Evolution of Wonder Woman: The lesser-known story of the sex-positive, feminist, god of war
The long anticipated live-action adaptation of Wonder Woman’s origin story finally hit theaters over the weekend, bringing much relief and closure to the die-hard comic book fans that worried about whether or not the film was going to do the heroine justice. But, the blockbuster of the summer did in fact meet and even exceed expectations; Gal Godot, Chris Pine, and the supporting cast delivered stellar performances all around, making the film a thoroughly satisfying and enjoyable ride, which is why it already shattered box office records world-wide.
And yet, despite all of the excitement that surrounds the film, most people who went to go see it don’t actually know the origin story of Wonder Woman as it was first depicted in the comics, nor are they familiar with her creators or their inspiration. So, to provide a little perspective, let’s take a look at when we were first introduced to the iconic heroine as well as at how she evolved over the decades since her debut. After all, DC Comics have been consistently publishing Wonder Woman storylines with the exception of a short hiatus in 1986.
Wonder Woman was conceived by American psychologist and writer William Moulton Marston (who published work under the pen name, Charles Moulton), and illustrated by famed cartoonist Harry George Peter in December of 1941. She was heavily based on Olive Byrne, the domestic partner of Marston and his wife, Elizabeth Holloway (as well as Elizabath and other women). Interestingly enough, Byrne was the daughter of Ethel Byrne, sister of activist, feminist, and birth-control pioneer Margaret Sanger, with whom she opened the first birth-control clinic in the United States.
The now iconic character first appeared in All Star Comics #8, (1941) which was an American comic book series from All-American Publications, one of three companies that merged with National Periodical Publications to form the modern-day DC Comics. Her first cover was with Sensation Comics #1, an American comic book series published by DC that had a 109 issue run between 1942 and 1952 and featured Wonder Woman as the lead character. She was also part of the Justice Society from 1941, and then the Justice League starting from 1960.
According to the original storylines, Wonder Woman’s official title is Diana, Princess of Themyscira, Daughter of Hippolyta – though in civil society, she goes by the name Diana Prince. Sculpted from clay by her mother, Queen of the Amazons, she was brought to life by Aphrodite and gifted divine abilities by the other gods; she used these gifts to fight the Axis powers during WWII, along with a variety of other supervillians. Because of the silly depictions of “damsels in distress” common in the 1940s, she was often shown rescuing herself from bondage.
In recent years, however, Wonder Woman has gone through several profile updates. For one, her current origin story now states that it was Zeus and not Aphrodite that brought her to life. Furthermore, her superpowers were inherited from Ares, which makes her the new “God of War,” and him one of her greatest rivals. She was also given a more muscular build to reflect her Amazonian heritage, and since we are more than 50 years removed from WWII, Wonder Woman’s storylines no longer revolve around the Axis powers.
But, one of the more interesting updates to her profile has to do with her sexual orientation. Perhaps because Wonder Woman was inspired by a progressive lady involved in a polyamorous relationship with a bi-heterosexual couple, which by any measure was quite unusual, she now officially identifies as bisexual. So, there you have it ladies and gentleman, the revered demigoddess and warrior princess we all know as Wonder Woman is a sex positive, feminist, fighter for truth and justice, who was and is truly ahead of her time.
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