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Welcome to the three hundredth and seventy-sixth in a series of examinations of comic book legends and whether they are true or false. This week, did William Marston give Wonder Woman a lie-detecting lasso of truth? Plus, what comic book did Warren Ellis turn his non-Comics Code approved Satana script into? And what comic book did Ivan Velez Jr. have to remove parodies of Archie Comics from?
Click here for an archive of the previous three hundred and seventy-six.
WARNING: AS THE NON-COMICS CODE APPROVED THING MIGHT SUGGEST, THERE ARE SOME PAGES HERE THAT ARE QUITE GRAPHIC. BE FOREWARNED!
COMIC LEGEND: When William Marston invented Wonder Woman’s lasso, it made people tell the truth.
STATUS: False Enough for a False
William Marston, creator of Wonder Woman, also invented a lie detector test that is a major component of the modern polygraph test. Therefore, over the years it has been a nice little sound bite that the man who invented the lie detector test also gave Wonder Woman a lasso that made people tell the truth.
However, while I was doing research for an edition of When We First Met (here‘s an earlier When We First Met about Wonder Woman firsts) I noticed that when her lasso was first introduced, they did not say ANYthing about it being a “lasso of truth.” I thought that that, in and of itself, was interesting but then I began wondering exactly when that became a part of the lasso and more specifically, whether it was ever used that way while Marston was still the writer of the book.
So I asked Tim Hanley, who has a great Wonder Woman blog called Straitened Circumstances: Tim Hanley on Wonder Woman and Women in Comics, about the history of Wonder Woman’s lasso of truth and Tim went way above and beyond. I expected a basic “yes” or a “no” as to whether Wonder Woman’s lasso was treated as a “lasso of truth” while Marston was writing the book. Tim, instead, researched the hell out of it. Here is what he sent to me after he did his extensive research:
The lasso doesn’t actually appear in the first few Wonder Woman stories. From All-Star Comics #8 through the early issues of Sensation Comics, there’s no lasso at all. Though in Sensation Comics #3, Wonder Woman uses blood pressure to tell that someone is lying, just like Marston’s lie detecting technique:
The lasso first appeared in Sensation Comics #6, when Athena and Aphrodite gave it to Wonder Woman. It wasn’t described as any sort of lie detector, but as a way to compel obedience:
A couple of months later, Marston retold the lasso’s beginning when he expanded on Wonder Woman’s origin story in Wonder Woman #1. There was still no mention of making people tell the truth, just obedience:
However, the lasso was used to make people tell the truth. In Sensation Comics #7, Wonder Woman made a couple of criminals tell her what they know about their boss:
And later on in Wonder Woman #1, Wonder Woman helped Steve interrogate a Japanese soldier:
But in both cases, and in pretty much every case for the next 50 years, it was in the context of obedience. The lasso didn’t inherently make people truthful, it just made them do whatever Wonder Woman told them to. So if she asked them a question, they had to tell her the answer. This was all part of Marston’s “women are superior and should rule the world” message. He said of the lasso: “Her magic lasso is merely a symbol of feminine charm, allure, oomph, attraction every woman uses.” So it’s not really a lie detector… it’s about ladies using feminine wiles to make guys do what they want.
I checked a large sample of pre-Crisis issues of Wonder Woman, and was surprised to find that the lasso is usually referred to as just the “magic lasso”, and sometimes the “golden lasso” or the “Amazon lasso”. I didn’t see it ever called the “Lasso of Truth” pre-Crisis, and as far as I can tell the first time that happened was in the Perez era in Wonder Woman #2, when Hephaestus names it the “Lasso of Truth” after forging it:
The lasso gets called the “Lasso of Truth” fairly regularly after that. And in Wonder Woman #9, the lasso is inherently truth compelling for what seems to be the first time (I didn’t check all 329 pre-Crisis issues, but it was still an obedience thing even into the 1980s). Barbara Minerva picks it up and finds that she can’t lie, without Wonder Woman holding it or forcing her to tell the truth:
So for the lasso’s entire history, Wonder Woman COULD use it to make people tell the truth, but it was always in the context of compelling someone to obey her. When Perez relaunched Wonder Woman, it became THE lasso of truth, and could make someone tell the truth just by touching it. Which it still can, even after the DCnU relaunch, if Justice League #4 is any indication:
Awesome stuff, Tim!
