Ah, Wonder Woman, an iconic heroine with a history so long, she might be the only woman that both your dad and granddad fantasized about when they were growing up. These days she’s the beautiful and powerful female role model of the DC cinematic universe and comic books, but her history hasn’t always been so squeaky clean. Indeed, with a history as long as hers, it would be weird not to have a few swerves here and there. Since Princess Diana is from the Golden Age of comics (i.e., around the 30s and 40s), she has more than her share of shocking moments.
Now, you might think that Wonder Woman, as a feminist icon and symbol of women’s empowerment, has lead a virtuous all-American existence inspiring the young girls and women of tomorrow. But even amongst comic book superheroes she has some pretty wacky, surprising and downright wicked things in her past. From her bizarre origin to her dark deeds of the modern era, she’s done enough weird and controversial stuff to give Batman a run for his money.
So, let’s coil up our lassos, strap on our bracers that we may or may not need for protection and fuel up the Invisible Jet with some invisible jet fuel. We’re flying to Paradise Island (or Themyscira, depending) to check out some of the more shocking things from the most wondrous of women’s past.
25 We Didn't Expect This From Her
What could America’s darling superheroine role model have to do with Fifty Shades of Grey stuff? A whole lot, actually. Her creator, William Moulton Marston, was a feminist and believed in the empowerment of women. At times, he liked women to have all the power. He really enjoyed women telling him what to do.
This shows up frequently in the early issues of Wonder Woman comics, and she often used it against men. She would tie men up and dominate them until they reform their ways and pledge to help America fight the Nazis. Seriously. One of her primary weapons, the Lasso of Truth, ties someone up in nearly every comic, movie, game or show she appears in. Why was her creator into that kind of stuff and project it onto her? Well…
24 Her Creator Was A Deviant
Now, I mean this in the most literal and respectful way. William Moulton Marston was a bit of a deviant. Besides his peculiar past times as mentioned above, Marston lived with his wife and his mistress together in his home in a polyamorous relationship. He had two children with each of the women and they all lived as one big family.
Now, don’t go labeling him as some sort of pig with a harem. The relationship was consensual between all parties, and both women, as well as Marston, embodied feminist ideals. They shared responsibilities equally and by all accounts were very loving to each other. It’s just interesting to see how Wonder Woman has been portrayed as a pure role model, considering the non-traditional freak fest she was born out of.
23 She’s Big On Killing
When Wonder Woman was first created, she embodied the traditional viewpoint of “no killing” that many other superheroes share. She even went out of her way to reform evil doers, unlike Batman and Superman, because her creator believed that women embodied all of the good things humanity possessed like compassion and love for peace. Over several updates throughout the years to her character, though, she got pretty brutal.
She frequently kills monsters and demons, which doesn’t seem like a bad deal until you take into account that they are often sapient. Furthermore, she kills fellow gods and demi-gods at points in her career such as Ares and the cleverly named firstborn son of Zeus, First Born. But she doesn’t kill humans! Well, except for all those people (including children) in the Injustice and Flashpoint timelines. But, that’s not the main Wonder Woman continuity! That Wonder Woman doesn’t kill people…unless they are telepaths who mind control Superman, then she snaps their necks like twigs. But that’s just one guy; surely she hasn’t killed a bunch of people by causing natural disasters or anything, right?
22 Getting With Superman Wasn't A Good Idea
Frank Miller is an odd guy. Sometimes he creates dark masterpieces like Sin City and the Dark Knight Returns. Other times, he makes Wonder Woman and Superman cause natural disasters that kill people because they create shockwaves when they bump uglies.
The pair has a rather long and drawn out romantic scene in Frank Miller’s poorly received The Dark Knight Strikes Back. As a result of this titanic tryst, they literally make the Earth move. Now, I may not be a geologist or superhero moral studies instructor, but shockwaves that move the Earth are generally bad for the people living on it. They likely killed thousands of people because they couldn’t keep it in their respective tights or, I don’t know, do it in space or something.
