Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Man Behind the Amazon

Wonder Woman creator, William Moulton Marston was born on May 9, 1893 in Cliftondale Massachusettes. He earned his A.B. from Harvard in 1915 and a law degree in 1918. Then in 1921 received his Ph. D. in psychology. Though he is most famous for creating Wonder Woman and inventing the lie detector, he had many jobs and positions throughout his life. Marston was also author of several best-selling books on psychology and a contributor to magazines, such as Family Circle. He taught at various universities in the country, including American, Columbia and Tufts. He even spent a year as director of public services at Universal Studios in California in 1929. Also, it was from his tests of personality traits that the DISC is based on.

Marston also acted as an expert witness in many court cases, including the Frye Case in 1923. This case became the standard by which any scientific evidence or expert testimony was introduced to the court or seen as admissable. That standard being: "Just when a scientific principle or discovery crosses the line between the experiemental and the demonstrable stage is difficult to define. Somewhere in the twilight zone the evidential force of the principle must be recognized, and while courts will go a long way in admitting expert testimony deduced from a well-organized scientific principle or discovery, the thing from which the deduction is mafe must be sufficiently established to have gained general acceptance in the particular field in which is belongs." (Moore) And since the lie detector has been a point of controversy and contention from its very inception, this ruling isn't surprising. Despite that, Marston always maintained that his machine could in fact detect lies. Once claiming that it was correct in 97 out 100 actual case studies.

Much of Marston's lie detector and psychological theory was heavily influenced and informed by his wife, Elizabeth Holloway. The two married in 1915 after his graduation from Harvard. The two eventually had two children, Pete and Olive Ann. Elizabeth's influence on his theories and work isn't the only thing that made their marriage different or controversial for their time. While teaching at Tufts in the late 1920s, Marston met Olive Byrne. She soon moved in and became partner to both Marston and Elizabeth. She also had two children with Marston, Byrne and Donn, who were both adopted by Marston and Elizabeth. The family was so happy and content, that even after Marston's death 1947 they didn't go their seperate ways.

In 1940, Marston was appointed educational consultant for Detective Comics, Inc. (or DC Comics) by M.C. Gaines. Marston was always a staunch defender of the comic book medium. Even writing an article entitled, "Why 100,000,000 Americans Read Comics." Saying, "I see no fault in fictionland piece in which the characters embody not only skill and strength, but qualities of maternal love, affection, and tenderness. All are essential to the normal child as is the breath of life itself." (Colgan) He felt the snobbery on the part of many was uncalled for as it was missing a few huge points; that pictures tell stories better, the comics were getting children to read and not taking advantage of one of the mediums so many children had gravitated to by filling it with constructive and substantial material was a huge loss and missed opportunity.

In particular, Marston felt that comics would be the perfect vehicle for his theories of a coming "age of 'American matriarchy' in which 'women would take over the rule of the country, politically and economically.'" (Gillespie) Marston's theory on gender was about as radical for his time as his homelife. He once wrote an article for Family Circle called, "Women can out-think men!" Marston believed in a kind of "feminist utopia," that would come as "political and economic equality became a reality women could and would use sexual enslavement to acheive domination over men, who would happily submit to their loving authority."

It is this kind of thinking and the fact that comic superhereos were almost exclusively male at the time, that led to the creation of Wonder Woman in 1941. The heroine first appearing in All-Star Comics and her creator taking on the pen-name Charles Moulton; a combination of his middle name and the middle name of DC head, M.C. Gaines. Marston's theory greatly influenced the character's behavior and even her equipment, her Lasso of Truth being an homage of sorts to his lie detector. He also adamant about the fact that Diana herself should never hurt or kill an enemy (with the exception of Nazis). It was his belief that women were superior because of their ability to "have love in addition to force" (Edgar) while men as whole only have force and aggression that brings evil. He determined that Wonder Woman be the exact opposite of the "bloodcurdling masculinity" that permeated comics and be a symbol of love and reform. Something he tried to established from her very first pages on.

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