Wonder Woman is a cultural icon. She’s a part of DC’s trinity of famous heroes (Batman and Superman being the other two). However, while she’s easily recognizable, even avid comic fans may not know much about her history. That’s why I was very excited to find Tim Hanley’s Wonder Woman Unbound available via Amazon (how fitting!).
Hanley’s book explores the origins of William Moulton Marston’s famous heroine, as well as her depiction throughout the history of her comics and television shows. The first third of the book is especially fascinating as Hanley explains Marston’s intentions for the character.
In short, Marston was a psychologist who believed that many of the world’s big problems only existed because men were in charge. If women were in charge, many global problems would cease because women were superior to men. To groom young men to understand this, he created Wonder Woman. Diana Prince (WW) could use violence to stop threats, but she preferred to help people become their best selves. She preferred to solve problems through love and understanding because that was (and is) the best route.
In his private life, Martson was in a polyamorous relationship, and into bondage. Hence, you have Wonder Woman’s lasso and wristbands (one of his partners was into chunky wristbands), and the Amazons tying each other up all the time for fun. Marston also more or less invented the polygraph, which may have factored into the lasso’s magical truth telling abilities.
Hanley points out that while many of Marston’s aims were laudable, his personal proclivities may have fetishized or otherwise given mixed messages about Wonder Woman. The author asserts that Wonder Woman has continuously been misunderstood and misused by comic writers and illustrators who didn’t understand Marston’s goals and the power of the character.
I enjoyed Hanley’s compilation of Wonder Woman’s history, as well as his useful understanding of the context in which Wonder Woman has existed. He knows his comics. However, the book extends for about 150 pages more than it needs to, and I found much of the material repetitive and somewhat off-topic, or at least not introduced well. I read somewhere that this work was adapted from Hanley’s thesis, although I couldn’t information anywhere to back that up. Maybe that has to do with the disconnect in the sections of the book or variance in tone.
If you are interested in Wonder Woman’s history, you may enjoy the book, or you may want to look into The Secret History of Wonder Woman, which just came out in 2014. DC’s current run of Sensation Comics feat. Wonder Woman contains fun and positive feminist stories. It’s one of my favorite comics running right now (along with anything Waid is doing). I think it really nails the essence character well. In addition, it is not serialized. New writers and aartists tell short stories with each issue. There is probably something you will love in each issue. (My favorite centers around a female soldier in combat.) The first trade paperback is already out and I may review that later. Unbound gets three stars for being a good book with unnecessary length, but Wonder Woman gets five.