Celebrating Year One
To celebrate Wonder Woman’s first year of publication, creator William Moulton Marston spins a tail that draws Diana Prince, Wonder Woman, and Steve Trevor back together. Only the love triangle between these three is transformed into a love square involving Dolly Dancer, a young woman Diana trails Steve to meet at the Bohemian Club (Moulton 59). When Diana lays eyes on the girl she notes “She isn’t as pretty as Wonder Woman. I wonder what Steve sees in her” (Moulton 59). This is the natural response when one follows the man she is interested in meet another woman, right?
The belief that Moulton Marston was a feminist derails in this moment.
To review, Diana Prince is angry because the man she left Paradise Island for is with another woman rather than Wonder Woman. Not herself, but her alter ego.
The Unfolding Story
As the story unfolds, we find Diana listening in on Steve Trevor’s secret calls (using a new technology we haven’t seen before called the detectaphone) and following him to buy train tickets. Diana marks the window Steve Trevor will sit next to with an X, goes to a nearby secluded spot, and changes into her Wonder Woman garb. As Marston puts it, “As Steve’s train leaves the station a beautiful figure emerges from the drab garments of Diana Prince” (Moulton 60).
After they arrive in New York, Diana goes to Steve’s hotel to warn him that Dolly is a spy. Trevor responds by saying, “Ha! Ha! Diana the Sleuth! You’d better go back to nursing—I know my own business” (Moulton 61). He then locks her in her room (Moulton 62).
Diana escapes and finds that Dolly Dancer stars in a show that Trevor will attend. Alerted to Wonder Woman’s attendance, the theater manager calls her onstage where she receives a standing ovation for…walking onto the stage (Moulton 63).
If we fast forward through this puzzling caper, we will find Wonder Woman rescuing Trevor. He thanks her with the reassurance that he “[…] only made love to Dolly in the line of duty” (Moulton 70). Wonder Woman replies, “You always perform your duties so thoroughly, Steve! But I should have known your taste in women is better than that” (Moulton 63).
Puzzling is a nice word for this tale.
Enraging may be more accurate.
For a man who reportedly believed that women would save the world, we might wonder how he intended for us to do that.
Learning about her Character
This story celebrates a year of Diana Prince competing with “the beautiful angel” Wonder Woman. In this story, she must also compete for Trevor’s attention with Dolly Dancer.
While Wonder Woman understands Trevor’s work with Dolly, we don’t see Diana Prince’s reply to his apology. What might she think?
And how does this competition between women for one man communicate feminism? How are these women running the world if they are busy chasing Trevor?
Not just chasing, saving.
The emergence of Dolly Dancer reveals the ugly side of the competition Prince and Wonder Woman have engaged in. One woman fighting herself becomes three women fighting each other. Dancer is denigrated for not being good enough because Trevor’s “taste in women is better than that” (Moulton 63). The goal of feminism isn’t to pit women against each other to measure our value based on our looks.
This tale would have been feminist if the three of them had abandoned Trevor to save the world.
We end Wonder Woman’s first year of publication with a quizzical feeling, a wonderment about what she has become and what happened to Diana Prince. A return to Paradise Island may be in order…
Marston, William Moulton. Wonder Woman: The Golden Age Omnibus Volume 2. DC Comics, 2011.