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Comic Book Legends Revealed #362

Welcome to the three hundredth and sixty-second in a series of examinations of comic book legends and whether they are true or false. Today, what is the secret origin of Wonder Woman’s silver bracelets? What is the Simpsons connection to the Runaways? And just who or what is the Mexican Green Lantern?!?!

Click here for an archive of the previous three hundred and sixty-one.

Let’s begin!

COMIC LEGEND: Wonder Woman’s special bracelets were based on the bracelets worn by William Moulton Marston’s lover.

STATUS: True

Every once in awhile it’ll occur to me that while I could have sworn I discussed a topic YEARS ago, I actually had not. The origin of Wonder Woman’s silver bracelets is one of those such topics. It is something I figured I would have covered in the first few months, not nearly seven years into the column!

In any event, Wonder Woman creator Willaim Moulton Marston had an interesting arrangement at home. He lived with his wife, Elizabeth Marston as well as his former student, Olive Byrne. The three people were in a polyamorous relationship. Marston had two children with Elizabeth and two with Olive. William and Elizabeth officially adopted William’s children with Olive and the seven all lived together. In fact, when Marston died in 1947, Elizabeth and Olive continued to live together until Olive’s death forty years later. Elizabeth went back to work and Olive stayed at home raising the children. Marston’s oldest son Pete recalled it as, “It was a wonderful situation, a win-win deal for everyone.”

The reason I bring up the relationship is because of the effect that Olive had on Wonder Woman’s appearance. While it was Elizabeth who first suggested to Marston that he create a female superhero, it was Olive who tended to be the visual model for the character.

One of Wonder Woman’s most famous trademarks is her silver bracelets that she uses to deflect bullets…

The bracelets were with her in her first appearance in late 1941 in All-Star Comics #8…

They even reference the deflection skills of the bracelets in the issue in question…

As it turns out, though, Olive Byrne actually wore bracelets all the time that were the inspiration for Wonder Woman’s bracelets.

Here is Olive in a couple of photos (where she is assisting Marston in the application of his lie-detector test).

In addition, in a 1942 Family Circle interview conducted by Olive Byrne (under the pseudonym “Olive Richard,” Marston explicitly credits Olive. The conceit of the interview is odd. Byrne had interviewed Marston (as Olive Richard) back in 1940, so they are playing the interview as a continuation of their earlier interview, but they are trying to pretend as though Marston and Byrne do not have any sort of relationship, let alone that she is LIVING with him.

The Doctor hadn’t changed a bit. He was reading a comics magazine, which sport he relinquished with a chuckle and rose gallantly to his feet, a maneuver of major magnitude for this psychological Nero Wolfe. “Hello, hello, my Wonder Woman!” cried the mammoth heartily. “I was just reading about you in this magazine. You’re prettier than your prototype in the story strip, and far more intellectual. Sit down and tell me all.”

“I came to be told, and what’s the idea of calling me Wonder Woman, and I don’t feel like listening to any male sarcasm on account of I’ve heard too much already.”

“Your bracelets,” said the Doctor, taking up one thing at a time “-they’re the original inspiration for Wonder Woman’s Amazon chain bands. Wonder Woman’s bracelets protect her against bullets in the wicked world of men. Here, see for yourself.”

The picture was the same that I had seen at home. In the motorboat were several characters of definitely Teutonic cast shooting rifles and machine guns at the smiling girl. The bullets glanced harmlessly off the fair intruder’s twin bracelets, which did closely resemble-astonishing coincidence!-the pair of ancient Arab “protective” bracelets that I have worn for years.

So they are just supposed to be interviewer/interviewee, and yet he designed his comic book character after her? How did that not seem weird to them at the time?

Here is one of H.G. Peter’s earliest designs for Wonder Woman (bracelets right there from the start, of course), complete with Marston’s notes (click on the image to enlarge)….

Thanks to Charles Lyons’ CBR piece on Marston’s relationship with Olive for a great deal of information on the topic
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Check out the latest Toy Urban Legends Revealed to discover how the oil crisis affected G.I. Joe, learn why Lincoln Logs are called “Lincoln Logs” and learn which future kid’s toy was a major asset to the military during World War II!
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COMIC LEGEND: The Mexican affiliate of Mego produced a Green Lantern figure.

STATUS: False

A reader named Mr. Pete e-mailed me some legends, including:

I’ve also heard that both a Flash and a Green Lantern were produced exclusively by Lili Ledy, Mego’s Mexican affiliate.

