Although cinematically something of a minor player in comparison to the big-screen heft of characters like Avengers, the X-Men, Superman and Batman, Wonder Woman is in fact one of the very first superheroes.
Because her story has been published in comic form almost without interruption since 1941. And what a story it is. Wonder Woman (real name: Princess Diana of Themyscira, Daughter of Hippolyta) was, er, created out of clay and brought to life by the gods of Olympus. (Meh.)
Wonder Woman as psychological propaganda
Originally Wonder Woman was very much one of the anti-Axis tropes of super-fighters of WWII. She was also the invention of William Moulton Marston. Who? He was a psychologist — and invented the lie-detector.
Marston had high hopes for his comic creation. “Frankly, Wonder Woman is psychological propaganda for the new type of woman who, I believe, should rule the world.”
But by the late ’60s, times — and Wonder Woman — had changed. Taking her cue from the then-popular British TV Avengers show, Diana now had no powers whatsoever except her fists. Plus she runs a clothing boutique, and – gasp — was seemingly arbitrarily no longer raven-headed, but blonde.
And this was the version of Wonder Woman that Cathy Lee Crosby played in the 1974 “Made-for-TV” movie by ABC. “Made-for-TV” — at the time, perhaps the most damning phrase in all entertainment. Was it lack of budget that meant the production featured only one solitary action sequence? Probably. In any case, the critics were lukewarm. “Respectable but not exactly wondrous” was the general view.
But only one year later, Wonder Woman was relaunched as the (paradoxical) “New Original Wonder Woman,” played by Lynda Carter and with — at last — dark hair. A hit.