The Secret History of Wonder Woman — Review

February 24, 2015

The Secret History of Wonder Woman is a book that I actually pre-ordered because I was so intrigued by the story Jill Lepore was telling and it holds up. The book is incredibly interesting. It was great to see how the character of Wonder Woman in many ways grew from the women’s suffrage and women’s liberation movements.

My main complaint is that this book felt like three stories in one. All of the stories are connected and I understand Lepore’s motivation in spending time introducing the readers to Sanger and Byrne and their struggles wight he beginnings of the birth control movement, as well as Marston’s early research, but at a certain point it feels like that’s not what I was really promised and not what I started reading the book to learn about (especially all the stuff about Marston’s research. I get that it’s kind of his “origin story,” but…yeah).

I’m still getting my feet wet with comics and so I learned a lot about the early days of comics and Wonder Woman from this book. It wasn’t quite the scandalous history I’d been hoping for (and maybe lead to believe) — I think Marston comes off more as delusional and mercenary than truly forward-thinking — but it was certainly an interesting read.

If I’m being picky, I would have liked to see a bit more of a discussion of what a resurgence of interest in comic books and Wonder Woman means, especially for her place as a feminist icon. The book is kind of front-loaded; we get a lot of examination of the groundwork the came before Marston created Wonder Woman, then it seems like we trot right through most of her hey-day and positively speed through the decades after Marston’s death and Wonder Woman’s weakening and revival. But really, as a whole, I enjoyed this book. It was interesting and informative and I now know way more about Wonder Woman and early comic books than I ever expected.

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