Posts Tagged ‘Olive Byrne’

“The Truth About Wonder Woman” on AMC’s Secret History of Comics, Featuring Me!

November 14, 2017

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I was on television last night, gang! With a lot of amazing people, too. AMC has a new documentary series about comic books called Robert Kirkman’s Secret History of Comics, with Kirkman’s production company making the show. Last night’s episode was “The Truth About Wonder Woman” and it focused mainly on her early years, particularly William Moulton Marston’s vision for the character and the role Elizabeth Marston and Olive Byrne played in inspiring and shaping her. Guests included Wonder Woman director Patty Jenkins (!!), actual Wonder Woman Lynda Carter (!!!!), and also me:

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So yes, I’ve officially starred in a television show with Lynda Carter now. We never met, but still. I’ll take it.

The other guests were great as well. My pal Travis Langley, who I co-wrote a chapter of Wonder Woman Psychology with, was on it. So were some other historians and writers who I don’t know personally so much but whose work I respect, including Noah Berlatsky, Andy Mangels, Trina Robbins, and Jennifer K. Stuller. Also, Phil Jimenez was in the mix, doing a fantastic job talking about Wonder Woman as always; few comic book creators understand Wonder Woman as well as Phil does. There were a couple of folks I wasn’t familiar with too, plus a member of the Marston family, and actor Michelle Rodriguez for some reason? It was a cool mix, and I was really honoured to be a part of it.

I couldn’t watch much of it because seeing/hearing myself weirds me out so much, but from what I saw they did an excellent job telling the story of Wonder Woman’s creation and explaining what she stood for then and continues to stand for now. The director, Jesse James Miller, had a real love and understanding of Wonder Woman. When I met with him and filmed my interview, he was still pretty new to the project and to Wonder Woman’s history, but he’d really thrown himself into it and had completely grasped not just the meaning of the character but the importance of Elizabeth and Olive behind the scenes. He was committed to being respectful and not salacious in telling their story, and I think he did an excellent job of it here. It was a real pleasure to talk with him and see how he worked.

So yeah, I’m a TV star now, I guess. If you missed the show last night, it’s up on AMC’s website, though I think you might need a cable subscription to sign in? And it looks to be just for Americans. But if you’ve got AMC on your television you should be able to get it, and if you have a pal with AMC it’s probably going to be re-aired a bunch of times over the next few weeks so check the schedule and go visit them maybe? They did a very nice job with the show, plus you can see me wearing my favourite tie!

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Fact and Fiction in Professor Marston and the Wonder Women

October 17, 2017

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My review of Professor Marston and the Wonder Women went up today at The Comics Journal, and there sure was a lot to dig into here. To begin with, I really enjoyed the film. I thought that the cast was excellent, especially Rebecca Hall as Elizabeth Marston. She was brash and delightful, and whoever picked her outfits did an amazing job, especially in the earliest scenes; everything she wore was super rad. Luke Evans and Bella Heathcote were great as well, and the chemistry between the three of them was remarkable. All together, the movie was a compelling story about the joys and travails of their unconventional, polyamorous relationship and it was well made all around.

The only trouble is, it really isn’t the story of the Marstons. In the broadest of strokes, it’s similar. Yes, William Moulton Marston had two children each with Elizabeth Marston and Olive Byrne lived together as one happy family, and yes, he later created Wonder Woman. The film covers all of that. However, it does so while getting the vast majority of the details wrong.

A lot of this is just how biopics roll. Hollywood and historical accuracy rarely go together, and writer/director Angela Robinson takes a lot of creative liberties with things. There are several exaggerated and manufactured conflicts throughout; Wonder Woman was never in danger of being cancelled, nor did the family ever split up. A lot of what’s covered just didn’t happen in the way that it’s depicted in the film. But again, that’s to be expected.

