Before the United States entered World War II, our male superheroes like Superman and Captain America were fighting Axis Powers in comic books. But in December 1941, the same month Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, a new kind of superhero debuted in issue #8 of “All Star Comics”: Wonder Woman arrived to teach angry, brutish men how to heal the world through love and peace.

The next month, January 1942, Wonder Woman appeared on the cover of the first issue of “Sensation Comics.” By summer of 1942 she had her own title with DC Comics. But Wonder Woman was not the first female crime fighter: She was predated by the likes of Phantom Lady, Miss Fury, and Lady Luck. However, she was by far the most iconic, as her first run ended with issue #329 in February 1986. Her comic was relaunched in 1987, and has been printed continually ever since.

Besides her own comics, Wonder Woman also appeared as a member of the Justice Society of America in 1941, and then in 1960, she joined the Justice League with Superman, Batman, Flash, Green Lantern, Aquaman, and the Martian Manhunter.

Based on Greek mythology, Wonder Woman is a warrior princess, who grows up among a tribe of Amazons on Paradise Island, called Themyscira in later remakes. While Diana (Wonder Woman’s given name) and her ilk, possess superhuman strength and superior fighting skills, they’ve long adopted the ways of peace and love. When Diana comes across a downed American pilot, Steve Trevor, she offers to take him back to the war-torn “man’s world” to show them how things had gone awry. Her mother, the Amazon queen, implores her to fight for women’s rights, too.

This feminist messaging came from the mind of psychologist William Moulton Marston, inventor of the first lie-detector test, who came to the conclusion that women were more honest and dependable than men. Marston hoped to use comics to create a strong role model for girls, to teach girls how to stand up for themselves. Writing under the pen name Charles Moulton, he wanted to stay away from the violence he saw in the male-superhero comics, and depict a female heroine would could be strong and liberated, as well as traditionally “feminine” in that she was also peace-loving and submissive.

The Wonder Woman of the 1940s, drawn by Harry Peter, often found herself tied up in ways that suggested sexual bondage play, and comics with those images on the cover go for top prices now. That said, her body wasn’t drawn in the voluptuous pin-up style of Sheena Queen of the Jungle or Phantom Lady. Wonder Woman’s first costume wasn’t that revealing, and even though she wasn’t particularly muscle-bound, she was shown hoisting cars over her head. Her only weapon was the magical Lasso of Truth, which forced men to tell the truth, and her only armor were bulletproof bracelets and a tiara. Later, she traveled in an invisible plane.

However, when Marston died in 1947, so did the comic’s pro-woman storylines. Instead, the tales focused on Diana Prince’s relationship with her boyfriend, Steve, who was always t...

Another psychologist, Frederic Wertham, went on a tear against Wonder Woman in his 1954 book, “Seduction of the Innocent.” While he believed all comics were corrupting youth, he found Wonder Woman to be emasculating and insisted that her stories promoted lesbianism. As the Comics Code was imposed in 1955, she was weakened yet again, and the references to bondage were removed. By the late '60s, Wonder Woman had no superhuman powers and no longer wore her costume—she was more like Emma Peel in “The Avengers” TV series. These late '60s issues (#177-214) are coveted by collectors now.

However, in the early '70s, Gloria Steinem began to champion early Wonder Woman as a feminist icon, and so Wonder Woman went back to her roots, with her powers and her costume. Thanks to that decade’s TV show starring Lynda Carter, Wonder Woman’s popularity boomed. But by 1986, her 44-year-old comic was coming to a close, as Diana Prince finally married Steve Trevor.

Then, her history was completely wiped out and reset as part of DC’s big revamping of its universe called “Crisis on Infinite Earths.” Princess Diana was destroyed, turned into the clay she was formed from, and scattered over her home island. Of course, she was reborn in 1987 with “Wonder Woman,” Vol. 2, #1, totally unaware of the outside world or her past.

The 1990s incarnations of Wonder Woman were much more sexualized with voluptuous curves and smaller, tighter versions of her costume. And in the last 20 years, she’s gone through head-spinning cycles of death, life, and rebirth, with a litany of costume iterations along the way, including—gasp!—pants in 2010.

The first edition of “Wonder Woman” is particularly rare and can command five-figure prices in mint condition. But collectors have to beware that the comic was reprinted by DC in 1974 with oversized (13½ by 10-inch) pages and another cover that labeled it as a “Famous First Edition.” Some con artists have removed the outer cover and tried to sell this larger comic as the original.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Wonder Woman Collectors Guide

Wonder Woman Collectors Guide

Kyall Coulton has created the definitive Wonder Woman collectibles site, showcasing hundreds of items from the 1940… [read review or visit site]

Cover Browser

Cover Browser

Philipp Lenssen's incredible archive of over 94,000 comic book covers - Wow! Wham! Yikes! Browse by title from the … [read review or visit site]

Jamie Coville's in-progress ode to the history of 20th century comic books. Start with his Newsstand Period Part 1 … [read review or visit site]

Popeye's Thimble Theatre

Popeye's Thimble Theatre

Bruce Shults takes us on a comprehensive Popeye fan tour, from the early comic strips to cartoons and collectible m… [read review or visit site]

Barnacle Press

Barnacle Press

This collection of obscure newspaper comic strips provides scans browsable by title, year and date. Showcases comic… [read review or visit site]