21 She Can Wield Thor’s Hammer (Yes, That Thor)
In the 90s, we got all sorts of weird comic book goodness including a Marvel/DC crossover where the mightiest heroes of justice from both realities clashed. At one point in the event, Wonder Woman battles Storm of the X-Men and spies the powerful Mjolnir, Thor’s hammer. She grasps the hammer and lifts it, transforming herself and proving herself as worthy if not more so than Thor himself.
To add insult to Asgardian injury, Wonder Woman soon discards the hammer despite the power she can feel flowing through it. She says that fighting Storm with such a powerful weapon simply would not be fair and casts it off. Oh snap Thor, Wonder Woman not only can wield your hammer but also throws it away because, “Eh, not for me.”
20 She’s Had Some Seriously Wacky Hardware
It’s understandable why Wonder Woman would ditch Mjolnir. After all, she’s already got some rad armaments already including her Lasso of Truth, indestructible bracers and more swords than you can shake a… uh… sword at. But her arsenal hasn’t always been so awesome.
Back in the day, she had a bunch of weird items like a purple ray that brought people back from the dead. She also used to use her royal tiara as a kind of wacky boomerang that she would throw at people. I wasn’t aware that tiaras worked that way but I’m neither a woman nor am I wonderful (except to my mom) so what do I know. She also used to fly around in an invisible plane that was around so long, that it got updated from having invisible propellers to having invisible jet engines. She must have traded it in at the invisible flying vehicle retailer and splurged on jets rather than buying the more economical translucent dirigible.
19 Her Powers Have Been All Over The Place
In addition to her crazy weapons, Princess Diana used to have some pretty far out abilities. She has the standard array of super strength, near invulnerability and flight because presumably, her lease ran out on that invisible plane. She can also channel Zeus’s lightning through her bracers and slam them together to make a shockwave powerful enough to make Superman’s ears bleed. All cool here.
But in the past, Wonder Woman was able to do a host of weird things like talking to animals (super princess core) and telepathically communicate through a “mental radio” that was basically just Skype. She could also read the minds of all the soldiers in the world since she is the God of War. At one point she even uses an ability similar to Superman’s super breath, which I’m guessing she sucked out of him while they were playing tonsil hockey a few entries ago.
18 She Has The Only Good Movie In The DC Cinematic Universe (According To Superman)
Like it or not, the recent Wonder Woman movie was a commercial and critical success. It may not be a Dark Knight, but it pulled off an impressive balancing act and pleased a lot of people which is something that previous DC movies have been unable to do. Man of Steel, Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad just weren’t very good compared to Wonder Woman. Don’t agree with me? That’s fine because Superman does.
In a recent interview Henry Cavill, the man who currently plays Superman in the films admitted that the DC cinematic universe movies just didn’t work until Wonder Woman. He even admits that while his own films made a lot of money, they were not well liked, especially by critics. It took a woman to finally grab hold of the tone style that DC needed to be a critical success. Which is all the more shocking when you learn that…
17 Her First Movie Appearance Wasn’t Until 2014
The Wonder Woman character is nearly as old as Batman and Superman. She was created way back in 1941 and has a storied history over 70 years long. Despite this, many of her fellow DC superheroes had big-budget film adaptations throughout the decades while she languished on smaller screens. It wasn’t until an appearance in 2014’s Lego Movie that Princess Diana finally made her way to the big screen.
That’s right, a bit part in a movie about Legos is the first time a 70-year-old cultural icon appeared in a theatrical release. Interesting side note: Wonder Woman’s voice actor for The Lego Movie was Cobie Smulders. You might recognize her from her role as Agent Hill in the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies. Scandalous! Don’t tell Disney she’s been working for the enemy.
16 She Had A Successful TV Show (And A Couple Not So Successful Ones)
Wonder Woman may have only recently found silver screen success, but she is no stranger to the small screen. No kids, I’m not talking about the questionable fan art on your computer screens, I’m talking about TV screens. Diana has found mixed success in the TV world stretching as far back as the 60s. Recently, a failed 2011 live-action series starring Adrianne Palicki, who would later become Marvel’s Mockingbird (more treason!).