What’s trickier is the core of the movie, the relationship between Elizabeth, Olive, and William. They were private people and we know very little about their private life together, apart from the fact that William had two children with each woman. What we really don’t know is the exact nature of the relationship between Elizabeth and Olive; there are reasons to speculate that they were romantically and sexually involved, but their descendants have been quite adamant that they weren’t. Robinson’s take is not only that they were, but that they were the driving forces behind the triad. It’s an assumption taken to such a degree that it runs counter to what few established facts we have, and in exploring this the film often veers into outright fiction.

You can read my full discussion of Professor Marston and the Wonder Women over at The Comics Journal, where I get into considerable detail about every facet of the film’s historical accuracies and inaccuracies. It really is quite an enjoyable film, and I liked it a lot. It just purports to be the “true story” of the Marstons, and it really isn’t.

Professor Marston & The Wonder Women Trailer: A Tad Salacious, A Lot Inaccurate

July 19, 2017

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The first full trailer for Professor Marston & The Wonder Women, a film about the lives of the creator of Wonder Woman and his two partners Elizabeth Marston and Olive Byrne, premiered yesterday, and I’ve got some mixed feelings about it. I’m excited for the film; the Marstons are fascinating, and their lives and beliefs led to the creation of Wonder Woman. Plus the movie’s got a fantastic writer/director in Angela Robinson, as well as a stellar cast. I mean, Connie Britton is playing Josette Frank and Oliver Platt is Max Gaines. If you’re a Golden Age comic book history nerd like I am, that’s just amazing.

This trailer, however, left me a little bit underwhelmed and somewhat concerned:

It’s entertaining in and of itself, I suppose. It’s sexy and mysterious and intriguing, and it looks like a compelling story. My problem is that it doesn’t seem to be a very accurate story. There are some changes I can understand, like having Josette Frank grill Luke Evan’s Marston in person. In reality, their contact was mainly through letters. As part of her role on DC’s advisory board, Frank sent letters to Marston’s publisher objecting to Wonder Woman‘s bondage imagery, which Gaines then relayed to Marston, whose messages back to Gaines were then relayed to Frank. None of that would make for a interesting film, really, so it makes sense to put them in the same room for a tense standoff. It’s far more dramatic that way.

My larger issue is with the depiction of the Marston family, and the liberties the film seems to be taking with them. They were an unconventional family; they lived together in a polyamorous relationship, and Marston had two children with each woman. The problem is that beyond this, we really don’t know much about how their relationship worked. Elizabeth had a day job and Olive stayed home with the kids, and they both had a considerable influence on the creation of Wonder Woman. Other than that, details are few. They were a very private family, and most of what’s been written about their personal lives beyond those broad strokes is questionable research and guesswork.

Take, for example, the bondage issue. Marston’s Wonder Woman comics were FULL of bondage. I wrote a book about it; the imagery is considerable, and while it’s there for a specific purpose that ties into Marston’s psychological theories, it wasn’t without its problematic aspects. So yes, Marston’s use of bondage is a historical fact, and I think it’s fair to suggest that there was a fetishistic aspect to it. He basically said so in his own correspondence. However, we have no proof that the Marstons were into bondage activities in their private lives. They could have been, but suggesting they were is pure speculation without any facts to back it up. Marston seeming to have a kink does not mean that he explored it with his wives.

This trailer appears to suggest otherwise, with Bella Heathcote’s Olive Byrne getting tied into a leather corset and the trailer clearly conflating the bondage imagery in the comics with the Marstons’ personal lives. But suggesting that the Marstons were into bondage is pure conjecture. Now, I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with bondage, or that suggesting that the Marstons were into it besmirches them in some way. It doesn’t. There’s just no real evidence for it.

The same can be said about the relationship between Elizabeth and Olive. We know they were both with Marston, and that they lived together for decades after his death, but the exact nature of their relationship with each other is ill-defined. It may have been romantic. It may have been sexual. It may have been companionate. Again, we just do not know. But like with the bondage aspect, the film seems to be putting them together in a sexual way that’s just not historically provable.

