and 1967, she was endowed with additional abilities. Her super breath could blow very strong winds and even generate snow from water. She was made resistant to temperature extremes, could soar through the skies on air currents and was given the power of telepathy and more. It appears as though she was given any powers the writer decided she needed to complete a particular task.
Her invisible airplane that could be controlled mentally was shown in all her three great Bronze, Silver and Golden ages, and as with more than one of her powers, two versions of its origin have been offered. One is that it was a product of ingenious Amazon technology, while the other is that it is a transformation of Pegasus, the winged horse of Greek mythology.
Not only its origin varied, but also its appearance: initially a standard propeller aircraft, but then a jet fighter. Fair enough, because this is simply Wonder Woman and her weapons being brought into the modern era. Layer, the plane took the form of a disk, more like a flying saucer!
Origins of Wonder Woman’s Attributes
Wonder Woman’s body was designed as a combination of the attributes of six Olympian deities. Demeter, the goddess of agriculture and fertility, provided Diana with her physical strength, while the goddess of love, Aphrodite, gave her great beauty. Her intelligence, wisdom and military skills came from Pallas Athena, the goddess of war and wisdom, while Artemis, the goddess of the moon, hunting and animals (the Greek version of the Roman Diana) provided her with an ability to understand animals and her enhanced senses. She was given the power to use the ‘Fires’ of Truth to force people to be truthful by the Goddess of the heart, Hestia. Finally, the only male to offer her powers was Hermes, the messenger god, who gave her the ability to fly and move with tremendous speed.
A TV series of Wonder Woman, with Lynda Carter in the leading role of Diana Prince, ran from 1975 – 1979. There have also been several animated series that included the character, such as ‘Justice League’ and ‘Super Friends’, while many live action movie ideas fell through. It was not until 2009, that Kurt Russell finally brought an animated movie to the big screen.