One of the major holes in the otherwise remarkable Mego line of action figures during the 1970s is that with all the various Marvel and DC characters that they produced as figures, they never released one for Flash or Green Lantern.

This has led to a number of legends over mysterious sightings of Flash and Green Lantern figures. Never has this been more prevalent than with the Mexican makers of Mego toys, Lili Ledy.

You see, Mexico has (or at least had at the time) a rule against importing foreign toys, so if you wanted to sell a toy in Mexico it had to be PRODUCED in Mexico. So Mego licensed their characters and molds to a Mexican company called Lili Ledy.

Here are a trio of figures produced by Lili Ledy…

However, while each of those characters existed in the United States, there were rumors that Lili Ledy had at least ATTEMPTED to create a Green Lantern figure.

In the early 2000s, a seemingly major break happened. A collector came across in a box of toy parts, a Green Lantern head!

And it was clearly a Lili Ledy produced head! So were all the rumors true? Was there a Green Lantern toy produced in Mexico and not the United States?

Alas, in 2009, it turned out to be a hoax. A dealer confessed that he had made a custom Green Lantern head out of some other Lili Ledy character so as to drive up interest in his auctions. Not cool, dude, not cool!!

Thanks to the Mego Museum for the scoop about the fake head and thanks to World Mego for the picture of the Lili Ledy characters WITH their original boxes (which is quite a rare find nowadays)!

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Check out the latest Olympic Urban Legends Revealed to learn the bizarre tale of how Johnny “Tarzan” Weismuller faked his identity to compete in the 1924 Olympics, discover the even more bizarre tale of how the Olympic torch was blown out in 1976 and find out where the name “Paralympics” comes from.
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COMIC LEGEND: One of the Gibborim was based on Milhouse from the Simpsons.

STATUS: I’m Going With True

In the first volume of the Runaways, it was unclear as to what exactly was the deal with the parents of the Runaways, teenagers who discovered that their parents were a gang that controlled crime in Los Angeles. All they knew was that their parents were evil and committed a human sacrifice every year.

In Runaways #13 (by Brian K. Vaughan and Adrian Alphona), we discover who they were sacrificing people to, the Gibborim. Here they are…

If one of the Gibborim looks familiar, it is with good reason. Just in time for our Simpsons Easter Egg Extravaganza, note that the Gibborim on the far right…

looks like Bart Simpson’s best friend, Milhouse!

Marvin Law wrote in to let me know that is not a coincidence. He writes:

I was once studio mates with Adrian Alphona during his first run on Runaways for Marvel comics, and I know for certain that the Gibborim that the Pride worshiped and made sacrifices to, one of them was actually based on Mllhouse from the Simpsons.

Thanks, Marvin! Very cool piece of information! Clever stuff by Alphona!
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Check out the latest Baseball Urban Legends Revealed to examine whether a famed deaf baseball player led to the institution of hand signals by umpires in baseball, marvel at the short-lived costumed mascot of the New York Yankees (yes, costumed mascot of the New York Yankees – you read that right) and finally, did a pitcher really strike out three batters with no fielders on the field?
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Okay, that’s it for this week!

Thanks to the Grand Comics Database for this week’s covers! And thanks to Brandon Hanvey for the Comic Book Legends Revealed logo!

Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is cronb01@aol.com. And my Twitter feed is http://twitter.com/brian_cronin, so you can ask me legends there, as well!

Follow Comics Should Be Good on Twitter and on Facebook (also, feel free to share Comic Book Legends Revealed on our Facebook page!). If we hit 3,000 likes on Facebook you’ll get a bonus edition of Comic Book Legends the week after we hit 3,000 likes! So go like us on Facebook to get that extra Comic Book Legends Revealed! Not only will you get updates when new blog posts show up on both Twitter and Facebook, but you’ll get original content from me, as well!

Also, be sure to check out my website, Urban Legends Revealed, where I look into urban legends about the worlds of entertainment and sports, which you can find here, at urbanlegendsrevealed.com.

Here’s my book of Comic Book Legends (130 legends – half of them are re-worked classic legends I’ve featured on the blog and half of them are legends never published on the blog!).

The cover is by artist Mickey Duzyj. He did a great job on it…(click to enlarge)…

If you’d like to order it, you can use the following code if you’d like to send me a bit of a referral fee…

Was Superman a Spy?: And Other Comic Book Legends Revealed

See you all next week!