Professor Marston & The Wonder Woman looks like it’s taking theories about the Marstons’ relationship that are maybes at best and presenting it as fact. It’s leaning into salacious speculation rather than what we definitively do know about the Marstons, which is fascinating material on its own. The Marstons are unique and interesting without these elements, and the movie playing fast and loose with history makes me worry that the filmmakers may not fully understand what is compelling about their subjects.

At the same time, this is only a trailer. And making it eye-catching is just smart marketing. There’s always a bit of embellishment and sensationalizing with biopics, and I understand that. I remain curious to see what the movie actually says about the Marstons, and it would be nice to see it try to stay true to established facts. We’ll find out this October, and I’m hoping for the best.

Cat Grant, President Marsdin, and Elizabeth Holloway Marston All Went to the Same College

May 16, 2017

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Last night’s Supergirl was one of the best episodes of the year, in no small part due to Lynda Carter guest starring as President Marsdin and the long awaited return of Calista Flockhart as Cat Grant. They even got to share the screen together before the Daxamite queen Rhea, played by Teri Hatcher, shot Air Force One out of the sky. Luckily Supergirl was there to save Cat, and the President was able to save herself when she revealed that she was actually an alien. It was all a lot of fun; one of the things that makes Supergirl special is its depth of amazing female characters, both heroes and villains, and they were out in full force last night.

After the plane crash, everyone was wondering how Cat Grant got on the plane in the first place. It turns out that she was old friends with the president, and that they’d gone to college together. Marsdin was her RA in the dorms of Radcliffe College, and that choice of university is a very fitting one.

Supergirl has been making sly references to the history of Wonder Woman with Lynda Carter’s President Marsdin, and fittingly so. When you’ve got Lynda Carter on board, you’ve got to have some Wonder Woman fun! Her name seems to be a double reference: Marsdin is reminiscent of Wonder Woman’s creator, William Moulton Marston, while Olivia appears to reference Olive Byrne, Marston’s partner and a major inspiration for Wonder Woman. With tonight’s episode, we got a shout out to Elizabeth Holloway Marston, the third member of the Marstons’ polyamorous relationship, co-inspiration for Wonder Woman, and a graduate of Radcliffe College.

Having already earned a BA from Mount Holyoke College and a law degree from Boston University, Elizabeth went to Radcliffe College in 1919 to get a master’s degree in psychology. At the time, Radcliffe was a women’s college; women weren’t yet allowed to attend Harvard itself, so Radcliffe was Harvard’s sister school. While at Radcliffe, Elizabeth worked with her husband researching systolic blood pressure and helped create the lie detector test, and eventually graduated in 1921 with her third degree.

Having Cat Grant and President Marsdin go to Radcliffe too is a delightful deep cut reference to Wonder Woman’s history, and that the writers at Supergirl took the time to make it speaks of their respect not just for their titular character but for Lynda Carter, Wonder Woman, and the women of the superhero world generally. William Moulton Marston didn’t create Wonder Woman on his own; Elizabeth and Olive contributed to the character in ways we’ll probably never fully know, and they deserve to be remembered as a key part of her history. With last night’s episode, Supergirl did just that in a small, enjoyable way. It was a cool moment in what was an absolutely great episode that has me so excited to watch next week. Did you guys see that ending? It’s crazy! Such a good cliffhanger!

Lynda Carter was on Supergirl Last Night, and it was THE BEST

October 25, 2016

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The second season of Supergirl has been off to a great start on The CW, continuing all of the joy and brightness of its first season. There’s nothing I love more than happy superheroes, and having Supergirl and The Flash on back-to-back nights is such a delightful way to start the week. The move to The CW hasn’t been entirely painless, though; Calista Flockhart is no longer a regular cast member, and her Cat Grant was a key part of the first season. But Supergirl has been working hard to counter her absence with an array of new, rad female characters, including the President of the United States, played by television’s first Wonder Woman. Lynda Carter.

