In the male-dominated world of the superhero, Wonder Woman always stood out. The Amazonian princess was tall, incredibly strong, compassionate and totally fierce – the ultimate feminist icon!
Starting life as a DC Comics heroine, Wonder Woman was first known as Princess Diana (not that one) from the Amazons of Paradise Island. The basis for this story was taken from the Amazon all-female warriors of Themyscira (which Wonder Woman’s Paradise Island later became) from Greek mythology; a tribe of physically strong woman who left ancient Greece’s ‘evil ways’ to live by themselves in peace.
Her first storyline explained how Princess Diana came to leave her homeland after an U.S Army officer crashed there during World War II. Diana nursed General Steve Trevor until he was well again and then competed with her fellow girl warriors to become ‘Wonder Woman’ – the prize being the chance to accompany Steve back to America and fight the Nazis. Well, who wouldn’t want to do that?
I always used to worry that Wonder Woman must have been freezing when she changed into her new alter ego in the U.S of A. – not only did she come from far warmer climes in the first place but her crime fighting outfit was TINY (I think we can all agree the conclusion that she was originally drawn by a man, without further research necessary). More realistic depictions of her in action would have included her stopping every few minutes to yank her top up…
The Wonder Woman comic books have been massively successful; her character came to life in 1941 in All Star Comics #8 before becoming the lead feature in Sensation Comics the following year. Apart from a short spell in 1986, she has appeared as the world’s greatest female super hero pretty much continuously since.
But we’re not here to talk about that…we’re here to discuss the colourful, ass-kicking version of Wonder Woman that appeared on television in the 1970s! Diana Prince (played by Miss World 1972, singer/songwriter and actress Lynda Carter) was my ultimate girl-crush when I sat glued to the reruns of Wonder Woman as a child – she was bold, beautiful and always in control of any situation she found herself in.
To go back to the beginning of Wonder Woman’s television career, in 1974 a TV movie of the same name was aired in the US. The lead role was taken by a blond actress named Cathy Lee Crosby but which bore little resemblance to the comic book character. This was intended to be a pilot for a series but network ABC weren’t impressed enough with the ratings to pick it up. Then, in 1975, another film was made through the production company Warner Bros.; this time with Carter donning the sparkly pants and gold tiara that has become her trademark and which stuck slightly more faithfully to Wonder Woman’s comic book origins, although it didn’t touch on her early life on Paradise Island. Another non-comic book addition was the famous Diana Prince spin, changing her coolly into her spangly costume with the help of an explosion of smoke at the crucial moment. I spent HOURS trying to replicate it in my front room (without the explosion but with plenty of dizziness though).
Actor and model Lyle Waggoner (who had been in the running to play the kapow-and-thwack king, Batman, before losing out to the one and only Adam West) was signed up to play Steve Trevor.
This show was received more enthusiastically and ABC ordered two further one hour episodes which went out in April 1976, followed by another 11 that were broadcast between October 1976 and February 1977. When it came to commissioning a second series, however, ABC were concerned about the amount it cost to produce a show set during World War II as well as the limitations on the ‘enemy = the Nazis’ storylines and so turned down the opportunity. Warner Bros. then took a new idea to CBS: Wonder Woman would relocate to the 1970s - cue afros and flares aplenty! CBS signed the show.
From then on, unlike another DC favourite, Batman, Wonder Woman never got to fight the same enemy twice. There was no recurring battles with her equivalent of the Joker or Poison Ivy; nope, she dispatched ‘em and moved on to the next. That’s my girl.
To help her banish the baddies, Wonder Woman had a few unique weapons; firstly, her Bracelets of Submission. Made of an indestructible metal (’Feminum’) she was able to use them to deflect bullets and blasts of energy as well as to help her survive big falls. She was also in possession of the Lasso of Truth; able to make anybody caught in it tell the truth in the first series, by the second it could also bring about selective amnesia. As if all this wasn’t enough, she could also telepathically communicate with animals; useful if, as she did have to on one occasion, frighten off a killer shark.
The opening titles remained pretty similar for seasons one and two – each featured an explosion of animated stars, before cartoon scenes morphed into real film of the show’s stars smiling toothily. They also featured a great theme song (‘Wonder Woman! Wonder Woman! All the world is waiting for you…and the power you possess…’) which included within it one of the greatest lyrics of all time: ‘In your satin tights – fighting for your rights…’
Season three’s opening titles left the animation behind and was purely live action; it mostly featured Wonder Woman running very fast or jumping very high with a very serious expression before causing some sort of explosion (although it still gave Lyle Waggoner the opportunity to flash his blinding white grin at the camera – which was more in keeping with her more physical approach to crime fighting during these episodes.
Wonder Woman the TV series came to an end in September 1979; it was pushed out of its then Friday night slot by the green, shirt-busting Incredible Hulk and new programme The Dukes of Hazzard. Yee-haw!
Since the show’s demise it has been re-run on several occasions and released on both video and DVD. Wonder Woman herself continues to fight for justice in comic book form as well as in books and as a fearsome Lego minifigure.
And to make things even better, in 2015 she has just had a makeover (along with that other cool female law abider, Bat Girl) – no longer does she have to fight crime in a tiny, impractical costume, she now has a funky – and more importantly, warm looking - all-in-one suit. No more goose pimples for everybody’s favourite super heroine!