40 Comments

Marston hitting on Byrne while at the same time pretending not to live with her is definitely an exercise in high humor. He comes off as such a creeper.

“Willaim Moulton Marston had an interesting arrangement at home. He lived with his wife, Elizabeth Marston as well as his former student, Olive Byrne. The three people were in a polyamorous relationship. Marston had two children with Elizabeth and two with Olive. William and Elizabeth officially adopted William’s children with Olive and the seven all lived together. In fact, when Marston died in 1947, Elizabeth and Olive continued to live together until Olive’s death forty years later. Elizabeth went back to work and Olive stayed at home raising the children. Marston’s oldest son Pete recalled it as, “It was a wonderful situation, a win-win deal for everyone.””

I truly don’t judge this on any front – certainly not on a moral note – if it worked for the three of them, and the kids were raised in a loving home, this is nobody’s business but the people involved.

However, whenever I read of this relationship, or hear of others with these kinds of relationships, and then reflect on the utter complications and difficulties of my various relationships, with the 4 women that I have lived with (individually, let’s make that clear) over the last 22 years of my life, I can’t imagine anything but frustration and increased complications from actually “co-cohabiting” with two women, let alone having kids with both of them.

I mean this in all sincerity, and with much reflection as I enter my 4th decade that this, and the failure of my previous relationships (at least my half of the failures) may say more about me though.

Schnitzy Pretzelpants

April 13, 2012 at 10:21 am

“Marston hitting on Byrne while at the same time pretending not to live with her is definitely an exercise in high humor. He comes off as such a creeper.”

But that’s not really what was happening, per se.

Of course, they had to keep up that pretense, because public opinion NOW, let alone THEN would have had moral indignation at the way they were choosing to live. Whether it worked for the three of them or not, that wouldn’t have stopped people from judging them.

I have no real problem with them hiding their relationship, for the reason you note. He couldn’t very well publicly admit to having essentially two wives. The silly part, though, is hiding the relationship but then, as P. Boz notes, flirting with her throughout the article, including modeling his comic book character after her, someone he is not supposed to be familiar with.

That’s supposed to be Milhouse? Don’t see it.

I have known three multi partner relationships and while they seemed very stable and happy during the time I knew them, they all ended up the way most relationships do. So it seems that failed relationships and not appreciating what you have is more a sign of our times than it was back in Marston’s day. I applaud them actually. I think you’r right though Anonymous, it depends on the people in the relationship.
So many of today’s society feels the need to judge and push their own moral codes on others but what Marston had worked for their family. I think it would be very interesting to see their family dynamic working together to create the Wonder Woman stories.

And I don’t know about the Millhouse lookalike but those couple of pages got me interested in the origins of the Runaways, whom I have never read.

Ger: I’m not normally much interested in teen hero groups, but Runaways is a good series, well worth checking out.

It’s interesting that whenever the living arrangements of the Marstons are discussed, it’s usually framed in terms of William Marston having a wife and a lover…as if there were something skeevy or adulterous about it on his part. The assumption seems always to be that the man was the dominant figure in the relationship. People need to bear in mind that Elizabeth and Olive were together for longer than the three of them were together — that is to say, the women stayed together for another 40 years after Bill passed away. Rather than saying Bill Marston had a wife and a lover, it might be more apt to say Elizabeth Marston had both a husband and a wife.

Wasn’t Alan Moore somewhat of a polygamist too?

It’s interesting that whenever the living arrangements of the Marstons are discussed, it’s usually framed in terms of William Marston having a wife and a lover

Because he’s the famous person/reason we’re even discussing this. If Elizabeth Marston created Wonder Woman, we’d talk about it as Elizabeth Marston having a husband and a lover.

The “former student” bit did give me some pause. Hopefully, their relationship started after she was no longer his student.

Of course Mexico has changed its laws since then. You can basically import anything now. I understand there is still some kind of tax (many action figures don’t make it here), but nowadays our toy industry has been dimished and Mattel and Hasbro products are everywhere.

Yeah!!!! Referring to the Gibborim, regardless of the active and prosperous Mexican Drug Cartels, of course “the thieves” are black.

ONE THING WE CAN RELY ON, COMICS NEVER CEASE TO STEREOTYPE.

@TIRED: On the Runaways stuff, given that everyone shown in that scene is a villain of one type or another (aliens, mutants, time travelers, wizards or in the case of the Wilders, the black couple, L.A. crime bosses), I’m not sure you could accuse Vaughan and Alphona of stereotyping.