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Bill Sienkiewicz Wonder Woman Dc Original Comic Book Art Huge DrawingSpider Woman Bowen Statue Nt Wonder Woman Harley Quinn Darth Talon Poison IvyWonder Woman #248 Jose Delbo Original Comic Art Bronze Age Dc 1978Rare 1978 Wonder Woman Linda Carter Belt Buckle Gifted To T.v Show Staff OnlyDc Comics New 52 Wonder Woman Lot 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,10,11,12,13Wonder Woman # 106 Sensation Dc Comics Nov / Dec 1951 10 Cent Comic Book Wonder Woman #26 (dc 1947) The Holliday Girls "speed Maniacs From Mercury" Gd/vgWonder Woman By George Perez Omnibus Hc Dc Comics + BonusBrave & Bold #78 Vf/nm 9.0 Batman Wonder Woman Dc 1968 No ReserveSensation Comics #39 Wonder Woman Cgc Vf- 7.5 No Restoration!!! Beautiful Copy! Wonder Woman # 38 Dc Comics Nov / Dec 1949 10 Cent Comic Book Wonder Woman 77 #1 Variant Cgc 9.8 Phil Jimenez Lynda Carter Special!Wonder Woman #44 Original Art Page #4 By David Finch ~jla/justice League/movieWonder Woman Issue 184 Adam Hughes Cover Hard To Find Dc ComicsWonder Woman #262 Cgc 9.4 Nt Green Lantern Flash Superman Batman Bowen StatueSuperman Unchained #1 3-d, Action Comics #19 & Wonder Woman #1 Variant RareJean Grey Ap Bowen Statue Nt Sideshow Wonder Woman Superman Marvel Sensation Comics #104 ! Dc 1951 Wonder Woman ! Gil Kane ! Infantino ! HayfamzoneWonder Woman #38 1:100 Variant David Finch New 52 Super Rare Hard To Find Dc 11973 Dc Superfriends Stick Ons With Batman, Flash And Wonder Woman Venom Bronze Bowen Statue Nt Spiderman Wonder Woman SideshowJustice League 1-14 Lot The New 52! Jim Lee Superman Batman Wonder WomanWonder Woman V.2 Pvc Statue Ame-comi Dc Comics MibSideshow Toy Wonder Woman Wonder Woman 208 Nm 9.4 High Grade Dc Bronze Age Ric Estrada 1973 Nr!!Wonder Woman Comic Lot-202-229-230-238 Avg Very Fine Must Have Dc Lot 1972Wonder Woman # 9 * 1987 * Cheetah! * Nice CopyBrave & Bold #87 Vf+ 8.5 Ow/white Pages Batman Wonder Woman Dc 1970 No ResvWonder Woman #600 Statue Dc Direct Ltd Ed Alex Garner 9.75" High MibDc Direct Wonder Woman Statue Limited Edition 0290/2500 Design By Tim BrucknerWonder Woman Mini-bust By Dc Direct Sculpted By Tim Bruckner Amazon PrincessWonder Woman / Diana Prince By Luana Tamiris - V8 Comic ArtWonder Woman #214 100 Pages Fn- Condition Huge Auction Going On Now!Huge Dc Comics Lot! 53 Issues Misc Lobo, Wonder Woman, Bionicle, Superman!Wonder Woman #203 Vf- 7.5 White Pages Dc 1972 No ReserveWonder Woman #239 Nm 9.4 Ow/white Pages Dc 1978Dc Comics Wonder Woman #198 Signed By Cover Artist Phil NotoWonder Woman #7 ~ New 52 2011 ~ Vf+/nm ~~ See All My 1 Cent AuctionsWonder Woman #0-35, 23.2 New 52 Dc Comics Lot Azzarello Hot Vf To NmWonder Woman.miss Marvel 2 Characters Art Comic By Nill RockWonder Woman Original Art By Jun Lofamia - 041976 Dc Comics Super Friends Party Decorations Wonder Woman Batman Superman JlaDc Comics Wonder Woman #102 Nov 1958Wonder Woman Comic Photograph Signed By Jose Delbo* Vintage Wonder Woman Dc Comic Book #174 Feb IssueWonder Woman #141 - Fine Minus!Wonder Woman #211 100 Pages Fn- Condition Huge Auction Going On Now!Wonder Woman 36 Blank Convention Variant Dc New 52 Authentix Sketch BatmanJustice League #5 1:25 Variant Ebas New 52 Jim Lee Jla Batman Wonder WomanDc Wonder Woman #7 1st Appearance Cheetah Female Villian! Movie Coming!!Superman / Wonder Woman - 9, 10, 11, 12 Zombie Variant | Dc New 52 Lot Of 4 | NmWonder Woman Annual #8 (sep 1999, Dc) Jlape: Gorilla Warfare! -amazons And ApesWonder Woman Jla Pewter Figure Statue Jla Dc DirectWonder Woman #235 Fn Condition Huge Auction Going On Now!July Lootcrate Q Pop Batman,star Trek,zelda,wonder Woman, Brawlhalla2 Old 1978 Wonder Woman Birthday Card #9,34 Unused Superhero Cards Free Shippin Dc Super Hero School Stickers 1982 Superman Batman, Robin, Wonder Wonder WomanWonder Woman #178 (sep-oct 1968, Dc)Wonder Woman Second Genesis -- TpbWonder Woman No. 202 Sept-oct '72 "introducing Fafhrd And The Gray Mouser"!