It’s always great to see Lynda Carter, and having her on a female-led superhero show is just perfect. Even more perfect: Her character’s name is Olivia Marsdin, in what has to be a subtle shout out to William Moulton Marston and Olive Byrne, the creator of Wonder Woman and his live-in partner who influenced Wonder Woman’s creation. It’s a nice nod to Wonder Woman’s roots, and the first of several such references.

Also, a female president is timely given the current American election. Doubly so given that Supergirl observes, “How did anyone even vote for that other guy?” It seems that in both our world and the world of Supergirl, a woman ran against some dude who couldn’t hold a candle to her.

President Marsdin comes off well throughout the episode, and she definitely espouses the kindness and acceptance we’d expect from a former Wonder Woman, particularly in her Alien Amnesty Act. Earth is lousy with aliens on Supergirl, and the President wants to give them the same rights that humanity enjoys. And she’s got a big fan in Supergirl, who loves her from the get-go. Her excitement before meeting the President is straight up the cutest, and her affection for the President only grows after they meet. When Supergirl is excited about someone, you can’t help but like them even more.

Wonder Woman fun was sprinkled throughout the episode. When President Marsdin talked to Hank about her Amnesty Act and said, “I can think of no better time than the present to extend our hand in friendship,” my mind immediately leaped to this panel from Wonder Woman #25 in which Gail Simone penned what’s become a classic Wonder Woman line:

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I might be reading too much into the line, but it sprang to my mind instantaneously when I heard Lynda Carter say it.

We also get a classic spin move! When an angry alien bent on attacking the President lit Supergirl on fire, she put herself out with a spin:

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In what is clearly a reference to Wonder Woman’s iconic quick change spin move:

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And, in my very favourite moment of the entire show, after Supergirl mentions how cool it was to see Air Force One, the president replied:

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I mean, come on. How great is that?

Now, it wasn’t all fun and games with President Marsdin. But first:

SPOILER ALERT!!!

The end of the episode revealed a hidden side to the President. Namely, it looks like she’s an alien, with some shapeshifting abilities; her entire face distorted for a second into a distinctly non-human guise. She could be an alien double impersonating the President, or maybe the President’s been a deep cover alien all along! Either way, that’s definitely going to spell trouble. I’m curious to see where this startling reveal goes.

END SPOILERS!!!

President Marsdin wasn’t the only fun new character on tonight’s Supergirl. It was a cavalcade of awesomeness throughout the entire show: Mon-El finally woke up, Detective Maggie Sawyer popped in and had INSTANT chemistry with Alex, and Miss Martian revealed herself at the end of the episode. This season of Supergirl is adding a slew of fun new supporting characters, and I love the direction it’s going in.

I’m not sure when we’ll see Lynda Carter back on the program again. So far, I don’t think a return date has been announced, but given that reveal at the end of the show, I think it’s a safe bet that she’ll be back. Hopefully they’ll fit even more fun Wonder Woman references into that episode, too.

New York Comic-Con Wonder Woman News Extravaganza: New Comics, Toys, Movies!

October 11, 2016

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This post is as much for me as it is for you, reader friends. New York Comic-Con was this weekend, and with it came lots of fun news, announcements, and reveals, nearly all of which I missed. My sister got married this weekend (congrats to Kate and Tom!), and I was all wrapped up in that. It was certainly a better way to spend the long weekend than scanning the internet for cool NYCC news, but now the week has officially begun and it’s time for me to dig in and catch up. So here’s a look at what Wonder Woman news came out of the convention this weekend!

