The moment many of us have been waiting for is finally here: a Wonder Woman movie on the big screen! Like so many fans, I knew of Wonder Woman but I didn’t know who she truly was or what she stood for. I grew up in Japan and Spain so my interaction with comic books was pretty much non-existent. In all honesty, my first comic book was Marvel’s X-Men and that was because it came with my Pizza Hut meal. This was the first comic book I ever touched and this was when my family moved back to the states around my sixth grade year. In all honesty, I wasn’t exposed to DC until I met my husband. So, over the past month or so I have been researching Wonder Woman’s history from her origin in 1942 to obscure details like when the eagle was changed to the WW symbol on Wonder Woman’s chest piece. This list of books are just a few of the ones that I have been reading in my search to discover the real Wonder Woman. So check them out.
Wonder Woman the Complete History by Les Daniels
The life and times of Wonder Woman is compacted into this collection of iconic history by Les Daniels and filled with alluring artwork that sweeps the reader’s eyes from one page to the next with fierce excitement and curiosity. I am not sure if this is my favorite Wonder Woman book because Lynda Carter penned an introductory letter expressing what Wonder Woman means to her and then inviting the reader to enter the world of Wonder Woman as presented by Daniels, or is this my favorite Wonder Woman book because of the way Daniels compacts Wonder Woman’s history filled with fascinating facts, limiting his personal point-of-view as a writer and allowing the reader to consume the sourced information in order to come to one’s own conclusions.
If you are looking for a book that is easy to read but filled with sourced material, then this book is probably your best bet. Daniels covers everything from creator Charles Moulton Marston and how his life influenced the creation of Wonder Woman to how DC maintained continuity of Wonder Woman’s history in comics and her status as a female icon. Daniels even covers that failed attempt when DC Comics collaborated with Mattel Toys to create Wonder Woman and the Star Riders (if Barbie and Gem had a love child the Star Riders would be the result). From well known facts to obscure details that only the most hardcore Wonder Woman fan would know, this book has it all.
The Secret History of Wonder Woman by Jill Lepore
The title was a tad misleading for me. I was expecting a book filled with hidden industry secrets about Wonder Woman but in truth this book follows a more feminist agenda. The first 150+ pages cover an in-depth look at Charles Moulton Marston and how he grew up and was inspired by the suffragette movement. Lepore digs deep into Marston’s beliefs of how women should rule the world and how those beliefs penned the first chapters of “Suprema, the Wonder Woman,” now known as Wonder Woman.
If you don’t know a great deal about the suffragette movement or you want to understand how feminism is a major building block in Wonder Woman’s history, then this is the book to read. There is even some great comparison photos of Wonder Woman covers mirroring famous suffragette marches in different 1940s newspaper clippings. And with a 100+ pages of notes and sourced material, you can believe Lepore put a great deal of blood, sweat, and tears into the writing of this book as she was granted access to personal family letters that very few have seen. In honesty, the title should be listed as The Secret History of Wonder Woman’s Creator W. M. Marston, and what a fascinating history it is.
Wonder Woman the War Years by Roy Thomas
This collection of comics consists of the full-length tales as written by W. M. Marston and drawn by H.G. Peter. I found this book to be handy when I was trying to figure out if Wonder Woman started off wearing a skirt or culottes, apparently Wonder Woman’s outfit is a highly debated topic. This is a great book to have on hand if you are reading a great deal about Golden Age Wonder Woman and you need to reference a specific comic scripts. I did read complaints about the borders taking up too much space on each page, rendering the comic strips less detail, but I didn’t really notice a big issue as I could easily see the details of each panel and didn’t have any issues reading dialogue bubbles. Also, all of these comics are rendered in color, which makes it easier to view specific details of clothing in contrast to background images.
Hanley’s book covers a broader scope of context in reference to Wonder Woman. There is a great deal of information about Superman, Batman, and the Flash. However, my understanding of Superman and Batman’s history is a tad more limited but after reading Hanely’s book I can understand the importance of how Wonder Woman fits into the superhero realm in context of her male counterparts. Hanley discusses in great detail how violence was dominant in Golden Age comics and Wonder Woman was supposed to curtail the viewing of such violence, which Hanley uses to segue into that lack of violence being the steam behind Marston’s use of bondage in the early Wonder Woman comics.
If you are looking for a book that covers Wonder Woman’s lifespan from Golden, Silver, and Bronze Age, then this is the book you need.
A great deal of my youth was spent in Japan so I didn’t grow up with DC comics, so this commemorative collection of Wonder Woman comics is an influential part of my recently acquired collection. Even though this is a limited scope of Wonder Woman’s life in comics, this is a great starting point for someone wanting to learn about Wonder Woman and her transformation over time: God and Mortals by George Perez; Down to Earth by Rucka, Johnson, and Snyder; The Circle by Simone, Dodson, and Chang; Blood by Azzarello, Chiang, and Akins.
