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Wonder Woman Comics: History and Development

Wonder Woman Costume For over 60 years, Wonder Woman has filled the pages of her magazine with adventures ranging from battling Nazis, to declawing human-like Cheetahs. Her exploits thrilled and inspired many young girls, including Gloria Steinem. Through all of this, she has had to pilot her invisible jet through territories that her male counterparts have never had to. She is constantly pulled in two directions; her stories must be entertaining and none threatening to the male status quo, while simultaneously furthering her as the original symbol of ‘Girl Power.’ She is praised for being an icon of strength to women everywhere, but chastised for wearing a skimpy costume and tying men up, as if she were no more than a male fantasy. No comic book character has had to endure as much scrutiny as Wonder Woman. That’s because Wonder Woman represents an entire gender, at a time of important social flux. Although she was created by a man to influence a male audience, Wonder Woman has evolved into an important symbol of the feminist movement.
An Amazon is born
Shortly after Superman made his appearance in 1939, a noted psychologist by the name of William Moulton Marston wrote an article in Family Circle magazine, praising comic books. According to Les Daniels in Wonder Woman: The Complete History (Chronicle Books, 2000, pp. 22-24), his article caught the eye of M.C. Gains of DC Comics. Gains was so impressed by the article, he hired Marston into a new position at DC Comics. Within a year, at the urging of his wife, Marston set out to create a female superhero. By February 1941, Marston handed in his first script for ‘Suprema: The Wonder Woman.’(We owe a debt of thanks to whoever dropped the Suprema.) Marston created a unique heroine, based loosely on Greek Mythology. Diana was the Princess of Paradise Island, a mystical place inhabited by Amazons. Her mother, Hippolyte (sometimes referred to as Hippolyta), Queen of the Amazons, wanted a child and petitioned the Goddesses of Olympus to give her one. She was instructed to sculpt a child from clay. When she was done, the goddesses imbued the statue with life. Diana was raised as the princess of her nation, until one day, an aircraft carrying one Steve Trevor crashed off the shores of the island. Diana rescued him and nursed him back to health. The Goddesses decreed a contest should be held to find an Amazon champion to return Trevor to the United States and also help with the war effort. As the princess, Diana was forbidden to enter the contest by her mother, the Queen. Diana disguised herself and won. Reluctantly, Hippolyte awarded Diana the costume of the champion and sent her on her way, and a legend was born.
Marston had said his aim with Wonder Woman was to influence a male audience with the notion that females could be just as powerful as men, through the use of their own gifts. A reoccurring theme is the dominance of women over men, by teaching them ‘loving submission.’ The reality is that the early issues of Wonder Woman almost always contained scenes of bondage. Wonder Woman’s one weakness was to have her bracelets chained together by a man. Many, many men took advantage of that. Because he was on the team that developed the first polygraph, Marston gave Wonder Woman a magic lasso that would enable her to extract the truth from its victim or make them susceptible to her suggestions. Of course, they had to be tied up. If Wonder Woman wasn’t chained up, she was busy tying someone else up to do her bidding. When you combine that with a seductive costume, (The costume created such a ruckus, DC Comics editor, Dorothy Roubicek wrote a memo to Gains suggesting the costume be given a more Greek tunic look. (Daniels, pp. 62-63)) the early Wonder Woman comes off as a fetishistic fantasy. That may be one of the biggest reasons it was such huge success with a male audience.
Artist H.G. Peter illustrated Wonder Woman for Marston’s entire tenure on the book. Although he was required to delineate Wonder Woman in bondage motifs and other sundry escapades, his art was not overly sexual. This was one of the factors which helped establish Wonder Woman among female fans. She was strong and athletic, but without an unreal body image.
