BY RICHARD SUPLEE GEEK SPACE CORRESPONDENT Wonder Woman is everywhere this year. From her own box office record-breaking movie that actually has critics praising a DC film to her role in Justice League next month and all the rumors/news about the sequel there is no escaping the Lasso Of Truth-wielding superheroine. But who created Wonder Woman? The character is over 75 years old and yet very little is spoken of the man who created her.
The Secret History of Wonder Woman (2014) by Jill Lepore details the strange life of William Moulton Marston that would be considered scandalous even by today’s standards. William Marston was a psychologist a resume ranging from “inventor to the lie detector” to screen writer to professor to lawyer to comic book writer. The fact is he lived with his wife Elizabeth Holloway Marston and his mistress Olive Bryne. He had four kids, two from each woman who were raised in the same household without knowing the family secret.
Jill Lepore paints an extremely balanced portrait of Marston. On the one hand, Marston was a proto-feminist who fought against the misogynistic status quo and created Wonder Woman as a role model for little girls everywhere to look up to. He often said that women should rule the world. On the other hand he took one of his students as a concubine and created Wonder Woman as an extension his bondage fetish. Wonder Woman’s earliest comics featured women tied up regularly. But Lepore gives both sides of Marston’s coin equal time and leaves it up to the reader to decide for yourself whether Marston was a good person.
Those looking for torrid details of William Marstson’s kinky life of tying up his wife and mistress in threesomes will be disappointed. Marston’s relationship with Olive was kept a secret even from their own kids until well after his death. If there was a romantic relationship between the two women who lived together for the rest of their lives, Lepore was unable to find the evidence. Lepore’s book is more than just a biography of William Marston. She seamlessly weaves together the history of feminist movements, birth control, Harvard psychology professors, women at college and the history of comic book censorship that all play into the creation of Wonder Woman. All told, The Secret History of Wonder Woman is both a fascinating excavation of the origin of the character and the secret history of a complicated man that contains the usual contradictions found in human beings.