Wonder Woman and Philosophy: The Amazonian Mystique ed. by William Irwin
Since I enjoy philosophy and superheroes, this compilation of essays edited by William Irwin was a no-brainer. I will say that I did notice some essays contradicting information that I read as fact from DC authorized books, so I will probably double-check my sourced material to make sure I didn’t misinterpret what was stated in these essays versus what was stated in the DC authorized books. Also, something to take note of since I referenced “DC authorized books” is that this compilation of essays is not an authorized DC book. So there is the possibility that some of these scholarly papers have the wrong information because they are not sourced by anyone other than the writer.
Another thing to take note of: you can tell which writers truly know something about Wonder Woman in the comics and her role as a feminine icon and which writers know very little about Wonder Woman and only use her as an example to further an argument for the sake of writing a paper. There are a couple of interesting essays in this book, but there are still a great deal of essays that create a cringe worthy reaction. I found myself sitting through a series of paper lectures at the last comic convention I attended and I found those topics to be very interesting and I felt that the presenters had value to offer to the particular topic they spoke about. However, some of the essays presented in this compilation are not essays that I would want to sit and listen, but then anytime someone uses the word “existential” my brain is hard-wired to shut down and stop listening.
Wonder Woman the Ultimate Guide to the Amazon Princess by Scott Beatty
This DK book lives up to its title and focuses a great deal on the Amazon princess part of Wonder Woman. DK books have a tendency to have multiple snippets of information that breaks down information with detailed visual aides. Even though this book is vibrant in color and tackles a great deal of information, it just doesn’t have as much detailed information as Walker’s DK version of the Amazon warrior. However, it was printed in 2003 so it is a great starting point for young readers that want to gain a greater knowledge of Wonder Woman’s mythology, villains, allies, and a brief history throughout the Golden, Silver, and Bronze Age of comics.
This is the DK version I would have given my kids during their tween ages, slightly advanced middle-grade readers.
Wonder Woman Psychology: Lassoing the Truth ed. by Langley and Wood
I didn’t read this book to add to my knowledge of Wonder Woman facts because it is a series of papers written by mostly scholars and a couple of hard-core fans of pop-culture. Also, I enjoy reading and listening to scholarly arguments about topics that aren’t about some dead white guy—as an English major in college I spent a great deal reading papers about authors in the canon like James Joyce and Ernest Hemingway. Now if we broke down topics about comic books and superheroes, I might have received my money’s worth of an education and learned how to write a proper scholarly paper.
I noticed some contradictory information. In particular one essay writer made it very clear that W. M. Marston did not invent the lie detector but was more of an advocate for the machine, yet I do remember reading a couple of sources that stated he invented the lie detector. So once again, I feel the need to do further research to make sure that I dispel any confusion before I file something under Fact in my head. Also, I found a greater majority of the essays in this compilation worthy of my interest and time, unlike the book on philosophy. I am not sure if I have issues with philosophy or if that particular book was just lopsided in presenting a specific set of views and nothing more. However, the psychology aspect of looking at Wonder Woman, and the fact that W. M. Marston was a psychologist makes for an interesting specimen to place in an essay. This book is definitely worth taking a peek at.
Wonder Woman the Ultimate Guide to the Amazon Warrior by Landry Q. Walker
I used DK books a lot while homeschooling my kids and I always found their books visually stunning as well as a great source to discover quick facts about a topic. Being a visual learner I do a great deal of reading books versus listening to audiobooks, and since I am such a visual learner I think that is why I am drawn to DK books. So, naturally my favorite part of this DK Wonder Woman guide is the timeline presented in the opening pages. The entire book mirrors the timeline and this DK version of Wonder Woman has more of a chronological history in the way it presents Wonder Woman’s allies and enemies.
I would still recommend this book for advanced middle-grade readers, and I would probably recommend Walker’s DK Wonder Woman guide over Beatty’s only because this one is recently updated and filled with greater detail.
The Essential Wonder Woman Encyclopedia by Phil Jimenez and John Wells
From Abernathy to Zumac this encyclopedia covers almost everything in the scope of Wonder Woman in comic books—sorry, but there is no Lynda Carter Wonder Woman information in this book. Just shy of 500 pages, you can guarantee this beast of a book is jam-packed with information about the good, the bad, and the ugly characters that graced or faced-off with Wonder Woman’s star-spangled spandex.
Stay tuned to GeekMom and GeekDad as Wonder Woman takes over our website on June 3rd. It will be everything Wonder Woman in honor of Wonder Woman day.