First up, let’s chat about Professor Marston and the Wonder Women, an upcoming biopic about Wonder Woman’s creator William Moulton Marston and the women who played key roles in his life. Angela Robinson will write and direct the movie, with Luke Evans starring as Marston, Rebecca Hall playing his wife, Elizabeth, and Bella Heathcote joining them as Olive Byrne, the final member of the Marstons’ polyamorous triangle. This could be an absolutely fascinating film; Marston’s life was interesting and unusual, to say the least, and it has all of the makings of a great story. I’m curious to see how much DC gets on board and what sort of Wonder Woman stuff they’ll be allowed to use, but even just the story of their lives leading up to the creation of Wonder Woman is quite a compelling tale. It’s good to see the women behind Wonder Woman getting recognized from the get-go as well, rather than shining the spotlight on Marston alone. I’m very excited to see how this one turns out!

In other film news, Warner Bros. Animation might have another Wonder Woman cartoon film in development. It doesn’t seem to be official yet, since the quote was, “they have Wonder Woman on their radar in some form or fashion,” but that’s better than no Wonder Woman at all. There were no details on whether this would be a sequel to the 2009 direct-to-DVD film Wonder Woman or something completely new, but things might be happening on the animation front.

We’ll stick with movies for one more bit of news: DC Collectibles revealed a line of statues for the upcoming live action Wonder Woman film, and they all look quite lovely. Here’s Wonder Woman on a horse:

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And you can click through the link to see a couple more. They’re very nice but also pricey, ranging from $150-300 USD. Expect them out in the ballpark of June 2017, when the movie is due to hit the big screen.

Moving to comics, we’ve got a rad crossover on the way with Batman ’66 Meets Wonder Woman ’77, a comic book teaming of Adam West and Burt Ward’s Batman and Robin with Lynda Carter’s Wonder Woman. Marc Andreyko and Jeff Parker are writing, with art from David Hahn and Karl Kesel and covers by Alex Ross and Mike Allred. Check out this peek at Alex Ross’ first cover:

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The six issue mini-series will premiere digitally in November and then hit comic shops in print form in January. It looks like the chief villains will be Ra’s al Ghul and Catwoman, which should make for a lot of fun.

This next news broke a bit before NYCC, but it’s too awesome to leave out: We’re getting DC Super Hero Girls Lego! Here’s a look at the Wonder Woman set, which includes an invisible motorcycle:

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Other sets include Batgirl, Bumblebee, Harley Quinn, Poison Ivy, Supergirl, and more. Some will hit stores in December, with more to roll out down the line; Wonder Woman is in the second wave, due to come out in January. The sets are in the style of Lego’s “Friends” line, which they target at girls, and while I do miss the blocky classic Lego look on the minifigs, it does match a bit better with the style of the show. I’m definitely going to need to pick up a few of these sets, the Wonder Woman one first and foremost.

Finally, the U.S. Postal Service officially debuted their new line of Wonder Woman stamps that celebrate the character’s 75th anniversary:

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Artists Cliff Chiang and Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez were on hand for the event, and the stamps are now available to order online or in your local post office if you’re an American. I actually got to work behind the scenes a little bit on the stamps, consulting on the text that accompanies them in the packaging to verify that everything was historically accurate. It was a very fun process, and it’s so cool that they’re officially out in the world now!

I think that was all of the big news this weekend, but let me in the comments if I missed anything cool. Overall, it was a big NYCC for Wonder Woman, and there should be a lot of fun stuff on the horizon for Wonder Woman fans and collectors.

My Guest Post On DC Women Kicking Ass: The Women Behind Wonder Woman

June 20, 2012

Sue of DC Women Kicking Ass is on vacation this week, and I got to write a guest post!!  It was a HUGE honour because it’s one of my favourite sites, and I had a fun time writing about the women behind Wonder Woman in the 1940s.  I talk about Elizabeth Marston, Olive Byrne, Alice Marble, Dorothy Roubicek, Joye Murchison, Helen Schpens, AND Louise Marston.  They all played varied and interesting roles behind the scenes of Wonder Woman and Sensation Comics.  So go check it out, along with all of the other great guest posts that have gone up this week!!


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