Comic Book Curious

William Moulton Martson: Co-creator of Wonder Woman

May 9, 2022
by KK

-A look into the man who gave us the most iconic female comic book character.

Introducing Wonder Woman

Credit: All-American Publication, DC Comics

In America, it is rare that you’ll find someone who isn’t at the very least aware of her existence. Furthermore, should you ask someone to name female comic book characters, most will have her sitting very earlier on the list they recite. What is it that has us going crazy for Wonder Woman? Today’s piece is an exploration into the man behind the woman for some answers.

William Moulton Martson was a Harvard graduate, lawyer & psychologist. With his background in these two fields, he worked on the earliest versions of the polygraph or lie detector test. His wife, Elizabeth, was influential in this work as she exclaimed that her blood pressure would change with the extremity of her mood.

I was privileged to learn about William in a communication seminar at work that delved into his DISC Theory where he believed most people fell into one or a combination of four communication styles based on their personalities. Since then, I have been astounded by what I have learned about myself and hope to continue to do so. This training has impacted me so much that I was compelled to write this article!

Besides his professional accolades, William Moulton Martson also had a great passion for Greek and Roman Mythology and was a strong advocate for women’s rights and comic books in education. A man after my own heart!

An interview with Family Circle Magazine entitled “Don’t Laugh At Comics” in 1940 would lead to an invitation to be an educational advisor to what would become DC Comics. Soon after, in 1941, under the pseudonym Charles Moulton, he would pen the first appearance of Wonder Woman as a guest in All-Star Comics #8. The rest, as they say, was history!

Wonder Woman Cover by Mark Brooks

Credit: DC Comics

Much of his background in Greek and Roman lore, his belief in the balance of dominance and submission to the ideologies of truth and love, along with his reverence and admiration for woman is found in the creation of this character.

Linda Carter as Wonder Woman

Credit: Warner Brothers Studios

Though he would succumb to cancer shortly thereafter in 1947, his work in law, psychology, comic books and female empowerment would live on. Linda Carter in the 1975 Wonder Woman television series and Gail Gadot in the 2017 blockbuster film would take the character and embodiment of female power to greater heights in their adaptations of the world renowned character!

Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman

Credit: Warner Brothers Studios

So, how is it that Wonder Woman is such a successful mainstay years later? I believe it comes from including elements of his DISC Theory being scattered across her personality and problem solving method. Dominance, influence, steadiness and compliance are regularly cycled through much of her story arcs to this very day! It is difficult not to find something relatable about her! But even further than that, you can see how passionate Martson is in representing woman in a light that they truly deserve!

William was once quoted to say about the social standings of women in his day and age:

“Not even girls want to be girls so long as our feminine archetypes lack force, strength and power. Not wanting to be girls, they don’t want to be tender, submissive, peace-loving as good women are. Women’s strong qualities have become despised because of their weakness. The obvious remedy is to create a feminine character with all the strength of Superman plus the allure of a good and beautiful woman.”

Wonder Woman Evolution #7 cover B credit Gary Frank

Credit: DC Comics

This statement and the continued success of his creation years after his passing further solidifies my belief that good stories told by passionate people about the subjects they explore are fundamental for younger people to find themselves in the chaos of the modern day. The need to relate to fantastic characters pitted against outrageous odds and to see that life doesn’t have to be as insurmountable as it often seems. We need stories to show us the heroes and heroines in us. May we find exactly that in our ongoing exploration of self.

As always, Mahalo for reading.

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