I always thought that Vaughan did a reasonably good job in terms of representations of race, gender and orientation in Runaways.

Wonder Woman’s creator-SUPER STUD!!!

The “former student” bit did give me some pause. Hopefully, their relationship started after she was no longer his student.

I believe she was his graduate student, so she at least wasn’t a teenager when they began working together.

So, if you’re a comic creator you’re allowed to date two women at the same time. Awesome.

My favorite Milhouse episode is when Bart somehow got Milhouse on the F.B.I’s most wanted list and they begin hunting him down.

If both women are okay with it, anyone is allowed to date two women at the same time.

If neither woman finds out about the other, anyone is allowed to date two women at the same time.

Ha! I think there, the term would be “anyone would be able to date two women at the same time.” ;)

“Because he’s the famous person/reason we’re even discussing this. If Elizabeth Marston created Wonder Woman, we’d talk about it as Elizabeth Marston having a husband and a lover.”

In many respects she was the uncredited co-creator. His idea was to create a female Tarzan called “Diana, the Huntress.” It was her idea to create a character more like Superman. She is considered the model for Wonder Woman’s personality and athleticism. He planned to give her a skirt; she nixed that idea as being impractical which is why Wonder Woman wore baggy culottes instead.

As far as “dating two women” goes, that’s silly. The three people clearly loved each other. The two women named their children after each other, and they were together longer than either had been with him. It is more accurate to say that Elizabeth had a husband and a wife, because that’s the truer story.

Elizabeth Marston did not give Wonder Woman bracelets because of Olive Byrne. William Marston did. Which is the legend being discussed here. Which is why he is the one whose relationship is at issue here. It is the “truest” way of stating the story.

That said, sure, “dating two women” undervalues their relationship. I certainly wouldn’t (and didn’t) phrase it like that myself. Some commenter did.

With all due respect, there is no resemblance between the Gibborim and Milhouse beyond the fact that they both wear glasses, and even then, the Gib guy’s glasses are covered in tape and there’s a third lens in the middle. Please explain how that is even remotely a tribute to the Simpsons. Thank you.

To break discussion a bit.
That repainted head is I believe from an Aquaman mold.
I had that figure once,along with both Batmans, Robin, Spider-man, and Human Torch.

Now that I’ve done a little more looking on a Mego related site it may have been one of the Superman heads repainted as Green Lantern.

Why do you suppose the “silver” bracelets are colored gold in the first two images shown?

This is a nitpick, but: I don’t recall Wonder Woman’s bracelets being called “Silver Bracelets” or even colored that way, at least not until her Post-Crisis days. In fact I believe their proper name was Amazon Bracelets.

As for the Gibborim: you know, overall I like Runaways, but I feel they are the weakest part of that series. Let’s see:

Three giants show up, they claim they will destroy humanity, they claim they needed EXACTLY six couples for their purposes (how convenient) and offer to spare HALF of them if they give them human sacrifices for a few years. Would you BELIEVE them, much less do what they say instead of contacting, say, The Avengers for help?? Not to mention that the Marvel Universe is already full of demonic beings that offer deals (like Mephisto) so why did this series need to invent new ones- especially ones so underwhelming (ironically, Gibborim means “mighty” and “heroic” in Hebrew, which hardly describes Giant Milhouse and company above.)

Well, one of the comments I was going to comment on the other day is no longer showing, so I assume Brian will get into it more later. Excellent.

@Sijo: I don’t know about WW’s bracelets, but it definitely is odd that they have more of a golden color early on. Although looking again, it appears that it’s more of a “Superman’s blue hair” deal (coloring it blue because solid black wouldn’t have worked), where due to the vagaries of coloring back in the day, a good looking, consistent shade of silver was probably very hard to pull off.

Also, as to the Runaways, the Gibborim are kind of Macguffins, aren’t they? It’s been a while since I’ve read it, but it seems BKV wanted to write a “teen kids on the run, both literally and figuratively (escaping their parents’ badness)” series, and this “deal with the devil” was a good catalyst. I think BKV used new beings to keep it from being too tied into Marvel continuity both in the original pitch and to allow future multimedia adaptations to be unmired in continuity. (My guess, and I think I actually read this, but I could be wrong, is that BKV created the concept, and then Marvel wanted to use it. If DC had been interested, the Runaways could have been fighting Teen Titans and such.) Also, I think the ironic meaning of Gibborim here is probably intentional.

