I am currently reading my way through a long list of science fiction and fantasy titles. (http://www.npr.org/2011/08/07/138938145/science-fiction-and-fantasy-finalists if you are interested in the list).
This close look at Wonder Woman’s history portrays a complicated heroine who is more than just a female Superman with a golden lasso and bullet-deflecting bracelets. The original Wonder Woman was ahead of her time, advocating female superiority and the benefits of matriarchy in the 1940s. At the same time, her creator filled the comics with titillating bondage imagery, and Wonder Woman was tied up as often as she saved the world. In the 1950s, Wonder Woman begrudgingly continued her superheroic mission, wishing she could settle down with her boyfriend instead, all while continually hinting at hidden lesbian leanings. While other female characters stepped forward as women’s lib took off in the late 1960s, Wonder Woman fell backwards, losing her superpowers and flitting from man to man. Ms. magazine and Lynda Carter restored Wonder Woman’s feminist strength in the 1970s, turning her into a powerful symbol as her checkered past was quickly forgotten. Exploring this lost history adds new dimensions to the world’s most beloved female character, and Wonder Woman Unbound delves into her comic book and its spin-offs as well as the myriad motivations of her creators to showcase the peculiar journey that led to Wonder Woman’s iconic status.
I have hazy recollections of reading Wonder Woman comics as a kid. I'm now wishing that I had hung on to them! I'm curious as to which of three waves of stories I was mostly reading.
The original author, William Marston, was a very intriguing individual and I would be interested in reading more about him if I can track anything down. He was of the firm opinion that women were the superior gender and that women would soon be running the world. He wrote the Wonder Woman comics to prepare young men to welcome their female overlords submissively when that time arrived. He also lived in a polyamorous household (one legal wife and one common law wife and several children, all in one home) and appears to have a bit of a thing for bondage. Hence Wonder Woman and her lasso, which she seemed to end up tied up with almost as often as she bound bad guys with it.
There seem to have been a lot of forgettable comics starring Wonder Woman. There was a brief revival when she was championed by Ms. Magazine and Gloria Steinem, which was quickly over and the Amazonian heroine returned to obscurity. The TV series, which I remember somewhat better than the comics, also lifted her profile briefly.
But as the author points out, better obscurity than being treated poorly by comic writers who don't know what to do with Wonder Woman. Perhaps there will be a female writer who will take up the cause one day and write an adventure worthy of our Amazon Warrior Princess--plots that don't reduce her to Superman's love interest or portray her as desperate to marry Steve Whats-his-name.
This book is a revised thesis, and although it is very readable for a thesis, you can still see its bone structure peeking through.