Wonder Woman had a pretty successful TV show in 70s starring timeless babe Lynda Carter. This show was well liked by fans as it was campy enough to be fun but not Adam West levels of camp. Prior to this, there was a Wonder Woman TV movie that was moderately successful but for some reason portrayed a blonde Wonder Woman. Even further back, in the 60s, there were plans for a TV show entitled Who’s Afraid of Diana Prince? This show would have had that Adam West camp with a focus on “comedy and starred a mostly depowered, un-Amazonian Wonder Woman. Bullet dodged, or in this case, deflected.
15 Her Origin Story Went Through a Major Retcon
If you’re relatively new to Wonder Woman lore, you probably know that (spoiler alert) Wonder Woman is the daughter of Zeus and Queen Hippolyta. But this is a recent development, having been only applied in her recent live-action movie and the New 52 comic continuity and beyond. Her original origin story from the 40s was much different.
Princess Diana was first written as a statue shaped out of clay by Queen Hippolyta, who was lonely and desired a daughter to care for and teach. Zeus breathed life into this statue and Diana was born. This may seem wacky, but it is actually quite fitting as Wonder Woman’s feminist creator wanted an origin that did not involve a man at all (gods apparently don’t count). A later Wonder Woman writer attempted to retcon this early in Wonder Woman’s existence because he was apparently not “woke” as the kids say. He tried to insinuate that Wonder Woman had a human father, but fan backlash proved too great, and he ceased all mention of it.
14 Her Original Name Was Dumb
Speaking of origins, Wonder Woman’s name wasn’t always so catchy and alliterative. It’s hard to imagine her as anything else, but Diana, Princess of Themyscira and ambassador to the world of man, was originally going to have the name Suprema the Wonder Woman. Yes, that’s right, Wonder Woman almost had a name that sounded like an economy model of a four-door sedan.
It isn’t even creative that name. He just swapped out a vowel in a word that described her. You don’t see guys like Batman or Power Girl running around with names like “Dirk and Breeding” or “Huga Beebs.” Fortunately, Marston was convinced to drop the name and keep the tagline, and the world is thankful for it.
13 She Was An Instant Hit
It’s hard to imagine now, but there was a time when there were absolutely no female superheroes. Sure, there were sidekicks here and there and witty yet submissive secretaries, but there was no main title superheroine for the other half of the world to look up to. Male characters like The Green Lantern, Batman or The Phantom dominated the comics of the day. Then along came Wonder Woman in All-Star Comics #8.
From there, Wonder Woman took off. Less than a year after her first appearance she had her very own dedicated comic book; something very few characters had back then. Not only that, but she did it faster than Batman or Superman. Who would have thought that the only character to represent half of the freaking human race would be so popular?
12 She Was A Founding Member Of The Justice League
Despite the male-dominated world of comics in the 50s and 60s, Wonder Woman’s popularity was too enormous to ignore. When DC comic decided to make a new super team, they knew what they had to do. Back in 1960, Princess Diana was a founding member of the Justice League. She helped to found the league along with Superman, Aquaman, Flash, Green Lantern, Martian Manhunter, and Batman.
She has played an integral role in nearly every incarnation of the league that has ever existed. Her popularity was so enormous that she now is part of DC’s Holy Trinity of Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman. Fortunately, she was not relegated to being the “girl” member of the team and given little to do, but she wasn’t always that lucky.
11 She Had A Less Than Glamorous Super Team Debut
Wonder Woman was also part of the Justice Society of America, an older super team from the Golden Age but her role on that team was way different. She was inducted as an honorary member of the JSA and given the prestigious title of… secretary. Yep, the first woman hero got stuff being a receptionist.
