I have been lucky enough to be in Toronto when they had an author event on at the Merril Collection. This was Jill Lepore on tour with her new book, The Secret History of Wonder Woman. Naturally I went along. The event was packed, though aside from a few Merril staff there was no one I recognized. Lepore, it turns out, is an excellent speaker, and I’m sure I am going to enjoy reading her book. I should note that she is an historian, not a comics expert, and her main interest is in the life of William Marston, the man who created Wonder Woman. But he did have a very interesting life, and his work has a prominent place in the history of feminism.
Most of what Lepore had to say was about the early 20th Century. Marston died in 1947. However, Lepore did talk a bit about the late 60s and early 70s when Wonder Woman was adopted as an icon by parts the feminist movement of the time. This was of particular interest to me because I had been looking at what was happening in the comic at the time — specifically the horrendously homophobic #185. That issue makes much more sense when you know that Diana was being used by prominent feminists to promote their cause.
Nothing changes, of course. That issue of Wonder Woman was a key part of the talk on LGBT superheroes that I was giving last year. Another key element was the character of Alysia Yeoh, Barbara Gordon’s trans woman friend. Gail Simone deftly had Babs and Alysia sharing a house together before revealing that Alysia was trans, and then showed clearly that this was not an issue in any way. Gail has since left, and only a few issues later the new (all male) creative team has made a point of establishing that Barbara is horrified by trans people. I am so unsurprised.
Update: I see that Cameron Stewart has posted an apology about that Batgirl issue, which is progress. Also my apologies to Babs Tarr whose name didn’t come up when I looked up the creative team online. Thanks to @ariadnesisland for the tip-off.