Posts Tagged ‘The Comics Journal’

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.

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Read my Review of Wonder Woman: Earth One by Grant Morrison and Yanick Paquette at The Comics Journal

April 22, 2016

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Wonder Woman: Earth One by Grant Morrison and Yanick Paquette seems to be making a bit of a splash with readers, perhaps due to its well-timed released in the wake of Batman v Superman, and my full review of the book is now online at The Comics Journal. I talk about how the book is deeply rooted in the Golden Age Wonder Woman comics of William Moulton Marston and H.G. Peter, and how Morrison and Paquette’s deviation from Marston’s core message weakens the graphic novel. By copying all of the imagery and metaphors that came from Marston’s central premise (that being the superiority of women and the coming matriarchal age) while simultaneously undermining that central premise by making the Amazons unlikable, practically villainous characters, the whole book sort of falls apart. It makes little sense to tie it so closely to that era and then ignore why that era is the way that it is. Anyway, you can read my full review at The Comics Journal.

Apart from the historical, Marston/Peter pastiche things I discuss in the article, I’ve got a few other thoughts on the book. I was surprised that I didn’t hate it, actually. I rarely enjoy Morrison’s work, and all the interviews leading up to release of Wonder Woman: Earth One had me very concerned. But it’s not terrible. It’s just sort of weird, an odd mishmash of elements that don’t make a look of sense strung together like this.

There are some good bits in the book. Etta Candy (here called Beth Candy as an homage to Beth Ditto) is pretty fun, and steals the show; she’s also one of the few likable characters in the book. And Paquette’s take on the Amazon’s home is gorgeous and inventive, both futuristic in tech and classical in inspiration. The architecture of the place is really lovely. Plus it’s cool that the book is super gay and very up front about it, as well as not at all exploitative with it. Lesbian Amazons could go real unpleasant real fast in the wrong hands, but Morrison and Paquette handle it well.

The book’s story just didn’t work well for me. The Amazons are kind of terrible people, Wonder Woman is arrogant and sometimes cruel, and her whole escape and the subsequent trial just made everyone involved come off awful. Apart from Etta. Etta was cool. There were also a lot of bizarre decisions throughout the book, scenes that made me go “Really?” or “Is that necessary?” or “What is this even adding to the story?” It didn’t do much for me, but that’s just me. The book didn’t make me mad or anything; just confused and rather underwhelmed.

You can read my full review of Wonder Woman: Earth One at The Comics Journal, and the book is available everywhere now. Let me know if you liked the book or not; I’m curious to hear your thoughts. It’s certainly a graphic novel that should inspire a lot of discussion. There’s a lot to dig into and pull apart.

Gwenda Bond’s Lois Lane: Fallout YA Novel Is Out Today And You Should Go Buy It

May 1, 2015

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When Lois Lane: Fallout was first announced, I was excited but wary. DC treats some of my favourite characters badly in their own publishing division and they own them, so farming out someone as fantastic and often poorly used as Lois had me a bit nervous. I immediately went to the library to get the first Gwenda Bond book I could find to see who we were dealing with here. I found The Woken Gods, and it was pretty great. Kick ass female lead, huge scope but nice small moments as well, lots of fun all around. I was feeling a bit better.

Then I got an advanced copy of Lois Lane: Fallout, and it blew my socks off. It’s Lois in a completely different setting, as a teenager starting high school in Metropolis, with almost an entirely new cast of characters and villains, but it’s so absolutely Lois Lane. Everything I love about all of the different incarnations of the character is distilled into this fearless, tenacious teenager. I devoured the book in one sitting, and have been looking forward to its release day, when everyone else will get a chance to read it.

I’ve got a full review of the book up at The Comics Journal, where I dig into Lois Lane: Fallout and situate it in the context of how Lois has been presented in the past and the current direction DC Comics appears to be heading with Lois and their female characters generally. My thanks to the folks at The Comics Journal for getting on board with the review; it’s a little bit outside of their wheelhouse, but I was keen to get it in front of a comics reading audience and they kindly obliged.

So yeah, go read the book! Lois is such a fantastic, iconic character and it’s so much fun to have her in this new setting. I recommend it even if YA isn’t really your jam; Lois Lane: Fallout is a great bridge between comics and YA. It’s got enough classic comic book elements to please comic book fans while still working well as a fantastic YA novel. If you love Lois Lane, you’re going to love this book.

Review – Wonder Woman: Bondage and Feminism in the Marston/Peter Comics, 1941-1948 by Noah Berlatsky

January 14, 2015

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It’s always a little bit odd to read someone else’s book about Wonder Woman when you’ve written one of your own, and there have been a few of them as of late so it’s been a particularly weird time for me. The latest, Wonder Woman: Bondage and Feminism in the Marston/Peter Comics, 1941-1948 by Noah Berlatsky was an enjoyable read all around, though. My full review of the book went up yesterday at The Comics Journal.

Berlatsky’s book is quite different from mine, which made it especially fun to read. Whereas I come at Wonder Woman from a fairly straight forward historical perspective, Berlatsky has more of a theoretical approach. For example, the majority of his first chapter is a close reading of Wonder Woman #16 through the lens of earlier Freudian theories on incest, which is quite fascinating.

As a historian, I tend to put more of a focus on intent than interpretation, so the theoretical approach has certain limits for me, but Berlatsky does a great job combining both approaches in his final chapter. It’s a queer reading of the Golden Age Wonder Woman via modern theories on camp and closeting (among many other interesting ideas, including a comparison of Dr. Psycho and James Bond).  Berlatsky brings in a lot of Marston’s psychological work and prose fiction in a way that sets up a solid foundation for his analysis and bridges the gap between theory and history. While the whole book is quite good, his final chapter is a really impressive piece of comics scholarship.

Wonder Woman: Bondage and Feminism in the Marston/Peter Comics, 1941-1948 is available in stores and online today, and for more of my thoughts on the book be sure to pop by The Comics Journal.

Review – IDW’s Wonder Woman: The Complete Newspaper Strip, 1944-1945 by William Moulton Marston and H.G. Peter

December 16, 2014

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I recently read and absolutely loved IDW’s collection of the short running Wonder Woman comic strip from the 1940s, and I was fascinated with the way the strips compared to the regular Wonder Woman comic books. Both were done by Wonder Woman’s original creative team of William Moulton Marston and H.G. Peter, but the strip debuted more than two years after Wonder Woman first appeared. With a couple years under their belts, they duo got a second chance to introduce Wonder Woman’s feminist message to a new audience, and the differences in the strips are just as interesting as what stayed the same. I examined IDW’s collection as compared to the original comics in a review that’s up now at The Comics Journal.

Marston doubled down on his matriarchal message, making it explicitly clear that Wonder Woman was coming to America to conquer the patriarchy. Look at this comparison of Wonder Woman leaving Paradise Island for the first time, and see what Marston added to the strip:

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He also kept his bondage fetishism front and center as always. In fact, the Cheetah story in the strips is completely different from the Cheetah’s first appearance in Wonder Woman except for an elaborate bondage sequence that was redrawn by Peter almost exactly as it first appeared:

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Head on over to The Comics Journal for more pictures and my full review.


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