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Psychologist William Moulton Marston had a life full of achievements — he helped invent the polygraph test, he created Wonder Woman, and he lived with two women at once! But this book cover would indicate yet one more feat to be proud of: he also wrote lurid novels about Romans — who probably liked a little loving submission now and then, if we interpret those wall paintings in the background correctly.
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Thanks to Eric S. for the link!


  1. That’s why Wonder Woman doesn’t sell! Not enough pagan rites and Roman debauchery!

    (Nice use of the crucifix in the background.)

  2. Holy crap, it’s Bettie Page (R.I.P.) pouring water on that guy in the lower-right hand corner of the back cover!! MAN, she really WAS everywhere, wasn’t she?

    (Yes, I know that’s not Bettie Page, since Marston passed 2 years before Bettie’s first photos. And I am now totally not thinking about Bettie Page in her prime posing for Marston-era Wonder Woman-themed photos. Nope. Not thinking about that. At all.)

  3. I guess Wonder Woman’s bdsm getup really isn’t a coincedence… actually come to think of it I think I’ve read something to that effect before -anyway, I’ve got to read me some more Wonder Woman:)
    I just now did some quick research and Marsden said: “Wonder Woman satisfies the subconscious, elaborately disguised desire of males to be mastered by a woman who loves them” I wonder if Dave Sim ever commented on that?:)
    Fascinating stuff on many levels.

  4. Kudos to The Beat for the use of the term “polygraph” (though “test” should be omitted) instead of the incorrect term “lie detector.”

  5. I know Heidi is clued in, but a few things should be made clear for folks who may not appreciate a few basic things about publishing. I’m always astonished by the number of people who think an author has complete control — or even any say — over the cover art of his or her books. That’s not the case now, and it certainly wasn’t the case in 1953. (And even if it had been, Marston had been dead for six years when this was published.)

    A lot of real literary works went out with covers that made them look trashy and lurid, especially in the frantic Fifties. We can’t say anything about what this book was actually like based on the cover. It might have been a potboiler, it might have been kinky erotica, or it might have been a serious historical novel. It was written in 1932 as Venus With Us: A Tale of the Caesar and republished in 1953 as a knockoff when the movie with James Mason and Marlon Brando was released. All they cared about was having the name “Julius Caesar” in the title and could they sell more copies with a sexy cover.

  6. Well, while I would be less likely to assume bondagey fun on a novel by any other author knowing what publishers got up to with paperback covers back then, this is William Moulton Marston we’re talking about.

    Given what he managed to put into a children’s comic, and how closely the innuendo on the cover and blurb fit his particular preoccupations, I think it is safe to say that even if sex doesn’t happen on the page someone gets tied up a lot. Often. Probably with a woman on top.

    Many of his fans will find this a plus! I know a fan who is adding this to her Hanukkah list even as we speak.

  7. It’s entirely possible, Kate. My objection was not to people supposing that a novel by William Marston would likely have literal or symbolic bondage scenes combined with proto-feminist philosophy; that’s almost a given. But there’s gap between guessing that and assuming, based on the cover art, that this is going to be some kind of weird inverted-Gorean crackfest. Bondage isn’t all there was to his work, and even that goes hand in hand with his ahead-of-the-curve feminism and liberalism. Plenty of comics writers have displayed their personal kinks on the page, many of them vastly less benevolent…but for some reason Marston gets all the sniggering, you know?

    And a freilichen Hanukkah to your friend!

  8. I don’t see there being any “sniggering” really… is there? I mean, no more than for say Crumb’s treatment of women, Sim’s thinking relationships are voids and more recently Lafler’s love for wearing dresses. I’d like to see more comics by women, such as Fleener and Gregory, exploring “not talked about in polite company” themes. And I wish Marston’s themes would be explored more overtly in a more mature oriented direction…
    Comics are a great venue for such personal slanted stories -let’s hope readership continues to grow for them.

  9. No “sniggering” on this blogpost, true. But I have seen it, usually on other messboards, and once in a TCJ review, where online reviewer Tom Crippen took it into his head to describe Marston (the man, not his beliefs) as “lumpish”– whatever that was supposed to mean.