Wonder Woman occupies a unique place in the comic book universe.  She is one of D.C. Comics' "Big Three" characters (along with Batman and Superman), instantly recognizable, and a unique character (as opposed to a female version of a male character).  At the same time, her comic and character have struggled in a male-dominated genre, there is a definite kinky aspect to her character, and she's undergone numerous changes through the years.  Tim Hanley examines Wonder Woman, the world's influence on her, and her influence on the world in his book Wonder Woman Unbound: The Curious History of the World's Most Famous Heroine.

Hanley examines Wonder Woman through the Golden, Silver, and Modern Ages of comic books.  For the Golden Age, he focuses on William Moulton Marston, a psychologist who envisioned Wonder Woman as inspiring young girls, as well as a way of "preparing" the world for a matriarchy based on female superiority; he also worked some of his bondage fantasies into the character as well.  The Silver Age saw Marston's successor Robert Kanigher taking the character in a more sexist direction,  Wonder Woman lose her powers to become a "mod" woman of the 1960s, and then regain her abilities in no small part to Gloria Steinem.  And the modern era was largely a muddled mess of different tries at increasing her popularity and sales.

Wonder Woman Unbound is an excellent history of Wonder Woman because it goes beyond the character to look at the world around the character -- from other comic books to World War II to the rise of feminism -- and how those affected the character.  Hanley provides a combination of facts (often supplemented by bar graphs showing various percentages that illustrate his point), opinion (his section on the recent Wonder Woman is called "the Mundane Modern Age"), small but effective humor, and a very good ability to relate the times and the character together.  There were a few times I disagreed with his downplaying evidence that went against his conclusions, but Wonder Woman Unbound is a fascinating and intelligent examination of Wonder Woman -- how she affected the world that affected her.

Overall grade: A+
Reviewed by James Lynch

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