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New biopic may clear the record on Wonder Woman's kinky, queer, colorful origin

Recently, comics writer Greg Rucka made headlines when he said in an Comicosity interview that in his approach to writing Wonder Woman, she’s unequivocally a queer character. “Are we saying Diana has been in love and had relationships with other women? As [artist Nicola Scott] and I approach it, the answer is obviously yes,” he told interviewer Matt Santori-Griffith. Mainstream news outlets picked up on the news, and the predictable outrage followed. Some of it came from non-comics readers whose only exposure to Wonder Woman is from cartoons or the 1970s TV show. Some of the backlash was from the same reactionary fans of the perceived straight white comics canon who got twitchy at the idea of a black, female Iron Man, or a Muslim Ms. Marvel.

But comics readers with some sense of history weren’t particularly surprised at the news. Neither was anyone who’s read Jill Lepore’s recent national bestseller The Secret History of Wonder Woman. The character’s origin in the 1940s comes heavily freighted with kink and bisexual content, courtesy of Wonder Woman creator William Moulton Marston, a bondage enthusiast, polyamorist, and fervent early feminist. The real news isn’t that Wonder Woman is queer, it’s that her queer origins have been erased for so long. With the character celebrating her 75th anniversary this year, and enjoying a new cultural resurgence thanks to her strong showing in Batman v Superman, it’s no surprise that creators are looking for ways to take her back to her roots.

So it’s interesting to hear that Sony Pictures has just acquired the rights to Professor Marston & The Wonder Women, an indie biopic that just entered production this week. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Transparent creator and United States of Tara producer Jill Soloway is producing the film, with Angela Robinson writing and directing. Robinson doesn’t have much directorial experience — her last feature was 2005’s Herbie Fully Loaded — but she’s spent the last decade as a writer, producer, and director on True Blood and The L Word, with a consulting producer credit on How to Get Away with Murder.

Luke Evans (currently starring as an abusive husband in The Girl on the Train) stars as Marston, a Harvard-educated academic, inventor, and psychologist who entered comics writing in an attempt to educate and shape young readers. The early version of Wonder Woman is a map of his specific interests. His fondness for 1940s erotica influenced her costume. His support of early feminist theory shaped her origins as an Amazon from an all-female utopian community hidden from the male-dominated world. His obsession with ways to detect lies led him to invent an early simple lie detector, but it also gave Wonder Woman her magic truth-enforcing lasso. And his deep involvement in kink turned bondage into a dominant (heh) theme of the comics series. In the early run of the series, Wonder Woman and her friends wound up bound, chained, gagged, or otherwise restrained in every issue.

But Professor Marston & The Wonder Women is also intended to focus on his home life and how his close associations with kink and bisexuality affected the character. His wife Elizabeth, also a psychologist and inventor (and played by Transcendence star Rebecca Hall) reportedly first suggested that he create a female superhero. And the Marstons’ long-term live-in relationship with one of William’s former students, Olive Byrne (Neon Demon‘s Bella Heathcote), was also reportedly influential in a number of ways that the film may or may not develop, depending on how far Robinson’s script delves into the threesome’s sex life and the personal dynamics between them. Certainly there are a lot of angles to take with this story, from the backstory behind their relationship to the ways it secretly influenced American culture. No release date is set yet, but with DC’s Wonder Woman film set to open in June 2017, there’s every reason to rush this feature to theaters to ride its publicity coattails — and to throw a little truth-lasso around the familiar legend.


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