This podcast by Kevin Smith with Grant Morrison is fascinating for a variety of reasons, but I posted some Wonder Woman stuff a day or two ago and it made me think of this podcast, particularly the part about 30 minutes in where he talks about the Wonder Woman story he wrote, and he goes into the history of the creation of the character (not the in-story character’s beginnings).
The TL;DR version is: two married 30-something bohemian psychiatrists with an 18-year-old girlfriend come up with the story of a bondage-loving female-leading superhero (whose superpower is a very psychologically significant “lasso of truth”). The 18 year old girlfriend is the physical model on which they base her appearance.
Wonder Woman, for those not in the know, is an Amazon warrior princess, known in her homeland as Diana of Themyscira. Dreamed up by US psychologist and writer William Moulton Marston in 1942, the superhero’s interests are justice, love, peace and sexual equality. To help her achieve these goals, she has a boomerang tiara, indestructible bracelets and a lasso of truth (Marston also invented the lie-detector test). She occasionally flies an invisible plane, too, presumably being careful to remember where she parked it.
Morrison spoke to me briefly about Marston at last year’s book festival. “William Moulton Marston was basically a kind of proponent of free love,” he said. “So he and his wife had a lover called Olive Byrne, an 18-year-old, and Olive was the physical model for Wonder Woman. They created the character because they felt Superman represented a kind of blood-curdling masculinity. They wanted to introduce somebody more feminine.”
Marston had some other colourful kinks: “He had this idea that the world would be better if men would just submit to women’s complete instruction. But he took it all the way – not just submit to instruction but get collars on, and get down on all fours, and just admit that’s where you belong, guys. So a lot of the Wonder Woman stories had this thread through them, this idea of bondage. But Marston called it ‘loving submission’.”
In one episode, Wonder Woman rescues some girls who have been enslaved by a Nazi: “The slave girls don’t know what to do. Even though they’ve been rescued, they kind of like being slaves. So Wonder Woman just says, ‘Oh, don’t worry, you can be slaves on Paradise Island and one of our girls will take over. But she’ll be really nice to you – unlike the Nazi!’ And that was the resolution to the story.”