|This is my contribution to Round Eleven of ABC Wednesday and again I am focusing on people, some famous, some infamous and some half-forgotten.|
Born in Massachusetts in 1893, Marston was educated at Harvard and received his PhD in psychology in 1921 before going on to teach at universities in Washington and Medford.
Marston became a writer on popular psychology issues and developed a theory (or came to realise) that women were more honest and reliable than men and could work faster and more accurately than them.
There were two particular women in his life – his wife Elizabeth Holloway Marston (herself a psychologist) and former student Olive Byrne – and the three of them lived together in a polyamorous relationship. Both women were to influence his comic creation.
Marston is credited with inventing the systolic blood pressure test that is now a component of the modern polygraph (although it seems certain that his wife was jointly responsible) and this would be the inspiration for Wonder Woman’s Lasso of Truth.
In an interview in The Family Circle in 1940, Marston extolled the educational potential of comic books and he was approached to be the educational consultant for the publishing companies that would merge to form DC Comics.
It was the golden age of the superhero, all of whom were men, and it was Elizabeth’s idea to create a female hero. Marston agreed and set about creating a character who would prevail through love rather that might. In 1943 he wrote:
‘Not even girls want to be girls so long as our feminine archetype lacks force, strength, and power. Not wanting to be girls, they don’t want to be tender, submissive, peace-loving as good women are. Women’s strong qualities have become despised because of their weakness. The obvious remedy is to create a feminine character with all the strength of Superman plus all the allure of a good and beautiful woman.’
He based the character on the two women in his life. Marston first called her Suprema, a native of the all female utopia of the Isle of Paradise, who would fight crime on behalf of the US government using her superhuman strength and the Lasso to force villains to tell the truth.
The editor changed Suprema’s name to Wonder Woman and she first appeared in All Star Comics in December 1941. Her appearance was based on Olive Byrne, including the heavy silver bracelets that Wonder Woman used to deflect bullets.
The photo on the left shows Olive taking notes during a demonstration of the ‘lie detector’ while Marston (right) asks the questions.
Physical submission was a constant theme in Marton’s comic works, as well as bondage. He is quoted as saying: ‘The only hope for peace is to teach people who are full of pep and unbound force to enjoy being bound. Giving to others, being controlled by them, submitting to other people cannot possibly be enjoyable without a strong erotic element’.
Marston died in 1947 and was inducted into the Comic Book Hall of Fame in 2006. And, of course, Wonder Woman made her television debut in the 1970s starring Lynda Carter.