Many of her adventures pitted her against a real life enemy, the Nazis. This was World War II, after all, and women were dong their part to help the war effort. Wonder Woman was a symbol of the emergence of women in active roles. But, even before the war was over, Marston began introducing costumed villains. Interestingly enough most were female. Dr. Poison, the very first costumed villain, was actually a Japanese princess, disguised as a man. As her Rogues Gallery grew, it became more populated with women, than men; The Cheetah, Queen Clea, and Giganta, just to name a few. It seemed that Wonder Woman would be relegated to fighting her own gender. It was another way that she could be interpreted as powerful, without upsetting the status quo. She was rarely seen as someone who could overpower a strong male villain.
Wonder Woman did continue to be an important symbol in those early days. She was the only female superhero in the Justice Society of America (A forerunner of the Justice League of America), although she was relegated to the office of secretary. Again, it was a large stride while being subservient to the male heroes in the book. You can almost see her serving coffee at JSA meetings. Her magazine debuted a backup feature called ‘Wonder Women of History’ in which an important female historical figure was profiled. It seemed that the intention of her being a symbol of feminism were there, while the actions of the stories painted a different, more sexual picture. This is a contradiction that survives even into today.
The Silver Age
After Marston’s death, Robert Kanigher took over the duties on Wonder Woman. In a rare occurrence, Kanigher served as both writer and editor for over 20 years. Gone were the Nazis, and many of Wonder Woman’s original foes. In their place, Kanigher began writing stories centered on Wonder Woman’s romantic life. In Sensation Comics #97 (May-June 1950), Wonder Woman becomes the romance editor of a women’s magazine. Instead of battling evil villains, Wonder Woman herself became the center of conflict, as characters like Bird-Man and Mer-Man vied for the affections of the Amazon Princess. Other times, she would have a whole story dedicated to explaining to poor Steve Trevor that they could not marry until her services as a hero were no longer required. It seemed that Wonder Woman had been relegated to the role of the maiden fending off numerous suitors, as if she were a southern belle. It is interesting to note that during this time, ‘Wonder Women of History’ was replaced with a feature called ‘Marriage a la Mode,’ celebrating the marriage customs of different cultures. Wonder Woman of the 1950’s was in a flux, just like American women. They had been asked to do their part during the war, but when the men came home, it was time to go back into the kitchen. The problem was most women realized an untapped potential to be more than a wife and mother. This would show up in the form of modern feminism in the next decade. It must be pointed out that most of the supporting cast was made up of other women; (Hippolyte, other Amazons, and even a younger version of Wonder Woman, Wonder Girl) but the stories were still centered on marriage and boyfriends.
The artistic team of Ross Andru and Mike Esposito hiked Wonder Woman’s star-spangled shorts a bit, but still the art was very respectful to the female body. No larger than life breasts or pencil thin waists. Wonder Woman had an athletic build and was considered statuesque.
A Change Will Do You Good’
1968 was an interesting year for our Amazing Amazon. After Kanigher’s departure, Editorial Director Carmine Infantino assigned writer Dennis O’Neil and penciller Mike Sekowsky to the title. When a new writer is assigned to a title, the direction of the character usually shifts, but no one could predict the direction O’Neil and team were about to take.
” What they were doing in Wonder Woman, I didn’t see how a kid, male or female, could relate to it. It was so far removed from their world,’ recalled O’Neil.’ (Daniels p. 125) His solution was to remove Wonder Woman’s powers, effectively putting a normal female out into the world to fend for her self. Gone were the magic lasso, bulletproof bracelets, and invisible jet. Wonder Woman was now outfitted in mod 60’s clothes and partnered with an Asian mentor, I Ching. She relied on martial arts instead of Amazon strength. O’Neil believed that by making her a normal person struggling in an extraordinary world, she would be a more viable feminist symbol. Many people agreed and sales skyrocketed. Wonder Woman was kept in this direction for almost two years before a very prominent feminist took a very anti-de-powered Wonder Woman stance: Gloria Steinem.
