Wonder Woman: Bondage and Female Empowerment
The WW posts I've made so far are from a 1977 collection of Golden Age Wonder Woman comics with an introduction by Gloria Steinem. Steinem carefully picked the least whacked out stories, avoiding the more bondage-intensive ones and the ones with racist stereotypes. I received this volume as a Christmas present when I was 8 or 9. Before that, Wonder Woman was my heroine simply because she was the only girl on Superfriends. (Okay, there were two others, but Wendy and the female Wonder Twin just weren't that inspirational, okay?) This collection is how the Amazing Amazon earned her permanent place close to my heart. I read it about five thousand times; it's very well worn. I loved that she was a heroic female, I loved that it was full of pictures of pretty girls, and yes, I loved the bondage. Even then.
This collection doesn't give the issue numbers, but this story was originally published in 1945. Hippolyte summons Diana back to Paradise Island to help those "young Amazon girls" of mysterious origin "earn their bracelets". The girls are unable to break the ropes they're tied up with or lift more than 500 lbs. Wonder Woman inspires them by showing off her exceptional Amazon abilities.
And of course, as usual, Amazon training includes getting tied up a lot.
See, this is where this icon comes from.
Inspired by their princess, the Amazon girls easily pass their tests and earn their bracelets. Aphrodite then sends Diana to inspire another set of unempowered girls, on the planet Venus.
"I am a helpless but fetching damsel in distress! If I make big enough eyes at you, will you help me, you gorgeous hunk of Amazon, you?"
The redhead insists that women are too weak to swim across the river, but Wonder Woman leads them across. The seal men immediately attack them. Animalistic men abducting beautiful women. If only the symbolism weren't so subtle! I bet Marston loved King Kong.
And they have one goodlooking guy for their leader, of course. There is no explanation of why he isn't as ugly as the other dudes. Marston just always comes up with fresh ways of tying women up.
Having gotten the lay of the land, Wonder Woman breaks her bonds, lassos Prince Pagli, and forces him to thaw out the girls.
Notice she doesn't break the ropes around her legs. She's just got to stay as tied up as she can for as long as she can.
Check out the "secret signal" Prince Pagli gives Count Frigid. That's really clever; Wonder Woman could never possibly figure out what he means by pointing to the rope that's around him.
"You saved yourselves - I only showed you that you could!" I have to say, despite the whacked-out-ness of this series, that element of these stories still made a big impression on me.