Every Monday until Wonder Woman Unbound: The Curious History of the World’s Most Famous Heroine comes out this April, we’re taking a look at a comic panel that captures a key moment in Wonder Woman’s history and highlights an important point from each chapter.
Wonder Woman had a colourful array of divinely inspired expressions she’d exclaim to punctuate her dialogue in the Silver Age. “Merciful Minerva!”, “Great Hera!”, and “Thunderbolts of Jove!” were but a few of her Rob Burgundy-esque catchphrases. But she had another common expression that didn’t reference a deity at all: “Suffering Sappho!”
Today we’re going to look at four panels, all from the same issue, that illustrate how widespread this expression was. The panels are from Wonder Woman #115 in July 1960:
That’s a lot of “Suffering Sappho!” Sappho was an ancient Greek poet who is best known for poems where women professed their affection for other women; the name of her home, the island of Lesbos, is the basis for the term lesbian. To mention Sappho is to make a very specific reference, and Kanigher did so often in the Silver Age. Wonder Woman #115’s four times in one issue wasn’t even a record.
With all of the marriage-centric, romantic shenanigans in the Silver Age, it’s possible to read “Suffering Sappho!” as a subversion of this marital focus that hinted at Wonder Woman’s true lesbian leanings. Lesbian inclinations were a part of Wonder Woman from the very beginning of the series, and William Moulton Marston’s psychological work broke with the trends of the time and was firmly in favour of sexual relations between women. There was a lot going on between the lines in the first few decades of Wonder Woman.
To read more, you’ll have to wait until Wonder Woman Unbound comes out this April! Be sure to come back next Monday, when we’ll look at Wonder Woman’s mod era, and also check out the seventh installment of my Wonder Woman interview series this Wednesday; we’ll be talking with some great Wonder Woman artists!