In July of 1972, Steinem’s new magazine, Ms. hit the newsstands with a familiar face on the cover. Beneath a banner that read ‘Wonder Woman for President’ was a rendering of Wonder Woman, in her traditional costume. Essayist Joanne Edgar took up two pages of the premier issue to denounce the changes made to Wonder Woman, and to assure readers that Wonder Woman would return to her roots in 1973. Steinem also wrote the forward to a hardcover collection of Marston-era Wonder Woman stories, and took the opportunity to denounce the changes herself. Steinem and others felt that by robbing Wonder Woman of her powers and tools, they had weakened an important symbol. She was no longer a unique person. It could also be suggested that because the idea came from a man, that it was an attempt by males to negate a woman as a powerful force. It seemed that Wonder Woman had been adopted by the feminist movement as a powerful symbol of what a woman could aspire to. It is probable that most women who invoked Wonder Woman in their feminist rhetoric had not read some of the more outrageous of Marston’s stories.
Wonder Woman finally got her tiara back in Wonder Woman #204 (January-February 1973). Robert Kanigher was again the editor, if only for a few issues. The adoption of Wonder Woman by Steinem and company appeared to have an immediate influence, as Wonder Woman became a very active superhero, with all manner of villains. For the most part, stories did not center on romance or bondage, but rather on costumed villains and other action oriented heroics. Wonder Woman was finally getting the recognition of being a top notch Super Hero.
It was at this time, Wonder Woman finally appeared on network TV. In the fall of 1975, The New, Original Wonder Woman aired on ABC. Starring Lynda Carter, the first episode dealt with Wonder Woman’s origin, sticking very closely to the comic book version. The ABC show was very tongue in cheek, but was a hit and aired on ABC and CBS, until 1977. Lynda Carter became the first woman to star in an action/adventure TV series, giving more credence to the ties between Wonder Woman and feminists.
The comic book version continued in the same vein through the late 70’s and early 80’s. The only notable event was the change in her costume in 1982. In Wonder Woman #288 (February 1982), the eagle emblazoned on her bustier was traded in for a stylized double w. The change was to herald the creation of the Wonder Woman Foundation, created by DC Comics president Jenette Kahn. The purpose of the foundation was to honor (financially) women over 40 who have made a contribution to society. It was launched to coincide with Wonder Woman’s 40th anniversary.
Rebirth
In 1986, the entire DC Comics universe was given a makeover. Many characters, including Wonder Woman, had amassed a large and convoluted history, thanks to the ever revolving door of writers and editors. The solution was a 12 issue series entitled Crisis on Infinite Earths. Every character in the DC Universe (DCU) was rebooted, but none was as drastic as Wonder Woman. In Crisis #12, she was attacked and devolved into the clay from which she was formed. The clay then spread itself over the shores of Paradise Island. The stage was set for a comeback.
George Perez took on the daunting task of breathing new life into the Amazon Princess. He was well aware of the fact that he was tinkering with an icon. Perez spent copious amounts of time researching Greek Mythology, and also feminism, discussing the project with his wife, editor Karen Berger, DC President Jennette Kahn, and of course, Gloria Steinem. Wonder Woman and feminism were about to become one and the same.
Perez did not tinker with Wonder Woman’s origin too much. He did move her to present day, instead of World War II. She was still a princess, and was raised on an island of amazons. He did, however, give a very feminist slant to the creation of those amazons. In Wonder Woman #1, (February 1987), it was shown that the amazons were the re-incarnated souls of women ‘whose lives had been cut short by the ignorance of man.’ As they migrated to Themyscira (Paradise Island) they became enlightened women, who spent their days learning and constructing. They were no longer the warrior race of mythology. As the champion of the contest that sent her to the Patriarch’s World, Wonder Woman was an ambassador of her nation, charged with espousing the ideals of her Olympian Gods. This Wonder Woman needed no day job; she had an ambassadorial post at the United Nations. She was first a teacher, second, a hero. It is amazing that Perez was able to use Greek Mythology and give it a feminist slant. In the hands of a lesser writer, the task would have failed. Greek Myth is rife with the subjugation and humiliation of women. Perez was able to center on the female contingent of Olympus, and keep the males as chauvinistic as before.
