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You know that Wonder Woman is suddenly ubiquitous. But did you know that in 1942, Wonder Woman’s creator, one William Moulton Marston, wrote an incredibly charming essay in defense of comics? Yes, that’s right, apparently once comics were not considered a valid way for an adult to spend time, but his essay makes a convincing case for them. Here is an excerpt of “Why 100,000,000 Americans Read Comics,” from The American Scholar, though we feel certain you will want to download and read the entire essay (click through for the illustration if nothing else!):

The comics have become a seven-day, morning-afternoon-and-evening mental diet for a vast majority of Americans. One hundred million is a very conservative estimate of the total number of men, women, and children who habitually read story strips in the United States….Comics, they say, are not literature – adventure strips lack artistic form, mental substance, and emotional appeal to any but the most moronic of minds. Can it be that 100,000,000 Americans are morons? Possibly so; but there seems to be a simpler explanation. Nine humans out of ten react first with their feelings rather than with their minds; the more primitive the emotion stimulated, the stronger the reaction. Comics play a trite but lusty tune on the C natural keys of human nature.

Another choice line:

Before man thought in words he felt in pictures.

And, significantly:

The Superman-Wonder Woman school of picture-story telling emphatically insists upon heroism in the altruistic pattern. Superman never kills; Wonder Woman saves her worst enemies and reforms their characters.

On creating Wonder Woman:

…not even girls want to be girls so long as our feminine archetype lacks force, strength, power. Not wanting to be girls they don’t want to be tender, submissive, peaceloving as good women are. Women’s strong qualities have become despised because of their weak ones. The obvious remedy is to create a feminine character with all the strength of a Superman plus all the allure of a good and beautiful woman. This is what I recommended to the comics publishers.

The entire essay is available for free PDF download here!


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The American Scholar, Vol. 13, No. 1 (WINTER 1943-44), pp. 35-44
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