The first appearance of Wonder Woman
All-Star Comics #8
CGC 4.0 • COM-WONDR
The first appearance of Wonder Woman
Current market price
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The Amazon princess of DC Comics has been a symbol of feminine excellence for generations, combining strength and compassion as the ideal superhero. Her comic book exploits have remained popular with fans even when the medium was at its lowest, and through TV and film Wonder Woman has been able to reach an even wider audience.
She has been the face of women in comics since her earliest days, and yet throughout 80 years of feminist progress Diana of Themyscira has remained a genuine inspiration and role model whose contributions to that cause cannot be overlooked. The longevity and appeal of Wonder Woman are a testament to the philosophy of her creators: a research psychologist who believed women should rule the earth, and the many remarkable ladies who worked with him.
Wonder Woman is a creation from the earliest cultural wave of superheroes, now known as the “Golden Age of Comics”. After the success of Superman kicked off a fad for the genre in 1938, publishers flooded the market with new super-powered characters. In spirit with the sci-fi and pulp adventure stories of the time, no idea was too wild for publication - there were magic lanterns, flame-spouting androids, mer-men, mole-men, genetic super-spies, ancient wizards and mad scientists aplenty. But what there were not, for the most part, were women!
This was not unusual for media at the time, but it did attract the attention of popular psychologist and sometimes-screenwriter William Moulton Marston. Marston lived an interesting life as a Harvard academic who lectured on psychological assessment, but also put his research findings into real practice as part of a radical and progressive lifestyle.
The most pivotal moment of his life was meeting fellow psychology student Elizabeth Holloway during their undergrad years. She soon became his wife, as well as his connection to early feminist theory.
Like many of the women in Marston’s life, Elizabeth was an impressive person. Barred from studying in the hallowed halls of Harvard for her sex, she became an invaluable partner to William on his doctoral studies while still working towards her own master’s at Radcliffe College. Elizabeth’s observation to her husband that she could feel her blood pressure rising when she got emotional inspired the subject of his thesis; he went on to develop the systolic blood pressure test, famously used with a polygraph machine to detect when someone is lying!
Marston’s observations from polygraph tests convinced him that women were more honest and emotionally stable than men. This belief in feminine superiority would become the compass that guided the rest of his life. Marston was certain that elevating women to leadership positions and teaching men to embrace more feminine traits would be key to a peaceful and utopian future.
Marston’s psychological research continued through the 1920s and ‘30s, focusing on how love and compassion could improve society. He was aided in this not only by Elizabeth, but by research assistant Olive Byrne, whose aunt Margaret Sanger was a prominent feminist and founder of Planned Parenthood. Marston published work by Byrne in his own books, and in return she would submit reviews or interviews with him to journals and periodicals.
One such interview was published in women’s magazine Family Circle in late 1940. With World War II creating a boom in both comic books and an accompanying social backlash, Marston came out strongly in favor of the new medium:
“They say [comics] are not literature - adventure strips lack form, mental substance, and emotional appeal to any but the most moronic of minds. Can it be that 100,000,000 Americans are morons?”
The sight of a respected psychologist and academic defending comic books caught the attention of M.C. Gaines, one of the founders of DC Comics. Marston was hired as an educational consultant for the publisher shortly thereafter. This was exactly what Marston and his wife had hoped for, because it gave him the clout to push their new idea for a superhero!
Marston’s belief in the need for “love leadership” had only been compounded by the outbreak of another World War, and he saw in the popular medium of comics a way to promote it to the masses. Marston’s idea was to introduce a character with the awesome qualities of Superman, but who triumphs with love instead of “fists or firepower”. Elizabeth approved of the concept, but with one condition: “But make her a woman.”
Marston pitched the idea for his superheroine to Gaines. As expected, the publisher gave him the green light - suggesting only that the character go by “Wonder Woman” instead of Marston’s proposal, “Suprema”. Compared to the unrecognizable early versions of Batman and Superman, the character DC introduced was very close to the Wonder Woman we know today: an Amazon princess from the isle of Themyscira whose rescue of downed U.S. officer Steve Trevor draws her into the affairs of “Man’s World” and a career fighting for justice!
Wonder Woman was also given very high status as a character from the beginning. Despite being a fresh pitch from an untried creator, DC slotted her in as a member of their top-selling superhero team, the Justice Society of America. All-Star Comics was the home of the JSA, and issue #8 became Wonder Woman’s official debut for DC.
In her own special segment contributed by Marston, Diana’s backstory is laid out for the first time, and her powers, costume and attitude are established. Queen Hippolyta and many details of Amazon society are also sketched out - fertile ground which writers decades later would mine as they searched for new directions to take the character.
Of course the story shows Wonder Woman clashing with Nazis - it was World War II after all - and their obvious evil pushes her to take leave from her magical homeland and come to America. Once there, she would take her rightful place in the Justice Society - as their secretary!
If that sounds off-brand for a feminist writer like Marston, you’re right - except that the secretary job was actually another sign of respect from DC for their heroine. You see, the publisher had an in-house rule at the time that no hero headlining their own comic series would take an active role in JSA stories. A-list heroes like Superman and Batman were described as “honorary members” instead, ironically making All-Star Comics the B-grader comic book.
Even before her debut, DC knew Wonder Woman was no B-grader! Her secretarial role - and this entire All-Star Comics #8 appearance - was just a way to announce her new honorary membership of the JSA before she made her headline debut the next month, in the wonderfully-named Sensation Comics #1.
And it worked! Whether it was the novelty of a fistfighting superheroine, her immediate elevation to top-hero status, or the constant, sometimes scandalous infusion of Marston’s feminist philosophy into the writing, Wonder Woman immediately took off among readers everywhere. Popular with young women as well as Marines on the bases, Diana’s design - reputedly based on the combined appearances of Elizabeth Marston and Olive Byrne - became the enduring symbol of everything William Marston idealized.
She soon moved from starring in Sensation Comics to her very own Wonder Woman series, many issues of which were ghostwritten by Marston’s 19-year-old assistant, Joye Hummel. When he eventually succumbed to cancer in 1945, it was Hummel whose work grew Diana’s massive and lasting popularity - just one more in a lineage of inspiring women who have contributed to the legacy of Wonder Woman, which continues even to her modern cinematic adventures.
We purchased the book from a private client of Heritage Auctions in July 2020.
The authenticity and quality of this asset were verified by Certified Guaranty Company (CGC), the comics industry standard for third-party grading. This asset’s grading is in the top 50% of all CGC-graded All-Star Comics #8 books