Perez also handled the art chores, and made Wonder Woman look very real and very feminine, without resorting to objectifying art. Her physique was that of an athlete. She was tall, not too slender, and very muscular. It action sequences, you could see the muscles on her body strain as she attempted feats such as tossing tanks around.
During Perez’s run, Wonder Woman spent as much time on the lecture circuit as she did fighting off bad guys. The sales of the comic were strong, but DC was anxious to use their revamped character in more action oriented stories. William Messner-Loebs, took over as writer, but the major change was in the artist, Mike Deodato, Jr. To many people, all the work that was done to portray Wonder Woman as a strong, intelligent female hero flew out the door as Deodato brought his brand of art to the title. Wonder Woman now had very large breasts, a teeny tiny waist, and legs that went on for miles. Sales of the book were incredibly strong, but much of the attention was on the stylized, sexual appearance of the Amazon. Wonder Woman had never looked quite so slutty. Many claimed that Wonder Woman had become cheesecake, never the less, Deodato stayed on until issue #100.
A Look To The Future
Phil Jimenez took over the book and attempted to reconcile some of the continuity problems that had already surfaced on the series. Another talented writer/artist, Jimenez nurtured Wonder Woman through some very tough times. Like a mirror to actual world events, 2001 was a very difficult year for Wonder Woman. Themyscira was embroiled in a heated civil war, which resulted in the abolishment of the matriarchy and the loss of the title of princess for her. In a staggering galactic war, Hippolyta her mother and supporting character since the beginning of the book, was killed. Wonder Woman was shown as a woman who had very human problems to cope with. Her battles were not always with super villains or natural disasters. Jimenez showed a hero who had to deal with mother/daughter issues in a way that had rarely been shown in the series. Wonder Woman and her mother did not always get along! In one of his best issues (Wonder Woman #172) Jimenez weaved a tale of jealousy and forgiveness, as a protective mother (Hippolyta) gave her life to protect her seemingly ungrateful daughter. Jimenez was not afraid to show Wonder Woman in an unflattering light. She was jealous of her mother donning similar armor and leaving the shores of Themyscira to become a hero in her own right. Stories such as these brought some very female oriented issues to the forefront. Wonder Woman had never had to deal with issues of her royal status, her relationship with her mother, and the grief of losing a parent. Of course, she came through all of this on top, and ready to fight the good fight, but it was a difficult and interesting journey.
As 2003 begins, writer Walter Simonson has revisited the non-powered concept of the 60’s. With only 2 issues out, only time will tell if it will be as radical a change as it was before.
In the new millennium of Xena, Lara Croft and other female action heroes, is Wonder Woman still relevant to the feminist movement’ Without her example, many of these franchises would not have had the inspiration to become a reality. Those choppy territories Wonder Woman covered have paved the way. Many writers and artists can use Wonder Woman’s history as a blueprint for what works, and also what doesn’t. Wonder Woman continues to mirror the complexities of feminism; strong and assertive, yet caring and nurturing. All the while balancing family issues and fighting against stereotypes. As her comic book moves ahead, Wonder Woman will continue to tackle issues relating to every woman, and even, every human.
Works Cited:
Daniels, Les. Wonder Woman: The Complete History. San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2001.
