Created by William Moulton Marston, Wonder Woman is the world's most famous comic-book super-heroine, as well as one of the oldest. Her eponymous comic book has been published nearly continuously since her creation, though never had the output or sales of Superman and Batman.
In October 25, 1940, an interview conducted by former student Olive Byrne (under the pseudonym 'Olive Richard') and published in Family Circle, titled "Don't Laugh at the Comics", Marston described what he saw as the great educational potential of comic books (a follow up article was published two years later in 1942.) This article caught the attention of comics publisher M.C. Gaines, who hired Marston as an educational consultant for National Periodicals and All-American Publications, two of the companies that would merge to form the future DC Comics.
In the early 1940s the DC line was dominated by superpowered male characters such as the Green Lantern, Batman, and its flagship character, Superman. According to the Fall 2001 issue of the Boston University alumni magazine, it was his wife Elizabeth's idea to create a female superhero:
- "William Moulton Marston, a psychologist already famous for inventing the polygraph (forerunner to the magic lasso), struck upon an idea for a new kind of superhero, one who would triumph not with fists or firepower, but with love. 'Fine,' said Elizabeth. 'But make her a woman.' "
Marston introduced the idea to M.C. Gaines, cofounder (along with Jack Liebowitz) of All-American Publications. Given the go-ahead, Marston developed Wonder Woman with Elizabeth (whom Marston believed to be a model of that era's unconventional, liberated woman). In creating Wonder Woman, Marston was also inspired by Olive Byrne, who lived with the couple in a polygamous/polyamorous relationship. Marston's pseudonym, Charles Moulton, combined his own and Gaines' middle names.
In a 1943 issue of The American Scholar, Marston wrote:
"Not even girls want to be girls so long as our feminine archetype lacks force, strength, and power. Not wanting to be girls, they don't want to be tender, submissive, peace-loving as good women are. Women's strong qualities have become despised because of their weakness. The obvious remedy is to create a feminine character with all the strength of Superman plus all the allure of a good and beautiful woman."
Marston used a pen name that combined his middle name with that of Gaines to create Charles Moulton. Marston intended his character, which he called "Suprema", to be "tender, submissive, peaceloving as good women are," combining "all the strength of a Superman plus all the allure of a good and beautiful woman." His character was a native of an all-female utopia who became a crime-fighting U.S. government agent, using her superhuman strength and agility, and her ability to force villains to tell the truth by binding them with her magic lasso. Her appearance, including her heavy silver bracelets (which she used to deflect bullets), was based somewhat on Olive Byrne.
Editor Sheldon Mayer replaced the name "Suprema" with "Wonder Woman", and the character made her debut in All-Star Comics #8 (December 1941). The character next appeared in Sensation Comics #1 (January 1942), and six months later, Wonder Woman #1 debuted. Except for four months in 2006, the series has been in print ever since. The stories were initially written by Marston and illustrated by newspaper artist Harry Peter. During his life Marston had written many articles and books on psychological topics, but his last six years of writing were devoted to his comics creation.
The Earth Two Wonder Woman survived the Crisis on Infinite Earths, and went to live among the Pre-Crisis Gods of Mount Olympus along with husband, General Steve Trevor. When the Gods of Olpmpus and their separate native dimension are seen after the Crisis, the Earth Two Wonder Woman and Trevor are no longer there, nor recalled by the Gods indicating that the Crisis affected all levels of reality, not just the physical world. Since the Crisis, she has been seen mostly as a non-corporeal being except but for on a few occasions.
Although Wonder Woman maintained a secret identity throughout most of her career, she later publicly revealed herself after marrying Steve Trevor.
Wonder Woman's first Golden Age appearance was in All-Star Comics #8, but her first appearance as Earth-Two specific character was in Flash (Volume 1) #129. This appearance is usually dismissed as a cameo though it is technically her first appearance as the Wonder Woman of the Justice Society of Earth-Two. Her first full appearance as an elder member of the Justice Society was in The Flash #137.
In the Pre-Crisis continuity, Wonder Woman and Steve Trevor gave birth to a daughter named Hippolyta Trevor. Hippolyta (Lyta for short) became a member of the Earth-Two super-hero team, Infinity, Inc. In the Post-Crisis continuity, the war-time Wonder Woman and Steve Trevor were rendered apocryphal and Lyta's parentage was retconned to include Helena Kosmatos, the Golden Age Fury.
As Diana Prince, Wonder Woman is a legal citizen of the United States with no criminal record. On Paradise Island, Diana is a recognized member of the royal family.
DC Comics has never established an official first appearance of the Earth-One Wonder Woman. However, Wonder Woman (Volume 1) #98 provides Diana with a revised origin as well as new powers such as her ability to glide on air currents. The same issue re-introduces Diana's mother, Hippolyta, this time with a mane of golden hair, as opposed to the dark brown tresses of her Golden Age years. It is reasonable to presume that this issue firmly establishes the introduction of the modernized Pre-Crisis, Earth-One Wonder Woman.
