Jill Lepore, author of The Secret History of Wonder Woman, talks about how the Amazons origins are tied up with the history of suffrage and birth control and nicely sums up the history of women in comics in a couple of paragraphs:
I really wish I had been able to find out more about Dorothy Roubicek, who was an editor for Shelly Mayer in the forties and then comes back in the late sixties working for DC Comics again, as Dorothy Woolfolk. In 1947, Woolfolk quit and had a baby right at the time Joye Hummel quit and Marston died and Mayer quit, too. “Wonder Woman” was left rudderless, and I was really fascinated to imagine, what if Holloway had taken over? But what Kanigher did to Wonder Woman, I think, makes us appreciate how utterly odd Marston’s work was.
It was also really striking to read Marston’s stories alongside the stories that Gardner Fox writes for the Justice League for “All-Star Comics.” Fox just couldn’t think of anything for Wonder Woman to do except to type the meeting minutes and answer the phone. You almost expect her to put on an apron and start dusting. But Marston had Wonder Woman do everything. She organizes boycotts, she tells women to leave their husbands, she runs for president. It’s pretty extraordinary stuff. On the one hand, if you want to say, well, Marston wasn’t really a feminist and this was in fact a subversion of feminism, that’s a totally acceptable reading. On the other hand, compared to Gardner Fox? [Laughs]
I’ve mentioned this before but it’s really fascinating to me how past women in comics like Roubicek/Woolfolk and Dell publisher Helen Meyer are ignored in favor of the pap pap/boys network. (A recent history of comics I read didn’t even mention Meyer’s name while discussing the 1954 Senate comic book hearings.)
Was Meyer unable to find out more about Woolfolk because there was no more to find out? Or just a lack of time? I’m hopeful that it’s the latter.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.