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Comics expert Noah Berlatsky takes us on a wild ride through the Wonder Woman comics of the 1940s, vividly illustrating how Marston's many quirks and contradictions, along with the odd disproportionate composition created by illustrator Harry Peter, produced a comic that was radically ahead of its time in terms of its bold presentation of female power and sexuality. Himself a committed polyamorist, Marston created a universe that was friendly to queer sexualities and lifestyles, from kink to lesbianism to cross-dressing. Written with a deep affection for the fantastically pulpy elements of the early Wonder Womancomics, from invisible jets to giant multi-lunged space kangaroos, the book also reveals how the comic addressed serious, even taboo issues like rape and incest.
Wonder Woman: Bondage and Feminism in the Marston/Peter Comics 1941-1948 reveals how illustrator and writer came together to create a unique, visionary work of art, filled with bizarre ambition, revolutionary fervor, and love, far different from the action hero symbol of the feminist movement many of us recall from television.
- ISBN-13: 9780813564180
- ISBN-10: 0813564182
- Publisher: Rutgers University Press
- Publish Date: January 2015
- Page Count: 264
- Reading Level: Ages 15-UP
- Dimensions: 9.02 x 5.98 x 0.6 inches
- Shipping Weight: 0.86 pounds
Series: Comics Culture
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2014-11-10
- Reviewer: Staff
In this insightful but academically dense study, Berlatsky, editor of the Hooded Utilitarian blog, examines some of the most complex and controversial aspects of Wonder Woman’s earliest years by focusing on the interests and kinks of her creator, psychologist William Moulton Marston, as well as the accompanying artwork of Harry Peter. Berlatsky unabashedly delves into the ways that bondage, feminism, lesbianism, and more are represented and incorporated into those early adventures. As he explains, “Marston meant his ideas about gender, sexuality, and peace to be widely applicable and, indeed, widely transformative.” According to the author, nothing in these early issues is accidental—everything represents a psychological dynamic of opposition, whether it be male vs. female, adult vs. child, or war vs. peace. The analysis is solid, the research is thorough, and the conclusions are valid. But Berlatsky’s pointed takedown of more modern comics, including Wonder Woman’s adventures over the years following Marston’s death, suggest a telling bias. As he puts it, “I feel that most other versions of this character are—let’s be kind and say ‘superfluous.’ ” There’s no denying his appreciation for that initial defining run, and this is an excellent breakdown of Martson’s work and proclivities, but as Berlatsky admits, this isn’t aimed so much at Wonder Woman fans as it is those who think “comics should change the world.” (Jan.)