In the comments, Noah Berlatsky correctly notes that it was likely the TV series that caused us to associate the lasso with compelling people to tell the truth, as that was a function of the lasso in the first season of the live action Wonder Woman TV series. Perhaps the show writers felt that “making people obey you” was a bit much, power-wise?
Thanks again for all the great research and the helpful scans, Tim! Be sure to check out Tim’s website for lots more great Wonder Woman information!
COMIC LEGEND: Ivan Velez Jr. had to remove parodies of Archie from a Blood Syndicate crossover with DC Comics.
Back in 1994, DC had an interesting crossover with Milestone Comics, with the Superman line of books crossing over with the full line of Milestone Comics.
The concept was that a fellow named Rift was tearing apart reality. So in one of the later issues, Blood Syndicate #17, written by Ivan Velez Jr. and drawn by ChrisCross with Rober Quijano and Prentiss Rollins on inks and additional pencils from Velez Jr., the Blood Syndicate find themselves warped into different versions of themselves.
As Ivan told me:
The book (part of the Milestone/DC Comics crossover) had RIFT, a nerdy post office worker that lived in both worlds simultaneously, go all ‘mega’ and decide to smoosh the worlds together in a continuity of his own making. This issue was meant to be a parody, and take on Harvey Comics (man, that sequence was adorable , complete with Wisey Wise and Brickie Brick), the X’men (which stayed intact) and Archie (which I got to draw). I had so much fun. But, alas, the lawyers at DC got very nervous, and I had to rewrite and redraw my guys and turn them into boarding school Eton students.
Here is the X-Men parody…
And here is the Eton bit (drawn by Velez Jr.)….
And here, courtesy of the great Ivan Velez Jr. himself, are the original pages…
Thanks so much for the art, Ivan!
COMIC LEGEND: Warren Ellis re-worked his Satana scripts into the series Strange Kiss.
As it turned out, though, Ellis managed to use the two scripts he had completed for a later project, the Avatar mini-series, Strange Kiss. He simply removed Satana and any character who resembled any Marvel characters and he had himself a series.
The published Strange Kiss lets you know why Ellis noted that when he submitted the original (non-Code approved) Satana to the Comics Code, just for a laugh:
We all expected the photocopied edition to come back covered in notes, as it always did to Marie Javins when I did ‘Hellstorm’ and ‘Druid.’ This time, there were no scribbles, just a letter with it. It read, and I paraphrase: We cannot suggest any changes that would make this work suitable for humans, other than that it be completely rewritten and redrawn. I’m kind of proud of that.
Anyhow, to give you an idea of what Satana was like, here are few pages from the first issue of Strange Kiss.
BE WARNED! THESE ARE DISTURBING PAGES! DO NOT READ IF YOU DON’T WANT TO SEE SOME MESSED UP STUFF! I MADE THIS THE END OF THE COLUMN SO IF YOU DON’T WANT TO READ ANY DISTURBING STUFF, YOU CAN JUST STOP THE COLUMN NOW!
So…yeah, imagine that in a Marvel comic book?
And that’s not even the most messed up stuff in this particular issue!
Years later, Marvel decided that with their Marvel MAX line that they could try to publish it. John Ostrander was brought in to finish the story as a mini-series. It was never released, perhaps because Ellis had pretty much already released it via Strange Kiss.
Thanks to Beau Yarbrough for his reporting on the Strange Kiss situation back when it happened and thanks to commenter Rodrigo Baeza for filling me in on the whole situation, complete with the quotes! Other readers also mentioned Strange Kiss, such as Frank Rook and FunkyGreenJuresalam.
Okay, that’s it for this week!
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