Golden Age Wonder Woman
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Of (Super)human Bondage
When Frederick Wertham (a man skilled at turning molehills into
mountains) launched his campaign against comic books back in 1953 he was able
to read fetishism and sexual perversity into the most innocent scenes. Until
he hit Wonder Woman as there he didn't have to read anything in. It had all
been deliberately inserted.
Wonder Woman was created by psychologist William Marston under the pen
name of Charles Moulton as a vehicle for both his pop psychology ideas and
his theories about male-female relationships. Looking at some aspects of the
strip it would appear he believed women needed to be submissive; the heroine
and all the amazons wore "Braclets of submission" which if chained together
meant they lost their powers, if they removed the bracelets they ran amok
unable to prevent emotion overwhelming reason. Actually Marston believed the
opposite, he believed women were inherently less violent and more emotionally
balanced than men and the world would be a better place if it was female
dominated rather than male dominated.
Who can say? Anyway getting back to the comic in the Seventies DC reprinted
quite a bit of the original Forties material as filler in Wonder Woman and
in comics like Four Star Stories, Adventure Comics and several oversized
comics Limited Collectors Editions. Which is where I stumbled across the
old stuff and why the contemporary Wonder Woman seemed tobe lacking something.
Regardless this is scanned from a reprint of Wonder Woman's first encounter
with one of her greatest foes, The Cheetah. It all starts with Wonder Woman
getting volunatily tied up at a public event. Though I should qualify that
as saying she's doing an escape act as part of a charity benefit for widows
and orphans in Europe (there was a war on). Priscilla Rich, the head of the
Relief Committee is very put out that no one's interested in her, all they
want to see is Wonder Woman. Which leads to a bit more than petty jealousy.
If Wonder Woman's not kidding about this it could tell us some interesting
things about Amazon culture. But let's get back to Priscilla and her
In case anyone's wondering the canon stated an amazon only lost her powers
when her bracelets were chained together by a man rather than if they chained
her. She seemed to rather enjoy it when men got it wrong and wrapped her
in chains which she could then break with ease. I'll provide a few examples
of this later on but for now the point is chains alone weren't going to reduce
Wonder Woman's strength (especially since women were applying them) so escape
would be simple. Unless of course somebody threaded her unbreakable lasso
among the chains.
Priscilla Rich turns out to be a little unbalanced, Marston called her a
Jekyll/Hyde personality. Today we'd say she had Multiple Personality
Disorder. Anyway her jealousy triggered a second personality, The Cheetah,
which vows revenge on Wonder Woman. Later on, like most comic book MPDs,
her personalities become distinct and unaware of one another but here they
plot together to frame then kill Wonder Woman. Naturally it backfires and
naturally the Cheetah appears to perish in her own trap. Just as naturally
she reappears without a scatch and spends the next forty years gunning for
Wonder Woman though after Marston left the comic in 1946 her psychosis lost
its realistic elements.
For the last word on fetish aspects in Wonder Woman here's a picture from a
little later in the story after Priscilla's Cheetah personality has framed
Wonder Woman for robbery.
If you like you can go back to the DC homepage or you can move on and take
a look at more Golden Age Wonder Woman pages.
With Friends Like These ...
... Who Needs Enemies?
Mother Knows Best?
Death Traps & Great Escapes
Not So Great Escapes
More Not So Great Escapes
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