As bad as this looks, things are not as they appear. One of the reasons Wonder Woman was sidelined and not given much page time is because she was too popular; the JSA book was intended to show off lesser characters and boost their popularity. Her creator also wanted full control over all her appearances, so the writers of JSA had to put her in cameo roles until Marston got around to writing for her (she had several series by then). So oddly it was a feminist who made Diana into a secretary.
10 The Creator’s Lovers Had Hands (And Wrists) In Her Creation
William Moulton Marston, Wonder Woman creator, and big love enthusiast, drew much of the inspiration for Princess Diana from his wife, Elizabeth and live-in mistress, Olive. Marston wanted to create a character that embodied the feminine ideal, not in shape (although she has that covered) but in spirit. Their peace-loving and compassionate virtues along with their capacity for forgiveness and desire to reform shaped much of Diana’s personality. Marston combined these traits with the power of Superman to give a role model for girls to look up to.
Marston even went a step further and based Wonder Woman’s physical appearance and armament off of those of his lovers. Olive Byrne, his mistress, often wore matching heavy bracelets on her arms which are the inspiration for Diana’s iconic bullet blockers.
9 Her Creator Helped Develop The Lie Detector
When Wonder Woman wraps her magic lasso around someone, they are compelled to tell the truth. It’s sort of like a perfect, error-free version of our polygraph test. This is no accident, as William Moulton Marston was an accomplished psychiatrist and is considered to be the “father of the lie detector.” While he did not invent the machine, he made it more accurate and reliable through his work on systolic blood pressure.
He noticed that when his wife Elizabeth got mad or excited, her blood pressure would rise. He later found a connection between lying and an increase in that same kind of blood pressure. It’s no wonder (pun not intended) that he gave an idealized version of one of his greatest creations to another. Marston also gave her this weapon because he believed women were more honest than men. My experience shows zero evidence of that, but that’s probably just my bad taste in women.
8 Don't You Seal That Milk!
Most Golden Age Superheroes liked to pass their time by beating the ever living crap out of Nazis and Hitler himself. After all, there was a war on, and Hitler managed to get more people to want to drop kick him than anyone else in history (although these days he might have a challenger for the title). Wonder Woman was no different than the other heroes in this regard and caught that Fascist-Fighting-Fever.
She did it in shall we say, unique ways, however. In one instance, she uncovered a plot by the Nazis to buy up America’s milk and dump it. That way, her children would grow up weak and stunted. A couple of short decades later, and the Germans could easily crush the milk-starved capitalists. Luckily, Wonder Woman found out, drop-kicked the dastardly dairy destroyers and ensured that America’s children, as well as milk industry profits, would stay healthy.
7 She Ran For President (Twice)
I don’t know about you, but if Wonder Woman ran for president in real life, I wouldn’t be able to get to the polls fast enough. She’s smart, powerful, hot, skilled in diplomacy, super hot, able to read minds kind of, versed in the ways of war and, lest we forget, ultra-mega hot. Plus, she would outfit our air force with useful yet ridiculous stealth technology. She would be like a female Justin Trudeau; only she wouldn’t apologize so much.
In a weird “what if” storyline that Marston wrote, Wonder Woman becomes president in the 31st century after learning to live forever (best not to think about the plot details). She ushers in a matriarchal paradise, which is not out character for Marston’s feminist rhetoric. The second time was when famed feminist Gloria Steinem wrote a famous piece in Ms. Magazine on Wonder Woman with a giant cover illustration that read “Wonder Woman for President.” It was supremely hot.
6 Her Movie Is Banned In Multiple Countries
Remember how we talked about all those people liking the recent live-action Wonder Woman movie? Well, most of the world is on board, but there are a couple of holdout countries that have banned the Wonder Woman movie for a pretty silly reason. Lebanon and Tunisia both blocked its release, and if you know anything about geopolitics you can probably guess why.
The lead actress who plays Diana is Gal Gadot (don’t ask me how to pronounce that, it’s harder than it looks). Now, Gal Gadot is an Israeli who, like all Israeli citizens, has served in her nation’s military. She has also publicly voiced her support for her country. Israel…is not the most popular country in the world. It’s a long story, but the fact that entire nations will ban a movie just because the lead actress is from there should clue enough.
