William Marston was an unusual man—a psychologist, a soft-porn pulp novelist, more than a bit of a carny, and the (self-declared) inventor of the lie detector. He was also the creator of Wonder Woman, the comic that he used to express two of his greatest passions: feminism and women in bondage.
Comics expert Noah Berlatsky takes us on a wild ride through the Wonder Woman comics of the 1940s, vividly illustrating how Marston’s many quirks and contradictions, along with the odd disproportionate composition created by illustrator Harry Peter, produced a comic that was radically ahead of its time in terms of its bold presentation of female power and sexuality. Himself a committed polyamorist, Marston created a universe that was friendly to queer sexualities and lifestyles, from kink to lesbianism to cross-dressing. Written with a deep affection for the fantastically pulpy elements of the early Wonder Womancomics, from invisible jets to giant multi-lunged space kangaroos, the book also reveals how the comic addressed serious, even taboo issues like rape and incest.
Wonder Woman: Bondage and Feminism in the Marston/Peter Comics 1941-1948 reveals how illustrator and writer came together to create a unique, visionary work of art, filled with bizarre ambition, revolutionary fervor, and love, far different from the action hero symbol of the feminist movement many of us recall from television.
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NOAH BERLATSKY is the editor of the comics and culture blog The Hooded Utilitarian. He has written on gender, comics, and culture for many publications, including Slate, Public Books, The Chicago Reader, Reason, The Comics Journal, The Baffler, and The Atlantic.Review:
"Insightful...Berlatsky examines some of the most complex and controversial aspects of Wonder Woman. The analysis is solid, the research is thorough, and the conclusions are valid." (Publishers Weekly)
"Zounds! Who knew the wonders of Wonder Woman's sadomasochistic complexities? If you only know the TV show, get ready for the ropes and lassoes and chains of the 40's comics as examined by Noah Berlatsky. Be sure to buy the e-book to see the original images in glorious color!" (Linda Williams UC Berkeley)
"Berlatsky does a dazzling and remarkably accessible reading of the 1940s Wonder Woman comics against some fo the heavyweights of modern feminist theory - Judith Butler, Luce Irigaray, Shulamith Firestone, Julia Kristeva, Susan Brownmiller." (Women's Review of Books)
"Engaging and entertaining." (Sean Kleefeld FreakSugar)
"An engaging read from start to finish, and Berlatsky’s love of Golden Age Wonder Woman comics comes through on every page." (Comics Journal)
"The research is astonishing. The dedication is breathtaking. And the fact that this would actually be usable as a college textbook in either a women’s literature, comic history, or even pop culture class is awesome." (Comic Booked.com)
"Berlatsky, the editor of Hooded Utilitarian (a comics and culture site), has written a work filled with deep scholarly insights on the history and politics of Wonder Woman's creator, as well as a larger examination of the histories, lifestyles and personal ethos that gave rise to one of popular culture's most powerful figures." (Mic.com)
"Noah Berlatsky took a deep dive into the marriage of psychology and artwork that is [William] Marston’s enduring pop culture impact." (New City Lit.com)
"Berlatsky's accomplished analysis of [Wonder Woman]'s sexuality and narrative themes tell us much about Marston's philosophies." (Cinema Journal)
"Berlatsky does a dazzling and remarkably accessible reading of the 1940s Wonder Woman comics against some of the heavyweights of modern feminist theory—Judith Butler, Luce Irigaray, Shulamith Firestone, Julia Kristeva, Susan Brownmiller." (Joan Hilty Wellesley Centers for Women, Women's Review of Books)
"[Berlatsky] reminds us of how Wonder Woman’s non-normative forms of sexuality and womanhood actually challenge sexism. " (Public Books)
"[Berlatsky] combs the verbal and visual texts to show how Marston and Peter conveyed their unique notions of liberation through bondage, submission, and the glorification of lesbian sexuality while simultaneously linking these ideas to feminism and freedom." (Gay & Lesbian Review)
"Berlatsky can always be counted on to show us new facets of what he examines, in fact, to show that the facets are part of a whole shape heretofore unperceived." (Carla Speed McNeil writer/artist of Finder)
"In this smart and engaging book, Noah Berlatsky reveals how psychology, polyamory, bondage, feminism, and queer identities inspired comic books' most enduring superheroine. A fascinating read for anyone interested in comics, pop culture, or gender politics!" (Julia Serano Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity)
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