William Moulton Marston was an educational consultant in
1940 for Detective Comics, Inc.(now better known as DC Comics).
Marston saw that the DC line, seeing it filled with images
of super men such as Green Lantern, Batman, and their flagship
character, Superman. Seeing all these male heroes, Marston
was left wondering why there was not a female hero.
Max Gaines, then head of DC Comics, was intrigued by the
concept and told Marston that he could create a female comic
book hero - a "Wonder Woman." Marston did that,
using a pen name that combined his own middle name with
the middle name of Gaines: Charles Moulton
Marston was the creator of the systolic blood-pressure
test, which lead to the creation of the polygraph(lie detector).
Because of his discovery, Marston was convinced that women
were more honest and reliable than men and could work faster
and more accurately. During his life time, Marston championed
the causes of women.
In a 1943 issue of The American Scholar, Marston said:
'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.'
In December 1941, Marston's 'good and beautiful woman'
made her debut in All Star Comics #8. Following this exposure
in what was the second largest selling comic in DC's line,
Wonder Woman appeared in her own berth in Sensation Comics
#1(January 1942), and six months later in her own self-titled
Wonder Woman began her existence as a special addition
to the December-January, 1941 issue of All Star Comics.
In the nine page center spread, the origin of Wonder Woman
was told, which luckily was recieved well, leading the way
for a comic book that would feature the Amazon Princess.
January 1942 saw Wonder Woman in Sensation Comics number
one, with a FULL version of her origin and her first adventure.
By Summer 1942, Wonder Woman was a comic book unto itself,
and is the only comic book featuring a woman to have been
published without fail for fifty-five years.
Wonder Woman was aided by the Holliday Girls, lead by the
sweet addicted Etta Candy, who were a sorority that would
help Wonder Woman in a time of emergency, or vice versa.
Etta was the only member of the Holliday Girls who stood
out, with her less than svelte body and propensity of saying
'Woo-woo' all the time. Amazingly enough, Etta was the only
other character than Steve and Diana herself who has managed
to exist for the full run of the title.
During this same early period, Wonder Woman joined the
Justice Society as its first female member. The Justice
Society was the first super-team, featured in All Star Comics,
and times being what they were, Wonder Woman, who was the
strongest among them, was the secretary of the JSA.
From her inception, Wonder Woman was not out to just stop
criminals, but to reform them. On a small island off Paradise
Island was Transformation Island, a rehabilitation complex
created by the Amazons to house and reform criminals.
Armed with her bulletproof bracelets, magic lasso, and
her amazonian training, Princess Diana was the archetype
of the perfect woman from the mind of her creator, William
Moulton Marston. She was beautiful, intelligent, strong,
but still possessed a soft side. At that time, her powers
came from 'Amazon Concentration,' not as a gift from the
Wonder Woman's magic lasso was supposedly forged from the
Magic Girdle of Aphrodite, which Queen Hippolyta(Wonder
Woman's) mother was bequeathed by the Goddess. Hephastateus
borrowed the belt, removed links from it, and that is where
the magic lasso came from. It was unbreakeable, infinitely
stretchable, and could make all who are encircled in it
tell the truth.
In 1947, William Moulton Marston died, leaving Wonder Woman
to be written by Robert Kanigher. While H.G. Peter still
illustrated the stories, the book lost a bit of its former
luster, with Wonder Woman becoming less of a feminist and
more of an American heroine. H.G. Peter remained on the
title until #97, from different reports either dying while
completing it, or directly after. By myself and other Golden
Age devotees, both Peter and Marston are missed and remembered
for their unique and memorable work.
In later stories, her abilities expanded. Her earrings
gave her air to breathe in outer space, her Invisible Plane
(Way BEFORE Jets) was givenan origin, and her tiara was
found to be an unbreakable boomerang. This was all inventions
and modifications made after William Moulton Marston's death.
But even these revisions to Wonder Woman didn't damage
her as much as the accusation of one man.
In the late 1940's and the early 1950's, Dr. Frederic Wertham
was touring the country blaming comic books for the 'moral
decline' of that eras youth. He claimed that Batman and
Robin were a 'homosexual fantasy,' that women were always
victims with large breasts, and that horror comics lead
children to commit murder. But wait... He said that women
were always victims. What about Wonder Woman?
