Wonder Woman Unbound: The Curious History of the World's Most Famous Heroine [NOOK Book]

Overview

With her golden lasso and her bullet-deflecting bracelets, Wonder Woman is a beloved icon of female strength in a world of male superheroes. But this close look at her history portrays a complicated heroine who is more than just a female Superman. The original Wonder Woman was ahead of her time, advocating female superiority and the benefits of matriarchy in the 1940s. At the same time, her creator filled the comics with titillating bondage imagery, and Wonder Woman was tied up as often as she saved the world. In...

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Wonder Woman Unbound: The Curious History of the World's Most Famous Heroine

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Overview

With her golden lasso and her bullet-deflecting bracelets, Wonder Woman is a beloved icon of female strength in a world of male superheroes. But this close look at her history portrays a complicated heroine who is more than just a female Superman. The original Wonder Woman was ahead of her time, advocating female superiority and the benefits of matriarchy in the 1940s. At the same time, her creator filled the comics with titillating bondage imagery, and Wonder Woman was tied up as often as she saved the world. In the 1950s, Wonder Woman begrudgingly continued her superheroic mission, wishing she could settle down with her boyfriend instead, all while continually hinting at hidden lesbian leanings. While other female characters stepped forward as women’s lib took off in the late 1960s, Wonder Woman fell backwards, losing her superpowers and flitting from man to man. Ms. magazine and Lynda Carter restored Wonder Woman’s feminist strength in the 1970s, turning her into a powerful symbol as her checkered past was quickly forgotten. Exploring this lost history as well as her modern incarnations adds new dimensions to the world’s most beloved female character, and Wonder Woman Unbound delves into her comic book and its spin-offs as well as the myriad motivations of her creators to showcase the peculiar journey that led to Wonder Woman’s iconic status.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
05/15/2014
In this biography of Wonder Woman, comic book historian Hanley (blogger, Straitened Circumstances; columnist, "Gendercrunching" bleedingcool.com) offers a whirlwind tour of American comic books with the character as a focal point. Starting with Wonder Woman's creation in 1941, the author takes readers through the height of her popularity in the 1940s and 1950s and then into the 21st century, when she becomes a minor player in the superhero canon. In discussing the character's origins, Hanley provides a detailed exploration of previous work done by creator William Marston that affected the development of the Wonder Woman universe. He helpfully situates his subject in the universe of superhero comics and ably describes what made her seem unique and powerful to readers in her early years. Hanley also includes a helpful bibliography, which will be able to assist novices in the subject. VERDICT An entertaining and informative read, Hanley's book is well suited for a general audience less familiar with comic book history. The expert may enjoy the author's footnotes and the odder bits of trivia he includes.—Hanna Clutterbuck, Harvard Univ. Lib., Cambridge, MA
From the Publisher

"I’ve never seen more information about Wonder Woman than in Wonder Woman Unbound! Author Tim Hanley tells us everything we’ve never asked about Wonder Woman because it simply never occurred to us: from her mythic Golden Age origins through her dismal Silver Age years as a lovesick romance comic character, and worse yet, when she lost her costume and powers in the late 1960s. Our favorite Amazon’s saga becomes upbeat again with the 1970s advent of Gloria Steinem and Ms Magazine, and Lynda Carter’s unforgettable portrayal of her on television. And it’s all told with a dollop of humor, thanks, Tim!"- Trina Robbins, author of Pretty in Ink, North American Women Cartoonists from 1896 to 2013

"Wonder Woman is the sum of her parts, and all of those parts should be examined thoroughly—something this book does very well." —Bust

"A lively and important examination of a key feminist icon." —Booklist

"There’s plenty here for Wonder Woman fans; Hanley writes with clarity and enthusiasm, and he’s got a fine eye for the goofy absurdities of comic-book narratives..." —Salon.com

"An entertaining and informative read, Hanley’s book is well suited for a general audience less familiar with comic book history. The expert may enjoy the author’s footnotes and the odder bits of trivia he includes...[Hanley] helpfully situates his subject in the universe of superhero comics and ably describes what made her seem unique and powerful to readers in her early years." —Library Journal

"Bondage, polyamory, lab coats, comic books, feminism: his story has everything. It's weird and complicated, but at least it has a good interpreter in Hanley." —Chicago Reader

"...the author offers a compelling and insightful consideration of a cultural icon that has endured and engaged with the culture for many decades without ever truly being known. A richly detailed, often-surprising work of comic-book scholarship." —Kirkus

"A useful companion history that’s good at placing the character in the setting of her comic-franchise peers." —New York Review of Books

