Wonder Woman: Bondage and Feminism in the Marston/Peter Comics, 1941–1948

Noah Berlatsky. Rutgers Univ, $26.95 trade paper (232p) ISBN 978-0-8135-6418-0
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.)
Reviewed on: 11/10/2014
Release date: 12/01/2014
Ebook - 262 pages - 978-0-8135-6420-3
Hardcover - 264 pages - 978-0-8135-6419-7
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