5 You’ve Likely Heard Her Actress Before
We talked a bit about Wonder Woman’s first successful live-action television series and its still, to this day, smoking hot lead actress. If you haven’t heard of Lynda Carter, you’ve likely still heard her voice recently. Besides being an ageless succubus (but, you know, the awesome kind), Lynda Carter is an accomplished singer and voice actor.
Carter’s multiple talents go beyond acting to the realms of Jazz singing and voice over. Ever played an Elder Scrolls game or Fallout 4? If yes, then you’ve heard Carter as one of several characters in the Elder Scrolls series dating back to Morrowind. You also may have heard her sing as Magnolia, the sultry lounge singer from Goodneighbor.
4 A Figurative And Literal Goddess
Yeah, Wonder Woman has the body of a goddess, as does her leading actor from the 70s (last one, I swear), but did you know she was an actual goddess several times in her existence? As a daughter of Zeus, or some weird clay statue he made into a person, Diana has always been a divine character with blood ties to the gods, but she earned the mantle of both Goddess of Truth and Goddess of War.
Wonder Woman was dead for a little while, as most comic characters are wont to do. When she died she was granted the title of Goddess of Truth for her service and because there wasn’t a previous Goddess of Truth to object; Olympus had no positions open so they made one for her. More recently in the New 52 continuity, she became the Goddess of War in the opposite way. Instead of dying for divinity, she made Ares do the dying and took up his mantle.
3 She Isn’t Allowed To Wear Pants
Spend a lot of time on the internet, and you will learn the awesome power that is nerd rage. Hardcore fans feel so entitled and have so much time on their hands, that they can alter the course of pop culture with their blind, frothing rage. Sometimes it can be a positive force, causing tone-deaf corporate fat cats to reverse bad decisions, but usually, they get mad for dumb reasons. Not even Wonder Woman is safe.
In the New 52 reboot of the DC continuities, a lot of characters got fresh new looks. Superman ditched the undies on the outside look and bright colors, and Wonder Woman traded her swimsuit-like onesie for a set of long pants. A significant portion of the internet went nuts. Now, I’m not going to sit here and say that a bunch of people on the internet shrouded their desire to see Wonder Woman’s thighs by claiming the costume is not “traditional Wonder Woman.” But it sure looks that way. The design was hastily changed back to the bikini bottom that fans apparently love so much.
2 Just A Toddler And Her Genie
No cliffhanger provocative entry title here. That’s exactly what happened. Due to the popularity of the Superboy comics that looked back at Superman’s formative years before he became the Man of Steel, DC decided to give Wondy the same treatment. She got her very own Wonder Girl comics depicting her adventures as a teen. But, bizarrely, they went even further back in time.
They created the actually named “Wonder Tot” series sometime later that depicted Diana as a toddler. In it, she gets up to cutesy shenanigans with her best friend, a genie who is of course named Mr. Genie. For real. Mr. Genie was sort of like a worried babysitter most of the time as Lil’ Diana forced him to her on adventures like going to space to get a meteor for a sweet hairpin. Man, comics can be dumb sometimes.
1 You'll Never Guess Her Weakness...
Remember William Moulton Marston, the freaky polyamorist who was into weird things? Yeah, well, having Wonder Woman use her bonding obsession on her enemies just wasn’t enough for this guy. Besides Diana using it on others, her weakness also happens to be being bound. Not just by anyone though; it has to be by men. I’m not talking a simple pair of handcuffs either; I’m talking elaborate Japanese style stuff.
Why would a feminist write his character to have a weakness toward men? Well, his original concept involved Diana being weakened only when she voluntarily submitted to this by a man. It also had to include binding of her magic bracers, but the idea got muddled along the way, and it eventually turned into the act straight-up. That was his idea of defeat for a woman, to submit willingly to man’s brutish ways. Also, the guy loved himself some restrained naughty time.