The I Ching era period of the comic book has its supporters and its detractors. Some critics welcomed the change from campy super-heroics to more serious, "topical" storytelling in the wake of the Batman TV series. Others felt that the comic had abandoned its history. Storylines included secret agent-style plots, as well as some occult tales. One controversial cover showed Diana Prince brandishing a machine gun and firing at an airplane; contrary to the traditional depiction of Wonder Woman, the updated version of Diana Prince was not against killing in order to defend herself or others.
The revised series attracted some writers not normally associated with comic books, most notably science fiction author Samuel R. Delany, who wrote two issues.
Part of the credit for the revival of Wonder Woman as a superhero was due to a campaign in which feminist Gloria Steinem - who was offended to see the most famous female superhero depowered—had a hand. The 1972 first issue of Steinem's Ms. Magazine featured Wonder Woman in her 1940s costume on the cover, and contained an essay in appreciation of the character. Ironically, the change in format was originally an acknowledgment of the Women's liberation movement. The I Ching era, despite the controversy, would continue to resonate for some years to come, both in the comic book and in live action adaptations of Wonder Woman a few years later. The 1974 Cathy Lee Crosby telefilm, and the second and third seasons of Lynda Carter's popular series (see below), would borrow heavily from the characterization of Diana Prince in the early 1970s.
Although not named Wonder Girl, Diana was originally introduced as a girl in "All-Star Comics #8", 1941, and a back story in the Wonder Woman comic as a teen-aged Princess Diana of the Amazons in Wonder Woman #23, May/June 1946, Written by Charles Moulton A.K.A. William Moulton Marston and designed by H.G. Peter.
Wonder 'Girl' first appeared in Wonder Woman #105, April, 1958 "The Secret Origin Of Wonder Woman". In this revised 'Silver Age' origin it is assumed Diana was not created from clay and was born before the Amazons settled on Paradise Island as this story reveals, written by Robert Kanigher. Following this issue were several Wonder Girl adventures and years later an additional character, Wonder Tot, (Wonder Woman as a toddler), was also featured. Kanigher restored her original origin in 1966 as part of the 'Golden-Age Revision experiment'. Kanigher also created the Wonder Tot and later, The Wonder Family of characters during the 1950s and early to mid '60s.
From Wonder Woman #124 (August 1961) onwards, all three versions frequently appeared together in stories that were labelled "impossible tales," presented as films made by her mother, Queen Hippolyta, who had the power to splice together films of herself and Diana at different ages. However, by the time the Teen Titans made their first appearance, the characters of Wonder Girl and Wonder Woman had begun to diverge; Haney began writing Wonder Girl stories that took place in the same time period as those of Wonder Woman.
Bob Haney was developing a new junior team: The Teen Titans and used the Wonder Girl character that was depicted in the impossible tales, not realizing it was in fact Diana at a different age. In 1968 the Amazons left this plane to another dimension to refresh their powers and magical abilities. Wonder Woman chose to remain behind and renounced her Amazon powers and heritage and became the mortal, Diana Prince. Readers questioned as to how Diana as a teenager could appear in the Teen Titans fully powered as well as appearing at a younger age. Finally in Teen Titans #22 it was revealed that it was not Diana, but Donna Troy.
The prospect of Wonder Woman and Superman as a possible romantic couple has long been a question posed by fans, with the two characters occasionally being depicted as having a mutual on again/off again attraction to each other, perhaps because they view each other as male/female reflections of themselves. During the John Byrne era of Superman, the Man of Steel had intense dreams and fantasies about Wonder Woman, which he suspected might have been his subconscious telling him Wonder Woman was his most likely chance for a potential romantic partner. The idea of Wonder Woman and Aquaman as a couple has also been proposed, in part because of their frequent team pairings in the Super Friends cartoons, and also because it would be an allusion to Wonder Woman's Silver Age romance with Manno the Mer-Man. During JLA Batman and Wonder Woman shared a mutual attraction but Batman was too uncomfortable and used the excuse of fighting a crime to run out on their date.
For an extensive perspective on the character's Modern Age, see this summary.
Post-Crisis, Wonder Woman was rebooted in 1987. Writer Greg Potter, who previously created the Jemm, Son of Saturn series for DC, was hired to rework the character. He spent several months behind the scenes working with editor Janice Race on new concepts before being joined by writer/artist George Pérez. Potter dropped out of writing the series after issue #2, and Perez became the sole plotter with help from writer Len Wein, who wrote the series' finished dialogue.
Comic book fans and critics consider Perez's 60-issue run one of the highlights of Wonder Woman's history. Pérez and Potter gave her a pro-woman personality, and Perez's extensive research into Greek mythology gave more depth and verisimilitude to Wonder Woman's world than in her previous incarnation.
