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The Secret History of Wonder Woman

The Secret History of Wonder Woman

Jill Lepore


A comic-book character who not only has a back-story of her own, but also a fascinating creation story, altogether more interesting than those of the other DC and Marvel universe characters.

It's an unsettling story, though. The creator of Wonder Woman, William Moulton Marsten, is the somewhat discredited inventor of the lie detector who spent decades trying to persuade law enforcement authorities to take his rather bogus claims seriously. (That he eventually partially succeeded probably worth a book in itself.) He also had a position as an advisor to Hollywood during on of its periodic moral panics, and had an unusual home life involving a wife and a live-in lover pretending to be his children's nanny (while actually being mother to some of them).

Despite all this, the women in his life seem to have exerted an enormous influence over his creation, who is far more independent and feminist than anything else in the genre at that time. While Marsten comes across as unbearably creepy to a modern (male) reader, he seems to have tapped into a style of characterisation that had to wait another half a century before becoming mainstream.

5/5. Finished 15 October 2022.

(Originally published on Goodreads.)

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