In The Secret History of Wonder Woman (Knopf), New Yorker writer Jill Lepore tells the wild story of crackpot psychologist William Moulton Marston. After bouncing from university job to university job and playing a botched role in a murder case that kept the lie detector he invented (but failed to patent) on the far outskirts of American courts, he settled down in an extralegal plural marriage that included birth control pioneer Margaret Sanger's niece.
Marston then parlayed his role as a supposedly respectable academic advisor to the reviled early comic book industry into the creation of Wonder Woman.
Wonder Woman was an embodiment of his outdated form of feminism, in which woman were not equal to men but different and better because of their kinder, more angelic natures. That, plus a disturbing belief in the positive power of bondage (see the famous magic lasso): "The only hope for peace," Marston wrote, "is to teach peopleâ€¦to enjoy being bound, enjoy submission to kind authority." -Brian Doherty
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Wonder Woman's Origin".