Edgar, Joanna ‘Wonder Woman Revisited’: Ms. Warner Communications: (July 1972) 28-29
Jimenez, Phil. Wonder Woman #172. (Second Series) DC Comics: (August 2001)
Kanigher, Robert. Sensation Comics #97. DC Comics: (May-June 1950)
Kanigher, Robert. Wonder Woman #204. DC Comics: (January-February 1973)
Marston, William Moulten. Wonder Woman Archives, Vol. One. New York: DC Comics 1998, 8-16
‘The New, Original Wonder Woman’ Wonder Woman, ABC: November 7, 1975
O’Neil, Dennis. Wonder Woman #177. DC Comics: (July-August 1968)
Perez, George. Wonder Woman #1 (Second Series) DC Comics: (February 1987)
Thomas, Roy. Wonder Woman #288 DC Comics: (February 1982)
Wolfman, Marv. Crisis On Infinite Earths #12 DC Comics: (December 1986)

Michelangelo’s Pietà and Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa

The Pietà (1498-1499) is a masterpiece of Renaissance sculpture by the renowned artist Michelangelo Buonarroti, housed in St. Peter Basilica in Vatican City. It is the first of a number of works of the same theme by the artist. The statue was commissioned for the French cardinal Jean de Billheres, who was a representative in Rome. The statue was made for the cardinal’s funeral monument, but was moved to its current location, the first chapel on the right as one enters the basilica, in the 18th century. It is the only piece Michelangelo ever signed (See History after completion).
This famous work of art depicts the body of Jesus on the lap of his mother Mary after the Crucifixion. The theme is of Northern origin, popular by that time in France but not yet in Italy. Michelangelo’s interpretation of the Pietà is unique to the precedents. It is an important work as it balances the Renaissance ideals of classical beauty with naturalism. The statue is one of the most highly finished works by Michelangelo.
The structure is pyramidal, and the vertex coincides with Mary’s head. The statue widens progressively down the drapery of Mary’s dress, to the base, the rock of Golgotha. The figures are quite out of proportion, owing to the difficulty of depicting a fully-grown man cradled full-length in a woman’s lap.
Michelangelo’s Pieta, Figure 1.8
Much of Mary’s body is concealed by her monumental drapery, and the relationship of the figures appears quite natural. Michelangelo’s interpretation of the Pieta was far different from those previously created by other artists, as he sculpted a young and beautiful Mary rather than an older woman around 50 years of age.
The marks of the Crucifixion are limited to very small nail marks and an indication of the wound in Jesus’ side.
Christ’s face does not reveal signs of The Passion. Michelangelo did not want his version of The Pieta to represent death, but rather to show the “religious vision of abandonment and a serene face of the Son”, thus the representation of the communion between man and God by the sanctification through Christ
Leonardo da Vinci in probably one of the most renowned artist in the world, in this work we will try to depict who the man is through some of his life and some of his predominate works such as The Mona Lisa, The Last Supper, and Self Portrait. These works and the man have been analyzed and critiqued over time and we will attempt to see how his affect on us helped shape some of the art world we live in today.
Da Vinci was an Italian polymath: painter, sculptor, architect, musician, scientist, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, geologist, cartographer, botanist and writer. Leonardo has often been described as the archetype of the Renaissance Man, a man of “unquenchable curiosity” and “feverishly inventive imagination”. He is widely considered to be one of the greatest painters of all time and perhaps the most diversely talented person ever to have lived. According to art historian Helen Gardner, the scope and depth of his interests were without precedent and “his mind and personality seem to us superhuman, the man himself mysterious and remote”. Marco Rosci points out, however, that while there is much speculation about Leonardo, his vision of the world is essentially logical rather than mysterious, and that the empirical methods he employed were unusual for his time.
The Mona Lisa is a 16th-century portrait painted in oil on a poplar panel by Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci during the Renaissance in Florence, Italy. The work is currently owned by the Government of France and is on display at the Musée du Louvre in Paris under the title Portrait of Lisa Gherardini, wife of Francesco del Giocondo.
The painting is a half-length portrait and depicts a seated woman (it is almost unanimous that she is Lisa del Giocondo) whose facial expression is frequently described as enigmatic.] The ambiguity of the subject’s expression, the monumentality of the composition, and the subtle modeling of forms and atmospheric illusionism were novel qualities that have contributed to the continuing fascination and study of the work.[1] The image is so widely recognized, caricatured, and sought out by visitors to the Louvre that it is considered the most famous painting in the world.
