The Evolution Of The Costume Change

Today I was reading Comic Book Legends Revealed, as I do every week, and the latest installment investigates who came up with the idea of Wonder Woman twirling her lasso to change into her costume.  Editor Julius Schwartz took credit for the idea but writer Len Wein says that it was actually his, and ultimately CBLR sided with Wein.

This post gave me the idea to look back at how Wonder Woman has changed into her costume throughout the years.  I am all about the evolution of Wonder Woman, usually in terms of feminism and gender dynamics and the like, but in terms of costume issues is a good time too.  Plus, you know, fun pictures!!

We start with William Moulton Marston and H.G. Peter, all the way back in the 1940s.  It appears that they had no special means for Diana Prince to become Wonder Woman.  Instead, she just snuck out of sight and tore off her regular clothes to reveal her costume underneath.  Rather uneventful really.  Here is a great panel from Wonder Woman #8, where a sleeping Wonder Woman, alerted that Steve has been captured, flings off her nightgown with one hand and tries to put on her boots with the other:

Interestingly, while Marston and Peter didn’t have any particular gimmick for the costume change, they may have actually given us the first instance of the famous spin change.  In Wonder Woman #6, Diana introduced Wonder Woman at a charity event, and then exited and returned to the stage so fast that it looked like she was actually passing herself as she came back dressed as Wonder Woman.  The resulting panel is reminiscent of the spin change popularized on the Wonder Woman TV show:

In 1958, when Ross Andru and Mike Esposito took over the art duties on the series, Wonder Woman got her first stylized costume change.  They drew several Wonder Womans in a panel, each at a different stage of undress, ranging from a fully dressed Diana Prince to Wonder Woman decked out in her uniform.  The idea was to create a blur effect, showing how fast the change was, as we can see in this panel from Wonder Woman #103:

The mod era Wonder Woman had no need of a costume change, so the next big shift didn’t occur until 1974.  In the method examined today in “Comic Book Legends Revealed”, Diana twirled her lasso around herself, changing her regular clothes INTO her Wonder Woman outfit.  This panel from Wonder Woman #212, drawn by Curt Swan, shows its first appearance:

The lasso twirl was quickly followed by the TV show in 1975, which used twirling of a different sort.  Rather than twirl the lasso, Diana twirled herself, spinning while an explosion of light burst in front of her, and then emerging as Wonder Woman:

SIDENOTE: CBLR suggests that Wein’s lasso twirl “was later adapted (though slightly tweaked)” for the TV show, but I disagree (very politely, of course).  Lynda Carter has always claimed that the spin was her invention, and its original format is quite different from the comic book.  The iconic spin/light flash suggests a magical sort of change, as does the comic book, but in the pilot it was essentially just Lynda Carter taking her clothes off while spinning.  Producer Don Kramer even described it as “a slow motion strip tease.”  You can see it here:

This, for some reason, was very expensive to shoot, so they changed it to the light flash that is so famous today.  This original intent, combined with Wonder Woman being the spinner AND Carter’s claims, suggests to me that the twirling similarities between the comic and the show were just a coincidence.

ANOTHER SIDENOTE:  Is it just me, or did Lynda Carter look a lot like Katie Holmes in that clip?  I’m going to now start the rumour that Katie Holmes is being considered for David E. Kelley’s new Wonder Woman show.  Nay!!  She is the frontrunner for it!!  If we’re gonna start a rumour, let’s go big.

In modern times, it has been the iconic Lynda Carter spin that has been the norm for Wonder Woman.  However, in the few issues of Perez’s 1987 Wonder Woman relaunch that I have on hand I couldn’t find a panel of her spinning.  The only costume change I could find was from Wonder Woman #4, where Wonder Woman flung off her plaid shirt as she flew into the air:

Today, though, the spin is the default move.  This panel from Heinberg’s Wonder Woman relaunch, drawn by Terry Dodson, shows the classic spin move:

While Nicola Scott’s cover for Wonder Woman #43 directly references the series, showing Wonder Woman with her arms stretched outward in the middle of a flash of light:

Incidentally, a couple Christmases ago my sister got me a Wonder Woman notebook, and it’s cover has one of those hologram things where you move the cover and the picture changes (there must be a word for that, but I have no idea what it is).  It shows the Wein/Swan style lasso change:

Not only is it cool, but it was handy during boring classes.  If the lecture got dull, I’d take out my notebook and provide myself, and usually the people sitting behind me, with some mild entertainment.  Plus all the pages of the notebook have fun Wonder Woman pictures on them… it’s a classy notebook all around!!

So there you have it… let me know in the comments section if I missed any keys steps in the costume change’s evolutionary process.

Published by Tim Hanley

Tim Hanley is a comic book historian and the author of Wonder Woman Unbound, Investigating Lois Lane, The Many Lives of Catwoman, and Betty and Veronica: The Leading Ladies of Riverdale.

8 thoughts on “The Evolution Of The Costume Change

  1. Nicely researched. I was hoping that given the beginning of that first clip, she was going to change into her awesome WW scuba suit, though.

  2. Nicely researched blog post, Tim. There are other Golden Age appearances of quick changes, and in the newspaper strip, she did an early proto-spin that was not used often, but was awfully close to the first Lynda Carter spins.

    Everyone I ever interviewed about the TV show (which is a lot of people) have given Carter the majority of the credit for the Wonder Spin, though she is not the only person who was involved in that decision-making process. She talks a lot about it in my HUGE interview with her in TwoMorrows’ Back Issue #5, still available on the website. She also talks about it in the DVD commentary tracks as I recall.

    Comic Book Legends Revealed really stretched the story to say that it was at all inspired by the comic books’ “twirling lasso” change; I have internal paperwork that shows that the people running the show were… ahem… VERY disinterested in dealing with the DC comics material of the 1970s, and likely had paid ZERO attention to the change. They were, however, interested enough in the 1940s material that they had a reader break down many of the early WW and Sensation stories that could be adapted for television (and a few of them were, uncredited).

    While it’s true that the “twirling lasso” change and the Wonder Spin came out at roughly the same time frame, I’m confident as a Wonder Expert in saying that the comic change had absolutely nothing to do with the TV spin.

  3. Thanks, Andy!! I would love to see the proto-spin from the strip, if you have a copy of it.

    Even from the episodes alone, it seems that the TV show had no interest in what was happening in the comic at the time, though they seemed glad to borrow from the Marston era. This was especially true with the pilot, which was Marston’s first few Wonder Woman comics almost verbatim. I assumed that they had someone read the Marston stuff, but that’s fantastic that there is internal paperwork that reflects their disinterest with the 1970s comic Wonder Woman.

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