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Psychology’s First Superhero: Celebrating Wonder Woman At 75

You think that truth-seeking lasso was a coincidence? A psychologist who invented the lie detector also invented Wonder Woman.

It took a Harvard-trained scientist to create the first female superhero, who turns 75 this year.

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William Moulton Marston–an attorney and psychologist who invented a systolic blood pressure deception test, the precursor to the modern polygraph–created Wonder Woman as a new type of superhero who, beyond her strength, used wisdom and compassion as weapons against evil–not to mention a magic golden lasso to compel people to tell the truth.

“Marston recognized not only the thereto untapped commercial market for a strong female superhero, but also the powerful potential for comic books to educate and inspire. He understood that education and entertainment need not be mutually exclusive,” says Vasilis Pozios, a forensic psychiatrist who cofounded Broadcast Thought, which uses media and comic convention panels to educate about mental illness, and author of Aura, an award-winning comic about bipolar disorder.

“Of course, Marston’s lie detector test lives on as Wonder Women’s golden Lasso of Truth, proving the enduring power of story to transcend technology and inspire three-quarters of a century later,” he adds.

To commemorate, DC Entertainment is launching Wonder Woman’s DC Universe: Rebirth series on June 22, from writer Greg Rucka and artists Liam Sharp and Nicola Scott, planning a Wonder Woman 75 San Diego Comic-Con panel and costume display, and rolling out special-edition products and media that culminate in the release of the first Wonder Woman feature film starring Gal Gadot on June 2, 2017.

Wonder Woman is the only female comic book character to have her own stories continuously published for the past three-quarters of a century, spawning numerous other incarnations, including the hit 1975-1979 TV series starring Lynda Carter, and finally a big-screen introduction in this year’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.

Wonder Woman made her first appearance in October, 1941 in All Star Comics #8 and headlined her own title the following year. Marston, who was strongly influenced by the women’s suffrage movement, devised that WW would lose her strength if men bound her in chains. Initially controversial due to a look inspired by pinup art and bondage intimations, she emerged as a symbol of equality and female empowerment–gracing Ms. magazine’s inaugural cover in 1972–that resonates today.

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Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, 2016

Watch the ass-kicking evolution of Wonder Woman

About the author

Susan Karlin is an award-winning journalist in Los Angeles, covering the nexus of science, technology, and arts, with a fondness for sci-fi and comics. She's a regular contributor to Fast Company, NPR, and IEEE Spectrum, and has written for Newsweek, Forbes, Wired, Scientific American, Discover, NY and London Times, and BBC Radio.

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