The Wonder Woman Chronicles, Vol. 1, by William Moulton Marston

I had to include at least one traditional superhero comic on this list! The Wonder Woman comics have recently been collected into new books, giving her story in chronological order, the way it originally appeared. Wonder Woman’s first appearance was in All-Star Comics in December 1941. She was created by William Moulton Marston (aka Charles Moulton) in the beginning of the superhero craze of the ’40s, when Superman and Captain America were taking the world by storm. December 1941 was also the month America entered the Second World War, so it is perhaps unsurprising that one of the first villains sports a Hitler moustache and is addressed as Mein Herr. Wonder Woman is “a powerful being of light and happiness,” “as lovely as Aphrodite—as wise as Athena—with the speed of Mercury and the strength of Hercules.” She “leads the invincible youth of America against the threatening forces of treachery, death, and destruction.” (All quotations from the introduction to various comics in this collection.) I love that the youth of America, clearly the audience for this book, are invincible!

The Wonder Woman comics are products of their time. They are often sexist and occasionally racist (this new edition has a footnote on the title page that says: “The comics reprinted in this volume were produced in a time when racism played a larger role in society and popular culture, both consciously and unconsciously.”). Wonder Woman was probably intended for a young male audience, rather than a young female audience, given her skimpy outfits and the sexism inherent in the times. However, superheroes are so ubiquitous nowadays Wonder Woman could appeal to any child and may now be better suited for girls, who can admire her strength and perseverance.

Why I recommend this graphic novel:
With all the above caveats, I’m still glad there was at least one female superhero in the cadre of men. Her stories have definitely improved over time, and she came to be a true feminist icon. As a feminist icon, she can teach girls how to be both strong and compassionate. It is good for girls to know that they can be anything, even a superhero. Moreover, these are fun, entertaining comics, perfect for anyone who loves all the comic book movies that have come out over the past decade.

Marston, William Moulton. The Wonder Woman Chronicles, Vol. 1. Illus. by Harry G. Peter. DC Comics, 2010. Gr. 5+

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