William Moulton Marston, the creator of Wonder Woman, was not exactly alone in thinking-up arguably the most famous female super hero ever. As the old axiom goes, behind every good man is an equally good woman; it seems the psychologist, lawyer, inventor, and comic book writer had two major ladies in his life. His wife, Elizabeth Holloway as much as their lover, Martson’s ex-student Olive Byrne, formed a ménage that saw the ladies as much birth two children each by their man, as well as to consistently reiterate the belief of feminine strength and even some fetishism that Marston infused into his most famous creation with.
Creating an Amazonian Princess comic character on a par with Superman (and a beauty to boot) wasn’t the order of the day during nescient stirrings of comic-dom. But Martson was bound and determined to fight against what he called the “bloodcurdling masculinity” of comics at the time, while showing the oppression women were under, chained by male-centric conventions of the day. Influenced by the ladies he lived with, women who felt comfortable enough in certainly an unconventional living arraignment for the time while keeping to many of the conventions of the day (Olive Byrne was a staff writer at Family Circle, a most conservative voice on how to raise kids and keep a home) Martson had Princess Diana, disguised in alter ego Diana Prince, consistently lassoing criminals for their truths (as the creator of the systolic blood pressure test, a major component to the modern polygraph, we see how Marston came-up with the idea of Wonder Woman’s “lasso of truth”), often deliciously bound in so many of her escapades (as much a show of fetishism, as a comment on how women had to consistently fight the bounds of society), ran round in the skimpiest of superhero outfits, flew in an invisible plane, deflected bullets with her bracelets and always, in the end, like all good superheroes, won over the evil that confronted the world.
Whether we read her in comics, watched Lynda Carter fill out her bodice on the “Wonder Woman” live action show of the 70’s, or watch the newer version of the famous super hero lady, played by Gal Gadot, scamper across Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice (she will have her own stand alone movie in 2017) William Moulton Martson’s most famous contribution to popular culture was a lady to behold indeed.
A wonderful new book The Secret History of Wonder Woman, by Jill Lepore reveals the complicate and interesting life of Martson and his creation.