With regards to the look of that Milhouse-ish Gibborim, the legend is saying only that it was based on Milhouse, not that it was supposed to be a Milhouse twin. As a jumping off point, it works, because you can kinda see that he was the basis, but it’s not so close that you can ONLY see it as Milhouse.

Re: those figures: any reason why Robin and Superman have no chest insignia? Also, is it possible that Flash and GL figures weren’t made because either their books didn’t sell very well, or that they didn’t have capes?

Marston is an interesting guy. A Kavalier and Clay-type book, or bio-pic should be done about him and his life. It’d be pretty interesting. And look at that neat lettering in the WW pages! Don’t mind me, I’m just nerding out.

As I understand it, Alan Moore did have a similar living situation for a time. Too bad we never got much WW stuff out of him. Glory and Promethea had similarities, but a different focus, so they aren’t exactly analogous. Although I suppose you could say they WERE his take on the concept then….

Yes, they were actually a kind of blue-black on Wonder Woman and were intended to represent the manicles ( a negative thing) which Hercules and his army used to enslave the Amazons after he stole Hypolitta’s Magic Belt which protected the Amazons from ever being conquored.

HyppolitA prayed to her Goddesses and they granted freedom to the enslaved Amazons, who had their chains broken (symbolic for Marston) and they turned a negative into a posative with the new skill of deflecting bullets and other objects with these.

An Amazon recieved her bracelets in a ceremat age 15, kind of like a right of passage into womanhood.

Myself, I’ve always found it strange that Paradise Island was supposed to have been isolated from the rest of the world for centuries, and yet they had firearms. Mind you, I also have to question the wisdom of holding a contest which involves using metal bracelets to deflect live bullets.

Linda Carter’s Wonder Woman had golden bracelets which may have had enough of a cultural impact for Wonder Woman #0 to have been mistakenly colored that way.

As far as All-Star #8, well, Golden Age comics weren’t the best at consistency when it came to coloring (as only a few panels later, the bracelets are blue-black). Notice how the white stripes on her boots are colored yellow too.

The Amazons had all sorts of advanced technology (such as the purple healing ray) despite being isolated. I attribute much of this to the Magic Sphere that let Hippolyta see through time and space, so she could always just copy the inventions of other people in the future.

Wasn’t adultery illegal? L.A. Noire said it was. That’s probably why Marston and his mistress there kept it on the down-low. That being said: Gross.

“A dealer confessed that he had made a custom Green Lantern head out of some other Lili Ledy character so as to drive up interest in his auctions”

That’s not “some other” character. That’s blatantly Superman. Look at the curl!

Miken – yes, Alan Moore was in a poly relationship (with two women, one of whom he was officially married to, just like Marsten)…then the ladies decided they’d rather be a couple than a triad and left him (at least, if I’m remembering correctly).

[...] * Chip Kidd’s TED Talk on book cover design. * Cool photos of waves by Cory Arnold. (via Pete Olsen) * A nice video clip about the therapeutic qualities of music. (via Jon B.) * 50 background paintings from Scooby Doo. (via Mister Reusch) * One of the original sketches for Wonder Woman by H.G. Peter with notes by the creator, William Moulton Marston. From a post on CBR. [...]

William had 2 children with Elizabeth and 2 with Olive, so he had “two wives”. Beyond it was a happy household we really don’t know what Elizabeth and Olive’s relationship was. Maybe they were lovers, maybe they weren’t. I don’t think it matters. The focus of the piece was William and Olive’s relationship and Elizabeth is in there by way of explanation.

I think Olive and Elizabeth are secretly lesbians, but at that time, gays and lesbians were strongly opposed (still are in some countries), so they both married the same guy.

Anyway, Wonder Woman ROCKS!

Olive Byrne and Elizabeth Marston were pretty clearly both bi. And William Marston was definitely entertained by bondage. One’s suspicion is that he and Olive were submissive and Elizabeth was dominant….

It’s no *wonder* they did their best to hide their relationship; it was not only socially unacceptable at the time, but actually illegal. But it seems to have been an extremely healthy triad.

“The Amazons had all sorts of advanced technology (such as the purple healing ray) despite being isolated.”

Yeah, but the Purple Ray is like nothing we have in Man’s World, so it’s perfectly congruant with their isolation. I think he meant it was weird that they just happen to have invented and developed guns that are exactly the same as ours, which I always thought was weird as well.
Was it the TV show or Perez’s run that had Polly explain that one other man besides Steve had landed on the island once, and they’d kept his gun?

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