Well, he said that she had to be a lesbian. Her close affiliation
with the Holliday Girls, her strident speeches for women
to be strong and independant; nothing but a lesbian trying
to convert. Wertham was a Freudian who probably saw a penis
in every phallic object other than his own pants. If you
wish to understand his mindset better, I've got excerpts
from a symposium on the evils of comics books that he led.
In 1954, Dr. Wertham wrote his now infamous book: Seduction
of the Innocent, which expounded on his anti-comic
book views, and is seen by many comic book historians as
the death of the Golden Age, and the beginning of the Comics
Wonder Woman was now fully neutered. She no longer spoke
out as a feminist and was left to moon over Steve Trevor,
and as time wore into the Silver Age, Merman and Birdman.
It was drivel, and didn't change until the 1970's. So, we
can thank Dr. Wertham for nearly 20 years of Wonder Woman
There's a 9-year-old young man of my aquaintance who is
an afcionado of comic strips and comic books of all kinds.
When polled recently on the identity of his favorite TV
network, he unhesitatingly cast his vote for ABC. Pressed
for his reasons, he replied, "Every night it's like
reading the funnies on Sunday Morning.
For this young man - who likes The Six Million Dollar Man,
The Bionic Woman, Happy Days, and Welcome Back, Kotter,
as much as he enjoys "Steve Canyon," "Superman,"
"Buz Sawyer," and "Archie" - ABC has
provided an embarassment of riches this year in the 8 to
9 P.M.(ET) timeslot. And now, there is also Wonder Woman.
But it is not only 9-year-olds who are watching. The Nielsen
evidence is that their fathers are also impelled to steal
peeks at this particular comic-strip show.
The reason is obvious when yuou view the spectacular 6-foot
dimensions of its star, Lynda Carter, an ex-"Miss World-USA"
in the Miss World beauty pageant. In the other ABC comic-strip
shows, Lee Majors, Henry Winkler, Gabriel Kaplan, and Lindsay
Wagner do not have a noteworthy bosom among them. Lynda's
is an impressive size 38.
One of Wonder Woman's other assets is that the show is
based on a real comic strip instead of an erzatz one, and
grown-up audiences can look upon Lynda's physical endowments
with lack of guilt, knowing that surreptitous reading of
comic strips by adults has long been accepted as a forgivable
part of the American cultural tradition.
For the uninitiated, the Wonder Woman cartoon character
was concieved in 1942(WRONG: 1941) by Charles Moulton, who
decided that, while little boys has Superman and Batman
and Captain Marvel fighting the world's evildoers in the
comic strips, the little girls had no funny-paper heroine
to root for. Moulton restored the balance - and vastly enriched
himself(His family saw the money, he died too early to see
much of it) - by coming up with Diana, an immortal Amazon
from uncharted Paradise Island, to which she and her sister
Amazons had fled circa 200 B.C. to escape male domination
by the ancient Greeks and Romans.
Diana wears a golden belt that gives her superhuman strength,
has silvery braclets that deflect bullets and missiles,
and - get this - she carries a golden lasso that, when it
ensnares a victim, forces him to tell nothing but the truth.
Thus, equipped, abd ebanired if a U.S. Army pilot named
Maj. Steve Trevor, whose plane crashed on Paradise Island,
sge comes to the United States in the guise of Yeoman 1st
Class Diana Prince, secretary to the unknowing Major Trevor,
now an intelligence officer. When feats of derring-do are
required to save America, she changes into her brief and
sexy Wonder Woman costume and flays insidious Nazi villains.
Although the Wonder Woman strip has not appeared in the
newspapers for some time, Wonder Woman comic books have
been printed in dozens of editions and earned a fortune
for creator Moulton and his heirs. They still are being
read avidly throughout the world. Thus, when Warner Communications
aquired the company that printed the Wonder Woman comic
books, executives there asked themselves "If Universal
can get away with a pseudo comic-strip TV series like The
Six Million Dollar Man, why can't we do even better with
the real thing?"
So, the studio hastily foisted a prototype Wonder Woman
plot on the world in 1974, It seemed strangely out of kilter.