Kirkus Reviews
2014-06-12
Hanley traces the long, strange existence of Wonder Woman, the world’s most famous female superhero and complicated feminist icon.Wonder Woman’s creator, psychologist William Moulton Marston, proves to be by far the most fascinating character in the narrative. An accomplished three-time Harvard graduate, co-inventor of the polygraph (which found an analog in Wonder Woman’s truth-compelling magic lasso) and developer of the still relevant DISC theory of human behavior, Marston was also a polyamorous bondage enthusiast who believed in the imminence of a shift in society toward matriarchy. His creation was intended to prepare young boys for their inevitable disenfranchisement—indeed, to make them happy about it. From this heady stew of high-minded theory and sexual kinkiness, Marston added a pastiche of Greek mythology tropes, and his Avenging Amazon was born. Hanley charts the many incarnations of the character over the decades, from bland post-Marston escapist twaddle to the disastrous attempts to make her “relevant” and hip in the mod era to Gloria Steinem’s successful campaign to return Wonder Woman to her girl-power roots and establish her as an icon of liberal feminism. At each stage, Wonder Woman was beset by bizarre tonal inconsistencies, muddled ideology and frequent editorial neglect or incompetence. Hanley identifies the character’s lack of a coherent, consistent core and, paradoxically, her strength as an icon. Simultaneously semiotically loaded and a blank slate, Wonder Woman is uniquely positioned to reflect whatever values her various constituencies wish to project. Hanley’s analysis is well-argued and richly supported, but he is prone to long digressions—e.g., his discussion of Marston’s cheesy erotic novel and a fixation on Lois Lane. Ultimately, though, the author offers a compelling and insightful consideration of a cultural icon that has endured and engaged with the culture for many decades without ever truly being known.A richly detailed, often surprising work of comic-book scholarship.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781613749128
  • Publisher: Chicago Review Press, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 4/1/2014
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 373,470
  • File size: 5 MB

Meet the Author


Tim Hanley is a comic book historian. He writes a blog, Straitened Circumstances, that discusses Wonder Woman and women in comics, and his monthly column, “Gendercrunching,” runs on www.bleedingcool.com. He has also written several articles for the Tumblr magazine DC Women Kicking Ass.
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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted September 24, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    I¿m not a comic book fan by any stretch of the imagination, but

    I’m not a comic book fan by any stretch of the imagination, but I’ve enjoyed enough superhero television shows and feature films in my days to appreciate a laidback history of the most famous superheroine of all time, Wonder Woman. My childhood included the occasional coloring book and Lynda Carter rerun, but other than that, I was completely unfamiliar with the character. Despite being an American cultural icon, she doesn’t have a movie that would familiarize the general public with her story. Nor did she really have much of a following after her “Golden Age.” Comic book historian and blogger Tim Hanley explains why in Wonder Woman Unbound: The Curious History of the World’s Most Famous Heroine (Chicago Review Press, 2014).

    While many people think of DC Comic’s Wonder Woman as just a female Superman – I even called her “Superwoman” the first time I saw her! – the origin story of her comic book series is a lot more complicated than that. Creator William Moulton Marston saw an opportunity to brainwash…er, educate the young male population on his particular views about female superiority, sexual bondage, and submission. Later, under new supervision, the Amazonian morphed in and out of pitiful female stereotypes: emotional, vindictive, shallow, and – ironic of all – someone obsessed with pleasing the man in her life. Despite a short-lived revival as an icon for the 1970s feminist movement, Wonder Woman never regained popularity, and has all but faded from popular memory save the occasional t-shirt.

    The author has clearly made a valuable contribution to comic book historical research, yet I found that Wonder Woman Unbound is best enjoyed if it’s not treated like a scholarly tome. While I’ve watched enough old movies to notice on film the trends Hanley mentioned in how women were portrayed and treated, he really needed to document this more carefully. In addition, his discussion about Gloria Steinem, Ms. magazine, and the 1970s feminist movement was seriously lacking. And the graphs were very sloppy. On the plus side though, I thought he made a very good case against the popular belief that Wonder Woman, more so than other female comic book stars, was a vanguard of modern feminism. In addition, he gave a very balanced and insightful presentation on psychologist Fredric Wertham and his infamous Seduction of the Innocent. Hanley shows that many of the psychologist’s criticisms of comic books were well-founded, even if many fans and historians haven’t been accepting of them.

    If Wonder Woman Unbound ends up on the required reading list for a college course on gender studies, popular culture, or freshman composition, I wouldn’t be surprised. It’s the kind of book that can get conversations going, and no professor is going to miss this opportunity to push sex into the forefront of the discussion. Yes, the book made me uncomfortable at times, I’d have to concur. It would’ve been nicer to continue with a sanitized imagine of Wonder Woman, as she’s generally know. Yet in the end I thought the enlightenment – and corresponding disillusionment – was probably for the best.

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