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Wonder Woman: Bondage and Feminism in the Marston/Peter Comics, 1941-1948 (Comics Culture) Paperback – December 8, 2014
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Like Lepore, Berlatsky explores how these early superhero comics are connected to the broader histories of feminism, pacifism, and sexuality. Unlike the longer history, though, Berlatsky does not just reduce Marston and Wonder Woman to expressions of larger historical or cultural discourses. Berlatsky, as a writer and a thinker, is strongly committed to exploring what makes the Marston/Peter “Wonder Woman” comic books unique, idiosyncratic, experimental, and strange – that is, what turns them into expressions of unconventional and truly queer genius.
Berlatsky digs deep into Marston’s playful and playfully odd visions of bondage and freedom, submission and power, feminism and gender and love – linking all his claims to the way that these ideas take shape in particular Wonder Woman stories (and not just in the comics’ cultural or psychological context). He them takes all these ideas and plays with them himself, connecting Marston’s ideas and obsessions to Freud and Lacan, Eve Sedgwick and Judith Butler, Stan Lee and Stephanie Meyer.
As these last names indicate, Berlatsky’s own argument and his use of these other writers and thinkers is playful and suggestive – and sometimes even as funny and weird as the Wonder Woman comics he analyzes. This is not a by-the-numbers application of Theory X to Book Y to get Result Z.Read more ›
I was reminded at times of Ed Wood's story, and how (in certain ways) open the society of 1940s America was, with the war and then later returning veterans and a sense of moral possibility, culturally and narratively - reflected in the occasional studies of and movies about that time period. Oftentimes the impulse is to conflate WWII and post-WWII with the early 1950s, which was, in many ways, a reaction to that time - there was a sense that America had gone off the rails, and that the communists, who now had nuclear capabilities, were going to overcome us because of what was perceived at the time as moral weakness.
Works like this are important to understanding current stories, and the myths we hold about our grandparents and ourselves. "Wonder Woman: Bondage and Feminism in the Marsten/Peters Comics" is a great place to begin the conversation, or to continue it - especially if you, as a reader, prize intellectually measured analysis, rather than sentimental myth.
Its focus on William Marston and Harry J Peter's original run of the Wonder Woman comics is a great choice-- these stories were some of the most surreal, wondrous and provocative comics published in the history of the medium.
This book provides a deep reading of several issues of the original Wonder Woman run, with high quality images of the pages. The author enriches his initial analysis by drawing on diverse theories of gender, sexuality, family relations, violence and heroism, which illustrate how deeply this comic considered the role, responsibilities and identity of a female superhero.
Best of all, the author is willing to meet the Wonder Woman creators on their own terms. The original Wonder Woman comics had a lot of daring subject matter, and rather than dismiss or lampoon it, Berlatsky bravely celebrates and honors the creator's gutsy (and raunchy) vision. He doesn't dismiss the sexuality as a symptom of Marston's polygamous marriage (which he does describe in detail,) but as both stemming from the same philosophical initiative. Wonder Woman was explicitly intended to envision a love-filled utopia, and a new kind of leadership, and its fantastic to see the ambitions of the comics and creators highlighted. Few comics from this era were meant to be taken as inspiration for a new world order!
A courageous and entertaining book, especially for true lovers of the comics medium.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A wonderful thought provoking book about the queer, feminist, bondage that is the center of a utopian view espoused by William Marston in the early Wonder Woman comics. Read morePublished 15 months ago by David Fisher
What's particularly rewarding about Noah Berlatsky's book is that Wonder Woman is not narrowed to her superficial mainstream image. Read morePublished 16 months ago by Gitch X
In this eminently readable book, NOAH BERLATSKY provides insightful analysis and interpretation of the "Wonder Woman" comics, 1941-48. Read morePublished 16 months ago by Sherman D. Winters