The story was set in modern times instead of in the campy
1942 period, and the Amazon princess was played by Cathy
Lee Crosby, an etheral blonde who looked more suited to
modeling chemises at Bergdorf Goodman than hurling 200-pound
men through the air like Frisbees.
But Warner Bros. persisted, and producers Douglas S. Cramer
and Bud baumes eventually came up with some workable proposals.
Cramer said, "Let's stop fooling around with modernizing
this thing. The network liked the comic strip, so let's
just do a life-actor version of the original. We'll put
it back in 1942, an age of innocence when you could tell
the good guys from the bad guys; and we'll get a dark-haired
girl who looks like the girl in the strip. She should be
built like a javelin-thrower but with the sweet face of
a Mary Tyler-Moore."
At that point, Warner Bros. vice-president Ed Bieier is
reported to have muttered, "Sure, we'll cross-polinate
Olga Korbut with Godzilla."
The search seemed hopeless, but
unbeknownst to anyone at the Warner Bros. meeting, the almost-totally-obscure
Lynda Carter was even then taking drama lessons just a few
miles away. Having surrendered her 1972 "Miss World-
USA" crown to the 1973 winner, she had decended on
Hollywood to try to make her mark in the acting profession.
She had followed a circuitous route in getting there.
Born and raised in Phoenix, Arizona, the daughter of a
well-to-do antiques dealer whom she persists in calling
"a junkman, like Sanford and Son,' she had a not-too-pleasant
four years at Arcadia High School. "I was taller than
all the boys except the tackles on the football team,"
she told me, "and all my firl friends seemed to be
5-foot-3-inch blondes. I even was rejected as a pompon girl
because I towered over everyone else." She neutralized
this disappointment by taken singing lessons and writing
music, and when she was only 15 she was hired by a folk
group called Just Us.
This led to ger joining other singing groups and touring
the U.S. for three years after she graduated from high school.
She was not a sensation as a singer.
Back in Phoneix, for want of anything else to do, she entered
a 1972 Phoenix beauty contest. She had not blossomed into
a statuesque Sub-Belt Venus, with long dark hair and striking
gray-green-blue eyes, and she won the local competition
hands down. Today's beauty pageant contestants being what
they are, Lynda, at 6 feet, no longer was much taller than
her competition. She went on to win the Miss Arizona-World
title and then "Miss World-U.S.A." She lost out
to Miss Australia in the Miss World pageant in London.
Lynda desultorily filled her "Miss World-U.S.A."
duties for a year, and then moved to Hollywood to take acting
lessons. That's when her path crossed that of Douglas Cramer
at Warner Bros.
A Stanley Ralph Ross script already in hand, Cramer just
had to add a few small touches to satisfy ABC's comic-strip
cravings. For example, remembering how Clark Kent metamorphosed
into Superman in phone booths, Cramer devised a pirouette
to the beat of a tom-tom, during which the plain-looking
Yeoman 1st Class Diana Prince does a twirling striptease
and emerges as Wonder Woman, in star-spangled hot pants
and golden breastplate. It worked. The second Wonder Woman
pilot, starring Lynda Carter, aired on ABC on November 7,
1975, and did handsomely in the ratings.
That precipitated a curious and unprecedented fame of "chicken"
involving all three networks. ABC, already committed to
one female comic strip in The Bionic Woman stalled on inserting
Wonder Woman into its 1976 schedule. CBS, by now intrigued
with the possibility of having a prime-time comic strip
of its own, then tried to buy the series from Warner Bros.
This impelled ABC to extend its option on the show and it
ordered two more one-hour tryout segments, both of which
aired last April and did extremely well in the ratings.
Now it was NBC's turn. In July, NBC announced that it would
option Wonder Woman from Warner Bros. and probably put it
on the air this season - if ABC didn't renew its option
on the show.
This was too much pressure for ABC to bear. ABC senior
vice president Michael Eisner announced, "We are delighted
to add Wonder Woman and Lynda Carter to out prime-time entertainment
schedule. We will offer the Wonder Woman specials in deifferent
lengths on a pre-emptive basis." This was done and
plans are now being discussed for making the show into a
Lynda Carter this became a star - at the age of 25.
From The Pages of Comic Books...
by Bill Davidson
Excerpted from the January 27, 1977 issue of T.V. Guide