Leonardo Da Vinci began painting the Mona Lisa in 1503 or 1504 in Florence, Italy. According to Da Vinci’s contemporary, Giorgio Vasari, “…after he had lingered over it four years, left it unfinished….” It is known that such behavior is common in most paintings of Leonardo who, later in his life, regretted “never having completed a single work”.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mona_Lisa
He is thought to have continued to work on Mona Lisa for three years after he moved to France and to have finished it shortly before he died in 1519. Leonardo took the painting from Italy to France in 1516 when King François I invited the painter to work at the Clos Lucé near the king’s castle in Amboise. Most likely through the heirs of Leonardo’s assistant Salai, the king bought the painting for 4,000 écus and kept it at Château Fontainebleau, where it remained until given to Louis XIV. Louis XIV moved the painting to the Palace of Versailles. After the French Revolution, it was moved to the Louvre. Napoleon I had it moved to his bedroom in the Tuileries Palace; later it was returned to the Louvre. During the Franco-Prussian War (1870-1871) it was moved from the Louvre to the Brest Arsenal.
There has been much speculation regarding the painting’s model and landscape. For example, that Leonardo probably painted his model faithfully since her beauty is not seen as being among the best, “even when measured by late Quattro cento (15th century) or even twenty-first century standards.” Some art historians in Eastern art, such as Yukio Yashiro, also argue that the landscape in the background of the picture was influenced by Chinese paintings, however this thesis has been contested for lack of clear evidence.[12]
Mona Lisa was not well known until the mid-19th century when artists of the emerging Symbolist movement began to appreciate it, and associated it with their ideas about feminine mystique. Critic Walter Pater, in his 1867 essay on Leonardo, expressed this view by describing the figure in the painting as a kind of mythic embodiment of eternal femininity, who is “older than the rocks among which she sits” and who “has been dead many times and learned the secrets of the grave.”
The Last Supper was created when Leonardo da Vinci was already a well known artist when he created his masterpiece The Last Supper. He painted The Last Supper on the back wall of the dining hall at the Dominican convent of Sta Maria delle Grazie in Italy. The reason this painting is laid out the way it is is that Leonardo was trying to “extend the room”, to make it look like Jesus and his apostles were sitting at the end of the dining hall. This painting became an instant famous work of art considering the religious aspects of Christianity at the time of its painting and is considered mysterious by some people to hold hidden messages about the life of Christ and his followers.
The Last painting of Da Vinci we will look at is his own Self Portrait. The portrait is drawn in red chalk on paper. It depicts the head of an elderly man in three-quarter view, turned towards the viewer’s right. The subject is distinguished by his long hair and long waving beard which flow over the shoulders and breast. The length of the hair and beard is uncommon in Renaissance portraits and suggests, as now, a person of sagacity. The face has a somewhat aquiline nose and is marked by deep lines on the brow and pouches below the eyes. It appears as if the man has lost his upper front teeth, causing deepening of the grooves from the nostrils. The eyes of the figure do not engage the viewer but gaze ahead, veiled by the long eyebrows, with a sense of solemnity or disillusionment. If this is indeed a self-portrait of Leonardo, his attitude may reflect the fact that by this time his career was largely behind him, and artistic fashion was beginning to leave him behind.
The drawing has been drawn in fine lines, shadowed by hatching and executed with the left hand, as was Leonardo’s habit. The paper has brownish “fox marks” caused by the accumulation of iron salts due to moisture. It is housed at the Royal Library (Biblioteca Reale) in Turin, Italy, and is not generally viewable by the public due to its fragility and poor condition.
This is just a small sample of the work and the life of one of the most famous if not the most famous artist in the world. All of his works have captivated the art community for centuries. This man probably shaped and influenced some of the greatest and brightest people throughout history. He is one of the most beloved artist as well he was very concentric in that it was not only art in which thing he influenced but here we will just talk about his art and how it helped shape the world of today.

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