Hollywood: The Herstory of Wonder Woman

By Tim Parks

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In 1941 when Wonder Woman made her debut in All-Star Comics, the concept of a female superhero must have seemed like something of an unconventional notion. Following in the footsteps of Superman and Batman, the shero proved that she was every bit as capable as The Man of Steel and The Caped Crusader and headlined her own comic book in 1942 through Sensation Comics.

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However, unlike her male counterparts The National Organization for Decent Literature – the One Million Moms of its time – blacklisted the comic citing that “Wonder Woman was not sufficiently dressed.” Um, hello Superman wore red underwear on the outside of his costume!

Princess Diana of Themyscira has had a long and storied career in the pantheon of pop culture and will finally be headlining her very own movie on June 2. This marks only the third time in her 76 year crime fighting career that she has appeared in Cineplex’s, following her appearance in last year’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. 

Gal Gadot stars as the Amazonian Princess in not one, but two movies this year alone. So let’s look at the herstory of Wonder Woman, shall we? That wasn’t a rhetorical question.

The Original Originator

As previously mentioned, Wonder Woman made her comic book debut in the 1940’s and was created by William Moulton Marston, a famed psychologist and the inventor of the lie detector test, who modeled her after both suffragists and erotic pin ups. The man himself fathered children with both his wife and mistress in a polyamorous relationship and had a penchant for bondage, which showed up in his work. But he took her strength very seriously.

“Frankly, Wonder Woman is psychological propaganda for the new type of woman who, I believe, should rule the world,” he said of his creation.

However, she certainly had her fair share of detractors. In the 1950’s Wonder Woman was accused by anti-comic crusader Fredric Wertham of “being a lesbian with a sadistic hatred of all men.” He makes it sound like it’s a bad thing!

It was during this period that Wonder Woman went from being a war hero and delved into regular gal mode and worked as a movie star, fashion model and even a lonely hearts columnist for a newspaper and during the 1960’s she was rebranded as an Emma Peel from The Avengers-type character.  She fared a bit better during the ’70s, thanks in part to the TV series. But the comic was cancelled in 1985 due to low sales and like the warrior she is came back the following year and has prevailed ever since. She even gained some Greek mythology parentage, courtesy of being Zeus’ daughter
Thank you For Being a Super Friend

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The very first animated version of Wonder Woman was featured on The Brady Kids cartoon in 1972 –  damn, let’s hope she didn’t throw a football at Marcia’s nose! It would have caved her face in! As it was, she and The Bunch get sent back in time to Ancient Greece, courtesy of the kids’ pet magical, talking myna bird. Somehow, I’m sure that Jan was still blamed for it.

During the run of the Saturday morning staple SuperFriends, she sported her Marlo Thomas That Girl flip hairstyle and was the only female in the all-boys Justice League of America. She had all of the traditional Wonder Woman items needed to fight for good: the golden lasso, the tiara, and the bracelets and of course, The Invisible Jet.

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After the show ended in 1986, she went on to be featured in a plethora of animated ventures, including: Wonder Woman and the Star Riders, Batman: The Brave and the Bold, DC Super Hero Girls and even an episode of South Park.

 

You Spin Me Round

In 1967, there was a five minute proposed pilot for Who’s Afraid of Diana Prince? William Dozier, the man behind TV’s Batman, thought it was time to bring Wonder Woman to the small screen. Unfortunately, it was also decided that Diana Prince (Ellie Wood Walker) would live at home with her shrill mother (Maudie Prickett) and transform into her super alter ego (Linda Harrison of The Planet of the Apes films) by going into a revolving wall and being able to fly afterwards. Dub tee eff? The pilot was a poor attempt to capitalize on the success of Batman and thankfully never made it to series. The answer to the title of the show can be answered as everyone should be scured. Very, very scured.

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In 1974, Cathy Lee Crosby starred as the titular hero in a TV movie that was loosely based on the DC Comics character. That’s an understatement. For starters, Crosby is blonde, Swedish looking and sported some sort of track suit/soccer mom ensemble. She was more of a Vunder Vuman who assists government agent Steve Trevor (Kaz Garas) in attempting to recover stolen classified code books from villain Abner Smith (Ricardo Montalban). Um, ok.

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Lynda Carter’s much-celebrated performance on the Wonder Woman series of the 1970’s was literally making dizzy queens out of boys that spun around and around in order to transform into their favorite super heroine. The show followed in the footsteps of the Batman series of the 1960’s, in that it had a dose of camp thrown in for good measure. How could GITs (Gays In Training) resist?

The series began as a two-hour pilot movie in 1975 and explained her origins on Paradise Island, which was thrown into a tizzy when Major Steve Trevor (Lyle Waggoner) crash landed on said all-female island. Surprisingly, it was not called The Isle of Lesbos. But I digress. She leaves her mother (Cloris Leachman and played by Caroline Jones in the subsequent series) and the other ladies behind to join in the fight for the old red, white and blue.

For the first year of the ABC show in 1976, Wonder Woman battled Nazis during WWII and had her kid sister Drusilla (Debra Winger) join in on the action as Wonder Girl. You go, Wonder Girl!

When the show moved over to CBS as The New Adventures of Wonder Woman, the show was brought into the 1970’s and the only remaining cast member – aside from Carter – was Lyle Waggoner, who played Steve Trevor, Jr.  Those two seasons saw Wonder Woman and Diana Prince doing battle with such scenarios as a telepathic disco dancer using his powers to steal people’s minds in the episode “Disco Devil.” Nope. Couldn’t make that up if I tried. The show went off the air in 1979, but remained forever in the heart of the LGBTQ community.

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Poor Adrianne Palicki didn’t really get a chance to step into the iconic Wonder Woman outfit for long, save for a pilot episode. And said get up in the proposed 2011 update, well, let’s just say was horrible. The first version looked like it was crafted from leggings and a bustier and the second version – after much interweb decrying from fans – just looked like something a college girl would wear for Halloween as slutty Wonder Woman.

Needless to say this David E. Kelley pilot did not live to see the light of day, as was the case for the proposed Amazon for the CW, which was to mainly focus on the origins of the Themyscira Princess. It only made it to the script process, until it was put on pause by the network in 2013.

The Silver Screen

Throughout the past 20 years, a number of efforts have been made to make a big screen adaptation, ranging from versions to star Jennifer Aniston to Sandra Bullock.

But her first celluloid appearance was in The Lego Movie in 2014. Yeah, that sorta counts! However, it is sufficed to say that she was the best part of 2016’s Batman v Superman – really at a runtime of 2 hours and 31 minutes and only 10 minutes of fighting? I call shenanigans!

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Anyhoo, Gadot seems more than capable to step into the foundation laid down by Carter before her. Her solo venture will be set during World War I and co-stars Chris Pine as Steve Trevor, Robin Wright as her Amazonian mentor and Connie Nielsen as her mother. Their island is attacked by men and their machines and they retaliate with arrows and other forms of chicks who kick ass badassery. It is decided that Wonder Woman will travel with Steve, posing as his secretary, to aid the Allies.

On November 17, Justice League will hit theaters and tell the story of Batman (Ben Affleck) and Wonder Woman (Gadot) tracking down metahumans Aquaman (Jason Momoa, hubba hubba), The Flash (Ezra Miller) and Cyborg (Ray Fisher) to form a united front against villainous Steppenwolf.

So there you have it, a brief herstory of the most popular female super hero of our time, who has stood the test of time in remaining an example of being a strong role model for women and gay men alike. You’re a wonder, Wonder Woman!