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 be aware 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    

Vintage Dc Comics Superman And Wonder Woman #204 Fresh Attic Found UnrestoredJustice League Of America 0 Cgc 9.8 Ss Gal Gadot Wonder Woman Turner Lee KubertWonder Woman 12 Cgc 8.0 Vf * Dc 1945 * ~ H.g. Peter Cover& Art~Sideshow Exclusive Wonder Woman Premium Format Figure Statue New!! Bust FigurineOriginal Comic Art Justice League Splash Page Colleen Doran Batman Wonder WomanDc Wonder Woman #45 1951 Vg+ Vintage ComicWonder Woman (vol. 2, 1987) #1 Cgc 9.8 Nm/mt White Pages Perez ArtSensation Comics #83 Dc 1948 - Wonder Woman - Last Sargon - Check Our Comics!!!Wonder Woman 50 Signed Gal GadotSensation Comics #64 From 1947 Golden Age Wonder WomanWonder Woman #38 Finch 1:100 Color VariantWonder Woman Archives #6 (2010, Dc) - 1st Printing, Not In Shrinkwrap*in-stock* Wonder Woman Artfx 12" 1/6 Scale Statue Kotobukiya Usa SellerDc - Wonder Woman - Issue 81 - Very Fine - Vintage - Comic BookAmanda Conner Original Art Ame Comi Wonder Woman #1 Page 9Wonder Woman Rebirth 1 Sdcc 2016 Exclusive Silver Foil Jim Lee VariantWonder Woman 29 Cgc 4.0 Vg * Dc 1948 * ~ 1st Minister Blizzard~Wonder Woman #196 Cgc 7.5 Vf Ow/w Origin Retold & Bondage Cover Cheetah AppWonder Woman Comics No 19 Sept-oct 1946 Complete In Good Condition W/ WearWonder Woman Annual #1 Cgc 9.2 Ss George Perez Art Adams Garcia-lopez Signed 3xSensation Comics #101 From 1951 Golden Age Wonder WomanWonder Woman #50 Cgc 9.6 Gal Gadot Photo Variant!Wonder Woman #7 Cgc 9.6 Ss Key First Appearance Cheetah, Signed By George PerezDc Comics Rebirth Tpb Lot Deluxe Wonder Woman Nightwing Titans Justice LeagueWonder Woman 205 Cgc 9.4 White Pages Origin Nubia Suggestive Bondage Cover CbcsWonder Woman #1 (1987) Cgc 9.6 Nm+ White Pages George Perez Wraparound CoverWonder Woman Adam Hughes Covers Huge Lot #139-146,150-53,155-61 All Nm!!!!!!!Wonder Woman By George Perez Omnibus From Dc ComicsDc Millennium Edition Reprint Lot Of 10 W/wonder Woman #1 Superman #1Wonder Woman Vintage Comic Books Dc Mix Lot Of 24 Bronze Age Upcoming MovieWonder Woman 208 Cgc 9.4 Chess Cover CbcsDc Comics Collectibles Bombshells Wonder Woman StatueWonder Woman #6 (1987) Cgc 9.8 White Pages George PerezWonder Woman Art Of War Statue By Bruce Timm Dc 2278 / 5200Wonder Woman 90. 1st Appearance Artemis. Wonder Woman. Cgc Universal 9.8 Nm/mtHuge Lot Of Wonder Woman Comics & BooksJustice League Of America#1 Original Sketch Cover Art Lobo Wonder Woman BatmanDc Showcase Presents Wonder Woman Vol 2,3,4 Omnibus First PrintAdam Hughes Wonder Woman #157 Rare Large Production Art Cover MonotoneWonder Woman #5 (1987) Cgc 9.6 White Pages George PerezWonder Woman Art Of War Statue By Amanda Conner Dc 727 / 5200Wonder Woman 91 Good 2.0 Early Silver AgeJim Lee Sketchbook All Star Signed! Batman, Superman, Wonder WomanWonder Woman...private Detective! Dc Comics 40's Style Sericel Wonder Woman 89 Good 2.0 Flying Saucer Cover & StoryCgc Ss 9.8~sensation Comics Featuring Wonder Woman #11~signed By Jamal Igle~pWonder Woman # 199 Cgc 9.6 Classic Bondage Cover 0969851008Dc Comics Collectibles Bombshells Wonder Woman Statue Holiday EditionWonder Woman #8 (1987) Cgc 9.8 White Pages George PerezWonder Woman Rebirth #1 Cgc Ss 9.8 Cho Variant Signed By Rucka, Cho & SharpWonder Woman #3 (1987) Cgc 9.8 White Pages George Perez (1st Julia & Vanessa)Wonder Woman # 72 Signed By Bill Loebs Vf+ Cond.Dc Direct Art Of War Wonder Woman David Finch Limited Statue 1788/5200Wonder Woman #2 (1987) Cgc 9.8 White Pages George Perez Wonder Woman #21 (1988) Cgc 9.8 White Pages George PerezWonder Woman #7 (1987) Cgc 9.8 White Pages George PerezWonder Woman #4 (1987) Cgc 9.8 White Pages George PerezWonder Woman 13" Doll.vintage Dc Comics 1976Amazing World Of Dc Comics # 15 High Grade Vfn Wonder WomanWonder Woman 112 Good 2.0 Early Silver Age