The following period of Wonder Woman would see John Byrne as the lead writer starting with issue #101. Several changes came along with Byrne: Diana relocated from Boston to Gateway City; her costume was redesigned (the "braclets" now covered most of her forearms, the pants were no longer "star-spangled"); and much of the supporting cast was replaced. John Byrne emphasized a "back-to-basics" approach, reincorporating some of the more classic elements and focusing on Diana's role as a superhero. His run received mixed critical reviews, although compared to the series under Perez and later under Jiminez, it is sometimes cited as the lowpoint of the series.
John Byrne left the title with issue #136. After two issue written by Christopher Priest, Eric Luke became the regular writer for issues #139–159. Starting with issue #164, Phil Jimenez produced a run which was likened in some ways to Pérez's, particularly since Jimenez' art bears a striking resemblance to his.
Recently, the writing on the series was turned over to Greg Rucka, whose initial story arc involved a book Wonder Woman had written which caused controversy. The initial arc was full of political subtexts, but more recent storylines have involved the mythology aspect.
The second Wonder Woman series was among several series that were cancelled at the conclusion of the Infinite Crisis storyline, specifically as part of the "One Year Later..." event focused around the weekly series 52. The final issue was Wonder Woman (Volume 2) #226. At the end of Infinite Crisis, we see Diana giving up the mantle of Wonder Woman to get in touch with her "human" side. This is probably inspired by her meeting with the Wonder Woman of Earth-Two.
Post-Crisis, Steve Trevor was now an Air Force officer considerably older than Diana's apparent age, thus sidestepping the traditional romance between the two. Instead, Trevor became involved with Etta Candy, who herself became a mature military officer of good standing and a large, but realistic physique. The Greek war god Ares and the Greek witch Circe eventually become two of Diana's greatest enemies. Diana's enemy list also included the Cheetah who was a woman who could transform into a powerful and ferocious feline-humanoid creature.
A significant change in Diana's Post-Crisis history was that she was one of the late comers to the super hero community—relatively 5–6 years after most of the other heroes had debuted. This meant that she was not one of the founding members of the Justice League. Her place in history was replaced by Black Canary. Diana emerged on the scene during the Legends adventure.
- In 1974 a live-action television film titled Wonder Woman (1974 Movie), starring Cathy Lee Crosby was broadcast. It was a pilot for an intended television series.
- In 2009, Wonder Woman starred in the animated feature Wonder Woman (2009 Movie)
- In 2017, WB released Wonder Woman (2017 Movie), directed by Patty Jenkins and Gal Gadot in the leading role. The film was successful enough to greenlight one sequel.
Wonder Woman was an American television series starring Lynda Carter as Princess Diana/Diana Prince. Wonder Woman aired on two American networks between 1975 and 1979. During its original run the series was extremely popular. It is also the title of a TV movie starring Cathy Lee Crosby, loosely based upon the character, that aired in 1974.
Though not successful at the first attempt, ABC still felt a Wonder Woman series had potential, and within a year another pilot was in production. Keen to make a distinction from the last pilot, the pilot was given the rather paradoxical title The New Original Wonder Woman. This pilot is available in its original length on the first season DVD, instead of the re-edited version of it which runs 60 mins. and was featured as the pilot when the series debuted a year later. This version is also the one shown on reruns. On the DVD version, however, the 1975 pilot movie title is changed to simply 'Wonder Woman', and the bullet-deflecting animated sequence is replaced by the lasso toss in the animated introduction and the rest of the television series.
Wonder Woman has been a playable character in several games.
- Justice League Heroes.
- DC Universe Online.
- Wonder Woman is playable in the next Lego Batman games: Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes, Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham and Lego Dimensions.
- Justice League: Earth's Final Defense (video game).
- Infinite Crisis (Video Game).
- Both Wonder Woman and Wonder Girl are summonable characters in Scribblenauts Unmasked: A DC Comics Adventure.
- Several versions of Wonder Woman are playable fighters in the Injustice games.
- Wonder Woman is playable in DC Legends.
Wonder Woman has also made the leap to books.
- In 2016, Scholastic Inc. published Wonder Woman: Amazon Warrior.
- Wonder Woman is also the lead character in DC Super Hero Girls book Wonder Woman at Super Hero High (novel).
- In 2017, Leigh Bardugo's Wonder Woman: Warbringer was published.
- Wonder Woman Recommended Reading
- All-Star Comics (Volume 1)
- Comic Cavalcade (Volume 1)
- JLA (Volume 1)
- Sensation Comics (Volume 1)
- Sensation Comics Featuring Wonder Woman (Volume 1)
- Superman/Wonder Woman (Volume 1)
- The Legend of Wonder Woman (Volume 1)
- The Legend of Wonder Woman (Volume 2)
- Wonder Woman (Volume 1)
- Wonder Woman (Volume 2)
- Wonder Woman (Volume 3)
- Wonder Woman (Volume 4)
- Wonder Woman (Volume 5)
- Wonder Woman Origins