She recently turned 75, but Wonder Woman - the ever-youthful Amazon princess who wields her super powers in “man’s world” to fight for justice and gender equality - remains one of the most iconic and inspiring comic book superheroes ever.
In the early 1940s, amid rising concern that comic books had become too violent for children, DC Comics publisher Max Gaines turned to noted psychologist and author William Moulton Marston for help.
Marston, who had been inspired growing up by the suffragist movement, advocated for a feminine superhero who would fight not only for democracy, but also for equal rights for women. He would write most of Wonder Woman’s comic book and newspaper comic strips adventures for the next several years, before a polio infection led to him passing those duties to others. He died in 1947.
H. G. Peter’s original illustration of Wonder Woman (c. 1941).
In a note to Dr. William Moulton Marston, the man who created the character of Wonder Woman, Peter wrote, “I slapped these two out in a hurry. The eagle is tough to handle - when in perspective or in profile, he doesn’t show up clearly - the shoes look like a stenographer’s. I think the idea might be incorporated as a sort of Roman contraption.”
Marston responded: “I think the gal with hand up is very cute. I like her skirt, legs, hair. Bracelets okay + boots. …”
After appearing in All-Star Comics #8 in December 1941, Wonder Woman made her first star turn in DC’s Sensation Comics #1 in January 1942. Cover art by H. G. Peter.
Wonder Woman doesn’t mess around when it comes to battling a patriarchal society.
Another Glass Ceiling
A rare copy of a 1943 issue, in which the immortal Wonder Woman introduces us to a female-dominated society - albeit 1,000 years in the future.
To The Rescue
Wonder Woman saves the day, yet again, in this 1943 issue.
One of Dr. Marston’s specialties was the use of polygraphs, so no surprise that lie detectors should figure into this Wonder Woman storyline from 1952.
With the campy TV series “Batman” a hit, producers sought to create a series built around Wonder Woman. A five-minute test of “Who’s Afraid of Diana Prince?” (1967) was shot, featuring Elle Wood Walker (right) as Diana Prince and Maudie Prickett as her nagging mother (“How do you expect to get a husband flying round all the time?”). The mousey, klutzy Diana, however, would transform herself into Wonder Woman, and in her mirror see a stunningly beautiful vision of herself (played by Linda Harrison, left, who would later star as Nova in “Planet of the Apes”).
The ridiculous test footage never aired, and we were spared whatever show might have developed.
The New Wonder Woman
From 1968, the first edition of “The New Wonder Woman” -- complete with a glamorous, mod look for Diana Prince and minus the superpowers, which the Amazonian gave up as the price for remaining in a male-dominated world. But she soon got her powers back! Artwork by Mike Sekowsky.
Girls With Glasses
Dick Giordano artwork from “Wonder Woman” #220, published in 1975.
An original hand-painted animation cel depicts Superman, Wonder Woman and Aquaman, from the Hanna-Barbera Saturday morning cartoon series, “Super Friends,” which premiered on ABC on September 8, 1973.
Cathy Lee Crosby
Cathy Lee Crosby starred in the 1974 TV movie “Wonder Woman,” the pilot of a projected series set in the modern era.
When the Cathy Lee Crosby series did not sell, a new concept set during World War II and starring Lynda Carter was developed. “The New, Original Wonder Woman” aired on ABC in 1975, with the series bowing the following year.
Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman.
After one season, “Wonder Woman” transferred to CBS, where the setting was updated from World War II to the present day. There were also slight modifications to Lynda Carter’s costume.
From the comic book character’s earliest days, Wonder Woman would often find herself bound or tied (a.k.a., by a male society’s rigid and discriminatory strictures), if only to then free herself in a display of female power.
She herself would use a “lasso of truth” to snare evildoers, who would thereupon turn honest under her spell.
Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman.
Paste-up artwork for the title page of “Amazons,” from Wonder Woman Annual #1 (1988) by Brian Bolland and Mark Farmer, shows Princess Diana of Themyscira soaring in the sky over New England.
Brian Bolland cover art from Wonder Woman #72 (1993).
John Bolton created this gouache on paper painting of Wonder Woman for DC’s Masterpiece Trading Cards (1994).
A scene from the 2009 animated feature “Wonder Woman.” Voice by Keri Russell.
In 2010 DC Comics put forth a redesign of the character. For Wonder Woman #600, artist Jim Lee created a new look that, he said, “didn’t scream classic superhero.” Some of Wonder Woman’s iconic elements and armor were reformulated to look like edgy street clothes.
"The All New Wonder Woman"
Original cover art from Don Kramer and Michael Babinski’s Wonder Woman #602 (2010), from “The Odyssey, Part Two: Whispering Gods.”
Adrianne Palicki starred in the 2011 pilot for a contemporary “Wonder Woman” series. The pilot never aired, and the series went unsold.
"Justice League: War"
The 2014 animated direct-to-video release “Justice League: War” featured Wonder Woman (voiced by Michelle Monaghan) with a plethora of fellow superheroes, including Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, Flash, Shazam and Cyborg.
Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) jumped into the action alongside the Man of Steel (Henry Cavill) and the Caped Crusader (Ben Affleck) in “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” (2016) - a teaser to her very own feature to come a year hence.
Gal Gadot as Diana Prince and Ben Affleck as Bruce Wayne in “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.”
Gal Gadot in “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.”
The 2017 film “Wonder Woman” serves as an origin story of this latest iteration of the comic book heroine, starring Gal Gadot.
In “Wonder Woman,” Diana (Gal Gadot) leaves the island of Themyscira to fight on the World War I battlefield alongside Steve Trevor (Chris Pine).
Don’t miss Faith Salie’s story on the history of Wonder Woman on “Sunday Morning” March 26!
For more info:
Wonder Woman (DC Comics)
“The Secret History of Wonder Woman” by Jill Lepore (Vintage); Also available in eBook and Digital Audio Download formats
“Wonder Woman: Amazon. Hero. Iron” by Bob Greenberger (Rizzoli)
“Wonder Woman: The Complete Collection” (DVD) starring Lynda Carter (Warner Bros.)
“Wonder Woman” on Me TV
“Wonder Woman” starring Gal Gadot (Official movie site)
By CBSNews.com senior producer David Morgan